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Bottle of Malaga wine bottled in Switzerland by Alfred Zweifel that resulted in this documentary. SUR
When wine from Malaga was sold for 200 euros in central Europe

When wine from Malaga was sold for 200 euros in central Europe

The Edgar Neville auditorium filled up with spectators for the premiere of the documentary 'Villa Málaga' in Spanish, which tells the origin story of the mansion's name and its current resurgence

Friday, 1 December 2023, 09:41

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Today it houses a glamorous bridal dress shop. But it retains the appearance of a bourgeois palace reminiscent of the residences in the Limonar neighbourhood. It hold the history of the Zweifel family, and one member could well be one of those European entrepreneurs who made his fortune and settled in Malaga in the 19th century. Alfred Zweifel came here, but only as a stopover, as he returned home to the Swiss town of Lenzburg with a precious cargo: delicious, fragrant wine from Malaga that was all the rage throughout Europe. So much so that bottles sold for 200 euros at today's exchange rate. The Swiss businessman created a whole import emporium and showed his economic power by building a mansion which he called 'Villa Málaga', which now, a century and a half later, serves as the title for the documentary by Eterio Ortega which premiered last night at the Edgar Neville Auditorium in a special screening which was completely sold out: a full house.

"Zweifel was the businessman who sold the most wine in Malaga and came to have an empire, as in addition to his mansion, he built some wine cellars in an arabesque and modernist style which today are home to the municipal police," explained the director from Burgos. After filming his last documentary 'Las catedrales del vino' (The cathedrals of wine), he discovered this mansion and set out to film 'La venta Axarquía', a name he changed to 'Villa Málaga' when he learned about the exciting history of this manor, situated in the heart of Central Europe but with a southern origin.

Francisco Salado, Eterio Ortega and Stephan Persili, at the premiere.
Francisco Salado, Eterio Ortega and Stephan Persili, at the premiere. SUR

A wine so highly valued that it overshadowed sherry and port

Stephan Persili, a doctor and wine lover, found himsel at this old residence in the heart of Switzerland. After buying an old bottle of wine from Malaga at an auction, he followed the trail of Alfred Zweifel's labels, which he keeps in a suitcase with padded walls as if they were jewels. Which they are. "I'm not a wine collector, I'm a collector of stories," said the doctor in the documentary that follows the same story as he did: to smell the splendorous and aromatic past of Malaga wine and tell about its current resurgence with all its ancestral heritage.

Detail of the exterior of the Swiss residence, whose name is used as the title of the documentary.
Detail of the exterior of the Swiss residence, whose name is used as the title of the documentary. SUR

"There are many documentaries about wine that are boring, so I try to talk about wine from the point of view of a person who loves it because behind a bottle of Malaga there is a lot of passion and a personal story," said Eterio Ortega The documentary also featured winemaker Juan Muñoz, the third generation of a winemaking family from Moclinejo that continues to produce traditional delicious wines but with a modern twist, and Clara Verheij, a Dutch woman who had only seen wine in a glass before buying some land in Sayalonga with vineyards that have made her one of the great promoters of Malaga's wines.

A long production

Their testimonies join those of numerous experts and enthusiasts to create a "choral portrait that represents the wines of Malaga," explained Eterio Ortega, who was invited by the promoter of the wine brand Dimobe, Juan Muñoz, to make this documentary. It has taken him more than a decade to put everything together, and he has only been able to film over the last year thanks to the support of the Junta de Andalucía, Canal Sur, Sabor a Málaga, Patronato de la Costa del Sol and the Swiss co-production partner Monograph.

"These ancient vineyards in Axarquía that look out to sea and with those slopes are unique," said director Eterio Ortega

"The documentary is a story through time about the importance of wine trade and its fame abroad for Malaga, but also about what wine is today with a whole new generation of young people who continue to enjoy wine from the same vineyards," said the director, who is also the author of the trilogy on the ETA Basque seprarist group that began with 'Murder in February', which hit some nerves within the armed gang and the violence in the Basque Country.

The audience filled the Edgar Neville auditorium on Wednesday night to attend the premiere.
The audience filled the Edgar Neville auditorium on Wednesday night to attend the premiere. SUR

In 'Villa Málaga', Ortega has not only found a story to tell, but also a landscape of natural beauty that captivated him from the moment he first drove up the roads of Axarquía, full of vines and sultanas. "Those ancient vineyards overlooking the sea and with those slopes are unique," said the filmmaker, who spoke of a "cultural landscape" and a "natural heritage". A scenery with a fragrant history that deserves a toast. Like that bottle bought at an auction which Perseli and Ortega ended up opening to celebrate the end of filming. On Wednesday they popped another open for its premiere.

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