The Ronda region is the nearest red wine-producing area to the Costa del Sol. The Romans made wine in Ronda and shipped it back to Rome, and the productiveness continued until the phylloxera bug decimated all Europe’s vineyards. For 200 years there was mass unemployment and poverty. Fast forward to 1982 and German-born Federico Schatz planted vines on his tiny three-hectare estate. This was the rebirth of the Serranía de Ronda’s wines.
Currently there are 18 wineries established in the region. Probably the most successful, both in quality and financial stability is Cortijo de los Aguilares, founded in 1999 by José Antonio Itarte, who regrettably passed on a short while ago. Born in Vizcaya in 1939, he had a distinguished business career, serving on the board of the Banco Guipuzcoano and as a major shareholder of El Diario Vasco (part of the SUR publishing group, Vocento), as well as developing Spain’s leading lock manufacturing firm. On retirement he and his wife, María Victoria, moved to Marbella and he fulfilled a long-lasting ambition to make wine.
Two decades later the Los Aguilares label is world-renowned and has won many international awards. Notable among these is the annual Swiss Pinot Noir prize for the world’s best example out of 2,000 wines submitted for a blind tasting. Three times the Ronda wine has been voted into first place. According to Bibi García, the young oenologist who worked with him from the beginning, Itarte will be remembered for his high standards and his commitment to putting Ronda on the wine map.