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The Andalucian harvest: sherry, sweet wine and a very good time

So you’ve done the tour of French vineyards and you’re looking for something new, or perhaps you’ve been to and done the Tuscan wineries and you want a different take on the grape scene.  Andalucia makes for a surprisingly sophisticated harvest experience; and let’s face it, la fiesta is in the Spanish blood so it’s not hard to find a good time along the way. The province of Jerez may be utterly serious about its sherry production (they’ve been making sherry in the region for thousands of years), but when the harvest work is done the celebration rages on for three full weeks from the first weekend in September. Flamenco and other music and dance, horses and an unending flow of grapes, raisins and, of course, sherry highlight the festivities. Less well known outside of Andalucia today, but making a new resurgence after the global heyday of the 17th-19th Centuries, is the sweet wine from Malaga Province, made from Muscat and/or Pedro Ximenez grapes. The Muscat said to be the oldest grape variety existing in the world today, with one of the most ancient European centres of production situated in Malaga Province. Sweet wine was traded across the Mediterranean at least as early as 600 B.C. There are hundreds of small scale wine producers in the province, and you’d be surprised at how easy it is to participate in the harvest and have a personal tour of the facilities. Many small producers do not obtain the Denominacion de Origen registration necessary to sell their wines commercially, so they pool their harvests collectively at registered cooperatives, or pass on samples at very low cost or give it away to friends, family and interested outsiders who show a genuine friendly curiosity for their craft. Many small village shops will sell the best sweet wine you’ve never heard of. La Axarquia, at the eastern most tip of Malaga Province, is a primary centre of today’s production of Muscat grapes on the mountain slopes and valleys between the historic pueblos blancos. Here you’re guaranteed to find the sweet tipple everywhere, and many of the villages will have fiestas devoted to their (very) local wine and raisins, and the grapes from which it all derives. Here is a list of some of the upcoming wine and harvest festivals in Andalucia and La Axarquia: Iznate – Fiesta de Uva Moscatel (festival of the Muscat grape), first Saturday of August, 4th Aug 2012. Competa – La Noche del Vino (the night of the wine), 15th August 2012. Manilva – Fiesta de Vendimia (festival of the grape harvest), first weekend in September  (1st-2nd September 2012) to mark the end of the grape harvest season. This festival includes participatory treading of the grapes and sharing of the first batches of grape juice that will become wine. Moclinejo – Fiesta de Viñeros (festival of the wine makers), with special Flamenco performances and degustacion of wines. There is also a winery museum and CEPA museum of raisins and Moscatel wine in Moclinejo. 10th September 2012. La Viñuela – Fiesta de la pasa y vino Moscatel (festival of the raisin and Muscatel wine), around 15th September 2012. Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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