The top 3½ wineries of La Axarquia, Andalucia

Though you may not have even heard of the little region of La Axarquia in the eastern most corner of Malaga Province, this mountainous coastal territory was the renowned global centre of sweet wine production only 150 years ago and production began at least 3000 years ago with the Phoenicians. Since the “phylloxera” aphid scourge of the mid-nineteenth century wiped out a majority of vines all across Europe, Malaga’s prominence as a wine producing region plummeted. Today there is a resurgence and La Axarquia is leading the revival; the primary grape varieties are still the ancient and sweet Moscatel de Alexandria along with Pedro Ximenez, however there are some lovely variations from this tradition today. The following wineries and bodegas can proudly take some of the credit for the recent renaissance.

1. Jorge Ordoñez & Co.

Jorge Ordoñez has been credited with sparking a wine revolution in Spain and single handedly establishing the market for modern style Spanish wines in the United States. His Grupo Jorge Ordoñez, with wineries across Spain and in the U.S. is the largest importer of Spanish wine into the United States today, which is part of the reason he lives in Boston though originating from Malaga. His sister Victoria Ordoñez capably heads up the local production in La Axarquia with their vineyards in Almachar and bodega in Velez-Malaga. Here their signature sweet wines come in four varieties, numbered one to four according to the increasing level of residual sugar. The exquisite number four, “Esencia”, requires an incredible sixty kilos (130 pounds) of almost raisin like grapes to produce a single litre and sells for €70 a half bottle.

Jorge Ordoñez & Co.

Even more exciting is the dry white they produce from sweet Moscatel grapes, an innovative and pioneering effort that has paid off as the best selling of their wines. Internationally renowned wine critic Robert Parker calls the highly versatile “Botani” dry Moscatel the “best perfumed white wine” on the market. Just this year Ordoñez added a fine red Grenache Botani to it’s selection, further diversifying from the traditional sweet wines of the region.

2. Bodegas Bentomiz

This small scale winery near the village of Sayalonga produces five excellent wines in limited quantities: two sweet, unfortified Moscatel wines (one oaked), a dry Moscatel, a blended red and a unique sweet red. The proprietors have made quite a splash on the international scene in recent years, with an ever expanding list of awards and accolades. The dry red, “Tinto de Ensamblaje”, is a superb wine surprising in it’s complexity from a region known for sweet wines. It was named one of the 100 most interesting wines worldwide and continues to gather acclaim.

Bodegas Bentomiz

The wines from Bodegas Bentomiz, under the label “Aryanas”, sell in many of the world’s best restaurants, including the recently crowned world number one, Celler de Can Roca, and numerous other two and three star Michelin restaurants around the world.

3. Dimobe, Bodega A. Muñoz Cabrera

Though it operates on a more local distribution network, Dimobe has a large selection of wines and a long history, and cannot be overlooked as one of the top wineries of La Axarquia. Situated near the Ordoñez vineyards in Moclinejo, the family operation was one of only a handful of wine producers left in the area by the middle of the twentieth century. The traditions have been handed down and production modernised to offer some very notable wines, among them two dry Syrah wines, a rare grape for the area, and no fewer than seven sweet wines.

Dimobe

Winery 3½?

OK, there’s no such thing as half of a winery… but this article would be incomplete without mentioning all of the small time, private and independent wine makers of the Axarquia. Privately owned vineyards without any official registration or D.O. designation by far comprise the largest proportion of vineyards in La Axarquia and nearly everyone with a vineyard makes their own tipple. These cannot be legally bought nor sold, but should you be lucky enough to be invited into a private country home in the region you’ll probably be offered a sample!

Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto.

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