First Seen in Costa News Group, August 2010



 I’m so pleased to be able to write this week about a bodega that is located in the area where the Costa del Sol News is so readily available. Wines from Bodegas Descalzos Viejos will be found in all good wine shops on the Costa del Sol, although they are of a limited production. My tip is shop early and if you find that they are sold out, be patient as there will soon be the next vintage available. The wines are good so I’m hoping that they are available in other areas covered by the Costa News Group!

 It’s an interesting story too! If you read last week’s article you may recall that I am now also writing for the UK based ‘Living Spain’ magazine which is primarily designed for people in the UK who are considering re-locating or buying a second home in Spain. However it also has considerable interest for those of us who’ve already done that. For example, at the time of writing, I’m just about to go on holiday to Portugal and have decided, on the strength of a Summer Edition ‘Living Spain’ article, to stop en route near Jabugo, home to the famous, top quality hams.

 Also today’s article is about a bodega of whom I’d previously heard nothing, that is until I read the Spring 2010 edition of ‘Living Spain’! A quick e-mail to said bodega, referring to the article I’d read, led to three sample wines arriving at my door recently, along with details of the fascinating story of how the bodega came about and indeed of the beautiful building in which is makes it’s wines.

 Good Spanish speakers will have worked out that the name, Descalzos Viejos essentially means the ‘old shoeless ones’! Historians amongst us will perhaps guess that this is a reference to Monks – and they’d be exactly right!

 It was in the early 16th Century, just after the Christian Re-Conquest that the Catholic Kings allowed the Trinitarian Order of Monks to establish a Monastery in the mountains around the famous Ronda, above the City of Málaga, now known to millions as the gateway (runway!) to the Costa Del Sol. The monks were shoeless and not so sprightly it seems! However, fit enough to plan and make beautiful gardens and build a Monastery.

 In some ways the stainless steel fermentation vats and oak casks sitting in the nave of the monastery with the two stunning, original saintly frescoes (re-claimed under many coats of  paints) looking down upon them, may seem a little incongruous. But, when you consider that winemaking was one of the functions of most monasteries since time immemorial, it is, I believe, entirely appropriate!

 Flavio and Francisco and their wives took over the building following hundreds of years of neglect. Their goal was to restore not only the monastery and turn it into a winery but also the gardens to plant the necessary vines. In 2000 they made their first wines and haven’t looked back since.

 Two of their wines register 87 and 89 Peñin points with their top two wines at 92 and 91 – now that’s a good start!

 Their Descalzos Viejos (DV) Chardonnay 2008 is looking seductively at me as I write and I’m sure I’ll soon succumb and pour another glass! It’s bright straw/gold in colour and on opening there is a lovely aroma of banana at first, but this changes in the glass to bring forward some citrus, apple and herby notes.

 Half of the must (juice) was fermented in stainless steel with the other half enjoying barrel fermentation. The two parts were then blended in barricas to rest there for a period of three months. It is this short time in oak that has made a perfectly fresh simple wine into a more complex and deeply flavoured Chardonnay that will be fine for aperitifs as well as to accompany fish and light meats.

 NV 2007 tinto is made with Merlot, Syrah and Garnacha. As you would imagine with this blend it is a highly coloured, fruity wine, good to enjoy with friends, but there is also a depth to the wine provided again by its resting for three months in oak.

 As with the Chardonnay the grapes are handpicked and placed in small 15kg baskets which are then stacked carefully on each other therefore avoiding crushing and the resultant uncontrolled fermentation. Most of the vineyards surround the property, with others still only a short distance away. Therefore the grapes arrive at the working end of the business quickly and in great shape.

 DV 2005 Tinto is one of the two flagships (Conarte is the other but the limited production of this wine meant that there was no sample for me – I’ll be working on that though!). Made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot with 12 months in French and American oak it’s a grown-up wine.

 The juice is left to macerate at a cool temperature with twice daily stirring of the skins and must together to extract colour, flavour and tannin and then fermented. Each variety is fermented separately and then blended together according to the winemaker’s preferences.

 The wine has a deep, seemingly brooding colour. The nose is one of dark jammy fruits, earthy, mineral notes, liquorice and some mountain herbs too. There’s a long, slightly bitter finish to accompany a hearty meaty dinner and the drinker is left to contemplate happily on the wine, the pleasant company, the dinner and how good it is to be alive!

 Colin Harkness also writes for Spain’s best wine magazine, ‘Vinos De España’. His remit is to expand and develop their English language section. His first article is in the current edition which is available in newsagents but also in wine shops – ask if your local bodega stocks it yet!