THE ARIYANAS PORTFOLIO
So, what’s the first thought that comes to mind when somebody mentions ‘Málaga’? The, shall we say, vibrant, tourist industry? Being able to ski on the nearby Sierra Nevada in the morning and sunbathe on Málaga’s exceptional beaches in the afternoon? Pablo Picasso’s birthplace; Antonio Banderas’ too? La Liga?!
Anybody come up with ‘Wine’?
Probably not, methinks, but, I urge you to thinks again. There is, and has been for millennia, a wine making culture in the province of Málaga, for nearly 3,000 years. Málaga, first called Malaka, was founded by the Phoenicians around 770 BC (making it one of the world’s oldest cities). These ancient Greeks liked a drop or two of wine. Indeed, theirs was a seafaring nation, of course, but also one based on trade. Wine was a valuable commodity!
In terms of trade during more recent history a graph of Málaga wines’ popularity would show spikes during the Renaissance period, as well as in Victorian times. Shakespeare, when penning his line, ‘I pray you do not fall in love with me for I am falser than a man in wine’, may well have been referring to wine from Málaga for it, Sack (Sherry) from Jerez, and Canary, well you can guess where that was from, were commonplace during his time.
It’s quite probable that Queen Victoria also drank wine from Málaga, her courtiers and from the Aristocracy downwards certainly would have. However, other than these peaks, it’s true to say that the Málaga wine trade has been modest during most of the last 3,000 years. However, it seems to me that another spike is about to appear, and it may not be just a passing peak.
Clara and André, the Dutch owners of Bodegas Bentomiz, have been living in Málaga’s Axarquía region since 1995. In 2003 they began commercial production of the Ariyanas wines: premium wines from local grapes, beginning with a sweet moscatel, the Naturalmente Dulce.
Its success encouraged them to expand their portfolio, and their efforts have been rewarded with various medals and plaudits, including the fact that several of their Ariyanas wines are now an integral part of the wine lists of Michelin Starred restaurants, including the UK’s The Ledbury, and El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, recently voted, for the second time, The Best Restaurant in the World!
I was as delighted to be asked to review their wines, as you will be to taste them. The following are my comments.
Sweet dessert wines are the most typical of the area. Indeed it was a dessert wine that first put Bodegas Bentomiz on the vinous map of Spain, so this is where I’ll start. However, first a comment about the closure – no cork here, it’s a glass stopper with a special seal that should help you to keep the wines longer, in the fridge. I think they make the wines (they all have this closure) a bit special!
Ariyanas Dulce 2010 is made with Moscatel de Alejandria, a variety which is responsible for luscious dessert wines. But such wines have to have an acidic lift to them, or they are flabby, cloying – simply sweet.
None of that here. This wine has the typical raison and very ripe grape aroma characteristic of the variety, with some Clementine or Mandarin notes too. The grapes are harvested late so that a lot of the water content has evaporated leaving a rather rich must, providing the required richness. It’s naturally sweet, unfortified and comes in at a very reasonable 13% abv.
Ariyanas Dulce 2018 Terruño Pizarroso is a sublme wine. Again 100% Moscatel but this time with some oak ageing, in fact 8 months in new French barrels. Even the colour is rich, it’s bronze/gold hued, the colour of honey – and on the nose you’ll find honey, as well as some orange peel spritz, with a touch of minerality too, coming from the slate strewn vineyard. Look also for the dried fruit you might add to Christmas cake!
It’s an exotic wine, rich, deep, sweet, but with acidity, a partner for Foie Gras, for sure, as well as tropical fruits, plus, try it with blue cheese. A high pointer in all the guides, with a string of plaudits and medals – wow!
I’d never heard of the variety Romé before I tasted the excellent Bodegas Bentomiz’ Rosado. Apparently Jancis Robinson is on record as saying this is the 2nd best rosado in Spain! (No, I don’t know what she thinks is the best. Perhaps she concurs with me that it’s probably Gran Caus from Can Rafóls dels Caus?).
In the glass, it is Tizer-esque in colour and on the nose there are delightful soft red fruit nuances. There’s a lick of minerality and some red wine notes of mature tannin. It’s a fragrant delight, one to be enjoyed as a gorgeous aperitif, but also with salmon and trout, as well as with seafood, and even lighter meats.
Romé also figures in Bentomiz’ red wine, Ariyanas Tinto 2012, along with Petit Verdot (such a success nowadays here in Spain, where it ripens perfectly), Tempranillo and the other Cabernet, Cabernet Franc which is also enjoying a little renaissance here on the Iberian Peninsular.
It’s described on the bodegas website (www.bodegasbentomiz.com) as a modern wine, meaning, I believe, that it’s more fruit orientated than previous Spanish reds have been, having had less time on oak – just 6 months, notably less than the dessert white wine above!
There’s a good fruit line-up on the nose and palate, some soft red strawberry and redcurrant, with a plums and red cherries too, and a depth provided by the oak, though this is wholly integrated. It’s very easy to drink and at just 12·5% abv it’s light with a touch of elegance.
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