Much has been said about the great work of the Valenzuela family, in this blog too. Their pioneering work and innovative spirit has inspired many, both fellow vinegrowers and tasters. Innovative yes, but it’s really a wish to go back to the roots of their own tradition that best characterizes their approach.
The key to making red wine in Andalusia, where it is not unusual for summer temperatures to reach 40ºC (104ºF) in the shade, is to protect the vines from the ravages of the heat. As a result, growers have sought out high lands where there are cooling breezes and the soils are acid and balanced. But this has led them to rugged terrain and steep slopes n areas such as the Alpujarra (Granada/Almeria), the mountainous parts to the north of Seville and the Ronda mountains (Málaga), which are gradually being planted again with vines. And most of these vine are red varieties.
Manuel Valenzuela was the first to establish vineyards at such heights, in a district called Costa-Albondón. Growers had previously been reluctant to go so high, resigning themselves to making rough, cloudy wines. He tells us his small vineyard called Cerro de la Monjas is at an altitude of almost 1,400 m (4,593 ft), one of the highest in Continental Europe. His home and winery, Cortijo Barranco Oscuro, is in Cádiar, Sierra de la Contraviesa, in the midst of the Alpujarras. He set out as a winemaker, some would say at great risk, using organic methods. He tried out varieties that were reminiscent of times past, such as the rare white Vijariego, which only exists in Granada and the Canary Islands. But he also tried his hand at some of the French and Italian stocks that are famous on the international wine-growing scene. His most representative wine is named after its altitude: Barranco Oscuro 1368. It is made from Garnacha, Cabernet (both Sauvignon and Franc), Merlot and Tempranillo. He also makes a Pinot Noir called Borgoñón. At this altitude, the grapes develop a surprising elegance and great personality.
The Quest for Andalusian reds