After visiting Andalusia, our wanderlust could only grow and the list of places to explore got longer. At this point, we were enthused by virtually everything, we were wondering what else could surprise us.. We went to beautiful Ronda. Why Ronda? Actually, because we were looking for a combination of wines and unspoiled places, not so much overtaken by the tourism industry. And we ended up discovering a haven of tranquillity full of stunning surprises.
First off, we had to visit Ronda’s centerpiece: the breath-taking deep gorge that divides the town in two. It confirms how Ronda is a unique geological oddity, set on a bluff and overlooking a marvelous landscape, towering over a sea of farmlands.
Second, the town itself is a living treasure, located on a rocky outcrop 750 meters above sea level. After wandering through the many pedestrian streets crossing the old town, we found the bullring, which looms in the very center of Ronda. A peek inside is something I would recommend those who are foreign to well anchored bullfight culture in traditional Spain. However, there is no better way of fully knowing a place than through the locals.
Pedro Rodriguez, a former farmhand with a sun-wrinkled face after a life spent working outside, was the casual encounter one feels lucky to meet. . He was profoundly attached to his hometown, we could feel he was as part of Ronda as the gorge and without his help, our visit would have been incomplete. He was eager to share the hidden treasures of Ronda with any tourist who had the time to sit with him in the shade of the tidied bullring walls. He told a few crusty anecdotes that travel guides don’t tell. Besides the Bulls, he was very knowledgeable about red and white wines produced in and around Ronda. The area has undertaken a change of ample magnitude over the last 15 years, some new wineries appearing and others leaving the radar map, different fates and different visions of future. I’ve learned that, the wine of Ronda have an ancient tradition, since the Roman times. In fact, some localities refer to the bond between the Sierra and the vine: Rivera de las Parras, Cortijo Las Vinas, Acinipo, Vina del Muerto, Setenil, Guadalevin (Rio Viñas or del Vino).
The wines that were traditionally produced in these lands were full bodied whites. The grapes picking program is not exactly for party goers as you need to work after the sunset to avoid the scorching temperatures of the day. This is also to prevent premature fermentation. Grapes are always handpicked in this area.
Vineyards are such an important part of Ronda, some like-minded people have fought against the effect of the massive concrete construction era, which stopped abruptly with the Spanish property bubble. Those vineyards protectors against salvage real estate development were facing unethical opponents. Luckily, economic downturn helping, they have gained strength and new vines are now being planted in parcels next to almost centennial vines that have escaped uprooting.
Finally, Pedro pointed out some must see vineyards in the area; Descalzos Viejos, La Melonera, Schatz, amongst others.
Tasting a few wines was still on our list before departure. Each sip was a reminder of how the land treats the good winemaker: the flavors range from generous to intense fruity and all in all well balanced red wines. After that we left Ronda with a bugging feeling of incompleteness. There’s a call to come back and visit the cellars or vineyards, stroll among the vines while my new vintner friends could share a few gems that we’d like to see discovered by many more.. No doubt this region has the resources to surprise us again and again. It wasn’t our first time in inland Andalusia, and it won’t be our last either, for no one who sets eyes on this beautiful region of Southern Spain leaves unmoved.