Wine has been produced in Andalusia for centuries, and today there are thousands of acres of vineyards throughout the countryside, in the foothills of mountains, and stretching over verdant plains and across sun-baked coastal regions. Wine-making – in wineries, or bodegas, is a tradition that embodies the land and the culture of the Andalusian people, celebrating as it does the comforts of life and the bounty of nature.
Today many visitors choose to tour the region and its wine-producing areas. This can be done in tours or by independent means; you can arrange a car hire in Spain online so that you pick up your car at one point and drop it off in another town. This allows maximum flexibility when it comes to arranging itineraries.
There are several well-defined routes which you can follow as strictly as you like, stopping off at any other points which interest you. Depending on your tastes, these include the Condado de Huelva route, the Sherry and Jerez Brandy routes, the Montilla-Moriles route and a number of other routes which combine wine-tasting with other tourist activities.
The Condado de Huelva route passes through the region of Huelva in the Andalusian south-west. The wine-growing areas cover almost 15,000 acres and involve over 3,000 growers. The landscape of Huelva is of gentle rolling hills and it is a rural area that also grows cereals, olives and fruits; traditional villages are peppered around the region and amongst the items they produce are traditional handicrafts such as flamenco instruments and embroidered textiles. If you go to Huelva, make sure you visit the ancient cities of Niebla and Moguer and the beautiful wetlands of Donana, the legendary resting place of Atlantis and an incredible draw for nature lovers.
But back to the wine. Huelva produces wines known as the Wines of the Discovery of America, in reference to its history of shipping wine to the West Indies over the course of several centuries. Several grape varieties are grown, but Zalema is by far the most prominent, a variety which produces rich, full-bodied wines.
Also in the south-west of Andalusia, the region of Jerez produces several fine varieties of sherry and sweet wine, including Manzanillas, Olorosos and Moscatel. As well as being the capital of sherry wine, Jerez is also the birthplace of flamenco singing and a centre for the equestrian arts. The city of Jerez de la Frontera has several beautiful landmarks, including the Baroque Cathedral, Alcazaba Fortress, Gothic churches and palaces.
Travelling north and east, the region of Montilla-Moriles lies a little inland, roughly in the centre of Andalusia. Situated just west of the Sierra Nevada, this is a landscape of undulating, earth-fired hills, and the heat can be intense. Montilla-Moriles is a less visited region than either Huelva or Jerez, and travel here can be very rewarding, though you may have to do a little more searching to find the best bodegas.
Montilla-Moriles is notable for its production of sweet wines, produced in a similar way to sherry. Indeed, if you try out the wines here you may find yourself being asked how they compare with the sherries of Jerez. There are a few important differences in its manufacture. The main grape variety, Pedro Ximénez, has a high sugar content resulting in a more alcoholic wine, and Montilla wine is not fortified. Montilla wines tend to be sweet and aromatic, and most common are the clean, light and delicate Fino wines.
A wine-tasting tour is not just about tasting the different wines, of course, but also appreciating how the grapes are grown and the wine is made. Many bodegas either offer organised tours or are happy to show you around. If you’re really hooked, be sure to visit the museums in Jerez or Sanlucar, or coincide your trip with one of the wine fiestas in the region, most of which run between May and September.