On the cusp of a new beginning
Lunares bodega is easy to find, if you follow the signs to the old Hotel Juncal. Currently a small bodega that shares its space with other wine label Pasos Largos, the renovation of its newly acquired hotel will be giving this Ronda vineyard a new lease of life and making it one of the only vineyards in the area offering a fully fledged hotel and events area onsite.
“You’ve come at an exciting time,” says Pedro Morales, the man behind the new project. “The hotel has nine bedrooms and will be a really exciting space for wine loves to come and stay. We will be holding events, giving agricultural tours, speaking about our wines and offering a rural retreat for people to escape to...we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Pedro knows all about hard work. The son of a hotelier of one of Ronda’s most popular establishments, Pedro didn’t originally follow the footsteps of his father, his teacher mother or his lawyer sister...he took the jump into the unknown and ventured into the world of wine.
“I produced my first wine in 2008, five years after buying the land and planting our first vines. I work with Vincente, a fantastic oenologist who has supported me and other local vineyards with the technical aspect of the business.” We walk through the small distillery and into the store room, a large space full of barrels sporting different names. “Some of these wines belong to people who grow grapes in their garden and make wine as their hobby; we rent the space out to them. It’s the perfect space to store barrels, cold and damp. A lot of people don’t realise that wine keeps on working when it’s inside the barrel, it’s still alive in there, so the room can’t be too dry or warm or the wine evaporates and it affects the taste. In fact this place is in the oldest working storage space in Ronda, it has a thatched roof and dates back to the 1800’s.”
We climb the stairs to the tasting platform above, overlooking the impressive collection of barrels. It’s cold up there and you can taste the wine in the air. “Nobody looking at the wine industry strategically would ever choose it as a profession,” he says with a smile. “You have to get up before the sun; it’s cold, it’s not glamorous, so wine has to be your life. Plus the people in this industry are like one big happy family. Before you know it you are fully immersed and there’s no getting away.”
Pedro has big plans for his on-site hotel, least of all because it will be his wedding venue in a few months time when he marries his fiancé there. There are plans to rebuild the swimming pool, the terrace, the entrance. Through the wild flowers and the overgrown shrubs you can make out a hotel that was once splendid and will be again soon. “My fiancé understands what it means to be marrying someone that works in wines. She understands the industry and she understands the work that goes into it. It’s not just the growing and the picking and the bottling – I spend a lot of my time away, I go abroad for wine fairs and tastings, or I’m visiting and presenting to distributors. But this is a new beginning for us both and for the business. When the hotel opens it will give this vineyard a new identity at the same time as we start the next phase of our life as husband and wife.”
Lunares is unique in that the space is compact. The hotel is right next to the distillery and storage areas and the vines are within touching distance of the two buildings. “I love that about this place, it’s like the French Chateaux – they have very little space between their vines and their barrels. It’s the best things for the wine, grapes don’t travel well so if because we can pick them, distil them and bottle them all in the same place it retains the quality and the flavour. Plus our guests will be right here, able to be part of the process and see it all take place beneath their window.”
Wine quality is very important to Pedro and he struggles to understand why more people aren’t interested in what goes into the wine that they are drinking. “Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. With my wines you know you are getting the best – you are paying for the grapes to be picked and sorted by hand, no machines. Everything is done by people with care and precision, only the perfect grape goes into each bottle. You buy a cheap bottle of wine and you forget that the label costs money, the cork, the bottle and the distribution - so what are you getting for your couple of Euros? Are there even any grapes in your drink?”
Pedro was only 24 years old when he began his foray into the world of wine and he is passionate about making a difference. He is a man on the cusp of a new beginning. The Lunares label, already established in his home town of Ronda, is slowly making its way across the country and abroad. In 2016 his white wine won Gold at the ‘Flavours of Malaga’ awards, the year before it was one of his reds. “Most people, when they think ‘Spanish wine’ think ‘Rioja’ – even the Spaniards, but I want to change that. Ronda has so much to offer, and along with all the other great bodegas in the region we will put this wonderful part of Andalucia on the map. I already have coach-loads of tourists coming in from France, Germany, the UK and Canada for tastings, as well as locals that come up from the coast, and I can’t wait to be able to offer them a place to stay so that they can take their time enjoying my wines.”
Standing in the overgrown gardens of the old hotel, looking out over the impressive landscape beyond, you can see Pedro’s mind working and planning. It’s not hard to imagine an impressive hotel and burgeoning business of agricultural tours and rural retreat being offered alongside his successful vineyard. “This is just the beginning,” he says. “The future is going to be really exciting.”