Ronda General Intro (Draft)
Organic [Natural] Mountainous Wines of Ronda [from the South of Spain]
Ronda is a unique European terroir (winemaking region) located in Andalucia, the southernmost part of Spain. It is situated at an altitude of between 600 and 1,000 metres asl within Serranias de Ronda (Spanish for Mountain Range of Ronda) at an altitude of between 600 and 1,000 metres asl.
The highland Ronda enjoys the warm Mediterranean air flows from the South [from Africa that is straight there across the 14 km straight of Gibraltar/Tarifa] and the stronger cooler Atlantic influences from the West.
Ronda is considered to be one of the most remarkable medieval towns in Spain. Its wine making history dates back over 2000 years when Romans cultivated vines and produced wine near the prominent city of Acinipo meaning ‘land of vines’, whose ruins can still be found on the outskirts of Ronda. In fact the wine was so good they say that is was enjoyed in Rome itself.
Contemporary Ronda’s wine making [industry] has received a relatively recent revival following the phylloxera virus in the 19th century that wiped out the vines. and convinced farmers to turn to olive oil production instead.
In the 1980's the first new Ronda vineyard was established and now there are about 30 vineyards scattered among the Ronda countryside.
Since 2000, the region is a sub-zone as part of the D.O. Sierras de Malaga (Spanish for Mountain Chains of Malaga).
There are three factors to make Ronda unique. 1. Altitude. 2. Natural winemaking. Grapes.
Factor 1: HIGHLAND WINEMAKING:
The lofty vineyards of Ronda are at between 600 and 1,000 metres (in much of Europe 500m is thought of as an upper limit to reliable ripening). The vines profit enormously from the main factors typical for elevated winemaking coupled by some specific features of this location (between two sees, i.e. Mediterranean and the Atlantic). The three contrasts offered by mountain vineyards to their valley floors are
More direct and concentrated sunlight
The amount of light and its quality (intensity) gives grapes more antioxidants and thicker skins, equating to more color, tannin and flavor intensity (in reds), and longer aging ability too – all desirable attributes.
Temperature or rather dramatic shifts of day and night temperatures within the ripening period. Winters are quite cold here. But it is the summer time that contributes fantastically to the quality of the wines. The diurnal changes in temperature (difference between day and night levels) are considerable (between min 15C and max 45C). This is just perfect as it gives a ‘rest’ to the vine and allows acidity and complexity to develop properly within the grape. Moreover, this keeps freshness, provides more delicate aromas and better expression.
It is mainly calcareous somewhat stony/sandy soil (calcareous sandstone) of quite loose texture with a high clay content over limestone subsoil.
Moreover, the mountain slopes of this kind of rocky soils provide the fantastic drainage (dehydration). Stony soils of the hill slopes whisk rainfall away forcing the vine to grow deeper in search for water and nutrients. The constant battle for nutrients means the vine is forced to divert energy from grape production to survival, reducing the overall yield of the vine. Therefore, these low-yielding vines give each surviving berry more character and higher quality.
Factor 2: NATURAL WINEMAKING:
The complex of natural factors that elevation in Ronda offers for winemaking forces our grapevines not just to work harder, but to work naturally smarter to produce exceptional berries full of character. The winemakers let the nature do the job by applying entirely ecologic, organic and biodynamic approach to grow and make the wines.
There are no strict definition of natural winemaking/organic/biodynamic winemaking. Organic winemakers insist that natural wines are organic wines. In other words, a wine cannot be natural if it wasn’t made through applying organic practices to both grape growing and wine elaboration.
So we generally call Ronda wines sustainable. Sustainability refers to a wide range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible. Sustainable farmers may farm organically or biodynamically but have flexibility to choose what works best for their individual property and may follow a less strict list of rules in winemaking.
Many of the wineries of Ronda apply organic practices though. Their wines are made from organically grown grapes and are made without any added sulfites (though naturally occurring sulfites will still be present). Of these organic/natural winemakers, three are EU certified as organic producers.
Of those who apply organic approach, there are a few who go a bit further and practice biodynamic principles. Biodynamic is similar to organic farming in that both take place without synthetic chemicals. Biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an entire ecosystem, and also takes into account things such as astrological influences.
Factor 3: GRAPES:
A great, and quite unusual [for Spain], bunch of the best varieties, mostly French, that obtain new fresh characteristics due to the said above (Highland Winemaking).