Aguilar de la Frontera, in the Campiña of Cordoba, is the source of what is considered the best wine in Spain.
The rolling hills of the Cordoba Campiña are carpeted in vineyards where the luscious Pedro Ximenez grape reigns supreme. In late summer the grapes are harvested and spread out on mats to roast in the hot Andalusian sun to give the rich, sweet wines for which the Montilla-Moriles area is renowned. One such wine was judged by critics to be the best wine in Spain: a vintage 1939 Pedro Ximenez, black, velvety and full of mystery, from the Toro Albala winery in the town of Aguilar de la Frontera.
As the winery’s reputation spread abroad, curious wine lovers started to appear at the door to visit the birthplace of these enological masterpieces. Aside from learning how Montilla-Moriles wines are made, visitors are welcomed into one of the finest specialized wine museums in Spain. The reception area is devoted to old tools used for wine growing and wine making, including rare antique wine presses - such as a mobile press on wheels, dating from the days when the cellar masters would go from vineyard to vineyard to crush the grapes on the spot - plus scales, pumps, bottle-corkers and old posters.
The true showpiece is the Salon, a beautifully arranged hall with further displays, including soil samples, old enology equipment, and the world’s finest collection of densimeters. One side of the hall is devoted to a library of nearly 2,500 wine books, some of them dating from the 17th century, and including priceless tomes by Herrera, Viala and Pasteur.
This venerable winery was founded in 1844. In 1922 it moved to its current location, in what was once an electricity station, which is why locals know the winery as "El Electrico" and, when ordering one of its wines at a local bar, will ask for a "calambrazo" - a "jolt".
The town of Aguilar, whose "frontera" sobriquet indicates its turbulent past as a frontier community on the border between Moorish and Christian Andalusia, has always been devoted to farming, but now this and other towns in the Campiña are attracting visitors seeking an authentic Andalusian atmosphere. Added to the town’s wealth of historical churches, palaces and other monuments, including an attractive eight-sided main square, Aguilar also is home to one of Andalusia’s richest nature spots, the Zoñar lagoon, refuge for a number of aquatic bird species, and also rich in plant life. A fully-equipped visitors center is the starting point for nature walks along marked trails.
Bodegas Toro Albala - Website: www.talbala.com
Nearest airport: Malaga (85 miles,140 km)
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Copyright © 2001 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet