When Telmo Rodríguez founded his eponymous wine company with partner Pablo Eguzkiza in 1994,
they were inspired by the remote and forgotten landscapes of Spain. They knew that great wines had been made throughout rural Spain in the past, but in the early nineties, few had the vision required to imagine those forgotten regions and varieties could rise again. Most everyone else was busy crafting cheap, anonymous wines with international varieties. One has to remember that Australian wines were the hottest wines at that particular moment and Spain was being told that they needed to follow the cheap international varietal approach of the day. Not Telmo and Pablo. They knew better from their formative winemaking experiences in France to trust in indigenous varieties and look for inspiration in old vineyards. They spent a lot of time reading old books, picking up hints of where and how the historic wines of Spain were made. In the course of their research, they came across the “Mountain Wines” of Málaga, once a favorite wine of the English. Less famous than Sherry, the wines of Málaga were at a substantial disadvantage, commercially speaking, from their Andalucian neighbors. The wines were made in a rugged, mountainous inland area, rather than right by a major port. As such, the wines eventually simply faded into obscurity after phylloxera, yet Telmo and Pablo were determined to recover the former glory of Málaga’s mountain wines. Thus, Molino Real was born in 1996.
“We threw ourselves in with great enthusiasm but scant knowledge about how to produce “Mountain” with lines from Shakespeare and Alexandre Dumas resounding in our dreams. We also remembered that Hugh Johnson once said that old “Mountain Wine” was the best wine he’d ever had.
In its first auction in 1769, Christie´s placed Málaga wines right next to the best wines from the Rhine and Burgundy. We were determined to learn, learn from the mountain and from the people of Axarquía who for so many years had unknowingly nurtured and cultivated what for us was the finest moscatel.
We have been working the ravines of Cómpeta for over 20 years. The results: MR, Molino Real, Old Mountain, and Mountain Blanco have helped to breathe new life into a viticulture that might have disappeared.
It was a great deal of work to produce a few bottles of wine; a wine far removed from the latest trends. However, we consider it an honor and a privilege to penetrate the mysteries of these mountains and their history. These “confidential” wines have made us wiser and more humble.”
Moscatel grapes for their flagship Molino Real wine…
comes from nine hectares of vaso bush-trained vines on steep slate slopes at elevations between 350 and 1,000 meters, located around the village of Cómpeta, in the rugged Axarquía region in Málaga. The region, facing the Mediterranean sea, with terraced vineyards on steep slate cliffs, could draw comparisons to Priorat in the north or Banyuls in France. As is traditional, the grapes for the sweet wines are dried on cañas, reed mats, in the sun. Frames are set up so that temporary roofing can be used in case of rain. Dehydration by sun-exposure concentrates grapes in such a way that all the sugar and alcohol in the resulting wines come strictly from the grapes.
Most of the harvest is lost to dehydration, as 10 kilos of grapes are needed to produce 2.5 kilos of raisins, which yields just one liter of juice to ferment into wine. The sun-drying process, asoleo, is a tough manual job. After picking grapes on dangerous slopes with 40-60% incline, perfect and undamaged bunches are carefully placed in harvest boxes and arduously carried up the mountain to the winery, where they are carefully laid on the pasera and progressively turned to obtain homogeneous dehydration. Once the bunches reach the desired degree of dehydration, they are pressed with old olive oil presses, bunches being separated by grass mats. Fermentation is long and happens in 225-liter oak barrels, where the wine matures at low temperature for 20 months. The result is a rich, long-lived, sweet wine that honors the tradition and history of the “mountain wines” of Málaga.
Besides the flagship Molino Real wine, three other wines are produced here: a dry, refreshing moscatel table wine with remarkable minerality called Mountain Blanco (grüner veltliner comparisons come to mind) and a lightly-sweet “baby Molino Real” fermented in stainless steel called M.R. for every-day drinking. The M.R. is an amazing accompaniment to aged cheese and fresh fruit.
In the vintages 1997, 2005, and 2009 they produced a singular wine aged for an exceptionally long time in barrel (8 years), called “Old Mountain”. The grapes are harvested in late September and dried for seven days under the sun. The wine then ferments with indigenous yeasts in 225-liter French oak barrels from Château d’Yquem. The resulting wine has 12.5% alcohol and 210 grams of residual sugar, with an incredible balance only the world’s greatest sweet wines possess. It’s an extreme wine, but remarkably light, well-balanced, and deceptively easy to drink. Bottles are wax-sealed with wax from the beehive at Remelluri and individually packed in straw-filled wooden boxes. Around 500 375ml bottles are produced once or twice a decade, making Old Mountain one of the rarest sweet wines on the planet.