At the edge of a narrow path, surrounded by trees, Auxiliadora López Beltrán parks her white Vito. It is quiet out here, a gentle wind is blowing through the vines in Ronda, Spain. They line up like chains and give the rough, almost untouched, mountainous hinterland of Andalusia its green color. Auxiliadora walks along the vines as if walking through a cornfield, wipes off a few grapes here and there, smells them, squeezes out a grape, and lets it slip out of her hands again. “Ronda is a very special place, not only because of its location,” says the Spaniard and points to the nearby family farm La Nogalera, where the grapes are processed into red wine in the traditional art of winemaking. On one hand, the soil and climate are ideal for wine growing, on the other, the enclave in the province of Málaga attracts tourists with its picturesque landscape and exciting history, a lot of culture and, of course, wine, one of the best wines ever.
At the Gonzalo Beltrán winery, Auxiliadora takes care of the “decisions for field work,” as she says. Since 1866, the land she stands on has belonged to her family, in her arms she holds a green basket of grapes. “It has been passed down from generation to generation,” she says. But it was Auxiliadora’s grandfather, Gonzalo Beltrán, who decided in 2004 to grow grapes here. A few years later, Auxiliadora took over the vineyard.
About 100 kilometers east of the provincial capital Málaga lies Ronda, whose old town was spectacularly built on a steep rock plateau and can only be reached by bridges. A 100 meter deep gorge separates it from the new district El Mercadillo. The city is of particular importance for bullfighting in Spain because its official rules were laid down here in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ronda also has one of the largest and oldest arenas in the country. Despite its altitude, the daytime temperatures in the winter months are up to 16 degrees. In summer the thermometer rises to 30 degrees and more. In the picturesque mountain landscape with the nature parks Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra de Grazalema you can hike to your heart’s content. In the surroundings of the city are further places of interest.
“I first sold our grapes to nearby wineries,” says Auxiliadora. Then she came up with the idea of making her own wine from the fruit. But which one? It should not be an average wine. “A wine like this would not do justice to the tradition and heritage of the estate,” she says. The answer: a high-quality red wine that embodies the region. In plain language: a wine from organic cultivation that does not harm the land. It is called “Perezoso” and Auxiliadora sells it as red wine or rosé.
Anyone who chooses a Gonzalo Beltrán wine can be sure that every grape is hand-picked. Instead of relying on chemicals, the family business relies on ecologically compatible materials. Auxiliadora is committed to protecting nature. “That’s why we rely on traditional agriculture,” she says, which employs a maximum of ten workers even at its peak. “We love our land, treat nature with respect and do not want to interfere with the ecosystem. We cultivate our fruit – and you can taste it.”
The Spanish word “bodega” originally means warehouse or cellar vault. Later, the term took on another meaning; it is now also associated with “wine cellars” or “wine shops”. Most rural bodegas originated before the 20th century, when the rural population still had to be self-sufficient. The corresponding cellars were therefore simply driven into the rock, whereby the entrance was often bricked half above ground and covered with stones and a thick layer of earth.
The wine is “quiet and leisurely in taste”, says the Spaniard. The soil in the Sierras de Málaga is as dry and dusty as the climate. The water used for cultivation therefore comes from the nearby Guadalevin River or from the irrigation system that was established at the end of the 19th century, in which water is collected and then supplied. This system is still in use today. Here, too, the rule is: things must be sustainable.
Ronda is 720 meters above sea level. Those who come here should not be afraid of the gorges. The small town with its striking white houses is surrounded by numerous ravines. The well-known El Tajo Gorge divides the city, which is home to around 37,000 people. Three bridges connect the old part with the new town. Some houses are built directly on the rocky outcrops, there is not a single millimeter between the abyss and the imposing walls. Numerous peoples have settled in the small town over the centuries. “These influences have given the area its character, they not only distinguish the people, but also our wine,” says Auxiliadora.
We love our land, treat nature with respect and do not want to interfere with the ecosystem. We cultivate our fruit – and you can taste it.
In such a mountainous region, a van is needed that can cope perfectly with the difficult conditions. Auxiliadora therefore opted for the Vito 4×4 from Mercedes-Benz. The four-wheel drive in particular does an excellent job on the difficult terrain. “The Vito is very reliable, agile and versatile,” says the Spaniard. “Sometimes we use it to transport our grapes or equipment; sometimes we drive our guests from place to place with it.” It is a vehicle as hard working, reliable and solid as the people of Ronda believes Auxiliadora. Her recipe for success: “It takes patience and love for the country and its people.” This applies to good wine – and also to life.