Magala is most famous for the fortified wine made in the Malaga province in the Andalucia region of Spain. Wine was first created here by the Greeks in around 600 BC. Originally it was called Xarabal Malaguii, which translates to “Málaga syrup”, and was very sweet.
During the 1500s the popularity of wines produced here grew, and something had to be done to allow the wine to last on the long ocean journeys. They added Brandy to the wine which made it more resistant to the temperature changes, this is how Málaga became a “fortified wine”.
Wines designated as Malaga must be aged in the city of Malaga. The grapes are often grown, pressed and fermented in other parts of the province before being transported to Malaga to be aged. There are three grape-growing zones used to produce Malaga wine, Manilva, Axarquia and Antequera.
Malaga is now a Denominacion de Origen and the wines produced and labelled here must conform to the following rules:
Fortified wines produced must have alcohol levels of between 15 and 22%
Wines produced must be made from over-ripe grapes, have an alcohol content of at least 13%, and have no artificial alcohol added.
There are four main styles of wine produced in this region including
Moscatel: This wine is made from the Muscat of Alexandria grape variety.
Pedro Ximenez: These wines are made exclusively from the Pedro Ximenez grape variety.
Solera: This wine is a specialty borrowed from the Jerez region. These wines are aged in oak barrels using blends from different vintages, which gives these wines a consistent flavor and quality.
Vinos de Lagrima: These wines are made from the Pedro Ximenez grape variety. The juice for these wines is not pressed but is run free, after drying the grapes for one or two days.
Vines were probably first introduced by Phoenicians, who founded the city of Malaga. In 600 B.C when the Greeks founded Mainake, they taught the locals how to produce wine. When the Romans arrived in the region they bought their wine making skills, during their time there the growing of grapes and production of wine in Malaga increased dramatically.
During the Muslim occupation in Malaga wine production, and consumption, dropped dramatically. Koran law prohibited the drinking of wine, and the penalty for being drunk could be as severe as death. Over time these laws were relaxed, first becoming fines, then taxes on the wine sellers.
In 1487 Malaga was reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs. One of the first thing they did was to establish a Fraternity of Vintners to watch over wine production in the region, and the wine industry began to flourish.
Malaga wines soon gained a reputation, not only in Spain, but throughout the world. In 1791 the Spanish Ambassador in Moscow presented Catherine The Great with some cases of Malaga wine. She was so impressed with these wines that she banned any taxes being placed on Malaga wine imported into Russia.
The phylloxera epidemic reached Malaga in 1878, crippling the wine industry. It slowly recovered and on 20 October 1933 the region gained its D.O status.
There are three grape-growing zones used to produce Malaga wine, Manilva, Axarquia and Antequera. The climate here is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean Sea as well as the hot and dry conditions which prevail inland. Moscatel grows well in the cooler, hilly areas, while most of the Pedro Ximénez is grown on the warmer sites.
Malaga wines are very sweet and velvety, and differ slightly depending on the grape mixture used. They are best enjoyed on their own, or with desserts.