Wine Tourism in Andalucía: spotlight on Málaga and Sierras de Málaga

Luis Ponce Vizcaino walking in Marbella vineyard

Are you a wine connoisseur, enthusiast or occasional sipper?


Whatever your predilections when it comes to wine, you’ve probably sampled a glass (or two!) of Spanish vino at some time in your life…


Did you know that Spain produces 8% of the world’s wine, has 138 wine regions and vineyards spanning almost a million hectares?


Let’s home in on Andalucía in Southern Spain, which boasts over 40,000 hectares of vineyards. Although not as well known for its wine production as regions like Rioja or Ribera del Duero, Andalusian wines – especially Jerez (sherry) – have a long history and unique production methods resulting in a diverse range of styles and flavours that reflect the region’s grape varietals and cultural and winemaking traditions.


Much of the wine in Andalucía is produced in four areas classified as “Denominación de Origen“, known as Designation of Origin in English (D.O.) and Appellation d’origine contrôllée in French (AOC). These D.O. classifications designate a geographical area and strict regulations in terms of quality and authenticity.


Andalucía has four D.O.s (with another two sub-designations): Jerez, Montilla-Moriles (Córdoba), Málaga (including Sierras de Málaga and Pasas de Málaga) and Condado de Huelva, as well as 16 geographical indications (Vinos de la Tierra) which reflect its rich wine heritage and diverse terrains.


D.O. Jerez produces what is undoubtedly one of the most famous Spanish wines in the world. The area encompasses three towns: Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, collectively known as the “Sherry Triangle”. Jerez is primarily made from Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes and types include Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream and Pedro Ximenez.


D.O. Montilla-Moriles covers the southern part of Córdoba near Granada and typically produces sweet and fortified dessert wines made mostly from Pedro Ximenez grapes, although sometimes Moscatel is also grown here. Types include Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez.


D.O. Málaga is known for its sweet wines primarily made from Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez grapes, with Moscatel de Málaga and Pedro Ximenez (PX) de Málaga being the most common types.


D.O. Condado de Huelva produces a variety of sweet and dry white wines from the Zalema grape, including Condado de Huelva Jóven, Pálido and Viejo. The area is also known for its superior vinegar – Vinagre de Condado de Huelva.


In this post, we’ll focus on the Málaga and Sierras de Málaga areas.


There are five different winemaking regions within the D.O. Málaga and D.O. Sierras de Málaga with 3,800 hectares of vineyards: Axarquía, Montes, Norte, Costa Occidental-Manilva and the Serranía de Ronda. These regions are incredibly diverse in climate, soil and terrain, and subsequently produce very different wines.

Malaga Wines
Malaga Wines

Málaga wines


Málaga is one of the oldest winemaking regions in Spain, dating back to Phoenician times. In the past, Málaga wine was simply known as ‘mountain wine’, a sweet concoction that was a firm favourite with the Romans and later used by the Moors for “medicinal” purposes! Winemaking continued to thrive in the region until the 19th century, when it suffered a steep decline after a phylloxera epidemic destroyed the region’s vines and drier wines became more popular.


It was only when Málaga was registered as a brand in 1924, and then given the Designation of Origin appellation in 1933, that Málaga wine production began to recover and experience a renewed surge in interest.


Málaga wine is a distinctive sweet wine produced primarily from Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez grapes and usually enjoyed as a dessert wine. The longer the wines are aged, the deeper their colour, ranging from light yellow to almost black. Málaga wines are classified by age as follows:


Málaga Pálido – maximum ageing of 6 months

Málaga – between 6 and 24 months

Málaga Noble – between 2 and 3 years

Málaga Añejo – between 3 and 5 years

Málaga Trasañejo – over 5 years


Ronda Wines
Ronda Wines

Ronda wines


The Ronda region has a long tradition of wine production. Just a 20-minute drive north of Ronda town, you’ll find the Roman ruins of Acinipo. The name of this ancient settlement is thought to originate from the Latin Acinus, meaning cluster, and many coins found on site feature a cluster of grapes on one side, a possible indication of how important winemaking was in that era.


D.O. Sierras de Málaga is one of the newest appellations in Spain, established in 2001, which includes the Mediterranean coast to the south, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Serranía de Ronda to the west and the Guadalhorce river to the north. This designation is allowed to produce many more varieties of red, white and rosé wine which are lighter and drier than those of D.O. Málaga. It also includes a sub-designation Pasas de Málaga, for wine made from sundried grapes (pasas is the Spanish word for raisins).


Serranía de Ronda has the highest vineyards in the region, rising to an altitude of over 900 metres. More traditional red and white wines are produced here; the reds made from Romé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Tempranillo grapes and the whites from Chardonnay, Macabeo, Colombard, and Sauvignon Blanc varietals.


Ronda wines are classified as:


– Crianza – aged at least 2 years

Reserva – at least 3 years

Gran Reserva – at least 5 years

wine tourism in spain

Wine tourism in Spain


Wine tourism, also known as enotourism, oenotourism or vinitourism, is a type of tourism whose purpose is to taste, consume and buy wine, usually from its place of origin. Whilst Spain has predominantly been a sun, sea and sand destination, a growing interest among tourists to explore Spain’s culture and local products, has led to a boom in wine tourism here in recent decades. It began with vineyards and bodegas offering traditional tours and wine tastings, then bloomed into a hybrid offer pairing oenology with gastronomy and other cultural traditions, such as flamenco. Many companies have become increasingly creative, proposing hiking, cycling and horseback tours combined with vineyard visits and tasting sessions as well as historic city tours with regular stops for wine and tapas. Wine festivals are held all over Spain and there are many Wine Routes (Rutas del Vino) for tourists to learn about viticulture and winemaking and participate in wine tasting sessions.


Wine Tourism in Málaga Province


D.O. Málaga’s climate and unique terroir, consisting in diverse fertile soils at varying altitudes, along with its winemaking heritage, result in high-quality, varied and distinctive wines that are increasingly being recognised and appreciated in international circles. Combined with Málaga province’s stunning natural landscapes, it’s no wonder that the area has become a popular destination for wine tourism.


With 45 wineries in the province, almost half of them in the Serranía de Ronda, it’s a tall order trying to decide which ones and how many of them to visit. Let us help you with a few suggestions.


Five kilometres northeast of Ronda is the Cortijo Los Aguilares estate, 800 hectares of holm oak forest and scrubland nestled between the Sierra de las Nieves and Grazalema natural parks at 900 metres above sea level. The estate’s four vineyards spanning 25 hectares grow Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Graciano grapes. Your visit will give you a unique insight into the history of their winery, the terroir and wines, and their winemaking philosophy. Take a tour of their vineyards and sample their wines amongst the vines, then enjoy a picnic under the shade of oak trees. This is a grape to glass experience to remember! We recommend the Pago Espino, Pinot Noir 100% and Tadeo.

Wine Tourism in Andalusia - La Melonera
Wine Tourism in Andalusia - Doña Felisa
Wine Tourism in Andalusia - Descalzos Viejos

La Melonera, ten kilometres south of Ronda, is an estate with 200 hectares of vineyards dotted with holm oaks and areas of native forest at altitudes of 650-940 metres. La Melonera’s mission was to revive the native grape varieties of yesteryear and root their vine-growing and traditional winemaking methods in total harmony with nature. Find out more about their history, project and wines on a guided tour, and indulge in some wine-tasting. We recommend the Payoya Negra.


Doña Felisa is a family-run winery 15km north of Ronda, 900m above sea level and not far from the Roman ruins of Acinipo. When owners José María Losantos and his wife, Gema Alonso first came to Ronda, it was love at first sight and in 1999 they founded the winery. Their six vineyards grow a huge variety of grapes, including Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Fran, Graciano, Garnacha, Petit Verdot, and Tintilla de Rota. José María and Gema will personally take you on a tour (in Spanish or English) of the vineyards and bottling and ageing rooms followed by wine tasting paired with delicious local tapas. We recommend Cloe Chardonnay, Cloe Cava Espumoso and Doce más Doce.


Finca Descalzos Viejos is just a few minutes’ drive from Ronda centre. The 16-hectare estate has three vineyards across 10 hectares at 600 metres altitude growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Garnache, Graciano, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Chardonnay grapes. It’s also the setting for a beautiful 16th Century monastery – the Convento del Tajo – which was home to the Trinitarios Descalzos (the barefoot – or discalced – Trinitarians, a Roman Catholic order founded in 1597), after which the finca is named. In 1998, the current owners bought the building and painstakingly restored it to its former glory, with the remains of medieval frescoes still gracing the walls of the main hall. Tours of the building and vineyards and wine tasting sessions can be booked directly with the owners, who speak Spanish and English. We recommend the DV+ and DV Chardonnay.

Wine Tourism in Andalusia - Museo del vino
Wine Tourism in Andalusia - Centro integral del vino
Wine Tourism in Andalusia - Antigua Casa de Guardia

If you’re thirsty for more (knowledge and wine!), Ronda is also home to two wine museums: Museo del Vino de Ronda and Centro Integral del Vino de Ronda. The Museo del Vino de Ronda is housed in a beautiful historic building in Ronda’s Old Town, a testament to the many civilisations that have left their mark. The museum offers tours, tastings with or without commentary, and introductory courses in the art of wine tasting. Don’t miss the superb interior patio – a wonderful mix of Roman, Arab and Castilian influences housing the “Fuentes del Vino”, a carved stone wall replete with taps spouting wine! The Centro Integral del Vino de Ronda was a wine cellar built over the old Ronda water tank in 1880 to store Ronda’s wines. Today, the centre is part museum, part wine-tasting venue and part experimental laboratory, and also holds conferences, workshops and exhibitions.


If you’re heading towards Málaga, make time to visit the Antigua Casa de Guardia, the oldest vineyard in the region, on the outskirts of the village of Olias. Founded in 1820, the estate produces ten different Málaga wines from Pedro Ximenex, Moscatel and Romé grapes using traditional methods. Their bodega in Málaga centre by the same name, is an exceptional bar founded in 1840 by master wine-maker Don José de Guardia. As you enter through its doors, it’s like stepping back in time: old barrels line the wall from which waiters serve tiny glasses of sweet and dry wines, paired with delicious tapas. It’s a favourite haunt of both locals and tourists, and there’s no better place to experience the essence of an old-school Andalusian wine bar.


The Museo del Vino in Málaga is also well worth a visit. Their tour takes you through the history of winemaking in Málaga province, vine growing, grape varieties and wine ageing, and ends with an opportunity to sample both Málaga sweet wine and Sierras de Málaga dry wine in the tasting room.

Wine Tourism in Andalusia - Wine routes and festivals

Wine routes and festivals


If you fancy a road trip along the wine routes of Málaga province, you can take your pick from the shorter Serranía de Ronda Wine Route, a delightful journey through the municipalities of Ronda, Arriate, and Gaucín, or the longer Ronda and Málaga Wine Route which runs through the municipalities of Arriate, Cómpeta, El Borge, Manilva, Moclinejo, Mollina, Ronda, Sayalonga and Almáchar.


Many of the picturesque villages en route hold festivals to celebrate the grape harvest. These Grape Harvest fairs are held between August and October, varying according to climate, location and type of wine. Celebrations include traditional grape-treading, wine tasting, music and dance, literary and poetry readings and much more. The pretty white village of Cómpeta is the place to be on 15th August for La Noche del Vino (The Night of Wine); it’s Manilva’s turn in the first week of September and Mollina continues a week later with a varied programme including the Night of Flamenco and Wine and the Poetry Competition ‘Mollina, colour of wine’; and on the second or third Sunday in September, El Borge celebrates Raisin Day with demonstrations, tastings, concerts and lots of fun!


For something a little different, in early September, the Museo del Vino de Ronda holds the Heritage Wine Festival, during which the Dames Goyesca – ladies from Ronda who dress up in traditional flamenco dresses as seen in Goya’s paintings – stomp in a large barrel of grapes. Of course everyone then wants to have a go, especially after sampling some of the Serranía de Ronda’s best bottles of wine!

Marbella Mountain Resorts

Our expert, dedicated team would be delighted to introduce you to the wonders of our region’s vineyards. If this post has piqued your interest in Málaga and Ronda wines, we can help!


We offer a unique combination of luxury villas and discrete 7-star hotel service, tailored to satisfy your every need and comfort. Take a look at our hand-picked luxury villas in La Zagaleta, the most exclusive residential resort in Europe. At just 18km from the coast and 40km from Ronda, it’s the perfect setting to enjoy the best of both worlds! Alternatively, our magnificent Ronda Mountain Resort – a 7-bedroom Andalusian country estate – is located at the very heart of the Ronda and Málaga Wine Route. Guests staying in this authentic Spanish hacienda can take advantage of our helicopter service which can whisk you to the winery of your choice in a heartbeat!




Get in touch with us at Marbella Mountain Resorts – we’ll find the perfect luxury villa for you, provide first-class service and make all the arrangements for an extraordinary cultural experience. You imagine it, we’ll make it a reality.



Phone: +34 609 18 46 46


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