Ronda… land of wines

 

A hot day at the end of August, close to the prehistoric village of Acinipo, a mother and son collect clusters of ripe, wild grapes from the banks of the Setenil stream. They place them in a wicker basket return to the village, amongst the forest of cork, gall and holms oaks. Once in their grass covered circular house, perhaps by oversight and with the providence of fate, the high temperature and ripening of the fruit, generates, within a question of hours, a fermentation, resulting in a strange liquid, better said, an exciting and delicious juice.

 

Such is the beginning of the history of the wines of Ronda. There are various archaeological references and documents that attest to the long tradition of Ronda as the land of vines and wines. The coins of the Iberia Roman town of Acinipo (47-44 AD) that feature a cluster of grapes, without doubt demonstrates the importance of the vine in the economy of these communities.

But not all was recorded and the last years of the 20th Century marked a turning point, thanks to the efforts of new local and foreign wine producers that had a firm commitment to the area. The wines of Ronda (Denomination of Origen Wines of Malaga) are the ideal complement for local and other cuisines. More than 15 existing vineyards make extraordinary reds, rosés and whites that are available on the menus of the majority of restaurants in Ronda.

Without doubt it is the classical Greek and Roman cultures that added value to the world of wine. From Homer´s, Odyssey in which he describes Greek wines or Plato who himself wrote about the gratifying effects of wine, and moving onto the Roman Horatio, in which wine is a recurrent theme in his works of poetry or until the first works of the Roman agricultural world, wine is a constant in the ancient Mediterranean culture. Pliny the Elder dedicated the 14th book of his Natural History to viticulture and wine or the Gaditano Lucio Junio Moderato Columela, the land surveyor, dedicated his works of agriculture, four books (IV, V, XII and the summary of the book of trees), to discuss amongst other aspects, the variety of grapes, the cultivation of the vine and the work in the vineyard, the harvest and the care of the wine.

This knowledge is taken up by the church, which contributed to the development of viticulture, not only through the conservation and communication of cultivation methods, inherited from the Ancient Romans, but also increased the prestige by raisin wine in the cusped of the hierarchy of religious symbols. We can no forget that Jesus said, ‘I am the wine’ and the well know phrase from the Last Supper: ‘Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant’. In our case and referring to the role of the church in the area of wine, there is proof in the Ermita Rupestre Mozárabe de la Virgen de la Cabeza (VIII-X a.d), of a small winery.

But maybe the least known and at the same time the most interesting, is the extolling of wines by the Arab world. Curiously, the Roman god Bacchus and wine were principal themes of classical Arab poetry that reached until its heyday a poetic movement initiated in pre – Islamic Arabia.  At this time wine is an object and symbol of life and love. Such poetry was a serious challenge to the burgeoning Islamic religion. "If I die, bury me with wine so that their roots can quench the thirst of my heart" begged the poet Mihjan Abu Al-Thagafi. Following the same theme, the Caliph Al-Walid Ibn Yazid, claimed defiantly, "Give me wine, well that hell does not exist. Also notable is the Arab poet Abu Nunas, author of a book of poems about wine, titled, Khamriyyat.

Similarly in the thirteenth century, the Almerian Ibn Luyun, in his work on agriculture, dedicated various chapters to the cleaning of the cellar and vines, layering, pruning and grafting of the vines and pressing the grapes.

But if there exists a clear reference to the importance of the grape and wine in our territory, it is that which offers the Municipal Ordinances of the city of Ronda and its jurisdiction, the command proclamation of King Felipe in Plaza de Viva Rambla in the city of Granada in the year 1568. The 17th title of the ordinances, the council declares that: "payments will be of vines and olive groves so that they may create the estates that are in el Prado Viejo, el Real, Sijuela, Brosquelin, the vineyards that are under the estate of Licenciado Escalante, Puerto de las Muelas, Viñas del Mercadillo, until those that are close to the Cortijo de Pedro Caballero, that of the Morales, Fuente de Zarza, Camino de Arriate, those of the House of Zamora, Carril and Lombardas, Cerro del Aguila, Camino de Málaga, until returning to the Mercadillo" demonstrating, once again, the importance of wine in the economic base of the city of Ronda and its surrounding territory.

Likewise, orders and commands that, "no one unrelated to the farm may take no grape nor branch, nor stake, nor shoot or to take a plant without permission of the owner of the farm", furthermore, regulating the salaries of the grape cutters, porters and treaders. (Title XXXII), as well as the prohibition of bring in wine to the area and jurisdiction of Ronda from outside (Title XXVII), except when there was a shortage of wine in the area, in which case the city council could give a licence so that wine may be brought from outside the area.

Without doubt a protective attitude from the public administration which confirmed the economic importance of wine. Likewise breaking with the exclusivity of white wine in the area, when the ordinances regulate that, ¨no inn or tavern keeper may have or sell two wines in his tavern and that both be white or both red. But we allow that they may sell one white wine and the other red in their tavern, lest he that sells two wines both white or both red will pay 300 maravedies".

The projection of vine is also documented in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, especially in the area of Barrio San Francisco. It was in the late nineteenth century when phylloxera (Dactylosphera vitifoliae), a disease caused by insects, attacked the roots of the vines and our memory, causing the demise of the vineyards and the disappearance of the traditional knowledge and culture of wine production.