When you run an online business, it can be very tempting to lock yourself up in the office, surrounded by spreadsheets, cups of tea, and empty wine bottles, and tinker incessantly with your website. I confess Ben and I have been doing a bit of that recently. But we hope it was worthwhile and you find our slightly sleeker website a bit easier to navigate and our new product pages filled with more useful information about each wine.
But last weekend we decided it was time to put aside the virtual world and meet some of our customers in real life (or 'IRL' as I believe the youngsters call it). So, we packed up the van and headed down to Malaga for an in-depth look at the wine scene on the Costa del Sol.
On my last visit to that part of Spain, I was straight out of university and threw myself into a short-lived career as a tour guide. On one occasion, a group member asked me how many olive trees there were in Andalusia. I hesitated for a millisecond before answering "25,695,0000". The answer seemed to make him happy, and to be fair it wasn’t a bad guess – the actual figure is around 40 million. But it was a guess all the same. And this time I was determined to really get to know this wonderful part of Spain.
The Costa del Sol has plenty to recommend it. Tranquil whitewashed villages nestling in stunning landscapes; beautiful beaches where you can soak up the sun almost year round; the delicious espeto de sardinas, or grilled sardines on a stick; the divine natural sweet wines aged for decades using the criaderas y soleras method (the same you’ll find in Jerez). It’s no wonder this stretch of coast is pulling in the international crowds in such large numbers.
The coastline view from Nerja
And the people it’s attracting are absolutely wonderful. From Puerto Banus to Nerja, we found fascinating people who are passionate about their community.
There are the dedicated volunteers raising money for abandoned dogs and cats at the Triple A animal shelter - thank you, Lily, we loved showing our wines at your fundraiser! The consummate networkers like Ali Meehan bringing women together under the Costa Women banner. All those involved in multifarious community initiatives like the Arts Society or Lions Club International. And with a burgeoning new tech sector centered around the Malaga Tech Park, it feels like more variety and diversity is yet to come.
Triple A Sanctuary Charity Event - getting ready for the crowds!
We were also privileged to spend a couple of hours in the company of our friends Vicente and Juan at Viñedos Verticales. Vicente is putting together some excellent wines from local grapes farmed in the vertiginous plots of the Sierras de Málaga. And Juan’s family has been making natural still wines (sold under the Dimobe brand) for nearly a century. His cellar is laden with history, not to mention some wonderful sweet wines.
The wonderfully cellars at Dimobe - full of history
Yes, the Sol it seems is definitely shining on this particular Costa. And we basked in it for three excellent days.
Trundling back up north, I reflected on how glad I was to get back down south again after such a long time. But as we drove through the stunning landscape of Jaén with its endless olive plantations, it wasn’t the trees I was counting – it was my lucky stars for having been given such a great opportunity.
Thank you, Costa del Sol. We will be back.