- Grape varieties: Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel de Alejandría, Chardonnay, Doradilla, Romé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
- Hectares planted: 1,300 Ha
- Grape growers: 480
- Wineries: 40
Rather than one single homogenous wine-growing area, Denominación de Origen Sierras de Málaga is actually spread across the province of Málaga, a bit like those other Mediterranean DOs of Alicante or Valencia. Vineyards cover seven different geographical areas: the hilly Axarquía (A-Shar-Kia) to the east of Málaga city, Costa Occidental, Manilva, Montes de Málaga, Norte de Málaga, Serranía de Ronda and the Sierra de las Nieves.
The first references to winemaking in the region date back to the time of the Phoenicians in around 800 BC, who as well as growing their own grapes also traded wine across the Mediterranean. Wine retained an important role subsequently in both Greek and Roman society, and grapes continued to be cultivated and raisin production grew during the Moorish occupation of Al-Andalus (7121 – 1492).
Wine culture continued after the Christian reconquest, as wine growers rights began to be formally recognized in the late 15th and early 16th century during the reign of Fernando and Isabella and afterwards during the reign of Philip III with the creation of the Hermandad Gremial de los Viñeros. The Hermandad, or Brotherhood, still exists to this day and paved the way for the creation of the modern day DOs of Málaga – famous for its rich fortified wines - in 1933 , and Sierras de Málaga in 2001 which is known for its still wines.
Much of Málaga may be by the sea, but the land rises quickly and steeply behind the coast, and much of the vineyard area, especially in places like the Axarquía or the Sierras de Ronda, is planted on steep slopes at between 600 and 1,000 metres above sea level. As a result, mechanization can be impractical and viticultura heróica (literally ¨heroic winemaking¨) the order of the day, so you’ll still find lots of winemakers tending the vineyards and harvesting by hand or with the help of their trusty donkeys!
At close to 37º latitude, it’s easy to label DO Sierras de Málaga as a clear warm climate wine growing area. But its position means it receives both Mediterranean and Atlantic influences, while that altitude helps ensure a good thermal range, with temperatures dropping at night which helps grapes ripen gently and gradually despite the summer heat.
You’ll find a wide variety of native and international grape varieties in wines from Málaga, although examples of still wines made with Pedro Ximénez (called Pero Ximén in the Axarquía) or the aromatic Muscat of Alexandria abound. Look out too for harder to find grapes like Romé, Málaga’s only native red variety, or the white Doradilla – just 22 hectares planted in Spain, all in Andalucía! – which helps add volume and saline notes to white blends.