A spring afternoon in Málaga is ideal to taste some of the new wines of the province in Mainake Vinos. Tasting wines from Bodega El Niño de la Salina.
The first few times I passed by Mainake Vinos, Málaga, I didn’t think twice about it. The modern looking store with wine bottles artfully arranged just didn’t seem to be that different from other wine shops in the area. I’m usually looking for charming shops with wooden interiors that seem to have been there for ages. But in this case, I was dead wrong.
When I finally pushed open the door to Mainake Vinos in the neighborhood of La Victoria, the owner, José, jumped up to greet me. Before I knew it I was tasting a delightful Málaga style vermouth with a little plate of olives and all was right with the world. As I sipped, I was surprised to see that our friend, and artist, Pipo Riobóo, had some of his paintings displayed inside. A few weeks later, I saw that José would be hosting a wine tasting with the folks from Bodega El Niño de la Salina, so it’s no surprise that we jumped at the chance.
When we arrived at Mainake Vinos, there was a long table set up against one wall and we took our seats along with about 12 other wine tasters. The evening would include a taste of four different wines, as well as the gourmet patés from Cazorla by ArteMonte. So it was going to be a completely Andalusian gastronomic experience.
At about a quarter to nine, Dani, the man responsible for the Bodega El Niño de Salina, looked up from his conversation with José and welcomed us. “This will be an interactive tasting,” he said, “The wines come from a small family run bodega in the province of Málaga. The wines are completely ecological and they have something different about them, a surprise factor, if you will. So I want to tell you not to try the wine before I tell you. I want to explain some things about what you’ll be tasting.” He smiled and then continued, “It’s going to be a fun night.”
Dani picked up a bottle with the name Andresito scrawled in script along the side. He paused for a moment before saying “The name of this wine comes from a family dream. Andrés was from the tiny town of Almargen where there is a long standing tradition of winemaking. Andrés was the father of the family and he always wanted to open up a bodega, but history intervened and the Spanish Civil War put a hold on his plans. His sons worked in a grain factory their whole lives, but when they retired they decided to make their father’s dream a reality”.
Andres’ sons started making wines in 1999 with just a few rows in their vineyard. They have grown steadily and currently have 35 hectares and it is the bodega with the third largest production in Málaga. When it came time to put a name on their Bodega, they decided to pay homage to their family. Their father’s father lived on a piece of land with the name of “La Salina” and, as it was a small town, and in small towns everyone knows everyone, Andres was known simply as “El Niño de la Salina” (the boy from La Salina).”
And the first wine that we tried was named for Andres. If you look at the label on the bottle, it looks like a child’s writing. Andresito, literally “Little Andres”, is what their father was called growing up. It might seem like a strange marketing decision, but the idea was to keep close ties to their Andalusian roots, their family roots. So many times we think we’ve got to be more commercial and more polished but what connects with people are the real stories. So here we have Andresito.
Andresito is a young red wine 60% cabernet and 40%merlot, which is atypical. They’ve achieved a good balance and it’s different from the other young reds from Andalucia. This is a complexity that they try to find in the north by aging the wines in barrels, but in this case, it isn’t necessary. The wine smelled of green peppers, wood and paired wonderfully with the wild boar sausage which was slightly spicy and velvety to the taste.
We also tried a Sauvignon Blanc called “Al Fresco”. This is a wine more typical of the north, and it’s actually quite risky to grow in Andalucía, but the wine it produces has a clean golden color. Aromatically it recalls bitter almonds or apples and pears, but when you take a sip it’s different, not too sweet. The wine was paired with a delicious partridge paté which was so tasty we later bought a little jar to take home!
The third wine we tasted was a red wine, also under the label Al Fresco. This was made with syrah grapes. The aroma is very much one of licorice and they are marketing it as a red wine for summer, although that wasn’t the original plan. This was created because the wife of one of the wine makers didn’t really like red wine, so they set out to make one that she would enjoy. This was the result. The wine was a bit sweet for my taste, but I can see where a non-wine person might enjoy it more.
The last wine we tried was a Pedro Ximenez, which is more typical of Málaga and the famous sweet wines. The grapes are allowed to mature a bit longer on the vine, like they do in the Axarquia mountains. Dani was quick to point out that it is a natural sweetness, not naturally sweet. I’m not 100% sure if that makes sense, but by this point we were all a bit tipsy, and it sounds so poetic in my notebook that I had to include it in this post. The wine had a beautiful caramel color and did not disappoint in flavor. A typical Málaga sweet wine to end the night.
By this point, you might be asking yourself why you haven’t heard about all these other wines in Málaga. We seem to only market the super sweet wines, but there are lots of delicious reds and whites in the region. The answer is simple. We need to get the word out, and those of us who live in Málaga need to be the first to ask for these wines. If you go to a restaurant here in Málaga, many times there is only one local wine (and that’s if you are lucky!) So just as we’ve grown accustomed to shopping at farmer’s markets and buying local produce and meats, we need to extend that same “shop local” mentality to wine. And quite frankly, why wouldn’t we?