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Discovering Bodegas Bentomiz
Nestling on the hillside a short distance from Sayalonga is the Bodegas Bentomiz winery. Developed by Dutch couple André Both and Clara Verheij they produce the Ariyanas wines, which have gained an international reputation in the 15 years since they turned their passion for wine into a business. “We were tempted into it by the exceptional quality of the Malaga grapes,” say Clara.
It should be no surprise that Malaga – and specifically the east side of Malaga, the Axarquía, has excellent grapes. After all, Malaga historically was an important wine region, although in recent years as the sweet wines it is best known for have fallen out of favour. But the climate on the hillsides is perfect – reasonable winter rains, plenty of sunshine, and height with pleasant sea-breezes to soften the summer heat. Add to that the Axarquía has a slate terroir – which gives an attractive mineral taste to the wines and plenty of old vines. “Most of those harvest from are between 80 to 100 years old,” says Clara, “So they have very deep root systems to reach the low water table, and produce grapes with a really intense flavour”.
Bodegas Bentomiz has taken advantage of these characteristics to produce the Ariyanas wine range. Like ‘Bentomiz’ the name ‘Ariyanas’ comes from an ancient place name – a tiny hamlet that once stood near the vineyard – but it has an added connection to the wines. It comes from an Arabic word meaning aromatic – how appropriate! And while the bodega has modern equipment and a modern approach, they have not abandoned tradition. “We are a Malaga winery. And after 23 years here in Andalusia, we are not so much Holandes as HolAndaluces!” André jokes. “It is true,” Clara agrees, “We use modern techniques – such as stopping the fermentation of our sweet wines with temperature control to produce a cold shock. That means we don’t have to fortify and can produce more subtle, less sticky sweet wines. But we also ‘asolear’ – giving the grapes a few days sunshine after harvesting them, in the raisins beds you see near dozens of farms here. That allows you to maintain the acidity – which makes the wine fresh – while concentrating the sugars. And that is a traditional Malaga technique.
The Ariyanas wines are certainly distinctive – elegant, personal and subtle. There is a range of six – red, white and rosé, sweet and dry. And it is perhaps not surprising that it has been attracting a lot of attention. “We now sell throughout Europe and ship to America and Canada,” Clara says. “We are looking at the Asian market too. But Spain is also growing for us: we are doing very well in Madrid and Barcelona. We have won many prizes internationally, but are delighted that we have also won local prizes. We won in the Sabor a Málaga competitions – finding the very best Malaga products – with Ariyanas Seco sobre lías finas as the best dry white moscatel, and Ariyanas Terruño Pizarroso as the best sweet moscatel. That makes our wines ambassadors for Malaga province, which is wonderful.
Bodegas Bentomiz offers visitors winery tours and tastings as well as wine-centred lunches in their beautiful salon from Wednesday to Sunday, year round. To learn more visit www.bodegasbentomiz.com and discover these remarkable modern Malaga wines.