Bodega in the ‘spotlight’: Casa Antigua de Guardia
Antigua Casa de Guardia is undeniably the oldest wine company in the province of Malaga. The bodega is located in the easternmost part of the Montes de Malaga two kilometers from Olias on the road to Comares, about half an hour’s drive from El Palo, Malaga. The tour takes you on a beautiful, winding mountain road with views over the sea and the mountains. In the well-known Taberna Casa Antiqua de Guardia on the Alameda in the heart of Malaga, all wines from this bodega can be enjoyed, in a unique ambiance. Time seems to have stood still. Together, Bodega and Taberna are a vibrant tribute to the rich past and tradition of Malaga’s wines.
The Malaga Wine Guide went into the mountains and visited the bodega on a sun drenched and warm February morning.
The entrance to the bodega is as impressive as its history. From the mountain road we turned into a wide avenue lined with rows of ancient Eucaliptus trees. At the end of the avenue looms the characteristic main building, with the countless rows of barrels in which the wines are aged. You immediately taste, smell and feel the past. Malaga’s oldest bodega was founded in 1840 by Don José de la Guardia, the same year Her Majesty Queen Isabel II visited Malaga. On the occasion of her visit, a large market was held where all products from the province could be tasted, including the wines of the bodega. A certain friendship even developed between the Queen and Don José de la Guardia. During the many years of its existence, the bodega and taberna have changed hands. However, central to the company’s philosophy has always been the will to produce the most pure, classic wines of the province, such as Pajarete, Moscatel, Seco Trasañejo and Lágrima Añejo.
Incidentally, the Taberna has not always been in its current location, even though it has thrived there for over a hundred years. The bodega opened its first doors in ‘calle Ollerias’ to reach its final destination via ‘calle Alhondiga’.
Our visit started with a short walk through the vineyards that lie on the north-east side of the bodega. Old vines trimmed to the ground (the pruning season was in full swing) are typical of the Montes de Malaga and the Axarquia. On the steep slopes, we can imagine that manual harvesting is a tough job. The bodega now also buys grapes from vineyards in the north of the province. Many wine puritans think that the ‘solera-criaderas’ should not be ‘polluted’ with it.
After the vineyards, we entered the beautiful vaulted building where many wine barrels are stacked in long rows and the various wines undergo their oxidative ageing. This means that the barrels are not completely filled and oxygen is has a free rein to exert its influence on the wine. It is this oxidation that gives the wines their dark hues, despite being made from white grapes.
The early sunlight streaming in through some of the windows gently caressed the dark wood. All sorts of wine-related smells penetrated the nose. We immediately looked forward to the tasting that would start with Pajarete.
Pajerete is Malaga’s most famous traditional wine. Even though this wine was born in Cadiz and has found its way to Malaga through the Sherry region. It is a ‘vino generoso de licor’, a fortified but elegant wine whose fermentation has been stopped by adding extra wine alcohol to retain sufficient residual sugar in the wine. The ‘Consejo Regulador’ (regulator for the wines that may be sold under the appellation of the province of Malaga) allows a quantity of residual sugar of between 45 and 140 grams per litre. This means that Pajarete can be from semi-sweet to sweet. Pajarete should never contain ‘arrope’, the ‘au bain marie’ boiled-down must that makes wines sweeter (and also gives them a dark color).
Pedro Ximen is the main grape (usually about 70%) followed by Moscatel and sometimes a very small percentage of Romé. The wine is aged for at least two years in wood. Aromas that you can find in Pajarate are nuts (hazelnuts, almond), raisins, caramel, orange peel, hint of citrus and light wood tones. A good Parajete is mainly subtle and elegant and not as mouth-filling as the super sweet, heavier, sweet wines.
The bottled Parajete 1908 from the bodega is made from 100% Pedro Ximen grapes.
The cellar master poured us a number of variants straight from the barrels of the ‘solera-criaderas’, of which we preferred the ‘drier’ versions with less residual sugar (semi-sweet). Pajerete is often drunk as an aperitif in Malaga and the surrounding area and too sweet wine is not conducive to arousing appetite. That requires a good balance between sugar and acids (or of course a dry wine).
We then tasted a 100% Moscatel with ten years of wood aging where exactly that balance in perfection had been found. A touch of orange blossom in the nose and honey, almond and ripe white fruit as the dominant flavours. Downright spectacular.
Finally, we drank a Seco Trasañejo. A beautiful, old, long-aged, bone-dry fortified wine from Pedro Ximen. This is what we think they should make more (again) in the Montes de Malaga, as these types of wines have lost a lot of ground. It is not easy to understand why this is. Perhaps it has to do with the trend that consumers are increasingly looking for lighter wines with less alcohol. Or even wines completely without alcohol. Also, more and more bodegas are looking for wine styles that they can quickly bring to the market. However, the Pedro Ximen grape thrives on the terroir and climate of the
Montes de Málaga. A perfect marriage for creating this wine style. Wood upbringing in the ‘solera-criaderas’ does the rest. This wine can be compared with the Olorosos from the Sherry region and Montilla Moriles (Cordoba).
As the oldest bodega in the province, Antigua Casa de Guardia has an extra responsibility to safeguard the cultural heritage of the province. The bodega does this with verve without losing sight of modern developments. The doors of the bodega are wide open to wine tourism. The old romantic outbuildings offer plenty of opportunities for (culinary) events with large groups. For those who want to spend the night, a number of houses have been made in the shape of large wooden wine barrels. A better wine experience can not be imagined.