Ventas, ‘comida de cuchara’ and mountain wine, wealth and warmth on a cold winter Sunday
Crackling open fires, a loud cacophony of conversations, the head of a once brutal wild boar on the wall, breathtaking views and steaming pans with ‘comida de cuchara’, are the regular ingredients of a visit to one of the many Ventas in the hinterland of Malaga. A sturdy glass of mountain wine should not be missing.
The birth of hidden mountain wines
Hidden in October in the hills of the Malaga hinterland, the new mountain wines are born every year (originally ‘mountain wines’). On many yards, in small private bodegas, feet pounded the grapes and the sometimes creatively constructed wine presses worked overtime. Neighbors shared their machines, such as the destoner and wine presses. For those who have an above average vineyard, the neighbors came to the aid of harvesting and pressing.
A large pan of ‘arroz’ (rice) was never missing. Many conversations were held about the sugar content of the grapes, fundamental to making a good wine. Previous volumes have been tasted and commented again. There was plenty of improvisation and experimentation, with varying degrees of success. One wanted to keep the wine as original as possible, the other bought new oak barrels to give the wine wood aging. The end result is often surprising. Some wines are difficult to recognize as such and others are amazingly good. Honest, authentic pure natural wines with a minimal use of pesticides and sulphites. Solid, sometimes even a bit brutal wines with often high alcohol percentages. Wines made mainly from Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes.
The unique experience of a full Venta on a cold Sunday
Furthermore, a wine cannot give up on the mass wine that is sold in supermarkets and made in huge wine factories. In the various Ventas (traditional rural restaurant) you can find them where they are sold under the name ‘mosto’. A confusing name, because in classic wine jargon, must is the freshly squeezed grape juice that still has to start its fermentation before becoming wine. How good does the first sip of such a glass of tough wine taste after a fresh walk through the beautiful hinterland? In combination with a nice bitter fresh olive (with a little salt on it) that was also harvested not so long ago. Hanging from the bar waiting for a table because you forgot to make a reservation (which is certainly preferable because on a cold Sunday the Ventas fill up quickly with people looking for the same spending of their Sunday). Bathed in literal and figurative warmth.
Great-grandmothers, grandmothers, dads, moms, children, friends and with a bit of luck a ‘Panda de Verdiales’ (music group that plays traditional regional music), everyone is there. Drowning in a jungle of Spanish sounds at high volume, you will indulge in a vibrant stimulation of all senses. Do you like bone dry wine, order a ‘seco’. If your favorite is semi-dry, order a ‘pintao’ or ‘abocao’. In the first case it is a mixture of dry and sweet wine, so the sweeter you want your wine, the more sweet wine you ask for in the mixture (if you don’t say anything you will get half-and-half). In the second case, it is a wine that still contains some residual sugar due to its original sugar content after fermentation, so that the wine is semi-dry, if you want semi-sweet, by nature. If you want sweet wine, order a ‘dulce’.
Whichever you choose, do not forget to combine them with a ‘plato de cuchara’ (literally translated spoon eating because it has to be eaten with a spoon). Think of ‘callos’ (spicy chickpeas with those parts of pork that we prefer not to consume in the northern countries, but come into their own in the ‘callos’), the various slightly more soup-like ‘cocidos’ such as ‘acelgas’ (white beans, chickpeas, potatoes, chard) and ´berza´ (white beans or chickpeas, potatoes, cabbage), ´fabes asturianas´, (white beans with pork, morcilla and chorizo, originally a dish from Asturias) or ´lentejas´ (lentils prepared in various ways with vegetables, meat and sausage). A warm opulence, especially with a glass of dry mountain wine. No sommelier can think of it better.2