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Alboloduy Winery

This winery has been winning prizes across the world for the undisputed quality of its products. The vineyards of Alboloduy (Almeria) are scattered amongst a mountainous desertscape known to only a handful of people. So, what’s the secret of this blessed land? “Even though it hasn’t rained in four months, if you dig just a foot underground you’ll find that the earth is still damp,” explains Francisco Calvache, owner of this family enterprise, as he digs amongst his vines located in the least known part of the Alpujarras.

By: Cecilia Bogaard

Winery in the Alpujarras of Almeria
Birth: 2005
Location: Alboloduy (Almeria)
Stands out for: winning several international competitions for their wine
Did you know? they organize personalised visits to suit your needs

To understand this enigma, you just need to hop into a 4×4 and drive into the area of Montenegro to the southeast of Sierra Nevada National Park [1]. There you can taste wines while taking in the spectacular scenery. Standing amongst eighty year-old vines Calvache describes as “cultural heritage” and with the province of Almeria at your feet, you’ll see the Tabernas Desert, Sierra de Filabres, Sierra de Gador and Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve in the distance. The deathly silence completes the picture. So why are the wines of Alboloduy benefiting from this arid and rocky soil? “Poor soil with shale forces the vine to put down deep roots in search of water which in turn leads to better quality grapes. Due to the soil and climate we are in the perfect location,” explains Calvache.

It’s hard to believe that Alboloduy Winery was born as recently as 2005. The reputation of their wine increases with each competition they enter. Young enologist Cristina Calvache directs the process using millimetric precision to pamper the wines, decide the correct altitude for planting new vines (between 700 and 1,200 metres) and determining the exact moment for their harvest. “Until an international jury had evaluated my wine, I wasn’t totally satisfied. There they base their decisions on blind tasting,” she explains. The awards that stand out are the gold and silver medals from the Vinalies Internationales in Paris, two gold medals from Mundus Vini 2009 and the bronze they were awarded at the International Wine Challenge in 2009.

Their yearly output of 80,000 bottles is divided between crianza wines such as the Cabernet, Syrah and White Alboloduy from the Cristina Calvache Collection, the semi-crianza Taracín, their white Viña Lorite and claret Loma del Viento. Until they are labelled and priced (between 4 and 12 euros), these wines have been handled with kid gloves. The grapes used to produce these wines, notably the white Jaen (Jaén blanca), are grown between the extreme east of Sierra Nevada and the Valle del Andarax, a strategic location at high altitude and with sharp changes in temperature. Following fermentation, the wines are poured into American and French oak barrels for aging.

“The more demanding the customer the better. We want clients with high standards who understand that we take what we do very seriously. Many customers say we should be selling our wines at 30 euros a bottle,” clarifies Francisco Calvache. Their next objective is to attain certification as a producer of ecological wine. The Alboloduy Winery doesn’t use any chemical fertilizers in their vineyards.

Experimentation is their driving force and secret of their success. “I prefer to taste the wines on an empty stomach early in the morning,” comments Cristina Calvache. The ideologue behind these wines, this 30-year-old woman may be young, but she has a clear idea of what she is trying to achieve. “We’re bringing out a line of sweet wines, a young red and even a champagne. Our goal is quality.” Cristina directs a team of four with a yearly turnover of 300,000 euros that sells wine in Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

Viniculture is not new to Alboloduy. Locals have long cultivated their vines to make homemade wine. These days most vines have been abandoned as people have moved down the mountain to work the more lucrative greenhouses for which Almeria is now famous. Now, just a few years after setting up the winery, the Calvaches hope to revive and stimulate this culture of wine production by buying from and assisting local producers. The Calvaches are devoted to their work. “Every time it rains we rush out with the tractor to plough the land and ensure the plants survive.”

Light years away from the culture of ‘making a quick buck’, the Alboloduy Winery is advancing slowly and steadily. They are however aware of the opportunities available by opening their doors to enotourism. The area is in many ways virgin, as yet undiscovered by the well-trodden tourist trail. They offer made-to-measure guided weekend visits in Spanish, French and English for those keen to discover the hidden face of wine making: guided tasting and tours to help understand the everyday running of a winery, with typical food from the area thrown in. Alboloduy is surrounded by hiking routes on which to enjoy the spectacular scenery. As you’re crossing the mountains, it’s pretty likely that the sight of the vineyards will make your mouth water. And what better to quench your thirst than a delicious crianza.