Nestled just above the unassuming village of Sayalonga in the Spanish province of Málaga lies a true gem of the Spanish culinary scene. For those that say that Málaga has a bad reputation for wine and that the climate is too hot for a successful vineyard, Bodegas Bentomiz is there to prove you wrong.
Where is Bodegas Bentomiz?
The views on the journey up to Bodegas Bentomiz are almost worth the cost of the tour itself. The area of Sayalonga is easily accessible by car, and less than an hour drive from Málaga, or 90 minutes from Granada. The coastal drive takes you past some gorgeous towns and villages, including Torre del Mar and Vélez-Málaga to the West, or Nerja and Torrox to the East, before heading North through the quaint and beautiful Algarrobo (where my family live) and up through the neighbouring Sayalonga.
Once through Sayalonga, Bodegas Bentomiz is a further five minutes drive North, but the area is steep and if you’re walking from this point it isn’t an easy route in the Andalucían sun. A sharp right turn onto Finca la Frasca reveals the stunning building designed by André, Head Chef and one half of the husband-and-wife owners of Bodegas Bentomiz.
About the Winery
After emigrating to Southern Spain from Holland, Clara and André purchased their property in Sayalonga on the site of an abandoned vineyard, and began the restoration. The vines at Bodegas Bentomiz are between 80-100 years old, and the team are respectfully introducing newer vines as the years go on.
Despite Málaga having a poor reputation for winemaking due to its hot climate, the team prove that the area is ideal. The annual rainfall of just 500mm provides sufficient water to the deep-rooted vines, whilst the sea-breeze from the nearby Mediterranean Sea offers some respite from the searing summers. To protect from the heat, the grapes grow in bunches close to the ground, whilst the leaves above them create some natural shade from the sun.
Due to the rugged mountainous location, the harvesting, usually taking place in the hottest part of the year in mid-August, is an arduous and manual process, with no machinery able to access the vines. Once harvested, the grapes are then dried on paseros, or on floating racks, which allows the air to move over the top and underneath the grapes.
Clara and André produced their first batch of 700 bottles of wine in 2003, which was incredibly well-received. Since then, the winery has grown and now has wines in over 20 European Michelin-starred restaurants. The spectacular building was meticulously designed by Andre to house the restaurant, winery, and offices, and is clad in Indian slate that complements the slate in the Andalucían soil. From here, they offer winery tours, tastings, lunches, and special events.
Tour, Tasting, and Lunch Experience
You can opt for just a tour and tasting of Bodegas Bentomiz at €12 per person, or there are 3-course (€41 per person), 5-course (€56 per person), or 10-course (€61 per person) lunches available after the tour. On our trip, we opted for the tour, tasting, and 3-course winemaker’s menu, at a fair price of €41. We also chose the wine-pairing for the lunch at an additional €10.50. This takes place in the small, stunning restaurant, or outside on the sun-soaked terrace, with the most incredible views of the mountains and neighbouring villages.
For the wine-tasting, we enjoyed four of the Bodegas Bentomiz’s Ariyanas range of wines. ‘Ariyanas’ was the name of the Moorish hamlet that existed next to the vineyard during the Moorish occupancy of the Iberian Peninsula. The Arabic root of the name Ariyanas is ‘aromatic’, which quite frankly is a marketing dream for a winery.
Our first wine was the floral and light Romé Rosado rosé, using the unusual indigenous Romé grape only grown here and in the nearby Granada. Our second wine was the Seco Sobre Lías Finas, a dry white Moscatel with notes of elderflower perfect for seafood dishes. Third was the Terruño Pizarroso, a fruity and sweet unfortified white wine which was described as ‘bottling the Málaga sunset’, a sentiment that I have to agree with. Finally, we had my absolute favourite wine of the lot, the showstopping David Tinto Dulce sweet red merlot bursting with cherry and blackcurrant smells.
Following a period exploring the views from the terrace whilst the restaurant was turned around, it was time to sit back down for lunch to be served. Offered in a typically Spanish way, dishes were served over the period of a couple of hours, whilst we relaxed with paired wines, good conversation, and amazing views. Whereas typically wines are paired based on dishes, Bodegas Bentomiz have created a changing menu that instead complements the wines.
Firstly, we were served two amuse-bouche paired with the Lobban Bentomiz sparkling white wine. The dishes were scallop in cauliflower cream and courgette spaghetti, followed by oyster in beurre blanc created with the Lobban-Bentomiz wine and served with a pomegranate pearl. Alongside these, we also enjoyed a fresh, daily-made sourdough bread with Cortijo Suerte Alta organic olive oil from Baena, Andalucía.
Our starter was a stunning red tuna tataki with Bodegas Bentomiz soy sauce, served with spinach cream with wasabi and ginger. The pairing was with the Seco Sobre Lías Finas dry white that we had tasted earlier. There was also a tasting of ginger on the plate alongside, for the daring, a taste of wasabi.
The main meal was oxtail with parsnip cream, aubergine paste, and Bodegas Bentomiz alioli, paired with a blended crianza dry red Ariyanas Tinto 2019, a bold wine perfect for the oxtail.
Finally, our dessert consisted of rosemary and almond sponge cake, on a cream of goats cheese, topped with apple purée and served with lavender foam and basil sorbet. The wine for this course was Naturalmente Dulce, an unfortified sweet and fruity Moscatel wine perfect for desserts.
During lunch, André ensured that he visited each table to talk about the wines, the food, and answer any questions, and the service throughout by the staff, owners, and tour guide was exemplary. After lunch we purchased a couple of our favourite bottles of wines from the day before leaving.
As a treat, for a special occasion, or just to learn more about the history of these fantastic wines, I can’t recommend a visit to Bodegas Bentomiz enough. From the setting to the service, and of course the food and drink, it was a truly great experience.
Whilst Bodegas Bentomiz is absolutely worth visiting on it’s own, this coastline of Spain is rich in culture, heritage, and things to do. The local towns of Nerja, Frigiliana, and Torre del Mar are all worth visiting, and you’re also close to the famous La Alpujarra region. Both cities of Granada and Málaga are also easily accessible, and there are plenty of local day trips that are worth visiting.