Paco Garcia, manager of the Michelin-star El Lago Restaurant in Marbella, was the main initiator of the idea and technical assessment of the event “Larders of the South: Andalucia’s still wines and artisan cheeses”. A total of 29 wineries and 18 artisan cheesemakers, the majority from Malaga, took part in this event, which was held at the end of summer 2009 as part of Marbella’s 1st Gastronomic Food & Sun Fair. Paco Garcia is one of the main experts in the region’s gastronomic wealth and is a great proclaimer of its potential at an international level.
Some of Andalucia’s still wines and artisan cheeses have already found a place at the front line of international gastronomy, owing to their quality, individuality and authenticity. The Ronda wines, fullbodied with complex aromas, the unique wines of Sierra de la Contraviesa in the Alpujarra region from the highest vinyard in Europe (over 1,300 metres) or those of Arcos de la Frontera that reflect all the typical flavours of this area and are wonderfully processed, are all examples of this achievement.
“They are excellent wines that can compete on an equal footing with the best wines from northern Spain as well as France and they should be much better known by the Andalusians. In order to achieve this, it is vital to bring them to the attention of professionals in the restaurant and hotel trade. This is the objective of “Larders of the South”, Paco Garcia explains.
Andalucia has become one of Spain’s most active wine producing areas with a high distribution. Over the last few years more than a dozen different wine producing areas have been created under the umbrella of Vinos de la Tierra (Wines of the Region). The best known are Ronda, Sierras de Malaga, Sierra Norte in Seville and Rivera de Andarax in Almeria.
It is the same with the cheeses. French cheeses are well-known internationally, when in fact many of them are made with goats’ milk produced in Malaga. This is something that needs to be radically changed. Fortunately, over the last few years a lot of investment has been made in modernising artisan cheesemaking with the latest technology. This has resulted in a variety of cheeses of extraordinary quality.
Most of the artisan cheesemakers are found in Malaga, where over 60 percent of Andalucia’s goats milk is produced. There are 19 artisan cheesemakers in the province and their produce is magnificent, well worth a place of honour in gourmet restaurants and stores.
The great improvement in the quality of cheesemaking in Malaga is due to the use of natural milk which is heated to a maximum of 36 º C . Milk treated like this preserves all the original flavours of the food given to the goats, whether it be the salt of the coast, rosemary or thyme. All these flavours are preserved in the cheeses.
The use of natural milk takes us back to the traditional mountain flavours.