La Fabrica de Hojalata
Yesterday, December 6th was bank holiday and it couldn’t have rained harder. Today, we are en route to visit La Fábrica de Hojalata, a winery in the Valle del Genal near Ronda. The sky is grey and the rain comes and goes.
We turn off the main road from Ronda and start to wind our way around the mountain. We pass Júzcar, a town famous for its Smurfs, and see the sign to the Fábrica Real de Hojalata.
Turning off the windy road the rain lets up briefly as we follow a track down into the valley, avoiding pot holes made worse by the rain. It’s been a long dry autumn and the rain is much needed.
It seems like we have been driving along the track forever when we spot a sign Fábrica de Hojalata and a misty view of Júzcar. I breath a sigh of relief. In an hour or so it will be dark and I don’t fancy getting lost in the middle of nowhere.
When the road eventually levels out, we cross the river Genal and take the entrance to the vineyard. The ground is covered in a carpet of orange leaves and we comment on how lovely it must be here in the summer.
We trundle along a dirt track in my Yaris. When we finally get there, it’s quiet and we are greeted by a dog. There’s no phone signal so we wait until Enrique, alerted by the dog, comes out to find us. He instantly welcomes us in the comfortable manner of someone used to many different people coming and going and ushers us into the kitchen via the courtyard and out of the rain.
Out comes the Pinot Noir 2017
“Perfect timing,” he says. “We’re just making tea. Earl Grey.”
He waves a hand towards Dante who is making the tea, and introduces him as a volunteer. Either through instinct or experience, Enrique looks at Min and asks if he would prefer a glass of wine. Min expresses his thanks and decides on red. As if by magic, a bottle of Pinot Noir, 2017 has appeared and with an air of satisfaction, Enrique pulls out the cork and fills a glass for Min.
Homemade cake, tea and wine
Over Earl Grey, red wine and homemade cake (made by two German volunteers who left this morning), Enrique questions me about my motives for wanting to volunteer at his winery. He asks what I teach. I’m surprised by his interest in my Creative Writing for Wellbeing sessions as he encourages me to explain what happens in a workshop. He listens patiently serving more tea and pours himself a glass of wine, ensuring that Min’s glass is also full. When I ask him to reveal more about the story of the Fábrica and his part in renovating it, he smiles and tells me that it’s a long story to be enjoyed one evening over a bottle of wine.
Dante, who has joined us for tea around the large kitchen table, is scribbling a way in a notebook as he looks up information on his phone. On Friday he’s off to Australia in search of adventure, work and sunshine. I mention that Noon’s Winery in Mclaren Vale might be a great place to start.
Enrique invites us to lunch the next day and before we know it, we are back in the trusty Yaris winding our way up the mountain track in the dark and towards our lodgings in Farajan. Tomorrow it’s the fiesta for the patron saint and while the only bar in the village of Farajan is busy serving food and drink, they still find time to make us feel welcome. On the walk back from the bar, it turns out that our room is a stone’s throw away. I find this both cosy and appealing. I’m already looking forward to breakfast in the bar as they’ve promised to save me a piece of tortilla.
A short tour in the rain
After a brief walk around Faraján the next day and an attempt to spot the smurfs in the pouring rain in Júzcar, we make our way back to the Fábrica de Hojalata. Today, in the daylight, we get a tour of the vineyard. Enrique reminds us that his wine is both natural and organic. The winery produces around 10,000 bottles a year most of which are stored in the old chapel.
Lunch is a Hungarian vegetable soup that Enrique learnt to make thanks to a volunteer. It’s perfect for a wet December day. As Enrique, intrigued during the tour by Min’s accounts of the production of meloja and Moscatel in Chipiona, opens a bottle of white, Dante entertains us with stories of his time as a volunteer. The crisp white wine goes well with the vegetable soup.
Wine bed and breakfast
After a final tour of the accommodation where the wine bed and breakfast guests stay, Enrique shows us the volunteers’ quarters. I’m impressed at the standards but not surprised. The house is a work of art and wine guests have included famous Spanish actors.
Finally, it’s time to head back up the track and off towards the coast. I leave not only with recommendations for further reading on natural wine but, with the feeling that I could happily have stayed for longer. Oh, and, of course, with a bottle of Pinot Noir 2017 safely stashed in the boot.
For more information about Enrique and his project, click here