It doesn’t take long to realise that Descalzos Viejos is much more than a winery producing exquisite wines on the edge of the Tajo de Ronda (the Ronda gorge, in the province of Malaga). Descalzos Viejos was conceived as a living organism that shifts according to the interests and passions of those who define it: history, botany, music and art combine to bring added value to each of the bottles of wine they produce.
In 1998, when Retamero and Salesi purchased the estate where their winery now sits, their main motivation and focus was restoring the 16th-century Trinitarian convent that once safeguarded the surrounding land. It was then that the two architects began the process of completely renovating the building before converting it into a winery, while planting vines in the lower part of the estate with the idea of recovering the Trinitarian monks’ own cultivation of the land, as recorded in a 19th-century inventory that the owners unearthed in local historical archives.
The Descalzos Viejos estate covers an area of 16 hectares and lies against a backdrop of incomparable beauty on the edge of the Tajo de Ronda, surrounded by three natural parks. High up above the gorge stands the winery, located inside the convent. Behind the building a beautiful garden lies hidden, lined with fruit trees and a spring. The vineyard grows in the lower part of the estate, between old olive trees and oaks. Here, wild nature and human intervention come together to create a landscape where visitors are easily seduced by the delicate beauty.
The original project, explains Paco Retamero with great enthusiasm, involved the recovery of the main building and its gardens, orchards, ponds, fountains and surrounding land, thanks to a thorough and meticulous restoration that reincorporated and consolidated all of the original architectural and artistic elements. Of special interest was the discovery of some frescoes above the main altar. As the architect explains, these survived almost miraculously under several layers of lime and despite significant flaking and moisture. The murals look down from atop barrels filled with Descalzos Viejos wines. They are the company’s emblem and the most captured image during any visit to the winery.
Retamero has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of Descalzos Viejos. He has devoted time to researching the site’s past. He discovered the origins of the estate and building by sifting painstakingly through documents, maps and testaments from previous centuries. The Trinitarian Order established its convent in 1505, on the slopes of the Tajo de Ronda. At the end of the 16th century, their relative isolation from the city prompted them to move to the city of Ronda where they founded a new convent, which remained in the hands of the Reformed Discalced Order from 1608 until its expropriation in the 19th century when it passed into private ownership.
The site suffered years of neglect before the two architects fell in love with it and took the plunge, purchasing the property with the aim of making it their place of work. Currently, six varieties of grapes are grown: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Garnacha, Graciano, Petit Verdot and Merlot, which produce six different wines – one white and five red – with the Sierras de Málaga-Serranía de Ronda designation of origin.
As well as making wine, this unique winery is an artistic platform. For several years it has hosted a music festival bringing together acts from classical piano recitals to cutting-edge electronic music. To help us understand the idea behind the place.
According to wine experts, Descalzos Viejos wines “transport you into an intense emotional state, like a journey into the past”. There’s no doubt that visitors will be filled with the same sensation during their tour of this honourable place, which is not just a wine-producing vineyard but also a way of understanding life in a way that resembles the renaissance conception of humanity. That is something to be admired.
Para visitas: http://www.descalzosviejos.com/