A lovely way to spend the afternoon
We are often asked for recommendations for things to do in Competa and we are happy to pass on the many great places to visit in the area. Many of which we visit ourselves, so they come personally recommended. One of our recommended activities is an afternoon at a local vineyard, Bodegas Bentomiz. We’ve been before for music events and wine tastings and thoroughly enjoyed them. However, we had never done the wine tour (due to a lack of time) but several of our guests recommended that we should. So, in late November we popped in to attend a wine tour, followed up by a 5-course tasting menu. We have to say the food was divine, the wine was exceptional and the tour itself very enlightening. We went along as a party of four and we all thought the afternoon represented really good value for money.
Bodegas Bentomiz Vineyard
Bodegas Bentomiz is on the mountainside in Sayalonga on the Competa to Algarrobo Road. It takes around 12 minutes by taxi from the Competa Escapes houses. The cost is around €12 for a minibus, all taxis in Competa are much the same price. We strongly recommend you take a taxi so that everyone can taste the wines on offer, especially if you are staying for the wine pairing menu. The name Bentomiz comes from an old castle, on the mountain top – opposite the winery.
Tours, tastings and lunch!
When booking you can just opt for the wine and tasting tour, which is €12. These run at 12.30 pm Weds to Sunday and finish at 13.45pm. Alternatively, you could order lunch, which is available as a 3 course for €34 or a 5 course for €45. There is also a children’s option available (from 2-12 years) for €15. Lunch is served at 2 pm. Lunch is a set menu, but special dietary requirements are requested at the time of booking and these are accommodated. Another option is to opt for one of the two tour, tasting and lunch combinations. These are €41 for the 3 course or €52 for the 5 course. Additionally, you can then buy the wine pairing recommendations to accompany your dishes, this is optional, but we do highly recommend as the wines are matched perfectly to each dish. With any lunch menu, there is also a wine list or non-alcoholic alternatives. We chose the five-course option and the wine pairing to go with it.
Bodegas Bentomiz is in an exceptional setting
On arrival, it was a beautiful sunny November day, albeit there was quite a breeze on the mountainside. We were greeted by our guide Rose in the courtyard, where about 20 of us gathered for the tour. Fortunately, it was a clear day, so the views were breathtaking. On one side the mountain view swept right down to the Mediterranean Sea and on the other we were in awe of the stunning Maroma mountain range. The building itself was designed by Andre, one of the Dutch owners. Clad in slate designed to look like the local terroir slate, it nestles into the mountainside. It has a modern yet natural look that sits comfortably in its environment. The local slate itself is not suitable for building, due to its fragility. It breaks easily which is good for the farmers but no so for the builders. It is full of minerals which are released into the soil, thus making the plants very happy and you can taste the minerality in the wines. There are epic panoramic views from the windows, if we worked here, we do not think we would get a lot done. Andre is a man of many talents, as he is also the head chef but more about that later. We are going to talk to you a little about the tour itself, but as we highly recommend you go, we don’t want to give too much away.
About the Vines
Rose began by telling us not to be alarmed because the vines looked quite uninspiring. Indeed, at this time of year when the harvest was over, particularly so. They are also not at all what you would expect to see, compared to the traditional upright vines we are familiar with. The Bentomiz vines are grown in bush form, known as ‘en vaso’. This ensures that the leafy branches afford shade to the grapes, protecting them from the elements. Due to the low humidity of the area, the fruit can ripen low to the ground without the risk of rot. Interestingly, the vines thrive in the slate soil. The heat of the long summers is tempered by sea breezes, these breezes also bring an unusual characteristic in the flavour of the wine. Winter rainfall is minimal, but the Vineyards are suited to the seasons. The vineyard was purchased around twenty-five years ago, and the vines had been unattended for some time. The bush vines grow very deep roots, reaching the water table that other vines would not achieve. This meant that they were somewhat self-sufficient which aided their survival. The rugged terrain is tricky to work with, mechanisation is not possible and would be treacherous. These mountainside vines are picked by hand, a somewhat arduous task when you are stooping down to ground level in intense heat.
We then moved inside to look at the winemaking process and we heard all about Clara. Clara is the other half of this dynamic Dutch duo and she is head winemaker. She is passionate about their wines and a pioneer in alternative winemaking methods. In an example, wines are traditionally sunned after picking, laid out on paseros or raisin beds. At Bentomiz they also use floatation racks, of their own design, which allow the air to circulate around the fruit. During vinification they use a mix of processes, vinification being the production of grapes into wine. Many of their processes vary from the norm, with great success. But it has to be said with a lot of experimentation along the way. We didn’t meet Clara on this day, although we have before! However, you cannot fail to feel the passion she has for her wines, conveyed through the words of Rose. This is not a mass production centre, far from it! Here the focus is most definitely on quality over quantity. So much so that their wine is revered by many wine writers and is listed in over 20 Michelin starred restaurants in Europe.
How is the wine processed?
Their wines are fermented in stainless steel temperature-controlled tanks with some being aged in oak barrels. Others are aged in the tanks themselves, ‘on the lee’. This is a stage in the winemaking process – lees are the dead yeast cells remaining in a wine after fermentation. You will hear much greater detail in the tour, which we found very informing.
One of the most interesting points was their method of production for the sweet wines. Now, we love good fortified wine, especially after dinner, but they can be a little sickly. Despite the area being renowned for its sweet wines or vino dulce – at Bentomiz they do something a little different. They stop the fermentation process with a cold-shock treatment, which keeps the wine naturally sweet. Delightfully this process allows the normal flavour expected of a dessert wine to come through, but without the sticky, sickly texture you sometimes experience. As an added bonus, these wines have a lower abv, which means you can drink a little more. (Always drinking responsibly, of course, ha-ha!)
Sampling the wine
Now for the tasting, we moved upstairs to the dining room. Here we really got to appreciate the wonderful Vistas from the panoramic windows we mentioned earlier.
The Ariyanas wines derive their name from a Moorish hamlet, that stood beside the vineyard before the Reconquest. The word Ariyanas comes from the Arabic for aromatic, which is a fitting name for these wines. The grapes include the Moscatel de Alejandría and the much rarer Romé, which is a red grape indigenous to this Axarquia region. During the tasting, we sampled a rose, white, red and sweet white. Each wine is lovingly accompanied with a chat about how it came to fruition and its characteristics. The four of us really enjoyed all of the wines. The tour ended and those that were not taking lunch had an opportunity to purchase wines at very good prices. Those of us staying for lunch took the opportunity to take some scenic photos and selfies whilst the dining room was prepped for lunch.
Delicious food with a perfect wine pairing
Each course was served with an accompanying wine (wine pairing option needs to be requested) and was divine. Andre, the self-trained chef came to each table, giving an explanation of each dish. He was rightly proud of the food he was presenting us. We started with a delightful Amuse Bouche. Following that a home-made sourdough accompanied by a delicious olive oil. The bread had just the right amount of salt, a light texture and a formidable crust. Then a marinated smoked salmon with a dill potato salad, the smoked salmon was marinated in house. This was followed by an artistic plate, so pretty to the eye of courgette slices shaped like a flower. The flavours exploded in our mouths. Underneath the courgette was a mushroom foam and on top caviar formed the centre of the flower. This dish was a taste sensation. We wondered if this could be beaten and the next dish was a fair match. It was a delightful seafood bisque which had the most intense flavours and was packed with shellfish. We all agreed this was outstanding. Then we were served oysters, with a delicious pomegranate pearl which was an unexpected delight. There were two more dishes after this, but we think you must be getting the picture by now and we want to leave them as a surprise. The set menu changes seasonally! Though if you want to be a frequent visitor just let Andre know ahead of your visit and he will adjust the menu for you.
A sparkling wine
During the meal, Juan served us sparkling wine and it was formidable. Produced in association with another winery under the Lobban Bentomiz partnership, but we will let you find out all about it on the tour.
Summing up our experience
In the 25 years that they have developed this dream, Andre and Clara have developed the most wonderful business. It has been an incredible journey. This hobby, making wine for themselves has escalated to the accredited wines they are now known for. We all had a fabulous day out. The hosting, setting, food and wine were all superb. This boutique vineyard offered us a unique experience and we recommend it as the perfect way to spend the afternoon. Not least because it is a great opportunity to purchase fabulous wines at an affordable price. We couldn’t decide between the sweet wines we sampled, so we purchased both that we had tried. Ariyanas David is named after Andre and Clara’s Godson and it is a sweet red Merlot. It’s perfect for pairing with chocolate or cheese. The other, Ariyanas Terruno Pizarroso, with tropical fruit notes (we sensed lychee) which would pair perfectly with cheese or tropical fruit. We can’t wait to visit again next year, and we will be ordering many more of their wines, once our cellar is ready.
Further information from a wine expert
We have only just touched on the history of Bodegas Bentomiz. Fortunately, we can offer further information, from someone far more accomplished in wine than we are. Take a look at this article by Rose Murray Brown, one of only 390 Masters of Wine Worldwide. Rosemary Murray Brown
Finally, about us
We are Competa Escapes and we offer luxury holiday rental properties in the heart of Competa. All within close walking distance to numerous bars and restaurants. Featuring either rooftop or courtyard plunge pools and breathtaking views. Find out more about us here