Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting?…
From the misty green inlets of the north-west to the dusty south, via the rolling plains of the centre, Spain is nothing if not incredibly varied in terrain and temperature. Which is precisely what makes the range of Spanish wines produced so diverse, lively and interesting.
Here’s our 101 guide to some of the top Spanish wine regions to help you explore this fabulous country through one of its very finest assets: its grapes.
Spanish Red Wines
Rioja is without a doubt, Spain’s best known red. Stretching away across three valleys – the Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental – to the south of the Cantabrian Mountains, it’s a relatively small area that nevertheless packs quite a punch when it comes to global wine production.
Some numbers, then: it’s Spain’s oldest wine (with written records dating back to the 9th century); there are more than 600 wineries and nearly 15,000 grape growers spread across 65,000 hectares of vineyards.
Made from a variety of grapes it comes in three age classifications: Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. All are full-bodied and generally best served with food. One thing to look out for is whether the Rioja was aged in American oak, French oak or a mixture of both barrels, with each having their distinct tastes.
A Rioja winery you must visit: Bodegas López de Heredia – in the town of Haro, it’s one of the older wineries in La Rioja. By appointment only. More information: Lopezdeheredia.com.
Ribera del Duero
The ‘other’ great Spanish wine beginning with R. Only the best Tempranillo grapes are used to make polished Ribera del Duero wines, and there are many in Spain (and outside) who prefer the, frequently, softer more delicate taste, than that of their cousins from Rioja.
Wines from Ribera del Duero are usually 100% Tempranillo and are mostly aged in French oak; they have the same age classification as Rioja (Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva).
A Ribera del Duero winery you must visit: Matarromera – in the town of Valbuena del Duero, a trip to this winery can also include a visit to their museum, the EMINA Wine Museum. More information: Matarromera.es.
Priorat is probably Spanish wine’s greatest secret. With a wine growing history dating back to the 12th century, this southern Catalonian region these days produces some of the finest and fullest bodied reds in Spain… of which most people outside of Spain have never even heard.
The terrain here is tough (even by Spanish wine region standards), so the vines are forced to search for water in the soil, making yield low – and prices high. The most common grape varieties used are: Garnacha, Cariñena with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
A Priorat winery you must visit: Alvaro Palacios – the name that practically singlehandedly spearheaded Priorat’s ascent to the summit of Spanish wines back in the 1980s is still one of the leading wineries in the region. More information: Aseuniv.com.
Spanish White Wines
On the border of Portugal in the north-west of Spain, the Rias Baixas region of Galicia is cool, green and crisp – not unlike its white wine. The crowning glory of this wine-growing region is Albariño, which is clean, with occasional floral notes, and is absolutely ideal paired with the sublime local seafood.
A Rias Baixas winery you must visit: Far from the largest, it’s the setting of this family business – in the grand, fortified country house of Finca La Moreira – that makes it one the more atmospheric wineries in Spain. More information: Marquesdevizhoja.com.
From the northeast of Spain above Barcelona, Cava is Spain’s most famous sparkling wine. Labelled with brut (dry) or semi-seco (semi sweet), Cavas can be white or rosé, and are usually made from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes.
A Cava winery you must visit: Dating back to the Middle Ages, this Empordà winery certainly doesn’t lack for provenance – and it’s got the grand castellated headquarters to prove it. More information: Perelada.com.
Sherry is made from grapes grown within Cadiz’s ‘Sherry Triangle’ between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria in Andalucia.
It comes in sweet and dry varieties. Dry Sherries like Fino or Manzanilla are crisp and acidic, and make for the perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood; Oloroso is caramel-like and nutty and goes well with meat, while medium-dry Amontillado is perfectly paired with chicken or game birds.
A Sherry bodega you must visit: Bodegas Tradición is not the oldest bodega in the Sherry Triangle by a long chalk (that honour goes to Domecq), but it is one of the most insistent on traditional techniques. More information: Bodegastradicion.es.
White Rioja is made with Viura; sometimes on its own, other times blending with Chardonnay or Garnacha Blanca amongst others. Most white Riojas are young but are still full-bodied to taste.
Malaga has a long and distinguished wine-making history, with wines having been made in the region since the Phoenicians were in southern Spain, before the Romans picked up the baton. British wine merchants were sending Malaga wines back to sweet-toothed Victorians in the 19th-century.
These days, made from Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez grapes, vinos de Malaga are fortified and naturally sweet. Coming in both red and white, they’re at their best served with a ripe local goats’ cheese.
A Malaga winery you must visit: Bodega F. Schatz – it’s entirely in keeping with the international past of the Spanish wine industry that one of the best wineries in Malaga should have been founded by a German. More information: F-schatz.com.
The most commonly drunk white wine in Spain can be just a little disappointing to a new world white wine drinker.
The Rueda region is in Castilla y Leon and its wines are usually made with Verdejo grapes. It produces very aromatic wines, often with tropical fruit and fresh grass hints, that’s fresh with just a hint of bitterness.
Things to Look Out For with Spanish Wine
There are several wine classifications in Spain, each holding specific criteria. The ones to look out for are Denominacion de Origen (DO), Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa, DOC or DOQ) and DO Pago (only for single winery estates).
On the bottle you’ll see the words Joven, Crianza (aged at least 2 years and 12 months in oak barrels), Reserva (aged at least three years with at least 12 months in oak barrels), or Gran Reserva (aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels, and more than three years bottled before they’re sold).
Like the sound of these wine regions in Spain and want to experience some of the very best wines they produce?
Stay with The Luxury Villa Collection and you can order the finest Spanish wines direct to your villa, or arrange a tasting or tour through our concierge.
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Where is Marbella?First things first, though. Where is it? Marbella is in southern Spain - in the province of Malaga in the Andalucia region, to be exact - on a stretch of coast called the Costa del Sol. Here's a map of Marbella to help you get your bearings:
Where Do You Fly to?It depends on from where you're flying in. The nearest international airport to Marbella is Malaga. Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (Aena.es) is 51km away and an easy 40-minute car/taxi ride. Virtually all the major airlines fly there direct from the UK and from across northern Europe. The next closest airport to Marbella is Gibraltar (Gibraltarairport.gi), which is just over an hour's drive away. British Airways, Easyjet and Monarch all fly direct from the UK to Gibraltar.
From the USIf you’re flying into Spain from the USA you'll probably have to travel to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Aena.es). From there you'll have to either fly, take the fast speed AVE train (Renfe.com) or drive to Malaga and transfer from there to Marbella. The most convenient way to get to Marbella from Madrid is by the fast speed train taking just 2.5hrs or by flying taking only 1 hour and 15 mins.
how to get there from malaga airport
By CarThe best way to get from Malaga to Marbella is to drive. And if you're on holiday that probably means you're going to need to hire a car. As with almost all international airports, Malaga has a frankly baffling array of different car hire options to pick through. To avoid the scrum of the departures lounge, jump on the complimentary minibus to the offices of Niza, Helle Hollis or Enterprise situated a mere minute outside of the terminal. Inside the terminal you can find Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. If you're unsure of which company to use, click the following link. For a more luxury car hire service we'd recommend Sixt (Sixt.com). They're friendly, totally professional, trustworthy and have a range of high-end rental options, from BMWs, Audis and Porsches to Mercedes and Range Rovers - and even automatics. If you're travelling in a large group, they also have 8-12 seater self-drive minibuses available for hire. Of course if you're looking for ease, our Concierge can make the reservation for you to be dropped directly off at the villa. A car of your choice can be delivered to your villa. Once you've picked up your car/minibus hire, driving from Malaga airport to Marbella could hardly be easier. Directions from Malaga-Costa del Sol airport are as follows:
- Leave the airport and head southeast onto N-348
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on N-348
- Take the Torremolinos ramp to N-340/Cádiz
- Merge onto Avenida de Velázquez/N-340/MA-21
- Take the ramp to E-15/A-7/Benalmadena/Algeciras. Merge onto AP-7
- Pass Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola
- Take exit 184 towards Marbella/Casco Antiguo/Avenida del Trapiche
By TaxiFor sheer ease, you can’t beat jumping in a taxi. A taxi rank is situated outside the arrivals sidewalk of Terminal T3, level 0. It's best to ask the driver, beforehand, how much a taxi is from Malaga to Marbella to ensure they don’t overcharge you. There are two transfer prices, and these are dependent on both times of the day and the day of the week. Transfer Price Band 1 is weekdays from 06.00 to 22.00 hrs. Transfer Price Band 2 is weekdays from 22.00 to 06.00 hrs, all day Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, the August Feria and Holy Week. Band 2 transfer time is more expensive than Band 1. Alternatively, you can pre-order a taxi at Malaga Airport Taxi (Malagaairporttaxi.net) and get a price when booking. The transfer time from Malaga Airport to Marbella takes around an hour, in a taxi.
Other Ways to Get to Marbella
- By bus: It is possible to take a bus (Alsa.com) from Malaga airport to Marbella. But it's a whole lot less convenient than driving via hire car or private transfer.
- By train: There isn’t a train connection from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Distances - how far is marbella from...
- Malaga (city): 61km away and 46 minutes' drive.
- Granada: 187km and just over 2 hours' drive.
- Seville: 258km and 2 hours 45 minutes' drive.
- Gibraltar: 78km and 1 hour 2 minutes' drive.
- Madrid: 584 km and 5 hours 45 minutes' drive.
A Bit of HistoryThe land previously belonged to the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who it is said, used the estate as his party house and hunting grounds. The property and land went up for sale and a group of Spanish property developers bought it and put plans together to create a playground for the rich and famous in Marbella. Each villa is unique, with their own styles depending on the specifications of the owner.
Location & Getting There
So where is La Zagaleta?The large estate sits in Malaga province in the south of Andalucia. It’s in the foothills of the Ronda Mountains just 25 minutes from Marbella, 18 minutes from Nuevo Andalucia and the nearest beach. It's 20 minutes from the village of Benahavis, 40 minutes from Sotogrande port, 50 minutes from Ronda, 55 minutes from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar airport. La Zagaleta is very easily accessed by car or helicopter. There's heavy security surrounding the estate and entrance is on prior permission only.
What Else is in La Zagaleta?It’s worth noting that all the facilities in La Zagaleta are for exclusive use to villa owners only; they pay an enormous service charge to be allowed to use the facilities.
Golf CourseLa Zagaleta golf club is only open to villa owners and their guests. They have exclusive access to two of the Costa del Sol's best private golf courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. La Zagaleta golf course - known as the Old Course - is to championship standard with 18 holes, Par 72 over a distance of 4800 - 6000 yards. Designed by renowned golf architect Brad Benz in 1991 and redesigned by Marc Westenborg in 2016, it’s a rewarding course with fantastic views to the coast and flanked by mountains. The New Course, Los Barrancos, is very different to the Old Course. It’s a challenging 18-hole, Par 70 with lots of obstacles over a distance of 4356 – 5381 yards.
The ClubhousesThe hub of the estate is the spectacular Old Clubhouse, or La Zagaleta country club. Measuring 5,100m² it has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, billiards, bowling alley, tennis courts, gourmet food supermarket, pro-golf shop and restaurants (see below). There's also a nightclub, bars and events space where there’s a full schedule of experiences and parties planned. The New Clubhouse is a thatched lakeside venue. A lot smaller than the Old Clubhouse, it's still just as popular with La Zagaleta residents for events or having a quick drink in the bar.
Horse RidingLa Zagaleta is home to some beautiful stables with indoor and outdoor schooling arenas. Horses can either be kept on a full livery basis, or horses and ponies can be hired for lessons or hacks. ‘The Riding Club’ equestrian centre has a team of instructors and well-schooled horses for all levels of rider including Arab, PRE and, for the children, Farabella horses and Welsh ponies.
RestaurantsWhy leave the comfort of a beautiful villa when you can enjoy a top-quality meal at home? At La Zagaleta there are Michelin starred chefs available for in-house dining throughout the estate. However, for owners the clubhouse has two restaurants: the formal dining Old Course Restaurant; and a terrace bar restaurant that's ideal for light bites and brunches.
Famous ResidentsThere is private security throughout the whole of La Zagaleta - so know one really know who lives or owns houses there. It’s a place where the super-rich and famous go to be away from the limelight. However, it is said that Hugh Grant, Rod Stewart and Vladimir Putin all have house in La Zagaleta.
What to Do NearbyWhen staying in La Zagaleta, the houses are so special that it’s sometimes difficult to tear yourself away from the estate. However, if you do want to see more of the area, here's our pick of easily accessible and great day trips:
- Ronda: historic, boutique wineries and ab-so-lutely beautiful.
- Benahavis village: a great option for restaurants; have a lunch or dinner in this pretty village.
- Granada: a romantic inland city and home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malaga: the birthplace of Picasso with a fort, palace and Roman amphitheatre.
- Cordoba: historic city with a stunning mosque-church at its centre.
- Sevilla: one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- Sotogrande: a lovely port, wake boarding lake and polo hub.