We think of Tuscany and Burgundy as two of the ultimate culinary destinations in the world, but in truth Andalucía also offers some of the finest gastronomic explorations and experiences to be enjoyed anywhere in the world.
Not only is this part of the world very much up-and-coming in terms of excellent restaurants and a growing number of Michelin-star venues, many of which blend international cordon bleu skill with local inspiration, but Andalucía is also a veritable breadbasket of fine produce with a long, fascinating history in which food, nature and culture are inextricably entwined.
For wine one should start the journey of exploration in nearby Ronda. Though not yet a D.O. (Denominación de Orígen) winegrowing region in its own right, the excellent award-winning reds and whites – many of them organic – that it is earning a growing reputation for will before long establish Ronda as one. In the meantime, visit some of the beautifully located bodega wineries and enjoy their hospitality as you savour naturally grown wines with local goat’s cheese and charcuterie.
Then head on to the Montes de Málaga, a mountainous region just behind the provincial capital that has long been known for its sweet Moscatel wines and Vermouths, the latter best served chilled. Montilla, near Córdoba, is also known for its very own sweet wine, Amontillado, which ranges from fresh to almost liquorice-sweet, while Jerez de la Frontera and its famous sherry tipple need no introduction but are well worth a culinary visit built around this famous drink.
Olive oil is the golden nectar that the region between Córdoba and Jaen is best known for, and visiting the local estates you’ll find there’s a broad variety of colours and tastes that are a delight in themselves – on bread, for cooking, on a salad and a host of other applications. Travelling through the fertile lands surrounding the Guadalquivir River, roughly between Granada, Córdoba and Seville, you’re in the breadbasket of oranges, wheat, garlic, fruit, vegetables and other produce that forms the basis for a host of gorgeous country dishes to be enjoyed in anything from humble ventas to grand Michelin-star establishments.
Among the most famous ingredients is jamón (Iberian ham), though venture to Málaga, Cádiz, Sanlúcar de Barrameda or Huelva’s shoreline, and lovers of seafood will be spoiled for the delicious prawns, pulpo (octopus), calamares (squid), rosada and both grilled and freiduría fried fish. The tuna caught and prepared in the area between Tarifa and Conil de la Frontera is regarded by many as the best in the world, and if you want to top it all off with something sweet, then head to the Costa Tropical east of Málaga for excellent subtropical fruits such as Chirimoya custard apples and grenadines or indulge in local cakes and desserts made by the nuns in towns such as Antequera and Estepa.
Wherever you go, the produce, traditional cuisine and culinary history of Andalucía will accompany you.
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