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WINE AND CHEER AT BODEGA BENTOMIZ

Christmas time is the time for wine! Did you know that one of Malaga's most prestigious wineries is right here in the Axarquia? Just above Sayalonga, about 20 minutes from the coast (or 10 from Cómpeta!) is Bodegas Bentomiz, where they make the wonderful Ariyanas wines – white, red and rosé, sweet and dry – in the most beautiful setting imaginable. Their glorious views of the mountains and the Mediterranean are complemented by their beautiful building. It is built in a modern style – very light and airy – but blends in with the landscape as the outer walls are clad in slate, which matches the slate 'terroir' of the vineyards. This setting has been delighting visitors for years. The winery's tours, wine-tasting, lunches and concerts are extremely popular – their 5-star TripAdvisor listing is full of eulogies to these experiences. “The Complete Wine Experience” describes their combined tasting and lunch service, as well as reflecting the bodega's philosophy: it is all about beautiful wines! The food isn't bad either. Created by the chef Juan Quintanilla, owner and manager of the Sollun restaurant in Nerja (named for Juan's daughters, Sol and Luna), the menus are designed to pair perfectly with the wines they accompany. This is the reverse of standard practice: as Juan says “In my restaurant the food comes first and then the wine; in Bodegas Bentomiz the wine is first and then the food.” Juan works with André and a dedicated kitchen team to produce from fresh, local ingredients, exquisite dishes to delight and surprise. They look for lightness, delicacy and elegance. They aim to use ingredients that are really fresh – fish bought from the coast that morning; herbs picked from the garden 20 minutes before – because the fresher the food, the more taste it carries with it. Satisfying the eye is a key part of creating dishes that really surpass the expectation. You have to think about colour, balance and form: the dishes should express the artistry with which they were designed – they should tell you that the kitchen staff cares about the way the food is placed on the plate. Food can be an art form after all. All of this is not to forget the test of taste. The standard meals served throughout the year are the 3-course Wine-maker's menu and the 5-course Tasting menu. They are both full meals, though the five courses gives the dinner a greater experience of the kitchen team's skill in producing dishes that will please the palate as well as the eye. And for Christmas? Juan and André will be cooking up something special, of course! The bodega will open right through the holiday period – from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day – excluding only the 27th - with a special menu of food worth savouring, mouthful by mouthful. I can't tell you much more; I am sworn to secrecy – but there will certainly be wine! And on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day visitors will even enjoy complementary live music in the Wine Salon. Something to bring 2017 in with a swing? What a merry way to celebrate!

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