The Botani of Desire


Just when I’m beginning to think I might be nearing a decent grasp of the wine world, I find some bottle that blows that notion away. Case in point: I picked up a bottle of Botani. The label says “Moscatel Seco.” Okay, cool: It’s a dry Muscat, which is usually light and floral, and not unusual in Spain. Got it. But it’s from Málaga. Málaga is in far southern Spain, on the hot, sunny Costa del Sol, and it made its name on sticky-sweet wines made from raisined grapes. They don’t make dry wine in Málaga.

Or at least they didn’t, until recently. As it turns out, Málaga (the wine) barely existed by the turn of this century: The vine louse phylloxera decimated the vineyards in the late 1800s, and tourism nearly took care of the rest in the 20th century. By 2000, there were only a couple producers left.

Enter Jorge Ordoñez, a Málaga-born, Boston-based importer who brings in Spanish wines through his company, Fine Estates From Spain. Ordoñez met Austrian Alois Kracher, one of the world’s most celebrated dessert-wine makers, at a food and wine festival in California, and the two decided to collaborate on making sweet wines in Málaga. And, oh, while they were at it, they’d make a dry wine from the fruit of old Muscat vines growing up in the Axarquia Mountains that border the city (thus the appellation on the bottle of “Sierras de Málaga”). Ordoñez and Kracher set up a winery in the town of Almachar that Ordoñez’s sister, Victoria, runs; Kracher passed away late last year, but his son Gerhard will continue to work with Ordoñez.

It’s a good thing, because the wines are the sort that could put Málaga back on the modern wine map. The 2006 Botani, the dry muscat, is fascinating stuff, floral and herbal but bone dry, with a surprisingly rich, smooth feel on the tongue. It’s light enough to sip on its own (and mighty refreshing), but it can stand up to much more: It was terrific with a ruddy mix of clams, chorizo, and potatoes. In fact, I’m betting it will work well with choucroute garnie, in the same way Alsace’s fragrant Gewürztraminer somehow manages to both flirt with and manhandle the sausages in that dish. Now just to convince my husband to make one so we can test out the theory…

[Botani is imported by Import! Wines, Middleton, NY (Jorge Ordoñez Selections) and runs about $28.]

Subscribe to Gourmet