Sometimes when you travel you stumble across a nugget of gold – that surprisingly fascinating museum, delightful walk or a restaurant with some tantalising dishes. It’s on occasions like these that you feel like you’ve had a truly enriching travel experience.
We made one such discovery this week in the Spanish town of Mijas, just 20 minutes drive from our resort, Club La Costa’s Marina Del Sol. Ambling uphill from the town’s tourist nucleus we spotted the Museo Del Vino in Calle San Sebastian, not so much a museum more a bar and restaurant celebrating fine, quality wine and delicious local produce.
“Feel free to look around but most importantly what can I get you to drink?” asked Virginia as she welcomed us into the bar’s cavernous interior.
Along with another member of staff, Francisco, she served wine and traditional foods at the bar, founded by Julian San Juan – a renowned Spanish sommelier.
We’re far from wine buffs and other than choosing which colour we would like, we were more than happy to leave the selection to Virginia, whose knowledge of the Spanish wines fronting the shelves of the bar’s ground floor was quite impeccable. Soon she reappeared with Abside, a dry white from Spain’s largest wine region – Rueda, and a red, Pagos De Araiz. She offered up information on the grapes they were made from, the vineyards in which they were produced and their vintage, before delivering a platter of Iberican salami and chorizo – the finest meats from Spain’s rare black-footed pigs and locally produced cheese with a rosemary rind – the herb adding a little drama to the flavour.
Looking around us we became aware of Museo Del Vino’s unique character. Yes, this was a shrine to fine wine – with a seemingly endless variety of Spanish favourites on its ground floor and international varieties on the upper level, including a bottle of one of the world’s most expensive champagnes – celebrity favourite Cristal. But there was also quality local produce such as olives, figs and delicate mixes of herbs and spices adorning the shelves delicatessen-style – for those who like to cook like a local when on holiday.
However if you want a taste of Spain without the hard work, Museo Del Vino also delivers with a wine tasting and tapas menu as well as food and wine pairings.
Opting for something heartier we followed our meat and cheese platter with wild North Atlantic scallops on a bed of rocket leaves and a wholesome tuna stew, Maritako, accompanied by Manuel Manzaneque, a barrel-matured Chardonnay and La Nansa a lightly effervescent and thoroughly delicious rosé, which Virginia explained got its fizz from the fermentation process the wine is put through.
The scallops were sea-fresh with a pinch of rock salt and sprinkle of paprika, which enlivened the delicate flavour of the perfectly-cooked fish. Tuna isn’t the first thing you’d consider for a stew, but this traditional dish from northern Spain mixes it with potatoes in a light tomato-based sauce – a perfect accompaniment to the fish. Employing ciabatta rolls to mop up the last tasty mouthfuls with certain gusto we were grateful the dishes were white, else we removed the pattern!
We passed up desserts but as we were at Museo Del Vino it would have been rude to turn down dessert wine. Pouring us a Senorio De Broches, a pale-coloured Moscatel, Francisco explained that it was quite unlike other locally-produced, dark sweet wines as its light colour – a result of gentler production methods meant you could taste more fruit flavours such as lychee and pineapple highlights. I usually struggle to identify flavours in wines that the experts delight in – such as a hint of woodland berry or Sicilian lemon, but the Senorio De Broches was an explosion of fruity flavours, that danced a light pirouette on the palette.
Relishing our dessert wine a couple at a neighbouring table passed us a knowing look. This was their third time in a week at Museo Del Vino after also stumbling across it. They’d tried the Senorio De Broches on an earlier visit and raised a glass of approval oozing that their rich, dark dessert wine was like ‘pudding in a glass’.
For a moment we felt a hint of jealousy. Perhaps we should have gone for the richer wine. But then we realised – it gave us a reason to return.
We visited Mijas whilst staying at Club La Costa’s Marina Del Sol.