Take your pick of vintages from Malaga's vineyards I Courtesy of Los Patios de Beatas
Malaga is known for its delicious sweet wines – as one of the city’s key gastronomic attractions, they’re served in all colours from great wooden barrels behind the bar, and are enjoyed not just as an after-dinner tipple. Whatever time of day you fancy one, here are the best places to head.
Any self-respecting wine lover in Malaga must make the pilgrimage to Antigua Casa de Guardia, the oldest wine bar in the city. Dating from 1840, this local institution sits unassumingly on the bottom of one of Malaga’s busiest streets, making it easy to miss. Slip inside, though, and you are in wine heaven. Giant barrels containing dozens of varieties of Malaga’s signature sweet wine – made from a mixture of Moscatel and Pedro Jimenez grapes – are stacked behind a bar that seems cobbled together from worn-out old school desks. Bar staff dressed in the traditional uniform of black trousers and white shirts serve the wine in dainty little glasses at great speed, contributing to the antique charm and ambience of a bar that should be one of your first stops in the city.
If Antigua Casa is your first stop on a wine tour of Malaga, make El Pimpi your second: it is, after all, only a ten minute walk away. Named after the local characters who used to greet thirsty sailors at Malaga’s port and help them unload their wares, this sprawling network of courtyards, bars and dining rooms make up one of the city’s best-loved wine bar and restaurant. The best places to enjoy the huge selection of local sweet wines are the old-fashioned bar and dining room on the ground floor. Old barrels line the wall of one room and have been signed by famous patrons including local boy Antonio Banderas – who has a flat just around the corner – and Paloma Picasso, the youngest daughter of Malaga’s great artist.
One of Malaga’s quirkiest and most entertaining restaurants is also no slouch when it comes to wine – as its name suggests. Deliciously sweet rosé, white and red wines from Malaga province feature on the extensive menu at Vino Mio, and can be enjoyed with kangaroo and crocodile if you fancy a change from traditional Andalusian fare. You can also kick back with a glass on their lovely terrace, which overlooks the elegant facade of the Cervantes theatre, or enjoy the nightly flamenco shows that conclude with audience participation. Great wine and an unforgettable night.
With over 500 different wines in stock – both to take away by the bottle and to enjoy in-house by the glass – the sleek, stylish Los Patios de Beatas is one of Malaga’s leading wineries and restaurants. Every month, it selects 24 wines to add to its formidable offering, which includes every variety of sweet wine you could wish for. Its main restaurant consists of just eight tables and is an exclusive space in which to pair some of the wine list’s many star turns with dishes from the classic and well-priced menu. A separate, larger space is for tasting wines with small plates of tapas. And if you like what you try, simply order a bottle from the cellar on your way out.
Among the chic, modern bars and restaurants of Calle Granada, the old town’s central throughfare, sits one of Malaga’s most traditional tapas and wine joints. Colourfully decorated both inside and out by white and blue tiles, Casa Lola is always packed with local Malagueños enjoying noisy catch-ups over a glass of vermouth, Malaga or moscatel. Tourists flock here, but the bar has retained its local ambience, making it the perfect place to enjoy Malaga’s most famous beverage. The tapas are also excellent.
If you want to enjoy Malaga’s moreishly-sweet wines well away from the tourist track, then you’d be hard-pushed to do better than La Tranca. Though only a few minutes from Plaza la Merced, this tiny place is pretty much a Malagueño-only joint. Locals enjoy vermouth or Malaga’s signature sweet wines in the kiosk-like bar area, or spill out onto the busy Calle Carreteria, on which a couple of barrels serve as tables. Barrels also line the back of the bar and your wine comes directly from these, served by the irrepressibly-cheerful owner, Ezequiel.