Exquisite Muscatel of Axarquía and Manilva
DO Málaga Raisins are an exclusive product of the province and more specifically from the region of the Axarquía and the Costa del Sol municipality of Manilva. It is an ancestral product made from Muscatel grape. These, after being traditionally harvested, are dried in the sun with a natural tradition. This natural process of transformation of grapes into raisins is the only one allowed by the DO Málaga Raisin regulation, which ensures raisin quality and traditional production. The result is a unique raisin in terms of taste, texture and colour.
In the last days of Summer, after harvesting the raisins go through a natural process in classic drying trellises or “paseros” that still resist the passage of time. In these small areas, with minimum slopes of 8 percent for sun-drying processes the ripe grape is set out to dry to become a raisin. In about two weeks approximately, depending on weather conditions, the grape is completely dehydrated and turned into a raisin. Of course, in the middle of that period it will be necessary to turn the grapes over for them to dry up completely. After the drying comes the so-called “picado” which is used to remove the seeds from the raisins manually. It is still customary to have entire families perform these manual tasks, dedicated to wine harvesting of one of the historical products of Malaga.
The result is a relatively large raisin in size, especially when compared to other raisins that can be found in the market as the Sultanas or Corinto. DO Regulation establishes that there cannot be more than 80 fruits per 100 grams. In addition to its size and round shape, its colour is unmistakable, since the natural drying gives it a purplish black that has little to do with the red or other colorations obtained from an early grape harvest or artificial drying processes. But what most defines DO Málaga raisins is its muscatel flavour, which is enhanced by an intense aroma finish.
The raisins made from Malaga or Alejandría muscatel grapes are found in two very distinct areas. On the one hand, in Manilva, the Malaga municipality located in the Western end of the province, where the tradition of this product and wines still survives. Furthermore, in the region of Axarquia, in which slopes muscatel grape vineyards have been cultivated for centuries for processing both wine and raisins.
The production of muscatel raisins can be traced to Roman times, but it acquired notoriety during ancient Al-Andalus. Raisins from the Axarquia region became famous in this period clearly in places such as Colmenar, Jotrón or Santopitar. But the splendour of this dried fruit arrived especially during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Along with muscatel wine it began to enjoy worldwide fame. What is still unclear is the origin of muscatel and how and when it was introduced in the Iberian Peninsula.
Raisins have got boron and iron their most important properties. The first is an essential mineral for the organism, especially to bone marrow. Because of its high alkalinity this dehydrated fruit also serves to maintain the acid balance of the human body. It is rich in fibre which is effective to treat constipation. Finally their phenols are significant antioxidants.
The importance of muscatel raisins in the region of Axarquia is such that tours were established decades ago by the people who produce them. This Muscatel Raisin route goes from Rincon de la Victoria through places like Benagalbón, Moclinejo, Almáchar, El Borge and Cutar. In all of them the landscape has been transformed by the production of muscatel grapes, with large areas of vineyards that are dotted with traditional wineries and “paseros”.
Coinciding with the end of the muscatel raisin campaign, gastronomic festivals are celebrated in Axarquia claiming the importance of this historical product. One of the most important is held in El Borge in mid-September: The Day of Raisin. There, besides from buying the fruit you can see a recreation of the process of transformation of grapes into raisins. Also the Fiesta de la Pasa de La Viñuela is one to watch out for, which takes place on similar dates, as well as the Fiesta de Viñeros, Moclinejo and Ajoblanco in Almachar.