In the region of the Sierra Sur of Jaén, wine has always been a traditional product. There are historical references of grape production since the period of Muslim rule. It is after the Christian conquest when production, consumption and trade increase, fruits of a peace period in which a considerable amount of vineyards were planted in this region.

According to the book “Alcalá la Real, historia de una ciudad fronteriza y abacial” (Alcalá la Real, story of an abbatial and frontier town), first plantations were established near the hillsides surrounding the Fortress of La Mota; afterwards, they were concentrated in the areas of Rosalejo, Monterrey, Acamuña, Pasada Baena, Fuente La Lancha, Prado Gordo, La Mata, Boca Charilla, Molino La Piedra, Fuente Granada and Loberones, La Ladera, Valcargado and Castillo de Locubín.

Nevertheless, wine export dates back to earlier times according to Professor Rodríguez Molina’s studies (Rodríguez Molina, José: “El vino en Alcalá la Real. Siglos XV y XVI), in which there are some references to news about agricultural production and expansion.

Chaplaincy books from the 16th century describe an economy in which vineyards had an important position. On the contrary, olive grove cultivation had little impact and was concentrated near Castillo de Locubín.

Wine trade was of fundamental importance in this region. Granada was the main foreign market thanks to the privilege granted by Charles V in 1526, which confirms the existence of previous privileges by which wine from Alcalá la Real could be sold in Granada.

Furthermore, wine was sold in Jaén and some other towns and villages of Granada. A wine sales record from the beginning of the 17th century provides us with invaluable information about wine trade as it mentions that landlords, individuals, traders and mule drivers sold up to 500,000 litres of wine from 1609 to 1616.

Activities and guidelines were recapitulated in the bylaws established in 1760, which have survived until our time.

There were different kinds of wine, especially red, añejo (mature), torrontés and trasañejo (ancient) wines. Logically, vinegar trade was also present as it was used in seasonings and tinned food.

It is not only worth mentioning the great volume of wine that was made and commercialized, but also its quality since it was acquired by such relevant personalities as the members of the Royal Chancery of Granada, the Bishop of Malaga and the King Philip III of Spain himself. Moreover, it was consumed by a number of convents in Granada, Baeza, Úbeda, Noalejo and Íllora.

Landlords constituted one of the most relevant groups regarding trade control in that period. Harvesters bottled wine in earthenware jars and wine casks placed in private cellars. A registry of houses of 1615 confirms the existence of 169 houses where wine, must, vinegar and oil were stored; this fact gives us an idea of how deep-rooted the production of wine was in this society.

In the 30’s of the 17th century, there was a major disturbance in the region due to the introduction of foreign wines. At the same time, Granada stopped, or at least restricted, the buying of wine from Alcalá la Real because of the appearance of local wines.

At the end of the 17th century, after a severe crisis, vineyards were almost completely abandoned. Around the middle of the 17th century, in 1644, only insignificant amounts of wine were sold. One century afterwards, in 1738, this downward trend was reflected on a certificate in which the town clerk noted down the total figure of 223 arrobas (historical Spanish volume measure) –3,600 litres approximately, an absurdly low amount compared with the wine sold in previous centuries and which was mostly used for local consumption. (Municipal Historical Archive of Alcalá la Real. Wine, must and oil sales recorded in an account book in 1738.)

At the end of the 17th century, vines got truly ancient and they were clandestinely removed by the grape growers themselves; so much so that citizens urged their Chief Magistrate to prosecute this crime (Municipal Historical Archive of Alcalá la Real. Official report made on 31 November 1779.) That was just the confirmation that commerce with Granada was in a total decline and other areas, such as Montilla, were now the main grape and vine growers in eastern Andalusia. 

The Ensenada Land Registry provides us with information about the regional output in the 18th century. The area had decreased to 3,037 acres of vineyards (630 of good-quality land, 1,428 of second-class land and 979 of third-class land), and the output was of 230,000 litres in all. 

In 1798, output falls to 190,000 litres due to some new taxes. In the following years, we know that there were still vineyards in the region thanks to the Official Reports of 1848 (Mª Teresa Murcia Cano. Municipal Historical Archive of Frailes, Annex I) as well as to the information regarding rates from the different Town Halls.

Later, there was a substantial decrease in the existing vineyard surface attributable to different causes. One of the chief causes was the epidemic of phylloxera occurred in 1891, which ruined lots of peasants and markedly reduced the wine production.

Phylloxera first appeared in Spain in 1876 in the province of Málaga, in the Lagar de La Indiana –today municipal area of El Rincón de la Victoria. Phylloxera rapidly spread to the rest of Andalusia and thus, in 1883, focal points of the epidemic were found in the province of Granada; in 1888, the epidemic appeared in the vineyards of Lucena and later on, it spread to Cádiz, Huelva, Jaén and the rest of Andalusia. It led to the destruction and restructuration of virtually all the Andalusian vineyards.

The remedy used for phylloxera epidemic consisted of grafting American rootstock to the Andalusian vines. On the other hand, after the Spanish Civil War, in the “black market” period, the shortage of food led to the removal of vines to plant the fields with wheat to make bread, staple food.

Nevertheless, vineyards did not disappear completely. There are records of vineyard plantations, for instance in Frailes, which extended over 16.5 hectares in 1932. In this town, there was a subsequent boost to the vineyard as, after the Spanish Civil War, the town council donated some plots of land to the inhabitants so that they could cultivate them; a considerable number of them were planted with vines (in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s of the 20th century).

Records of production in Frailes in the 60’s are available. In 1971, 5,900 litres of wine were produced in this town.

As regards the number of wine cellars, according to the citizens, in the 50’s there might have been more than thirteen in Alcalá la Real, some of them with an annexed room to drink the wine.

Viñedos y Bodega Marcelino Serrano®
Blanca Mª Serrano Serrano
Office: Avd Iberoamérica, 27-Bajo.
23680 Alcalá la Real (Jaén)
Phone: (+34)647 62 69 55
email : info@marcelinoserrano.com