Until 1936 that is, when the Spanish Civil War erupted setting village against its neighbouring villages and even sons against fathers. Much of the action took place along the coastal strip in Andalucia and Laurie Lee in his book ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ describes the deprivations of the times far better than I can. At one stage Mussolini marched his Italian fascist troops down the N340 through Sabinillas and the German battleship Graf Spee was frequently seen patrolling off the coast.
By 1939 the heart had been ripped out of Spain leaving the country all but bankrupt and with a starving population. The following years are known as the ‘Years of Starvation’ and large parts of the rural community moved to the towns and cities for work and food. Even today villages arrange transport from the cities to bring back the older former residents for family reunions once a year, the famous Romerias.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s Marbella was enjoying the first of the tourists and urbanisations were being thrown up from Puerto Banus to Malaga and beyond. Manilva, being just that little bit further from the airport, only saw those brave enough to drive their hire cars down the single track N340 as it was then. Puerto de la Duquesa was about the only concession made to the tourist industry and a few apartment blocks were built in Sabinillas to cope with the even fewer ex pats who arrived determined to sample the ‘real Spain’, which they could in Manilva. Very slowly and very gradually the numbers of visitors increased as did the number of resident ex pats but even today Manilva does not have the hills to sea block of solid concrete apartments, hotels and urbanisations you see at the eastern end of the Costa del Sol.
Although grape vines had been re-introduced to the Manilva area just after the Civil War it is only recently that Manilva has started to emerge from beneath the blanket of Malaga Wine and Malaga Raisins. The Malaga DO region, established in 1933, includes Manilva and the Moscatel grapes grown on the white soil of Manilva contribute to the overall production of Malaga wine, primarily the sweet Moscatel for which Malaga is famous. Similarly the grapes left to partially dry in the sun contributed to the overall production of Pasas de Malaga, Malaga Raisins. Only a limited supply of specifically Manilva wine could be obtained in plastic bottles from local supermarkets; until 2014 that is.
An enterprising local man, Argimiro Martinez Moreno started a business, Nilva Enoturismo SL. Under the Nilva label Argimiro is producing about 6,000 litres of wine per year from the locally grown Moscatel grape. The first, a white seco, is reminiscent of a fino sherry from Jerez and Argimiro tells us this is due to the similar soil in which the grapes are grown. The second is a semi-seco produced from grapes that have been left in the sun for 2 days. The third is a sweet desert wine produced from grapes left in the sun for up to six days.
When not supervising the wine making Argimiro runs the wine museum, a comprehensive account of the winemaking history of the area, all in Spanish, and offers wine for tasting from the small shop. He is also hopeful of gaining a coveted label for Manilva wines.
The first weekend in September is when the Vendimia de Manilva takes place. Started in the 1960s this grape festival is hugely popular and draws in hundreds of people. The festival starts on the Saturday morning and lasts until the early hours of Monday. Monday itself is a local holiday. You can expect a procession, street stalls, flamenco dancing, music, grape treading in the traditional manner on the Sunday evening followed by live music and dancing. You will also be able to sample this year’s grapes and wine.
Manilva is a municipality that is carefully bringing itself into the 21st Century. It is a balancing act between the desire to remain Spanish, a sentiment shared by many of the ex pats who live here as well as the Spanish themselves, creating new industry that blends in with the landscape and catering for the annual visitors who provide the ‘icing on the cake’ for many local and ex pat businesses. It is a balance between providing accommodation for residents and visitors without ruining the environment or running out of essential commodities such as water and power. To date Manilva is managing to adjust and develop without losing its identity expressed in so many fiesta and ferias throughout the year.
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