How can an 18th Century former military tin factory in a remote, off-the-grid valley produce some of Andalucía’s most sophisticated wine? The answer lies with the man who fell in love with a historical ruin, transforming it into a unique organic wine tasting experience.

If you only know Juzcar in the Serranía de Ronda, from the Smurf movie sequel that was filmed there in 2011, you’ve missed the best parts. In addition to fabulous hiking routes, the area has la sierra’s most hidden vineyard – la Antigua Real Fábrica de Hojalata de San Miguel de Ronda.

Juzcar’s Best-hidden Secret

The corkscrew descent to the property may be somewhat hair-raising, but you won’t regret the effort once you see the enclave of flamingo-coloured houses surrounded by picturesque plots of vine, framed by a deep green forest. We enter a roomy courtyard where citrus trees and wild dates support hammocks and glass lanterns in a Boho style paradise. Our welcoming committee, Momo the dog, grins almost as widely as our host Enrique Ruiz who meets us with open arms. Shortly after we are joined by the gemütlich German biodynamic farming specialist, Markus Bauer, and the passionate Seville organic oenologist, Fernando García de la Vega.

Canon Balls by Camel

“If you think it’s hard to get here now, imagine in the 18th Century!” smiles Enrique. Why such a remote location? In 1725 when the factory was built here under royal decree of King Felipe V, its whereabouts were considered state secrets. In fact, the metal making process was so clandestine that German and Swiss engineers were brought in to make the exact combination. “If one believes the legend,” adds Enrique, “the scientists were kidnapped into Spain inside wine barrels”.

The location had the advantage of nearby iron mines and a seemingly limitless supply of trees to feed Spain’s first high-temperature smelting oven. In addition, the Genal River provided hydraulic power to flatten the tinplate that later would line the hulls of Spanish galleons.

In its heyday, over 100 people worked in La Fábrica, producing two tons of bullets, cannon balls and hojalata (tinplate) daily. As mules couldn’t transport the heavy loads to the coast, 20 camels from the Royal Palace in Madrid soon substituted them. Imagine! By the 1780’s, the valley’s wood resources were exhausted and the factory was abandoned. It later became a 19th Century lair for bandoleros and other outlaws, and according to village gossip, one of the last owners was a spy!

From Banking to Bodega Owner

But how does a Barcelona-born World Bank Economist end up in this remote corner of the world, I inquire? “It’s a long story,” shrugs Enrique. He was at an airport in Nicaragua leafing through a real estate magazine when he discovered that the old Fábrica was for sale. He bought the property in 2001, spending a decade restoring the factory, working two construction teams and juggling permit applications from a multitude of government departments. As a testament to Enrique’s vision, the project won the distinguished Hispana Nostra award in 2018. The award recognised the rehabilitation of the factory using period materials, and the harmonious recuperation of the land, dedicated to organic wine production and oenotourism. The complex has been declared a Historical Industrial Monument and a Site of Cultural Interest.

Continuing our visit, we are led into the old sheet metal workshop, which has served as their bodega since 2014. The early-industrial stonewalls contrast the contemporary looking recycled wood ceiling with an enormous walnut tree growing straight through it. “We only make varietal wines,” says Fernando, adding that the limited production allows their wines to remain in the barrels for two winters before bottling. The estate has Europe’s southernmost plantation of Pinot Noir grapes, producing sublime wine.

All the grapevines are grown organically and harvested following the lunar cycle. “We grow native species in danger of disappearing, such as Tintilla and Moscatel Morisco,” explains Enrique. Wine from the latter grape, which is autochthonous to La Serranía de Ronda, was rated 94% by the Gúia Peñin (Spanish equivalent of Robert Parker) in its first year of production. It continues to excel in quality and is considered one of the best white wines in Andalucía.

Organic and Artisan

La Fábrica’s annual production is 10 – 15,000 numbered bottles of five single- grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Moscatel Morisco, Tintilla de Rota, Garnacha Tinta and Cabernet. Following the estate’s sustainability mission, only clean renewable energy is utilised (wind, solar and hydroelectric power). Their wine is produced without chemicals or artificial yeast, only using minimal amounts of sulphites if necessary. The bottles are recycled glass with names printed directly on the surface with non-toxic ink, using natural corks and beeswax seals, produced on the estate. Only 1/10 of the land is dedicated to organic agriculture, the rest of the 30-hectare estate is Mediterranean oak, cork oak and chestnut forest.

Making artisan wine is more labour intensive than regular production. La Fábrica therefore accepts international volunteers to assist them, with Markus and Fernando teaching them about organic wine production. Even the pressing is done the traditional way, so I offer our feet for the next harvest…

We taste their 2018 Moscatel Morisco and Pinot Noir, soon to be bottled. Being accustomed to the traditionally heavy Ronda vinos, la Fábrica’s wines are more like French vintages – delightfully dry, elegant yet complex. Each wine has a distinctive character, which varies year to year. “Our objective is to produce distinguished single-grape organic wines,” says Fernando who, in spite of his young age, is the true nose of the bodega.

Drink, Dine And Stay Overnight

A couple of years ago La Fábrica began to offer wine tasting tours. Due to their popularity, the experience was enhanced with an optional wine-infused lunch prepared by Enrique himself, who is an amazing cook. The mouth-watering eight-course menu includes pheasant omelette, roasted Iberian pork with muscatel wine sauce and bitter orange cheesecake with to-die-for coffee directly from Nicaragua – all accompanied with the estate’s premium wines. But that is not all…

One day, a famous Málaga-born actor and friends were having a tasting at La Fábrica. After a delightful lunch and maybe a tad too much wine, the actor told Enrique that the only thing lacking was a place for them to sleep. The host who happens to have 8 bedrooms in the main house, immediately invited them to stay the night. While this Hollywood favourite and his cheery lot were the winery’s first B&B guests, that option is now open to all visitors. “We are a winery, not a hotel,” insists Enrique, saying that the rooms are there only for the comfort of wine lovers who wish to extend their visit and leave with a clear head after breakfast the following day.

Enrique and his trusted team bring oenotourism to a whole new level. From the historical tinplate bodega to the estate’s Bohemian living-quarters, everything has a personal touch. Each bedroom has its own style, wallpapered with coffee bean sacks or musical notes, with priceless mementos from Enrique’s globetrotting life. You cannot avoid feeling at home. Most likely, you will want to stay for the night to be able to enjoy a summer lunch under the shady orange trees by the pool or a wintery wine tasting in the library, bookended by two roaring fireplaces, or simply enjoying a glass of Granacha wine, surrounded by Enrique’s ancient map collection.

La Antigua Real Fábrica de Hojalata, like its wine, is a place to be savoured. Their premium estate wines can be shipped anywhere in the world and are found in selected wine shops and top restaurants in Seville, Cádiz and on the Costa del Sol. To arrange a visit, go to la Antigua Real Fábrica de Hojalata San Miguel’s website:


About the writer: Karethe Linaae is a Norwegian writer and author living in Ronda, Andalucía. Her book, Casita 26 – Searching for a Slice of Andalusian Paradise was published in the USA in 2019. For more information, please go to