Cooking 'ajo caliente' Cooking 'ajo caliente' Esperanza Moreno

Set in the heart of vast vineyards and small-operated wineries, the 'mosto route' around Jerez (Cádiz, Southern Spain) is not far from what Yarra Valley has to offer in Victoria.

Mosto wine is one the youngest, lighter and juicy wines you can taste throughout Spain. Jerez is well know for other specialties such as Sherry, Amontillado or Fino, but also delights the visitor with Mosto and a series of local and homemade meals.

Our first stop, just one kilometre outside the city, is Cortijo Mosto Tejero, a restaurant and bar that during autumn and winter open its doors to families and locals. Here the owners, brothers Pepe and Juan Tejero, welcomes us with an 'ajo caliente' and a refreshing glass of mosto wine. In fact, this combo is the most popular among costumers. 'Ajo caliente' is usually a hot mixture of crude garlic (ajo), tomato, bread and olive oil, with a final touch of pepper and hard-boiled egg.

Along the same road (Carretera de Trebujena), you can find Venta el Cotito, ten kilometres ahead. This eight hectares property holds a 100-year-old winery (Bodegas Almocadén), saloons for celebrations and a restaurant. The meals and wines offered at Venta el Cotito and similar to those available at Cortijo Mosto Tejero, although here you'll find a quieter and rural scene. Antonio Valle has worked here more than 20 years and now runs the restaurant and explains us what mosto is: "It's a very natural wine, with less alcohol than others. Usually, we prepare the grapes in August and leave it fermenting until November. Then, you'll find the natural mosto until March. If you find mosto outside this period, it'd be chemically modified". At Venta el Cotito they also grow their own vegetables and chickens at the private estate just a few meters from the restaurant.

A glass of mosto is just $1 and a tapa of 'ajo caliente' from $3. Local customers value not only these prices, but also the traditional feeling of these establishments: "I've been coming here for several years now and I enjoy very much my Mosto glass and a tapa just before lunch. During weekends you also come with your family and enjoy your lunch outside in the sun", explains Juan Gómez.

By Esperanza Moreno

Spanish Australia Magazine

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