Balbaína Alta is considered one of the oldest and most famous pagos in Jerez. Its surface is almost 2,800 hectares of albarizas divided into 4 subpagos, forming a universe with so many interior paths that it is easy to get lost. Each one of them takes you to a vineyard, a family and a great story. You can drive to the Soto, the Galán or the Hidalgo, but you can also get lost with the Balbo and the Columella. You can understand the greatness of the soleraje of La Gitana, but the Agustinito fino too. You can have a drink with Curro or toast to the health of Juan Vega. Any of these options would take us to the heart of Balbaína. Let’s choose a path and start the journey.

A brief history

Perhaps, if you are curious and have investigated something in the bibliography of the Marco de Jerez, you have come across a pago known as Barbayna. If it has happened to you, surely you wondered if it was a different pago from Balbaína or if, on the contrary, it was a matter of us, the people of Cádiz and our tendency to interchange the “l” and the “r”. Do not worry, you’re not the only one. Although there is a historical trend in this lateral exchange of letters in Spanish, it is of capital importance to determine the historical origin of this coastal pago. Barbayna or Balbaína?
The truth is that there is some unanimity in relating it to Balbus, the Cádiz name of Balbo el Menor, a member of the transcendent Balbo family, which handled a large part of the commercial exchanges in the port of Gades. Although you already know that whenever we talk about the past we work with hypotheses. In this case we will take that of Juan José López Amador and Enrique Pérez Fernández, who have been the ones who have carried out the most profound and accurate work on this area in their El Puerto de Balbo in Cádiz.
In their work they tell us how Balbaína was traversed at the time along the Via Augusta in its section Portus Gaditanus-Hasta Regia, which in Andalusian times was known as Al-Rasif, El Arrecife and finally, in modern times as vide infra.

These authors also relate the illustrious Cádiz agronomist Lucio Junio Moderato Columela with Balbaína, when he spent part of his youth on the farm of his uncle Marco Columela. Later, in his work De Re Rustica, he wrote a chapter on viticulture, where the foundations of land zoning are laid down, with constant references to the Ceretano fields.

Somewhat later, in 1269, a document is found that makes clear the king Alfonso X’s gratitude to the military orders of Santiago and Alcántara donating part of their Barbayna lands. These lands were in the hands of smallholders until, at the beginning of the 16th century, they passed to large owners such as Pedro Camacho, who was nicknamed El Rico because of the immense fortune he inherited, considering himself the wealthiest Jerez gentleman of his time. His possessions occupied some 5,160 aranzadas in the Jerez inheriting and donadíos of Montana, Barbaina and Grañina. In them were vineyards, forests, mountains, meadows, fields, houses and cabins.

Later, already in the 19th century, their former owners are described as Frailes de la Merced, del Carmen and Santo Domingo, the latter standing out for be rich vintners. At that time Balbaína already extended over 1566 aranzadas of albarizas and bujeos with a total of 58 owners. The vidueños of it included: palomino, perruno, cañocazo, albillo, pedro jiménez and mantúo, giving highly esteemed musts. His most appreciated vineyards were La Campanilla, El Arcón, Las Cañas and El Sargento Mayor.

The terroir of Balbaína

Balbaína Alta has traditionally been considered the finest of the Jerez estates, giving the wines a profile that is very suitable for biological aging. In general, they are wines with a more spicy nose and more vertical on the palate, with a light step.
The fact that Balbaína is a pago to produce fresh wines is marked in the collective unconscious, and, therefore, is part of the terroir itself, as well as the proximity to the sea. All this human development ended up generating 4 subpayments: Los Cuadrados, Balbaína Alta, Carrahola and Las Tablas.