Alba Aponte of Al Sur de Granada.
Hawkes recently caught up with Alba Aponte, who for more than a decade has owned and operated the independent local produce store Al Sur de Granada in Granada, Spain. A popular pit stop for the wild camping community in southern Spain to stock up on quality supplies before venturing off into the nearby mountains and national parks. Famous for her natural wine curation and freshly picked fruits from nearby trees, Alba knows what works when it comes to packing the best food and drink for a short or extended overlanding getaway.
Introduce yourself, what you do, and your philosophy.
My name is Alba and I am the founder of Al Sur de Granada, a store specializing in natural wine and other artisan staples. Our ethos has always been about provenance and origin. Who is behind it? How is it made? What is the story behind it? We have worked hard at curating and sourcing honest unique produce with a focus on the south of Spain. This means we have items that are interesting, curious, and quite hard to find as they are often made in small quantities.
Why is it important for you to place local produce at the forefront of what you do?
Supporting local producers closes the circle. First, the quality you can get when the product is local is dramatically different. The relationships you build with locals are often more sincere and candid -- it can take years with a producer who is far away. It is better for the local economy, and it feels great to have a store in the city that supports and showcases produce from the same province. It has meant that over the years customers come to expect and get excited about what is growing and happening close to them. This creates a more mindful connection between the customer and what they are consuming.
What do people normally buy from you before they go overlanding or wild camping?
We get people stopping by on the way to their destinations to get the freshest produce, which tends to last longer. We also make travel-friendly foods that are popular, such as frittatas, gazpacho and dips that you can put in a cooler and that keep for a few days. Bread, wine, olive oil, cheese, cured meats, canned fish, chocolate and a nice bar of handmade soap. It tends to be simple, humble and easy ingredients that you can make a lot with.
Lucio 642 olive oil and Mil Pieles natural wine.
Why natural wine, and which bottle would you take with you on the road?
Everything that is not natural wine to us is not true wine. In conventional wine there can be up to 100 additives. It often makes you feel sick, ruins your stomach, gives you a headache and you end up with a horrible hangover after just a few glasses, it’s just not good. It's not only sulfites, it's much more. So why natural wine? Because we do not believe in anything else. But as well, when you're in the mountains and you're really connected to nature, it's actually really nice to drink something that is so pure, and really represents the area of wherever is being made. It makes sense as you're eating sourdough bread or farmhouse cheese or some homemade gazpacho to continue that purity and quality and drink natural wine.
An orange wine is what I would take, and one that always works in nature with a variety of foods is Mil Pieles, made here in the mountains of Granada. It is a wine I requested to be made at Verdevique winery. They have been making wine for five generations and is the highest altitude winery in the continent of Europe, the highest plot sits at 1,410 meters, and it's a blend of varieties. There are some vines that are over 100 years old and for this particular wine, it has a minimum of 30 days skin contact. No oak. No clay. Just the grapes sitting and letting time do its thing.
The profile ends up being one full of freshness, working through the acidity because of the altitude, dry with good depth, but still not heavy. The wine pairs well with cheese, meat, fish, some light chocolate -- almost anything really, which is why it is my go-to.
What would you pack, food and drink-wise, for a long weekend?
If it was two of us, a bottle of wine a day, three types of chocolate, two loaves of bread, three cheeses. Tinned food like olives, fish and some cured ham. Then lots of refreshments like water, gazpacho or salmorejo. Right now we are making a strawberry and cucumber gazpacho that is really popular as it keeps you hydrated but is also nutrient-dense, which is important when you’re hiking.
What is your favourite overlanding destination, either in Spain or anywhere in the world?
I would definitely go somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea. The warmth combined with the coastal sea breeze is hard to beat. A top tip for overlanders is the area between Andalucía and Algarve. Excellent quiet roads with a variety of breathtaking landscapes. You have culture, history, sports from rock climbing to surfing to choose from, and small towns that offer fine dining if you’re in the mood. There really is something for everyone.
Favourite three camping dishes to make and eat when you are on the road?
I am one to prep and make meals beforehand and they tend to be a rice salad, banana bread, and lots of simple one pot dishes -- lately I’ve been making chorizo, green beans, baby potatoes and some onion. With some good olive oil and natural wine, everything tastes great!