Wednesday, 27 June 2012

In search of the elusive Tinta Romé


Ever since our first bottle of Dimobe's Tinta Romé - obtained from the excellent Museo del Vino in Malaga, we have been trying to find out more about this native grape variety found only in the Sierras de Malaga area. We had not found any other bottling or even a new vintage: a pity since this is a wine to be drunk young and the 2006 was already fading.

We could read that Tinta Romé is grown in Axarquia, perhaps the most interesting division of this appellation. The entry is worth reproducing in full;

ROMÉ TINTA La romé es una variedad de uva tinta propia de Andalucía, autóctona de la zona de Málaga. Su cultivo se da principalmente en la comarca de la Axarquía, en la Denominación de Origen Málaga. Los racimos son medianos y poco compactos, con pequeñas uvas redondas de color granate. Los vinos suelen tener buena graduación alcohólica, pero a veces les falta acidez. Suelen ser intensos en color, con notas vegetales y frutas rojas en nariz, también flores azules y vainillas, expresivos y cremosos si han pasado por barrica. Es una uva de la que se saca un vino excelente con un sabor muy peculiar. Autorizada para la comunidad autónoma de Andalucía por la Orden APA/1819/2007, por la que se actualiza el anexo V, clasificación de las variedades de vid, del Real Decreto 1472/2000, de 4 de agosto, que regula el potencial de producción vitícola. Se cultiva en la zona de Alhama de Granada. Existe una variedad romé blanca.

In particular, reference to Romé Blanca was fascinating to us at Slotovino!

So we called Dimobe and were told they had a few bottles of Romé Tinta if we came to the Bodega Munoz in Rincon de la Victoria, the other side of Malaga at 17.00 the next day, we could pick some up.

Taking the afternoon off, we decided to drive up to Moclinejo where the Dimobe Cellars are situated and take a look at the area which is about 15 minutes inland from the coastal town of Rincon de la Victoria. This was fascinating for three reasons. Firstly for the vineyards of bush vines growing as steeply as anything we had seen in the Ahr Valley,

secondly for the incredible narrowness of the streets of Molclinejo which are arranged not just to deter outsiders from getting around or even out but actually relieving them of the will to live

and thirdly because it is the beginning of something called the Ruta de la Pasa, a 62 km Weinstrasse of great antiquity along which grow the Muscat and Moscatel vines for Malaga Virgen, Malaga and so forth. These wines were as famous as Madeira and Marsala in their time but were obliterated by phylloxera and never really recovered their position as in so many cases. Only recently has there been a modest revival.

On the board at the entrance to Moclinejo there was an explanation in English and Spanish as to what the Ruta de la Pasa was;

Moclinejo is situated in the interior of La Axarquia on the slopes of the Cerro de Piedras Blancas offering a landscape of steep hillsides mainly covered with olive and almond groves and vineyards.

Known as the Gateway to the Raisin Route grape cultivation is once again the basis of the local economy, together with the production of olive oil in keeping with time honoured traditions. The town offers a spectacular sight when seen from the road which zigzags its way up from the coast.

From certain parts of the town it is possible to see the sea through the corridor of the Benagalbon Valley.

The 62 kilometres of this route pass through the municipalities of Totalan, Comares, Cutar, El Borge, Almachar and Moclinejo, a region with uniique weather conditions which enable the proliferation of the vineyards used to make raisins. 

This ancestral trade which harnesses the power of the sun is carried out in raisin beds, the characteristic paseros which are always oriented towards the south and positioned on the hillsides and slopes of the Axarquia landscape. The traditional manner of making this fruit is a unique feature which gives rise to festivals in honour of this highly valued product, such as the Ajoblanco Festival in Almachar, the Vineros Festival in Moclinejo and the Raisin Festival in El Borge.

These very raisins are applying traditional methods to make the famous "Moscatel" sweet wine which is as famous as it is appreciated. This wine has a characteristic floral aroma typical of this grape variety, due to certain essential oils which are found in the surroundings of the film around the pips thereby differentiating it from other sweet wines.

Within these traditional Moscatel wines, mention must be made of the Verdiales wines of Comares which may be distinguished from the other two styles (Montes and Almogia) due to the faster method of preparation. The pandas de verdiales (verdiales music bands) of Comares are deservedly famous for the quality of their performances and constitute a reference for the entire Axarquia region. There are also other festivals which take us back in time such as the Monfi (Moorish Bandit) Festival in Cutar, where A\ndalusian culture takes centre stage, visitors being invited to participate by wearing the clothing of the period. Another event held in Totalan is the festival of the chanfaina, the town's typical dish made with kid and almonds.

The unique landscape of these towns served as a refuge for bandits such as "El Bizco del Borge" one of the most legendary renegades of the province. We recommend that you follow the footsteps of this bandit, always with raisins to hand as provisions, and abandon yourself to the undiscovered landscapes and beautiful and enchanting towns with Muslim origins which are to be found along this route.

Charming indeed and we made a note to take in this Ruta de la Pasa another time. Meanwhile, also at the entrance to the town was the Dimobe Cellar building. We had been told not to go there as wine was not sold at the Cellar Door, so back to Rincon de la Victoria we went in search of Bodegas Munoz where we were to find our Tinta Romé.

At 17.00 the shop was still closed, so we indulged in some minutes of window shopping before getting a cold drink at the bar next door. 

Eventually the Bodega Munoz opened and we asked for our wine. The people behind the counter had no idea what we were after and apparently had never heard of Tinta Romé. A call to Sr. Munoz cleared up the situation. We were to go back to Dimobe in Moclinejo for the wine.

We decided to go along with this and drove back up the mountainous and winding road. This time we drove right in to the Dimobe forecourt where a succession of ever more uninformed fork lift truck drivers and depot workers scratched their heads until eventually Sr. Munoz hove into view. 

Charm itself he explained that there had been a misunderstanding. He also told us that the Tinta Romé he had made in 2006 was with bought-in grapes from a local grower and he hadn't decided to make another vintage. Nevertheless, the wine had been so popular that he had used the same label design to sell his Syrah in subsequent years! Of the Romé Blanco, he had never heard.

He tried to interest us in various wines. Dimobe make quite a few varieties and Bodegas Munoz is a general wine and spirit distributor and soft drink company. He also offered to show us around but we were only interested in our Tinta Romé. So eventually he disappeared, returning with a case of 6. Examining one of the bottles he noticed the shoulder has rather low so he went off again and re-appeared with a better bottle. Asking how much to pay for these 6 bottles, he waved his hand, perhaps in view of the circuitous route we had had to follow in search of our wine, it was gratis

After many protestations we accepted the gift and that night sampled one of the bottles. Guess what dear reader, it had not faded any more than the bottle we had tried a couple of years before.

While grieving somewhat for the practically extinct Tinta Romé - the last of which had been given away, we stumbled on a wine called Sedella, "Mediterranean Mountain Wine" at Lavinia in Malaga Airport. Asking what grapes this might be made from - the label only tells of 'uvas autoctonas' from 'los venedos mas altos de la Axarquia malaguena' we discovered they were Tinta Romé and Garnacha. So all is not lost.

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