Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Holy grail of Tinta Romé found at last

 Search this Blog for Tinta Romé and you will see that we have been a little bit obsessed with this obscure Andalucian variety for a few years, ever since we came upon a bottle by Dimobe at El Museo Del Vino in Malaga, El Lagar de Cabrera.

This was a pale red, low alcohol wine perfect for pasta. The sheer originality of this Tinta Romé among all the heavy Spanish reds from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mencia, Monastrell, Moristel & co. was interesting. How often have we heard it said that because it it hot in Spain, wines tend to be high in alcohol. If that is tha case, what about Greece and Georgia we ask?Their wines are not nearly as high in alcohol and yet the climate is just as warm if not warmer.

There were numerous wild goose chases to find more of this lovely wine ending up at the Dimobe depot in Moclenijo, Axarquia

in the hills beyond Malaga where we were given half a dozen bottles free of charge. They were admittedly past their best but still enjoyable.

Our next sortie was to Sedella where an excellent blend of Tinta Romé with Garnacha and one or two others - effectively a field blend but with a majority of Tinta Romé is made by the great Lauren Rosillo of Sedella Vinos. We searched for his vineyard but never found it. No one in Sedella could tel us where it was or even whether the winery had been completed. Rosillo's 'Mediterranean Mountain Wine' is fortunately available at Malaga's Pablo Picasso Airport Lavinia duty free shop.

Our third effort was more productive. Once again we drove past Malaga along the now old Urbanisacions which are of a hideousness as to make Torremolinos look like Bel Air or at least Coral Gables. Keeping our eyes fixedly on the road, we drove past Velez Malaga until we found the road leading up into the hills, nay mountains of Axarquia towards Archez, Competa and Sayalonga, the true home of Tinta Romé.

The weather was unseasonably miserable, lending a dismal aspect to the scenery.

This part of Spain has never been wealthy but as we climbed upwards the number of abandoned terraces told a story of a hard life and grim struggle eventually abandoned. We fancied ourselves as Ruskin before Torcello, overcome with a sort of extasy at the desolation.

Then gradually we came upon the vineyards. Planted on almost purple soil interspersed with olive trees but without a weed in sight, the ancient vines poked their heads above the ground ready to become individual bushes when the growing season began.

How these vineyards are worked is a mystery. As in the Mosel and Ahr, one suspects workers have to abseil down the slopes. Donkeys have been known to assist but it must be excruciating work.

Strange structures we fancied to be raised vegetable beds in gardens could also have been Moorish graves. They are in fact beds for drying grapes for Malaga Dulce.

Archez is one of those villages with streets almost too narrow for traffic. Probably charming and picturesque when the sun is shining but a bit mournful on a day like ours. As in Sedella there was a sudden burst of English this time from a mother and daughter, clearly Ex-Pats.

Municipal Orange trees cheered things slightly. There were attemps at establishing various 'Rutas' (wine, olives etc) to encourage tourism. As they say, one winery is an attraction, five wineries are a diversion and fifteen a destination.

On entering Archez, we had seen inscribed on a house 'Bodegas Hnos. Lopez Martin', the very people fabled still to be producing Tinta Romé.

We had corresponded with them and checked that the Bodega would be open of a Saturday afternoon but there was seemingly no answer to our ringing adjacent bells at the two front doors. Then there was a faint rustling and a quiet voice and eventually a gentleman emerged from the gloom behind one of the doors. We explained our mission. Without wasting any words the brother we shall call Fafner (in the nicest possible way) fetched a bunch of keys and led us down the hill to the cellar winery under the house. Opening the door, he revealed his treasure trove.

Not only do Hermanos Lopez Martin make Tinta Romé but they also make a Rosado Semi Dulce from the same grape and something almost as obscure, a dry white from what is called Montuo as well as Montua on the back label and is otherwise known as Chelva. 'Wine Grapes' has it as either Mantuo or Mantua by the way. Together with these is a Malaga Dulce from Moscatel of course.

 By now, Fafner had been joined by Fasolt, the appropriately more loquacious brother who gave us a taste of all these wines.

We were dumbfounded. The Tinta Romé tasted nothing like the light version from Dimobe. There were some peculiar notes we were getting. We made appreciative sounds but were internally in turmoil. The Tinta Romé from Sedella had also not resembled our first example but we put this down to being a blend with Garnacha etc. The Tinta Romé from Lopez Martin had a small amount of Jaen Prieto according to the label (see note) - but too small to change the very nature of the wine so drastically.It wasn't unpleasant. Drinkable, certainly. Original however. Unsurprising given that its evolution has been almost as separate as that of the flora and fauna of Madagascar. Tinta Romé is hardly available in any shops as far as we can tell. Presumably it is all consumed locally. There is rumored to be another producer or maybe two up the road at Competa...

We bought 3 vintages of Tinta Romé, each with a different Abv;

09/042009                     12.7%
17/04/2007                    14.0%
19/4/2002                      14.3%

Interesting too the fact the very date of the bottling was stated.

Fasolt took our order and labelled the bottles in front of us with a simple old wooden contraption. None of the wines cost more than 4.00. Fafner kindly took our case back up the road on the trolly and so we bore the Holy Grail back to base. (That's enough Wagner - Ed.)

The Rosado Semi Dulce had not been extraordinary. The Malaga Dulce good but not so very much out of the ordinary either. We have transported the reds, the white and the rose back to London where we will be tasting them under different conditions, aerating the wines and having some food to accompany them. Let us hope for a miracle; the lovely Lopez Martin brothers deserve it as well as us.

Note: Jaen Prieto doesn't appear in 'Wine Grapes' but there is Jaen Tinto (a synonym for Mencia), Jaen Prieto Blanco (one of the many synonyms for Cayetana Blanca - strange because Prieto means dark or Black) among other Jaens in the index. Perhaps Jaen Prieto is one of these?

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