Sometimes administrations seem to legislate with a great ignorance of the customs and practices of their own territory. This is the case with claret wines, which until very recently were outside the legislation due to a whim of the European Union. Some bureaucrat decided that this combination of grapes did not deserve to be taken into account, despite the fact that across a large part of northern Spain this type of wine has been produced for daily consumption without interruption for decades. It would suddenly appear on the tables like an outlaw.
To know its history and its importance we only have to walk through a small vineyard planted by our grandparents. The tremendous variety of vines that coexist in a small plot soon becomes apparent. Upon arrival at the plot, from the hawthorn at the entrance, a fig tree can be seen accompanied by small peach trees and other fruit trees that yield small amounts of extremely sweet fruit.
As we enter the orderly rows of vines, a mixture of different red and white varieties sit in harmony. Some were planted for the table rather than the cellar, whilst others are rarities, either planted out of curiosity when someone from distant town gave a graft or just because insects created something new. It is rare to see old vineyards of this style planted with a single variety, yet for urbanites who observe with profane eyes, everything seems to be planted without order. However, in this precious chaos there is an ancient order born of patient observation of a farmer’s entire life.
Harvests have always meant of a lot of work but also of celebration. Entire families would meet and collaborate, moving from one vineyard to another., transporting grapes while singing and teaching the trade to the little ones. Hard but happy days.
This way of working marked the harvest, the grapes were picked when possible rather than waiting for phenolic maturity, therefore did not ripen as much, producing less alcoholic wines. The white grapes were pressed with the red, providing freshness and stabilizing elements to the resulting wines. A lack of means to control fermentation marked the racking process into old wooden vats. The result was a wine with little body, a short life and lower alcohol than we are used to today. It came from farmers proud of their work, from towns that grew with the effort of their people; a wine that deserved much more and finally we can appreciate it for its many qualities.

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