Sometimes administrations seem to legislate with a great ignorance of the customs and uses of their territories. This is the case of claret wines. A type of wine that until recently was left out of the law by a whim of the European Union, some bureaucrat decided that this blend of grapes did not deserve to be taken into account. But in a large part of northern Spain this type of wine had been produced for daily consumption uninterruptedly for decades. And suddenly it would appear on the tables as if it were an outlaw.
To learn about its history and importance, we only have to walk through one of the small vineyards planted by our grandparents, and we will immediately notice the tremendous variety of vines that coexist in a small plot of land. When we reach the entrance to the vineyard, we will see some fig trees escorted by small peach trees and some other fruit trees that bear a few small, extremely sweet fruits.
As we enter the neat rows of vines we will see a mixture of different varieties, white, red and red, some were planted more for the table than in the cellar, others will be rarities, planted out of curiosity, someone gave a graft from a distant village or simply insects created something new. It is rare to see old vineyards of this style planted with only one variety. To the urbanites who look at it with untrained eyes, everything seems to have been planted without any order. But in this beautiful chaos there is an ancient order resulting from the observation of the farmers during their whole lives.
The grape harvests have always been days of hard work but also of celebration. Entire families would get together and work together, moving from one vineyard to another, transporting grapes while singing and teaching the trade to the youngest children. Hard but happy days.
This way of working marked the harvest, the grapes were harvested when it was possible and not waiting for phenolic maturity, therefore the grapes did not ripen so much and the wines were less alcoholic, the white grapes were pressed with the reds and brought freshness and stabilising elements to the whole. And the lack of means to control the fermentation also marked the process of transferring the grapes from the "trujal" to the old, worn wooden vats. The result was a wine with little body, with a short life and with less alcoholic content than we are used to nowadays. A wine of farmers proud of their work, of villages that grew with the effort of their people, a wine that deserved much more and that we can finally appreciate in all its quality.