La madre de Cariñena

I was dining with friends in near Calatayud yesterday and enjoying some really old Equipo Navazos palo cortados, when one of them made the observation that the palos reminded them of the “madre” (mother) in the cellar.

They referred to the contents of these barrels- traditional “pipas” (pipes) in the cellar that are generally refilled with local wine year after year. These barrels had apparently been bought by the grandfather of our host’s grandfather (and she was in her fifties) and were reckoned to have been in use over 100 years. Since the barrel is never quite emptied, the effect achieved is similar to that of a solera, and the older wine that remains in the barrel is referred to as the “madre”, said to give character to the incoming wine. On the other hand, when the barrels are left untouched for a period of time – as these had been – you get classic “traditional ageing” via oxidation and evaporation and what is left can become highly reduced/concentrated.

Two thimbles were produced and they were little eye openers. I am not 100% sure what the original wine was. Given the neighbourhood it was probably mainly garnacha, but my hosts weren’t certain and thought that over the years any number of wines could have been added to the barrel.  Nevertheless, both thimbles did indeed show a lot of the characteristics of the ancient palo cortado and amontillado we were drinking – the concentration, wood influence, and length. The similarities with the dusty old amontillado were particularly striking.

Evidently, there were differences as well, and the thimble on the left in particular still showed rich blackberry fruit flavours. Hard to recall exactly from memory, but the effect was similar to the Sereno rancio, albeit with a much much more pronounced concentration and reduction.

A really interesting thing to have tasted.

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