Rancio wine, good wine
Evolution over time in specific conditions make certain wines age –and someone might rightly say embellish— in an extraordinary way.
Rancio wine is like a hidden treasure from the warmer regions with winemaking tradition.
A wine with brown, muddy, mahogany, bronze colours. Complex, sweet, toasted, dried tobacco, hydrocarbon bouquets with disconcerting acetonic notes at the beginning. Nuts, carob, toasted and bitter flavours, even with umami (“savouriness”) touches. A dense and sometimes rough texture, and a long-standing persistence in the mouth. A wine that requires its time in order to be enjoyed.
As a consumer, the approach to rancio wine can be slow, and it can even produce a certain confusion. In addition to that, there is also the quite pejorative connotation of the adjective rancio, at least nowadays. On one hand, it can initially create a discouraging perspective for the consumer. On the other hand, this name prepares the consumer to deal with a wine that is not common, and which is surely to surprise, where we can find volatile bouquets which might seem hostile at the beginning.
Once the initial barrier is overcome, little by little, a world of complexity and touches opens to us, which makes the person who has the patience of getting in finally appreciate this wine as a loyal and true table talk companion.
Historically, there are different names which make reference to this wine: vi de la bota padrina (“wine from the first barrel”), vi de la bota del racó (“wine from the oldest barrel”), vi bo (“good wine”) or vi de pair (“digestive wine”).
Those names indicate and give an idea of the role that this wine has played at an anthropological level.
Despite the distance from which we see it, we have a very strong link with rancio wine: the cultural factor. It is a cultural factor that we have been close to lose, and that we must not stop developing and taking care of.
Luckily, rancio wine in Catalonia has experienced a revival during the last few years. This rediscovery and appreciation of rancio wine has awaken interest and curiosity in recovering old barrels which were abandoned and almost unprotected in corners of family houses and wineries. In some cases, the lack of generational replacement has suspended a wine or barrels with the history of that family house or winery written on them in winemaking language.
The old barrels recovery work is a major effort that some brave winemakers have given to us. Balancing numbers can be a chimera considering the need to recover old and sometimes dry barrels. In addition, time is an indispensable element in order to incorporate the young wine which refreshes the mother of the barrel, with a hardly quantifiable value.
Luckily, there are many examples of enthusiasts working in Catalonia to bring to the sensitive consumer tables wines which have rested in dark rooms of the wineries in order to accompany the table talks with postres de músic (“nuts desert”), mel i mató (“honey and fresh cheese”), carquinyolis (“dry biscuits”), pastries or doughnuts.
As it happens, the sweet rancio wine that Sara and the Mas Martinet family take care of since more than 20 years ago is a jewel that shows the potential of these wines, and that puts it among the biggest oxidative wines in the world.
They are wine drops condensed over the years, it is the history of a region of the world and the grapes of a past time.
Bernat Guixer – Espiritu Roca. Celler de Can Roca