3 Feb 2016

Vino de Pata

Sooner or later someone is going to sing you the wonders of "Vino de Pata". They'll tell you it is the traditional wine of El Hierro, strong, unadulterated, home-made just like their grandfather made it. All this is true, well, more or less ...

The name "Vino de Pata", which means something like "wine made with the feet", is a brilliant example of modern marketing. It gives the impression of colourful young peasants with their shorts rolled up, treading the grapes in the sunlight to the sound of guitars and pretty young voices. It is true that after the middle of the nineteenth century winemaking on the island became a household rather than business activity. It was a fairly alcoholic beverage (around 14-15% alcohol, the maximum the natural local yeast produces), often somewhat oxidized and with a high level of acetic acid. These factors gave it its characteristic taste, its stability and a headache the morning after. In the 1990's the first modern winery was opened and the few families that actually sold wine felt their source of extra income was threatened. They spread the rumour that, unlike their "natural" brew, the new winery made "chemical" wine with artificial colours and taste. One of them called his wine "Vino de Pata" and the name stuck. There wasn't a bar on the island that didn't offer "Vino de Pata" as well as a small selection of wines from the mainland. Wines from the island's legal commercial wineries were often boycotted.

Of course, since that time the producers of "Vino de Pata" have improved their brews and they quite often resemble modern commercial wines. Occasionally you may even find one that is better than some of the wines guarranteed by our "Denomination of Origin". But, as they may not have passed any sanitary control or been declared to the taxman, nowadays they are less often promoted in bars and restaurants. Anyway, if you decide to try one, remember it has no pedigree.

What more do you need? Conversation over a glass of wine at sundown, a few locally grown olives, a chunk of matured goat's cheese ... For the ladies, perhaps something a little less rustic?