Rara Avis: Tintilla de Rota
Wednesday is a day for the sprinters, with most of the course flat as a pancake. Terrain like this could easily foster an early break-away that could survive up until the last few kilometers, when the sprinters’ teams will line up in “trains” that will launch their big men to victory. Look for Peter Sagan and Jon Degenkolb to be in the mix as the furious dash to the line gets underway.
Rota, our starting point today, is situated on the Bay of Cádiz, and gets its name from the Arabic Rabita Rutta (Watchtower of Rota), a link to the Moorish rulers of old. The town lies close to the cities of Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, both famous for their sherry production. I love sherry, especially the Manzanilla which is the specialty of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. But today I’m going to talk about a rare bird of a wine, one that is made from a grape called Tintilla de Rota.
Genetically identical to Graciano, a grape more familiar to lovers of Rioja in the north of Spain, Tintilla de Rota is a bit of a rarity in this hot, dry part of the country. While most of the wine producers in the region do cultivate it, the majority of the crop is designated for blending into the fortified wines that are the specialty here.
Only a handful of vignerons have tested Tintilla’s capacity to make dry table wines, to good effect. The characteristics that make Graciano a delightful blending partner in other parts of Spain, are what allow Tintilla de Rota to stand on its own with distinction: beautiful, rich color and a lively floral bouquet. Huerta de Albala, a notable producer in Rota, crafts a wine that is 100% Tintilla de Rota, called Barbazul (see photo).
It’s not going to be easy to find an example of Tintilla de Rota in the U.S. However, its twin Graciano might be easier to track down. Within the Spanish section of your local wine store, look for the Rioja shelf. You might be lucky enough to find a wine that is 100% Graciano; if not, look carefully at some of the labels of the bottles in front of you. Graciano may well be a significant part of the blend, along with Tempranillo. Maybe even try a Graciano and a Tempranillo side by side. Which one gets your vote?