Roca madre means “bedrock” in English, which sadly doesn’t sound nearly as cool as it does in Español. But what it is and how it influences grapes – and hence wine – is fascinating. Bedrock is the the layer of rock that lies beneath the topsoil and subsoil. This rock supports the vine structure, determines what type of nutrients the vines will get, and controls how the soil is drained. Roca Madre is also the name of a wine collective, whose winemakers distinguish themselves by their singular obsession with cultivating grapes and making wine that reflects the true character of the land they are from. The other day I had the pleasure of meeting this lively bunch and taste some of their wines; but before I get into all that I want to talk more about why roca madre is important to wine.
In winemaking there are a wide variety of opinions about what a wine should be. Many of those ideas center on how wine should taste. Some winemakers are looking for consistency. To maintain that consistency, they do whatever it takes to ensure their wines always taste more or less the same. Others view their wine as an extension of the land and go to great lengths to make sure they don’t impede the way that their tierra influences taste and even highlight those characteristics that make it unique. These are wines that have personality and something specific to share. These wines are not only organic, more often than not, they are biodynamic. The Roca Madre folks are part of a growing movement of winemakers called terroiristas. Terroir is a French word which refers to all of the environmental factors that come together to create a wine’s flavor characteristics. The Roca Madre wine group is particularly obsessed with terroir and they do everything they can to make sure their wines represent a true reflection of the land they´re from.
Roca Madre Viña y Vino embody the very best of what wine can be, an artisanal experience that shows off the unique aspects of the the land, made by folks who know the value of having a good time.
Click here to learn more about the wines I tasted.
It’s June and the roses are in full bloom! Last weekend I had the pleasure of staying at Finca Casa Nueva, a beautiful early 20th-century palace and working winery. As we toured the vineyards, I admired the way the rose bushes flanked each of the rows. From light pink to bright yellow, the roses were all but bursting, each petal unfurled to its fullest extent, lightly perfuming the air with its intoxicating scent.
A few weeks ago, I posted an instagram photo of a new shop in Malasaña called Wine and Roses. It started me thinking about this combination as the ultimate definition of romance and how it is hardwired into our consciousness. At Finca Casa Nueva, I learned that beyond their romantic connotations, these two elements have a powerful and practical connection in the winemaking process.
The finca’s enologist Teresa explained to us that roses are often planted at the ends of grapevine rows. Grapes are notoriously difficult to cultivate because they are quite sensitive to infestations and thus require careful monitoring to make sure they are safe. Roses require the same soil and sun as grapevines and are very sensitive flowers, even more sensitive and vulnerable than grapevines. For wine producers, roses act as an early warning system, since any signs of blight or infestation will show up on them first, allowing the growers time to address any problems before the grapevines become affected. In addition, roses provide a habitat for beneficial insects and pollen for bees.
No one knows for sure how long growers have been planting roses with grapevines, but in the 19th-century it became common practice when French winemakers noticed that nearby roses were the first to go as the phylloxera (a horrific louse infestation that destroyed most of the grapevines in the world) spread. They then began to plant bushes of roses as a buffer to protect their grapevines, though unfortunately this merely held off the infestation but didn’t stop it. The French winemakers soon came down to Spain where they were able to continue producing wine, thanks to a number of resistant Spanish grape varietals. Among them were the uva de la bruja (the witch’s grape) from Cataluyña and bobal, a native D.O. Utiel-Requena grape. While spending time in Spain, the French winemakers introduced some of their own techniques, thus fostering the modernization of Spanish winemaking.
As it turns out, wine and roses really are a perfect combination, not only aesthetically but because roses are the canary in the coal mine for grapevines, giving early warning of any infestations and blights. Beauty does indeed, have an important, practical place in the world.