Saturday, 16 July 2016

Bodegas: J Martínez “El Gato”

Based in the old quarter of the coastal town of Rota, this family business was established in 1957 by José Martínez Arana. His father was nicknamed “El Gato” (the cat) as he usually had one on his lap. This is the last bodega of the many which once graced the town, and when it was established it was one of 20 or so. In 1953 a large Naval Base was established there as General Franco sought to strengthen ties with the United States. The base now occupies 24 square kilometres and is home to some 4,000 American military and civilian staff, fewer now than before.

Juan Martinez, his son in law and daughter Laura (foto:cosasdecome)
Many local people left the vineyards for better-paid jobs at the base or saw their vineyards expropriated to provide the necessary land. José Martínez had vineyards in the Pago del Campillo but after they were expropriated he used his compensation to buy this small bodega. His son Juan Martínez Martín Niño joined his father at the age of 23 and has run it since 1969. The bodega has seen some expansion over the years including another which they use for fermenting the must. The family owns a despacho de vinos in the Calle María Auxiliadora as well as a despacho attached to the bodega itself.

Juan Martínez is still active in the bodega though it has been mostly run by his daughters since 1987. His grandchildren will be working there soon, and thus the firm is approaching its fourth generation. The bodega is small and they have learned how to combine traditional and modern methods which has ensured the bodega’s survival. It has its own vineyards where they grow Palomino, Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel and the low yielding red Tintilla. They are among the very few producers left of traditional Tintilla de Rota wine, and the only one in Rota itself. It is their pride and joy.

Bodega equipment includes 2,500l tinajas (tall clay fermentation tanks, rarely seen today), various other tanks, a lovely 75 year-old bottling machine and of course soleras. Much labelling is still done by hand, underlining the artisan nature of the bodega. The family hopes to revive the fortunes of the Tintilla de Rota, a local speciality which is dying out despite being on the doorstep of a military base with so many potential customers. It seems they prefer beer and cocktails, so the bodega welcomes visitors and often hosts tastings.

Their flagship wine, Tintilla de Rota, was once popular as consecration wine and is made from Tintilla grapes (known elsewhere as Graciano and Parraleta) from four small parcels totalling about 2 hectares, though some grapes are bought in. The grapes are sunned for five or six days and to their juice is added arrope (a syrup made by cooking the same must to one fifth of its original volume), before being fortified to 17ᴼ. The wine is then aged, the Joven for ten years and the Noble for forty. As Rota is not in the Zona de Crianza for DO Sherry, their Sherry style wines are not DO – but good.

The wines are:
Manzanilla Fina (bought in, DO), Fino Andaluz, Oloroso, Cream, Moscatel, Moscatel Reserva, Pedro Ximénez, PX Reserva, Tintilla de Rota Joven, Tintilla de Rota Noble (solera 1960)

Address: Avenida de San Fernando, 40, 11520 Rota, Cádiz
Telephone: 956 810 203

Visits: Yes, by appointment

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