Vino de Tea

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Vino de Tea

Vino de Tea is a local product boasting unique characteristics when compared to the more popular and widely consumed wines in the Canary Islands. This exceptional offering stands out due to its aging process in barrels crafted from "tea" wood, which imparts distinctive nuances. Tea wood, sourced from the inner wood of Pinus canariensis, a pine variety native to the Canary Islands, is renowned for its exceptional solidity and traditional use in constructing homes and cathedrals. This wood lends the wine unique aromas and flavours, displaying reddish tones ranging from tile red to cherry red, achieved through the use of grape varieties such as Prieto, Almuñeco, Negramoll, Vijariego, and Albillo.

Vino de Tea is further characterized by its fruity and herbaceous aromas, complemented by a resinous background acquired during maturation in tea wood barrels. In the mouth, this wine reveals a robust profile with balanced acidity and distinctive mentholated and resinous notes originating from the tea wood. Though tannins are present, they are soft and rounded, ensuring a balanced structure that enhances the grape’s quality and the wood’s influence. The wine’s texture is velvety and enveloping, providing a pleasurable experience on the palate.

The northern region of La Palma, characterized by a subtropical climate and mountainous topography creating various microclimates, is conducive to viticulture. Moist Atlantic winds in the north result in higher precipitation, fostering lush vegetation and an environment suitable for agriculture. The volcanic soil, rich in minerals and nutrients, facilitates vine cultivation.

The production process of Vino de Tea commences between September and October with manual harvesting. Grapes undergo destemming, crushing, maceration, and pressing using components typically made of tea wood in presses and horizontal-type wine presses. The crucial steps in Vino de Tea creation are fermentation and maturation, with the former carried out on tea wood or stainless steel depending on the desired flavor level. Maturation can occur in stainless steel and/or tea wood barrels before being racked and bottled.

The roots of Vino de Tea production trace back to the 16th century, when vine cultivation began on the island of La Palma. Vineyards, especially in the Garafía area, have endured through the centuries, showcasing the island’s strong winemaking tradition. While contracts for manufacturing containers such as barrels have been found, the lack of precise documentation hampers a complete understanding of the wine’s history. Nonetheless, this artisanal process, combined with the characteristics of the northern La Palma terrain, results in exceptional Vino de Tea that reflects the rich winemaking tradition of the region and the influence of the natural environment on its sensory profile.

Primarily consumed as a table wine in the northwest area of La Palma Island, Vino de Tea, sourced mainly from family and domestic productions, contributes to human health benefits. Notably, the presence of α-terpineol, a naturally occurring alcohol found in various plants, imparts anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, and cardioprotective properties to the wine, in addition to its unique aroma.

Preserving this heritage faces challenges due to the loss of tea wood utensils, known as "pipas," used for barrels and casks. Tea extraction is currently prohibited, preventing the replacement of deteriorating tea wood barrels. The craft of making or repairing tea wood barrels has become extinct, leaving surviving barrels, with an average age of around 200 years, as heritage to be preserved and gradually phased out. Despite the decline in Vino de Tea production for household wines, winemakers, and viticulturists in northern La Palma continue to produce and sell this wine to small businesses and through the Denomination of Origin for La Palma wines, with a total production of about a thousand bottles per year.

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Nominated by:Pablo Alonso González; Nauzet Arocha