A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Cayetana Blanca (Pardina) - Ribera del Guadiana, Spain
A few months back, I was browsing around Ralph's Derby Street Wine & Spirits in Hingham, MA, and I came across a Spanish white wine made from a grape called Pardina. I'd not heard of it before, but I know that there's a lot of overlap between Spanish and Portuguese grapes, and also that many of these grapes have numerous synonyms. I quickly looked it up on my phone and saw that it wasn't anything that I'd tried before, so I took the bottle home and opened it a few weeks later. I put off writing about it because my initial research (basically just Wikipedia on my iPhone) said that Pardina was sometimes also known as Pardillo, and that was pretty much it. That's definitely not enough information to warrant an entire blog post, and I didn't have any real reason to suspect that I'd find much more than that, so I procrastinated doing the deep research on the grape until today.
It turns out that Pardina is kind of a big deal. Neither Pardina nor Pardillo is actually this grape's official name. It is listed in the VIVC database under Cayetana Blanca, where it has a whopping 82 synonyms, including both Pardina and Pardillo*. More notable, though, is the synonym Jaén Blanco, which is the name it is perhaps best known under throughout Spain. References to Jaén can be traced all the way back to the 16th Century, and in 1807, a Spanish writer, commenting on the confusion of the times resulting from the widespread use of the name Jaén for a multitude of unrelated white grapes, wrote "the first person to clarify exactly all cultivars that are called Jaén in Spain will make their country a royal service." Modern DNA science has certainly helped to provide some clarification, and it is thought today that Jaén Blanco/Cayetana Blanca/Pardina/etc is planted on over 30,000 acres of land, making it approximately the sixth most planted cultivar in Spain. Much of the juice from these grapes is ultimately distilled into brandy with very little making its way into table wine production (though this is starting to change in some areas).
Despite its lack of viticultural importance, it turns out that Cayetana is very important for genetic reasons. A study in the past year (citation 1) sought to find possible familial relationships between Cayetana Blanca and other Spanish and Portuguese grapes. The study started out by analyzing 838 different plants and eventually whittled the number down to just a handful. Among the discoveries the group made was a fairly broad family, very much like the Pinot x Gouais Blanc family discussed in my Romorantin post, with Cayetana Blanca and Alfrocheiro, a red Portuguese grape, as the two parents. They found five different grapes with this exact parentage: Malvasia Preta, Mouraton, Cornifesto, Camarate and Castelão. They were also able to disprove a prior study that had indicated that Cayetana Blanca's parents were Antão Vaz and Rabo de Ovelha, but still showed that either of those grapes (just not both) could be a parent or offspring of Cayetana Blanca. They further showed a possible parent/offspring relationship between Cayetana Blanca and several other Portuguese and Spanish grapes, though they were not able to prove the specific relationship.
One of the most interesting things that the study found was that Cayetana Blanca and Listán Prieto (better known as Listán Negro or Mission) were the parents of a grape called Jaén Tinto. While Jaén Tinto is one of the more common synonyms for the Mencía grape of Bierzo, we're not talking about Mencía here. This Jaén Tinto has been described in Spain since the 18th Century, though there is very little of it left today. This parentage link is important because it seems to definitely point to a Spanish origin for the Mission grape. Some sources have indicated that Mission was actually developed in the US from a seedling from a Spanish vine, but this seems highly unlikely given Mission's role in the parentage of Jaén. The reasoning is that Jaén Tinto is mentioned in the Spanish literature as early as 1765, which is before the phylloxera epidemic. Phylloxera essentially eradicated Mission from the Spanish mainland, though it did survive in the new world and in some of the Spanish islands. It is very unlikely that Jaén Tinto was born in one of these places and taken back to Spain without being more widely cultivated in the place of its birth (and it is not cultivated in the new world or on the islands), so it must have been born on the Spanish mainland before the phylloxera epidemic, meaning that its parents must also have been present on the Spanish mainland at that time.
Passionate Foodie tried this same wine in 2010, he didn't seem to find much more in it than I did. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but there isn't really much particularly right about it either. It is at least relatively inexpensive, so adventurous tasters can sample it for themselves and make their own judgments.
1) Zinelabidine, LH, Haddioui, A, Rodriguez, V, Cabello, F, Eiras-Dias, JE, Martinez Zapater, JM, & Ibanez, J. 2012. Identification by SNP analysis of a major role for Cayetana Blanca in the genetic network of Iberian peninsula grapevine varieties. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. 63(1), pp 121-126.
The source for the identification of Pardina with Cayetana Blanco seems to be:
2) Asensio, ML, Valdez, E, & Cabello, F. 2002. Characterisation of some Spanish white grapevine cultivars by morphology and amino acid analysis. Scientia Horticulturae. 93, pp 289-299.
This study doesn't use DNA analysis, but rather uses ampelography and amino acid content of the various varieties to conclude that the two grapes are identical. I don't know enough about this methodology to know how sound their conclusions are, but this was the only paper I could find that linked those two grapes together. The OCW says in their entry on Cayetana that the research was done in the early 2000s, but the entry on Pardina says it was done in 2005. Without a specific citation, it's very difficult to follow the line of their research, but I've done the best I could.
*There is actually a Spanish grape called Pardillo, but Pardina is not one of its synonyms. There is also a grape known solely as Pardina, but it's an Italian grape that looks like it may be a table grape and is unrelated to what we're talking about here. The bit of information about Pardillo sometimes being known as Pardina ultimately comes from Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes entry on Pardillo (which was published in 1996). I think its pretty clear that this Pardillo/Pardina is the same as Cayetana and is not meant to refer to this other Spanish Pardillo, but if you want to make a case for it, be my guest in the comments.