Caring for Your Traditional Spanish Bota
Each of our traditional bota wineskins is crafted from flawless goat's hide. Each hide is cured with vegetable oils to make it pliable. Then the skin is cut and sewn by hand to make a tight pleating. Next, it is turned inside out and pitch is applied. Very short bristles of hair are left on the leather to hold the pitch for the inside of each bag. This is heated to create a water proof resin that will last for years. Finally, the bota is sewn together by hand and the final touches are added. There are about 40 stages from the time the skin arrives and the wineskin is finished. This is truly one of the finest botas you can buy.
The pitch lining of the traditional bota has a strong taste of its own. Therefore it is necessary to prepare your traditional bota before using it to hold good wine. First, warm it in the sun so that the pitch within will distribute evenly. Next, blow into the mouth of the bota to inflate it and separate the pitch from its sides-- the more you have warmed the pitch the easier it will be to inflate the bota.
Add cold water and set the bota aside to cure. After 24 - 36 hours, replace the water with inexpensive wine and let it cure for as long as you can. Discard the wine and your bota will be ready to use.
You only have to do this process once if you are going to keep the wine-skin in continual use. If you are going to set it aside for a while, drain out the contents and leave the cover off. You will need to go though the break in process again when you begin to use the bota later.
This procedure is only necessary for the pitch-lined botas, not those lined with latex. Caring for an authentic bota can be a bother, except for the purist. For most people, the latex lining makes life simpler.
Here are the official instructions for caring for the traditional bota in Spanish:
"The white wine from my 2 yr. old ZZZ pitch lined bota has pieces and strands of black matter in it. I broke it in as recommended. After rinsing it out with water, the black stuff disappeared. What caused this? Is it safe to use? Thanks. Peter "
Peter Hengstenberg, Stone Ridge, NY, USA
"Thanks for your note. The black matter you reference is almost certainly the pitch used to seal the interior of the bota. If you do not use the bota for an extended amount of time it is possible for the pitch to become dry and flake.
To avoid this in the future, it is important to store the bota properly. The pitch lined bota should be deflated and flattened between uses, and stored in a cool place preferably lying on its side to keep the pitch from migrating to one end of the bota. Pooling of the pitch could leave part of the bota with less of a protective lining which may cause it to leak. If the bota is stored inflated, the pitch can dry out. When you are ready to use it again, you simply warm the bota in the sun and then re-inflate it.
Latex lined botas are much simpler to use, but traditional botas can last a lifetime if looked after properly."
"Can it be used for water or wine? I was given one as a present and I'd like to use instead of a water bottle for my hunting trips. But I am concerned that the pitch inside the bag will taint the water."
HGieson, Delray Beach, FL
"I presume you are referring to the authentic bota sealed with pitch. Of course it can be used for wine, but I would fill it several times with cheap wine in order to absorb the pitch flavor. For water in the bota I would do the same -- but soak it several hours each time so that the water will absorb more of the pitch aroma. If you are patient I think you will have an acceptable water "canteen" of sorts."
"How long will wine last in a traditional Bota before it goes bad?"
Brent , DFW, TX
I see you are a wine enthusiast. If the bota is full, so that there is no air, then the wine can last indefinitely. That is, if you have the lined one. If you have a traditional bota sealed with pitch, you will need to store wine in it several times until it is fully seasoned and the pine flavor is gone."
"Hello. Will be in Pamplona for the festival next week. Where are you located so I can pick up an authentic Bota? Thank you."
Gary Bryans, Prescott, AZ
"I am sure you had a memorable time in Pamplona. Sorry not to get back to you until now. We at La Tienda have truly authentic botas which we have imported from Spain -- either the one sealed with pitch or the one with a water tight bladder."
"I purchased a bota 33 years ago, I was 14 :), and recently found it again. I went through the re-seasoning process but it now has a leak. How do I correct the leak and enjoy my bota once more?"
Eric, New Mexico
"Eric, I am afraid it is not possible to repair old wineskins.I think there is a biblical reference to that effect! "No one puts new wine into old wineskins: otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins: but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins". (Mk. 2:22)" If you do not want to go through the whole curing process we have some with an independent bladder within so you can use them immediately. Lo sientro."
"My brother brought me one of the bags home as a gift. He left it in a plastic bag for three months before finally seeing me and giving me the bag. Inside, the leather had grown a significant amount of mold. The entire bag was covered with it, inside and out. Do you have any idea how we can bring the bag back to life at this point? Or is it completely ruined? Thanks!"
Nick, Toronto, Canada
No, I don't think all is lost. I think you can wash off the mold and apply some leather treatment such as Lexall to the exterior. I would fill the interior sac with very warm water. I know it will take time to resuscitate, but at least I think it's worth the effort, don't you?"
"I accidentally left the cap off with the bota inflated after my last use. The pitch seems (at least partly) dry. Is there anything I can do to abate the problem?"
"I haven't used my bota for a couple of years and it began to leak through the leather when I refilled it. What is the best method for sealing the leak?"
Bryan Estrada, Portland, OR, USA
"Hola Bryan, Your poor traditional bota bag is pining for more use! I would warm it up on a radiator or such low heat source so that the pine pitch inside begins to soften or melt. It is the original sealant. Then I would blow into it --inflate it -- and fill it first with warm water, then colder water, until you get the seal back. Not guaranteed to work but worth a try. If it is too far gone you will need to replace it -- and use the new one more often, or flatten it to store it.
"My bota is 3 years old now and I haven't used it for a year. The black outer has started to crack slightly in a couple of places. Will this cause any leaks. How can I fix this? Thank you."
Callum, Brisbane, Australia
For quality leather botas, the leather can be rejuvenated using mink oil. Simply spread the mink oil on the leather and gently heat with a hair dryer. The oil should penetrate quite quickly. You may need to repeat a couple of times for the leather to fully recover. Once the leather is in good shape, warm the bota in the sun or with a hair dryer, then massage the bota to evenly distribute the pitch inside of it. Gently blow into the cap to inflate it and then add water. Leave the water in the bota for a day or two and observe to see if there are any leaks.
Best of luck!"
"I'm very excited about my new bota, I'm a the point of having cheap wine in it before pouring my better Spanish wine into it. But, it's leaking, not from the spout but from the joint above the spout. Any recommendations?"
Brian Cook, Arvada Colorado
"Is it bad to simply leave the bota filled with water all the time? I have been storing mine for about a year now simply filled to the brim and when I dumped the water out just recently I saw no issue with it and filled it up, tasted it and saw no issue with it. Is there some reason that this isn't a suggestion rather than storing it dry all the time? Or is it because mold can grow in it? I currently have it hanging but should I lay it on its side even when filled so the pitch doesn't all settle at the bottom or is that only a concern when not filled? I currently have no leaks but did have one when I first broke it in (I got it real real hot and massaged the pitch all around the inside to fill the leaking area and got it to stop) let me know, thanks!"
Eric Medina, Hampstead NH USA
"Hi Eric - For storage the bota maker recommends emptying the bota and adding a shot of brandy or rum to discourage mold growth."
"I see a couple questions about mold inside the wine skin. One response from that problem was very warm water. I cant imagin that would kill or disinfect the mold to where it is safe to drink. Am I missing a step? Can I use a little bleach and water? What would be best and safe for the bag?"
"The best way to disinfect a traditional bota wineskin is to pour some brandy into it and allow the alcohol to disinfect it. For a bota with a latex interior, hot soap and water will do the trick. I hope this helps!