Caring for Your Traditional Spanish Bota
Each of our traditional bota wineskins from Las Tres Z.Z.Z. of Pamplona 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." - Don Harris
"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." - Don Harris