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Sarmiento: the secret ingredient is in the vine shoots

After the grape harvest, the time comes to prune the vines to prepare them for the next vintage. And although it may seem that at this point the vines have already given their all, they still have one last gastronomic treasure to offer: the vine shoot.

These younger thinner vines pictured that sprout from what seems like nowhere, are what blossom and give us the bunches of grapes with which we make the famous Finca Martelo wine. These seemingly useless “twigs” are actually one of the most prized secret ingredients when it comes to Spanish cuisine because of the characteristic flavour they give to any dish cooked on an open fire made with Sarmiento.

Many wine regions of Spain see vine shoots as the special reward after a year of hard work. The traditional way to enjoy this unmistakable smoky taste is to use the sarmiento to make the cooking fire, sometimes directly on the ground, as a way of coming together at the end of a wine season to celebrate a job well done. In our native La Rioja, the signature dish is smoked lamb chops (chuletillas de cordero lechal al sarmiento), an ideal pairing for Finca Martelo thanks to its elegance and freshness with its sweet, silky tannins. And if we add good company to the mix, then you have the perfect #Martelosophy moment.

The use of sarmiento to cook varies from region to region, but the common thread is definitely that joyous spirit. In Catalonia, for example, it is often used in calçotadas – a big yearly winter event where calçots (resembling baby leeks) are blackened over an outdoor open fire, wrapped up in newspaper, served on terra cotta tiles and eaten standing-up after peeling the outer skin with bare hands, accompanied by red wine and bread. Other regions such as Alicante and Murcia use the vine shoots to cook their traditional mountain paellas giving them a spectacular taste. Sarmiento is also used in haute cuisine, where the characteristic smoky flavour is used to elevate dishes to a new dimension.

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