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Leather bottles

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Offline Jill

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« on: October 10, 2007, 14:28 PM »
Hola !

Can anybody tell me what it is that is used on the inside of a Spanish leather bottle to waterproof it?

Off hand, I can't remember what these bottles are called, but I'm sure you all know what I mean. You can only use them to carry wine or spirits, because water mixes with the waterproof lining and tastes foul. Actually, if you leave it I there long enough wine mixes with the lining too, and tastes... different. I guess that the Greek wine, Retzina, is left to "brew" in something very similar.

I've always wondered about this, and then the other day my bottle got a hole and started to leak. At last - an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity! I cut the bottle open, and I found that the inside of the leather is coated quite thickly in a black tarry substance. In fact, in some places there were large globs of "tar", and down in the bottom, along the seam, there was a strip about 1/2 inch thick! It's sort of puttyish but quite sticky - it comes off on your hands - and it looks and smells frighteningly like the stuff they use to mend the road. It also melts and runs in the same way if you leave it lying around in the sun.

I have two reasons for wanting to know what this stuff is. Firstly, my satiable curiosity. Secondly, I was planning to buy a replacement bottle - but now I'm beginning to wonder whether they're actually safe. Tar is extremely carcinogenic (or so I've been told, by a man who owns a road-making company). If it really is tar, then...  :o But, surely, if it were carcinogenic the EU would have banned the use of this stuff?

Anyway, so far as I know the nearest source of tar is in Arabia. These bottles have evidently been around for centuries, I would guess, and so the "tar" must actually be some kind of locally available resin. Would pine tree resin go black and stay soft...? I don't think so. Perhaps it's actually a mixture of things. Some kind of resin plus beeswax, for example.

Any ideas, anybody?

Jill

P.S. I don't want one with a plastic liner, and A Present From La Manga written on the side. I'm only interested in the genuine article.

Offline spanishfreelander

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« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2007, 14:54 PM »
H Jill,
Found this information on the web...

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 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.

Hope it helps..
Dave

Offline spanishfreelander

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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2007, 14:59 PM »
Hi again Jill,

If you are a purist, your choice will be a bota whose interior is coated with pine pitch that you must patiently knead to assure uniform water-proofing.

Forgot to paste this bit as well.
Dave

Offline Jill

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« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2007, 15:42 PM »
So it's lined with "pine pitch". And because I didn't knead it from time to time, most of the pitch went down to the bottom. And hence the leak, perhaps.

Thank-you for all of that, Dave.

Now we know it isn't road mender's tar - but the question remains: is pine pitch fit for human consumption? (Cos, definitely, if you use one of these you do consume the lining. It colours the wine brown, and it makes it taste quite different.)

Jill

Offline Clive

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« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2007, 21:44 PM »
This link says pine tar has a taste so it can't be so bad... :) But is this stuff the same stuff as inside your bota Jill?

http://www.maritime.org/conf/conf-kaye-tar.htm
Explore the nature of Iberia at www.wildsideholidays.com

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Offline Jill

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« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2007, 11:56 AM »
Gosh, I'm a bit slow  :roxysnail: : For "pine pitch", read pitch pine. Of course!  :roxysnail: :roxysnail: :roxysnail: !

Pitch pine smells gorgeous. Mind you, when it's used aboard ship the smell is an intermingling of pitch-pine and manilla, or pitch-pine and hemp. Perhaps the smell of the rope predominates. My bota smells predominantly of wine and brandy, with a bit of leather throne in. I can't detect the smell that I associate with pitch-pine.

On the whole, I don't think that I really want to drink pitch-pine. I suppose it's only part of a tree, but... somehow... I think it's a part that sounds a bit poisonous. (I suppose it will preserve my intestines!)

I think I shall have to investigate further before purchasing a replacement bottle!
Thanks for your help,
Jill

Offline Jill

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« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2007, 15:16 PM »
'ang on a mo! I must be going ga-ga. Pitch pine is wood!
The stuff used for waterproofing antique decks is "pitch" - road-menders pitch nowadays, by the smell of it. The stuff used for preserving the rigging, the warps, and any other lines is just called "tar".
However, I still think that you are on the right lines, Clive, and that the "pine pitch" on the inside of my bottle is the same item as the said "tar"