Spanish wineskins, as the name suggests, are used to carry wine in them. They were very popular in the old days with shepherds and travellers but the botas are also used in modern times on occasions such as hiking, football matches or picnics. They have the advantage of being able to drink from them without actually putting it into your mouth so they provide a suitably hygienic way to share a drink around even for a health and safety freak such as me (I used to work in British nurseries, after all). The traditional ones are made of goat skin and pine pitch therefore you can only store wine and maybe water in them and they require some maintenance. The modern ones are made of plastic and you can carry any kind of drink in them.
Since I saw them the first time in the windows of the souvenir shops I have been looking to buy one but I was hoping to find a bit more of an authentic version. Finally in Madrid I had a chance to get one. I stumbled upon a website that mentioned a traditional wineskin maker in the La Latina area and I went to have a look. Apparently there are only 12-15 real traditional wineskin makers in Spain and I was curious to see if this one belonged to this group.
I went around 3pm in the afternoon and I was worried that the shop will be closed for siesta but luckily it was open. The artist, Julio Rodriguez, personally greeted me then showed me the available products. He took time to explain me the method of making the skins and he even brought out the materials he used so I can see them for myself. After choosing a half a liter sized bota he made sure that the instructions for maintenance were together with the wineskin as he said following them is ‘muy importante’, very important. He kindly allowed me to take some photos of his workshop. Have a look!