‘Damajuana’ translated as ‘Lady Jane’ is a colloquial term in Argentina meaning table wine. Table wine is a mediocre-quality red wine that accompanies food. Traditionally, due to the low quality, it was mixed with soda, alike to a spritzer and is still evident in the culture of Argentina despite the significant improvement in the quality.
Damajuana also translates to ‘Demijohn’ from the French ‘Demi-Jeanne’ meaning a traditional container for liquids. Being a large spherical bottle made from glass or earthenware, then encased with a plastic or woven material covering the whole bottle apart from the opening, also featuring a handle to pour or hang the bottle. This protects the bottle due the increased size and increased likelihood of damage to more liquid and perhaps the increased difficulty to lift with a handle.
Originally made from the Bonarda grape, grown in high yields and bulk production. It produced a very aggressively tannic red wine, virtually undrinkable standing alone. However at the time there was also a high production of ‘Criolla or Cereza’ grapes (Cereza is same word for cherry however different meaning). These pink-skinned grapes where very weak and watery in taste and needed a component like Bonarda to balance them into an enjoyable wine.
A Cement tank
Damajuana became much less popular due to the arrival of flying winemakers who revolutionised the wine-making process in Argentina. So the original cement tanks used for fermentation where replaced with stainless steel tanks, therefore the unpleasant musty taste in Bonarda that was left after the use of cement tanks was replaced with a clean outcome allowing the characteristics of the grape to shine through. The flying winemakers; such as Paul Hobbs (California) or Michel Rolland (France), also decreased the yield of Bonarda encouraging a higher concentration of colours, aromas and flavours. Whilst also inputting modern techniques such as temperature control and oaking which in turn substantially increased the quality of not only Bonarda but the entire range of wines now available in Argentina.
Thus, the phrase, ‘Damajuana’ or ‘Table Wine’ is still widely used in Argentina however perhaps not in it’s original form or meaning of a poor-quality red wine with soda but as a cultural representation of the patriotism here in Argentina.