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Monday, 22 March 2010

Spring Has Sprung – But The Pruning Is Not Yet Done

We did more pruning over the weekend, but we’re still not done. There’s about another 300 vines to go. It’s very late in the year now, and we’ve passed the folkloric popular-wisdom deadline of 19th March, by which you’re supposed to have the pruning finished. But I think we’re OK as the buds haven’t opened yet, even though they’re swollen and ready to burst any day. Not optimal, but OK.

The almond tree in the vineyard, and all the others in the Tajuña valley have blossomed at last. Very late in the year, this year, as usually they blossom in February round here.

Blooming Almond Blossoms
(compare with previous post)

The same almond tree

I was cutting back some grass that was too close to the vine, when I uncovered an earthwork. This is good news, as it’s a sign that our soil is healthy and full of nutrients. And even better news is that worms actively improve the fertility of the soil.

Earthworm in the vineyard

Some time back, (in this post: ___ ) I mentioned that we were going to transplant some sapling oak trees that had sprouted next to some vines, and over the weekend we moved two of them (out of a total of five that I’ve found so far).

Oak sapling's original position

Digging a hole for the sapling

Organic manure to help the sapling on its way

Planting the sapling in its new home

New Home 1

New Home 2

And lastly, here’s a pic of two little thyme plants (‘tomillo’ in Spanish) growing next to a vine. Do you think they could have any influence on the characteristics of the grapes/wine?

Little thyme plants next to a vine

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Spring is Springing in the Vineyard, but General Winter is Still Camping Out in the Winery

Another day of pruning in the vineyard.

We should be able to finish just in time before bud-burst. It's very important to finish pruning before the sap starts flowing in the vine; if you prune after the sap starts flowing then you are removing nutrients that the vine needs to sprout new leaves. It takes a few weeks for these new leave to mature and start to photosynthesize sunlight to make their own energy. Until that happens, the vine relies on the sap that it stored in its roots and trunk during its dormant period in Winter.

Octavio (3 1/2) helps his Dad (me) with the pruning

Lavinia (5) also helps her Dad

This is a baby thistle, which will turn into a 2 m (6 foot) monster by this Summer!

 We like to create bio-diversity in the vineyard. Instead of ploughing up the rows between the vines and leaving the soil naked and exposed, like our conventional neighbours do, we let all the grasses and plants and flowers in the vineyard grow and we only cut them back when they get too tall or too near the vines. On the one hand (1) this is a good pest-control system, because all the little beasties eat each other up and no one species ever becomes a problem. if you plough up the land, you destroy the habitat of all the beasties except for the one that lives on the vines, and the only way to deal with it now is with chemicals because you've destroyed the habitat of its predators.
Secondly (2) we believe that by leaving all these plants, grasses, thistles, flowers along with their populations of insects, pollens, native yeasts, etc, we obtain richer and more complex tastes and aromas in the must and in the wine.
Thirdly (3) by leaving all the plants and flowers, we protect the soil from erosion due to wind and rain.

And here are the buds on the almond tree - still haven't opened

In the bodega things are a few degrees cooler!

Disk of ice

Corks drying out, in the sun

Monday, 15 March 2010

New American oak barrel

Last Wednesday 10 March, our new American oak barrel arrived from Tonelería Victoria, based in Haro, La Rioja, Spain.

Barrica 1

This is a classic Bordeaux style barrel, which holds 225 liters (300 bottles). We were offered the choice of number of openings and we opted for just one in the belly (with a silicone bung). We wanted just one because the openings are where there is the greatest risk of unwanted oxygen, bacteria, etc entering.

Barrica from above

For the time being, we've left the barrel at a friend's house just down the road, as we're a bit worried about the leaky roof in the winery.

We now have a grand total of three barrels (2 American, 1 French), which means that we can make 900 bottles of Crianza. Next year we are planning to buy about 15, if all goes according to plan regarding new vineyard, buying in organic grapes from a neighbour, and new winery! And, of course if we find, 15 sponsors for each barrel (we already have about 10 on a short-list). See this earlier post for details of this scheme:

Friday, 12 March 2010

Who says social media doesn’t move cases?

I can’t remember where I read it, but some sceptic on a blog was basically saying, “Yeah, yeah, social media is all very interesting and the latest thing, but it doesn’t translate into increased sales”.

Well, listen to this:

The other day I get a call on my mobile (cell-phone) from a total stranger. He says he’s a wine importer from California and that he’s seen my blog, and can he come to meet me, see the vineyard and the winery. So we meet in Madrid, drive out to the vineyard (he takes photos, asks me loads of questions) then on to the winery, which still looks like a disaster area btw (roof leaking, rubble lying around, presses and casks mouldy, etc), we taste the wines, and he announces that he loves the young white (100% Airén, unfiltered, unclarified, no added sulphites) and that he’d like to buy 400 bottles (which is all I had left of that type of wine)!

I didn’t have to do anything to get that sale, except for write a blog faithfully and regularly for a year and post comments on other wine-blogs. I wasn't actively looking for an importer or distributor and never put out an advert or announcement or anything. I didn’t even think he was coming to buy from me – ingenious me! – and I arranged for him to visit a ‘real’ organic winery just down the road from me!!!

I realize that 400 bottles is nothing to most wineries, but for me, just starting out, it’s 25% of my production this year!!!

(P.S. He took photos of the winery too!)

Monday, 8 March 2010

More recycling of wine-bottles

The weather has been so bad recently, ie raining a lot, that we haven`t been able to finish pruning the vines, it's so muddy underfoot. It really must stop raining soon, as it's getting rather late in the year. The local folklore here says that you should have your pruning finished by San José, ie 19th March. Well, we have a week! I think the idea is to have the pruning done while the vines are still dormant and before the sap starts flowing, otherwise you'd be removing the nutrients that the vine needs to sprout before the leaves can photo-synthesize energy for themselves.

So, if the vineyard is out, .. to the winery, to recycle wine-bottles for the end of the month:

Ismael scrapes labels off

We left these bottles soaking last week, so most of the labels came off quite easily. Some, though are just impossible to take off no matter how long you leave them soaking. it makes you wonder what kind of glue these wineries are using.

More bottles soaking

We managed to de-label about 150 bottles, and next week (or whenever!) we'll set up the washing-sterilizing assembly line, before bottling and corking.

150 de-labelled green bottles

And talking about corks, here we have 000's of corks that we've been accumulating over the years. The idea is to make "curtains" for the windows and doors of the winery, but of course we never have any time! There's always something more urgent/essential to do!

Used corks awaiting recycling

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Belated Post - Bottling, Corking and Posing in the Winery

This post should have been uploaded two weeks ago, but I was waiting for my friend Edu to send me the photos, as I forgot my mobile (cell-phone) that day! He finally sent them last night, so here we go.

These first three are of poeple actually working:

Manually filling bottles of wine

Manually corking the young red (97% Garnacha, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon)

More manual corking

And these ones are of people posing:

Yours truly (Fabio) beside the fermentation tanks

Bottlers, corkers and quality controllers

Lovely lunch, after a hard morning's work

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Another day in the Vineyard and Winery

It actually stopped raining for two days in a row, so I went to the vineyard to do a bit of pruning, but it was still very muddy underfoot. I did a few rows and then took some photos with my mobile:

The grass is just beginning to sprout

The buds on the almond tree are just beginning to swell

The ladybirds are making more ladybirds (Spring has indeed sprung!)

Hundreds of squawking flocking storks

Then on to the winery, to face the facts! I spent several hours just sweeping up rubble from the roof, and generally tidying up.

Rubble from the roof

Then I put about 150 bottles in water to soak off the labels in about a week’s time, hopefully in the company of new victim-helpers

Wine bottles submerged in water to soak off the labels

Then inside to check the equipment: 

Collateral Damage I - Oak barrels are damp and mouldy

Collateral Damage II - Oak barrels are damp and mouldy

Collateral Damage III - The presses are damp and mouldy

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