Monday, 10 May 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men …

I’ve been meaning to post this post for months, but one thing after another kept cropping up and I just couldn’t find the time to write it up.

These ‘things’ included a number of wine tastings/events (which I’ve posted on below), and I’ve also been busy organizing our first ever shipment of wine to the US, which involved 1) finding a box-manufacturer willing to supply us with just 100 boxes (minimum orders are usually around 2000 boxes!). We did find one in the end (and will probably favour him with our orders in the future for making the effort) 2) accumulating, sterilizing and reusing 400 wine-bottles (our regular local consumers responded well and returned all their bottles and more) 3) working with our label designer on a new front label for white wine and a back-label (I think/hope they’re at the printer’s as I write! I try not to call them too many times a day for the latest news!) 4) and dealing with the horrendous paperwork required by the bureaucrats of Spain and the US, who seem to have made a special effort to make things as difficult and time-consuming as possible for us producers and other people who actually do something useful during the day [end of rant].
As if the above weren’t enough, I’ve also been involved in an initiative between local organic producers and consumers (not just of wine, but of many other products too) in and around Madrid aimed at co-ordinating and optimizing transport and distribution of our products. This involved going to a number of meetings which were frustratingly unproductive (apparently) though things seem to be moving in the right direction (slowly). I’ve been to meetings with just consumers and also with just producers, and the difference in ‘procedure’ is incredible: at the consumers meeting, they pick a moderator, who keeps an ordered list of people who have signalled that they want to speak. The producers all shout at the same time and if anything at all is decided it’s whatever the person shouting loudest and longest was shouting!
Anyway, time to get to the main point of this post: basically, our best laid plans for the coming year were utterly trashed by ‘circumstances’ about two months ago, but happily a number of ‘events’ occurred (at the same time that all of the above was happening) which has resulted in everything working out just fine. A ver:
  • The winery where we were planning on making our wine this October (by renting some of their space, vats and machinery) called to say that we couldn’t do it. The reason: due to the recession, they had fired some workers and so couldn’t provide this service anymore!
  •  The owner of our current ‘winery’ in Ambite refused to pay for the costs of fixing the roof or to reduce our rent. We fixed a bit of it by ourselves some time back, but we can’t afford to have it fixed, and we don’t have the time to fix it all by ourselves
  •  The owner of vineyard we’ve been renting from for the last 6 years, finally gave us his reply to our request to sign a written contract. And his answer was “No!” We needed a written contract so we can apply for organic certification and for the ‘Vinos de Madrid’ Denominación de Origen label
So after all this, I was getting pretty depressed (and stressed!), but talk about finding solutions right under your nose!!!
  1.  First, the winery: on the way back to Madrid one day last week I dropped in on a neighbour and fellow organic wine-maker in a village just down the road (to exchange bottles of wine as we’d been attempting to do for months). I just blurted out “Er, could we share your winery this year, until we find a place of our own?” and he said, “Sure! That would be great!” Just like that – 1 major problem solved!
  2. Then a few days later, I was in the centre of Madrid, in a neighbourhood that I hadn’t been back to for about five years. I decided to go for lunch to this restaurant that I used to go to and where I knew the owner. As I walk in, the owner recognises me and says “Fabio, how are you? You still making wine? You wouldn’t be looking for a new vineyard, would you? Because I have one that I’m trying to rent!” Incredible, but true! Another problem solved!
  3. Next I went to see the owner of our current vineyard, to tell him that we’d keep on renting anyway and that we weren’t so bothered about the contract anymore (we like the vineyard and know it and grow good grapes in it, after all). He said OK, and then offered us the use of his tractor this spring/summer for free!
So there you have it. I’m now trying to relax and get on with things in a more regular sort of way, ie with not so many emotional and/or economic ups and downs!
My plans for the coming months (ie up to grape harvest in September) are based on focussing on the long-term ‘important’ things, and not worrying about ‘urgent’ things that may (and inevitably do) crop up and which just distract and cause stress!!!
- Be on the lookout for a new winery (for harvest 2011)
- Define my long-term marketing plan properly and on paper (it’s just in my head and on the backs of envelopes at the moment!)
- Everything else is secondary!
This was not one of my usual ‘normal’ posts (ie, diary of day-to-day vinous activities), but I thought I’d spit it all out anyway, seeing as all the above events have had a big impact on the Vinos Ambiz project.
Well, if you’ve read this far, thank you and I hope you found it interesting. If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them.

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