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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Final Harvest and Post-Harvest Report 2010

Well, basically our harvesting is over, though there's still a lot of work to do in the bodega, and some loose ends to tie up (of which more below). It's been an exhausting 3 weeks (and maybe we bit off more than we could chew) but it's also been very productive, creative and great fun, even if a bit stressful at times. But I'm not complaining! This is what I love to do; and it does keep me off the streets, and prevents me from watching TV, getting bored, etc :)

The reason we harvested so many grapes this year is that it's part of our yearly expansion plan. We want to move up from the level we've been at the last few years (ie, glorified home-winemakers running an expensive, time-consuming, family-destroying hobby!) to at least maybe 'garagiste' level this year; and after that to 'small, viable wine business' level ('world domination' can wait a bit longer!).

This year we're in a 'real' bodega; it's a proper building with a roof that doesn't leak and walls that insulate from the heat and cold, a barrel room with AC and humidity control, and equipment that can handle larger quantities of wine. Now, it's not a chateau, so don't get any ideas, and the views are not spectacular either; it is in fact located in the industrial zone of Morata de Tajuña; it's, shall we say, 'functional' :) I'll post photos in another post, though some have appeared already in previous posts.

Apart from our own grapes which we grow ourselves in our vineyard in Carabaña, this year we also bought in and harvested more grapes from some neighbouring grapegrowers who farm organically. This is what we have fermenting in the bodega at the moment: Tempranillo 1, Tempranillo 2, Garnacha, Shiraz and Airén for a total of about 6000 l. One of the loose ends to be tied up is another possible 1000 kg of Shiraz, which should be confirmed or not this week sometime.

With these 5 (or 6) lots of wine, we have to decide what types of wine to make. One day Juan and I will sit down and work it out; the result could be an interesting and complex flow-diagram! We already know that some will be for young wine, best drunk within a year, and some will be barrel aged, assuming our barrel-sponsoring scheme works out).

We already have a few experiments in the pipeline:

EXPERIMENT 1: Sparkling wine, in collaboration with fellow natural winemaker Alfredo Maestro. Some of the Airén will be set aside for this, and in Nov/Dec we'll take it to his bodega, where he has the space, equipment (and knowledge) required. We've left some Airén grapes in the vineyard to be picked in Oct/Nov when they're super-ripe and have a high sugar content; these grapes will be fermented separately and then added to the sparkling wine, as 'liquor de expedición' (what's that called in English?)

EXPERIMENT 2: We're going to ferment some of the Airén grapes by 'carbonic maceration' to see how it turns out. This is done by putting whole uncrushed clusters in a fermentation tank and sealing the lid hermetically. See this previous post. We did it this way last year with Garnacha and the year before with Tempranillo.

EXPERIMENT 3:We're also going to let a lot of Airén grapes macerate in their own skins for a day or two, as if they were red grapes, again just to se how it turns out.

That's enough experiments for one year I think! With the red wines, we'll do three 100% varietals (Tempranillo, Garnacha and Shiraz), and also try all the possible coupage combinations, and based on tastings and advice, decide what to actually bottle.


Then there's the question of what do with all this wine! Well, obviously we have to sell it so that people far and wide can drink it and enjoy it, and so we can make more and better wines in the years to come! So in a week or so when things have calmed down in the bodega, I'll be putting our Marketing Plan down on paper. I remember reading a funny comment to a post about a year ago, on the definition of Spanish marketing: "Make wine; wait for phone to ring." Well, it's not really funny of course, more like sad, as I image a lot of winemakers really do do that. But we're not going down that route. Probably the ONLY thing that's been clear to me since I started 7 years ago and still is clear, is that there are, and always will be, three equally important, and inter-connected, parts to our Vinos Ambiz project:

1) Grow (or buy in) quality grapes

2) Make quality wine

3) Sell it!

Pretty simple and obvious really. 1) If you don't have quality grapes, you can't make quality wine; 2) To make quality wine you have to be really careful not to do anything wrong/stupid/hasty/etc in the bodega, and if you have quality grapes to work with and you keep your machinery/equipment/everything scrupulously clean and hygienic, over half the battle is won; 3) and the part that many winemakers forget about but which I believe is equally essential, is that you have to sell it, otherwise you can't carry on making wine: I mean, even Juan and I and all our friends put together can't drink that much wine!!!

Other Items of Interest

- New Vineyard. This year we've taken on another vineyard in addition to the one we've tended in Carabaña for the last 7 years. The new one is just up the road in the next village (Villarejo). It's 1 hectare in area (2.4 acres), white Malvar variety, 30-40 year old vines. The first year we'll be working with the man (now retired) who used to tend it, as we convert it to organic. Should be interesting!

- Grafting/Planting. We've been meaning to do this for the last 7 years, but finally this Spring, it looks like we might actually really do it! In our vineyard in Carabaña, there are about 200 empty spaces where a vine used to live (it died, dried up, got knocked over by a tractor over the years) and another 50 or so vines that have gone 'wild' (ie the varietal grafted on top didn't take, or died, and the rootstock is sprouting directly). So in the spaces, we have to dig a hole and plant a rootstock+varietal and on the wild vines we have to graft on a varietal. We've finally met a neighbouring grapegrower who both knows how to do this and is willing to do it for us (we'll provide the unskilled manual labour, and look and learn).

- Webpage. I really need to get a good webpage up and running. Yes, I've been saying that for about 7 years too, but now it's becoming embarrassing! Dare I say that I'll have one up for before Christmas?

- Another thing I'd like to do is follow up on the 65 cases of Vinos Ambiz Airén 2009 that shipped to the USA a few months ago. I haven't been able to do that so far, what with the Summer holidays, harvesting and crushing etc. I've heard through the grapevine and from a few posts/comments/tweets that it's going down well, which is really encouraging. I heard that it was presented during the JPS Wine Tour at events in S.F., L.A. and N.Y.

That's about it. Thanks for reading. Any comments, thoughts, questions most welcome. In fact it would make me really happy!


  1. "even Juan and I and all our friends put together can't drink that much wine!!!" --> maybe mobilise your followers on this blog and on twitter to help out :)

    Anyway, great that you are planning so many experiments! I am looking forward to read about the results on this blog. And maybe taste them some time.


  2. Bart, thanks for commenting. I think we'll be doing even more experimentss than mentioned above in the post! We've just been offered some organic Graciano and Petit Verdot by another neighbour!!!

  3. I really enjoy reading your posts and your site. It feels like we are accompanying you on your journey, and your honesty is really refreshing.

    Drop me a line if you'd like to be listed on Cheers!

  4. A very interesting report. Fabio. You are on the right way. Keep pushing and you will get it.

  5. It's amazing how you continually find ways to expand on your grape growing schemes. It's very admirable. It will not be a surprise that you will be successful with your vineyard.

  6. Joe, thanks for the encouragement. I hope you are right :)


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