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Monday, 20 September 2010

Non-harvest Report 2010

We had planned to harvest our Airén grapes in Carabaña on Saturday, and everything was ready to go (ie, crusher and presses clean and in position, van loaded up with crates, etc) but when we arrived at the vineyard at 8:00 am on Saturday morning we were afflicted by doubts. We hummed and hawed and walked the vineyard for about half an hour, and then decided not to harvest; for the following reasons:

1) It had rained quite heavily in Carabaña on Thurs and Fri, and it was a bit muddy underfoot. This means that inevitably the bottoms of cases get muddy and some of the mud will find its way into crusher, press, tank and lastly the must

2) The vines had sucked up a lot of water and the grapes were fat and bloated, and the must diluted. So if we harvested, the sugar content (as a %) would be lower and consequently the wine would have a lower alcohol content

3) A dark Cloud of Doom was hovering over Carabaña, while in the neighbouring villages (Tielmes, Perales, Morata) the skies were quite clear. We figured this was the universe sending us a message and we listened!!!

We then took a representative sample (not a quick-n-dirty one) and headed back to the bodega to crush, strain and analyze our sample. We were right, the probable alcohol content had dropped by 0.4% from the previous sample we'd taken before the rains.

Representative Sample of Airén Grapes

Dark Cloud of Doom over Carabaña

Skins, stems and manure

On Friday we were at the bodega pressing the Tempranillo skins that had been macerating with the must since the harvest ofer a week ago. Up to now we had always done this manually, using a press like this one:

Manual press (cage open after pressing)

We used it last week for the small lots of Tempranillo, Shiraz and Garnacha that we have this year. But we also have a 3500 kg lot of Tempranillo, so for that we used this hydraulic press:
Hydraulic Press
Basically, you fill it up with skins and must and close the lid. Then a bag inflates and crushes the skins against a filter around the inside of the shell. You can program the pressing cycle with your desired pressures, times and number of repititions.
Press full of skins, pips and must/wine
We set the press at one of its lowest possible pressure levels as we were a bit worried about crushing the pips, and releasing bitterness and other undesirable flavours and aromas.
Waiting for the press to finish

In the end, it all worked out well, and we didn't get any nasty tastes or smells from the last wine to dribble out. In theory we could have extracted quite a lot more wine, which would have been low-quality table wine, but we didn't. We think there's more than enough of that kind of wine in Spain, and in the rest of the world, as it is!
Dry skins and pips
Juan shovelling out the skins and pips
Ogre-size shovel!

Remains of our midnight snack

Above you can see the remains our our midnight snack, which consisted of jamón (ham), cheese, bread, wine and rolling tobacco!!!


  1. and what do you plan to do now with the Airén grapes? Wait until they build up enough sugar to compensate for the lost 0.4%?
    And what if it starts raining again?

  2. Hi, thanks for commenting.
    Yes, we will harvest them this week sometime, probably Saturday, depending on the weather. If it's warm and sunny they should recover the lost 0.4% and maybe more. It it rains again, it'll be bad news and I'll just have to do what they do in France, Germany, Galicia and other rainy wine-producing regions. We'll just have to wait and see. I don't think there's much chance of a disaster; it'll either be just fine or not completely optimum. The weather forecasts are kind of ambiguous for the next week.

  3. Hi Anonymous,
    We finally harvested the Airén last Sunday 26th, a week later. It was rather strange, as the readings I took on the spectrometer ranged from 11% to 15% probable alcohol level! I had no time to do a proper sample though, so I just took readings from a lot of individual grapes. We'll just have to wait and see when we send a bottle to be analyzed.


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