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Monday, 17 October 2011

Some Winery Activities (and Why I Hate Pumps)

Last Sunday 16th October we did a lot of work in the winery, and accomplished three different tasks. We were out there bright and early (at 10:00 in the morning) and we started with the usual procedure, ie washing down and setting up the equipment, machines and bits and pieces; and finished off bright and late (at 12:00 midnight) with the usual procedure, ie washing down the equipment and puting everything back in its place!

Task 1: Pressing the "Orange", "Skin-Contact" or "Sobremadre" Wine

First, we pressed the Malvar grapes, that we crushed 14 days ago, and which had been fermenting in contact with their skins during all this time. This is a special rather interesting wine we’re making, known as "Orange", "Skin-Contact" or "Sobremadre" wine.

Macerated Grapes, before Pressing

Press Full of Crushed and Macerated Grapes

We made a similar wine last year as an experiment (but with Airén and with only 7 days skin contact) but people loved it, so this year we’ve made more. This ‘orange wine thing’ deserves a whole post in its own right, I think, as I’ve recently discovered that far from being a new thing, it’s actually a very old traditional style of wine, and that it was very popular in my region (Castilla La Mancha, Spain) until not so long ago. I’ll have to do some research first, though.

Some winemakers in Spain who have been making this kind of wine include Laureano Serres, Samuel Cano.

Fresh Grape Juice Coming Off the Press

We're really pleased with the way this wine has turned out so far. The aromas are clean and complex; and the taste has some bitter elements and also some fruit. I think this is a wine best left to develop and evolve for some time, at least over the winter. There's still a tiny bit of fermentation to go still, as I got a whiff of CO2 as I opened up the tank.

We did a long, long, slow pressing, in parallel with the other tasks. In total we pressed about 400 litres of wine in 10 hours!

Task 2: Bottling the "5-on-the-dot"

This is a coupage that was created by one of our barrel sponsors, Nacho Bueno. See this previous post about how we went about creating this coupage, or this other one about the barrel-sponsoring scheme itself.

Bottling Device

I’m actually in a bit of a quandary about how to continue with this scheme! This year, a total of 16 sponsors helped me finance 7 new barrels, and more and more people are getting in contact with me to sponsor a barrel for next year. But I don’t really know if I need or want more new oak!!!

I really don’t like the taste of over-oaked wines and much prefer the taste of fruit, minerals, flowers, etc, ... anything really, rather than oak! On the one hand, I like the idea of having consumers participate directly, and I enjoy and appreciate getting their feedback, and sending them updates on anything related to their barrels. But on the other hand, I don’t want to buy new barrels for no apparent reason!!! I think maybe I could use old barrels, for both fermentation and aging. I don’t know, I’ll have to think about this.

This coupage is called "5-on-the-Dot" (Las 5 en Punto, in Spanish) because it contains 5 grape varieties: Tempranillo (80%) and 5% each of Sirah, Garnacha, Petit Verdot and Airén.

The wine was in contact with new American oak for 3 months, and after regular tastings (some with Nacho himself), we decided that that was enough, otherwise the oak would have started to dominate the fruit and other tastes of the wine. We'll have to do more tastings to see when we should release this wine; but I suspect that this is a wine that is best drunk young.

"Bottle rack" (3 x 4 cases of 24 bottles)

288 bottles exactly!

Task 3: Making a Coupage

The third task was to make a coupage: 60% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano and 20% Sirah. The three wines were in barrels already and we pumped them all into a large stainless steel tank. It/they'll stay there for a month or so, to mix thoroughly and then we'll bottle up.

Raquel Helps Us Pump Wine out of the Barrels

We used an electric pump to move the wine. I think I've complained before about pumps, but this operation on Sunday has decided things for me. I'm now going to actively look for a manual, hand-operated pump (like a bilge-pump or something like that). Why?

Firstly, because electric motor pumps make TOO MUCH NOISE. Something tells me that that kind of noise can't be good for the wine. I don't mean that it'll make the wine go off or deteriorate it significantly, but still... the vibrations must get transmitted through the volume of liquid and the wine must be affected in some way or other. For example, maybe instead of having peace and quiet and silence for the molecules to combine to make a longer, rounder, smoother, tastier wine, the vibrations might shatter and/or shake up the molecules and make them shorter and harsher (or prevent them from combining), and delay the aging process.(*)

Secondly, the noise certainly affects MY peace of mind - it makes me annoyed and nervous and unhappy! And that could well affect the quality of the wine! For example, I could decide to do something, or not to do something, while annoyed and/or nervous and/or unhappy that I may not have decided to do while relaxed and happy and thinking straight!

Thirdly, I think electric motor pumps move the wine far too fast and violently, and I don't think that can be good for the wine either. It takes slightly over 3 minutes to empty a barrel containing 225 litres. Just like for the noise, something tells me that that can’t be good for the wine.

Fourthly, the time savings are not as significant as it would seem at first sight, because 1) you have to add in the time it takes to actually set the pump up (ie, getting it into position, attaching the hoses, priming it, running water through, etc); and because 2) you have to add in the time you spend cleaning up afterwards (unhooking all the pieces, cleaning them, putting everything back in its place, etc).

Fifthly: I actually like working in my winery, so I don't need to "save time" there! I think that spending say 30 minutes pumping wine out of a barrel by hand could actually be time well spent: not only is a bit of physical labour good for your health, but more importantly you can use that time to think!


So, what did we do with the pomace (ie, the skins and pips left over after pressing)? Did we throw them back into the vineyard to provide nutrients and organic matter to the soil, and close the cycle, as we usually do? No way!!!! This time we’ve kept all those lovely raw materials back, so that we can make some ‘grappa’, or ‘orujo’ or ‘marc’ or ‘pomace’ brandy. To do this, we’ve pencilled in the weekend of Sat 29th or Sun 30th or Mon 31st (it’s a 4-day weekend in Spain as Tue 1st Nov is a national holiday).

We’ve also kept back the pomace from our Graciano pressing a few weeks ago, so we can make two different types of ‘orujo’. So we have the raw materials, we have a still, we have plenty of volunteers to sit around all day watching the still boil and tend the barbeque, and do quality control, ... all we need now is someone who actually knows how to make ‘orujo’!!!! Because I certainly don’t know how to do it.

Three Bins Full of Pomace

Three years ago I spent a whole day sitting around doing quality control while ‘others’ distilled the ‘orujo’ but I confess that I wasn’t paying much attention to the details. I seem to remember that you have to throw the first third out, because it’s poisonous (methanol); you have to throw last third out too, because it’s watery crap! And the quality product is the middle third. More research and due diligence to be done!

Anyone who wants to come and sit around all day doing quality control and/or tending the barbeque is welcome to come. Morata de Tajuña (Madrid). Date, to be confirmed!

Lastly, a photo of the lovely (unexpected) ‘lunch’ we had at about 6:00 in the evening. Raquel, in the photo above standing on the barrels, was in France (Tours) a few days ago and thoughtfully brought back two different types of goat cheese, and two different types of “rillette”. All washed down with fresh skin-contact Malvar, as it was dripping out of the press!!!

Lovely Lunch

(*) This theory is not based on any ‘scientific’ data whatsoever. I haven’t done any research or due diligence. Just my intuition speaking!


  1. Fabio, I´m sorry not having gone. What were your impressions with "5 on dot"?

  2. Wow - orange wine! The must looks like some kind of saffron lentil soup!

    My first time ever hearing of 'malvar'. Jancis Robinson says it's 'rustic' ( ). Those world-famous MWs can be so sniffy! ;)

  3. Nacho, the "The on the Dot" is looking and tasting good. You must come and try it yourself!

  4. Paul, yes orange wine is striking when you see it and taste it for the first time! As for 'rustic', i wonder what that's supposed to mean? We shall just have to wait and see :)


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