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Monday, 26 March 2012

Almost Finished Pruning

I finished pruning the vineyard in Carabaña over the weekend. This vineyard is planted to Airén and Tempranillo, all mixed up at random!

Vineyard in Carabaña all pruned

It's rather strange that the vines haven't started 'crying' yet. Usually around this time, the vines come out of their winter dormancy and the sap, stored in the roots and trunk, starts flowing. You can tell because it drips out of the cuts left by the pruning for a few days until the vines heals itself.

pending: photo vine crying from last year

I have a few theories:

1.As we're in the middle of a drought here in central Spain, maybe some self-defence / survival mechanism has kicked in and the vines are holding back the sap, or not sending it to the extremities?

2.Maybe they're just late this year. The buds haven't even started to swell yet

3.It's happened already, but I haven't noticed? Unlikely! surely I would have noticed!

Semi-wild roadside vines on the embankment

Another semi-wild vine
These vines are semi-wild! They're growing on the embankment beside the local road from Carabaña to Villarejo, which runs right next to the vineyard. Usually we pick these grapes only if we have time, and have the energy to scramble up the embankment through the undergrowth. So I thought this year I'd clear away the grass, etc, to make access easier. I also pruned the ones down low, but I just left the top ones to run wild(er) and see what happens.

Vineyard in Villarejo, last year

Anyways, now onto our other vineyard in Villarejo. We actually started, last week, but we only did about 100 vines. Another 400 or 500 to go. This vineyard is planted to Malvar.

We have an added complication in this vineyard. For some reason, almost all the vines have shoots coming out of the trunk from below ground level. (Sorry, I have no photos - will remember next time). So the quick-n-dirty solution would be just to quickly snip them off at ground level. But they would probably sprout again over the spring/summer, taming energy and nutrients away from the productive shoots up top, and making access difficult, and creating humidity by blocking the wind and sun! What we really should do (and what we've in fact done so far for the first 100 vines) is to dig down, expose the roots, and snip them right at the base where they grow from. That way they shouldn't grow back.

This takes about 10 minutes per vine, more or less, two people (one digging, one snipping). Which means 6 vines/hour, which means 50-60 vines/day, which means 8/10 days. Hmmm, maybe doable, maybe not. We'll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Pruning Pruning Pruning

I've been pruning for 3 days in a row, and just about every weekend for around 2 months. When I close my eyes I can still see images of canes and vines!!!

Pile of canes

Unpruned vine

More canes

More unpruned vines

More piles of canes

The Carabaña (Madrid) vineyard, planted to both Airén and Tempranillo all mixed up, is almost finished - only about 100 vines to go. Then we'll start on the Villarejo vineyard, planted to Malvar, which has about 500 vines. Both these town are to the SE of Madrid and within the area covered by the D.O. Vinos de Madrid, though we're not regestered.

Unpruned vine in Villarejo

All our vines are low bush-type vines (fr: 'en gobelet'; sp: 'en vaso'), so it's quite hard on the old back muscles! The worst is at the beginning of the season, especially the first day, but after that it gets better.

Every morning, during the pruning season, I usually do some stretching and some sit-ups, which helps a lot and strengthens your muscles. The last three days were a bit much, though, so I'm going to give it a rest till the weekend.

Lots of unpruned vines

Pruned vines

More pruned vines

I think we're doing OK for time. The vines seem to be dormat still, as I haven't seen any "lloro" (crying!), ie a watery liquid that drips out of the pruning cuts. They should be waking up very soon now, as the max day temperature is easily about 25ºC here in central Spain. I've actually had to use sun-block and wear a hat! And drink 3 liters of water per day! It's still cold at night, but not below freezing any more.

After pruning each vine, we stack the canes in piles in the lanes between the rows of vines. In a month or so a tractor will come and chop them all up into tiny pieces. The tractor pulls a box-like implement behind it with revolving chins at ground level; the chains pulverize the canes and mow the grass and plants down to ground level. This is all good organic matter which improves the structure of the soil.

Spring is springing, slowly but surely. I've noticed more insect life lately in the vineyard. There are lots of ladybirds (ladybugs), and the other day I saw a lizard and a spider. Good predators! Yesterday a bee came by as I was having my lunch. As you can see from the photos, the ground is still quite bare, but the grass is starting to grow already. In about 2 weeks the ground will be visibly green.


I'm sorry if you found this post a bit boring, but that's all that's happening at the moment!
Here's a photo that's NOT of a vine or of a pile of canes :)
My lunch!
Here you can see my lunch in the back of the car! Bread, cheese, 'jamón', fruit. And in the background, my gloves, hat and pruning shears!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Airén 'Orange' Wine Pairing with Korean and Japanese Food

Well, this post totally breaks my New Year Resolution not to post or comment until at least 24 hrs have passed, but hey every rule has an exception!

So three of us went to this Korean/Japanese restaurant in Madrid, called "Los Palillos del Cardenal", which means 'The Cardenal's Chopsticks'. We reckon it's a good quality restaurant, because even though they have a reasonably priced set menu (€12), the place is always full of authentic Asian diners, as opposed to tourists or local office workers!

The Cardenal's Chopsticks

We ordered a glass of the house red (Rioja) so we could compare, and then I asked the waiter if we could have the bottle of my Airén 'Orange'. He was cool about it, but asked us to try not to let his boss see us!!! And he didn't charge us any corkage fee!

For the first course, two of us had tempura and one had hot spicy soup. The consensus was that beer (or soshu, or even water) would have been better with the soup and that any type of wine was wasted. More or less the same with the tempura, but with the Orange prefered to the red.

Airén 'Orange', sushi, spicy soup and kimchi

With the main courses (sushi, bimbimbar and chapchi) it was much better. With the sushi it was a hit! There was enough tannin and body to the Orange wine to stand up to the intense sushi flavours. We reckoned that a typical, standard, fruity type white wine wouldn't have worked. The red was too oaky and sweetish, and didn't really accompany well. The Orange also had a grapefruity, citrus-like bitter quality which worked very well.

I reckon that the flavour of orange wine is so unusual and different from a 'normal' red or white wine, that the surprise value is also significant.

With the Kimchi, I'm not sure. I think beer would have been better than any wine! It was a strong, intense and spicy Kimchi and I think it could overpower any wine! The worse is a red oaky wine.

Airén 'Orange' and kimchi
Well, some food for thought there!
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