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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Focus, focus, focus (on natural wine and other things)

I haven’t been able to post as regularly as I would have liked to recently (over the last few months) for a number of reasons:

Basically I’ve been overwhelmed by events and tasks! Not that I’m complaining. Better to be overwhelmed than to be bored and have to watch TV like I hear normal citizens do!

But now, at last, I’ve managed to do some of the essential tasks that I had to do and am attempting to clear my diary of events, tastings, meetings, distractions, etc so that I can focus, focus, focus on ... looking for a slightly bigger bodega/shed/garage/building/castle/ whatever!

My Master Plan for this year (and the coming years) is to slowly but surely increase both the quantity of wine that I make, and also increase the range of different wines that I make. My ultimate goal is to reach that magical point (tipping point, break-even point, threshold, whatever it’s called) of economic feasibility so that I can leave the day-job I currently have to do, and dedicate myself 100% to grape-growing and wine-making. Having covered the backs of many envelopes with numbers over the years (and quite a few paper tablecloths too) it all boils down to increasing my production to about 50,000 bottles. Which may sound like a lot, but which is in fact considered to be ridiculously tiny in the wine world.

The minor challenge is the physical implementation, ie finding the financing, the building, the machinery, the vineyards, the grapes, etc! That's part is easy, and I’m already on track with all that! The major challenge for me, is how to maintain the artisan quality that I have now, both in the vineyards and in the bodega, as I slowly increase my production. For example, the 2 hectares of vines I have now, I can manage personally and I actually tend each individual vine several times a year; but what happens if I have 4 or 5 ha or even 10 ha one day? Will I be able to care for each vine in the same way?

And in the bodega, dealing with 5,000 litres of wine manually is fine, but what happens when I have to deal with 10,000, then 20,000, and eventually 50,000 litres? I reckon I will have to mechanize certain tasks to a certain extent, but I’m going to be very careful with the use of machinery, especially pumps. Ideally, it would be ideal to just use gravity for moving wine around, but not many bodegas/buildings are designed with that purpose in mind. I think that even the smallest of motor-driven pumps move the wine far too fast and aggressively, and I’m sure the wine gets damaged or altered in some way.

The pump I use at the moment is the tiniest I could find on the market. It cost me €17 in a hardware store and it fits onto the bit of a power drill!

Drill pump

But even this tiny pump can move 2,000 litres of liquid per hour!!! That means I could pump my entire production of wine from one tank to another in 2 hours!! Why do I need to do that when I have all year to move my wine slowly and carefully?

So I’m thinking of buying this pump:

Ye olde pumpe

This pump is over 100 years old (manufactured in the town of Alcoy (Valencia) in 1889), and it still works! A few weeks ago we (the current owner and I) performed a functional test, ie we fitted two hoses to the pump, filled a basin with water, and placed an empty basin at the end of a hose, turned the wheel, and lo and behold, did it not pump all the water out of one basin and into the other!

Am I a Luddute? Or a neo-luddite or whatever it’s called these days? Am I anti-technology? NO, I’m not!!! I have two mobiles, a laptop, a car, and I regularly make use of hi-tech items like elevators, airplanes, and am looking forward to using spacecraft, transporter beams, Culture terminals, cryogenic brain storage, etc as soon as they become available! I believe that technology represents a set of tools to be used as appropriately and as usefully as possible; and I don’t believe that we should be in thrall to technology and just use the latest gizmo available, just because it’s available and somehow deemed ‘better’! A bit of forethought never did anyone any harm, and everyone’s needs and circumstances are different, so why not, in my case, resort to 18th century technology instead of 20th century technology?

Another advantage that this machine has over its more modern counterparts is that its quiet, ie it doesn’t make any noise at all, except for a gentle, soothing whirring sound as the drive-wheels spin. I’ve always hated the horrendous noise made by electric pumps, even the tiny power-drill-driven one I’ve been using. Apart from making me angry and upset, who’s to say that those sound waves don’t affect the wine? Sound waves are used to shatter kidney stones, aren’t they?


  1. If we have time, why not to use it instead of waste it? ;^)




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