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Friday, 16 August 2013

A Whole Day Spent NOT Working at the Bodega

Yes, the other day (Tuesday 13th)* I actually did something other than clean, paint, tidy up or otherwise work at the new bodega! I was so fed up and bored by all this bodega work, that I jumped at the invitation I got to participate in an organic produce farmer's market, as part of the traditional Fiestas de la Paloma held every year in Madrid.

It was a bit of a disaster commercially speaking, but I had a great day nevertheless, as I rested both physically and mentally from the bodega. Basically I sat on my butt all day on a chair behind my counter and chatted to my fellow organic producers and did a lot of good networking!

Calle Calatrava, Madrid
This was what the street looked like for most of the day. Not surprising really if you think about it. First, during the day in the centre of Madrid, it's really hot and airless. Second, the Fiestas de la Paloma is a night-time drinking and partying kind of fiesta, not really a time to go shopping for organic produce!

Me and my wines!
I think I enjoyed myself so much, despite the heat and lack of customers, because technically speaking I was "working" even though I had nothing to do! So I didn't feel guilty about not doing anything useful or productive, as it were!

Next to me on one side was a nice couple, Gabi and María, who produce organic vegeatables in Chinchón, a town about 40 km from Madrid, and not far from Morata de Tajuña. They have a stand at the Mercado de la Cebada, a municipal market in the Latina District of Madrid. They also sell boxes of organic veg via the internet, and go by the name of Rayo Verde. On the other side was a producer of organic honey.

I also met a young photographer who works for an online newspaper (no paper version) that covers local events in Madrid: Madrid Diario.  His name is Kike and he took this photo of me!

Me again!
Then, in the evening, there was a cheese and wine tasting, organized by Slow Food Madrid, at this winebar, also in Calle Calatrava:

"El Almacén de Vinos" on Calle Calatrava
An excellent winebar with an interesting winelist, and good atmosphere. Well frequented too, in fact there were more poeple inside that on the street that evening!

Cheese 'n' wine tasting

A great time was had by all but technically speaking the tasting was a bit of a disaster! The bar was full of normal customers and people who had come specially for the tasting, but there was no way to separate them, nor was there any way to get the normal customers to keep quiet while we spoke!


Then yesterday (Thursday 15th) I spent at both bodegas, the old one in Morata de Tajuña and the new on in El Tiemblo, and a very pleasantly spent day it was too, because I was accompanied by two 'helpers':  Nacho Bueno, a Spanish winelover and blogger (his blog is here, in Spanish) and who sponsored one of my barriques a few years ago (see this post) and with whom I made a coupage called "Las Cinco en Punto" (Five on the Dot) back in 2010. And Omri Ram, an Israeli wine student, who I knew from Facebook but who I met for the first time.

Here are my two helpers, working hard!  Omri bottling up the Malvar Amphora 2012 and Nacho on the corking machine:

Happy Helpers :)
We then loaded up the car with stuff and went to El Tiemblo, where we did a nice tasting of some of the wines I had there.

Left-to-right:  Malvar, Airén, Airén
The most interesting ones we tasted were:

An orange wine (Malvar 2011) (above, leftmost) which I found in the boot of my car last week! It must have been in there for months, with the heat easily reaching 40ºC when parked out in the sun. So I wanted to see how it was. The cork had already been pushed out by about 1 cm. Incredibly the wine was just fine. Omri took it home with him, and hopefully he'll provide his opinion and some tasting notes shortly :)

The two Airéns above are EXACTLY the same except for the fact that one (right) was crushed in a manual crusher, while the other (middle) was crushed underfoot. Same vineyards, same day of harvest, same pressing, same fermentation tanks, same racking, same everything!

The other interesting wine was this experiment I did last year, with an unknown variety called Rojilla (see this post).

A big bottle of Rojilla
This was the first time I or anyone had tasted it since it was made last harvest in 2012. I was really pleased with it. The colour was very light, almost liker a rosé, despite having spent 12 days on the skins before pressing. Aromas were delicate and fruity and in the mouth too. Shame there's only one bottle of it, even though it's quite a big bottle :)

Rojilla in the glass

*  Not a lot of people know this, but Tuesday 13th is considered to be a bad luck day in Spain, just like Friday 13th in English-speaking countries. Go figure. In Italy, it's Tuesday 17th! go figure even more!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

New Bodega - A Bit of Gardening (and Classifying Junk and Scrap)

Do you know how to make your fingers and arms really sore? Easy! Just spend a whole day tidying up the patio of a bodega, grabbing, lifting, carrying and hauling junk and scrap!

This is what one side of the building now looks like:

Nice n tidy!
The stonework is now visible, as before it was covered up with assorted junk and rubbish. I found lots and lots of concrete blocks scattered all over the patio, hidden in the grass, and which I kept, as they may come in useful in the future, and in the meantime maybe I could plant flowers in them! I also kept those big stones.

I separated out the wood (mostly old pallets, but also planks and bits and pieces), which will have to be either burnt or taken to the local "Punto Limpio" (municipal rubbish dump). If we choose to burn it, we'll have to wait till October, as at the present time it's completely forbidden to start fires anywhere (even in the middle of a built-up area) due to the risk of forest fires - of which there have been several already in the neighbourhood, the nearest ones in Cebreros and in Almorox.

Bits of wood - to be got rid of, somehow!
And I also separated out the metal, which hopefully we'll be able to sell to the local scrap merchant.

Scrap metal (1)

Scrap metal (2)

Scrap metal (3)
Yet more scrap metal in a store-room

Then I cut some grass and brambles, and made these piles of leaves, grass and bramble shoots:

Cleaning up the patio
I'd like (one day!) to make a little vegetable garden here. But that will have to wait for next year, as other priorities beckon, ie getting everything ready to make some wine - and the grape harvest is just round the corner. The Albillo harvest is in about a week or two, but I think I'm going to give it a miss this year. I'd rather wait a year and do it properly next year, than rush in and be all stressed out this year. I haven't had time to find a Albillo grower or even look at any Albillo vineyards. So I shall just wait for the Tempranillo and the Airén and the Malvar and the Garnacha, and the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chelva  (which is plenty to be getting on with!) and maybe some other varieties too, which are all in September and October, and so I'll be ready and relaxed :)

I also "saved" a vine that was growing wild in the corner of the patio. I managed to find some nails and some strips of metal, which I hammered into the wall, and trained the vine over them:

Not a very good job so far - I need to set up a system of posts and wires, but again other priorities beckon this year!

I said "saved" in inverted commas, because of course the vine was doing perfectly well without my help. Vines have been around for about 200 million years, while homo sapiens for only about 1/2 a million, and we've only been cultivating grapes and making wine for about 8000 years! So go figure if vines need humans to help them survive!!!

What else? Well I've moved most of my stuff in, though I've still got a few trips to make from the old bodega in Morata de Tajuña. This is what my corner of the new bodega is looking like at the moment:

My winemaking stuff
From left to right:

Old oak barrels (mostly American, but also two French) with the tops taken off, for fermenting. I've been dowsing them with water so that the wooden staves expand and the barrels become watertight (or winetight!). When they're empty, they tend to dry out and gaps appear between the staves.

White plastic fermentation tank, capacity 1000 liters. I've never used plastic before, so this will be a new experience for me this year. I bought two of them second-hand from my friend and fellow natural wine-maker, Alfredo Maestro.

Then, barely visible at the back are two manual basket presses. I'm thinking of buying another manual basket press, but this time a hydraulic one. I think I'll need one because I'm planning on making a lot more wine this year, ie increasing my output from ca 5000 bottles to ca 10000 bottles. And those manual presses are very very s l o w. We shall see.

Then there's another 1000 liter white plastic fermentation tank, and then all my usual stainless steel fermentation tanks, that I've been using for the last ten years: 200, 300, 500 and 700 liters.

Lastly, two old oak barrels, unopened, which I'm going to use for ageing some reds, a Tempranillo and a Garnacha. But first they have to be thoroughly cleaned.

Here's a different view of the same stuff:

The same stuff, seen from above
Now you can see the two amphoras ("tinajas" in Spanish) that I'll be using to make my Malvar 'orange' style wines. I may also buy another larger amphora this year. I'm still looking. The other week I went to see some, with Daniel Ramos (with whom I'm sharing the bodega) but they were asking for too much. Maybe we'll do some negotiating and haggling :)

And lastly, this is the temperature I was greeted by as I got into my car to drive back home after a hard day's gardening and classification of scrap and rubbish:

Luckily I'd parked the car in the shade, otherwise it would have been a bit hot in there :)

Friday, 9 August 2013

New Bodega - A Hot Summer Week

It's been a hot week here in Spain and I've been sweating like a pig all day and every day this last week or so, as I've been doing lots of physical work in the new bodega. But the end is in sight at last. All the important and/or expensive works have been done, and now it's the final bits and pieces:

- The insulation of the doors was the last major task, which we finished the other day.

The front door, insulated

The back door, insulated
And all the other doors (2 side doors and 4 main grape reception doors, all the same size as the above) are insulated too!

The insulation consists of expanded polystyrene panels, which we had to measure, cut up and fit jigsaw puzzle-like to the doors, which are made of thin metal sheets. They got so hot that if they had been horizontal instead of vertical, we could have fried eggs on them.


Then we put up some gates, for safety reasons. We don't want any children (or adults, for that matter) to go upstairs, and maybe fall down into one of the fermentation tanks, as several of the covers are missing.

Gate - going up
Open holes with 2.5 m drop onto concrete!

Metal grill
All the holes should have covers like in the photo above, but many are missing. it turns out that building was burgled about two years ago and the burglars took about 20 of these covers and sold them for scrap.

Neither do we want anyone to go downstairs, which at the moment is full of old machinery, and assorted junk, apart from the original crusher/destemmer and conveyor belt. It's just too much to clean up at the moment, but eventually we want to turn that space into a museum/expo room using all the old wine stuff we found lying around, and which we've kept.

Gate - going down

The conveyor belts are going next Monday. We managed to sell them to the local sawmill! Hooray!

Mobile conveyor belt

Fixed conveyor belt

The other day I put up insect-screens on all the windows:

Window - before

Sheets of netting + silicon
Window - after
There were about 20 windows like the one in the photo above.


This was lunch one day, in the bodega. Canned olives, canned aubergines, canned sardines, roast peppers in oil, bread, fruit and wine:



I've seen three vineyards already, even before finishing the works at the bodega. Once they really are finished, I'll start looking in earnest both for vineyards to take on and also for buying in grapes.

The latest one I saw was this one, which is literally 5 minutes walk from the bodega. The outskirts of the village are now encroaching on it.

Vineyard in El Tiemblo
I really like this vineyard. The owner says he doesn't use any chemicals, and as you can see he doesn't plough up around the vines. The vines look like they are really old, and the grapes look very healthy and vigorous. My only doubt is that the variety is a local white grape called Chelva, which is mainly used as a table grape, and no-one makes wine with it. After asking around for information, the most frequent comment I got was along the lines of "Chelva's rubbish for wine - a bit like Airén" !

This is what Jancis Robinson, José Vouillamoz and Julia Harding have to say about it in their book Wine Grapes:
"Chelva is widely grown in Extremadura, Spain, where it is authorized, among many other varieties, in the Ribera de Guadiana DO. It is also grown, to a much lesser extent, further south in Andalucía, where it is authorized in regional wines such as Vino de la Tierra de Sierra de Alcaraz but not in any of the autonomous community's DOs. There were 7,490 ha (18,508 acres) in Spain in 2008, the vast majority in Extremadura (6,495 ha/16,049 acres), the rest in Castilla-La Mancha (845 ha/2,088 acres) and Castilla y León (150 ha/371 acres).Unusually, Chelva is used both for the table and for wine but most of these hectares are for wine grapes, producing rather neutral wines that generally disappear in blends."
Well!  What can I say!  So I'm going to make a experimental lot of white wine with it. Maybe I'll be able to prove the experts wrong again, like I believe I have done already with my Airén and Malvar, which are also not very highly thought of varieties for making wine with.

Rickety bridge over irrigation channel in the vineyard
Close-up of bunches of Chelva grapes
This is another vineyard I saw. Garnacha this time, and a bit further from the village - about 5 minutes by car.

fotos of 2 garnacha vineyards

Vines not so old, maybe about 30-40 years. The owners has retired and he wants to sell/rent/get rid of his vineyard, or at least sell the grapes this year. I don't know what to do yet. I can't think straight with all these tasks I have to do at the bodega!

I also popped into my own vineyard in Carabaña:

A lot of grass around the vines in Carabaña!
Parts of it are terribly overgrown and wild looking, as I haven't been able to tend to it properly this year due to the new bodega.

This part of the vineyard is not so bad!
But the climate has been favourable, and the vines are looking really healthy. There's lots and lots of grapes this year, and I've even thinned a few clusters from some of the vines, that were especially loaded.

Here's a picture of a vine that's climbing up a plant which I deliberately left growing right next to it:

Vine in Carabaña

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