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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Albillo 2014 Harvest

This is the story, so far, of my Albillo 2014.
I think that (the story of) any good wine starts, or ought to start, here, in the vineyard:
The Albillo vineyard, about 2 km from El Tiemblo, right next to the Charco del Cura, a mini-reservoir on the River Alberche
Without good grapes, without good, clean, healthy, balanced, and complex grape juice, I don't think you can make a good, clean, healthful, balanced and complex, terroir-expressing wine!
Albillo vineyard
There are lots of large rocks scattered all over the vineyard (and over many other vineyards in the area). I assume that they were left there when the ice-caps retreated at the end of the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, but I haven’t actually checked this theory out.
Sampling and Tasting
On the 14th August I went to take samples for the last time. Apart from looking at the must through the refractometer (which gives you a predicted possible alcohol level) I also taste the grapes. I don't quite know how to explain this but I think what I look for is to ensure that the grapes are actually ripe - otherwise you get 'green' vegetable, grassy tastes and aromas from the wine. And also I try to ensure that there's still a good level of acidity, otherwise the wine will be over-alcoholic, and unbalanced. So based on that, I decide on the date for harvest! I think that subconsciously I also take other factors into account too, like the weather over the course of the year, the general state of the vineyard and surrounding countryside, what the neighbours are saying, etc!
Refractometer and sample grapes
Above: a sample of grapes taken at random, more or less, from all over the vineyard, a refractometer, and a thick-bottomed glass which I used to crush the grapes.
Above: grapes duly crushed.
Above: A close up of the refractometer with a drop of must on it.
On the 16th August we harvested.
Each one of us had a small bucket, which held about 10 or 12 kg, which we then tipped into bigger crates, which held about 25 kg. This way is much easier to manage than hauling and carrying a 25 kg load around from vine to vine.
Above: Here’s yours truly with his bucket
Above: Harvesting among the rocks.
Above: A panoramic view, looking in the other direction, away from the reservoir
Above: another panoramic view
Above: more harvesting among the rocks
Above: the large 25 kg cases
These larger crates were then loaded onto a mini-trailer behind a mini-tractor, which took them, 4 crates at a time, to a spot a few hundred meters away from where they could be loaded into the back of a van. Then, when the van was full, with about 30 crates, we would take them to the bodega, about 10 minutes away, in the centre of the village (El Tiemblo). There we would unload them, weigh all the crates, and then stack them on pallets, so they can be moved around easily when required.
Above: the mini-tractor with its mini-trailer
Above: crates ready to be loaded into the van
Above: here is Daniel helping me load and stack the crates
Extra Harvesting
We were planning to harvest that vineyard over 2 days, ie at a rate of about 1,000 kg per day, with 4 or 5 pickers. But for some reason, we ended up with 8 pickers, so a decision had to be made. Normally we would have picked 1,000 kg between 7:30 in the morning (dawn) and lunchtime (around 1 o'clock-ish), and we would have stopped and gone for lunch!  But with eight of us picking, by 1 o'clock we were about 3/4 done, so we just decided to go for it and finish off. And by 4 o'clock we were done.
It was too late now to process the grapes in the bodega, as I was too tired. And too hungry, as we only had a wee snack at 11:00. So I decided to leave the grapes overnight and process them in the morning, when they would be cooler (and I not tired!)
So next morning,17th August, bright and early, we crushed the grapes.
I used this machine in the photo below. It's a simple roller-crusher (the grapes fall between two cylinders) driven by an electric motor. Placed directly on top of the tank where the grapes fall into.
Above: crates of Albillo stacked on a pallet. Note the lovely old weighing machine in the background.
Above: the crushed grapes.
There was exactly 2,000 kg of grapes (well, it was 1,993 kg!)
I crushed them into three tanks (above). The two plastic tanks hold 1,000 kg each and the stainless steel one 700 kg.
Pressing Off (19th August)
So I let the skins, pips and stems all soak together with the must for 48 hrs, by which time the must was just starting to ferment very slightly.
I used this hydraulic press:
To load the press I had to actually get into the tanks and scoop the grapes/must out and into the press using a bucket.
Press, tank and bucket.
Above: the free-run must coming out of the press.
For the fermentation I used three 700-litre stainless steel tanks.
I didn't use any temperature control, though I could have done if I had wanted to. I figured that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and as I was really happy with my 2013 Albillo without temperature control, then I thought that I would just do the same again this year.
Above: fermentation happening at 30ºC!!!  Hmmm, that’s a bit much, maybe next year I’ll try to keep it a bit cooler
One of the tanks overflowed again this year. Oh well! I thought I'd left enough room, but obviously it wasn't enough!
Above: Note the remains of the violently hot fermentation on the inside walls of the tank!
And now listen to this video-audio of full fermentation on 21st August:
The last task was to throw out the skins and pips.
On Friday 29th August, with fermentation almost finished, or at least proceeding very slowly, I pumped all three lots of wine from the stainless steel tanks into a large clay amphora ('tinaja' in Spanish) where it will stay until I bottle it sometime next year. With this I hope to obtain some nice slow oxygenization (through the semi-porous clay walls) and also perhaps a nice hint of amphora in the aroma and taste.
I called it ‘racking’ which is usually taken to mean pumping off the clear liquid and leaving the lees and sediments behind. But I didn’t do that – instead I ensured that everything, lees, sediments and all at the bottom of the three tanks also went into the amphora.
Large amphora containing Albillo
Albillo Experiment #2
This is 80 kg of Albillo from a different plot, but still from El Tiemblo, on the 19th August.
I've laid it out to dry out a little so the must becomes more concentrated due to evaporation, and hopefully I will make a sort of sweet wine with higher alcohol.
I hope that the cardboard doesn't impart a carboardy taste to the wine! But it's only 80 kg, and if the experiment works out, then next year I'll do it better!
On the 4th September (16 days later) I crushed the bunches by stomping on them in my bare feet. And then I removed the stems by hand, and poured everything (must+pips+skins) into a tiny little container.
I will leave it to macerate and ferment for a while, then press it off. Somehow. I don’t know how to press off such a small quantity!!!

And that's the end of that story. I hope you enjoyed it.

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