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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

I really wonder where all the time goes?

Here we are at the end of March almost what have I achieved?  Winter is gone, and Spring is springing here in Spain, the weeds are sprouting, the early bloomers are blooming (almonds, cherries, etc) and more to the point the sap is starting to circulate in the vines.


Bitter Almond tree in Carabaña, next to the vineyard

As usual I haven't finished pruning, and in fact I’m am running even later than usual!  Day and night temperatures are rising fast.  That's the thing with central Spain - there's no time to acclimatize from cold, dark harsh winter, to blisteringly hot arid summer! It takes about a week/ten days.  We are having lunch outside on the pavement terrazas of restaurants already!

And here I am just the week before, all wrapped up against the cold:


However, there's been a sudden cold snap over the past few days and temperatures have dropped again.

On the other hand, even though I complain about not pruning in time, I really have achieved quite a lot so far this year, even it’s already a quarter gone!. I've started writing down all the things I actually do get done, so that I can remember them can feel good about it! Otherwise one just gets depressed because the to-do list is never-ending and in fact seems to get longer!

The most important thing that I've achieved this year is getting all my legal licenses and permits and basically complying with all the local, regional, national and EU bureaucracy. One would really need an entire human resource department to deal with all that paperwork, but hey ho, what can one do? I risked the fines for ten years, which is a good stretch I think, so I decided it was time to get as legal as possible. It's taken me about 4 months so far and I've managed to get lots of numbers and certificates and other bits of paper from the Local Authorities (El Tiemblo), the Provincial Authorities (Avila), the Regional Authorities (Valladolid) and the national Authorities (Madrid). I didn't actually have to deal with Brussels (EU) directly!  Compliance with all the legal requirements here in Spain is so complex that you are obliged to hire an accountant to deal with it all, and so I have to now pay €100/month just to have someone keep books and fill in forms for me. Is this normal? Does this happen in other countries?  Maybe I'm living in my own private fantasy world.

What else? Well, I've managed to expand and consolidate at the same time! On the one hand, I've reached agreements with local grape-growers to buy their grapes. The deal is that they don't use any chemicals, and I pay them over the going rate for grapes in the area. Also, I get to select the date of harvest, and the grapes have to be harvested in small crates (as opposed to in a trailer). On the other hand, I've also managed to reach agreements with vineyard owners; in this case I get to manage the vineyard directly in return for an annual rent.

So now I manage the following vineyards:

- Carabaña, 1 ha (Tempranillo/Airén field blend), 11 years
- Villarejo, 1 ha (Malvar), 4 years
- El Tiemblo - La Dehesa, 0.5 ha (Garnacha), < 1 year
- El Tiemblo - Castañar, 0.5 ha (Garnacha), < 1 year
- Cebreros - Santa Maria 1 ha (Garnacha), < 1 year
- Navas del Rey, 4 tiny plots x  0.25 ha, (Garnacha), < 1 year

Here are some pics of these vineyards:

Old vine Garnacha vineyard in Cebreros.
The top third are about 100 yrs old, and the bottom two/thirds about 40 yrs old

Garnacha vineyard in El Tiemblo

Another Garnacha vineyard - in Navas del Rey this time

Same Garnacha vineyard in Cebreros, but looking downhill

Apart from the grapes from the above vineyards, I also buy in grapes from local grapegrowers:

- Morata de Tajuña, Airén
- El Tiemblo, Garnacha
- El Tiemblo, Albillo
- El Tiemblo, Chelva
- El Tiemblo, Doré
- El Tiemblo, Tempranillo
- Cebreros, Sauvignon Blanc

Phew! It's starting to get complicated!

In addition to all that, I'm working with a graphic designer on the production of some proper labels!  Here’s a preliminary selection of what we’re cooking up:

photos labels

I've always been ambivalent about getting round to producing 'proper' labels. On the one hand I like the idea of just printing off my own, as it goes with the idea of artisan wine, ie my whole winemaking operation is artisan and so, the labels should be too, no?

Here’s one of my own old ‘home-made’ labels:

Airén 2010
100% Airén (from Carabaña, Madrid)
Unfiltered, unclarified, no added sulfites.
13% vol. Bottles produced: 1200 750 ml

But on the other hand, they su**!   I've never seen such cr**py labels anywhere, not even at the natural wine fairs I go to, nor at conventional wine fairs, nor even on the internet on the webpages of artisan producers! Everybody all has nice, proper professionally designed and printed labels!

Decisions, decisions!  “No rest for the wicked” is my phrase of the month!

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