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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Winding down for the summer

Well, its late mid-June-ish, and all is well. More or less. The vineyards are beautiful (touch wood); the bodega is semi-prepared for the coming harvest; (touch wood); and the marketing and sales is going really well too (touch wood!).


I’m really happy with my vineyards. I've let all the grasses, flowers, thistles, etc grow all year, and now all I'm doing is cutting them all back around the vines, so that they will be easier to access during the harvest. The reason I do this, instead of ploughing, is of course to create a living soil and a living ecosystem, full of micro-life (bacteria and other invisible organisms) and visible life itself (insects and other small animals).

Flowery grassy vineyard, Garnacha, El Tiemblo, Sierra de Gredos

If the soil is rich and complex and alive, then the vines can take all the nutrients they from it. No more and no less, but just exactly what they need. The way I create this rich and complex and living soil is just to let everything grow, reproduce, die and decompose; and help the process along a little by cutting the grass and plants back with my sickle. I also keep the canes from the pruning and chop them up into tiny pieces.

At this time of year, dry grass and thistles!
Every few years I add some manure, which I bury near the vines. It's better to bury it because if you leave it on the surface all its nutrients are used by the surface grasses and it doesn't get down to where the vine's roots are.

By letting all the different species of grasses and plants grow, you create diverse and interesting habitats for many different species of insects; whereas if you plough up and keep the vineyard naked, then only one or two species can live there – precisely the ones that eat vine leaves and grapes! Obviously, because there's nothing else left to eat! So now you have to use chemicals to kill them because otherwise they'll destroy your vines and grapes!

This natural system, IMO, produces grapes of a much higher quality than industrially-chemically farmed grapes. The must of naturally farmed grapes is much more complex and interesting and contains a much wider range of components and micro-components; the bunches of industrially-chemically farmed grapes may be bigger and more impressive looking, but the must is diluted, unbalanced and poorer in diversity of flavours and aromas.

more grass
Each to their own. To produce millions of liters of 'affordable' supermarket wine at nice price points, it may well be necessary to pollute the environment and use lots of dodgy chemicals, but to produce small amounts of quality, terroir-expressing, comment-worthy fine wines, it's essential to practice sustainable, environmentally respectful and safe agriculture. IMO.

Next year I'm going to give my vines a fortifying booster, in the form of a horsetail infusion (Latin: Equisetum; Spanish: Cola de Caballo). It's been a few years since I last did this.
The other day I watered the 200 new Tempranillo vines that I planted back in April.


The bodega is more or less under control too; it's just that there are lots and lots of minor loose ends to be tied up, but for which I never find the time.

For example:
- The patio outside
- Shopping for ‘stuff’: Hermetic lids, Boxes for harvesting, Crown cap machine, small bits n bobs
- Cleaning everything: steel tanks, tinajas, presses, crushers, floors, etc
- Bottling up some barricas
- Stick insulating panels back on doors
- Line a new tinaja with beeswax

Not much shade here - maybe next year!
I have to do all the above and more, but I have no time to do it all! So I have to prioritize and decide which tasks are more important, and which can be left till ‘later’. The main things are in fact done, ie most of the wines are sold, most of the bodega and equipment is clean and ready for the final pre-harvest thorough cleaning. I will just have to be philosophical and come to terms with the fact that there’s no way I can do everything and have everything ‘just so’ to my entire satisfaction. :)

Marketing and Sales (the unglamourous part)

No real complaints in this department either. One of my goals last year was to diversify my exports, instead of selling exclusively to JPS in the USA, and I’ve managed to achieve that. I now also export to Denmark, Belgium, France and the UK (see this page for details).

a nice big pallet of wine, almost ready to go
I also decided to try to sell in Spain too, but that is proving more difficult. I do sell regularly to three places in Madrid (Enoteca Barolo, SoloDeUva and Montia) and also sporadically to another few places. But I see two problems here: firstly there is a lot less demand for natural wines in Spain, it’s still very much a novelty, like it was back in the 80’s or 90’s in other parts of the world. And I have no desire to ‘evangelize’ or try to persuade to drink natural wines. My approach is “if anyone wants to buy my wines they are more than welcome to do so, but I’m not going to argue or justify.” That’s a completely different thing from providing information or answering questions, of course! Which I do, a lot!

The other difficulty with selling wines in Spain is that I don’t have the time, resources or skills required to be a distributor! I can only just manage those three places I mentioned above, and even then it takes me weeks to respond to orders! What I really need, I suspect, are some proper distributors! J

Winding Down

So, time to wind down and try to relax. The first thing I have to look forward to this summer is the H2O Natural Wine Festival, held in the village of Pinel de Brai (Tarragona).

Next up will be the Albillo harvest, at the beginning of August. (Albillo Real is a very early ripening variety!) Then there will be a respite of a few weeks, until the regular varieties become ready for harvesting all through September and October.

Before, during and after those two events I hope to hang out in Barga (Tuscany) my family’s home town, and apart from doing the usual odd-jobs about the house and garden, I hope to expand my knowledge of Italian wines at the local enoteca – Colordivino, set right in the centre of the old part of town :)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Fabio, I'm not sure if you received my first comment...
    I really enjoy your blog thank you! I am also a winemaker but on a much smaller scale. Every year I seem to make more and more, and I am happy to do so for my family ,friends and acquaintances!
    You mentioned that you use Tinajas, I hope to make all my wines in the future using Tinajas/Qvevri.
    What are the prices of such vessels in Spain? What sizes do you use? I thank you in advance for any assistance you can afford.
    Warmest Regards,


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