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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Sheep in the Garnacha Vineyard

Well, for this post I have some interesting anecdotes about sheep in my Garnacha vineyard in El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos).
A flock of sheep entering the vineyard
But first...

This is the same vineyard that I wrote about in my previous post (here), when I discovered that ‘someone’ had pruned my ‘Roman’ vines which I had trained up the olive trees, without asking me first. So the other day I had a meeting with the owners of the vineyard and asked them if it was them who had dunnit – and indeed it was! I’m glad that I didn’t speak to them immediately on discovering the unauthorized pruning, because I was upset and angry and would probably have said things that I would have regretted later! But with the passage of time I had calmed down, and now of course it doesn’t seem so important. They were quite amazed when I explained the Roman thing to them, but they were willing to cooperate. Now I just have to wait another year for the vines to grow and try again.
Anyway, I was in this vineyard again the other day, doing more of the same – raking up last year’s dead grass into piles, pruning and hoeing up around the pruned vines. I alternated these three activities so that the same muscles wouldn’t get sore! The method seems to work J
And an ‘interesting thought’ came to me while I was raking up the dead leaves. At first, I had started raking up dead leaves and grass and tidying ‘just for fun’ and to do a bit of gardening and to make the vineyard look beautiful (and alternating tasks so my back muscles wouldn’t suffer so much). But now I’ve discovered a valid agricultural reason for doing this! By raking up the last year’s dead leaves, it makes it easier for the new grass and plants to come up, as there is no physical obstacle stopping their growth, more sunlight hits the earth and little leaves making germination and photosynthesis more efficient, and also the action of the rake on the ground probably helps stir things up and speed them along! I was actually a bit worried that maybe the grass, and plants and flowers would grow too much, to the detriment of the vines, perhaps. But the perfect solution presented itself spontaneously. Sometimes the universe works in your favour, and “they’re not really all out to get you”!
The perfect solution, of course, consisted of a flock of sheep! As I was working, a man called out to me from over the wall of the vineyard. He was a shepherd and he wanted to ask if he could let his sheep graze in my vineyard. I agreed immediately and off he went to get his sheep, which were grazing in a neighbouring vineyard just down the road.
Sheep grazing in the vineyard

Sheep and lambs

Panoramic view

The deal is that I get free manure and short grass and the shepherd gets free grass for his sheep.

Close-up of my free manure

And also, according to my friend and fellow grapegrower Mario Siragusa (who grows grapes in Barolo country near Turin), the sheep also impart positive electro-magnetic energy to the vines from their wool. Interesting theory - I will have to look into it when I have some free time.
This deal only works until about March, when the vines start to sprout. Otherwise the sheep would eat the young leaves.

Sheep leaving the vineyard

Luis the shepherd says that he only drinks wine from the vineyards where his sheep have been grazing! Because his sheep don’t like the grass from chemically farmed vineyards and because the wine tastes crap! Natural wine drinkers are everywhere these days J.
Other vineyard news
There is still a lot of pruning to be done, some of which I will do myself and some of which I will outsource to neighbours. Then there are other assorted tasks to be done too: removing canes, hoeing up around the vines, fixing fences, and general tidying up. I won’t bore you all too much with the details! Yet!
Bodega news
There are lots of tasks I have to be getting on with in the bodega too. Most urgent is the bottling up. I got off to a good start this year but last week I ran out of corks AND bottles! Duh! So now I have to wait for delivery, which takes about 7-10 days. Which is OK really, as I can now concentrate on the vineyards. I also have to fill two barrels with white wine. It took me about a year, but at last I managed to get my hands on two second-hand white wine barrels. They are incredibly difficult to find, for some reason. More about this later. I also have to thoroughly scrub and clean and disinfect two amphorae, which contained wine and which I have already bottled up. Then I have to press off a tank of Garnacha which is still on the skins! And a tinaja of SB and one of Doré. And lastly I have to tidy up the patio and finish building my pergola. Oh, where is all the free labour?
Other news
In about three weeks I’m going to a natural wine fair in Piacenza, Italy: Sorgente del Vino LIVE 2016. It will be my first time at a wine fair in Italy, so am especially looking forward to it. Attenzione importatori italiani J
And in about one month I’ll be going to another natural wine fair in Barcelona: Vins Nus (which means Naked Wines in Catalan). This is one of two natural wine fairs organized in Spain, which is pretty underwhelming really, considering the numbers for France and Italy.
Enough for now. “Salud y buen vino”. (that means ‘Health and good wine’, in Spanish)

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