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Thursday 10 December 2009

Vinos Ambiz annual wine tasting event

Last Saturday (12th December 2009) was the 4th Vinos Ambiz annual wine-tasting event; this time we did it in La Dragona, a tavern run by Ecologistas en Acción, in c./ Marqués de Leganés 12, Madrid (Spain).

In 2008 it was in the El Patio Maravillas; in 2007 in Off-Limits and in 2006 in the old Seco Social Centre.

La Dragona - Alberto and some wine tasters having a chat

We would like to say thanks to the over 40 people who came the other night. I think we all had a great time and we even learned a thing or two, thanks to Alberto (from Bodegas Corral, in Navarrete, La Rioja), who led the tasting in a very pleasant, informal and informative manner and even made people participate actively (as opposed to just 'listening to the expert'!).

Juan talks about Vinos Ambiz; photos in the backound

Glass of wine, anyone? (that's me on the right!)

According to my (sketchy) notes, here are some of the comments and impressions of the wines:

Blanco Joven 2009 (100% Airén)
Colour: pale yello, slightly golden, sort of greenish
Still, no bubbles (last year the same wine was like cava or cider!)
Aroma: wine (!), alcohol, apple, vainilla, fruit, flowers
Taste: not a lot of taste!, green apples, slightly acidic, very nice, a bit like cava

Surprisingly, the young white had a lot of body, aromas and taste. Historically, Airén has been considered not suitable for making quality wine, and has always been used either for mixing with other wines or sent directly to the distillery. Well, it seems that it dosn't have to be that way, and that it is if fact possible to make quality wine with Airén (maybe due to the artisan (non-industrial) processes and/or organic ecological practices). :)

Crianza 2008 (100% Tempranillo)
Colour: very intense, dark read, almost opaque
Aroma: strong, forest in the rain, toasty, red fruit (cherries)
Taste: astringent, strong, red fruit, tonacco
Needs more time in the bottle to round off and improve

The Young White, The Young Rosé, and The Crianza

We only had time to taste two of the three wines we had: the Young White 2009 and the Crianza 2008 (we'll have to do the young rosé some other time).

Note the lack of labels. The plan is to update the previous Crianza label, and to design for the first time labels for the young white and the young rosé. Hopefully in January or February.

- Young White 2009 (100% Airén; 12% vol.)
- Young Rosé 2009 (97% Garnacha, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% vol; carbonic maceration)
- Crianza 2008 (100% Tempranillo, 6 months in oak barrel; 14% vol.)

I'm sure I've forgotten to mention lots of things that were said (what with all that tasting and chatting I had to do!), so if anyone who was there would like to add anything, just click on the "comments" below and type away! :)

Thursday 3 December 2009

Consumer Participation in Vinos Ambiz Winery

We've just launched a new way for our consumers to participate more closely with us in the wine-making process. By 'new' I mean new for us, as like most things, this has probably been done before somewhere by someone!

The idea is that a consumer (or group of consumers) finance the purchase of a new oak cask (around €300) and we pay them back in bottles of wine.

This year, because we had such a small harvest, we only have enough wine to fill one (1) additional cask, but next year we intend to buy a lot more. The financing of this year's cask has already been 'awarded' to a friend (and notorious long-time consumer of our wines), as we've been talking about doing this for years!

Our two current casks (and the space where the third one is going to go in January)

These are the terms and conditions:

The fundamental reason or motive for financicng the casks in collaboration with our consumers is not economic or financial in nature, but it is intended to be a way of facilitating consumer participation in the project, of establishing closer relations between producer and consumers, and of exchanging information.

There are no interest payments nor any other type of economic or financial incentive as the idea here is not obtain profits from an investment. Its simply another way of participating, just like helping out at the harvest or pruning or washing bottles. It is assumed that the person financing the cask in this way is doing so in order to participate in the wine-making process and to support the project in general.

We have tried to make it as simple as possible and the same for all the future participants, so as to reduce complications and 'administrative overheads' when there are many participants.

1. The cost of the cask is repaid exclusively in bottles of wine (the participant can choose if he wants the very wine produced in the cask, or any other type of wine produced by Vinos Ambiz, if and when available)

2. The bottle of wine is valued at the price set at the beginning of each year

3. The participant can choose if he/she wants to receive the bottles of wine in a single lot or if he/she wants to spread them out over the lifetime of the cask

4. The participants, like all our consumers, can come to the winery to help out with any activity involving their cask (filling, racking, washing, etc)

5. The old cask belongs to the particiapnt. If he/she doesn't want it, we'll keep it at the winery.

Monday 30 November 2009

Decanting and clarifying (fining)

Yesterday (Sunday 29th November 2009) we decanted and clarified the white wine.


The idea is to move the wine from one tank to another so as to separate the wine from the lees or sediment ('gunge') that has settled on the bottom.

The wine is being pumped from the tank on the right, through the hose, through the pump and into the tank on the left.
It's quite an easy operation to do. We have this small pump that is driven by a common household drill, and is capable (surprisingly) of moving thousands of liters per hour!

Drill and pump

Clarifying (fining)

We also clarified the wine using organic egg-whites. We used 2 egg-whites per 100 liters of wine to be clarified. This is done to remove all the tiny suspended particles ('bits') that are too light to drop to the bottom by gravity. Egg-white has the property of making these tiny particles stick together, so they become heavier and drop to the bottom in about 10 days or so.

Thursday 26 November 2009



Monday 23 November 2009

Recycling Wine Bottles; Responsible Consumption and Responsible production

Yesterday, Sunday 22 November 2009, we bottled the Crianza 2008. We'd like to thank all our consumers who have been keeping, washing and returning wine bottles to us, and also to those who came out to the winery last week to remove labels and wash 300 bottles, in preparation for yesterday.

We would also like to thank Salmantina de Corchos for saving the day and delivering a sack of corks at almost no notice (we forgot to call them!). The corks we use are 100% natural corks and contain no added chemical substances or ingredients.

In the end we got 293 from the cask, but one bottle broke and another one (the last one) contained so many lees that I took it home, and I will try to decant it or filter it.

Clean recycled wine bottles


This device (excuse the use of such technical language!) allows the bottle to be filled up to the correct level! When that level is reached, the flow stops, you take the device out of the bottle, stick it into an empty one, press a button, and the flow starts again,...

1. Manual corking machine (centre).
2. Sack of natural corks (izquierda).
3. Crate of 24 bottles fullof crianza 2008 (right).

291 Bottles

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Recycling wine bottles, and Green Sunday

Yellow Alert in the Tajuña Valley (Madrid Region, Spain) declared on Sunday 15th November due to high levels of good vibes, especially in the villages of Perales and Ambite, where many people were affected by happiness.

In Perales, people were engaged in a highly contagious activity known as Domingo Verde, where many people (in this case about 30-40) get together and coordinate in order to carry out various agro-ecoógical activities, which are perfectly legal in this country but which are generally frowned upon. Activities included taking up the potatoes, planting onions/shallots, and weeding:

Another significant factor which contributed to the high levels of good vibes, symptoms of which persited all day, was the communal lunch (paella follwed by a selection of fresh salads), which was deemed to be excessively tasty and healthy:

Meanwhile, over in Ambite, another group (less numerous but just as happy) was engaged in another agro-ecological activity. These people were recycling and washing used wine bottles so they could be filled, next week, with Crianza 2008 organic wine from Vinos Ambiz. This activity would not have been possible without the help of many other anonymous people (also with serious agro-ecological tendencies) who in the weeks and moths before today collected, washed and finally returned their wine bottles.

Monday 9 November 2009

Map of vineyard, Tasting notes, and a Coupage

Last Sunday (8 November 2009) I was in the vineyard (Carabaña, Spain) bright and early, as I wanted to make a detailed map, showing the state of each individual vine. I didn't have time to finish but I did manage to map out about 600 vines or so, ie about half the number of vines in the vineyard. On my map I marked:
1. Vines that are OK (with a dot)
2. 'Wild' vines (with an 'S') (Salvaje = wild in Spanish)
3. Dead vines (with an 'M') (Muerto = dead)
4. Spaces where there is no vine (with a 'na') (nada = nothing)

'Wild' vines means that at some point in the past (before we took over the vineyard 6 years ago) the vinifera insert did not take and the rootstock itself sprouted. These need to be pruned way back and grafted again with a vinifera variety.

(pending photo of 'wild' vine)
(sorry, Blogger is having problems with umploading images)

Dead vines need to be uprooted and replanted

(pending photo of dead vine)

Empty spaces with no vine also need to be replanted.

(pending photo of empty spaces)

The time to do this is around March/April when the sap is just starting to flow, but not too much. The top priority is to plant new vines in the empty spaces; second priority is to uproot the dead vines and plant new vines, and third (if there is time and money leftover!) to prune and graft the wild vines.

After that, it was off to the winery to meet Juan for a preliminary tasting by ourselves, before letting the experts loose on our wines. We had eight (8) different wines to taste this year:

1. Young white 2009 (100% Airén) - Lot I
2. Young white 2009 (100% Airén) - Lot II (same as above, but grapes harvested 2 weeks later)
3. Young red 2009 (100% Garnacha/Grenache) Carbonic Maceration
4. Young red 2009 (100% Garnacha/Grenache) Conventional fermentation
5. Young red 2009 (100% Tempranillo) Conventional fermentation
6. Young red 2009 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) Conventional fermentation
7. Crianza 2008 (100% Tempranillo, 6 months in oak barrel)
8. 'Young' red 2008 (100% Tempranillo)

(pending: our tasting notes)

Coupage (Tempranillo and Garnacha) in action

Spontaneous and appropriate vine around the door (of Vinos Ambiz Organic and Sustainable Winery)
We didn't actually plant the vine on purpose. It must have sprouted sponaneously one year from a stray pip during the crushing. We noticed it at some point and we trained it round the door. The rest of it is posing on a crate at the moment until we get round to training it all over the wall and maybe even make a shady pergola one year.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Recycling grape skins, pips and stems; Bits and pieces in the winery

Yesterday, (Sunday 1st November) I finally got round to cleaning up and tidying the patio outside the winery, which was a huge mess after the crushing and pressing, and wine-making etc. I took the sacks of skins, pips and stems back to the vineyard and made quite a large pile next to a larger pile of organic manure, which we'll be spreading this winter sometime.

Pile of pomace next to pile of organic manure

This pomace (skins, pips and stems) will slowly decompose over time and eventually we'll spread it among the vines, thus increasing the fertility of the soil and closing a cycle of nutrients and organic matter.

The same pile seen from closer up

Very pretty, but is it art?

I also decided to tidy up inside the winery too. Despite appearances, these photos show part of the winery after tidying up!

On the left, stainless steel tanks, against the back wall, boxes full of bottles (dirty but with labels removed), in the foreground flattened cardboard boxes, and underneath a box and a bag full of recycled corks

This looks like a junkshop! Manual destemmer-crusher (white, on the left), manual crusher (blue), pneumatic lid for tank, two more bags of recycled corks, in the background my great-grandmother's marble-topped bedside table (no kidding!), manual bottle-washer, plastic crates, wooden parts of the manual press, 3 shelves, two of them freed up to receive wine, one full of stuff such as old barrels, glasses for tastings, oddly-shaped bottles, etc.

And lastly, a photo of the organic vineyard (in Carabaña). The leaves have turned brown and have started dropping, and soon the vines will enter their dormant phase. When all the leaves have fallen, we can start pruning, as by then all the sap and nutrients will have gone into the roots and trunk, ready for use in spring. If we were to start pruning too soon we would be removing sap and nutrients and the vines would not be so healthy or vigorous.

Next week it's bottle-washing time, so as to be ready to bottle the Crianza 2008, and the new young wines from the grapes harvested in September 2009.

Friday 30 October 2009

Critical Mass Fiesta (2)

Thursday 29th October 2009 was the 5th anniversary of the Critical Mass bicycling event in Madrid (known as the Bici Critica in Spanish). After the ride, there was a big party (organized by the organic veg co-op BAH) at the Dragón Social Centre, near the Almudena Cemetery in Madrid.

Vinos Ambiz contributed to this protest against traffic, pollution and the general hostility of cities caused by cars, by donating free wine:

- a bottle of Crianza 2007 (100% Tempranillo, oaked for 10 months) as part of the eco-basket of goodies to be awarded as 1st prize in a raffle

- and as many bottles of Tinto Joven 2008 (Young Red) also 100% Tempranillo as the thisty cyclists could drink! In the end it was only about a case (seems that cyclists are more beer drinkers!

Photos taken on mobile phone. Will post quality photos on Monday!

The 'Tostas' Team

The 'Kalimocho' Team

DJ 'Musicas'

Basket of organic products (wine, bread, glasses, apron, and the basket itself) that was raffled

The winner of the raffle celebrates with a bottle of Vinos Ambiz Crianza 2007

Monday 26 October 2009

Cabernet Sauvignon harvest and crushing by foot

Yesterday (Sunday 25th October 2009) we did a partial harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the vineyard in Ambite.

It was a very strange harvest for a number of reasons:

Firstly, as can be seen from the colour of the leaves, it was very late in the season and the grapes were way past their optimum state. Sugar level too high, acidity level too low. Probably over 14º alcohol.

Lots and lots of tiny bunches

Secondly, the vineyard was abandoned 3 years ago and the parcel we harvested hadn't been pruned. So the clusters were very numerous and very small. The berries were very small too. The ration of juice to pip/skin was very low!

Difficult to access

Thirdly, we only managed to pick about 50 kg, even thought there were 8 of us! Why? Well, we started late, those tiny clusters hardly weigh anything, they were difficult to access, and we were invited to lunch/barbecue!

Still difficult to access

Apart from picking the grapes we also managed to crush them (underfoot) and pour them into a fermentation vat.

Foot massage therapy

Wednesday 21 October 2009

"Critical Mass" Fiesta

Thursday 29th October 2009 is the 5th anniversary of the Critical Mass bicycling event in Madrid (known as the Bici Critica in Spanish). After the ride, there's a big party (organized by the organic veg co-op BAH) at the Dragón Social Centre, near the Almudena Cemetery in Madrid.

Vinos Ambiz is contributing to this protest against traffic, pollution and the general hostility of cities caused by cars, by contributing free wine:

- a bottle of Crianza 2007 (100% Tempranillo, oaked for 10 months) as part of the eco-basket of goodies to be awarded as 1st prize in a raffle

- and as many bottles of Tinto Joven 2008 (Young Red) also 100% Tempranillo as the thisty cyclists can drink!
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