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Monday 21 February 2011

Troop of Boys Scouts Visit Bodega

Actually it was 11 Girl scouts + 3 Boy Scouts + 2 Pack Leaders!

The idea was that on Saturday (19th Feb) the troop would come to visit our vineyard. We would teach them about organic viticulture (in theory) and how to prune vines (in theory and in practice). At first, a few weeks ago, it seemed like a great idea, but as the day drew nearer and nearer, we began to get more and more worried - about letting a troop of 14 Boy and Girl Scouts loose in our vineyard with a pair of pruning shears in hand! There would only have been 2 of us to try and control them!!! But luckily, we were saved by the weather, as it rained heavily all Friday night and continued to do so all day Saturday.

So they came to visit the bodega instead!

Juan explains it all

We spent about 4 hours in there explaining EVERYTHING about winemaking and answering their endless questions. The questions were really good questions actually (ie, difficult to answer!) and I suspected that they’d been primed beforehand by their Leader. But no, they hadn’t been primed (I asked the Leader!) So it must be true, kids these days (they were 13-17 years old) are much more clever and intelligent than I was at that age!!! (mind you, that's not saying much!)

'Bocadillo' (sandwich) time

They all said they would come back for the harvest and crushing in September.

For those of you who are about to post a comment - please, no jokes about exploitation of child labour. I'm all upset and frustrated, as I wasn't able to exploit them at all! Nada! Not a single stroke of productive work was I able to get out of them!

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Spanish Wine at Lunchtime

Well, I have to confess that, even though I've known about this WBW70 thing for a few days now and was full of good intentions, I completely forgot to find, buy, drink and write about an interesting and unusual Spanish wine!

So what I've done instead is to write about the the wine I had at lunch today. Here it is:

Spanish Table Wine

Nice folkloric label, no? Don Quijote and Sancho Panza with windmill in the background!

As you can see (or can't see, rather!)  it doesn't come from any Spanish Denominación de Origen at all, let alone an interesting or unusual one. If fact, it's very difficult to tell where it comes from even in general because it doesn't actually say on the label. You can work it out though, if you know your Spanish post codes (ZIP codes).

Sorry, out of focus! I need to upgrade my mobile!

After taking out my magnifying glass (which all connaisseurs of Spanish table wine carry with them at all times) you can see that it actually comes from the province of Toledo (because of the post code "49586" on the far left). Another clue is the last two digits of the Registered Bottler Number ("-TO", on the far right).

Actually, this only tells you where the wine was bottled - the grapes could have come from anywhere in Spain.

What to say about its organoleptic qualities? Well, suffice it so say that:
1) it's usually served at a temperature well below the threshold of human taste and smell perception, and
2) it's usually served along with a bottle of 'Casera' (a sort of fizzy sweet 7-Up type liquid)

Table Wine and Bottle of 'Casera'

This is normal for any bog-standard Spanish restaurant that serves a 'Menú del Día' for about €9 to €12. The quality of the food, in contrast, ranges from good/acceptable to sometimes surprisingly good (though you can get a nasty surprise sometime if you're unlucky). This is something I've never been able to understand - probably because I'm a 'bloody foreigner' (though I've been living here for over 15 years!)! Why don't these restaurants serve up a drinkable wine with the 'menú del día' instead of the awful stuff that has to be mixed with 'Casera' and served at 0ºC? I know for a fact that a drinkable table wine can be bought for less than €1/bottle ex bodega and a Crianza for about €2/bottle. The cost of the awful wine is about €0,30/bottle and the 'Casera' must be about €1/bottle, so why do they do it? Think just of the space they could save in storing half the number of bottles! Maybe there's a secret conspiracy between these volume table wine producers and the 'Casera' producers? If anyone can shed some light on this question, I'll ... I'll ...I'll send them a case of Pinto and Casera :)

Apart from the wine, other essential ingredients for a genuine, complete Spanish "Menú del Día Experience" include: LOTS OF NOISE coming from a number non mutually exclusive sources such as one or more fruit machines, one or more televisions, coffee-grinder, coffee machine itself, barstaff, waiters and kitchen staff shouting to each other, customers at adjacent tables shouting at each other, and (optionally) a jack-hammer digging up the street just outside. Sadly, one ingredient which will never be seen again (thanks to globalization) is clouds of cigarette smoke from customers smoking between courses or lingering over coffee and a 'copa'. Such is life in Madrid!

Monday 7 February 2011

Wining and Dining in the Wine World

The other week I took some time out and immersed myself into the glamorous, fun side of the wine world, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was great to get away from the usual routines in the vineyard and winery, which I’ve been doing for 8 years now.

I hit the road with US wine importers, José Pastor and Mark Middlebrook (of JPS) for two days (Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th of January) travelling around central Spain, visiting vineyards and wineries, drinking good wine, eating good food, and talking about wine.

Jose (left) and Mark (right) in my foggy vineyard

Don’t get me wrong: I really love what I do (grow grapes and make wine) and there’s nothing I can think of that I’d rather be doing, BUT EVEN SO, a routine is a routine! Maybe I’ve got a short attention span or I’m hyperactive, or something, but I jumped at the chance when José invited me join him on his trip.

Actually, it all started on the Sunday night (16th), when we met for tapas, beer, wine, vermouth and gin-and-tonics (in that order, more or less) in the Lavapiés district of central Madrid. We went first to La Vinícola (c/San Eugenio), an old haunt of mine. I used to go there more often than now as they used to keep their wine boxes for me which I’d use for my own wine, but last year I got some of my own boxes printed up with my own logo on them. They have good wines (nothing special), natural cider, vermouth on tap, great tapas, and a great atmosphere and décor. Then on to La Echartia, just round the corner on c/S.Isabel, for gin-and-tonics. Nice atmosphere, jazz music, good ambiance!

This was the first time I’d gone out on the town since the new no-smoking law came into effect in Spain on Jan 2nd. What a difference! This is a major turning point, sea-change, paradigm shift in the Spanish night-time social cultural scene, and I exaggerate not! On the plus side I see the following: inside the air is nice ‘n’ clean and you don’t get home with your hair and clothes stinking; there’s plenty of room inside to stand at the bar or even to sit down; you can now step outside to smoke, chat, and smirt with a crowd of like-minded people: you smoke less and enjoy it more! On the negative side, I see yet another step in globalization, homogenization and places losing their identity, charm and singularity.

Anyway, after sorting out the wine world’s problems, home early – at 2:00 a.m.!

Monday morning, up bright and early (11:00 am) we went to see my own vineyard in Carabaña. It was cold and foggy.

Jose and Mark in the vineyard in Carabaña (Spain)

We’ll be starting the pruning soon.

Then on to ‘my’ bodega in Morata de Tajuña, for a tasting. This is what José Pastor will be importing into the US in the near future:

- 100% Airén 2010
- 100% Airén 2010 Carbonic Maceration
- 100% Garnacha 2010

And perhaps these as well, but in the not-so-near future:

- 100% Airén 2010 with skin contact. Not yet. This will improve/evolve with time
- Other young red wines from 2010 (Tempranillo, Graciano, Sirah, Petit Verdot). Not ready yet, to be tasted, left over the winter, tasted again, etc
- Other crianzas, to be tasted and/or blended in a few months time

Tasting notes: I’ve never been good at tasting notes, so I won’t even bother to write any here. José can do that himself :)  Suffice it to say that I like my wines (that’s why I make them the way I do!), he likes my wines, and hundreds of incorrigible regular customers also like them; and in the near future hundreds more new customers in the USA will be tasting them and hopefully liking them too! This is what it’s all about for me: making unique, genuine, unadulterated wines expressing the ‘where and when and what’ and getting as many people as possible in the world to taste them and enjoy them.

Then for lunch at La Tinaja, a nice restaurant in the centre of Morata. We had the menu del día, but boy did we cover that wine list!!! We ended up doing a spontaneous unplanned wine-tasting. There were so many bottles, that they had to bring an extra table (and buckets so we could spit). Talking to the maitre it turned out that they had a whole load of old wines in the cellar that were not even on the wine list.

Our table(s) at lunch

Check that out

One of the wines we tasted

Then, into Madrid (running late; it was about 18:00), where we went straight to a wine shop (La Tintorería; Pº Marqués de Zafra 35. Tel 910 005 834) run by an interesting trio of wine world characters: César Ruiz, Flequi Berruti and Nacho Jiménez. Basic decor (ie, floor, white walls!) but very interesting wines. well worth checking out if in Madrid.

Now it was time for dinner! See what I mean about wining and dining? The appointment was at Los Asturianos (C/Vallehermoso, 93) owned by Belarmino Fernández and Alfonso Chacón , who (surprise, surprise!) happen to be wine-makers also: Bodegas Canopy. And we were joined for dinner by none other than Victor de la Serna (again!) (See previous post).

Dinner was amazing (again!) But rather than dinner, it was another tasting session accompanied by food at dinner-time! There were loads of wines:

- My own three: Airén, Airén MC, Garnacha 2010
- Victor brought a few from his Finca Sandoval (Manchela) and one Albillo from Navarra
- Belarmino and Alfonso brought a few from their Bodegas Canopy (Méntrida)
- Other wines that I lost track off and didn’t even take photos of!

Then home for an early night: 2:00 a.m. again

Next morning, bright and early again (about 12:00), we headed off to see Belamino and Alfonso’s vineyards and bodega. The vineyards were spectacular, in the Sierra de Gredos at around 900 m. Mostly Garnacha. Old vines. 14 small vineyards of about 1 ha each. Industrial bodega in Camarena (Toledo). Lunch at Gregorio. Only one wine!!!

To be continued…

(Insert text…photos of Canopy vineyards… ) After lunch, we set off to see natural wine-maker Alfredo Maestro in Peñafiel. 100-year old vineyards by night! Visit to the winery. Tasting. Home at 2:00 a.m. again. (photos and text of Alfredos bodega and vineyards)
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