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Monday, 22 July 2013

New Bodega - The Last Lap

Well, we seem to be getting there - slowly but surely - and we should be ready for the Albillo harvest in mid-August. (Touching wood as I write!)

The list of tasks and works to be done seems to be a lot longer than it was a few months ago (!) but at the same time they all seem a lot more doable.

This is what still has to be done:

- Electrical installation. We can't do this ourselves, and proper qualified electricians are busy working as I write, and they should be finished in about 2 weeks. This is hugely expensive and has blown my budget out of the water, and means that I won't be able to buy in as many grapes as I thought, or buy more equipment and capacity. After getting several estimates, haggling and negotiating on the prices, and reducing the installations to the absolute minimum, we still have to fork out about €8000 !!!!!

All these other tasks we can do ourselves:

- Finish off the painting. There are still a few doors and walls to do.

- Insulate the doors against the heat. The doors are just thin metal plate (from the 1950's) and hardly insulate at all, so we're going to line them with sheets of expandedpolystyrene.

- Buy a foot-operated wash-hand basin. This is a legal requirement.

- Buy a water-heater for the bathroom. This is also a legal requirement.

- Buy and install anti-moquito netting on the windows. This is also a legal requirement.

- Find, buy and install a rubber strip on all the doors, to cover the gap between the ground and the bottom of the door. This is also a legal requirement.

- Install false ceilings in the bathroom and bottling room. This is also a legal requirement.

- Fix the bars/railings on the windows. This is not actually a legal requirement, but needs to be done (to keep burglars out!)

- Call the scrap merchant, for him to take away the two conveyor belts. We tried to sell them to some neighbouring wineries, but no-one wanted them!

- Classify all the other 'scrap' that we found in the bodega (stuff to be sold, stuff to be thrown away, and stuff to be kept in case it comes in useful one day!)

- Tidy up and beautify the patio, or at least make it accessible for vehicles carrying grapes!

- Last but not least, hire a van and take all my equipment, machinery and assorted stuff from the old bodega to the new!

Apart from all of the above tasks, that are directly related to the physical bodega, I also have other things to do:

- Check out local vineyards and grapes, with a view to buying in at harvest time
- Check out and possibly buy some clay amphoras
- Check out and possibly buy some wooden beams, on which to place my oak crianza barrels
- Legal and bureacratic stuff:
   1. Buy all the required books and ledgers that have to be kept by grape-growers and wineries
   2. Design (or have designed) a new name and logo
   3. Design (or have designed) some new labels, to be registered with the Ministry of Agriculture
   4. Look for and contract an insurance policy (fire and theft, etc)
- Take some time out to actually define my Wine Plan for this year!

Phew! It's made me tired just writing all those tasks out. Maybe I ought to prioritize and make a proper schedule, instead of just getting on with whichever task takes my fancy on any given day! Whatever!

Anyways, this is all interesting stuff, and it keeps me off the streets! :) I just can't stand the thought of being bored and having to watch TV with all that football, news, reality shows, series, etc. I'd rather watch the paint dry on all those walls and gates that I've painted recently!!!

(photos pending: they're on another computer that I dont have access to right now!)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Pouring Wine Down the Drain

The other day I poured about 400 liters of wine down the drain. 

Down the drain it goes
Why? Because it had started to turn into vinegar! 

This had never happened to me before, but it just goes to show that there's a first time for everything.

It's interesting that it had to happen right now at this time, as I've been involved in several on-line discussions about natural wines in general, and about wine faults in particular. Especially over at Robert Joseph's blog (here). It makes me think that the universe is out to get me! Or maybe looking out for me!

But first, here's my thoughts on the possible immediate causes of this little personal tragedy:

1.         The ambient conditions. I'm sharing a bodega at the moment and the space available to me is right next to the main door. So I'm thinking that there would be not only be no temperature control, but that the temperatures could actually swing quite a lot from day-to-day and from day-to-night, and also over the course of the year.

2.         Lack of day-to-day attention to the wines. Over the last few months I've not been able to attend to my wines as much as I'd have liked because I've been so busy looking for (and finding, and refurbishing) a new bodega (see these previous posts: here and here ).

3.         The non-use of sulphur. That wine may well have survived if I had used a bit of sulphur in there. Like I’ve said before, I have nothing against the sensible moderate use of sulphur; just its abuse.

But whatever the immediate causes, the more interesting question was: to pour it away or not? Because I've tasted wines that were on sale that had a much higher VA (volatile acidity) and were much closer to being real vinegar that the stuff I just poured down the drain. On the one hand I think I could have quite easily bottled it up and sold it off. But on the other, I think that my constant involvement in debates and discussions on different wine blogs over the last year or so, has had an influence on my beliefs and attitudes towards natural wines and their so-called 'faults'.

I think that the wine I just threw away would have been considered faulty by the conventional wine world, but would have been perfectly acceptable to many in the natural wine world. Like I said, I've tasted plenty that were closer to vinegar than the lot in question.

There’s also the question of my own personal taste. Even though I have a wide range of tolerance for wines that others would consider faulty, I personally don’t like wine with a high VA!!! I find it OK to drink every now and then, but not habitually; and certainly don’t want to produce wines like that. One of my main goals in my winemaking enterprise is to produce “terroir-expressing” wines, as I say in the header of this blog and on my labels and anywhere else I can! And wine with a high, noticeable, tasteable Volatile Acidity level simply does not express terroir, IMHO. Wine that tastes of vinegar, tastes of vinegar no matter what part of the world it comes from.

Ultimately, I’d like to think that I've put my money where my mouth is. On the one hand I was hesitating, thinking of the lost income and the amount of work put into making it to date. But on the other hand, the very thought of having that wine out there on the market just made me cringe with embarrassment! I guess it’s been a great lesson learnt, and not just from a technical winemaking point of view, but from the point of view of the type of winemaker I want to be and the types of wines that I want to produce.

all down the drain

Interlude in Barga

My idyllic interlude in Barga (Tuscany) is over! This is the town where my family is from - my great-grandfather emigrated to Scotland from here in the 1890's, and my parents also in the 1960's. If you're interested, check out this page (and the 'Links' page) for info on the history of Italian emigration to Scotland.

Panoramic view of Barga (photo by

A few days ago I flew back to Madrid to take up where I left off 10 days ago - ie getting the bodega ready for the harvest, which involves more cleaning, scraping, washing, painting, and moving in all my equipment from the old bodega, etc. And at the same time doing all sorts of red tape and bureaucracy tasks!

It was a very relaxing ten days, even though I was actually working quite hard there too! I was cutting grass, chopping down trees, cleaning up the 'poggi' (terraces), trimming hedges, mowing lawns, and generally doing gardening and agricultural labour type tasks around the house! Not everyone's idea of what 'relaxing' is all about, I know! :)

The log-sawing area
Logs stacked up for the winter
But all that hard physical labour was amply compensated by at least 2 aperitivos/day!  The first was at an old bar (called da Casciani) where I had a 'tocchino - ie a local white wine with a splash of Campari
A "tocchino" - local white wine with a touch of Campari

The second one was round the corner at John Moscadini's wineshop (Colordivino), where he has an excellent selection of wines by the glass.

Some wines at Colodivino (Barga)
More wines at Colodivino
I already posted pics of the specific wines on Facebook (here), so I won't bore you with them again! Except for this one!

Bordocheo Bianco

All that hard physical labour was also compensated by nice, simple, as-natural-as-possible lunches and dinners made with many ingredients grown directly in the garden by my parents. especially vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, radicchio, onions, etc.
Tomatoes just starting to ripen
Zucchini and basil
Lettuce and radicchio

Zucchini flowers, battered and fried

I have to say that it was great to forget about the painting and scraping and cleaning at the new bodega for those 10 days. I was starting to get a bit stressed out but now I'm back with renewed energy :)
The timing of this interlude was good too, because we managed to finish off main works (which took us 8 weeks!). Now there's just a whole load of smaller tasks to do, but which will take us at least a month to do.

More compensation of the hard physical labour was lighting the oven and cooking dinner in it :)

Oven firing up
Dinner cooking!

Alas, all good things come to an end, and already I'm back into the routine of painting and cleaning and doing tasks!!!
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