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Tuesday 17 December 2013

Wrap-up Post for the Year 2013

(This is going to be my last post of the year - unless something really interesting happens between now and the 31st, that is)

Well, what can I say that is not too boring? I think maybe a quick summary of all the different wines I've made this year would be acceptable, followed by some humour :)

Or maybe I should subject you all to my Great Thoughts on the "State of the Wine World" or some such enlightened topic. Nah, maybe I'll spare you for the time being and do that next year! In the meantime you can just browse though my assorted comments and thoughts and ramblings on the 11 different whites and 5 different reds that I managed to make this year: That should be quite bearable :)

New wines of 2013:

Panoramic view of all my wines


1. Airén 2013. From Carabaña, fermented in clay amphora

This is the wine I've been making for the longest time. Since 2003 in fact, though no bottles exist from that time as far as I know. The oldest bottle I have is from 2006. I really regret not keeping a few cases back from those days. But who could have known then that it would have been an interesting thing to do at that time? Such is life!

Anyway, at the time of writing this post (mid-December 2013), this wine is coming along really, really well, I'm glad to say (as I touch wood). It's got body, it's got complexity, and it's got its terroir. Sí, señor! This is normal and par for the course for this wine, but it's really quite extraordinary for an Airén from central Spain. Those of you who know me and who read my posts know that I'm not one to blow my own trumpet (or beat my own drum, as they say in Spain!), but after 10 years of positive feedback, I really have no qualms about saying how good this wine is! Even if I say so myself!  All the other 100% varietal Airén wines I've tasted are all wishy-washy insipid affairs that don't have anything to say. (Except for Samuel Cano's 'Patio' Airén, that is. From La Mancha.)

This year's Airén (2013) is slightly different from all my previous vintages, in that the harvest was really late. About 20-25 days late in general. In particular, I harvested this Airén from Carabaña on the 19th October. And that meant that it didn't have time to finish fermenting before the temperatures dropped too low for the yeast to work. I think!  When I taste it, I'm pretty sure there's some residual sugar in there, so I think the wine will continue to ferment in spring (2014) when the temperature rises again. This is a bit of a bore in one way, because I usually release this wine before Christmas. Apart from being good for my cash-flow (!) it's also a really fun and enjoyable experience to drink this year's wine in the depths of deepest darkest winter. It sort of brings light to life.

So, this year, I'm not releasing it 'officially' or promoting it or actively selling it yet, as it were, but if anyone asks or orders it from me on their own initiative, then I'll ship it.

2. Airén 2013. From Morata de Tajuña. Amphora

This is from a vineyard only about 10 km down the road from my own vineyard in Carabaña. I bought the grapes from a young grape-grower who cultivates them organically.

I made this wine in exactly the same way as I made the one above, from Carabaña, ie:

Grapes crushed manually (using a manual crusher), then pressed manually (using a basket press), and then I pumped the juice into these two large clay amphoras. And that's it! Nothing else! I didn't add anything, I didn't take anything out, and I didn't subject the grapes or must to any other processing whatsoever. C'est fini!  All I have to do now is wait for gravity and the cold of winter to do what they have to do, and then bottle up in January or February or March. Maybe it'll be slightly, naturally sparkling? Who knows? I hope so.

3. Albillo 2013. from El Tiemblo. Stainless Steel

The Albillo grapes came from a vineyard a few kilometers from the bodega in El Tiemblo, overlooking the reservoir known as El Charco del Cura. See this post. They were picked by the owner, Vicente (86) and his family, while I drove the van between the vineyard and bodega with the boxes.

This was my first time making Albillo, but it's not going to be the last! I'm really impressed with this grape, though I shouldn't have been surprise because I'd tasted a few Albillos from the area before (by Daniel Ramos, Alfredo Maestro, and others). This is an awesome grape variety that should be way up there with all the other famous and well-known grape varieties. I reckon this is yet another case of Spain (or Spaniards) not knowing how to market and sell their products. Which are of course just as good as the French and Italian equivalents. But hey, what can I do? I'm not an NGO, nor am I independently wealthy, so I can't go promoting Spanish quality products in general! What I CAN do is promote my OWN quality products, which is what I'm doing. It's a bit of a bore having to work with this negative perception that the world has of Spain and of Spanish products, but... this is where I live and work, so let's just get on with it, no?

4. Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Amphora

This is another first for me. I've never made a wine with Sauvignon Blanc before, but there's always a first time for everything, no?  So, just up the road from El Tiemblo, in Cebreros there's a 'finca' (an estate) that produces very good quality olives, honey, vegetables, and ... grapes. I had the opportunity to buy some of those grapes, and I did.

Two days soaking on the skins, then crushed, pressed and pumped into a clay amphora, and into a stainless steel tank. Just like the Airén, nothing added, nothing taken out, no unnecessary processing.

At the time of witing this post (mid-December) it's tasting very nicely. No cat-piss at all, though I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing! For tasting notes and considered opinions on these wines see Nacho Bueno's blog here (in Spanish) and also Mar Galvan's tasting notes here (pending).

5. Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Stainless Steel

Same as above.

6. Chelva 2013 (A). Stainless Steel

Now, this is by far the most interesting experiment I did this year. And I'm definitely going to be doing more of it next year. I did three experiments, but two of them were failures in the sense that the wines were not very pleaseant or interesting to drink or enjoy. But they were of course extremely useful to me, as a winemaker. The third experiment is quite drinkable and interesting, though I'm not going to 'release' it for sale. I will of course sell it and ship it to anyone who orders it. See here for some tasting notes and opinions that are not mine!

Personally, I quite like it, and if no-one else wants it I'll just use it as my own personal table-wine for the year!

7. Chelva 2013 (B). Stainless Steel

Horrible. Crap. Don't even try it it, unless you're a wine geek. It has lots of academic, vinous interest, but it's not the type of wine that you can sip and enjoy while flirting or just having a normal conversation, or while having lunch! It's even more extreme that the above Chelva (A). But don't get me wrong, it has no faults or defects, and is perfectly drinkable, it's just that it's rather ... unusual, or maybe 'green' is the word, I'm not sure what the descriptors are. Basically, IMO, this is because the grapes were picked earlier than the Chelva (B). See about half-way down this post.

Chelva (C). Stainless Steel. This third Chelva experiment, I'm not even going to dignify with an experiment number!

8. Malvar 2013 (A). Amphora

9. Malvar 2013 (B). Amphora

10. Malvar 2013 (C). Amphora

Malvar, Malvar and Malvar

These three white, skin-contact ('orange') wines should have been all the same, because they're made with the same grapes, from the same vineyard (Malvar from Villarejo), harvested on the same day, and processed in exactly the same way - grapes destemmed and crushed manually and everything (must, skins, pips) poured into three different clay amphorae. The only difference is in the size and shape of the amphorae. And maybe the composition of the clay? Or the linings?  Whatever. The fact is that the three wines taste slightly different. I don't know yet whether to keep them and sell them separately, or to blend them all together. Time and tastings will tell.

In any case, I'm not going to release them for at least a year. I believe that 'orange' wines improve over time and age well (at least mine do!). I still have a few hundred bottles from 2012, and they are tasting really well. The complexity and intensity of the aromas and tastes are amazing.

Now the reds:

I think I'll write about the reds some other time, because at this rate I won't have this post finished till next year! Just to say that I have these 4 reds this year:

11. Tempranillo (Carabaña). 
12. Tempranillo (El Tiemblo). 
13. Garnacha (Sotillo)
14. Garnacha (El Tiemblo)

So Merry Christmas, everybody.  For the holidays in general I recommend you drink the wine you like, and will enjoy, and try not to pay too much attention to all these recommendations that ar in our faces everywhere :)

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