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Friday 6 November 2015

Wine Woes, or post-harvest f***ups!

I was really looking forwards to a period of rest and relaxation after the harvesting and winemaking, which is of course the most stressful time of year for a small grape-grower and winemaker like myself. This is because you have to get everything right first time! If you do something wrong, you don’t get a second chance. You have to wait till next year! But I have to say that everything actually went very well this year – all my harvests went smoothly and according to plan, at the optimum dates, the fermentations all went well, and the resulting wines are coming along nicely, touch wood!

So what happened? Why can’t I rest and relax yet? Well, basically because I messed up three different orders for wines that I exported recently – at the same time as the harvesting and winemaking in fact! And not just one order, but three! So now I have to sort out the messes and placate my angry importers.

With the first pallet, which went to London, I mixed up the Sauvignon Blanc with the Airen, and I sent double quantity of SB and no Airen.

With the second pallet, which went to NY, I mislabelled the wines and used labels with the wrong vintage. Now I have to print new labels, send them over, and this angry importer will have to open all the boxes and stick the good labels over the bad ones – about 500 bottles!

And with the third pallet, which is on its way to California right now, not only did I mislabel the wines (same problem/solution as above) but I also unwitting sold to someone else, the 300 bottles of SB that this angry importer had reserved months ago. So this importer is doubly angry with me, as he has half a pallet of mislabelled wines and the other half missing entirely.

Oh woe! How embarrassing! How stupid! I'm angry at myself too! Well, everything is in the process of being sorted out. But what can I do now? I suppose that I shall just have to be much more careful in the future, ie triple-check everything, write proper lists down on paper, etc.  Maybe try not to do more than one order at a time, maybe try not to ship out during harvesting and winemaking?

More bad news: the other day, I was informed by the transport company that my California pallet had been opened in transit and 9 cases of wine stolen! I don’t know the details, but I imagine that the lorry was parked somewhere (driver having lunch?), then thieves broke into it, slashed open the plastic film wrap around the pallet, and made off with what they could.

So now I have to write a new invoice and re-do the Customs and Excise documents, which are a nightmare at the best of times. I don’t want to think about the amount of time and mental energy I’ll have to waste on this.

Even worse is the fact that 5 of the cases were a special order for a specific winestore for a specific wine that I don’t normally sell abroad, as there’s so few bottles left (Airen 2012). (Sorry JD, we’ll have to try again next year!)

Moving on to the next item in my list of f***ups:

In an attempt to compensate my UK importers for the inconvenience I caused them, I decided to come over to London and pack in a whole load of promotional events, tastings, etc to help them move my wines. So I booked my flights (yesterday Thurs 5th to Tues 10th) and here I am, writing this!  But little did I know that weekends are the worst possible time to organize tastings in restaurants or winebars – because they are all very busy at weekends obviously! Duh! How totally stupid of me! Again!

But I last I now have time to write this post, ha ha! And in fact we have managed to organize two events:

1.     Tasting (and aperitivos) at Eliott’s, at 19:00, tomorrow on Sat 7th. See details on FB.

2.     Screening of the short documentary “Spanish Grapes”, by Zev Robinson, in which I feature slightly along with other Spanish wineries (from the real wine world – not the natural wine ghetto! Ha ha)
Followed by a question and answer session with personalities from the Spanish wine world (don’t know if I'm included in that!)
Followed by a tasting of the wines featured in the documentary (including mine)
This is all happening at the Copa de Cava, starting at 18:30.

You are all invited to come to both events (if you are in London this weekend obviously). The screening is free and on me. I’m not sure if you have to pay anything for the tasting at Eliott’s – you’ll have to check the webpage.

And that’s about it. Cheers, and hope to see you soon!

Thursday 24 September 2015

Harvesting and winemaking 2015 – so far so good!

Most of my grapes are in! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s been a very intense, and tiring, and stressful experience, but in the end, of course an enjoyable one! So far I’ve harvested: Albillo, Garnacha, Doré, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Airén, and Malvar. The only one left is the Chelva, which I should be taking in this week or maybe next.

This year I’ve managed to be sensible and I’m only going to be making about 10,000 bottles of wine in total. Not like last year, when due to irrational exuberance and not knowing how to say “No” I attempted to make 15,000 bottles, but had to pour about 5,000 down the drain (see this old post)! Yes, this year I decided to run a ‘tighter ship’ as it were, ie to consolidate on the same quantity (10,000) and make them better, as opposed to trying to do more.

So I’ve more or less made (am making, rather) the same style of wines as usual - plus the odd experiment of course J.

Basically this is what there’s going to be:

  • Airén. No skin contact, just crushed, pressed, and racked once. All in stainless steel
  • Doré. Just a wee bit of skin contact, 8 days this time, which is slightly longer than last year. In stainless steel, with an experimental lot in a baby amphora (which I lined myself with beeswax by copying a YouTube video from Georgia)

Unlined leaky baby amphora

Lump of beeswax and mop

Melting the beeswax

Lining the tinaja with melted beeswax using mop

Baby tinaja with Doré

Stainless steel with Doré

  •  Albillo. Lot  #1 is my usual Albillo, ie 2 days maceration and then pressed and into a large tinaja. Lot #2 is a smaller lot (experiment), in stainless steel but with the grapes crushed underfoot, as opposed to using a manual crusher. Lot #3 is also small, 300 litres stainless steel, and with this I’m going to make an orange wine, so it’s been crushed but I’m going to leave the skins and stems in there for a few months and see what happens.

Albillo (Lot 2) in stainless steel

  • Sauvignon Blanc, same procedure as last year, ie 10 days skin contact and then into tinajas
SB in large tinaja

SB in small tinaja

  • Malvar. At the moment I’ve got some Malvar (still with skins and stems) in open top barrels and some in stainless steel, but I would like to get it all into tinajas, sometime and somehow! This will involve a bit of racking off and movement of liquids form one place to another, and some transdimensional winemaking, ie putting larger volumes into smaller volumes!
  • Garnacha. For the first time I’m going to make a Garnacha in tinaja. This is Lot #1 which is quite big, in this large tinaja. Lot #2 is in stainless steel at the moment, and I’ll be pressing it off soon, into a big 500 or 600 litres oak barrel. Old barrels of course, because I don’t want the wine to taste of oak!
  • Tempranillo. This will also soon be pressed into a 500 or 600 litre old oak barrel for aging.
And that’s about it, except for the Chelva, of which i hope to do about 2 or 3 different lots!

All of the above I’ve been doing more or less constantly since the 9th August (first Albillo harvest). There have been a few peaks of intensity, ie of getting up at 5:00 in the morning and going to bed at 1.00 in the morning, but of course not all days were like that. Not quite like warfare (as described by ‘who was it?’ as periods of intense boredom punctuated by instants of intense fear) – harvesting and crushing/pressing is more like periods of intense stress/tiredness combined with periods of worry and doubt (about what I did with the grapes already and what I’ll going to do with the ones about to come in).

I think this is because winemakers only get one chance per year to make their wines, and you have to get it right (or at least not too wrong!). I suppose that if you’re making beer, or bread, or cheese, or whatever, if you get one lot wrong, it doesn’t really matter very much, because you can just try again next day/week/month. Also, in my own case, even though I generally try to more or less make the same wines each year (“if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”) I don’t actually follow set formulas and procedures (and my note-taking is terrible anyway!).

On the other hand, I’m not in the least bit worried about fermentation not starting or getting stuck. Fermentation has always started for me and has never stuck. Nor am I worried about “nasty” bacteria or “strange” yeast strains “infecting” my must or wine. I think that these are irrational fears drummed into oenology students by over-technical and control-freak oriented wineschools, who fight against Nature instead of working with Her.

"S cerevisiae under DIC microscopy" by Masur - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons 

As you (readers) probably already know, for fermentation to happen, I rely exclusively on the natural yeasts floating around in the environment. I don’t purchase or use any manufactured packets of yeast from a factory or laboratory.

The over-scientific anti-Nature approach to fermentation is to first of all to sterilize the must and kill all living creatures in it (bacteria, yeasts, etc) using sulphites and then to inoculate with a manufactured strain of the “good” yeast Sacchoramyces Cervisiae according to whatever flavour, style, mouthfeel, etc they want their wine to have. This is OK (in fact it’s probably the ONLY way) to produce great quantities of commercial wines that are pleasing to great quantities of consumers who don’t really care very much about the niceties of wine (eg, terroir, complexity, interesting characteristics etc).

But I don’t want to make that kind of wine – there are millions of bottles of that, in thousands of brands, available already in the supermarkets, all with pretty labels and at appropriate price points! What I’m trying to do is to express the terroir, the variety, the year, the climate, the sense of place, the tipicity, etc of each wine that I make. And to do that, it’s essential to use all the yeasts and bacteria and other micro-organisms that happen to live in your winery, on your equipment and in and around your vineyards. And NOT exclusively use a strain of Sacchoramyces Cerevisiae extracted and propagated in a laboratory from a distant strain from some other part of the world.

It’s my understanding that it takes a few days for good old Sacchoramyces Cerevisiae to establish a foothold, reproduce itself and then to totally dominate the fermentation process to the end, to the exclusion of all other species, because (a bit like myself) it has a very high tolerance for alcohol, as opposed to other species of yeast. When the grapes come in, and for a few days afterwards, there is hardly any Sacchoramyces Cerevisiae yeast present at all. The yeast population at this point is almost 100% non-Sacchoramyces species. So, statistically it does seem like a huge risk to rely on this natural or spontaneous type of fermentation. But like I said above, after a few days of fermentation when the alcohol level reaches around 5%, all these non- Sacchoramyces species can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, and they die off because they have a very low tolerance to alcohol. Now is the moment that the high alcohol-tolerant Sacchoramyces Cerevisiae takes over and ferments the remaining sugar up to 15%.

I also believe that it’s during these first few days, when Sacchoramyces Cerevisiae is not present in significant quantities, and when those other ‘nasties’ are working, that the interesting, local and unique aromas, tastes and flavours are created that give the wine its tipicity and a good, faithful and interesting expression of terroir.

I’m not saying that this is not risky. It is risky! If one of those ‘nasties’ (like the black, hairy, spiky cartoon creatures used to sell toilet-cleaning products on TV! hahaha!) manages to reproduce itself too much, then of course you’ll get a pretty weird and probably not very nice wine – and certainly not expressive of the terroir or anything else! But if you just take a few simple countermeasures, the risk is practically reduced to zero: 1. Keep everything super-clean (tanks, presses, equipment, floor, hoses, scissors, buckets, absolutely everything you use). 2. Just bring in healthy, top quality grapes from healthy vines growing in healthy, living, complex soils. Et voilá – no problemo!

And lastly...

And lastly, an update on my sparkling wine experiments! Not much to report since my last post on that. Basically what I’ve discovered so far is that I have to bottle up much later than I expected. I was thinking that around a density of 1015 or 1010 would be a good range, ie fizzy enough to be sparlkling but not too much to erupt volcanically on opening the bottle. But no! I think I need to wait till about 1005 or even 1000. I opened up a bottle recently that was bottles at 1007, and it too erupted volcanically. See this video. I’ll be bottling up more soon. Stay posted.

And even more lastly, ... no, I’ll save my other news/gossip/rants for a separate post next week J

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Sparkling Experiment #1 (Albillo)

Last Sunday 16th August, in accordance with my Sparkling Master Plan, ie to make a few bottles of sparkling wine from every variety, from every plot, and from as many states of grape ripeness as possible, I duly bottled up one (1) bottle of Albillo, from the Charco del Cura vineyard (El Tiemblo, Sierra de Gredos), at a density of 1025.

Note: This year I'm just going to do the 'Método Ancestral', ie just bottling up with a crown cap (beer bottle style top) while the wine is still fermenting. Next year, perhaps, I may consider thinking about other methods, second fermentations, degorging, etc. But this year, I'd rather not complicate my already complicated life too much :) 

Sparkling Albillo Experiment #1
So on Wed 19th August last, I proceded to taste it with my friend David, owner of the La Viñeta de Carmelo winestore, in Madrid.

We decided that David would do the opening and I would take the photos.

First though we put the bottle in his fridge to cool and settle a little as I suspected that it got slightly shoogled in the car on the way from my house to his shop.

So after 30 mins - Action stations. Camara ready. Bottle opener ready. Here we go!

Good Grief! What an eruption! What a fountain! I've never seen anything like it in my life! At least 75% of the bottle went spurting all over the floor!

But we did get a glass each to taste.

Extremely cloudy, infact, totally opaque.  Colour of light mud or sludge. But appearances can be deceptive, as it was totally smooth in the mouth. Not much fizz left after the eruption, just gently pétillant. Very fruity in the nose, very sweet in the mouth.

Cleaning up the mess!
So, conclusions and lessons learned. The main one is that for future experiments I will have to do long, slow cool fermentations, as opposed to my preferred hot n fast approach. This is because I need time to taste a few days after bottling and if happy with the result, the remaining wine ought to be at more or less the same stage of fermentation. Otherwise I will miss the boat!

Another lesson learnt is that 1025 is perhaps a bit too gassy. Maybe I'll wait until 2020 for the next experiment.

Experiment #2 

Another experiment is underway already. It's with the same Albillo but this time bottled up at a density 2010. This is probably not fizzy enough, but I bottled and capped the last 15 bottles of this lot, because there wasn't enough room in the 300 liter tank into which I had just racked the wine. Waste not want not. 

Watch this space for the results of Exp.#2. David, prepare your mop, bucket, and protective goggles,  j'arrive :)

Racking into a 300 liter stainless steel tank (on the right)

300 liter stainless steel tank full of Albillo wine

Sunday 23 August 2015

Albillo Harvest Time in Sierra de Gredos

Yes, it's that time of year again! I did my first Albillo harvest two weeks ago on 8th August, and my second one last Saturday on 15th August. Albillo, a white variety, ripens several weeks before all other grape varieties (at least here in Spain). This is quite convenient for me, as for a few weeks, as the different Albillo plots ripen and are harvested, I get to practice or warm up as it were for the main harvests of all my other varieties. Then, once I've picked all my Albillo plots and processed the grapes, I get to have a mini-break (the calm before the storm) before starting on my Tempranillo, Garnacha, Airén, Malvar, Doré, Chelva and Sauvignon Blanc, all in mid-September - October.

Albillo vineyard with Charco del Cura reservoir in the background

Another Interesting thing about Albillo is its incredible intensity and tastiness and structure. Although its a white grape, it's actually really more like a red grape! All the Albillo wines I've tasted have been big, structured and complex wines - not like a 'normal' white wine at all.

Closeup of Albillo grapes

Another closeup

This year I've been lucky enough to have three different Albillo plots, near El Tiemblo! Albillo is in short supply all over the Sierra de Gredos, sadly, due to a couple of reasons that I can think of right now: firstly, growers try to sell their Albillo as table grapes to fruit shops or fruit wholesalers because it's so tasty and sweet and because table grapes command a higher price. This is bad new for us winemakers because it reduces the supply and increases the price! Another reason that there's so little of it about is that many growers, I'm told, ripped up their old-vine Albillo vineyards and planted new vines of different varieities. A terrible shame and tragedy, but c'est la vie I suppose. They must have had their reasons for doing it.

Bucketful of Albillo

Moving boxes of Albillo

It is in fact very difficult to find really old vines of any variety in the Sierra de Gredos. I believe that most have been ripped up and the few that are left have been 'snapped up' by people who appreciate the quality of the wine such vines can produce, rather than the quantity.

So this year I'm going to make several different batches of Albillo, keeping each plot separate: some in 'tinaja' (clay amphora), some in stainless steel, and if I can get my hands on some second-hand white wine barricas, I would like to age some in old oak barrels too.

Picking Albillo in confort!
Grapes safely in the bodega
Weighing in
Racking off the gross lees from one tank to another

Sparkling Wine

My major experiment this year consists of me trying to make some sparkling wine! Time and circumstances permitting, I'm going to try to make a small quantity of different sparkling wines from each grape variety I have, from each plot I have and with grapes harvested at different levels of ripeness!

In order not to complicate my life too much, I'm just going to use the 'metodo ancestral' method (or méthode ancestrale, as they say in French). I'm not going to get into degorging or riddling or adding dosages, etc. Yet! The 'metodo ancestral' basically consists of bottling up while the wine is still fermenting and closing the bottle with a crown cap (beer bottle top). The trick is to bottle up at just the right moment - at around a density of 1020 I've been told. If you bottle up too soon, the pressure will be too great and the wine will explode! If you bottle up too late, then there won't be enough pressure and the wine will be flat!

Machine for putting 'crown caps' onto bottles

I already have one bottle in the bodega which I bottled and capped when the wine was at 1025. I suspect this is too soon, and I may well find a big mess when I next go to the bodega!

Sparkling Albillo, bottled at 1025 density!

My next post will be about the results of this experiment and others! Stay tuned!

Cheers, y'all! Here's to interesting wines and the enjoyment thereof :)

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Winding down for the summer

Well, its late mid-June-ish, and all is well. More or less. The vineyards are beautiful (touch wood); the bodega is semi-prepared for the coming harvest; (touch wood); and the marketing and sales is going really well too (touch wood!).


I’m really happy with my vineyards. I've let all the grasses, flowers, thistles, etc grow all year, and now all I'm doing is cutting them all back around the vines, so that they will be easier to access during the harvest. The reason I do this, instead of ploughing, is of course to create a living soil and a living ecosystem, full of micro-life (bacteria and other invisible organisms) and visible life itself (insects and other small animals).

Flowery grassy vineyard, Garnacha, El Tiemblo, Sierra de Gredos

If the soil is rich and complex and alive, then the vines can take all the nutrients they from it. No more and no less, but just exactly what they need. The way I create this rich and complex and living soil is just to let everything grow, reproduce, die and decompose; and help the process along a little by cutting the grass and plants back with my sickle. I also keep the canes from the pruning and chop them up into tiny pieces.

At this time of year, dry grass and thistles!
Every few years I add some manure, which I bury near the vines. It's better to bury it because if you leave it on the surface all its nutrients are used by the surface grasses and it doesn't get down to where the vine's roots are.

By letting all the different species of grasses and plants grow, you create diverse and interesting habitats for many different species of insects; whereas if you plough up and keep the vineyard naked, then only one or two species can live there – precisely the ones that eat vine leaves and grapes! Obviously, because there's nothing else left to eat! So now you have to use chemicals to kill them because otherwise they'll destroy your vines and grapes!

This natural system, IMO, produces grapes of a much higher quality than industrially-chemically farmed grapes. The must of naturally farmed grapes is much more complex and interesting and contains a much wider range of components and micro-components; the bunches of industrially-chemically farmed grapes may be bigger and more impressive looking, but the must is diluted, unbalanced and poorer in diversity of flavours and aromas.

more grass
Each to their own. To produce millions of liters of 'affordable' supermarket wine at nice price points, it may well be necessary to pollute the environment and use lots of dodgy chemicals, but to produce small amounts of quality, terroir-expressing, comment-worthy fine wines, it's essential to practice sustainable, environmentally respectful and safe agriculture. IMO.

Next year I'm going to give my vines a fortifying booster, in the form of a horsetail infusion (Latin: Equisetum; Spanish: Cola de Caballo). It's been a few years since I last did this.
The other day I watered the 200 new Tempranillo vines that I planted back in April.


The bodega is more or less under control too; it's just that there are lots and lots of minor loose ends to be tied up, but for which I never find the time.

For example:
- The patio outside
- Shopping for ‘stuff’: Hermetic lids, Boxes for harvesting, Crown cap machine, small bits n bobs
- Cleaning everything: steel tanks, tinajas, presses, crushers, floors, etc
- Bottling up some barricas
- Stick insulating panels back on doors
- Line a new tinaja with beeswax

Not much shade here - maybe next year!
I have to do all the above and more, but I have no time to do it all! So I have to prioritize and decide which tasks are more important, and which can be left till ‘later’. The main things are in fact done, ie most of the wines are sold, most of the bodega and equipment is clean and ready for the final pre-harvest thorough cleaning. I will just have to be philosophical and come to terms with the fact that there’s no way I can do everything and have everything ‘just so’ to my entire satisfaction. :)

Marketing and Sales (the unglamourous part)

No real complaints in this department either. One of my goals last year was to diversify my exports, instead of selling exclusively to JPS in the USA, and I’ve managed to achieve that. I now also export to Denmark, Belgium, France and the UK (see this page for details).

a nice big pallet of wine, almost ready to go
I also decided to try to sell in Spain too, but that is proving more difficult. I do sell regularly to three places in Madrid (Enoteca Barolo, SoloDeUva and Montia) and also sporadically to another few places. But I see two problems here: firstly there is a lot less demand for natural wines in Spain, it’s still very much a novelty, like it was back in the 80’s or 90’s in other parts of the world. And I have no desire to ‘evangelize’ or try to persuade to drink natural wines. My approach is “if anyone wants to buy my wines they are more than welcome to do so, but I’m not going to argue or justify.” That’s a completely different thing from providing information or answering questions, of course! Which I do, a lot!

The other difficulty with selling wines in Spain is that I don’t have the time, resources or skills required to be a distributor! I can only just manage those three places I mentioned above, and even then it takes me weeks to respond to orders! What I really need, I suspect, are some proper distributors! J

Winding Down

So, time to wind down and try to relax. The first thing I have to look forward to this summer is the H2O Natural Wine Festival, held in the village of Pinel de Brai (Tarragona).

Next up will be the Albillo harvest, at the beginning of August. (Albillo Real is a very early ripening variety!) Then there will be a respite of a few weeks, until the regular varieties become ready for harvesting all through September and October.

Before, during and after those two events I hope to hang out in Barga (Tuscany) my family’s home town, and apart from doing the usual odd-jobs about the house and garden, I hope to expand my knowledge of Italian wines at the local enoteca – Colordivino, set right in the centre of the old part of town :)

Wednesday 10 June 2015

RAW Fair 2015, a cloudy two days in London

Yes, it was a cloudy two days in London on 17th and 18th May, but I’m not talking about the weather, I’m talking about my wines :). In fact I seem to remember that what I saw of the sky was clear, bright and transparent, just like the wine industry would have us believe that all our wines ought to be! Ha ha!

During my two days at RAW pouring wine and chatting with visitors, I was asked many times why my wines were so cloudy. Well, I've been thinking about the cloudiness of my wines for quite some time actually, since long before RAW. Every now and then someone inevitably comments on the fact that my wines are generally rather cloudy and full of 'bits', but so many comments in such a short space of time set off the old thought processes again!!!

The short and trivial answer is of course “Because I don’t filter, fine or clarify them”.

“To fine or not to fine”, that is the real question.

There are several points in favour of not fining, and some in favour of fining or clarifying, but before going into all that, here's a nice photo of me and Isabelle Legeron, with a signed copy of her book :)

Advantages of NOT fining:

- Saves time; and saves the expense of the fining agent. This is pretty trivial, but still, I suppose it can be considered an advantage.

- Natural protection. All those bits and pieces (yeasts - dead or just dormant?, particles of grape skins, who knows what else?) surely contribute to protecting the wine from spoilage. That's what I intuitively feel is happening. Perhaps there are studies out there that back this up? Probably! But then again there are probably studies out there that back up the opposite theory too, no doubt! As with many other questions, I just go with my intuition here.

- Looks good visually! There's no accounting for taste, as we all know, and some people (not many!) have actually told me that they like the cloudy, semi-transparent (or semi-opaque) look of my wines.

- Suitable for vegans. Vegans don't drink wine that has been fined with egg-whites or fish bladders (though bentonite would be OK).

- Extra taste. Again this is intuitive, but I believe, that if you fine or clarify or filter, you also remove lots of tasty aromatics too.

Advantages of fining:

- Looks good visually! According to the majority of consumers. The industry standard these days is to produce a clear, transparent wine that has been fined and filtered and otherwise 'stabilized'. But what's that got to do with me? I don't sell my wines to the mass market via supermarkets, ie to consumers who only care about pretty labels and price points. I don't think the people who buy and appreciate my wines care one way or another about the visual aspect of my or any other natural producer's wine. I like to think that the reason we buy and love these natural wines is primarily to enjoy the aromas and tastes and to comment on the expression of the terroir, if any, not to gaze at them as if they were paintings or statues.

- Stabilizes the wine. That's the industry dogma! They say that you 'have to' stabilize your wine otherwise it will turn into vinegar. But that's not my experience. I in fact have an on-going experiment running at my bodega, consisting of several bottles of my wines opened in January 2014 (during a visit from my US importer Jose Pastor) and which I have been tasting every month or so to see how they are evolving. So far (touch wood!) not one is showing any signs of turning to vinegar. But I believe that industrial large-volume producers do have to filter and fine and stabilize their wines because they are of such bad quality to start off with. It's probably perfectly true that if they didn't stabilize them, then they really would turn into vinegar pretty fast. But this is not applicable to small volume, high quality producers. IMO.

- In fact, I believe that we have all just made a virtue of a vice, ie because basically all industrial wines have to be filtered and fined and stabilized, we have all come to accept that that that’s the ‘best’ way to make wine and that that’s the way wines ‘ought’ to look. It’s not that this processing makes the wine tastier or expresses the terroir better, or anything even remotely connected to those kinds of issues; it’s because these industrial wines have to be transported over long distances for a long time, stored for a long time in hot warehouses, and stand for a long time on supermarket shelves!

So the really real question boils down to whether the terroir is best expressed by fining or by not fining. (This is a Natural Wine Phase 2 question - see this previous post here). I don't have the answer, but I've been thinking about it, as I said. I would really welcome any thoughts and suggestions; or pointers to some literature - I'm sure this has been thought about and written about before! Nothing new under the sun here! :)

Just to keep the record straight:

Please note that not all my wines are cloudy. Some are in fact perfectly clear and transparent! But of course those wines don’t draw any comments!

The reason for this is that I generally bottle up from the top of a tank or tinaja and work my way down; so the top and middle are generally clear and transparent, while the bottom quarter generally gets more and more cloudy.

Wines can of course be clarified naturally! All it takes is gravity and time; and the colder temperatures over winter help too.

But it’s not as simple as that. It also depends on the time of the year, and the ambient temperature. Sometimes a cold snap in the bodega will make a batch of wine precipitate out the tartrates (whatever they are!). If that happens in the bottle, like happened to some of my Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (but not all, go figure!) then the bottle will be perfectly clear and transparent, but have a shard of ‘crystal’ tartrate at the bottom. If it happens in the tank, like happened to the Airén 2014, then all the wine is clear and transparent, and the sides of the tank are encrusted with tartrates and a real bitch to clean off!

Also I bet that it has a lot to do with the atmospheric pressure on the day of bottling, and with the phase of the moon. I’ve never taken note of this before, because I’m so short of time generally that I have to bottle up when I have to bottle up, and can’t afford the luxury of waiting for the moon and/or atmospheric pressure to rise/drop. Though I would love to do be able to do so.

I would really appreciate some feedback here; I’ve been havering for months, if not years, on this matter and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere on my own!

Another thing

Another thing that was mentioned more than once during the Fair was the heat inside the main hall where the winemakers had our stands. Well, true enough, it got pretty hot in there! But to tell truth I wasn’t too bothered by it. I was able to get away from my table quite often (to answer calls of nature and to grab a quick taste of my neighbours’ wines!) as I had the help of not one but two wine bitches this year (their term not mine!)

Winebitch#1 - You're fired! (drinking on duty)
Winebitch#2 - Good work!

And lastly

I also heard a few complaints that the white wines were difficult to keep properly chilled, but again I wasn’t too bothered about that either. I took the view that RAW was primarily a wine ‘tasting’ event and not purely a social event, where it is of course more enjoyable to drink your white wine chilled. At a ‘tasting’ I think it’s OK, better even, to serve your white wine slightly warmer than chilled, because that way you can appreciate all its qualities better, and of course detect any flaws easier too.

And really lastly

A nice happy anecdote, I was surprised and pleased to see the tenacious sceptic and stern critic of natural wines, Robert Joseph at the fair, who not only kindly came to my table to taste my wines but also posed for a photo of us together. I find this interesting because we have had our disagreements in the past, and quite vocal ones too, both at his own blog and at mine. But it was all boring Phase 1 natural wine issues! It seems that we’ve both moved on. I’m assuming that he didn’t come across too many “faulty” wines at the fair because he hasn’t published a post on his findings :)

Me 'n' RJ

And really, really finally and ultimately

I did a quick search of the internet and came up with a few posts that covered RAW Fair:

- Decanter Magazine: Natural wine movement has legs, shows RAW Fair in UK

- Jamie Goode: RAW and the London Wine Fair

- On the Lees: RAW Fair London

- The Holborn: Tea and a Chat with Isabelle Legeron

- Street Eats: RAW Wine Fair: What is Natural Wine?

- Chomping Ground: 5 Things We Learned at the RAW Fair

- The Wine Butler: The RAW Fair

- Our Man on the Ground: Hear us RAW at the Truman Brewery's Artisan Wine Fair

And I just have to mention also

that after all these years I may have finally and at last found myself a UK importer! Hooray! Touch wood! And hoping that all works out well! I’m actually in the process of labelling, boxing and building a pallet for the UK right now, but like any football match, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, or in my case until I see the back of a lorry driving away from the bodega with a pallet of wine safely on board! And here’s also hoping that Otros Vinos will do a wonderful job of distributing my wines all over the UK – eventually, that is, let’s just start with London this year :)

happening at RAW

Monday 1 June 2015

Madrid Natural Wine Fair, 10th May 2015

Madrid Natural Wine Fair, 10th May 2015

This is the third of three related posts that I’m uploading in a row. The first was up the day before yesterday, the second was up yesterday and this is the third.

Just a few personal thoughts and a bit of feedback on this natural wine event, which I hope will be the first of many, as it was a great success.

Here's a view of the main room where the fair was held (at Impact Hub in Madrid), and which was extremely well organized by the PVN (the Spanish natural wine producers association "Productores de Vinos Naturales"):

I was in that room at the back with the red cupboard

My table, with my wares
A view from the street

First I have to confess that I was actually very sceptical in the run-up to this event and that I thought that it would be a waste of my time to go. In fact, when I was invited to participate as a producer, I seriously considered whether I should go or not. I was weighing up my options, as it were, as I had (have!) so many things to do in the vineyards/winery that whether to "waste" a day at a fair was a major decision for me. In the end, what decided me was that as I actually live and work in Madrid, it would be inexcusable/ unforgivable/ shameful if I didn't go, even if it were to turn out to be a waste of time. Sorry, but that's the truth!!!

Some wine, anyone?
(photo by Gabriel Blocona)
I have to further confess to being very surprised at the number of visitors throughout the day. After 11 straight hours on the go (from 9:00 in the morning to 8:00 in the evening) I ended up with sore feet, a sore mouth and a sore throat!  From standing up attending to visitors and from talking about my wines! I think that's a pretty good indicator of the success/failure of an event, no?

A view of the main room from upstairs(photo by Gabriel Blocona)
I received a curious mixture of visitors: on the one hand there were lots of 'trade' people, like bloggers, shop/restaurant people, and other wine-related people, and I even made a contact for a possible importer in Japan! Which I've been seeking for quite some time, but with the inscrutability on the one side and the laziness on the other, ... things have been uneventful on that front :)

Yet more wine, anyone?
(photo by Gabriel Blocona)
And on the other hand, there were lots of 'normal' general–public visitors too who didn't know much about wine technically-geekily speaking, but who had come to see what this was all about. Which was great, as these are the most important link in the supply chain that runs from the earth under the vines to our stomachs!

The lovely food at the Fair was provided by Carlos, of the ex Petit Bistrot (Madrid's only natural wine bar and restaurant), which has recently rebranded itself as SoloDeUva (“OnlyFromGrapes”). I was pleased to see that he also brutally exploits his wife and children - in the kitchen, in his case; as opposed to in the vineyard and winery in my case. Traditions must be maintained!

Many thanks to Carlos Scholderle, and Gabriel Blocona for looking after my stand while I went to answer the call of nature several times during the course of the day. Also thanks to Jorge Sibaritastur for fetching me assorted glasses of neighbouring producers' wines for me to taste, including two from Frank Cornelison, who was the most famous name at the fair (tho he wasn't there in person!). Thanks also to Hugo, son of Carlos, for bringing me things to eat from his father's popup, during the course of the day.

I presume that all the other producers (see final list here) were equally busy. So I guess that means the event was a great success :)

Packup up
(photo by Gabriel Blocona)
The major stress factor that day (or with hindsight it could now be called 'amusing anecdote') was that at 12:30, I was already running out of wine! I had only taken three bottles of each wine, thinking that it would be more than enough. But of course it was nowhere near enough. So I phoned a friend (who had a car) and asked her to do me a favour and go to my house in Madrid and bring me every bottle of wine available! She duly turned up within the hour, with about 20 assorted bottles which saved the day :)

At 8 o'clock we started clearing up and moving out, heading towards Le Petit Bistrot itself for the after-event drinking session dinner. :)
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