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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 :)
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