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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Albillo and Doré Harvests 2017

Well, that’s the Albillo and Doré harvests all done again for this year! Now I have a break of about two weeks until the other varieties kick in (Garnacha, Tempranillo, Airén, Sauv blanc, Malvar, Chelva, Villanueva) and then it’ll be constant harvesting/crushing/pressing for about four weeks.

The harvests were (and will be) pretty bad this year in Sierra de Gredos. There was a massive hailstorm on 8th-9th July which lasted for about 24 hours, and it destroyed at least 50% of the crop over the whole region, and some vineyards even more. Some growers I’ve spoken to have said that they’re not even going to bother harvesting the grapes that are left. I think I’ve been lucky as on average as I’ve ‘only’ lost about 50% ish. My worst affected vineyard was a small Albillo plot, which last year gave me 900 kg, and which this year gave me 6 cases, ie 120 kg!  Instead of just mixing these grapes in with the rest of my Albillo, I kept them separate and am going to make a special carbonic maceration wine with them J

Harvesting Albillo in Sierra de Gredos on 6th August
The rest of my Albillos are fermenting nicely, in stainless steel. I harvested the first plot on 6th August and that one has in fact already finished doing its tumultuous fermentation, ie boiling away violently and making foam. Now it’s probably still fermenting away slowly though there’s no visible or audible activity. It is in fact quite drinkable already! And the other day on 20th August I actually had a tasting of it with a possible new importer! The first tank tasting of the year! Surely that’s a record? Tasting a ‘wine’ only 14 days after its harvest.

Slaves crushing/destemming the master's Albillo

Female slave diligently ensuring that grapes fall into basket
The master himself actually getting his hands dirty, and sticky

Pressing off the Albillo two days later
Albillo fermenting violently and making foam in stainless steel
Albillo fermenting in tinaja
Albillo in the glass on 18th August
But it’s not all doom and gloom on the Albillo front. Happily I managed to buy in 1000 kg to make up for the hail storm losses. I got them from the same grower that I buy my Doré from. So I’ll be able to make my usual 2000 bottles of ‘Alba’ again this year.

The Doré is fermenting nicely too, in stainless steel, after two days maceration on the skins. Production is down about 50% due to hailstorm damage, so there will only be about 1000 bottles of ‘Doris’ this year L

But enough technical details. Time to move on to the interesting anecdotes!

The grower that I habitually buy my Doré from (and also Albillo this year), one José, from El Tiemblo, age 84, is quite a character; and he accompanied me and the pickers as we were harvesting. He didn’t actually cut grapes or haul crates, given his age, but he patrolled up and down keeping a beady eye on us as we worked. He would walk the rows that we had picked and come back with an armful of bunches that we had missed and give us a telling off! As any grapes left of the wine, he wouldn’t get paid for!!! He would also berate us for breaking a cane while trying to access the dfficut hidden bunches, and such! The pickers ended up calling him ‘el policía’ (the policeman) and he called them ‘holgazanes inutiles’ (useless loafers). All good fun stuff to break the monotony of sweating under a hot Castilian sun!

He also accompanied us to the bodega to watch us unloading and weighing the grapes. We stacked the crates on the weighing machine 6 at a time, I read the gauge and noted down the kilos. … remove the 6 crates, stack the next 6, read the gauge, note down kilos, repeat until done. At one point during this process José comes up to me, mumbles something unintelligible to me, shows me a handful of tiny grapes, laughs and walks away again! ??? I’ve always found him difficult to understand even at the best of times, let alone when hot and flustered and sweating after 6 hours of picking and hauling! So I just ignored and carried on stacking and weighing. (Even after +25 years of living in Spain and speaking perfect Spanish, it still happens on occasions that I can’t understand something!).

Anyway, after we’d finished (and José had left with his receipt) I invited the pickers to a beer and of course we started gossiping about him! “Did you see how the old bugger took a grape from each case?” one picker asked me. “Yeah, he showed me. What was that all about?” I replied. The picker laughed “Ha ha, he was checking that you didn’t try to cheat him!” What? How? The picker explained: he would take a grape from each case that went onto the weighing machine and then at the end he would count them to see that the number of grapes was the same as the number of cases I wrote on his receipt! What! No way! Surely not! What a mistrustful old coot! Even after me regularly buying and faithfully paying for his Doré year after year! Well, there you go, it takes all sorts, I suppose!

And to think that really could have cheated him really easily. All I had to do was to note down a few kilos less for each case, and there was no way he could have checked because his eyesight is not so good and he couldn’t read the gauge directly himself!

Anyways, more good clean harmless stuff I suppose. I have no hard feeling on account of his mistrust of me. He’s probably had a hard life and no doubt really has been cheated on many occasions!

We ended up having quite a few beers that day J

So, summing up the state of play after the Albillo and Doré harvests, I would say “So far so good.” No major or minor mishaps, I haven’t made any silly mistakes, the wines are doing fine, so I’m well pleased really. And that’s about it.

The weighing machine

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