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Wednesday 13 September 2017

Harvest update and sundry other stuff

Just a quick harvest update here. I've taken a day off today, away from the winery, and am just lounging around at home mostly horizontally resting and recovering! It's been quite hard work so far, especially as I decided to crush and press all the grapes manually this year!

But first some boring technical details:

- The grape harvest is really early this year. Again! I just checked my notes from last year and for example the Doré this year is a whole month early! Climate change? The three heatwaves we had in June? I have no idea.

- We had a huge and horrific hailstorm in July which destroyed 50% of the grapes in Sierra de Gredos. Some unlucky growers lost even more.

- So far I've harvested/crushed/pressed my Albillo, Doré, Tempranillo, Sauvignon blanc and two plots of Garnacha

- Still to be harvested are more Garnacha (3 plots), Chelva, Airén and Malvar.

But I really don't want to write about grapes right now! I even see them when I close my eyes to go to sleep at night!

The manual crushing thing. Well the main reason I decided to try to do this is to see if there's any appreciable difference in quality in the final wines. Especially with the use of motorized pumps for moving wine from one tank to another. I cant help thinking that even the smallest pumps are too fast and can somehow affect the wine. I have no data to back this belief up as yet - I would have to do some due diligence and search for information on the internet. Even the small pump I have moves 2500 liters/hour! I dont need to move that much wine that fast.

The pump I've been using lately is this one:

Built in 1907 in Alcoy (Valencia)

Pumping wine from one tank to another

Unfortunately it broke down a few days ago and has stopped pumping! So I need to get it fixed before the next racking (in a few days) or else I'll have to resort to the electric one. And the guarantee period has expired!

Another thing I hate about electric pumps is the noise! After I while it makes me annoyed and I can't think straight!!! And does noise not affect the quality of wine? That's another topic I'll have do some research on.

The small electric pump in action
Another thing is the appropriate use of technology. To move say 500 l wine, I have no need to use a fast electric motor to do it quickly. I have plenty of time to pump wine slowly. It's not like I have other more interesting or important things to do!!! Electric pumps are obviously useful (essential) to large volume producers who are dealing with millions of liters. Cooperatives typically produce between 10-50 million liters/year! But for a small producer like myself? (around 10000 bottles).

The same applies to electric destemmers/crushers. The throughput is really fast. The machine I share can crush/destem a case of 20 kg as fast as you can tip it in, put the box down and pick up the next box. I really must find out if the speed and violence done to the grapes really affects the quality or if I'm just getting more and more eccentric as time goes by! :)

With the pressing, I'm not so sure. I have two manual presses and a hydraulic press on which I can control the pressure exerted. If I keep the pressure low, the results are very similar to the manual presses. I can tell by the dryness/dampness of the "cake" left in the press when you are done pressing out the juice. But it also makes a horrible noise though!

Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we shall just have to wait until the wines are ready and taste them! Hmmm, but then, there are so many other factors involved. It will be difficult to attribute any increase in quality to just the gentle manual processing.

Oh, and a final advantage of doing it manually is all the money saved by not having to pay to go to the gym to attain those bulging and shapely biceps :)

And now for something completely different...

A photo of my "Roman Wine" experiment:

Garnacha on olive

As all of you who have read Pliny the Elder's De Rerum Naturae will know, the ancient Romans had three main systems of growing grapes, only two of which have survived and come down to us in our modern era: bush vines and trellised vines.  The third system the ancient Romans used was arboreal viticulture, ie letting the vines grow up trees. Seriously, Pliny describes it in some detail in Book XIV. He recommends certain varieties are being most appropriate for trees, and even the best species of tree.

Well I have to make do with what I've got, ie Garnacha vines on olive trees. I have about 8 vines growing up three olive trees and I hope to harvest about 50 kg grapes, optimistically. Now that slavery has been abolished, I suppose that I will have to harvest them myself! So with these grapes I will make some 'Roman' wine - in amphora of course :)

I will also be making more "Roman Slave Juice". Last year as an experiment, I made about 50 bottles, and it was a great success - as far as experiments go. Pliny the Elder (what a guy!) gives a recipe for making this 'wine' which was given to the slaves. Here it is:

So this year I plan on making a lot more. Over the course of the the year I took samples to a few wine fairs and it went down a bomb!

OK, OK, here's the translation:

These cannot properly be termed wines, which by to the Greeks are known under the name of "deuteria," and to which, in common with Cato, we in Italy give the name of "lora," being made from the husks of grapes steeped in water. Still, however, this beverage is reckoned as making one of the "labourers'" wines. There are three varieties of it: the first is made in the following manner:—After the must is drawn off, one-tenth of its amount in water is added to the husks, which are then left to soak a day and a night, and then are again subjected to pressure. A second kind, that which the Greeks are in the habit of making, is prepared by adding one-third in water of the quantity of must that has been drawn off, and after submitting the pulp to pressure, the result is reduced by boiling to one-third of its original quantity. A third kind, again, is pressed out from the wine-lees; Cato gives it the name of "fæcatum". None of these beverages, however, will keep for more than a single year.

Good night all. Tomorrow is another day :)

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