Harvest 2014 – Day 5

September 29th, 2014

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Now on the downhill stretch, with the end in sight, we started picking once again under clear blue skies. Considering the weather of only one week ago, when it looked like the end of the world (or perhaps just the end of the vintage) had arrived, we are quite fortunate that not one drop of rain has fallen during the entire campaign. With every single forecast looking good until the end of the week I don’t think that I am tempting fate by saying that.

The grapes entering our cellars during the last 48 hours are looking very good indeed, with a typical degree, correct acidity and pH, but above all else, with a lovely thick, honeyed juice. Whilst on the subject of QC, Angela is, as usual, beavering away in her laboratory analysing every batch of grapes that enters, often finishing in the early hours of the morning and last to leave the wine cellar. In fact our body clocks are actually quite well co-ordinated at harvest time – as a morning person, I cover the early shift, whilst Angela tends to finish a little later than me, and our paths cross occasionally in our bedroom! Anyway, today’s very brief clip shows Angela secreted away in her laboratory carefully studying must samples.

Today was not a very hard day, indeed, it hasn’t been a particularly tough harvest so far…… and the reason. It’s going to be a small crop, owing to this year’s reduced kilos and lower yields. Despite last week’s rain the berries have remained very small (which is actually quite typical of albariño), and the combination of a thick pulp and gentle pressing means that we are extracting less litres per kilo. The final count, that comes tomorrow, will tell the whole story. 

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Harvest 2014 – Day 4

September 28th, 2014

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Sunday, a day of rest…… for some, but not for us. OK, so we started an hour later than usual, to give our picking team at least a few more minutes in bed (you see, we do have a human side after all!) The morning started brightly enough, but not the clear blue skies that we had enjoyed last week. The weather forecasters had actually predicted the possibility of rain overnight, but this did not materialise, simply a bit of cloud cover that presented no danger at all to our precious grapes. As the day progressed, so the weather improved and the cloud cover started to break, giving us intervals of warm, pleasant sunshine. 

Today’s picking was limited to just a couple of vineyard sites – one grower (whose vineyard is managed by us), and ‘El Pazo’, our biggest single vineyard site of 5 hectares. We had been anxiously awaiting the grapes from the Pazo vineyard, and of course, had our fingers crossed that there was no further rain. We were not to be disappointed – the old vines on this site yielded some of the very best fruit of the vendimia so far. Very ripe, good viscose juice and just the right amount of acidity (the makings of a very good Family Estate wine). Indeed, our video clip of today shows the team picking in our Pazo vineyard – it’s only a very short clip but at least it gives you an idea of what it might be like to work on a canopy above your head (for days on end).

A short day, but nonetheless satisfying, gathering in some very good raw material.

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Harvest 2014 – Day 3

September 27th, 2014

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Saturday! Traditionally our busiest day. As I mention every year, everyone loves to pick on Saturday, as the majority of our grape suppliers recruit their family and friends to help out in the vineyard, it’s not for any other more complicated reason. We started yet again, under blue skies and managed to get at least one press working early in the day. As the afternoon progressed so the flow of grapes increased, but with good organisation and fortunate timing we managed to stay on top of the situation. (I use the phrase timing because the secret is always to keep the presses loaded and working in a continuous cycle, before the incoming grapes have a chance to swamp our reception area).

Today’s brief video clip shows Fran loading the presses. It’s almost impossible to see on this clip as the fruit is pretty much a blur as it rains down into the press. Owning to the thoughtful design made by our founder Domingo Martin, our pressing room is located directly below the grape reception, and the fruit is simply emptied into a hopper on the floor above to fall by gravity almost directly into the press. In the video Fran is using a special wooden rake to distribute bunches evenly throughout the press (he is actually working on a platform built alongside the press, about six feet off the ground). The machine that you can see is actually the smaller of our two presses, and has a capacity of 3,500 kg when pressing whole bunches. Repeating last year’s decision, we are only using a very short, gentle pressing cycle to extract only the very best juice.

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Harvest 2014 – Day 2

September 27th, 2014

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Normal service has been resumed in more ways than one. As you will notice we have today, for the very first time, included a very brief video clip of the harvest. Nothing too exciting, but just to give you a flavour it shows the 20kg baskets of fruit arriving in our reception area, being offloaded onto a scale to be weighed. Weighing the fruit is only the first part of the arrival process – every single load will also undergo visual checks and then a full analysis in our lab. It is never simply a question of accepting every kilo that arrives at our door, and although it is only our second day, some fruit has already been rejected as being below the quality that we demand.

It was another very warm, sunny day that helps to make life in the vineyard just a bit more pleasant (but that’s only if you don’t take into account the back-breaking, neck-wrenching chore of picking from our overhead pergolas). Our morning session was actually quite quiet, with very few grapes arriving. On Tuesday when we picked from around the bodega, the grapes only had metres to travel to our reception area, and therefore the delay from vine to press could be measured in minutes. Today the journey from vineyard to bodega was a little longer and so the start of the ‘grape cascade’ did not really begin until the afternoon.

In the early evening we anticipated our normal ‘rush hour’ when it’s possible to face a backlog of fruit waiting to be pressed. Now, I’m not sure it was to do with the timing of the arrivals, or if we are just becoming more efficient over time, but I have to say that the backlog simply didn’t materialise and the whole late evening session passed off very smoothly indeed.

Meanwhile, Angela had reported from her laboratory, that, as we had anticipated, the acidity in the fruit had dropped to almost perfect levels – our unscheduled rest day yesterday appeared to have paid off!

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Intermission

September 25th, 2014

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InterludeOf course, the heading for today’s post should really read ‘Harvest – Day 2′, but instead we have decided to call a halt! The reason is quite simple….. for the benefit of our grapes (our single most important commodity). You will recall that I have been writing about the timely arrival of some warm, sunny weather, and that each year we do our best to eke out the last bit of maturity in our fruit. Although the potential alcohol does not evolve by too much at this time, the most significant change is to the acidity, which can drop quite rapidly. We often talk about harvesting at the optimum moment, so after a good day yesterday, gathering in some good quality grapes, we have decided to give our next vineyard site another 24 hours to come good. Sorry to repeat this phrase, but every little really does help.

In the absence of any wine news today, I just thought that I would mention that our employee Juan (who was quite badly injured in a car accident a few weeks ago), is now, thankfully, on the mend. He is on his feet and was finally released from hospital some days ago. Despite being in the comfort of his own home, he is still quite incapacitated, with one arm in a sling, and the other in a cast – it’s going to be a long, slow recovery process, and we don’t expect to see him back at work much before the New Year.

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Harvest 2014 – Day 1

September 24th, 2014

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Dawn on Day One 2014After many nervous days watching the weather, the start of our 2014 campaign actually came rather suddenly! For the previous two days almost every weather site that I had visited predicted rain, an 80-90% probability. However, for some inexplicable reason, not one drop of rain fell, and our vineyards remained completely dry. Pretty much overnight all the weather predictions changed…. sun and warm weather arrived – the weather Gods had finally started to smile on us.

With renewed vigour, bought about by this sudden change in fortunes, we launched our team into our ‘Bodega’ vineyard (a one hectare site surrounding the wine cellar). On a bright, breezy Wednesday morning the grapes very quickly started to fill our reception area, and within an hour or two the first press kicked into gear. The harvest was officially under way!

This sudden change in fortunes had not only brightened our mood, but had also made a considerable difference in the vineyards. The collection and analysis of samples from all the different vineyard sites continued even with the harvest under way, obviously this process enables us to determine the order in which we should pick (it’s not just a random choice!). The analysis quickly revealed that this burst of warm sunshine had already made a difference as the acidity in the grape started to fall significantly. This was just what we needed, as in the lead up to picking we had been contemplating the necessity to de-acidify our 2014 wines. With just a little more time (and warmth) this will almost certainly not now be required.

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Time to gamble….

September 23rd, 2014

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GambleSo when is the best time to start picking? In an ideal world there would be an easy answer to this problem…. it would simply be a question of when the grapes are ripe and all the component parts are in balance (sugar, acidity, pH). The complication is that we farm our grapes in Galicia, and for the last couple of years at least, it has not been quite so straightforward.

Unfortunately we do not control the weather, and here on the Atlantic Coast, it can become quite unpredictable as we move into the Autumn. This leaves us with a dilemma… do we leave our fruit on the vine until the last possible moment, eking out every last gram of sugar (whilst at the same time running the risk of bad weather closing in), or do we simply grab the fruit and run, whilst the going’s good? Obviously it’s a gamble, a face-off with the weather Gods if you will…. but who will back down first? The downside is that if we take the easy option, and collect the fruit sooner rather than later, then we might simply miss the opportunity to make an even better wine.

To pick or not to pick, that is the question.

Posted in Harvest, Weather

Iberia ExpressOn the last leg of our journey home from Madrid to Vigo last week, we flew on the recently created Iberia Express – supposedly the discount airline of Iberia. I had noticed on our outbound flight that they had boasted 97% punctuality for the whole of 2014, but it wasn’t until the return leg that I fully understood how they achieved this remarkable number…..

On boarding our flight in Madrid the captain announced that our flight time to Vigo would be 45 minutes – this was quickly followed by a further announcement that our take-off would be slightly delayed. Twenty minutes after our scheduled departure time we eventually took off, and our journey time was exactly 45 minutes, as the pilot had previously confirmed. Imagine my puzzlement therefore, when the stewardess announced that we had actually landed 10 minutes early, and that their record of 97% punctuality remained completely intact….. But how? Had we landed in a different time zone? Were we travelling in a flying machine built by H.G.Wells? Well, no actually. The simple truth is that the published schedule allocates 75 minutes for a 45 minute flight. A 66% margin for error……. Talk about massaging the numbers!

Sept 18Visitors to our Bodega always ask us about the local climate and the effect that our proximity to the Ocean has on the weather. I always explain to them that on this extreme western edge we often experience weather systems that clip only this part of Galicia, missing the rest of the country completely. Indeed, many of these systems, carried across the Atlantic by the jet stream, actually end up over the UK, meaning that our climate is in some ways similar to my home country. Of course being further south it is obviously a little warmer here, but in terms of precipitation I really must sit down one day and calculate the actual difference. It’s probably not that big.

I regret to report that the rain is still falling as I write, and as I desperately study the weather maps in search of some respite, I have noticed that the current depression is quite literally only dumping rain on this small corner of the continent – nowhere else in Europe appears to have been touched. It seems like the weather Gods are conspiring against us, or maybe I’m just feeling badly done by…..

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OMG!

September 16th, 2014

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Weather 14This screen grab is the weather forecast for Cambados (click to image to enlarge) – our most local weather station. With the picking due to start in just a few days we can only pray that it’s wrong….. The showers and downpours that we are experiencing at the moment are very, very localised – raining in one place and then completely dry only a few km away. Maybe we can dodge the worst of it.

Posted in Harvest, Weather

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