Election free zone

November 8th, 2016

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US electionToday is a big day, and not just because we are bottling wine. After 18 months of acrimony, insults and to be frank, very little focus on political issues, the U.S. election is finally here. I can hear the vast majority of commentators heaving a collective sigh of relief, whilst at the same time holding their breath in anticipation (or perhaps trepidation), of what the future might hold for us all. I say for us all, because inevitably the outcome will have a knock-on effect for the whole world, one way or another, for better or for worse…. who knows?

So, setting that thought aside completely, I think the best thing to do today could be to kick back on your sofa, open a good bottle of albariño (Castro Martin of course), and maybe plough your way through a series or two of Aaron Sorkin’s superb series ‘The West Wing’, where I think that some of the characters perhaps have a shade more credibility than today’s two tarnished candidates. My advice? Vote for Jed Bartlet and save the world!

Christmas rushNow that both the harvest and wine making are pretty much behind us, the next significant event is almost upon us – the Christmas holiday season (am I still allowed to call it Christmas?). Anyway, whichever name you decide to use, the holiday season (including Thanksgiving), is always a busy time for us.

For the last week or two we have been busy preparing orders for shipment – many to Europe, but others for more distant shores. Part of our pre-harvest preparation is to fill the cellar with ‘floor stock’, labelled and ready to go, but much of this has already been sold, and so for the next few weeks our mission will be bottling more tanks of 2015 wine to replenish our depleted warehouse. (We bottle our wine throughout the year, as required, to keep the wine as fresh as possible – it keeps better in tank).

Posted in Bodega, Business, Fiestas


October 31st, 2016

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Tim Hanni MWWhether you call it Halloween, All Hallows Eve or Samhain, I think it would be fair to say that the origin of Halloween has always been slightly unclear, and is probably celebrated by different people for different reasons. Celebrated by Pagans, Christians the Celts and/or the Gaels, one of the few common connections appears to be the date – on the eve of All Saints Day (or All Hallows Day).

Perhaps some of the modern traditions (or some might say the ‘Americanisation’ of Halloween), are an amalgamation of various elements derived from the different ancient traditions – dressing in costumes, trick-or-treating or even carving pumpkins can all be explained in some way (the latter probably evolving from the Gaelic tradition of carving turnips to ward off evil spirits).

In America the name Jack O’Lantern came from the folkloric story of Stingy Jack, and was probably developed by the influx of Irish immigrants in the mid-19th century who, not being able to find turnips to carve, used the more readily available pumpkin into which to carved their scary faces.

This brings me on quite conveniently to an old friend of mine, Tim Hanni MW (now a Professor at the Nappa Valley Wine Academy). I know Tim from my previous life as a buyer when he worked for Beringer, pretty much as their food and wine ambassador. I have to say that it was Tim who single-handedly opened my eyes to the concept of food and wine pairing with a series of tastings that he called quite simply, ‘Cause and Effect’. Truly amazing stuff for which I will always be indebted to Tim as my single greatest influence on this very tricky and highly subjective matter.

Tim is also a writer and has written a no-nonsense book called ‘Why you like the wines you like – changing the way the world thinks about wine’. I have had a copy of this book for some years, and it is a very entertaining read, that could maybe help clarify your own ideas about wine, and why you like it. (Available on Amazon) Tim shares many of my own views about wine and is often referred to as “The Wine Anti-Snob”!

However, Tim has recently laid down his pen and picked up his carving tool to create his very own Jack O’Lantern, which, for some inexplicable reason, he has referred to as his ‘Trumpkin’!!!

Yet another Savagnin

October 28th, 2016

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Jura - TissotSeveral weeks ago (before the harvest), I made a post about finding a Savagnin Blanc from the Jura region, here in a local Galician restaurant. It was fabulous, as regular sherry drinkers, we really enjoyed it. Imagine my surprise therefore, to find yet another restaurant in Pontevedra, selling the same wine, same vintage, but from a different producer. OK, so it was not a true comparative tasting, but I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to taste another example. (Opportunities like this can be rare and have to be seized).

2011 Arbois Savagnin, Domaine Bénédicte & Stéphan Tissot: Certainly this wine was not quite as ‘rustic’ as the first example we tasted, perhaps being a bit more pure and refined. It still had a lovely concentrated, tangy fruit, again very much in a lively sherry style, with hints of walnut, but this time a more pronounced saline, salt-lick character. This is a lovely clean and very stylish wine.

Of course, there is one interesting thought arising from this. Normally, when we encounter this salty character (such as in our very own albariño or perhaps a fresh manzanilla from Sanlúcar de Barrameda), we usually attribute this to the proximity of the sea or ocean. In the Jura region of France this couldn’t be further from the truth (or perhaps I should say, further from the sea!). Completely land-locked between Burgundy and Switzerland it is miles from any salt water or ocean influence – the nearest sea is probably the Mediterranean which is some 350km (220 miles) south of the region. I guess therefore, that this apparent saltiness can only be attributed to a combination of factors – grape, soil and climate. In modern tasting vocabulary it is probably just a slight extension to the expression ‘minerality’.

Wine & Churros 2Now that the vendimia is behind us and the fermentations are at an end, we continue with the ongoing task of deep cleaning the wine cellar. There are some areas, including the tank room, that we are pretty much unable to touch until the wines are finished and the tanks firmly closed. (During our fermentations the tanks have to be left open to allow the huge amounts to CO2 generated to escape – supported by a strong air extraction system so that we don’t all expire whilst working from a lack of oxygen!)

In the pressing room for example, the presses themselves have been thoroughly cleaned, albeit that they still need to be re-assembled and some of the internal parts fixed back inside.

Today’s photo shows some of these pieces – the long rubber ‘fingers’ extending from the steel parts that you can see, are the pieces that help to break up the grapes and bunches as the machine rotates during pressing (in a similar action to the modern washing machine, as it rotates gently back and forth during the cycle). The long brown fingers of the press are ribbed, and really, really remind me of the very famous Spanish delicacy ‘churros’, which are traditionally eaten with a thick hot chocolate drink – the churros themselves being used for ‘dunking’ in the cup!.

I’m afraid that these rubber fingers, even if they were sprinkled with sugar and dipped in chocolate, wouldn’t taste quite the same!

The last leg

October 19th, 2016

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Density watchOur fermentations have been underway for some time now, but we are very much on the home stretch. The very first tanks that we seeded are already complete, and can now be sulphured to ensure that no unwanted, secondary fermentation will start during the lees ageing period. Of course in some vintages, when the acidity is particularly high, we might actually encourage a second, malolactic fermentation in some of the tanks. This will convert the (harsh, green, metallic tasting) malic acid, into the much softer, more palatable lactic acid (found in milk products). These tanks can then be blended throughout the cellar in order to lower the average acidity in the rest of the tanks.

However, 2016 is different. We have a beautifully balanced wine in terms of fruit and acidity, and so no further adjustments will be required. It is now just a question of watching each tank closely until all the remaining sugar has been consumed…. not long now!

Must tastingIn all my years as a wine buyer, I still maintain that one of the most difficult tastings of all was that of a raw wine – a wine that was either still fermenting, had just finished fermenting, or was perhaps undergoing its malolactic fermentation. This is the moment when any wine buyer worth his or her salt, would have to rely on their crystal ball – to look into and predict the future of what the finished wine might look like. I can tell you that it is no easy task which in the end, simply comes down to experience.

In the case of our own wine cellar it is not quite so complicated, as effectively, we only have one wine (or at least one grape variety). The main difference being, from my point of view, that there is no major buying decision hanging in the balance! Even so, tasting a raw white wine, especially from a variety with high acidity, still requires a pretty strong constitution.

As our wines approach the end of fermentation (they can now officially be called wine rather than must), we can finally start to assess the true potential of the vintage. Of course, at the very beginning, the grape juice itself is always a pretty accurate indicator, but it is only now that we can begin to really see how the finished wines might really look.

Our tank tastings so far have revealed almost exactly what we had anticipated – extremely fruity wines with good weight and structure, but whilst still retaining their fresh albariño acidity. An alcohol of about 12.5% also provides additional mouthfeel. And so all we have to do now is wait – another 6 to 8 months resting on their lees, and then we can pass our final judgement.

Case mountain

October 11th, 2016

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Case mountainAs you may already be aware, all of our fruit is picked by hand (the pergola system of vine training does not allow machine harvest), and gathered in small baskets of around 18-20kg (40lbs). The cases are open, well ventilated and chosen specifically to avoid fruit being prematurely crushed and preventing any possible fruit oxidation.

Over the years many cases have been lost or broken, sometimes causing a bottleneck in fruit collection as grape suppliers have to wait for cases to be emptied and re-cycled. This year we added 1,000 new cases to prevent any delay in delivering our fruit from vineyard to press as quickly as possible.

Although they are washed and re-cycled during the picking period, at the end of every campaign they still need to be thoroughly cleaned using our pressure washing machines, and then stored in our grape reception until they are required again next year. In common with the grape reception itself they are only used once a year for a period of about one week. In the meantime they simply form a part of our very own case mountain….

Posted in Bodega, Post Harvest


October 6th, 2016

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FIREToday did not start as expected. We arrived at the front door of the bodega to find our electrical junction box on fire! (Fortunately it is located on a wall outside the building). If you can use the word lucky in these circumstances, it seems that the fire had started only minutes before, and so we were able to quickly grab an extinguisher (the powder in the photo), and kill the flames within minutes.

Of course, with the junction box virtually destroyed, there was no power at all in the building. Pretty much a disaster at harvest time, when we rely on refrigeration to keep our tanks cool during fermentation. Having no light, computers, telephones etc., was of secondary importance at this critical moment of the wine making process.

Thankfully we have very reliable electrical contractors, and within 30 minutes of the fire they were already on site. Within an hour or so, we had all the replacement parts, and by 12.30 (three and a half hours after the initial disaster), power was restored… Very, very impressive in the circumstances.

As soon as the power came back on, we quite naturally, rushed to look at the tank thermostats. Fantastic! The temperatures had only increased by 0.2 or 0.3°C, almost nothing at all, and certainly not enough to do any damage to our fermenting wines.

I guess this serves me right for claiming that it had been an uneventful campaign!

Posted in Bodega, Equipment

Vintage Report 2016This might seem like a slightly odd post to make on our blog, but it’s only to make you aware of an addition to our ‘DOWNLOADS’ section of this website. If you click on the download menu you can find the new 2016 Harvest Report in full (but so far, only in English – the Spanish translation will appear soon). This is really intended as a supplement to all my harvest posts of the last couple of weeks, and gives much more information about the growing season prior to the picking itself.

Of course, I can’t claim that it makes great bedtime reading, but it might just help you to get to sleep!

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