Grape must 2016Today should have been harvest Day 2, but instead it is ‘Day Suspended’. After long periods of pretty much drought conditions during this summer, we had some persistent overnight rain. (Even Alanis Morissette would probably find that quite ironic!) By 7am the rain had stopped, but the overhead canopies were still quite wet, and not conducive to collecting perfect fruit. Whilst waiting for them to dry out and with a slightly unpredictable forecast for the next 48 hours we decided to hold back. On the other hand, we were anxious to see how this added water had effected the fruit, and closer inspection revealed that it had actually had made almost no impression at all – berries were still intact and looking just as healthy as they did beforehand. The weather had also turned decidedly cooler, meaning that the air humidity remained quite low, thereby reducing the risk of rot or disease.

On the positive side (as I mentioned the other day), the fruit is now clean with all dust washed away, it remains in a healthy state, and doesn’t appear to have absorbed any water. The ground was probably so dry that the water either just ran off, or was absorbed completely by the surface soil without really getting down as far as the roots. The other good news is that after a couple of unsettled days (cloud but almost no rain), the sun will return, and we should have ideal conditions to continue.

I called today ‘XXX’ day for a couple of reasons. One, because from a harvest point of view the day doesn’t have a number, and secondly to see if our site would attract some new hits from different audiences…. Of course, I mean from the Vin Diesel fans!

By the way, my photo shows the first free run juice of 2016 from the first presses – unctuous and delicious (and that will be completely clean after a day or two of ‘cold settling’)

Harvest 2016 – Day 1

September 13th, 2016

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Bagazo 2016As I mentioned yesterday, after a long, dry, hot sunny period, our more familiar harvest weather arrived in the region. Cooler, grey and overcast – no rain to date, but with showers forecast for the next two days. A few light showers would not be a problem, but the conditions that we really don’t need are prolonged periods of heavy rain.

This year we organised have more people to harvest and more vehicles to collect grapes, and so consequently, by mid-morning, we were already loading the first presses. This continuous flow simply never stopped, with grapes entering at a furious rate, but more importantly, of high quality fruit. Healthy grapes with a good degree (potential alcohol) and just the correct balance of acidity. The juice was thick and concentrated as we had anticipated, but as far as yields are concerned we have yet to make a definitive calculation – having said that it will as though it could be reduced owing to the lack of rainfall over the summer.

OK, so the secret of Big Blue, as you can see from today’s photo is quite simple. Instead of using hundreds of small containers to collect the bagazo  (grape skins and stalks – or ‘marc’ as it is known in France), we are using much bigger containers in conjunction with a special tipping forklift. Our bagazo, as you will know, is collected for our local distillery to be made into aguardiente (eau-de-vie or grappa).

At the end of the day, we had picked some serious volumes, the only downside being that as we closed our doors for the night, so the heavens opened. Heavy rain had arrived, including a bit of thunder and lightning – Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Big blueIt’s funny really, how, after months of knowing about it, the harvest can very suddenly sneak up on you! Until a week or so ago we were all quite relaxed, and planning a start date of around 19th September – unfortunately our fruit did not receive the memo, and the final maturity arrived much more quickly than we had calculated. I guess that with all the hot sunshine that we have been experiencing over the last few weeks we really shouldn’t be so surprised, but suffice to say, it did rather accelerate things.

The truth is that today, 12th September (which will now be our first day of picking), I should have been climbing onto a New York bound jet, for a big tasting and a press lunch. Clearly, in the circumstances, that idea had to be scrapped at the last minute, and Angela’s New York shopping list (that she never forgets to pack for me) confined to the trash.

And so, after all the month’s of hot dry weather, it has all changed for the start of the harvest. Today is grey and overcast, and the early morning temperature is only around 16°C (61°F) – however, it should brighten up a bit before the showers arrive tomorrow. Believe it or not, a little light rain should not hurt – not to swell the fruit, which would be bad, but actually to wash it. After such long dry periods, grapes are extremely dusty, and consequently produce a darker must – this is removed by cold settling, but even so, cleaner fruit is not such a bad thing.

Today’s photo (taken on Friday, when it was sunny) shows the arrival of Big Blue – a huge blue container now camping out in our car park. I will explain in my Day 1 Harvest post why we need him. As this comment implies, I will, as always, be making a daily post of our progress, so watch this space!

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

AlbariñoThe weather in Galicia still remains stubbornly hot and dry. A few weeks ago we were praying for a day or two of rain (to add just a little more flesh and juice to the grapes), but now, as we move much closer to the harvest this view has changed, and we would simply prefer that the dry weather continues. Rain too close to the harvest will only cause the thick skins of this year’s fruit to split, that would inevitably lead to rot.

In recent days the thermometer has still been touching as high as 32°C (90°F) albeit that it has since cooled just a little to a slightly more manageable 25°C (77°F). At this stage of the growing cycle these high temperatures only serve to accelerate the final maturity of the fruit, as the acidity in the berries starts to drop at a very rapid rate. Obviously, in the case of our own albariño, we really need to retain the correct level of natural acidity, and so it is really the moment to watch the analysis of grape samples very closely, and start our picking at the very second we reach the optimum balance.

Posted in Bodega, Harvest, Weather

Well, our local beach resort of Sanxenxo really excelled themselves last night. On the last night of a week long fiesta they celebrated with the usual 20 minute firework display. In fairness, I’ve always thought that there are better ways for local councils to spend their money (as every small town and village lays on their own individual display over the summer months),but last night, well, what can I say?

At 10pm I went out for a walk, or rather a “reccy” to look for a good location to set up my camera and tripod. I thought that this year I would try to shoot my photos at a low angle across the water, and take full advantage of any reflections. I found the perfect spot, only about 5 minutes from our front door, and so I planned to return about 15/20 minutes before the midnight kick-off.

At 11.40 I looked out of the window…. shock, horror! The whole town was shrouded in a thick, damp sea mist – and when I say thick, I mean about maybe 20 or 30 metres visibility. Surely they had to postpone?….. Wrong! Watch my brief video and witness how thousands of Euros worth of fireworks went up in smoke, or should I say, went up in mist. This must be the most stupid, incompetent things I have ever witnessed, but I’m sure you will agree, at least it did sound impressive!

Harvest 2016 update

September 1st, 2016

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Pazo vineyardAs the calendar moves into September we are already deep into our planning for the 2016 harvest. The tanks are empty and waiting to receive this year’s new grape must, and so for the final run-up to the picking our attention is now well and truly focused on the vineyards. The summer of 2016 has been long and hot – for more than two months the sun has been shining almost non-stop, and temperatures have regularly hovered around the 30°C (86°F) mark. Ideal conditions you might think – but this is not entirely true. A few good days of rain during the summer certainly would have helped. The problem is that whilst this level of sunshine and dry weather promotes healthy grapes, it also means that the berries are small, skins are thick, but more significantly, the layer of flesh that yields the juice, is thin – a thick and viscose texture perhaps, but with a low liquid content. Of course this usually translates into ripe and fruity wines, but potentially with higher alcohol, lower acidity, and obviously, lower yields. Good in some respects, but not ideal in others.

To be honest, being a fruit farmer (which is essentially what we are), can sometimes be very frustrating. Last year for example, we were forced to pick just a little earlier that we would have liked, as a big storm loomed on the horizon. With hindsight it was a good decision, but we know that we were just so close to having a near perfect vintage. This year it could be (we won’t really know until we have the must safely in our tanks), that we are again left just a little frustrated, but this time for almost the opposite reason – the lack of a bit more rain. However, if yields are down, we also know that small can still be beautiful!

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

Jura - BornardSeveral years ago there was a big scandal in Australia when it was discovered that the ‘Albariño’ that they had planted, was not in fact albariño, but was actually the savagnin blanc grape variety most commonly found in the Jura region of northeast France. The error was committed by Australia’s very own wine research organisation, and was uncovered whilst we were visiting Australia back in 2009. As a result we unwittingly found ourselves at the centre of a good deal of media attention as the Australian wine press clamoured to get the oinion of some ‘authentic’ albariño producers!

The reason I mention this now is because we actually discovered a savagnin on the wine list of a local restaurant, and so, quite naturally we jumped at the chance to try it. The Côtes du Jura Savagnin ‘Les Marnes’ 2011, from Domaine Philippe Bornard, did not disappoint. It’s perhaps an odd thing to say, but this is a wine for Manzanilla and Fino sherry drinkers who enjoy the salty, nutty flavours originating from the flor that grows over the wine in sherry casks. In the Jura they call this the ‘sous voile’ method whereby a layer of yeast covering the wine produces a very similar end result. Although this wine is not completely ‘bright’, and has a rustic, slightly oxidative character, it is still absolutely delicious. Multi-layered – smoky, salty, nutty, but with plenty of stone fruit, a fresh acidity and just a touch of spice. It’s a wine that just keeps coming, is extremely complex, and to be fair, is probably something of an acquired taste that might not appeal to every palate. Suffice to say that we enjoyed it!

Posted in Food & Wine, Tasting

Vuelta 2016The summer months are usually occupied with controlling he canopy in the vineyards. In case you don’t understand the expression ‘canopy management’, the very simplified explanation is that we trim the vines, cut back some of the leading shoots, remove leaves, and if necessary, remove some bunches (green harvesting). If allowed to grow, the leading shoot of each vine will grow unabated, producing more leaves (not bunches), and simply draining energy from the plant. By trimming them this simply re-directs more energy to the fruit, and therefore should help increase sugar levels. Removing leaves is, believe it or not, slightly more complicated – it is super important to remove the right leaves, in the right places and in the right quantities. Obviously the objective of this ‘thinning’ is to give fruit a better exposure by allowing more light to pass through the canopy. The only danger is that if too many leaves are removed, then during a hot summer, over exposure can actually ‘cook’ the fruit (even when using factor 50 – sorry, that is just my warped sense of humour). Also, if during prolonged periods of excessive heat too few leaves will only add to the stress on the plant.

The reason I mention this is that since the middle of June the weather in Rias Baixas has been very hot and almost completely dry. For more than two months our average daily temperatures have remained in the mid-to-high 20’s C (mid 70’s to mid 80’s F). During July we regularly experienced daytime temperatures of 30°C (86°F) and sometimes even higher. As far as rainfall is concerned, there has been very little. July, only a couple of cloudy days and one day of drizzle – August, one day of drizzle, and only one other wet morning.

It’s still a little early to know how this extended hot weather will effect the vintage, in all honesty, an odd day of rain at this stage, wouldn’t hurt too much.

(By the way, it’s obvious that my photo today has nothing to do with vines, or the weather for that matter, except to say that the Vuelta a España passed through Galicia today – in 31°C of heat!)

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

Apollo PeakSeveral months ago I wrote (unbelievably) about a wine for cats called Nyan Nyan Nouveau, well, guess what? There’s more! Pinot Meow and MosCATo….. I jest not, this is all, unfortunately, quite true.

Meow meow was made in Japan, from grapes (that can actually be toxic to cats – maybe it was produced by a dog lover?!), but this new cat drink, made in Denver, has had no grape anywhere near it. Which sort of begs the question, why do they call it wine at all? It is apparently made both alcohol-free and grape-free, using organic catnip and water, coloured with organic beet juice (the “white” variety coloured with golden beets). It is apparently designed so that cats can now join there owners in a glass of “wine”.

The brand is called Apollo’s Peak and is already sold in pet stores around Colorado. It will also be available at CatCon in LA.

CatCon? Really? Catcon? (OMG).

Summer rushin’

August 15th, 2016

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Summer rushin'Today we start a short break in our bodega. At this time of year we always try to take a brief holiday – there is not a lot happening and so we close our doors for a few days, to re-charge our batteries before the busiest period of the year. The harvest and wine making.

In the period leading up to our closure, quite naturally, we give our customers notice, and invite them to order any additional stock that they might require (even though we are only closed for 6 or 7 working days). This sometimes provokes a slight rush, albeit that the summer months are already quite busy – and this year was no exception. During our last week of opening we were still bottling, labelling and thankfully, loading pallets on to trucks. Maybe we should plan more closures to keep the orders piling in!

One other important reason for bottling is quite simply that we need to empty tanks for the harvest. Of course emptying tanks happens as a matter of course as the wine is sold, but then we also have to calculate the tank capacity that we will need for the harvest, and make sure that we have the space available. Imagine if we were pressing grapes and suddenly discovered that we didn’t have enough space to receive the grape must (juice)! Nothing is left to chance and this all has to be planned months in advance – even trying to anticipate the volumes that we might sell during the coming year. However, not everything can be calculated, whilst we will always have an idea of the yields that our vines might produce, it is never really an exact science, and can change dramatically until the very moment that our grapes enter the presses. Vamos a ver, as we say.

Posted in Bodega

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