Harvest 2016 – Day 4

September 20th, 2016

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Healthy abariñoFirstly, I have to apologise for this slightly late post. Sunday was actually our fourth day of harvest, and in previous years we have either severely reduced our workload, or perhaps not even worked at all. This year however, was very much business as usual!

In contrast to Saturday, Sunday is never a popular day to work – I don’t want to sound ageist, but the younger people don’t appear to have a problem working, whereas the older generation are understandably conflicted more by family commitments. I should also point out that in many parts of Spain (except for a handful of major cities), Sunday is still very much considered as a day of rest, and it is rare to find many businesses open, even for an odd few hours.

The Sunday weather remained very kind, and again it was a day that passed more or less without incident. Owing to the continued sunshine, analysis of the grapes has shown that not only is the sugar increasing (with some sites producing fruit with a potential alcohol of nearer to 13%), but more importantly the acidity is still dropping. As we pick now, the acidity is still in the correct range for us to produce a typical, fresh, zesty albariño, but please note, that with the weather set fair, there are still many other bodegas that haven’t starting picking as yet. In a year when the acidity is too high, we can reduce this naturally by using partial malolactic fermentation, whereas in years of low acidity, the only option is to add – artificially. in my opinion, this never works, and is always very obvious on the palate. Thankfully however, 2016 appears to have provided a very, very good potential balance for our wines.

By the way, I was so worried after posting yesterday’s picture of florescent green grapes (under the artificial lights) that I rushed out to take a picture in the vineyard. This is how our albariño grapes should look – small, tightly packed bunches of golden berries – to produce golden wines!

Harvest 2016 – Day 3

September 18th, 2016

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Loaded pressFor the first time this week, we started with a bright, sunny day – a cold morning perhaps, but with clear blue skies. Perfect weather for gathering grapes. Saturday is traditionally a busy day (all our outside suppliers prefer to pick on Saturday), but after our first two, backbreaking days, we wanted to stem the tide just a little. It’s better for the whole team if we can have the load spread evenly across the entire week, rather than having frantic days and quiet days – common sense really. Having said that, there will always be anomolies with yields, weather, speed of picking (according to the health of the fruit) – there is always something that is slightly beyond our control.

To be honest Saturday proved to be quite an uneventful day, everything pretty much under control in the bodega, and some lovely healthy fruit arriving from our vineyards under bright sunny skies. Sometimes we have to savour these moments when everything goes without a hitch, in order to compensate a little for the days when things don’t go quite so smoothly!

At the end of the day, the grape count was actually almost exactly the same as the previous day – it turned out to be quite a busy Saturday, with a few more kilos than we expected. We know that Sunday will not be a day of rest, but let’s hope at least that the heat will be turned down a little.

Today’s photo shows a fully loaded press, but unfortunately the florescent light has changed the hue of the fruit from a golden green, into a bright green….

Harvest 2016 – Day 2

September 17th, 2016

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Ready for loadingAs appears to be the norm at this time of year, the weather forecasts are quite often meaningless, and change on an hourly basis. Most of the time we have to fly by the seat of our pants, and simply use our best judgement. For example, Friday’s forecast was for bright sunny weather and warmer temperatures, whereas in reality the day started quite overcast, and not as warm as predicted. The good news was that it wasn’t raining!

Our picking team moved out again in force, and having completed our Castrelo vineyard they moved on to Cunchidos, one of our smaller plots at only one hectare in area. Cunchidos was finished in no time, with some super ripe and well balanced grapes. This year our grape collection is actually more efficient, as we have perfectly healthy fruit there is no requirement for sorting in the vineyard.

By afternoon the predicted weather finally arrived, sunshine and temperatures in the low 20’s C (around 70°F). Fruit entered at a controlled pace, and most importantly the first detailed analysis from the laboratory indicated that we have some excellent potential this year.

At the end of the day it appeared that we had been much more efficient than we thought, and picked around 8,000 kilos more than we had estimated for the day. Unfortunately, more work for our late night crew.

SalnesAfter our crazy day on Monday, we are chomping at the bit to get started again – unfortunately, yet again, our weather refuses to co-operate. For the last three days now (it is Thursday afternoon as I write this) we have not really had too much rain, but just a few showers at all the wrong moments. We really need a dry canopy to work effectively – having a little extra liquid inside the berries is one thing, but we simply cannot gather fruit with water on the surface of the bunches. They stubbornly refuse to dry out, and just as they do, we have another light shower.

Remaining positive, the fruit is still completely healthy and the forecast is looking much better for the coming days. Everything being equal, we should be relaunching the 2016 campaign tomorrow (Friday, which will then officially become Day 2). We will know for sure when we open the shutters tomorrow morning.

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

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