Thursday morning started sunny enough, with wall-to-wall blue sky, but by early afternoon it had evolved into a somewhat ‘milky’ sky – still warm but with slightly opaque sunshine.

So, today we will talk a little about the grapes themselves. On first impression it looks like we will be in for another very good quality harvest. Now, I am aware that everyone says that, and that our own Consello Regulador has never admitted to one bad harvest during the entire existence of our denomination, but believe me, this vintage has real potential. The grapes are healthy, the bunches are a good size, they are yielding the perfect amount of juice, and most importantly, the juice is thick and concentrated but with a very good balancing acidity. I guess my only surprise is that we have a good vintage with a year ending in the number 7. Speaking VERY generally, when you look back at the history of wine vintages, there are not too many great vintages when the year ends with a 7 – or maybe it’s just my imagination? Of course there are, and always will be, some exceptions.

Today’s video is really an experiment with time-lapse video (I have never tried it before). It shows our guys unloading one of our tractor-trailers. I have calculated that if we could really work at this speed we could complete our entire harvest in just under 3 hours!

At least today, we opened our window shutters to discover clear, blue skies – there were no unexpected surprises. I am still searching through various weather websites to find two that say exactly the same thing. Some say fine weather for the next week or so, and others say the possibility of showers/rain at the weekend. This is just one of the delights of living on the corner of a peninsula, next to the ocean – rapid changes in the weather.

As you can see from today’s photo the new area in our grape reception is being put to good use, giving us more freedom of movement and space to work. It transpires that our second day turned out to be smooth and uneventful, and I feel sure that our enhanced floor space has already made some small contribution in this respect. Of course the big test might come on Saturday, which is traditionally the busiest day of the week. This is compounded by the fact that our smaller grape suppliers, who take advantage of the weekend, also tend to arrive all together and later in the evening, which is when the real bottleneck can occur – we shall see.

By the way, today’s minor personal disaster was that my kettle broke, meaning that my constant flow of tea was momentarily interrupted, or at least made slightly more complicated (by resorting to the old-fashioned pan on the stove method). Hopefully, with the help of Amazon Prime, normal service will be resumed tomorrow!

When we opened our shutters this morning, we were just a little shocked. After a beautiful, clear, sunny evening yesterday, the clouds had gathered, and the sky was grey and heavy – almost threatening – and so, what to do? The decision was to cross our fingers, hope for the best and pick grapes.

As it turns out, our gamble paid off. Within a couple of hours the sky was clear, and by lunchtime we were bathed in warm sunshine. By 11am we had already received our first delivery of grapes to the bodega (into our newly revised grape reception), and happily, this flow continued steadily throughout the day. Of course once our press is loaded we get to sample the first grape must of 2017, and make any final adjustments to the presses.

Every year the density of the grape juice varies, and so we often change the time and pressure used for pressing according to the physiology of the berries. Obviously if the juice is thin, as in the vintages with higher rainfall, then we obviously don’t want to ‘over-press’ the fruit and extract too many phenolics (astringency originating from pips and stems). Conversely, in years when there is a lot of sun and the berries are smaller, with thicker skins and very concentrated juice, then we have to strike a fine balance between approaching the best of the must, but without extracting any of the bitterness. Complicated, but calculated.

I have to conclude that our first day passed off very smoothly. No sooner did we empty the press, than we had almost the exact amount of fruit ready to recharge it. Of course, I could claim that it was down to perfect organisation, but I have to admit that it was much more by chance than by precision planning.

Mist & Mizzle

September 4th, 2017

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Well, it looks like our first day of harvest will be put on hold, as we are shrouded in mist and mizzle. Mizzle is a combination of very fine drenching drizzle or extremely fine rain and thick, heavy saturating mist or fog. It hangs in the air, rather than falling like real rain, and it’s especially annoying after a couple of days of warm sunshine. To be fair, the forecast (or at least one or two of them), said that it could happen, but they also predict that by tomorrow it will be gone. I will consult my weather stone tomorrow morning, and all being well, we will start.

Posted in Harvest, Weather

Weather watch

September 1st, 2017

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So now we are almost ready, a few bits of last minute cleaning in the bodega, and grapes just hanging around waiting! So now it is simply a question (as every year), of watching the weather. To be honest, August was a very odd month, and certainly not as hot as usual. A high percentage of overcast days, a few days of drizzle and light rain (nothing substantial), and when the sun did eventually appear, it wasn’t exactly “scorchio” – it other words, only moderately hot. The final few days for example, even during unbroken sunshine, the daytime temperature reached no more than 25°C (77°F), and nights were also quite cool – down to about 14°C (57°F).

It is almost certain that we will kick-off next week, but exactly when will be determined by the weather Gods. As always I am following about four or five different weather websites, all of which are marginally different. Generally good, but with a possibility of showers. They have been wrong before.

I will just have to consult my weather stone (see picture), which is much more accurate.

Final Prep

August 28th, 2017

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The 2017 harvest is fast approaching, probably only a week or so away from kick-off. Grape samples are being collected and analysed and the bodega is still being prepped (as we have been doing for the last few weeks now). As you will know, the biggest single chore was to finish the grape reception, which I am very happy to say is now complete. This will increase the available floor area by more than 50%, and so hopefully, this will relieve some of the congestion at peak times. “Vamos a ver” as they say in Spanish.

Not only do we now have to make sure that all equipment is spotlessly clean and tested before any single grape can enter, but we also have to re-organise a little in order to create additional space for working. At the top of our building our grape reception now has the new floor area, but on lower levels, stock, pallets and equipment is moved into adjacent areas that are not required during the harvest. In short, it leaves the bodega looking a bit chaotic (even if it’s not).

Out in the vineyards, everything is ready – grass between the vines is trimmed, and the grapes are entering the final phase of maturity. Samples taken so far are giving good indications regarding quality, and yields look just a bit higher than last year. As they say in the Boy Scouts – be prepared… and I think we are.

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

Serious Eats

August 24th, 2017

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It’s rare that I simply copy and paste from another website, but I thought that this short article about albariño really hit the spot – not only does it provide a great description of our wine, but it also seems to capture the fresh, fun, ‘flirtaceous’ personality of the grape variety itself.

These few paragraphs are lifted from the ‘Serious Eats’ site.

“Summer’s warmer temperatures are a great time to enjoy a wine with lighter body, fresh flavors, and lots of juiciness that makes your mouth water. In other words, a perfect wine to go with summer snacks. Albariño is usually made without any trace of oak, and tends to have tons of great acidity. The combination means it’s flexible with food. The long zippy finish and playful nature of Albariño make it a natural flirt, happy to sidle up alongside a wide range of dishes.

The juiciness of the wine lends itself to cooling down the spiciness of Thai and Indian fare. Albariño’s lighter weight and flavors complement shellfish and grilled fish. Its freshness accents fresh garden produce beautifully. Enjoy it with fresh sliced watermelon—my favorite!

There has been a new rush of Albariño in recent years, with some really nice wines offering great quality fruit. This grape has strong roots in Portugal (they call it Alvarinho.) Its most affordable center of quality comes from its home, Spain. Look for Rías Baixas for a whole lot of yum.”

Posted in Tasting, Websites

We are officially back in the wine cellar today, and so, technically, I shouldn’t be posting any more holiday ramblings – but there was one more comment that I wanted to make about chefs, food and up-market restaurants. Give me my food on a plate please!

I remember back in the early 80’s when an English chef called Antony Worrall-Thompson opened a very trendy restaurant in Knightsbridge called Menage-A-Trois. Only starters and desserts were served – very small portions using highly imaginative food presentation – the technique then widely known as ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’. It was all the rage. Having said that, despite all the playing around, arranging the food on the plate to create a pretty picture, as far as I recall, it still tasted pretty good.

These days chefs continue to present food in creative ways, but then one of the latest trends might just be pushing the envelope a bit too far. Chefs are now using some very odd ‘platters’ on which to serve – and when I say platter, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything ceramic. It started with wooden boards and pieces of slate, but has now extended to plant pots, flooring panels, shovels, a dog bowl and even a shoe….. yes, I did say a shoe.

Apart from the obvious hygiene implications (that some of these materials are porous and therefore difficult to clean), my belief is that it’s all gone a bit to far, and in a way, chefs should get ‘back to basics’ – stay in the kitchen, make good tasty food and present it nicely… on a plate! Sometimes it’s all just too easy to get carried away, and lose focus on the real job at hand.

And for me, now, it’s back to work – just focusing on making great wine!

NO WORDS

August 18th, 2017

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THERE ARE NO WORDS…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tied to the stove?

August 16th, 2017

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What qualifies an individual to be known as a “celebrity” or a “star” these days? Not very much it would appear! When I was young (admittedly a long, long time ago), perhaps the only people to be considered as real stars were those who plied their trade in Hollywood, on the big screen.

It was Andy Warhol who once said “in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”…. but nowadays it doesn’t stop there. It seems that any person, talented or otherwise, who appears (even for just a few minutes on our television screens), is considered to be a celebrity, or perhaps the ‘star’ of that particular show.

I have noticed however, that the appetite for fame and notoriety can sometimes extend into other professions. Chefs for example. Obviously, the huge difference is that chefs have to work extremely hard, over many years to achieve their success, and that this is always based on their own individual talent and creativity. However, having achieved this success, then some of them chose to travel, write books, appear on TV series, almost appearing to abandon their own kitchens. So when a chef finally achieves the ultimate accolade of a Michelin star or two, then I ask myself, does the Michelin star(s) really belong to the establishment, or to the individual chef him or herself?

The truth is that I will pay almost any amount of money to experience great food and drink, but in an ideal world I would at least like to believe that the ‘celebrity’ chef might at least play some role in supervising my meal (probably not a very realistic wish in some top restaurants these days). A good analogy might be, going to a Broadway musical or play to see a major star and then discovering that his or her understudy is playing the lead role on the night you attend. The whole spectacle could probably be just as good, but the experience might not leave quite the same impression. Delegation or substitution does not always guarantee quite the same result.

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