Archive for the ‘Bodega’ Category

Festivo in the sun

December 6th, 2017

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The 6th and 8th of December are National holidays in Spain – the 6th is Spain’s National Constitution Day, whilst the 8th is the Day of the Immaculate Conception. With these dates falling on a Wednesday and a Friday this year many businesses (including our own) are taking a ‘bridge’ day on Thursday, and closing for the latter half of the week.

I almost regret to say that as this break begins Galicia is still bathed in unbroken sunshine. This might seem like an odd statement, but it’s simply to say that we need some rain! Apart from a mere handful of damp/wet days, the entire month of November was dry and sunny, and now December has started in exactly the same way, with wall-to-wall blue skies. The only possible upside to this story is the frost. For the last week or so, under clear skies, we have woken up to freezing temperatures, providing the perfect conditions to embark on our annual pruning marathon.

The lack of water has now become so acute that the local Xunta has produced leaflets offering advice on how to save water. Obviously the cover photo illustrates that our reservoirs are falling to alarmingly low levels. Of course there are no cheetahs here in Galicia (to the best of my knowledge) but it’s the underlying message that really causes us concern.

Posted in Bodega, Fiestas

Sometimes, when people acquire or inherit money their first impulse is to open their own restaurant, or perhaps build a wine cellar. I think that this is what you might call a ‘romantic idea’ – the fact that your name might appear above a restaurant door, or on your own wine label. Proof of this could be the number of Hollywood stars who have already taken this path (except that when they did, I very much doubt if they ever stopped to consider the long hours and hard work involved behind the scenes). Their only consideration was probably the end result – a bottle of their own wine or a nice location where they could entertain and/or impress their friends.

For us, this assumption can be something of an occupational hazard. For example, when we make a new acquaintance and mention that we have a wine cellar, you can almost see their eyes light up. Not necessarily because they expect a flood of free wine, but much more that they see it as a potential day out – a visit and guided tour of a wine cellar. In many instances they actually extend themselves an ‘auto-invitation’, by saying “Oh, we must come and visit you”. When this happens I always ask myself the same question – if we told them that we owned a shoe shop, would they necessarily want to visit and see how a shoe shop is run? I very much doubt it!

The reason that I mention this now is because this happened to us only a few days ago. Upon meeting our new next-door neighbour for the first time, at the very first mention of wine cellar, the auto-invite was extended.

The amusing side to this story (which is 100% true), is that his profession is that of undertaker. Suffice to say that we did not ask for a reciprocal visit!

 

For the last decade or so there has been a small mountain of granite stones idling at the back of our bodega. (These were rocks dug out of the ground when we created our one hectare vineyard that surrounds the bodega). Some were used as ballast to fill the floor space for our recent grape reception extension, whilst the rest…. Well, Angela had other plans.

There is an access road to the back of our bodega, which climbs from street level at the front of the bodega to our second floor level at the back. With the grape reception located at this second floor level it enables us (by design) to move fruit and grape must around the bodega mostly by gravity. This access road was also built by hand, by our own people, hewn out of the side of the hill and then covered with a layer of stone and concrete. Before this it was just a rough track, and the vehicles delivering fruit during harvest were always in danger of spilling a case or two as they bumped and bounced their way up the hill!

So now Angela’s dream has finally come true. The rest of the rocks have been used to create a dry-stone wall at the side of this access road. Although you can’t really see from today’s photo, the wall must be at least 50cm thick (nearly 2ft), and will eventually support some of the soil from the bank behind it. The guys in our team who built it are really multi-talented.

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

The one thing that our recent photos have in common, is that they are all taken under clear blue skies. For the first couple of days of November we experienced two or three of days of rainfall, and of course, we simply assumed that our normal Galician winter had finally taken hold….. not at all. Within a week the skies had cleared completely, and the fine, sunny weather continued. To be honest, we really need some sustained rainfall even if it will make it extremely uncomfortable for our guys who will start pruning in a few weeks time.

The combination of this dry weather and the comparatively early harvest this year have enabled us to squeeze in a few additional jobs before the start of pruning. An unsightly piece of ground (actually more of a ‘dumping ground’) adjacent to the grape reception has been cleared, and the back of the bodega completely repainted…. Considering all the building and maintenance that we have carried out this year then perhaps we should start a construction business as a sideline! Having said that it’s amazing what a bit of cleaning and a lick of paint can make, even if people rarely visit the rear of our bodega.

We have quite a few tough, and sometimes boring tasks to complete during our working year – for example, pruning is one that I often quote. After the harvest, however, we have to complete many different cleaning chores, one of which is cleaning all the plastic cases used for gathering the grapes. More than 2,000.

Until we can work out a better system, this is all done by hand, or rather with high pressure jet washers. Whilst we do wash the cases between uses, as they are constantly re-cycled during the picking, they still tend to build up a layer of dust, and always tend to look a bit grubby at the end of the campaign. The washing process occupies two or three people for a period of about two weeks, before they are stacked in the grape reception ready for next year.

These cases, like the presses, the pressing room and the grape reception itself are simply the materials and parts of the bodega that sit completely dormant for about 11½ months of the year!

Posted in Bodega, Post Harvest

Computer catch up

October 5th, 2017

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Just before the harvest (apart from all our preparation work), we were occupied by a series of computer training sessions. Well, not so much computer training, but rather software training. During 2017 we have been progressively rolling out our new, updated software package. We started with accounts, eventually moving on to stock, bottling, labelling and then finally, we turned to the harvest. This has been a huge undertaking, and despite the training (carried out mostly at break-neck speed), we are now trying to put into practice all the procedures that we were shown in theory – and it is by no means an easy task!

Indeed, we made a decision at the very beginning of the harvest that we would only enter the bare minimum of information into the system, and the vast majority we would input later when the pressure was off (keeping copious records on paper as in previous vintages). The last couple of weeks, we have spent hour after hour staring at our screens, sometimes just trying to figure out how to make it all work – connecting the theory with the reality is not quite as simple as you might think.

Although today’s photo is not very high quality you might still be able to make out that nearly every tank in our cellar is full. A few tanks are deliberately left empty merely give us some space to work – for example, when racking, we need to have at least one empty tank to re-locate the wine.

Wine making update

September 25th, 2017

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I just finished writing an e-mail to someone a moment ago, apologising that our bodega was in a bit of a ‘limbo’ state during their very recent visit. Meaning that whilst our obvious priority is the wine making, we are also undertaking cleaning, some re-painting and preparing orders. This period of activity is almost more exhausting than the harvest itself. Clocks and calendars are completely meaningless as all of our days fuse into one long extended week – weekends simply don’t apply. Our work timetable is dictated entirely by all the essential cellar work as the transition from must into wine bluntly refuse to take a day off!

Unfortunately (from a rest day point of view), the weekend just gone was probably the busiest of the entire wine making process. With the fermentations well under way, as I have previously mentioned, there are quite a number of tank additions that have to be made at this time – bentonite perhaps being the most significant of these. Bentonite is our choice of fining agent, for clarifying our wine, and was first discovered in Fort Benton, Wyoming (so no prizes for where the name originates), and is a type of clay made from volcanic ash. Not only does the bentonite drag all the unwanted solids and dead yeasts to the bottom of the tank, but also helps to keep the wine stable during fermentation. As it is a natural product, it also means that all of our wines are suitable for vegetarians.

Our grape reception area which was extended just before harvest, is now getting just a little more pampering as we give it a new lick of paint, just before we re-fill it completely with 2,000 empty harvest baskets ready for next year. For a space that is only used for 7-10 days a year, it’s certainly had more than it’s fair share of attention recently!

Posted in Bodega, Post Harvest

 

Something very interesting happened this morning when I got out of bed – I didn’t rush to the window to check on the weather. I also stopped trawling through the weather websites, at least until next year. So when I eventually did leave home and discovered that it actually was raining, I really didn’t care!

So our attention now turns to the contents of our tanks – the grape must. The first thing that I have to say is that we are thrilled with the fruit that we have collected, and so taking into account that quality ALWAYS originates in the vineyard, we should have have the raw material to make some very good wine in 2017 (to sell in 2018).

It’s true to say that no matter how much experience we have working our harvests, we will always be looking for new ideas and ways to improve our working practices in the future. We keep notes of these ideas, discuss them, and then perhaps incorporate one or two in the next vintage. There are also clearly one or two things that are fundamental to a successful campaign – forward planning is vitally important to a smooth and less stressful harvest, as is having a well organised, well-drilled team around us – thankfully we do.

Posted in Bodega, Post Harvest

Harvest 2017 – Day 7

September 12th, 2017

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Our 2017 harvest will be completed today – no loud cheers just yet however, as we start to plan for the next phase – the small matter of wine making.

Monday, our final day, didn’t start too well. Firstly it was grey and overcast, with just a little light rain. However, as has been the case for the last few weeks, this early morning gloom soon cleared up, and by 10 or 11am clear skies had been restored. In the early part of the day, we had our first small technical hiccup of the harvest – our (electric) forklift broke down quite literally in the middle of our grape reception where we unload the vehicles. Clearly this is a super heavy machine, and not simply something that you can push out of the way. We called for the engineer, in the hope that the machine could be moved before our final few grapes of the year arrived. Thankfully, we managed to get this done.

In the meantime, on a slightly quieter day (receiving only a little fruit, and just before wine making), Angela was catching up on some administration. From the photo you will see that she clearly doesn’t trust our new computer software, and has continued to make hard copies of everything (technically I think this is known as ‘back up’). It could also be because Angela is the ‘queen of the coloured pencils’, and that she keeps four copies of everything. There is another technical term for this – but it’s just a bit too rude to post!

At the end of the final day we had actually only made a couple of pressings, just ‘mopping up’ the last few grapes. I will write a more detailed summary, perhaps tomorrow if I have the time, and those of you unlucky enough to be on my contact list, will eventually receive my slightly longer vintage report. Good night and God Bless!

Harvest 2017 – Day 6

September 11th, 2017

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I should have mentioned before that the back of harvest is now well and truly broken. For example, all of the fruit from our own vineyards has already been safely gathered in. Our team of around 60 pickers worked long hours to take advantage of the sunshine, as at the start of the week the long-term forecast was a little uncertain.

Despite being Sunday, we have had quite a busy day – grapes are still very healthy and continue to show very good potential when analysed. As you might expect, with our shortened pressing, this adds to the concentration of the juice, and yields are still very good. Of course we always work below the maximum permitted yields simply because in the world of wine quantity nearly always diminishes quality. Lower yields both in the vineyard and from the presses will mean that 2017 should be a vintage to savour.

As the week has progressed we have noticed that the potential alcohol of our fruit has slowly crept a bit higher, and I would estimate (even at this early stage) that our alcoholic content will probably be somewhere around 12.5%. Obviously the final number will be revealed as time goes on.

I’m afraid it’s another uninspiring photo today, but it does highlight a bit of ingenuity – our cellar guys using the refrigerated heat-exchanger pipes to chill their water bottles!