Archive for the ‘Harvest’ Category

The wall

June 7th, 2017

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OK, so maybe not the most exciting news, but the extension to our grape reception area continues. I should add that all the work is being carried out ‘in-house’, by our own guys – so we can just add ‘builders’ to the list of jobs that they are already able to do. Oh, and by the way, and when I say build, I mean BUILD! The way these guys construct things, they are not going to fall down in a hurry. The retaining wall they they are adding now is not only supported by steel rebar, but will then be strengthened by a pour of concrete. Barring natural disasters, it will be around long after I’m gone.

I guess the only drawback is that they do have other jobs to fit in around the construction, both in the vineyards, and in the bodega. Tomorrow for example, we will be bottling the first of our 2016 wines (I will comment about that later), so I think it would be fair to say that at least they don’t suffer from boredom!

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

Reception floorWork in the bodega is already underway to prepare for the 2017 harvest!

At peak times during nearly every harvest our grape reception area can be stretched to the limit, and this can, potentially, cause delays in getting fruit into the presses. It’s really just a question of space – moving grapes through in a strict rotation, ensuring that different parcels are not mixed, and that presses are loaded to their optimum capacity. When the reception is completely full it’s possible to experience a bit of a log-jam, and it then becomes a huge game of chess maneuvering grapes into the correct position!

The solution however, is quite simple – expand the floor area to give us more space to work. At the same time it is our intention to install a case washing machine, meaning that we can re-cycle clean cases more quickly and make the whole reception process more efficient. The construction itself is not too difficult, simply raising the floor from ground level so that it meets the raised (vehicle unloading) level.

The first step (as you can see in today’s photo) is to fill the floor space with rocks and ballast. I will update our progress over the coming weeks.

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

Craggy Range, Hawke's BayHaving been in the wine business for so long, and having travelled so much, it’s inevitable that I have befriended one or two wine makers around the world. Happily, I am still in contact with quite a number of them. We don’t always chat about wine, but at this time of year my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, have only one thing on their minds – the 2017 harvest.

On the other side of the world (geographically opposed to our location here in North West Spain), is Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand. Christchurch has had a pretty tough time in recent years – a series of damaging earthquakes, followed this year by drought and forest fires. Very recently hundreds of residents around the city had to be evacuated, 11 homes were destroyed and one pilot was killed when his firefighting helicopter crashed whilst dropping water.

The relevance of this story is that the summer of 2017 in New Zealand has been warm, dry and windy, and they had been anticipating a very good harvest. In the last few days however, one or two areas have suffered some rainfall, but fingers crossed, this will not be enough to do any lasting damage to the fruit – only time will tell. (Don’t forget that this weather pattern very much mirrors our own experience here in 2016).

Meanwhile, out in our own vineyards, we have just about broken the back of this winter’s pruning. Until now, our  2017 weather has been mostly dry, and apart from one short, wet period during the first two weeks of February, the sun has continued to shine. Last week our daytime temperatures were pushing 20°C (68°F), which to be honest, although very pleasant, is really just a bit too warm for this time of year.

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!

Harvest 2016 – Day 6

September 21st, 2016

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After five days of almost non-stop action the final day is nearly always a bit of an anti-climax. There is still fruit that needs to be collected, but it tends to arrive piecemeal rather than in a steady flow. At the end of the last working day (as I have explained in previous vintages), we need to wait until the final bunches arrive before we can load the final presses. All presses have a minimum and maximum capacity, and so it is essential to calculate the final loads to ensure that we don’t have any odd kilos left over and also that there are enough grapes to press. (In an emergency I guess that we could always take our shoes and socks off and find an empty bathtub!)

One thing that has become quite clear from this year’s campaign is that we are working faster and more efficiently than ever. More transport, more people, our only limitations these days tend to be the capacity of the building and the key equipment (presses, tanks etc) Whilst we still have a little spare capacity, whereby we could simply harvest over a longer period, there are still many variables that we have to take into consideration – yields being just one such example. We never really know the actual yields (and therefore tank capacity required), until our first pressings are complete.

The other very notable feature of this year’s harvest, apart from the really fine quality, was also the fact that it was very uneventful – no major breakdowns or failures. (I deliberately did not make that comment until the harvest was complete)

Today’s short video shows the last few cases of grapes being offloaded and palletised, with a brief guest appearance by Angela as she collected the final grape samples for analysis.

Harvest 2016 – Day 5

September 20th, 2016

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Sunset - Bodega VineyardOnce again the day started under bright sunny skies, a slight breeze, but nothing more. The back of our 2016 campaign was already well and truly broken, after four days of frantic harvest we were anticipating a slightly more relaxed day. Big mistake!

Owing to the three day break in our picking, there was already work to be done in the cellar as we were not only racking the clean must into clean tanks (after cold settling), but we were almost at a point where the first tanks could be seeded for fermentation. Of course any break in our picking also makes life more complicated, as the normally smooth transition from grape must, to fermentation, to wine is rudely interrupted. Instead of moving in a logical fashion from one task to the next, the order of priority becomes slightly less clear.

And so, expecting a reduced amount of grapes with no early morning rush of vehicles to unload, we set about our cellar work. By the time we realised that there would be more grapes than anticipated we had already fallen behind, and valuable pressing time had been lost. Quite logically, because our presses work on a programmed cycle (we calculate the optimum time and pressures required, according to the state of the grapes), it means that the time required for each pressing is fixed, and cannot be accelerated in any way. Time lost at the beginning, or during the day, can never be recovered.

In the end the volume of grapes received were what we would consider to be a normal day, but because of the delayed start, it also meant that we all had a late finish. Oh, for the benefit of hindsight!

(Today’s photo – sunset over our small, one hectare bodega vineyard, with the Atlantic Ocean just visible on the horizon)

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.