Archive for the ‘Harvest’ Category

Set in stone

July 13th, 2017

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Yesterday was an important day in the work to extend our grape reception – pouring the concrete. Although this might sound like a comparatively easy task, I have to say that I was seriously impressed. Watching a pile of lumpy, wet stones and cement being transformed into a smooth, flat surface is pretty amazing, and I have to tell you that our guys did an excellent job.

Of course, this new floor is not completely flat, but has actually been laid on a very slight incline simply to accommodate better drainage, and it is this requirement that made the whole task just a shade more difficult. I soon discovered that it’s all about the preparation – having everything clearly mapped out beforehand, confirming that it’s not a job that can simply be carried out ‘on the fly’.

The other slight complication was that the truck was just a fraction too tall to enter the building, and the chute delivering the concrete was only just long enough to reach the new floor extension – another couple of feet further away and the whole chore would have been a lot more complicated. Within an hour or two the work was complete, leaving tiling as the only outstanding task before we finish.

Floor update

July 10th, 2017

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Work on extending our grape reception area continues (when we can find the time), and we now have the drains in place ready the final phase – laying the floor. The first step will be a concrete pour, probably later this week, before finally laying the tiles. 

As you may have seen from previous posts, the foundation of this floor is quite substantial, but of course, it has to be. At peak periods this floor will need to support a considerable amount of weight. Individual baskets of grapes (about 20kg each) are stacked on pallets as they arrive – usually 35 baskets per pallet, so that they can be moved around more efficiently. Although we pride ourselves on loading presses with the minimum of delay, there may be periods when we have a number of pallets waiting in the queue. At around 600/700kg per pallet the weight soon adds up, and so. quite clearly, the floor has to be strong.

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

It occurred to me that on my recent list of ongoing tasks (keeping us super busy in the bodega at the moment), I omitted to add training. Yes, once a week, Angela, Luisa and myself attend a four hour session to learn all about our new software system. At the beginning of the year we launched our revised accounts system, which from this September (at harvest time) will be partnered by an entirely new stock control system.

However, this is no ordinary stock system, as it will record every aspect of our wine production in fine detail – otherwise known as traceability – from grape to bottle. In fact, I guess that the vast majority of people would be quite surprised by the amount of detail required, actually beginning out in the vineyards whilst the fruit is still growing. Every lot number of every treatment (organic or otherwise), used by both the bodega and our grape suppliers is recorded – together with dates and amounts applied. This level of detail (including lot numbers etc.) is carried through the entire wine making process, right down to the bottle and cork used to produce every single wine. Yes, even bottles and corks are allocated lot numbers.

Of course, the simple reasoning behind this being that if any one bottle is discovered to have a technical defect, then the entire batch (usually from a specific tank) can be withdrawn from sale, and the fault traced right back to the very grape with which it was produced, if necessary. The amount of information recorded for your delicious bottle of albariño is mind-boggling!

So not only do we now have to learn how the system works, but somehow we have to find the time to input all the data. Good job that the days are longer at this time of year…

Oh dear! I am very conscious that I have not posted in a while, but don’t worry, I have lots of ready-made excuses!

Firstly, we had a few days away in Belgium (not bodega business but for the graduation of our daughter after completing her Masters in International Law). Meanwhile, back in Galicia we have simply been very, very busy – possibly taking on too many projects all at the same time: Still working on extending the grape reception, adding an irrigation system to one of our vineyards (more on that later), and racking the final tanks from their lees (after nearly nine months resting quietly).

The truth is that we could perhaps, have left some wines on their lees for a little longer, but the reality is (believe it or not) that we have to start preparing the bodega for the 2017 harvest. Between now and the end of August, we still need to bottle a few more tanks, and empty some of the tanks immediately adjacent to the presses, just make it just a tad more convenient when moving the grape must. Please note that we never ever move wine unless we really have to, and so we usually encompass any re-positioning of our wine within the racking process itself – relocating the clean wine well away from the pressing area. 

Today’s photos shows the impressive tartrate crystal formation at the bottom of our tanks when we rack the wines. They instantly reminded me of the dramatic Jurassic limestone strata of the Dentelles de Montmirail in the Vaucluse region of France, with their sharp-edged ridges and spikes.

By the way… Happy 4th July!

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)