Archive for the ‘Pre-harvest’ Category

Tank Story II

July 2nd, 2018

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Last week I mentioned briefly that putting the tanks back together, welding the steel, is a much more difficult job than cutting them in two (not to mention very highly skilled).

The process of maneuvering the two halves into position and the spot welding is slow, precise and painstaking. As you can perhaps make out from today’s video every small weld is made centimeter by centimeter, re-aligning the metal between each fusion – it really is very exacting work. Once the circle is complete the result is a line of hundreds of individual spot welds that form the new joint. The welds are then hammered flat, with two men working simultaneously, perfectly co-ordinated, one inside the tank and the other outside – it’s really fascinating to watch.

After the hammering comes the final clean up. This is a two part process. Firstly comes the grinding, when the small humps and bumps of the join are removed, leaving a comparatively smooth, flat surface. Finally comes the polishing, when the tank is left with nothing more than a ‘brushed metal’ effect is visible (masking tape is used the give this brushed effect perfectly straight edges). Et voila! Job done!

Of course, now that the new jacket is in place it simply needs to be connected and tested. The odd fact is that this work is not carried out by the same people that made the tank modifications. Connecting to the cold water system will be carried out by either a plumber or refrigeration engineer in the coming days.

New shirts!

June 27th, 2018

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After a week away from the bodega our tanks (or should I say half-tanks?) have arrived home, complete with their new shirts. These bottom sections have had new cooling jackets added, to make them more efficient and improve temperature control, especially during fermentation. In English we call them ‘jackets’ whereas the Spanish call them ‘camisas’, which literally translated means shirts.

Obviously it is now down to the simple matter of welding them back together again, which is a highly specialised job, and a good deal more difficult than the process of cutting them. Having said that, the guys who do this work are so good, that once complete you can barely see the join. I will probably add a short video later in the week.

(By the way, the cardboard wrapped around the tanks in the photo are merely there to protect the jackets whilst in transit, this does not form a part of the tank insulation itself – we are just a bit more hi-tech than that! Also, the tanks are turned upside-down, so the strange fins that you see on top are actually the feet).

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

Just add milk…

August 11th, 2017

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Talk about cutting it fine – on the last day before our very short summer closure, we are putting the final touches to the grape reception. This work started about three months ago, and perhaps if we had been working full time on it, would have been finished two months ago. Unfortunately we didn’t have the luxury of too much spare time in order to give this one task our full attention.

So all the tiles are laid (and what a difference that makes!), and now we are just adding the milk…. to be honest I’m not sure what the colloquial expression would be in the UK building trade, but here in Galicia, apparently, the cement that fills the gaps between the tiles is called the ‘milk’ (even though it’s dark grey). Whilst it’s true to say that this cement does have a very liquid consistency, it’s looks more like the thickness of double cream to me!

So, we are almost ready, albeit there is still a bit of re-organising to do when we come back to work, in a week or so. The August weather is a bit odd too. The month started with a couple of cloudy days with drizzle, but now it’s sunny, windy, and quite cool. For the last few days there has been a stiff breeze blowing, and whilst, during the day, it’s still warm enough to sit on the beach (mid-20’s °C – mid to upper 70’s °F), the evenings and nights have been quite chilly, indeed almost cold – down as low as 12°C (53°F). Obviously this will slow things down a bit, as far as fruit maturity is concerned, so instead of a harvest at the very beginning of September, it could well be delayed by a week or so. As always we’ll just have to wait and see.

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest


August 5th, 2017

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For the last four or five days Lucifer has been sweeping across Europe (but don’t worry, I don’t mean that we have been overtaken by devil worship, it’s simply the nickname given to the recent spell of excessively hot weather). You may have read in the press or seen on TV that parts of Spain and Italy have been enduring temperatures of between 40 and 45°C (105-115°F). Severe weather warnings have been issued…. but not here in Galicia. The last couple of days here have been very, very grey and overcast (see photo) with long periods of drizzle, and temperatures of the low-to-mid 20’sC (70-75°F). This is not ideal weather for growing grapes, but at least the forecast is for improvement in the next day or so.

Just a quick anecdote on this subject if I may. The BBC was interviewing a British family on holiday in Cyprus, where the temperature had reached 43°C, and people had been advised to stay indoors during the afternoon. The interviewer asked what precautions the father had taken to protect his two young daughters, and I’m not sure if his response was typical British phlegm or just plain stupid – “we have put on sunscreen and are eating lots of ice cream.” In ‘Britspeak’ this means “I’ve paid for this sunshine, and by God, I’m going to enjoy it (whatever the possible consequences)!”

Posted in Pre-harvest, Weather

It’s been a while since I mentioned our grape reception, simply because the work had been placed on a back burner for a while as we completed other, more pressing jobs. As you may already know, this space is used exclusively during the harvest period and therefore our only objective is to ensure that the construction is complete before the end of August (harvest is anticipated for early September).

The final remaining chore is to finish the floor (or is that the wall?), with some heavy duty tiling – probably only a few days work, before we can then give the area a thorough cleaning.

I have to apologise for today’s photo, I couldn’t resist. It was just the way that David was studying the floor that gave me the idea to play with the angles a little. (Hopefully people might have a double-take when they’re browsing!)

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

I know that this gets pretty boring, but please don’t forget that our harvest and wine making is a cyclical process that repeats itself over and over again (wow, I was tempted to make a comment about Angela there, but I resisted). Having said that, no two vintages are exactly alike, although the build up and preparation that we have to make is more or less the same.

Apart from all the bottling that we are doing, we also have maintenance guys working in the bodega. Not our own guys this time, but outside contractors who service all the heavy machinery that we rely on at harvest. Of course, the key pieces of kit are the presses, and so, quite naturally, these get a priority inspection and service. When the engineers work on the presses then, quite naturally, they have to test them. The noise that our presses make is very distinctive and reverberates around the whole bodega……. and for us this noise can only mean one thing – harvest is imminent! Long days and nights in the bodega are beckoning. 

It’s been a while since I mentioned the weather, so here’s a quick update. The last week or so has been very changeable, some sunny days, some cloudy days, some wet days. The rain that we have had has been light, perhaps just enough to refresh the vines, and daytime temperatures have not been excessive (usually around the mid-20’s C – about 75-80°F). After inspection today, on a clear, sunny morning, our fruit is still looking healthy and progressing nicely. 

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest


July 24th, 2017

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At this time of year planning, and more especially, forward planning is the key.

I mentioned only the other day that we had been busy racking wines, but the other very important procedure in our pre-harvest planning is bottling. Freeing up a few extra tanks to accommodate the new grape must. However, this year, there has been one major hiccup in that process.

Our bottle manufacturer was hit by a ransomware extortion attack, which pretty much closed down their entire production for a number of weeks. Obviously not having bottles during our peak bottling period is a bit of a handicap to say the least, but in the circumstances there was nothing we could do, except to wait patiently until our supplier’s systems were fully restored.

Unfortunately our first delivery of bottles last week was also a bit of a disaster! We had been promised that our truck was loaded and leaving the factory in Bourgos, arriving with us first thing the following morning (with our entire team poised waiting to unload and start work). Not only did it not arrive, but we subsequently discovered that it was in fact, never loaded. No real explanation was ever offered.

Suffice to say that I am always at a bit of a loss to understand why, at the same time every year, Spanish industry appears to be taken by surprise when the holiday season kicks in, and they find themselves short-handed. Malware apart, there are always delays and missed deadlines when it comes to supply and delivery. Probably the biggest surprise of all is that I continue to be frustrated by these problems…