Archive for the ‘Vineyards’ Category

For many years I have been under a slight misapprehension…. that irrigation of the vineyards was, at the very least, frowned upon, and to some extent, illegal! I think that this is probably a throw back to my early days in the wine trade, when the majority of ‘old world’ countries did not allow a single drop of water to be used in the vineyards, whilst the ‘new world’ producers (who used it extensively) were considered by Europe as charlatans, spraying water everywhere with impunity.

The interesting fact is that since around the turn of the millennium, things have been changing – but in a very quiet, almost stealth-like manner, as the traditional wine producing areas of Europe slowly adopted their wine laws to allow irrigation to be introduced. Certainly this is still done with an element of control as, for example, in some areas it is only allowed during certain summer months.

Of course, having made all the initial fuss about the ‘cheating’ new world producers, the old world soon came to accept (persuaded perhaps by the onset of global-warming), that allowing the use of water was actually quite a sensible thing. For me personally, the idea of irrigation is quite similar to the use of treatments in a vineyard – no sensible producer is going to sit back and watch his fruit rot on the vine if there is some step that he can take to prevent it. Yes, we all use products that are as ecological as possible to treat our vines, but in the end it’s all still a form of intervention. And so, logically, if your vines are wilting in the heat (and consuming all their sugars to survive), then just give them a drop of water – no so much as to inflate the berries, just just enough to keep them ‘comfortable’.

Today’s photo shows the drip irrigation that we have just added to our bodega vineyard, where the upper part can be particularly dry in hot weather. The irony is that, as I write this, it’s actually raining!

Whenever we have welcomed visitors over the last few years, we have usually taken them out for a trip around the vineyards, and to explain the geography of the Salnés Valley – where we are situated in relation to the Atlantic Ocean etc. We have discovered that best way to do this is actually quite simple – to drive them up a hill, above the valley, and admire the wonderful view of Salnés extended out in front of them. 

Dotted around Galicia, there are quite a number of ‘Miradors’ (look out points), designed almost exclusively for tourism purposes. (They are also often used by locals as picnicking places, as many include stone tables and benches, perhaps even a built-in barbecue).

Our very favourite for showing off Salnés is the mirador of San Cibran, located only a few km from our front door, which is, as you might imagine, mostly an uphill journey! However, recently, we have developed a bit of a problem….. no view! 

Very unfortunately, the surrounding hillside is planted with Eucalyptus trees (not indigenous to Galicia, but extensively planted some years ago to produce cheap timber). Now they are taking over, not only blocking the views, but also creating the perfect environment for forest fires. You may recall that at the end of May last year I wrote about how our own Ocean view, at the rear of our bodega, had been restored when some trees were felled, and it now seems that St Cibran is desperately in need of a bit of TLC as well. Regrettably, a mirador without is view, is now essentially, just a hill!

Weather addendum

February 3rd, 2017

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FloodedOnly one week ago I mentioned that the weather had been very dry, far too dry for this time of year. And yes, more or less the following day the inevitable happened – the heavens opened. Since then there have been a few days of light rain, but also a couple of days with significant downpours and the odd bit of thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure. Today strong winds have also joined the party!

Great for the vineyards, but maybe not so great for our guys working out there, pruning our pergolas with driving rain in their faces….

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Cold snap

January 25th, 2017

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Cold snapAfter saying that we don’t get too much frost here in Galicia the last week or two have seen early morning temperatures either at, or just below freezing. Quite naturally these cold nights are accompanied by clear skies, meaning that during the day we have enjoyed wall-to-wall sunshine, with temperatures of around 11-12°C (52-54°F).

In one way these conditions constitute the prefect conditions for pruning (and I’m sure that our team working in the vineyard are very thankful for that), but as always there is also a slight downside. The problem is that the winter so far has been very, very dry, with hardly any rainfall whatsoever since the turn of the year, perhaps just one or two odd days with a bit of drizzle, but nothing more. As I have said before, we simply need more water to replenish the water table.

The forecasters say that we will have rain tomorrow, but if I remember correctly they said that yesterday, and, as you can see from today’s photo, they were wrong!

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

January update

January 11th, 2017

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RebajasIf you thought that January might be a quiet time in the bodega then you would be wrong. Of course we have the usual year-end admin to take care of…. (Luisa for example, is super busy closing the accounts for 2016, and to make matters worse, is also suffering from a horrible winter cold), but there is also a lot more activity taking place both inside and outside the building.

Thankfully, many of our customers are replenishing their stocks after the holidays, and so we are now very busy making pallets (very nice for helping our cash-flow at what is traditionally a very lean time of year). Consequently we have to plan more bottling, and so we have now embarked on a programme of passing wine through the cold-stabilisation process (in order to prevent the finished wine from precipitating tartrate crystals in the bottle). Once this process is complete, in about two weeks time, we will make one final adjustment to the sulphur, and then bottle the wine ready for shipping.

In the vineyards we have pretty much perfect weather for pruning – dry and cold, but mostly sunny. In fact, if anything this winter has been far too dry. After the hot, dry summer of 2016, we really do need more rain to replenish the water table. Winters in Galicia are often cold, wet and miserable, our problem is that, so far, this winter just hasn’t been wet and miserable enough!

Burn, baby, burn!

December 1st, 2016

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BurningI know that I have written about burning our vine cuttings many times before, but when I think about it, this is pretty much inevitable….. When you consider that nearly all the work that we do is fixed to an annual cycle – pruning, harvesting, wine making etc., not surprisingly it all comes around but once a year! So, if you notice that I am repeating myself, then I do apologise, but then again, we also have to take into account that we do pick up new readers all the time. (On the other hand it could just be that I am a bit senile and don’t remember writing about certain subjects before).

However, burning the vine cuttings is not quite as straight forward as you might imagine, it’s not simply just a question of putting a match and watching them burn. We actually have to apply, in advance, for permission, and this is only granted at certain times of year. The reason for this is actually quite straight forward – the fear and/or control of forest fires. Permissions have a duration of one week, and can simply be suspended if the weather suddenly becomes too windy or excessively hot.

I should also mention that vine cuttings are very good for barbecues – so time to get the salchicas out!

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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….