Archive for the ‘Vineyards’ Category

Now, I don’t profess to be any kind of meteorologist, but I do recognise when something’s not quite right. Here we are well into the month of June, and the weather here in northwest Spain is pretty poor to say the least. Daytime temperatures have hovered around the mid-teens °C (60-65°F), it’s grey and there has been a fair amount of rain. Our flowering period started reasonably well, in relatively dry conditions, but then it all went a bit down hill. Some flowering was complete before the rain, but for the rest we will have to wait to see what long-term effect that this cool, wet weather will have. I rather suspect that the flowering will prove to be uneven.

The odd part of this is that in some areas of northern Europe (across the UK, Belgium and Holland for example), they have been enjoying hot, balmy, summer conditions with temperatures into the mid 20’s, perhaps as much as 10°C more than our corner of Spain. This topsy-turvy weather has persisted for some time now (the whole of May) and to be honest I don’t really remember ever seeing this type of persistent weather reversal before.

Back in the UK, my friends still believe that I spend my time basking in a warm, sunny climate – clearly they have not visited Galicia!

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

A few weeks ago I took a photo of a guy in the middle of a forest, close to our bodega, cutting trees and making a clearing. Little did I know at that moment that his plan was to plant a small vineyard – but it did start me thinking. Was there any logic whatsoever behind the site that he selected, or was it just a small plot of land where he fancied growing a few grapes? I rather suspect it was the latter.

I have asked myself this question many times, about the seemingly random situation of many of our Rias Baixas vineyards, and how they actually come to be selected. My guess is that, for the vast majority, it is more about convenience than making any type of detailed study to find the best site. This could explain why, in a denomination of only 4,000 hectares, there are nearly 22,000 different vineyard sites!

In the wine business we talk about ‘Terroir’, which many think is simply related to the soil on which a vine is planted, but I can tell you that it is actually much, much more complex than that. Terroir is a combination of factors, including nearly every physical aspect of a vineyard location that you can think of – soil, soil type, drainage, aspect, sun exposure, local rainfall, protection/shade, wind, sea mists etc., etc. All of the individual components that will ultimately determine why the quality of one grape varies from another (assuming that they have been properly cared for).

My photo shows this new planting, bathed in a bit of early morning sun. But what the photo doesn’t tell you is that this location is one of the coldest corners of Ribadumia. The vineyard is on a north facing slope, and apart from this brief touch of sun, it will spend the rest of the day shrouded by trees, with almost no direct sunlight and very little warmth. In a few years I will be interested to explore what it produces.

17th March will go down in our 2018 calendar as the day that spring officially started. No big deal really, except that this year the transition from winter to spring happened pretty much from one day to the next. Prior to that date (as with other parts of Europe), the weather had been quite miserable – cold and wet with daytime temperatures barely topping the mid-teens in °C (55-60°F). On 17th all that changed, the sun broke through, the temperature climbed quite dramatically, and the whole complexion of the countryside around us changed – gone were the winter jackets, time to roll up the shirt sleeves. The temperatures are now into the mid-20’s C (75-80°F).

Today’s photo is a slightly different view of our bodega vineyard. I thought that I would change the perspective a little by photographing the pergolas (and their new shoots) from below. The image is further exaggerated by using a 14mm fisheye lens, which also gives the shot a much wider angle.

Time to break out the sun screen!

Bud break 2018

April 9th, 2018

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After months of complaining about having no rain, things have been turned on their head, whereby we are now complaining about the continued cold, damp weather.

By way of illustrating how cold it has been I thought that it might be interesting to do a comparison of vine development, to see how one or two different vintages compare. Whilst I have hundreds of photos of vines in my folders, I have carefully sorted through them to find photos taken in the very same location, at more or less the same time of year – a sort of odd ‘time lapse’ spread over several years! (It’s important that this selection was taken in exactly the same location, as different parts of each vineyard will develop at different speeds according to their exposure).

I had already noticed that vine development was slow this year, as it is only now that we are really witnessing the first signs of life – bud break. As you will see from the comparative photos (click on image to enlarge), we are probably about one or two weeks behind where we would normally be at this date. Bud break often happens during that last weeks of March, and generally speaking, by early April we can almost be at the point where some folliage starts to emerge. (The first two photos are from two previous vintages, and the final picture is 2018).

Of course, it is still very early days, and should the weather suddenly warm up then we can soon get back on track. It is not really until the flowering that we can make a true determination of when the harvest might be, but the way things stand it’s possible that it could be a late one in 2018. Vamos a ver!

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

This is the final video of our four part pruning sequel (albeit that the final part is not so much pruning, but rather burning). Before I start I should say that we don’t always burn the vine cuttings, sometimes they are shredded and ploughed back into the soil. There are two factors that determine whether we do this or not.

The first is quite simple – if there is any trace of disease in the dead wood, then the cuttings will be burned without question. Secondly, is the soil analysis. Every year we have all the soils in our vineyards analised, and then simply treat according to what is required (always natural bio-treatments approved by ecological agriculture). One of the reasons that we don’t need to re-cycle vine cuttings every year (adding more organic material) is because we already feed the soil during the growing cycle. Because we allow grass to grow naturally between the vines, then obviously we have to cut it, and when we do the mulch that is formed often provides enough natural nutrient on its own. In effect, any additional treatments that we use are only by way of a supplement to this natural process.

(Please remember that today’s video was filmed out of sequence, before the onset of the current period of cold, wet weather!)

Posted in Video, Vineyards

Perhaps you thought that I had given up completely on my series of pruning videos, but I hadn’t, it was simply a delay caused by the Galician weather! If you did see the first two videos then you will have noticed that they were filmed under beautiful blue skies – almost shirt sleeve weather. Since then it has been raining and cold, and simply not conducive to filming outside with a camera (my excuse). Unfortunately our guys had to plough on regardless, rain and all, the only shirker in this story was me.

Incidentally, when I eventually publish the last video (Part 4), you will see that it’s sunny again. And how do I know this? It’s just down to poor continuity – they were filmed out of sequence….

Posted in Video, Vineyards

I need to quickly explain that my videos of the pruning process (with the exception of one) were filmed a week or so ago when the weather was really beautiful. What is the old saying? ‘Make hay when the sun shines’ – well, in this case it was make a video! 

Again, please remember that I am a comparative novice in the vlogging game, so please excuse all the mistakes – camera shake, rambling commentary etc. etc. It’s simply that watching a video is much more interesting and can explain the work much better than a few photos. As I have said before my plan is to use more video during 2018, and I have just ordered some new equipment to hopefully make this more convenient – more about that when it happens.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy a man getting physical with vine cuttings!

Posted in Video, Vineyards

It was only two days ago in my pruning video (made last week but posted on Monday), that I mentioned the beautiful blue skies and perfect ambient temperatures. Unfortunately, that already seems like a distant memory! When you look across Europe this morning, there are places that resemble more the Arctic Circle than they do Springtime in Paris (or Rome for that matter). The ‘Beast from the East’ (as it has been nicknamed in the UK), has brought chaos and freezing Siberian weather to huge swathes of our Continent. Whilst we don’t have any snow here on the coast of Galicia, it is certainly very much colder. Today for example, the sky is a miserable shade of grey (only one, not 50), and it is raining steadily. The air temperature is only about 4 or 5°C (around 40°F), but with high humidity, it is really quite bone chilling.

Meanwhile, our poor guys are still out in the vineyards pruning (obviously now wearing much more protection against the elements), and for the time being at least, all the small bonfires that were burning on the hillsides around the Salnés Valley, have been well and truly extinguished. I keep trying to tell myself that we need the rain, but I am muttering this through gritted teeth, or should I say, chattering teeth.

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

Pruning – Part 1

February 26th, 2018

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I promised a month or two ago that I would post a video of our pruning process. This will actually be a series of 4 videos, explaining how the job is done, and will include some nice views of both the vineyards and surrounding areas. To be honest I have been waiting for a bit of decent weather, and last week we enjoyed beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine – not too hot during the day, and just above freezing at night, so prefect weather for the time of year, and prefect for pruning.

I would just like to mention that my ramblings (commentary) are completely unscripted and made up on the spot. Trying to frame the shot, focus, zoom and speak at the same time (using a big DSLR camera) was not easy, but at least the video is Hi Res. I apologise in advance for perhaps repeating myself a bit, and using some odd vocabulary, such as making “incisions” in the vines, when I really meant that David was simply “cutting” the vines. Odd how the camera makes you behave!

I did actually make a version using sound editing, overdubbing the original soundtrack, but losing the real background noises just made the video a bit dull and flat. So this is the original cut….. (The same video also appears on our website’s YouTube page)

Posted in Video, Vineyards

Writer’s block?

January 23rd, 2018

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When I sit down to write our blog and/or Facebook page, I always try to think of something new, original and interesting to say – but it’s not always easy! Of course there is always work going on, admittedly at this time of year, it is mostly in the vineyards. The pruning continues apace, but what else is new?

My ‘new’ idea for 2018 is to start adding a few more videos to our pages during the year. For example, I talk about pruning a lot, but have never actually shown how it’s done. Pruning on pergolas is always a bit more complicated than the norm, it’s not simply a question of making the cut, and the old wood just falling to the floor. When the actual cut is made the old vine is still very much attached. The long canes are always well and truly wrapped around the supporting wires, and have to be removed rather carefully. Applying too much force and simply swinging on the wires would soon bring them down, and believe me, repairing wires is even more complicated – a highly skilled and specialised profession (‘alambrador’).

The actual task of removing this dead wood from the wires is known as ‘derramar’ or sometimes ‘sacar vides’, and as with pretty much every pruning related job, it  means working overhead. Indeed, the only work that is not done staring at the skies is removing the cuttings, piling them up and burning them.

Unfortunately today’s weather is not conducive to videos or photography for that matter, with intermittent drizzle, but I do promise that within the next week or two I will actually post a short clip of all the action!