Archive for the ‘Vineyards’ Category

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 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!

Harvest 2017 – Day 7

September 12th, 2017

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Our 2017 harvest will be completed today – no loud cheers just yet however, as we start to plan for the next phase – the small matter of wine making.

Monday, our final day, didn’t start too well. Firstly it was grey and overcast, with just a little light rain. However, as has been the case for the last few weeks, this early morning gloom soon cleared up, and by 10 or 11am clear skies had been restored. In the early part of the day, we had our first small technical hiccup of the harvest – our (electric) forklift broke down quite literally in the middle of our grape reception where we unload the vehicles. Clearly this is a super heavy machine, and not simply something that you can push out of the way. We called for the engineer, in the hope that the machine could be moved before our final few grapes of the year arrived. Thankfully, we managed to get this done.

In the meantime, on a slightly quieter day (receiving only a little fruit, and just before wine making), Angela was catching up on some administration. From the photo you will see that she clearly doesn’t trust our new computer software, and has continued to make hard copies of everything (technically I think this is known as ‘back up’). It could also be because Angela is the ‘queen of the coloured pencils’, and that she keeps four copies of everything. There is another technical term for this – but it’s just a bit too rude to post!

At the end of the final day we had actually only made a couple of pressings, just ‘mopping up’ the last few grapes. I will write a more detailed summary, perhaps tomorrow if I have the time, and those of you unlucky enough to be on my contact list, will eventually receive my slightly longer vintage report. Good night and God Bless!

Harvest 2017 – Day 6

September 11th, 2017

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I should have mentioned before that the back of harvest is now well and truly broken. For example, all of the fruit from our own vineyards has already been safely gathered in. Our team of around 60 pickers worked long hours to take advantage of the sunshine, as at the start of the week the long-term forecast was a little uncertain.

Despite being Sunday, we have had quite a busy day – grapes are still very healthy and continue to show very good potential when analysed. As you might expect, with our shortened pressing, this adds to the concentration of the juice, and yields are still very good. Of course we always work below the maximum permitted yields simply because in the world of wine quantity nearly always diminishes quality. Lower yields both in the vineyard and from the presses will mean that 2017 should be a vintage to savour.

As the week has progressed we have noticed that the potential alcohol of our fruit has slowly crept a bit higher, and I would estimate (even at this early stage) that our alcoholic content will probably be somewhere around 12.5%. Obviously the final number will be revealed as time goes on.

I’m afraid it’s another uninspiring photo today, but it does highlight a bit of ingenuity – our cellar guys using the refrigerated heat-exchanger pipes to chill their water bottles!

Harvest 2017 – Day 5

September 10th, 2017

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Saturday! Potentially the craziest day of the week (for reasons that I have explained many times before). Also, just to compound matters slightly, when we opened our shutters it was pretty dull and overcast, much as the forecast had predicted. By the time we arrived at the bodega, there was a short shower of rain – fortunately not heavy, and over within a few minutes. In the end, that single shower proved to be the first and the last of the day. Indeed, by lunchtime the sun had returned.

As you may already know, all of our fruit is picked by hand and collected in small, well-ventilated baskets, each one when loaded weighing in at around 18-20 kg. We hold a stock of just under 2,000 of these baskets, and so, when they are all distributed, can mean that we are collecting potentially between 35-40,000 kg. Today, every single basket is being used, and at times there is a queue to collect more, once they have been emptied and washed. We employ one guy full time simply washing baskets!

Of course we always know that Saturday will be busy, and so the secret is (actually more just common sense), to make sure that we have the staff to handle it.  The other potential problem area (or bottleneck), is the pressing, but having made the decision to shorten the pressing cycle this year meant that the loading and unloading of our two presses was more or less a continuous cycle – simply alternating between the two.

There is no really special photos or videos today as we simply had too many other priorities during the day – just a rear view of our grape reception (used just once a year!)

I feel quite guilty today, worrying about a few possible rain showers when there are people in the Caribbean losing their lives to the weather – our thoughts are with them….

In the wine cellar we are racking our first grape must, after a day or two of settling (when all the residual elements that we don’t want, fall to the bottom of the tank). One of the first things that I noticed this morning was the smell – the floral scent of the juice. Of course, in our line of work, we use our sense of taste and smell all the time and so tend to notice even small traces of different aromas, and the grape must is just one of them. Over the period of the wine making there are so many different smells wafting around the cellar – some good, others not so good. The juice is one of the more attractive scents, as is the smell of the yeast (like a bakers shop), the smell of sulphur however, is pungent and quite unpleasant, used to protect the grape must from oxidation. Finally, during the fermentation itself, we have the deadly carbon dioxide (which is completely odourless, but that you can still detect). Even with our ventilators working overtime, it is still easy to feel a little light-headed at times.

Meanwhile, out in the vineyards, after the first three days of picking, we are nearly half way through the collection process. With sun today but potential showers on the horizon, we are working as hard as we can to get all the fruit safely inside.

Our time lapse video today shows one of our presses being loaded with grapes. 4,500kg in 18 seconds…. if only.

Thursday morning started sunny enough, with wall-to-wall blue sky, but by early afternoon it had evolved into a somewhat ‘milky’ sky – still warm but with slightly opaque sunshine.

So, today we will talk a little about the grapes themselves. On first impression it looks like we will be in for another very good quality harvest. Now, I am aware that everyone says that, and that our own Consello Regulador has never admitted to one bad harvest during the entire existence of our denomination, but believe me, this vintage has real potential. The grapes are healthy, the bunches are a good size, they are yielding the perfect amount of juice, and most importantly, the juice is thick and concentrated but with a very good balancing acidity. I guess my only surprise is that we have a good vintage with a year ending in the number 7. Speaking VERY generally, when you look back at the history of wine vintages, there are not too many great vintages when the year ends with a 7 – or maybe it’s just my imagination? Of course there are, and always will be, some exceptions.

Today’s video is really an experiment with time-lapse video (I have never tried it before). It shows our guys unloading one of our tractor-trailers. I have calculated that if we could really work at this speed we could complete our entire harvest in just under 3 hours!

At least today, we opened our window shutters to discover clear, blue skies – there were no unexpected surprises. I am still searching through various weather websites to find two that say exactly the same thing. Some say fine weather for the next week or so, and others say the possibility of showers/rain at the weekend. This is just one of the delights of living on the corner of a peninsula, next to the ocean – rapid changes in the weather.

As you can see from today’s photo the new area in our grape reception is being put to good use, giving us more freedom of movement and space to work. It transpires that our second day turned out to be smooth and uneventful, and I feel sure that our enhanced floor space has already made some small contribution in this respect. Of course the big test might come on Saturday, which is traditionally the busiest day of the week. This is compounded by the fact that our smaller grape suppliers, who take advantage of the weekend, also tend to arrive all together and later in the evening, which is when the real bottleneck can occur – we shall see.

By the way, today’s minor personal disaster was that my kettle broke, meaning that my constant flow of tea was momentarily interrupted, or at least made slightly more complicated (by resorting to the old-fashioned pan on the stove method). Hopefully, with the help of Amazon Prime, normal service will be resumed tomorrow!