Harvest 2019 – Day 4 (Sept 15)

September 16th, 2019 | Bodega

Sunday. Yet another sunny morning, with a forecast for more high temperatures. In theory at least, we have almost reached the mid-point of the harvest, which is just as well as we have now seen some forecasts of rain for Monday night (any time after about 5pm).

Traditionally, the weekend is always the busiest time, but despite this slight increase Sunday passed off without a hitch. We had one minor issue with the temperature control in one tank, but this was quickly resolved by our own people.

When we talk of yield at this time of year, we are, in effect. talking about two different things. There is the yield in the vineyard which reflect the amount of fruit collected in each vineyard, expressed in kilos per hectare, and then there is the yield that relates to the amount of juice extracted from the grapes, simply the litres per kilo.

I think I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that yields from the vineyards are smaller this year. Each harvest we try to estimate in advance how many kilos that we might have from our own vineyards. This is done by counting the bunches in a measured area and then multiplying this by our total surface area. On many occasions this is reasonably accurate, and allows us to plan how many empty tanks we will need, and the quantities of materials that we will need for wine making. This year, not only was our own estimate quite inaccurate, but also that of nearly all of our grape suppliers. I understand that this applies to the region as a whole and not only ourselves.

 

Harvest 2019 – Day 3 (Sept 14)

September 15th, 2019 | Bodega

Yet another hot, sunny day. The irony of this is that Galicia is experiencing excessive heat, whilst in the South of Spain several people have now died in flooding caused by catastrophic rainfall. Fortunately it was not quite as hot as Friday, and by mid-afternoon some light cloud cover provided at least a little respite for our teams, both inside and outside the bodega. Unfortunately this cloud was short-lived.

In some ways Saturday was a routine day, but in another way perhaps slightly different. As with every harvest, a lot of our suppliers prefer to pick and deliver their grapes on a Saturday, and so not only is it busy, but it is nearly always a last minute rush! The bodega can be fairly quiet during the day, but once the sun begins to set then that’s when the really fun begins. The secret to dealing with this is simple, to have a good, hard-working, well organised team – some unloading the trailers, some loading and emptying the presses and others washing the cases. (Thank goodness the case washing machine that we installed last year is now working properly – last year was a bit of a nightmare as the filters were choking up every ten minutes which made it very much stop-start!).

We are stepping up the pace as much as we can simply because of the late summer heat. The high temperatures mean quite simply that the potential alcohol is increasing and the acidity is dropping. Obviously, as always, we want our wine to be as typical of our ‘cool-climate’ as possible. Let’s see what Sunday brings!

 

 

Harvest 2019 – Day 2 (Sept 13)

September 14th, 2019 | Bodega

I should probably start by saying that day one was not without it’s hiccups. For example, a couple of temporary staff did not turn up for their evening shift in the bodega, and at one point our refrigeration machine (for cooling the tanks) cut out completely. We immediately called the engineers (to fix the machine – not to work a shift!), but before they even had chance to arrive, the machine miraculously started to work again. Of course this equipment is fundamental to our wine making (temperature control) and such random, unexplained failures can leave you with quite an uneasy feeling. Fortunately we can monitor this system during the night (by mobile phone), but checking your screen at 5am, after a late night, does not make for restful sleep!

Friday, our second day, was not only sunny but was probably the hottest day of the summer so far! By midday the temperature was already 28°C (83°F) and climbing. By mid-afternoon it had reached a baking 35°C (95°F). We were trying desperately to keep our picking team supplied with fresh water, although I’m sure that they would have preferred cold showers!

One important feature of the 2019 vintage is that it will probably be quite small in volume. Not only are the bunches and berries small, but the yields of kilo/hectare are also well below the norm. Growers simply have far fewer kilos than they thought, which I guess in the long-term, could have an effect on prices. On a more positive note, the must from the presses appears to not only be very concentrated, but also very clean.

Today I have included a photo of one of our lesser known vineyards, from which the eagle-eyed amongst you will spot immediately, is not a ‘pergola’ vineyard (but still produces some of our better grapes).

 

Harvest 2019 – Day 1 (Sept 12)

September 13th, 2019 | Bodega

Here we go again! On a very bright, sunny Galician morning the 2019 campaign gets under way.

By mid-morning the first grapes were rolling in – exactly as I had described in an earlier post. Small berries in tightly packed bunches, green/gold in colour, but with surprisingly thin skins. Normally, at the end of a long, dry summer we might anticipate slightly thicker skin, but as I mentioned before, this is possibly because, although there was plenty of sunshine, it has never been excessively hot this summer (especially at night).

As always, every grape delivery is sampled, analysed and recorded as it enters the bodega, and the first results are similar to last year in a way. High levels of sugar (which translates into higher alcohol), but still with a good level of acidity. Tasting of the must revealed a very concentrated sweet must with green apple and floral hints. Despite this intense sweetness, there is still a fresh acidity in the background, which will help to offset the very ripe fruit.

I just thought that I should explain today’s photo because it can be a bit disorientating (if you are not sure exactly what you’re looking at). The photo is taken from the top of one of our tanks looking down inside. It shows a hose delivering fresh grape must directly from the press. Our press room is on a different level, above the tank room, and so most of the flow is controlled simply by gravity (the less need for using a pump, the better). This shot shows the very first juice of the 2019 harvest.

 

Ready for the off….

September 10th, 2019 | Bodega

The last few days before harvest is always a bit nerve-racking. Anticipating the work to come, whilst also constantly checking that everything is in place and no detail has been overlooked…. even down to the purchase of paper rolls.

The grape reception, which is only used once a year, has been cleaned, and nearly half of our mountain of harvest cases have already been distributed.

We are analysing fruit on a daily basis, and watching it edge closer and closer to the best possible balance (between sugar, acidity and pH). Only then will we begin the 2019 harvest.

Of course, whilst monitoring the fruit, we are also keeping a close eye on the weather. At the moment the weather is set fair (at least for the next few days), but as I have said many times before, here on the Atlantic coast this can change in a heartbeat.

The harvest is nigh!

September 4th, 2019 | Bodega

I mentioned in my last post that summer could be at an end. I was wrong! For the last few days (and apparently for the coming days), we are experiencing some of the best weather of this summer. Daytime temperatures are now hitting 30°C (86°F), and we have even enjoyed one or two ‘balmy’ evenings. Inevitably this is having an effect in the vineyards.

When I tasted one or two grapes last week, the sugar was only just apparent, and there was still quite a dominant amount of acidity. The bunches were tightly packed with small berries (not too unusual for albariño), but with surprisingly thin skins, which could be down to the lack of intense heat. As the berries are small, and there has been little or no rain for the last month or two, our yields could well be reduced, and the final quality? Well, we will just have to wait and see.

When I re-tasted our fruit today, there was quite an evolution within the space of one week. The bunches have started to change colour – from a verdant green they are now showing hints of gold (as you might just notice in today’s photo). The most significant change however, is the amount of sugar, which is now much more prominent, coupled with a corresponding drop in acidity, now much more in the background.

Analysis of the fruit is taking place as I write, but if this hot weather persists, then we could be less than a week from harvest. Vamos a ver!

Close to the end of summer?

August 27th, 2019 | Pre-harvest


Well, until now August has been a strange month – we have seen a lot of sunshine, but the temperatures? There haven’t been too many days reaching 30°C (86°) or even 25°C, for that matter, and the nights have been….. well, decidedly chilly! Evenings have not really been for t-shirts, but perhaps a little more suited to a sweater or jacket. There have also been a number of cloudy days when the sun has not really broken through until 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon. All-in-all it hasn’t been great weather for the tourists, or perhaps even the grape growers for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, our fruit is still very healthy, it really just means that the maturation of the fruit during August has been a little slower than we would have anticipated. Fortunately, it has remained almost completely dry.

Taking this into account, I would anticipate our harvest starting in the middle of September, and over the next few weeks, we will, as always, be gathering samples and closely studying the results to pick the optimum start date.

Obviously from today’s weather map you cannot actually see the temperature, but at 2pm I can tell you that it is only around 20°C (68°F) on the coast, and just a little warmer inland.

Brexit fatigue…

August 22nd, 2019 | Business

Without any doubt, for the people of the UK, Brexit has become the biggest political debate of all time. It has divided friends, families, regions of the country, businesses and most significantly, the politicians of the UK Parliament. Never have opinions been so polarised, and never has one subject dominated the headlines for such a long time. I think it’s probably fair to say that the majority of British (and some EU) citizens have had enough, and are simply tried of hearing about it every waking moment of the day (despite the fact that it will ultimately determine the future of their country).

Without mentioning the pro’s and con’s of Brexit, my intention is simply to write briefly about how this might effect the way in which we trade with the UK.

Firstly, if the UK does not remain a part of the Customs Union, then the export process itself will be come slightly more complicated. Whilst, in theory at least, there is currently free trade between member states and goods can circulate freely within EU borders, there is still a significant paper trail that needs to be completed. However, once this is done our wines can move quite easily from ‘tax warehouse’ to ‘tax warehouse’ (warehouses using the system need to be inspected and approved). If the UK drops out of the union, then not only will the paperwork change, but potentially there could be huge queues of trucks waiting to have their loads (not just wine) checked and cleared at the port of entry. Motorways approaching the ports could quickly become huge lorry parks…..

The final complication is currency. Whilst the UK has never entered the monetary system, and still retains the GB Pound, money markets are now more volatile than ever. Uncertainty has resulted in a significant drop in the value of Sterling against the Euro, meaning that all goods purchased abroad have now suddenly become more expensive for UK importers. This increase will have to be paid by someone, and I’m very afraid to say that this will most probably be the poor end consumer!

Harvest Prep

August 13th, 2019 | Bodega

Work in the vineyard is now complete – between now and the harvest (in about four or five weeks time) there is almost nothing more that we can do. Nature will run its course until the time that we pick. In this way our attention now turns to the preparation of the bodega, not only scrubbing the tanks inside and out, but making sure that every wall, every floor and every piece of equipment is as clean as it can be.

In a way, preparation in our tank room has been underway for months. The movement of every wine is calculated and choreographed to ensure that, not only is the wine moved as little as possible (to avoid potential oxidation), but also that it ends up in the right place, as we systematically vacate tanks in the areas designated for the arrival of this year’s new grape must.

Over the last few days, the deep cleaning process has begun, albeit that later this week we will be closing the bodega for a short 10 day break. This will be the last opportunity for our team to rest their bones, and weather permitting, take a bit of sun, before our 2019 campaign gets underway. Of course, there will still be a huge amount of preparation work to undertake when we re-open but at least we have made a start.

In today’s picture you can see our tanks gleaming, almost ‘Van Gogh stylie’…… (thanks PhotoShop!)

 

Cambados tasting 2019

August 5th, 2019 | Denomination

Every year, as part of the Annual albariño festival, there is a ‘Tunnel of Wine’ tasting. There are usually between 150 and 200 wine to taste, the majority being albariño and mostly from the current vintage – this year the 2018’s. In addition there are a number of blended wines (many that include albariño in the mix), a table of red Rias Baixas wines, a table of sparkling wines, and three tables of older vintages (often presented as the ‘prestige’, limited edition wines).

If you refer to my recent notes about the 2018 vintage, you may have read that I consider 2018 to be a-typical, and this theory was largely supported by the tasting. For example, there were very few albariños in the room with less than 13% alcohol, some with 13.5% and even one or two with 14%. In circumstances such as this then it is really down to the winemaker, and how they are able to ‘handle’ the alcohol and ensure that it is well-integrated into the finished wine. For example, there can be nothing worse than an albariño with alcoholic ‘afterburn’ (a slight burning sensation in the throat), in a wine that is normally considered to be light, clean and refreshing.

Of course, many of the top bodegas have still made very good wines (albeit there were also one or two slight disappointments). On the other hand, there were also a few wines that provided a pleasant surprise too – always an opportunity to discover something new or perhaps a label that you didn’t really know before.

Having said that, the best wine in the entire tasting was a 2015 wine on the prestige table. Although I must also say, trying to be completely objective for a moment, that our very own 2018 Castro Martin fared rather well too – certainly in my own top 10!

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