Here we go!
September 16th, 2021 | Harvest
A perfect day to start our 2021 Harvest!
A perfect day to start our 2021 Harvest!
As always, as the harvest arrives, we have to know what the weather is doing, but our simple problem is that the forecasts are proving to be very inaccurate. At the start of this week nearly every weather website said that Tuesday and Wednesday would be 100% rain. Naturally, we have set everything up to start on Thursday. So now, here we are, in the middle of Tuesday, looking out of the window at blue sky – not cloudless, but far from any sign of rain. Even now, these websites are forecasting rain at this time.
With hindsight we probably could have started our harvest at the weekend and enjoyed 3 or 4 days uninterrupted picking, but maybe, if we had taken the risk, then the forecasts could have been accurate. Having said that, it would appear that all of our neighbours have been hedging too, there is very little activity in Salnés at the moment.
In the final days before our 2021 harvest the weather is not being too kind to us. Yesterday evening we had a weird, two-part thunder storm. The first part dry, with no rain, just the thunder and lightning, and the second just heavy rain with no thunder. Fortunately, the wet part didn’t last too long.
This morning we have had a few odd showers, or the threat of showers and the whole region is simply cool and overcast. More rain is forecast in the coming days, but we hope that the worst might be behind us before we start picking some time next week (we think).
Meanwhile, inside the bodega, we are almost ready to start! Everything has been thoroughly washed, cleaned and polished, and we are now just in the midst of testing our systems – pumps, temperature control, etc., in preparation for the onslaught!
Whilst our pre-harvest work is well under way, cleaning equipment in the bodega and cutting grass in the vineyards etc., the bodega itself is surrounded by storms! The first day of September has bought a sudden downturn to the weather – yesterday very much a beach day, and today very much not. At this moment it is not actually raining, albeit we can hear the odd rumble of thunder in the distance, but this in itself, is not the most worrying development.
Yesterday evening, in our Provincial capital of Pontevedra (about 20km from the bodega) we had hail storms! Including some quite sizeable pieces (see photo), certainly enough to do some serious damage if they were to fall in the wrong areas. We have already witnessed some serious hail damage in both the Ribera del Duero and the Loire Valley in France a couple of months ago, and so we have our fingers firmly crossed that this type of event is not repeated here. Unfortunately, with hailstorms they are not only completely unpredictable, but they are often also very localised, some vineyards being hit, whilst other neighbouring vineyards are not. It really is in the lap of the weather Gods.
Tomorrow we will make our last bottling before the harvest. Thankfully our wine sales has been pretty buoyant for the last few months as customers have been re-stocking their cellars after lockdown. Also, it would seem, that at least some enthusiastic consumers have been making up for lost time, albeit that we would never condone overindulgence in alcohol.
In other news or local weather has been more favourable over the last couple of weeks. Our vineyards have been benefitting from some warm sunshine with temperatures into the mid-20’s C (75-80°F), indeed, in the last couple of the mercury has touched 30°C (86°F). Although we have enjoyed some sunshine before, it has never been exceptionally warm, and so we really needed this extra boost of heat to ripen our fruit.
As the harvest draws closer (we estimate around the second of September), we now turn our attention to preparing the wine cellar. Over the next couple of weeks every tank, every hose, every floor, everything in the cellar has to be deep cleaned. We also need to have all our winemaking materials on hand (orders already placed), and every machine and pump that we use has to be cleaned and tested. We try to anticipate everything, leaving as little as possible to chance.
Historically, Spanish people tend to take their summer holidays is fortnight blocks, often on fixed dates. In other words visitors to Galicia might arrive for the first two weeks of July, and then a second, new group might arrive for the second two weeks (extending throughout August in exactly the same way). These blocks are known, and referred to, as ‘quincenas’ and I must say that it continues to amaze me how many people still follow these very rigid patterns (although this is likely dictated by business summer closedowns).
A day or two ago was a big changeover weekend, as the calendar ticked over from July into August. Unfortunately for us, with this changeover came yet another change – to the weather!
The first few days of the month have been dreadful, with leaden grey skies, rain, drizzle and cool temperatures. This is not good news for our vineyards. The grape bunches themselves are now fully formed, and normally, during the heat of August, we would hope that the vibrant green berries would be transformed into luscious, ripe, golden fruit. However, in these cool temperatures, and with the level of damp, cool air that we have, it’s fair to say that the overall quality of our 2021 harvest now hangs in the balance and could go either way.
Our local town of Cambados would normally be a hive of activity this week, as preparations get under way for the annual Albaiño Festival. The main event usually comprises about 20 booths set up around the town square where visitors can buy and sample albariño by the glass (and enjoy the summer sun?). This ‘tasting’ always attracts huge, thronging crowds, and so, owing to our ongoing Covid restrictions, was the first 2021 event to be cancelled.
Unfortunately, as the Delta variant has now started to spread locally, other events, such as the tunnel of wine tasting (my favourite tasting of the year), have also fallen by the wayside, and there is now little left.
The real pity is that after a few miserable, cool, grey days, we finally have a better forecast for this week – perfect for our annual celebrations.
Certainly this weather, from a vineyard point of view, is far from perfect, and despite the sun, it is still not going to be very hot (for the time of year).
I speak English, French and Spanish, albeit that my French is getting a bit rusty now, as I haven’t used it for some time. When I do occasionally try to use it I often throw the odd Spanish word into the middle of a sentence – completely unwittingly.
This morning on my way to work I glanced up at the motorway gantry (see photo), which, for a split second, my brain translated as “If babies don’t drive, have a happy (safe) journey!” What? Babies driving? Of course, I quickly realised and re-adjusted my translation to the real meaning “If you drink, don’t drive – Happy journey!” Beber is the Spanish verb to drive – nothing to do with bébé, the French word for babies!
Actually, in this photo you may also notice the dreadful weather. Not raining, but heavy grey skies with low cloud, and damp hanging in the air. Last week we had a few very hot days at a little over 30°C (86°F), but on Sunday the cloud moved in at it has remained cool and damp ever since, at just under 20°C (68°F).
Of course, this type of weather is far from ideal, the only positive being that it is not the type of warm humidity that would create an even more prefect breeding ground for vine disease. However, we still have to remain very vigilant.
Weather is a Great British obsession, but to be honest, is also the obsession of everyone that works in the agricultural industry. No matter what the crop, the quantity and quality will be determined by the weather. Of course, there are many other factors that determine quality, but if the elements are not working in favour of the producer, then the job becomes doubly difficult.
So far in 2021, we have had sun, but without excessive temperatures – days have been pleasant and nights have been cool. One simple way that I can judge the early morning temperature is in my bathroom! When I have my daily shower with the window open, if the outside air temperature is warm (perhaps high teens °C) then my bathroom remains steam free, but obviously, when there is a chill in the air, I have steam – simple! I have discovered that this small indicator actually works very well, and also helps me decide if I need to wear a sweater or not.
So what about the masks (in today’s photo)? About a week or so ago the Spanish President announced that masks would no longer be compulsory when walking outside (until now this was compulsory, everywhere). A week or so later, I was quite surprised to see that probably about 98% of people are still wearing them – it is rare to see someone without. Of course, I can’t speak for the whole of Spain, but from what I have witnessed locally, the Spanish are remaining very circumspect.
There are still a couple of puzzling things arising from the Covid-19 story. For example, I believe that, at least some of Spain’s comparative success in containing the virus over recent months has been down to the rigid enforcement of the use of masks everywhere in public (including out on the street). It is very odd, therefore, that the Spanish government has recently decided to relax this a little, just at the exact moment that the virulent new Delta variant has hit the Spanish peninsula! This is a little like the UK Government allowing flights from India to continue for weeks after this new ‘Indian’ variant was discovered. These things are complete mystery to me….
On a more positive note, our warehouse is full (of orders), albeit that since taking my photos a couple of days ago, most of these pallets have actually been collected. We have gone from full to empty in 48 hours! Our mission now is to restock, and we have been busy preparing tanks and trying hard to procure all the ‘dry goods’ that we need. (Dry goods are the bottles, corks, capsules, labels and cases). I used the word ‘trying’, because many of our suppliers have been hit by the same tsunami of business as we have, and like us, they are desperately trying to fulfil orders as quickly as they can. I have heard first hand that even some of the biggest spirit brands have been hit by the same delays, leading to stock shortages on shop shelves.
However, I guess that we shouldn’t be complaining about having too many orders….
Confirma tu edad