Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The ferments

The two 'cuvées' were innoculated about a week ago. The wait for the stainless steel tank to get under way was getting too fraught with worry, so in went the yeast.

Both are now going strong, with the stainless steel tank nearly done and the dustbin proving that plastic, like concrete, is actually pretty good for fermenting wine (its temperature has remained at a constant and rather cool 19 degrees Celsius, compared to the stainless steel which got up to around 22 degrees a few days ago).

The daily routine consists merely of having to measure temperature and specific gravity (with the use of a hydrometer). It all gets noted in a little red book.

Despite the almost all-consuming effort that it took to crush, press and rack the juice at the beginning of the process, the demands (on time as well as physical effort) are now considerably less.

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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The dustbin ferment

If you're wondering why there's been silence for a while it's because nothing much has happened.

Which is not entirely true. After racking the main 100 litres and leaving it, yours truly thought a few more would be good. So, with the help of a Kiwi friend who's working with me at the (proper) winery, we picked 100kg more last weekend.

Because I didn't want to tip the juice from the latest batch in with the (potentially fermenting) previous juice, I've used a black, 95 litre dustbin to do this one in. We managed to get about 60-70 litres out of it, which isn't bad going.

After three days settling (one day longer than I'd like), it was racked.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Racking the gross lees

After a long day in Galicia helping process a couple of tons of Mencia and tasting some pre- and post-ferment Godello, I returned to the village. Tired, but ready to go with the racking of the gross lees.

So as the sun sunk behind the short oak trees of the Sayago in the east, I donned the headtorch, grabbed a small pipe, and sauntered to the little bodega.

Luckily, it seems fermentation has not started. Using gravity, a bit of dry ice for carbon dioxide, and the tube, I siphoned off the best part of 80 litres before hitting the cloudy stuff.

Tip the goo away, rinse out the tank and bucket the juice back into the tank, using a household sieve to remove any pips, etc. that made it through the first stage. Now, I have a nice liquid resembling that of pineapple juice.

And tomorrow, the measurements begin.

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Sunday, 13 September 2009

More grapes

100kg harvested today - much easier harvesting with two people. And then the same routine of crushing and scooping and tipping into the stainless steel tank (trying to filter out pips and skins on the way). Oh, and making sure I'm adding my sulphur and keeping everything under Carbon Dioxide.

There's not much else to add to yesterday's roundup other than to say I'm at 100 litres and could still do with another 100, at least. It's quite disheartening to put in so much work and still have more to do. The additional problem is how I'm going to harvest the rest of the grapes, crush them, etc, and keep up my day job in a (commercial) winery during the week. There is the option of harvesting before work and crushing after it but, to be honest, you've got to be a bit of a masochist to want to do that.

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Saturday, 12 September 2009

The first grapes are harvested and pressed

The first grapes are in. At 8am this morning, after a heavy night of tasting French wines and cheeses, table football with the mayor and the coup de grâce of G&T back at the clubhouse, yours truly donned the walking boots, pocketed the secateurs and went out into Luis' dad's vineyard.

At that hour, the village is partly shrouded in mist, and the temperature hangs on at the 10 degrees Celsius mark. Perfect.

After two hours and five picking boxes of Verdejo (and one accidental bunch of Malvasia), I was ready to call it a morning. More than ready, in fact. The grapes were weighed on the scales of a nearby winery (which told me that I had brought in a miserable 70kg) and then left to stand in my little bodega while I took a quick breather and a cup of tea.

The realisation that hand destemming, while pretty cool (and done by the ultra-stylish Pingus), was the most labour-intensive, morale-sapping exercise resulted in the dumping of the four remaining cases my large 250 litre tub (a recent acquisition, unblogged - sorry). The tub and stainless steel tank had both had a little dry ice dumped in them to give a carbon dioxide blanket for the grapes.

After a good clean of the Wellington boots, in I went. Barefoot treading was too risky for me - my feet are not the most attractively aromatic, and I was scared of contamination. There is a particularly enjoyable feeling to the sound of squelching grapes beneath your (Wellington-clad) feet. I also added two grams of potassium metabisulfate into the must.

And then, out came the plastic jug and the colander (yes, a normal household colander) and I began transferring the juice from the tub to the tank, filtering out the skins and pips as best I could. Not an enjoyable, or clean, exercise either.

With 30 litres of juice in the tank, I chucked down the bucket and cursed wine drinkers everywhere. Yes, 70kg for 30 litres. How I wish I had bought a press (not just for the added extraction of juice, but for the added ease).

A further two grams of sulphur, a couple of 'glacons' of dry ice bubbling away in the juice (looking like the test tubes in a Dr Jekyll lab from a '50s film), and the top of the tank was put in place.

Once everything was washed or, in the case of the bloody heavy marc: chucked away, I sat down and had a cup of tea. The same again tomorrow, only much more grapes. About 250kg more grapes, to be precise.

Had I not come close to breaking point earlier, when scooping out the last of the juice from the tub, I would be contemplating defeat now. But I'm not. I'm off to a party in the village.

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Monday, 7 September 2009

The grapes, the samples and the Baumé

After a weekend off, I took the time at lunch to have a look at the grapes in the vineyard and take some samples for testing. I've identified two potentially different sites: one is by the pilgrim trail, dropping down the slope in a westerly direction, the other is on the southern side of the vineyard, by the trees.

Accordingly, I've taken two seperate samples of grapes from each area, making sure to pick grapes from bunches around the vines and from different vines. Also making sure I pick the Verdejo and not the Malvasia, which I reckon I've got the hang of now.

The grapes are popped into a plastic bag in which, on return, they are split and the resulting juice poured onto a handheld refractometer.

My theory of two different sites was proved correct. The 'normal' site shows a Baumé of 11.5 (21 Brix) and the area by the trees gives me 11.1 Baumé, or 21 Brix.

With normal maturity between 10 and 12.5 Baumé (according to Rankine), I'd have said I could wait a while. But then I was kindly given the use of a pH meter.

The readings for the 'normal' and 'tree' sites were pH 3.21 and pH 3.16 respectively. Considering I want to keep my wine as fresh as I can, and that pH should range between 3.0 and 3.4, I'd say I'm about ready to go with the harvest.

The only thing I need to do now is get my hands on a press, some tubs and buckets, some pipes, a few picking boxes, some Potassium Metabisulfite and some CO2. As soon as I have all of that, I'm out picking.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The vineyard

So this is it! The deal is done. I've okayed 300kgs (more if necessary) of Verdejo with Luis' dad. Luis drove us up to see the vineyard this afternoon. And what a site. It's just next to the Camino de Santiago (Ruta de la Plata). It's a beautiful vineyard with old vines, and an amazing view across the plains to the hills in the distance and back towards the village of Villanueva de Campeán.

There remains the problem that Verdejo is planted next to Malvasia is planted next to Tempranillo, so I'll really have to be clear on the differences between the two before I go out to harvest. I've got a grip on it: the main pointer is that the Malvasia is ripe - about ready to pick - whereas the Verdejo has still a while to go. The leaves are pretty different (Verdejo is a fatter leaf, Malvasia has thinner 'fingers').

So we're ready.

Or are we? Luis' dad isn't selling, or making, any Malvasia this year, and next year is going to get rid of it. So they're there, sitting on the vines, getting ready to go to raisins. And if you were me, wouldn't you be tempted to do something with it?

And I've already thought about trying to make a Madeira-style wine but no, I can't be bothered to wait 50 years. But it would be nice to try something, right?

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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The barrel dream is over

It's a bit of a blow, but the barrel isn't going to happen. I'm not keen on making white wine with a pink tinge (from using a second-hand red barrel), even if it isn't for commercial distribution, and the second-hand white barrel has fallen through. So that's that.

The job now will be to add the best possible complexity to the wine without overdoing it. Back to Bird and Rankine. Meanwhile, the grapes here are ripening apace and harvest looks like it will be next week. I still haven't got a proper deal with Luis' dad yet, which would worry me in any other country but Spain.

Meanwhile, if anyone knows where to get hold of a Cigare for next year, let me know.

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