Your Guide to Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine


Malvar Harvest 2011 (Villarejo)

Last Saturday (17th) and Sunday (18th) we harvested all grapes from our new vineyard in Villarejo de Salvanés (Spain). Incredibly, and in contrast to all expectations, we managed to pick all the grapes and we don’t have to go back another day to finish off. We had calculated at least 4 days of picking, but we did it in only 2 days. Two reasons for this, I think:

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Firstly, we had an amazing turnout of volunteers to help us pick: friends, friends of friends, and consumers who buy our wines, etc. On Sunday there were 16 of us!

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Secondly, I think that the vineyard is actually less than a hectare, which is the size we had just assumed it was, for some reason or other!. I’ll have to check it out on SigPac as soon as I can. This is a free online application by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. It’s a bit like Google Maps, but focussed on agriculture, ie it shows the type of crops planted, the boundaries of each individual plot, easy-to-use tools for measuring distances and aeras, etc.

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No rabbits here in this vineyard thankfully, like in Carabaña (see this post from last week), where they ate a significant percentage of our grapes!. I think this is because this vineyard in Villarejo is completely surrounded by other vineyards and olive groves, whereas in Carabaña, the vineyard is surrounded by grassland and low hills, which seems to be more rabbit-friendly territory.

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Some of the grapes we harvested were affected by oidium or mildew, which appeared suddenly over the last two weeks. This was our fault entirely because earlier this year (in Spring – early Summer) we decided not to spray any sulphur powder, because the vines and grapes looked so healthy and vigorous. I think maybe a preventive powdering will be required next year.

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Also, we’re going to have to think really hard about the pruning this Winter. All the vines (which are old – about 60 years at least, judging by the size of the trunks) have been shaped in a rather strange way that we hadn’t seen before. Instead of the usual main vertical trunk, with three or four horizontal ‘arms’, these vines consist of just the trunk with the shoots coming directly off the top all round. When the shoots are fully grown, they grow out and down, and they create a sort of upside down bowl, with the grape bunches on the inside, with not much exposure to wind or sunshine. (An image is worth 1000 words here, but unfortunately I don’t have one!). We’ll have to prune in such a way as to give the bunches maximum exposure to sun and wind.

We decided not to stop for lunch as we usually do at 2-ish, but instead to finish picking the whole vineyard. That way we could go for lunch late (even by Spanish standards!) and relax and enjoy for the rest of the day.

All my worrying of the previous days was for nothing! The rational part of my brain knows this! Every single harvest we’ve done over the last 8 years (and that makes at least 32 harvests!) has always worked out well in the end, no matter what the inevitable complications that have always arisen, so why should the next one be any different? Go figure! When is HumanBrain 2.0 coming out, that’s what I want to know!

I have to say that I was even a bit short and aggressive to my partner Juan, about some triviality or other (like which rows people were working on or something), which with hindsight now is totally embarrassing and ridiculous. But thankfully I think he understands that during vendimia people say all sorts of things that are out of character and that can be completely and safely ignored for the duration! Anyway, I think I’m on the road to recovery. My brain is functioning better every day, and I’m growing a beard to try to hide the cold-sores that have erupted on my face due to the stress and not eating properly! I’m already smoking less and eating more fruit! I know that the grapes are safe and and the fermentations are all under control :)

Anyway, at about 5 o’clock we took the grapes to the bodega in Morata de Tajuña and put them inside (at a temperature 25ºC), stacked up on pallets, ready for processing the next day. In the end we only took in about 2,000 kg. That night we took them outside into the patio, as nighttime temperatures have been dropping a lot here in Madrid lately (minimums of about 12ºC). It’s still nice’n’ hot during the day though, ie I’m still wearing sandals, shorts and a T-shirt.

Having arrived safety at the bodega in Morata de Tajuña, about 20 km from Villarejo, we lit a barbecue, and ate and drank (our wine from 2010!) and made merry!!! There was no shortage of beer either, because there’s nothing like a cold bottle of beer after a long hot day picking grapes!! It has to be said!

And lastly, a Spanish saying, which was tweeted to me the other day by @Vdelaserna:

“Al cura de Villarejo de Salvanés
le cuelgan los cojones hasta los piés”