by Fabio Bartolomei
on May 23, 2013
At last! Hooray! After ten (10) years of thinking about it, and writing about it, and talking about it, I’ve finally done it! I’ve planted about 150 vines in the empty spaces in the Carabaña vineyard, where a vine was missing for one reason or another.
I decided to plant Tempranillo, because the vineyard is a field blend of Tempranillo and Airén already, but there’s not much Tempranillo – only just enough to make one barrel of crianza. I toyed with the idea of planting Malvar, or Torrontés or some other interesting local variety, but in the end I thought that there would be no point, as the quantity of wine I could make with it would be too small. I’ll leave that idea for another project for the future.
But the most crucial decision here was not really the choice of variety, but the choice of rootstock. In this case, the most important criterion (more important than resistance to drought, or resistance to disease, or resistance to limestone) was the fact that this is not a new vineyard and that the existing vines (about 50 years old) are very well established; and so their root systems will be very deep and wide and will be competing strongly for the water and nutrients in the spaces where the new baby vines will be struggling to survive and grow. So the rootstock had to be a vigorous and hardy one. The one that was readily available and which was recommended to me was one called “Paulsen 1103″, which is not only vigorous, but also tolerant to drought and to limestone soils.
Well, that’s half the job done this year. There’s more to do next year! There are also about 100 vines in the vineyard where the grafted variety has died, for whatever reason, but where the rootstock is alive and kicking. These will have to be cut back and grafted.
They are so vigorous that in summer they turn into monsters like this one below:
And there are also about 20-30 vines that are dead and which will have to be pulled out.
I’m so glad I managed to do that task. It gets depressing when you think about doing something for so many years but never get round to doing it.
by Fabio Bartolomei
on Feb 18, 2013
There seems to be a lot nonsense being written about orange wines lately, including by writers/bloggers who should know better. I’m not going to name any names, because there’s no need to, ie if you’re reading this post then you’re a wine-geek and you’ll have read all the other recent posts on orange wine and you’ll know exactly who and what I’m talking about.
It seems to me that the fundamental error that many people are making is not realizing that orange wines are a catagory unto themselves, and should not really be compared to white wines, red wines or any other kind of wine. Like Sherry, for example. Sherry is technically a white wine, but who in their right mind would taste a sherry and compare it to a normal white wine? I believe the same applies to orange wines.
There also seems to be some confusion about the use of sulfites in orange wines. There’s obviously no connection whatsoever. Orange wines can be made with no sulfites, with a reasonable quantity of sulfites, or with lots of sulfites! It depends on the winemakers’ decision.
And there also seems to be some confusion with regard to natural/organic/biodynamic wines. Orange wines do not necessarily have to be natural, organic or biodynamic. There is in fact an industrial volume-producer in Spain who still churns out an orange wine for about €2/bottle.
Orange wines are not a newly discovered phenomenon. They’ve been made that way for thousands of years, especially in countries like Georgia and Armenia, but probably in ALL winemaking countries. Friuli, in Italy, for example. I know for a fact that they were made in Spain, until they went out of fashion; now there are only a few producers left. OK, so they’re all the rage at the moment, and everyone who wants to be relevant and interesting feels obliged to write about them! Oh well.
Orange wines are perfectly capable of expressing the terroir of where they were produced. Why on earth should they not be? It depends on the winemakers’ decisions, just like for any wine or type of wine.
I don’t see why certain writers think that ALL orange wines are expensive. Obviously some are, but others are quite normally priced. (my own, for example, retail in NY for about $20 in winestores and for about $40 in restaurants)
Orange wines don’t have to be made in clay amphoras. They can be made in any container whatsoever. I personally make the exact same orange wine in containers of three different materials (clay amphoras, stainless steel, and open-top oak casks) just to see if there’s any appreciable difference.
What I don’t understand is why people get so upset and feel they have mock and/or attempt to be funny and/or criticise without knowing what they’re talking about. I mean, surely it’s interesting for people to try a new type of wine? Why all this negativity and disparagement? Why not focus on the interesting, reasonably-priced, terroir-expressing orange wines out there, instead of on the expensive, funky, cloudy ones?
Orange wines don’t have to be cloudy. It depends on whether the winemaker fines it and/or filters it and/or lets it settle naturally by gravity!
Orange wines don’t have to be oxidized either. It depends on whether the winemaker decides to protect it from contact with oxygen or not.
I personally discovered orange wines about three years ago quite by accident, and I have to say that I love them, because they are so different from white wines and red wines. They are very versatile too: on the one hand they’re great for drinking on their own as an aperitivo before lunch, or for quaffing casually in a winebar, and on the other hand they go great with food too.
by Fabio Bartolomei
on Jan 24, 2013
This seems a good moment to post a progress report on all my wines and experiments from 2012, because it’s the deepest, darkest coldest point of the year here in central Spain, so the wines have already progressed and developed and evolved a bit, and they’re already showing an indication of how they’re going to proceed.
I’m writing this while touching wood because it would be just typical if I were to say that they’re all coming along fine, and then two days later something awful would happen!
But the fact is, that all the wines are doing just fine (more or less!):
1.Airén. This is a wine I make every year, and can be drunk very young. In fact, I started bottling it in December and have been distributing it locally here in Madrid already. At this stage in its life cycle it’s very fruity both in the nose and in the mouth. It’s nothing like any other 100% Airén you may find on sale (generally wishy-washy, insipid, and inoffensive), as this wine actually has a good body, and intense aromas and tastes. As time goes by, it loses it fruity, flowery characteristics, and becomes quite dry and sherry-like. By June/July it is in fact totally sherry-like. Some years, it’s sparkling for the first few months, but this year it’s not.
2.Tempranillo. This is another wine that I make every year. This year, due to the drought and to the rabbits, I only harvested enough grapes to make one (1) barrel of Crianza! At the time of writing (Jan 13) it’s still in the stainless steel fermentation tank, and I racked it once, a few days after pressing, back in October. I’ll move it into an old barrel as soon as I have time, maybe in February, where it will sit for about a year or so, depending on how old the barrel was, and on tastings.
3.Malvar No.1. I made one lot of Malvar (from 100-yr old vines from Villarejo) by straight carbonic maceration. Clusters destemmed and sealed in a stainless steel tank for 15 days. Then crushed and pressed, and left alone to finish fermentation. Tasting good, maybe to be released in March.
4.Malvar No.2. The second lot of Malvar (from the same vineyard) I made with about 30 days skin contact. This is the so-called “orange” wine. Tasting good. I don’t know whether to release or not, because I think it might even get better over time. Have to think. And taste.
5.Malvar. No.3. The third lot of Malvar (still from the same vineyard) I made in old clay amphoras (or ‘tinajas’ as they’re called in Spain) (or ‘qvevri’ as they’re called in Georgia). Back in September, I crushed the grapes and poured everything into the amphorae. I punched down the cap for a week or two, until it stopped rising, and haven’t touched them since then! I scoop out a sample every now and then from the top of the amphora, to check it. Beautiful! (touch wood). Tasting good. This lot I’m definitely going to let sit there for at least six months, maybe even longer, on all the skins and pips, which have already sunk to the bottom.
6.Malvar No.4. The same as the amphora above, but in an old open top oak barrel. I have no idea what to do with this lot! So I guess I’ll just leave it alone, keep tasting it, have tasters taste it, and decide some other time!
7.Garnacha No.1. This is a lot of Garnacha from the Sierra de Gredos (specifically from the village of Sotillo de la Adrada). I’m totally amazed by this wine, and I’m kicking myself for not taking proper notes, because I’d like to make more of it next year, but I fear I can’t remember exactly what/how/when I did what I did! This Garnacha is total drinkable now! I think it would be a loss if I were to try and age it or blend it or whatever. I need to have some more tasters taste it and get feedback from them, but my heart/intuition (and feedback received to date) tells me that this has to be a young wine and it has to be drunk now.
8.Garnachas Nos.2 and 3. These are other lots of Garnachas from Gredos, one from Sotillo de la Adrada, and one from Méntrida. These are all still evolving, and are not very nice to drink young at the moment, unlike Lot No.1. Again I need to have some tasters taste them, but I think these will be good for blending and/or aging. It’s early days though, and they’ll continue to evolve over spring.
9.Garnachas Nos.4 and 5. Same as above (Nos.2 & 3), but with a spontaneous ‘velo de flor’!
10.Rojilla experiment. I’ve only got 1 ‘arroba’ of this strange, uncommon, unknown grape variety. It’s in a glass demijohn and I haven’t tasted it since last October, so I’ve no idea how it’s turned out.
And that, I’m afraid to say, is that!
I was expecting to do a lot more in 2012, but the rabbits, the weather, and the Spanish bureaucrats prevented me from achieving my goals. But not to worry. This year I shall try again. Basically, I hope to find a bigger winery/shed/place in which to make more wines. That’s not much to ask for, is it?
by Fabio Bartolomei
on Nov 30, 2012
Back in April this year, I wrote a post about my back-label dilemma.
Basically, I was wondering exactly what (and how much) information to put on my next batch of back-labels, both from a practical and also from a legal point of view. And whether I should include what the wine does NOT contain and what was NOT done to it.
So, after much thinking over the last 7 months, here’s what I came up with for the back-label:
Well, as you can see, it’s a sort of compromise. I think the label itself provides quite a lot of general information, and it has a QR Code which leads to this page (here) where much, much more info is available for any potential customer who is thinking of buying the bottle.
Here’s a copy of it below, for your convenience, so you don’t even need to lift a finger to click through!
Mind you, I can’t get the formatting to show correctly here, so maybe it’s better if you do click through and see the page properly!!!
QR Code Page
Thank you for scanning my QR Code and coming here. If you don’t find the information you’re looking for on this very page, it will probably be on another page of this same website.
Failing that, you can contact me directly anytime, by email (email@example.com) or even by cell-phone (+34-687-050-010); but bear in mind that I live in Europe – so if you call me, please try not to wake me up in the middle of the night!
Below is the information that I would have liked to put on the back-label directly, but didn’t do so for several reasons: too much information to fit, probably not legal and maybe confusing or counter-productive to some people. But if you’re reading this, then you’re a wine-geek and so you won’t be confused!
I hope you enjoy my wine. That’s basically why I made it! I hope you liked the aromas and tastes, and I hope you found it interesting and complex and expressive of its terroir, and worth talking about.
The following information refers to the six (6) different wines imported into the USA in 2012 by José Pastor Selections:
1. Vinos Ambiz Airén 2011
2. Vinos Ambiz Malvar 2011 (Maceración Carbónica)
3. Vinos Ambiz Malvar 2011 (Orange)
4. Vinos Ambiz Malvar 2011 (Tinaja)
5. Vinos Ambiz Tempranillo Crianza 2010
6. Vinos Ambiz Titulciano 2010 (Temp, Graciano, Sirah)
These wines contain the following INGREDIENTS:
· Fermented grape juice
And they don’t contain the following additives:
· Industrial yeasts to give false and artificial tastes and aromas
· Industrial bacteria
· Industrial enzymes
· Colorants (like Mega Purple)
· Flavour enhancers
· Added acids
· Added sugar, added fruit juice, added fruit extract
· Added water
· Wood chips
· Artificial tannins
These wines underwent the following PROCESSING:
I did these things:
· Crushed the grapes
· Pressed the grapes
· Racked the wine from one tank to another
· Clarified the wine using gravity, time and the cold of winter
And I didn’t do these things to them:
· Spray pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc onto the grapes
· Heat the wine up
· Cool the wine down
· Filter it
· Add any substances for clarifying or fining the wine
· Use reverse osmosis
· Use spinning cones
· Use cryo-extraction
· Use sterile filtration
· Use any other unnecessary terroir-masking intervention
So what do you think?
Is there anything objectionable here? Illegal? False? Misleading? Is it helpful to consumers? Is it a good idea or a bad idea in general to do this?
I would really appreciate any sort of feedback.
And I haven’t actually sent the files to the printer’s yet, but they are ready to go, so I’m still in time to modify, if necessary!
And of course I can modify the QR landing page anytime.
by Fabio Bartolomei
on Oct 2, 2012
Here’s another harvest post or update of the state of my harvesting this year. This is a good time for me to write this because I’m between harvests, as it were
I’ve brought in all the red grapes that I’ll be bringing in this year, and the white grapes are not ready to be picked yet.
So, what have I got this year?
1. The usual Tempranillo from Carabaña that I’ve been harvesting for the last 9 years! The quantity this year was ridiculously tiny – even more ridiculously tiny than usual! On the one hand, because of the drought (it hasn’t rained properly for about a year) and on the other hand because of the rabbits, who have again eaten more than their fair share of grapes this year, just like they did last year.
So, basically there’s less than 300 litres of juice + skins fermenting at this very moment as I write, which means that there will hopefully just be enough to make 1 barrel (225 l) of Tempranillo Crianza including a few litres for top-ups during the year. I harvested early this year, because I was fed up with making the usual +14% alcohol tinto Crianza! Although there’s never been anything actually wrong with my previous Crianzas, they’ve never been anything exceptional either, imho, and in that of others! Hence the risk of experimenting this year. Maybe it’ll turn out better at 13% or 13.5%. Who knows? But I’ll never know if I don’t try it at least once!
2. Some Garnacha from Gredos. I’m going to be a bit secretive here and save the details for later Ha ha! I’ll just say that I’ve got four (4) separate lots of old vine Garnacha that is already fermenting separately. Some in open top old wooden barrels, and some in stainless steel. Two lots are from separate plots in Sotillo de la Adrada and two lots are from … somewhere else in the Gredos region! Ha ha!
That’s all there is tinto-wise. This is what there will be, blanco-wise:
1- The usual Airén from Carabaña that I’ve been harvesting for the last 10 years. The grapes are not ripe yet – they were at 11% a few days ago, and there are still quite a lot of green bunches visible. I’d like to harvest this at between 12% and 13%, and make the usual young white that I usually make every year. I’m really happy with the way it’s been turning out, and I think my clients are too. I’m on a little, personal Airén crusade here, I think, because I believe that really good wines can be made with Airén, especially if a better winemaker than me were to put his/her mind and hand to it!
Airén has such a negative cultural and vinous baggage to carry! Sigh! Oh woe, is life not hard enough already without having to shoulder all this negative baggage? Ha ha, only jesting! Deep down, I’m really a masochistic cynical bastard who thrives on hardship and albatrosses! Ha ha, jesting again! But seriously, I really do like Airén and really do believe that great wines can be made from it. So I shall make more of the same this year, plus of course I shall do a few experiments. Firstly, as I have all these old barrels available, I’ll do a bit of fermenting in them, in addition to the usual stainless steel. Secondly, I hope to come up with some other experiment to do when the time comes! Suggestions welcome! Here’s an interesting article about Airén by FringeWines:
2. Malvar from Villarejo. Again I’m going to do the same as last year with these grapes. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I was really pleased with last years’ wines and experiments. There were three lots of wines last year: Carbonic Maceration, Skin Contact (15 days) (‘orange’), and a straight 5-month skin contact ‘orange’ from an old amphora (tinaja in Spanish), all from the same Malvar from Villarejo. And I think my clients were happy with them too. So this year, I bought another amphora (see photo) so as to make another 300 bottles, in addition to the original 300!
And that’s it, I’m afraid (apart from the older wines from previous years that are still aging). Only about 4,000 bottles in total, I think. I had originally intended to make quite a lot more wine this year, but my best laid plans were rudely scattered to the winds by the great plough of life and circumstances, and will have to be rebuilt next year. C’est la vie!
So now, it’s the calm before the storm, ie just checking the white grapes in the vineyards, and checking on the red fermentations in the bodega.
Lastly, quite a few people have contacted me over the last few months with a view to visiting the vineyards and winery, but I haven’t been able to arrange these visits properly – due to my own inability to deal with emails and to arranging visits, etc. But I really do like receiving visits, so if you’re reading this, please just contact me again and insist harder! I’m not being exclusive or playing hard to get here, it’s just that I can’t cope with everything that I have to do all at once! So the ‘de facto’ or ‘fait accompli’ solution or whatever it’s called, is to tell me that you ‘have to’ visit on such-and-such a day, and then I’ll work all my other tasks and activities and urgent urgencies around the visit! Et violà! Problem solved!
by Fabio Bartolomei
on Jul 20, 2012
So, next morning I duly arrived late for my meeting (1 hour late) as tradition demands (!) but they (José Pastor, Chris Barnes and Mark Middlebrook) out-Spanished me by arriving 1½ hours late. Not to worry though, because I took the time to have an extra coffee and to fiddle with my new SmartPhone, which I still don’t know how to work properly.
Anyway, first stop: the new vineyard in Villarejo, which is easy to get to from Madrid as it’s very close to the A-3 Madrid-Valencia highway, at Exit 48 km.
Here we are, in the vineyard, taking photos and taking in the terroir.
The vines are all Malvar – a white variety that would seem to be native to the Madrid region. It’s completely unheard of anywhere else, and it’s very difficult to fine any kind of wine made with this variety.
The vines are quite old – but not as old as they look. I’ll have to check with the owner but I think they’re only about 40 years old. It’s just that they are very vigorous vines. The soil is surprisingly fertile (not at all like the soil in the Carabaña vineyard, only 11 km down the road) and I suspect that there’s water not too far down below the surface.
Last year (2011) we made three different types of wine with these Malvar grapes:
- Malvar, by carbonic maceration
- Malvar, by carbonic maceration and 15 days skin contact in stainless steel
- Malvar, by regular fermentation and 5 month skin contact in a clay amphora (‘tinaja’)
Our next stop was the winery )’bodega’ in Morata de Tajuña, about 15 km down the road, where we proceeded to taste everything I had!
The next stop was for lunch in LA Tinaja restaurant in the centre of Morata de Tajuña. This is a great restaurant and I go there quite often. The daily set menu is €8 and the food and cooking are excellent. They also have an à-la-carte menu and the wine-list is good too.
The waiters remembered JP, CB and MM from the last time we were all there last year! I didn’t think that we had behaved that badly!
It was a very productive lunch as we worked out exactly which wines JPS wanted to take and how many bottles of each, and which I duly jotted down on the tablecloth.
Next stop: Madrid, and after saying our goodbyes, I went to meet my architect and … went back to Villarejo!!! We went to meet the owner of a building where I hope to install the winery before the harvest this year. It’s not a pretty building, but it’s functional! It’s in the middle of an industrial estate surrounded by industrial workshops and warehouses.
I need an architect because the bureaucracy is so complex and ridiculously opaque and time-consuming that it’s easier (and probably cheaper, in the long-run) to pay an expert to deal with it! The most important issues seem to be the electricity and the water supplies. If these two areas don’t have the relevant paperwork in order then you can safely forget about the building itself – it would take months, if not years, and thousand, if not tens of thousands of Euros, to get it sorted. Apart from that, the application forms for a license and the supporting documentation to be handed in, are absolutely extra-ordinary and only a qualified specialist would be able to do it! Such is life in the inheritor states of the Western Roman Empire! I hear that it’s even worse in the East though!
After that, I went home and went to bed!
by Fabio Bartolomei
on Apr 5, 2012
As I’m sure you all know, there’s no such thing as the “Natural Wine Movement”, except in the sociological sense, ie in the same way that there’s a “Risky Sports Movement”, a “Recycling Movement”, a “Real Ale Movement”, etc.
There’s not really a Secret Inner Ruling Council (even though I leaked the agenda from the last meeting here!), no membership cards, no statutes, no articles of association, no head-quarters, no offices, no rules, no nothing.
What there is, is quite a few associations of natural wine producers, mostly in France and Italy. They actually do have rules and criteria for membership, and if a winemaker agrees with them, then he or she can join the association. Here’s a list of the ones that I know about:
- Association des Vins Naturels
- La Renaissance des Apellations
- Productores de Vinos Naturales
- Vini Veri
What there also is, is a whole lot of people who share an interest! People of all sorts, from all over the world, and from all walks of life. These people include:
- Producers (associated or not). There must be a few thousand, producing an average of say 5 to 10,000 bottles a year. Mostly artisans, tiny part-timers with no webpage, selling only locally to friends and neighbours; some small viable businesses, with proper labels, distribution and sales networks; and even some bigger ones bordering on industrial style wineries. And there’s a whole grey area of traditional long-standing producers of fine wines who may or may not be ‘natural’ depending on your deifnition!
- Traders (importers, distributors, wholesalers). Difficult to work out how many there are, as some carry both natural wines, organic wines and conventinal wines in their portfolios.
- Retailers (winestores, restaurants, winebars). Again difficult to work out how many there are for the same reason, though I believe that more and more such places are opening up. Seems to be the only sector growing this days in the midst of a recession!
- Writers, journalists, bloggers. I don’t think many actually focus exclusively on natural wines, though recently over the last year or so, more and more conventional wine writers have started mentioning natural wines – usually negatively and/or focussing on side issues.
- And lastly, consumers, with every kind of day-job under the sun, but who at night come out and indulge in their passion for natural wines. The most inportant category of all, because without consumers, the rest of us would have nothing to do! There must be thousands of them, and increasing in numbers every day.
All these people have one thing in common: we all love to drink, enjoy and talk about natural wines. We all know what kind of wine we’re talking about, don’t we, even though there’s no legal or official definition. Maybe some of us would like to have an official definition, and maybe some of us like it the way it is now, and maybe some of us don’t care one way or the other. I personally don’t! Life is short! Let’s just all get on with it and stop fretting. I mean, seriously, who’s got the time and resources to actively attempt to get some
legislation passed on this? I think talking about this issue over a glass or two of natural wine is about the only effort I’m going to make in that direction! Cheers!
No Pedantic Definitions
It would be far too boring (both for me and for the readers of this post) to draw up my own list of forbidden substances and processes, in yet another personal definition of natural wine! Instead, I’ve decided to abide by Joe Dressner’s 14-Point Manifesto, which you can read here (on Cory Cartwright’s Saignée blog).
It’s anything but boring! In addition I’ve added a 15th Point:
“I have the right to delete, add to or modify any of the above-mentioned 14 Points, based on how I happen to be feeling at any given time. So there!”.
Also, I’ve decided to publish the information on the wines that I produce, with details of what I do and don’t do to each wine. On this blog (and on my future webpage), on printouts, and on the back-labels. That way, the consumers can all decide for themselves of the wine in question is natural or not, or just how natural it is on the scale of naturalness.
Which brings me to the main point of this post.
Below is a draft of the back-label that I’ve been working on. It would be great if you could give me some feedback on it. I’d be especially interested in your thoughts on the inclusion what the wine DOESN’T contain and what HASN’T been done to it. Is this legitimate? Is it disrespectful or denigrating? Is it legal?! Is it a good idea? Does the consumer have the right to know both what’s in a product and also what’s NOT in it? Whatever! Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
- – - – - – - – -
I consider this bottle of wine to be natural wine because of the Ingredients.
It contains the following:
Fermented organic grape juice
And it doesn’t contain the following:
Traces of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides
Sugar, fruit juice, fruit extracts
Sulphites or other chemicals
I also consider this bottle of wine to be natural wine because of the Processing.
I did these things to it:
Crushed the grapes
Pressed the grapes
Racked the wine from one tank to another
And I didn’t do these things to it:
Heat up the wine
Cool down the wine
Filter the wine
Clarify the wine
Use reverse osmisis
Use spinning cones
Use sterile filtration
Use any other agressive techniques
I believe that all the above information is legitimate and relevant, and that the potential consumers have the right to know about the ingredients and processing of the product they are about to buy.
(Fabio, grapegrower, winemaker and marketer)
by Fabio Bartolomei
on Feb 21, 2012
Last Saturday we pressed the grapes from our clay amphora. This is an experimental lot of about 300 kg of grapes that we crushed and fermented back in September 2011. Ever since we moved ito the current winery in Morata de Tajuña a few years ago, I’d been noticing these two old clay amphorae sitting in a corner of the patio, gehtering dust and leaves. So finally, last August, I mede the effort, and I managed to convince Juan (my partner) and the other Juan (the owner of the winery and of the amphorae) to clean one and to use it to make wine (see this post).
So in Spetember, when we harvested the Malvar grapes from our new vineyard in Villarejo, we filled up the amphora with manually crushed grapes, sealed it, and basically left it alone. We didn’t add any substances at all (no SO2) and we just punched down the cap every so often until the skins didn’t float any more. Anyway, that’s 5 months of skin contact.
During this time, the skins, pips, lees, etc all sank to the bottom and the top became liquid – a golden transparent liquid.. Every so often we would open up the ‘lid’ (a plastic sheet tied down tightly) and we would taste the wine to see how it was developing.
Phase 1, as is the case with any of our operations, was cleaning and setting up. In this case it was quite simple as all we needed was a basket press, a stainless steel tank and pneumatic lid, and some assorted bits and pieces.
Phase 2 was scooping out the liquid part from the top of the amphora. We used buckets and poured it straight into a separate airtight container, not into the press. We want to keep this wine separate from the wine we press off the grapes, to see if they are different in any way. With hindsight, we realized that we could have moved this wine by gravity, just using a simple plastic hose or tube, but we didn’t think that there would be so much of it. We expected only a few bottles worth, but we ended up with about 50 liters. A little lesson learned there for the future!
Phase 3 was scooping out the grapey-winey semi-solid mush and puting it into the basket press. This we did with buckets until the level got too low for us to reach down into.
Phase 4 was tipping the ampora over so we could continue to scoop out and fill the press. We had to be really careful as we didn’t want to have an accident and break the amphora, so we secured it to the wall with a wire, after tipping it over to about 45º. But no good – we still couldn’t reach all the way down to the bottom, so we just laid it down horizontally. Mission accomplished! And with the added bonus that the quantity on the amphora was just right to fill the basket press, so we could press the lot in only one session.
Phase 5. The last phase is always cleaning the equipment used and tidying up. A great bore to be sure, but really necessary!
Some thoughts and some tasting notes
We were all surprised at the quality of both the liquid wine at the top and of the soupy gunge at the bottom. There were absolutley no off-tastes or off-aromas. During the tastings over the last 5 months, the dominant tastes and aromas were those of clay and earth! And we weren’t really too happy about that. But on Saturday, for the first time, we tasted the wine physically far away from the amphora (we went outside into the patio), and the clay and earth tastes and aromas were almost gone! They certainly weren’t dominant. Instead we could taste ‘normal wine’ with notes of citrus, quite tannic and mineral and bitter, but with some sweetness there too. We think that this wine has got some way to go still, and that it will age well. In fact, we’re thinking of looking for a used oak barrel, that was used for white wine, and ageing it in there for a while. In a week or so, depending on tastings, and ambient temperatures, and level of clarification, we’ll rack off the big lees, let it settle down again, and see how it develops. Maybe we’ll keet the two lots separate or maybe mix them back together again.
I wonder how they did it in the old days before stainless steel and when clay amphorae were common, especially the big fat ones that ccould hold thousands of liters. How on earth did the move the grapes/must/wine/pomace?
Mid-morning as we were pressing the grapes, we received a surprise visit from a group of people who are going to open a stall in the Municipal Market (in the Lavapiés District of Madrid), selling organic wine, not only in bottles but also loose, by the liter, in recyclable, reusable containers, in some arrangement with their customers. I think that’s a great initiative, as these municipal markets are kind of languishing these days – I suppose due to competition from supermarkets, shopping malls and an aging population in the city centre.
They told me that the Ayuntamiento (City Council) has relaxed its Byzantine requirements for obtaining a license, but that even so it was still a Kafkaesque nightmare! They haven’t actually got their license yet, but they’ve started sourcing their local organic wines already – hence their surprise visit. After us, they were off to see another organic wine producer Andrés Morate in Belmonte del Tajo. Anyway, I hope they like the samples we gave them and that they succeed in obtaining their license and that they order some wine from us.