During December and January we rebuilt over the old animal barn using the same footprint and keeping the very old stone walls for part of the building. Our decision to build the bodega is outlined in this post.

Old walls kept

Old walls kept

Thermolite blocks used for walls to aid nsulation

Thermolite blocks used for walls to aid nsulation

The joints between the stones and rocks of the old walls do not have cement but lime mortar, so we will get good humidity. We have been running out of space for storage of bottles mainly, but also having the wine in barrels and tanks on the terrace has been taking up space.

Roof beams going on

Roof beams going on

Roof going on

Roof going on

We also found that the wine we have made is at first tasting uncomplicated and fruity with a light body. It has improved considerably in the bottle, due to the wines natural acidity and fairly high alcohol. So it seems that we have to wait four years at least to get to the stage where it begins to take on more complexity. We do not filter the wine when bottling and only add small amounts of potassium metabisulphite at fermentation and when storing in barrel and tank. The wine is a field blend, so the proportions are not exact but as we have 700 tempranillo and 400 syrah, a bottle is about 70% tempranillo and 30% syrah.

So it is a very natural wine, it is unsettled when transferred from barrel, or tank, to bottle so needs time to settle and seems better when tasted from barrel than when tasted from bottle shortly afterwards. So the movement between barrel and bottle causes ‘distress’ to the wine which reflects in its taste.

Roof nearly finished

Roof nearly finished

We are bottling around 1,500 bottles this year, so although we are going to harvest later this year and maybe have less grape juice, we will still need a storage capacity for 8,000 bottles or so, to allow time for the wine to mature in bottle.

Bodega back view

Bodega back view

Just need to build brick recesses to store the bottles and it will be complete, except for the 8,000 bottles we intend to put in it!


Posted in Andalucia, Finca del Rio, Spain, The Vineyard, Wine making | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Types of cutting vines

In early February, every year, we cut the vines of all cordons and stems, except those that enable the plant to achieve a better shape or better yield of grapes. If the older wood that forms the Y-shape is low down, weak or badly formed, it can be replaced by bending over another cordon and cutting away the old wood.

This year we have tried three ways of cutting to see which way produces good grape yield, keeps the vine healthy and avoids mildew or mold on the grapes and leaves. We are also lowering the irrigation pipes so that watering does not cause humidity along the line of foliage and grapes.

We cut some lines of vines very close to the trunk and kept the old wood that forms the Y-shape but took off any growths or spurs, so that the plants had a smoother look. We had heard that this could lead to a ‘blinding’ of buds and maybe the vines would not produce much. We cut this way because the vines were starting to look ‘lumpy’ due to buds left to grow on the previous years spurs. Also we heard that the ‘sangre’ or sap goes into each spur and gets blocked and does not run freely when there are three or four spurs.

Close cut keeping old wood

Close cut keeping old wood

Most of the vineyard was cut leaving two buds on each spur, each branch having 4 or 5 such spurs, some less. This does leave the Y-shape branches looking lumpy until bud-burst. Any growth underneath is cut away so only spurs on top remain.

Two bud cut lines

Four lines were cut to new wood by a friend, Pablo, who has vineyards near Ronda. He was interested to see that if by cutting away most of the old wood on the 2 sides of the Y-shape and just leaving one cordon bent down on each side that here would be more and better grapes. Problem here is that sometimes the chosen cordon cannot be bent down or snaps. There a few plants with tape-wrapped branches! The Y-shape also looks odd with thick wood leading to thin cordons. The sap or ‘sangre’ will have no problem reaching along each branch as there are no spurs.

New wood cut

New wood cut

Its early April and there is bud-burst all over the vineyard. The close cut vines have less bud-burst, the new wood cut vines have more and the two-bud cut vines have most. We will see how it looks when the canopy forms and how the grapes then form on the three types of cutting.

Two bud cut bud-burst

Two bud cut bud-burst

Close cut bud-burst

Close cut bud-burst

New wood bud-burst

New wood bud-burst lines

New wood bud-burst

New wood bud-burst


Posted in Andalucia, Finca del Rio, Spain, The Vineyard, Vine cutting, Wine making | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Checking Sugar Levels of Grapes in Vineyard

From early July we test the sugar levels of the grapes every three days or so. This is done using a refractometer, which measures the grape juice by its refractive index. A shadow line is reflected on a glass plate inside the instrument, which is then viewed through a magnifying eyepiece. We use the Brix scale, where 1 degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as per cent of weight.

We take samples from every third line and from the same six or so plants in those lines. This enables a good idea of where plants are doing the best and also an overall idea of when the whole vineyard will be ready for harvest. We aim to achieve an average reading of around 24, so using a factor of 0.55, we end up at a wine alcohol of 13-14 degrees. This  is only an estimate of future alcohol level as solids in the juice can change the outcome.

Squeezing a drop of juice onto the bottom plate and then closing the top plate squashes the juice into a thin film which allows light to refract through onto a given and engraved scale. Each harvest is different but you get to know which plants are good and which areas of the vineyard are best.

Some of the bunches are almost perfect, a shame to cut them . . . almost!

We also taste the grapes for sweetness and flavour, chew the skin on the front teeth to get skin tannin taste, make sure the pips are brown for ripeness and feel the grape and skins for firmness and give.

As we get closer to our harvest, to allow maximum sun and ambient heat to increase the sugar levels, we cut away the lower leaves and wait. It is at the end a judgement call as to the actual day of the harvest, how much bird damage, how many grapes turning to raisins, verses ripeness and sugar levels.

Posted in Andalucia, Finca del Rio, Spain, The Vineyard, Wine making | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harvest / Vendimia 2012

The day of the harvest, this year the 27th August, had a feel of excitement like the first day of a holiday. The whole focus of a years work, from cutting and shaping to sulphering gently each plant by hand, culminates in one day. Hundreds of hours working in the vineyard poured into one day’s result. The grapes have been green harvested, any split or diseased grapes cut out, brix sugar levels assessed, grapes tasted, skins chewed and pips checked, all for one reason, a good harvest and then a good wine. That reason and work is tested on harvest day.

So up at 5am and checked that the buckets and containers are clean and ready. The destemmer, or as it is called here a despalilladora takes centre stage with the fermentation tanks at the end.

Our first helpers arrived at 6am and started cutting the lower vineyard, soon the grape containers were full. Just in time the rest of our helpers arrived at 7am and so all our teams were busy. 30 people helped, from cutting and carrying, to sorting and putting good bunches into the hopper of the destemmer.

By 10am we had finished. The 1,000 litre fermantation tank was nearly full and a 700 steel tank, also used for fermentation, was two thirds full, so maybe 1,400 litres of must. Fermentation started within a couple of hours with no added yeast or sugar, just the natural reaction of the fruit sugar with yeasts on the skins.

We cleaned away and set up the long table for a harvest breakfast, washed down with orange juice and cava, while the must burbled away alongside us.

wine fermenting

Thanks to all who helped this year; Adrian & Linda, Becky, Carl & Jill, Carmen, Christine, David & Ros, David & Hilda, David & Helen and sons Harry & Matthew, Geoff & Fee, Ikuku, Jenn & Steve, John & Linda, John & Sharon and son Alex, Julia, Maurice & Gloria, Stuart, Thiery & Breda and daughter Alannah.

Posted in Andalucia, Finca del Rio, Spain, The Vineyard, Wine making | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secret pools of Genal River at Venta San Juan

I am going to tell you about a secret place. It is a place of laughter and of splashing and of families eating in dappled light. On a hot summers day this is the place to be.
A crystal clear, unpolluted river running through falls and pools along a perfect picnic bank. Only local folk know of it . . . truly a secret place in a hidden Andalucian valley.


To find this idyllic place turn off the A369 Algeciras to Ronda road at Algatocin and follow the steep winding road signposted to Genalguacil.

Then on through forests of chestnut trees, which give the local villagers their living, until the Genal river is reached. Park alongside the road just before the bridge, or at the venta. Most times it will be quiet, but on weekends the Venta San Juan just across the bridge can be busy. It has great barbequed meat and is the perfect place to have a hearty lunch.


There is an information board on the left and right side of the road which gives you information about the rivers life and how the area evolved.


Follow the path just to the left of the bridge going up river, this leads on to smaller inlets and rivers running shallows and knee high pools which have been banked up by accumulated stones and fallen trees. Walking along this path means you get your feet wet so make sure you have suitable shoes.

A number of tempting places alongside the river and pools entice, but ignore these even if the cooler box is heavy, or stop and paddle for a while. Then walk on until a long stretch of the river is reached and the path is no more.

Here under dappled chestnuts is the place to spread the picnic blankets, blow up the floats and relax with cold wine or beers.





For the adventurous there are long stretches of crystal clear water to paddle along. Possibly to find out what is making that constant splashing sound in the distance.
Or just to find absolute privacy and quiet.

Further up river you will find more falls and pools which could lead you on along the whole length of the river if you had time. The high mountain walls alongside the river hem it in but slope out from it, so they do not make it feel oppressive.

So . . . the secret is disclosed, I hope the locals don’t find out I have told you!





Posted in Andalucia, restaurant | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment