Pressing & Barrelling the Wine

The fermentation stopped on 6th September, we harvested and put into the tank on the 26th August, so  that’s a 10 day fermentation. Now is the time to barrel and press the wine. When the cap has sunk and lots of seeds are on the surface its a good sign that the first stage of storing the wine has been reached. Whether to go into wooden barrels or stainless steel containers is a matter of personal choice. We have access to two-year old french oak barrels that have 5 or so years left in them which gives extra flavours to the wine, so for now we use them.

1Brian & Tom moving must in the tank

1Press borrowed from Juan Antonio

The press is cleaned and washed down ready for use. In fact all the buckets, tubes, colanders, funnels, utensils etc are sterilised and cleaned. First we transfer the free liquid using tubes into the barrels. This method is slow even with three tubes so next year we will get a pump. The fine tubes avoid too many pips and bits of skin getting into the barrel, although they do add flavour. Also a fine muslin is used to filter out any bits.

3tubes going from tank to barrel4Wooden block lowering into tank

It is a slow process but on a sunny day with an occasional taste check not a bad job to be doing. As the tank empties the pips and pulp and skins are put into the press and squeezed as tight as we can. We only fill the press up to the half way mark and after two pressings we put the whole batch of skins through again and even more juice comes out.

5Wine going through muslin6Draining off the liquid

Presses like this have not changed in centuries and it is a tried and sure way for small winemakers to squeeze the last drop out of the grapes. The creaking of the wood blocks, in the press, as they take the strain is alarming but as long as they are placed square to each other and do not slip there is no chance of a sudden collapse. There is a lot of alcohol and flavour in the pressed wine, it has a thicker consistency than the free run juice.

7Getting that last drop8Grapes in the press

9It takes 2 to press

10Last juice and grapes

As the last of the wine is taken from the main tank and the last pressing made the dry skins and pips are put into separate containers to be distributed around the vineyard. We place them around each vine rather than just throw down in the lines. There maybe some side products, like soap, we could make from the skins but so far we just use it for mulch. Lifting the cake from the press becomes a game to see who can lift the most entire piece.

12Liquid coming through11No juice left

Once all the wine is in the barrels we added diluted campden tablets at the rate of 1 tab per 5 litres. So each barrel of 225 litres has 45 tablets added to control any bacterial action. As we have no cellar our barrels sit outside on the covered terrace against the house wall, not ideal but as temperatures drop now, we should average down to 14C through the winter, we will see how that works out. We do get air frost in January down to -5C but other winter months can be in the 20C’s so some variance.

14Cake of grapes ready to be dumped

13Another quarter of grapes

18All the must ready to go on land

15Cleaning out the press

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For years now we have had a good crop of Quinces, locally known as Membrillo, but have not used them. After looking at several recipes we decided to have a try at making a Membrillo cheese or paste.

Making membrillo cheese 001Making membrillo cheese 002

First step was to collect a dozen quinces and wash thoroughly and get the downy fluff off them. Next stage was to cut out the pips and core but to leave the skin intact which has a lot of pectin. Some recipes advise to cut the skin off as well and others to leave all intact and just cut up, there are many choices.

Making membrillo cheese 003Making membrillo cheese 004

Then the next step is to put the cut pieces into a pan of cold water, with two large lemon slices. Just cover the quince pieces and bring to  the boil. Leave on a slow boil until very soft but intact. Some recipes have a vanilla pod included during the boil. I think the flavour is intense enough anyway, so it brings little to the final taste.

Making membrillo cheese 005Making membrillo cheese 006

Pour off the hot water and puree the quince pieces with a hand blender or liquidiser. Optionally you could sieve for a finer and clearer finished product. Put into large heavy pot, with two good squeezes of lemon and over a low heat stir in sugar This could be pectin added sugar for a higher chance of the quince setting or regular sugar. I used 1 kilo regular sugar to 1.6 kilos of fruit as it is sweet enough, the ratio can vary depending on your taste. Once sugar is dissolved continue on low heat until the quince thickens to a deep reddish amber colour and the mixing spoon leaves a clear line along the bottom of the pan when drawn across.

Transfer to a parchment lined shallow pan which has been lightly oiled or buttered, and spread quince paste over the surface. Put into oven at low heat (50°C) with the fan on for at least an hour or maybe even two hours to get dry and set on the pan.

Making membrillo cheese 011
Once done, take out and let cool. Put into fridge in tupperware or similar container and let set more. Sprinkle with castor sugar if required.

Looks and tastes a bit like a fruitier turkish delight.

Great with cheese or just toast.

Trouble is if you have a tree full of the things, like me, and it does take some time to make, so where to put it all? Maybe its best to make a jam and put into jars as they are easier to store.

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Bottling the Wine

With the hot summer months coming it is now time to move the wine from the barrel into bottles. It was in early September 2009 that the wine from our first harvest was put into the barrel. This was from our first section of planting, which was of Tempranillo vines 3 years before. Now at the beginning of July 2010, with the help of John from the States and Tom from London, I have the extra hands necessary for the job.

Bottling July 10 (6)

Bottling July 10 (23)

Tubing wine from barrel

Using a narrow tube and capillary action we took the wine from the barrel and put it through a Vinturi Wine Aerator so that the wine was oxygenated before going in the bottles. This was a slow and laborious job involving many hands and because of the position of the barrel we had to sit awkwardly. A lesson to be learned for next year! We then poured the wine into the bottles

Bottling July 10 (24)

Hands, Tubes and Funnels

Bottling July 10 (17)

The bottles had previously been thoroughly washed in a cleaning and disinfecting solution and then had 15 minutes in the oven at 200C. As the bottles were filled we then took a cork from a separate cleaning solution and using our super corking machine pressed home the cork. This requires a strong arm as the nozzle first compresses the cork to make it smaller than the bottle opening and then pushes it down.

Bottling July 10 (8)
Bottling July 10 (9)As the day continued and the line of finished bottles got longer the tedium of this particular job struck us and with a ready supply to hand we had to sample as we went. This led us to think of seemingly inspired variations of how we could accomplish what we were doing more easily. As our talkativeness increased so did our need to quench our thirst on what was after all a hot day anyway.

The line of bottles increased until at last we had over 200 of the blighters. Now where to put them? The coolest place in the house was in the porch, where the barrel had been, and in the family bathrooms. So the bottles were racked and stacked under the double sink tops in boxes to lie quietly to see how the taste would mature.

Bottling July 10 (20)

Many green bottles waiting by the wall!


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Vendimia / Wine Harvest 2010

On coming back from vacation we started to measure the sugar levels of the grapes and realised that the harvest had to be made almost immediately. We measured the top vineyard first, starting at the top line and sampled 4 places in each line. Tasting the grapes as we went through the vineyard for juice sweetness and flavour. Also checked the grapes dryness whereby the skin is chewed on the front teeth and looked at the pips to see if they were brown and not green.

Grapes before cuttingGrapes ready for cutting

Grapes ready for cutting

The first lines Brix readings were 19, 22, 21, 19. The estimated alcohol level in the wine is calculated by multiplying the Brix level by 0.55. So onto the third line and readings of 19, 19, 19, 21. We continued through the lines taking readings every three lines that ranged from 19 to 23, so the top vineyard was ready.

On checking the bottom vineyard we started getting Brix readings between 22 and 27,  but also noticed that many bunches of grapes had a mold that looked like Botrytis Cinerea. Some of the grapes on the bunches were good but a lot were not. There had been a heavy rainstorm over a week before then a day of sun then a heavy rainstorm again, so the grapes had become soaked then dried then soaked again. Very unusual for such heavy rain in August and coupled with the strong leaf canopy had led to high humidity and thus the Botrytis. It’s okay if you are making Sauternes in France, Tröckenbeerenauslese in Germany, or Tokaj in Hungary. The mold is called “Noble Rot” and in France “La Pourriture Noble”, and “Edelfaule” in Germany.

Mold on grapesMold on more grapes

Mold on some of the Tempranillo grapes.

Our wine harvest was on Thurday 26th August, probably two weeks later than it should have been. Some of the Tempranillo grapes, especially in the lower vineyard, were spoilt, but there were still lots to pick.

Crusher ready for actionWork stations ready

Crusher and de-stemmer work stations ready for the day.

We started at 4am to get a good start so that when the de-stemmers arrived they would have trays full of grapes to work on. With head torches picking out the bunches, we cut and piled the grapes into our carrying buckets. A cool morning, but temperatures would soon be racking up.

Checking & de-stemmingDaylight & still the grapes come

The de-stemming and crushing started at 6am and finished at 3pm . . . what a day!

We had great support from friends who helped with picking, de-stemming and crushing from 6am in the morning through till 3pm. Working in the hot sun for long hours in what was one of the hottest days of the year with temperatures near 40C or standing at tables separating grapes from stems. So a big thank you to: Ian, Jenny & Einar, Linda & Adrian, Louise & Jim, Maggie & Ralph, Ros & David , Sharon & John, Tom.

Friends de-stemmingHmmm, not sure about these

Tearing, de-stemming, crushing and generally working through the pile of grapes.

The borrowed crusher/de-stemmer, turned out to be just a crusher, which was good but led to the same back-log as last year. There were many more grapes than last year which would mean a long day.

Just a few moreThese look good

The sun rises and still more grapes come down from the cutters.

As our main 1000 litre tank filled and as the day wore on it became apparent that we would not finish in one day so we stopped at 3pm for our harvest celebrations which carried on till late evening.

Breakfast on its wayGrub coming up

Jenny and Louise look after the food and drink.

We continued picking and de-stemming the next day from 8am till 8pm until the last of the good grapes were in the tank and vowed to buy a proper de-stemmer for next years harvest.

Stripped for actionStirring the must

Hot work means less clothes!

At last the big tank was full and we also had two 75 litre bins nearly full, so just over 1000 litres of must. So maybe three barrels of wine.

FermentationStirring must around

Pushing the cap down and stirring over.

Fermentation started right away and so we started freezing water bottles to bring the temperature down to get a long slow fermentation.

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Grape Harvest / Vendimia



Stumbling out of  bed at 5 o’clock
on the morning of 4th September
we just had time to review
our prepared work line for
the de-stemming
and collection of the grapes
before friends started to
arrive to help.

After a brief chat about job
roles and how we thought
the processing of the grapes should take place we all took our places and waited for
the cutters and carriers to bring up the first containers of grapes.

We are de-stemming by hand to make sure that only the grapes go into the fermentation tank, so figure this will be the most time consuming activity and this turned out to be correct, most people were on de-stemming.

cimg4232The first containers began to arrive from the
bottom vineyard, the cutters having to use
head  and hand torches.cimg4235

The pressure was now on . . .
the de-stemmers started pulling
the grapes away from the tight
embrace of the stalks.

The bunches varied from very tight and juicy to sparse and widely spread.
It soon became clear that the
de-stemming would take the most time.

All the dried bullet like grapes were discarded but the raisin type ones were allowed into the must as they will re-hydrate and give intense flavour . . .
at least that’s the theory.



As dawn broke
over the eastern
mountain ridges opposite
our finca
there where many
questions about
how many more
lines of vines
had to be cut.

Standing for over 4 hours the team continued de-stemming and crushing until the cutters announced that they were on the last few rows.

A cheer went up and it gave
everyone the final impetus to finish.

The last bucket was tipped into the tank and the cover put on for the fermentation to begin.

A general clear up and the tables were put together, chairs found and the bottles of cava and orange juice opened for a celebratory drink.

A toast and vote of thanks was made to all those who helped with the harvest; Jenny & Einer, Becky & Chris, Julia & Gordon, Jacqui & Marc, Ros & David, Linda & Adrian, Maggie & Ralph, Polly & Stuart, Brenda, Jim, and Ian.


With plates loaded with sausage and bacon rolls, tostados spread with tomato and garlic, lots of cold meats and cheeses the harvest breakfast continued for most of the day until the last person left at 4pm, all very tired but feeling good about a job well done.

dscf2243dscf2286It had been a  long and tiring day with about 300 litres of wine in the tank slowly beginning to ferment.

We will need to check that dscf2250the fermentation takes hold, that the temperature does not get too high and make sure that we stir the cap down every 6 hours.


Hopefully then
the fermentation
is on its
way to be a very
drinkable wine!

We think this is the first wine made in this part of the Guadiaro River valley since phyloxra wiped out the grapes in this area in the 1870′s.

Crazy economically, as good wine only
costs 2 or 3 euros a bottle! But great fun to make.




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