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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Checking the Grapes

Tempranillo grapes

Tempranillo grapes

We have been checking the tempranillo grapes closely this last week of August as they are looking ripe and ready and measuring the  sugar levels of the grapes using a Refractometer.

Squeezing juice onto Refractometer

Using Refractometer to measure Brix level

It has been a hot and dry summer so the vines are looking dry with many dead leaves.

We cut a lot of bunches off a month ago as the plants seemed to be struggling with an overburden of grapes.

The grapes we left have flourished as the plants were able to direct more energy to fewer bunches.

We also irrigated a bit more to avoid the dehydration of the grapes which had been occurring.

The lower vineyard showed an average of 19 Brix and the upper vineyard was higher at 21 Brix.

How high is the average Brix?

These readings indicated, along with tasting the grapes and looking at the pips to see how brown they were, that we should harvest this week.

A good count showed there to be 1854 bunches of grapes with maybe an average weight of  a third of a kilo so maybe 600 kilos in total which could give 600 bottles.


We have set the date for our harvest or vendimia for the 4th September on the full moon, as the water table will be high and enable the grapes to be harvested with good moisture content.


We have asked friends to help and will be starting at 6am with a crew of 20
and aim to finish in 3 hours to avoid the heat of the sun.

With 3 cutters and 3 carriers, 6 de-stemmers, 4 crushers and provisioners we should get the job done and have time for a harvest breakfast to celebrate with Cava and orange juice, BBQ’d bacon & sausages, and fresh tomato & garlic tostades!

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Pet costume competition

molly in flamenco

Flamenco Molly
The Romeria at Salitre took place over the weekend of 29/31 May. On Saturday we took our dogs along for the afternoon and enjoyed a picnic with our friends.

This year the organisers decided to have a different competition. A few people entered their pets and as you can see from the photos, it was not just for dogs!

We dressed Molly as a flamenco dancer. Her patience knew no bounds, she didn’t mind a bit. The judging took place late in the afternoon but it only took moments to get our dogs ready.

molly and friends

A few friends
Molly with her friends, Henry & Friday.

Henry, a Golden Retriever in the foreground, was dressed as a boy scout. He is a five month old puppy and just loves romping around and playing with Molly

Friday, in front of Henry, was dressed for school.

Ducks as Fred Astair Ginger Rogers

Ducks having a run around
The competition was open to all types of pets – dogs, ducks and goats were entered.

The ducks won the competition entered as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!

They had great fun when they were let loose amongst the children at the Romeria.

Molly in her basket

Time for a rest
After all that excitement, Molly just loves her basket.

She is such a happy dog and loves greeting everyone with her tail wagging and rolling over to have her tummy tickled.




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Jam from the vineyard apricot trees

apricot tree in vineyard

This year the apricot trees have produced loads of fruit. This could have been down to the unusual rainfall we had during the past winter.

I decided it was time to try to make my own jam. Previous attempts last year were not too successful. My next job was to find an easy to do “mugs” recipe. The one I found to be the easiest was a Delia recipe which was handed down to her by her mum.

Simple – wash the fruit and de-stone. Grease the saucepan with a little bit of butter, just enough to stop everything sticking, not loads. Then layer the cut fruit with jam making sugar and finish off with a few squeezes from a lemon. Leave this in the saucepan overnight or even for the next day. When you come to make the jam, the sugar has already started to dissolve. Heat gently until all the crystals have gone and then go for the boil. Put a small plate in the freezer ready to test the setting of the jam. I boiled the liquid for 10 minutes and then did my test. The jam settled on the plate and didn’t run so that was it. Ready for the jam jars.

The jars had been previously washed in the dishwasher and were now sterilising in a low oven, 100C and the lids were in a saucepan of simmering water.

apricot jam jars on terrace table

The end result is absolutely delicious.

The jars are all ready for labelling but I haven’t designed the labels yet and the colour printer is on its way.

Each time I made a batch using 1.1kg apricots and 1kg of jam making sugar which filled approx 5 jars, depending on size.

I have been given about a kilo of cherries so I’ve followed the same method which is soaking now. Let’s hope the recipe works with cherries.

The plum trees are almost ready to pick, I just need lots more jam jars!

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