It’s springtime in the vineyard, with the first signs of grapes appearing.
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Pressing and tanking the grapes after the first fermentation.
Using a sieve and filter to pump wine from fermentation tank full of tempranillo grapes.
Pumping the ‘free run’ grape juice from the fermentation tank to the steel tank.
The steel fermentation tank.
Using a colander to remove the grapes from the fermentation tank.
Grapes added to the wine press.
The wine press with wooden block in place, pressing the wine by hand.
The pressed wine juice sieved into a bucket to be transferred to the stainless steel fermentation tank.
The ‘cake’ leftover after pressing the juice from the grapes.
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On the 1st of September 2018 we had our Grape Harvest (Vendimia) at Finca del Rio – La Vina de la Iglesia.
After the grapes are picked, usually starting at 6am, they are brought to tables to be sorted. We remove green grapes, split grapes and any grapes that show signs of powdery mildew. Although we do cut any mildewed grapes off before the harvest, as much as possilbe and discard away from the vineyard. All the work is done by hand, except the de-stemming.
After sorting of the grapes. They are put into a de-stemmer machine. This removes the grapes and juice from their stalks using an archimedes screw at the top of the machine which leads the grapes onto grooved flexible rollers and then into a revolving drum with cut-out holes and paddles inside the machine.
The stalks are collected from the machine, then later are put back onto the vineyard as compost.
The grape juice is transferred from the de-stemmer machine using plastic buckets into a large tank. Fermentation takes place almost immediately. No sugar is added and the vineyards own natural yeast is left to combine with the sugars in the grapes. The tank is covered with a muslin cloth to stop fruit flies from spoiling the fermenting grape juice, but still allows a good flow of air across the top of the must.
The fermentation ‘cap’ is pushed down, also called ‘punching down’, so that the skins of the grapes add colour and flavour during maceration (skin contact) and do not dry out.
The syrah tank during punch down and maceration.
The tempranillo tank during punch down and maceration.
To control the temperature of the fermentation, bottles of ice are used to cool the grape juice. These are replaced at intervals.
After the harvest the de-stemmer machine is thoroughly cleaned for use next year. The revolving cylinder with punched out holes can be clearly seen. These holes effectively cause the de-stemming by tearing the stems from the grapes as they revolve around.
So now we wait for the fermentation to stop before the next stage which is to seperate the juice from the skins and seeds and to place the juice, now wine, into stainless steel tanks.
Every year the organic vineyard here at Finca del Rio attracts lots of wildlife, especially birds. This year we currently have four nests (nidos in spanish). The current visiters are Blackbirds (mirlo) who have built a nest in the rear vineyard.
Two eggs appeared towards the end of June.
As we inspected the current grapes, we found two hatchlings sleeping, shaded from the hot sun.
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.
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.