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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.