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Monday, 6 April 2015

Achieving Things While Pottering About the Bodega and Vineyard

It's amazing. Back in January I started writing down a list of all the things I manage to achieve over time. Before that I just had my usual "to do" lists, which never seemed to get any shorter - the items changed but they stayed the same length, which was kind of depressing as it seemed that I wasn't getting anywhere or achieving anything.

But now I feel great! I can look at my "Achieved in March" list, for example, and I can remember (and feel great about) all those things which I did, but which I would have forgotten about! Easy!

I've even broken the list down into categories, because otherwise I get all confused and overwhelmed! It just goes to show that there really is a lot more to winemaking than just pottering around in the bodega and in the vineyards!

- Bodega
- Vineyards
- Orders delivered
- Samples sent
- Visits attended to
- Tastings gone to
- Paperwork done
- Contacts made
- Other

Well, I won't bore you all any more with this nonsense!  Instead here are some nice photos for you to enjoy, one photo for each of the above categories:

Hundreds of liters of wines bottles up and stored

Four vineyards pruned: Carabaña, Villarejo, and two in El Tiemblo
Orders delivered:
Un petit pallet pour Paris
Samples sent:

Some samples prepared and ready to be sent
Visits attended to:
Attending to a visitor
Tastings gone to:
Explaining something at Enoteca Barolo
Bodega books that have to be filled in with numbers
Contacts made:

I have a list of about 25 contacts, just from the Vitis Vinifera tasting in Barcelona the other week (from biz cards and memory jogging) that I ought to follow up. It's on my to-do list, but quite far down on the scale of priorities!

- I managed to get myself interviewed on Radio Aragon; blah-blah-blah natural wines blah-blah-blah
- I'm working on new labels (again) for next year
- I wrote three posts in March for this blog
- ... and some more trivial stuff.

Any questions, just post it here below, and I'll answer you asap.

Two Visitors to my Vineyards and Winery

Like I'm sure I've mentioned before, it's not all hard work in the vineyards and winery - sometimes I get a 'day off' when someone comes to visit, even though it's still considered to be 'work'. A bit like when I travel to a wine fair :)

The first visit was about two weeks ago, by Clara Isamat, of Vinos Compartidos, based in Barcelona. She's producing a video documentary on natural wine, with a chapter or a section for each producer that she's selected. She working with a production company called Entropia Films.

Here's me and Clara, in the patio behind the bodega, on the old weighing station
So basically I spent all afternoon/evening with her and her film crew, blah-blah-blah, answering her questions, and holding forth on all sorts of issues related to natural wines, skin-contact whites, conventional wines, fine wines, the environment, globalization of wines, ingredient labelling, quality, etc, etc.

Checking the quality of the Sauvignon Blanc Amphora

Bottling up, the slow way

Fishing out a glass of Suav blanc
 Here's Victoria and Martí of Entropia Films doing a bit of post-production on the fly

Next day, more of the same, but in the vineyards. Nice and early so they could "catch the light" which is more beautiful just after sunrise!

Here we are in the car on the way to the vineyard. Can you believe that I'd never seen a selfie-stick before? Amazing! This one had a blue-tooth connection to a clicker!

A selfie-stick
I think it's that way
Check out that vine!

Pruning or posing?
Clara brought me a present, a new wine toy called "Kit de Cata" or "Tasting Kit", which consists of special wine socks that you can slip over a bottle of wine when you're playing a blind tastings! Otherwise, you have to wrap the bottle up in silver foil, or use a paper bag, or other inelegant solution! :)   It's great fun, and impossibly difficult to guess the wine (unless you're a professional taster, who tastes many different wines every day). You can get these lovely socks here:

Blind tasting wine socks by adivinosvinos
But I have to say that I've had at least two minor blind tasting triumphs over the last few years: one was when I gate-crashed into a monthly tasting held by a club in a village near Madrid that I happened to be passing through one evening; and I knew they were there so I thought, why not?  Well, the first wine was ridiculously obvious to me, because as luck would have it I'd recently tasted lots of them at a wine fair in London!  It was a Georgian wine and when I declared my guess everyone looked at me like I was mad. But I was right! :)

But anyway, I'm getting distracted! The next visit was by Mario Siragusa, a grapegrower and winemaker from Piemonte, Italy. I'd met hime in Turin last year at Banco, a natural wine bar and bistrot in the old part of Turin, during the Slow Food event back in October last year.

This visit was just for pleasure and no business, but we were blah-blah-blah all day anyway, again about natural wines, additives, ingredient labelling, etc, etc. Mario is a collector/drinker of old vintage wines, and he brought me this as a present:

Vintage Barbaresco 1971
He has more of the same at home and he says that it will be perfectly drinkable. Probably. They say you never can tell with such old wine. I'm starting to take an interest in old vintages, both for the taste and for the collection thing. If only I had more time! :)

Here we are in the Garnacha vineyard in El Tiemblo, Sierra de Gredos:

Fabius et Marius in vinea stant
 And here I am, extracting some Albillo 2014 to taste:

Extracting a sample of Albillo 2104
I really must come up with some other method of taking samples!

Actually, there was a third recent visit - by by Nacho Bueno, but he has his own blog (here) so he can write about it himself! :)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Pruning Update – March 2015

Like I mentioned in a previous post (here), I seem to be on schedule this year as far as the pruning is concerned.

Below are the vineyards that I attend to myself, but apart from the grapes from these vineyards, I also buy in grapes from local grapegrowers (if they agree to abide by certain conditions).

Carabaña Vineyard (Field blend of Airén and Tempranillo; 1 hectare total)

This vineyard is all pruned already:

Airén and Tempranillo vines all prunes in Carabaña

All I have to do now is pile up those canes into bigger piles so that the ‘tractorista’ can come and pulverize them while at the same time cutting back the high grass and flowers and plants and thistles. This will happen in April/May so that he only needs to come once, because by that time of year the growing season for grass and flowers is over, so they won’t grow back.

Most grapegrowers either burn the canes or ‘dispose’ of them by taking them to the municipal dump. But I believe that it is much better to return the vineyard material to the soil.

Another pending item in this vineyard is some manure. I’ve been trying to contact an organic sheep and goat farm up in the mountains near Madrid, to arrange for picking up about 10 t of manure, ... but so far to no avail. Here’s some pics of the last time I did it:

insert photo

And yet another pending item here in Carabaña, is to replant some new vines in the spaces where the original vines have died. There are about 200 such spaces. I’ve already bought 200 pre-grafted baby vines, and they are ready for planting, in April. They are Tempranillo grafted onto American rootstock “Paulsen 1103”. I really should have taken my own cuttings from the vines in the vineyard and grafted them myself (selection massale), but I don’t have the skill. I would need to do a course or work with an experienced grape-grower.

I actually already attempted to plant new vines back in May 2013 (see this post). All went fine but most of the new baby vines died over the summer due to lack of watering! Live and learn. I will have to make sure I water them a few times over the summer this time.

insert photo

Villarejo. Malvar (1 ha)

This vineyard is all pruned too. Here I also have to make big piles of canes for the tractorista.
In this vineyard I like to do a secondary pruning during the summer months, to ensure that no canes, leaves or clusters are in contact with the ground, and that there is a gap at ground level so that the wind and air can circulate freely. Otherwise there is a risk of creating a humid, jungle-like environment under each vine, with the possibility of mildew and oidium.

Malvar vines in Villarejo all pruned 

El Tiemblo I. (Sierra de Gredos). Garnacha – low altitude (0.25 ha)

I am about ¼ done. I hope to finish pruning before the end of March – one more day’s work should do it.
Here I am going to do a rather strange experiment: around this olive tree (see pic below) there are about 7 vines that could climb up it, and I am going to allow them to do so, instead of pruning them normally. I’ve been reading some ancient Roman texts on viticulture recently (Pliny, Columella and others) and I was fascinated to learn that the ancient Romans had 3 systems of grape-growing: 2 just like our modern methods today, ie low bush vines (fr: en gobelet, or sp: en vaso) and trellised along wooden structures or fences (similar to our modern wires); but they also had a third system – training vines up trees!

Garnacha vines in El Tiemblo, about 1/4 prunes

So hopefully I shall be able to harvest (somehow) about 50 kg of tree-borne grapes with which to make some ‘Roman’ wine!  I already have an amphora to make this wine in. But first I have to line it with beeswax. There is a good video on YouTube that I am going to follow, and then I will make my own video when I (attempt to) line my amphora.

El Tiemblo II. (Sierra de Gredos). Garnacha - high altitude (1 ha)

At the time of writing I haven’t started pruning this vineyard. I am leaving this one to the last because it is quite high in the mountains, and there is a slight risk of late frost. So the later I prune, the later it will sprout, which will reduce the risk a bit.

The other day when I was checking the vineyard, I came across two goats!  This is OK at this time of year, because there is nothing to eat; but it would be bad news if the goats could get in after the vines have sprouted, as they could eat those lovely tender and tasty vine shoots!  I will have to check and mend the fence!

Goats in the Garnacha vineyard,
El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos), as yet unpruned

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Natural Wine Tasting in Paris

I’m just back from an absolutely incredibly awesome 2-day tasting event in Paris. It was organized by Thierry Puzelat, who in addition to being a natural wine producer based in the Loire, also imports and distributes foreign wines in France.

Here’s a list of the winemakers who came (here). Anyone who knows their natural wines will recognize some impressive names there, and I felt overwhelmed and honoured to be invited along with them. For me, this invitation to participate in the fair (called “Deguestation”) and have my own table to pour my wines, was the final affirmation that I really do make good wines, which many, many people buy and enjoy. This is of course silly and irrational because I’ve been exporting thousands of bottles for years, and mostly repeat sales too, so ‘intellectually’ and ‘rationally’ I already knew that  my wines were ‘good’. But they say that we humans are fundamentally emotional animals and that we are not really as rational as we like to think we are. Whatever! The fact is that now I really know, deep down and ‘emotionally’ that I’m doing something right.

And France! We all know what the French are like when it comes to wines, don’t we? Yes, they’re a bit like the Italians and Spanish, actually, ie they think that ‘their’ wines are the best, and so it’s very difficult to sell foreign wines in those countries.

And that, is basically what I wanted to say in this post. But here’s a bit about the tasting itself:

It was held in Le Chateaubriand and in the Le Dauphin, two restaurants next door to each other on Avenue Parmentier in the 11ème.

Here I am (left) with two other producers

View from the inside, from my table

We producers were all lucky enough to be invited for lunch and dinner on both days, though at lunch we had to eat on the go, as it were, at our tables, as it was really busy, and couldn’t really close:

with Thierry at my table
I was sharing a table with two Georgian producers, John Wurdeman (from Pheasants Tears winery) and John Okro, an small independent producer:

John Wurdeman at his table
About half the producers were Italians (mostly Northern Italy, Piemonte, Veneto), and half was made up by Slovenians, Greeks, Catalans, and two Spaniards (one proper Spaniard, Goyo García from Ribera de Duero; and an Italo-Scottish Spaniard, from Sierra de Gredos, ha! ha!). Such is Thierry Puzelat’s multi-faceted stable of foreign winemakers.

Here I am at La Cave, next door to Le Chateaubriand, tasting an orange wine from Rome
I met many interesting people over the 2 days. The ‘official’ hours were 11:00 to 18:00, but of course the tasting/drinking/networking continued outside in the street till dinnertime, then over dinner, then after dinner until the wee small hours.

Polenta with lamb, washed down with a full-bodied Georgian!
On the first day I met, incredibly, ___ ___, who used to play scrum-half for the Spanish rugby team back in the 1980’s. What was he doing there? I don’t know, I forgot to ask! We had a great chat about rugby and about the positive values it instils, so unlike football. I also forgot to take a photo of us together.

after hours
Then I met a cook-actor who cooks dishes for clients right in front of them, as if on a stage, with music and dancing included – and he wants my wines! We chatted for a long time about this and that (and life, etc) because he believed that he had to know his producers personally (of food and wine) in order to give his clients 100%.

Then I met many, many chefs, maîtres, sommeliers and waiters and waitresses, who were all more ‘technical’ if you can call it that. They would smell and taste my wines and then sort of stare into space for a while – obviously trying to imagine what they could pair the wine with.

I wish I’d taken more photos and more notes, because I’m sure I’ve already forgotten at least half the people who came to taste. However, I don’t have a single business card left in my pockets, so I must have given them all out!

It only remains to wait and see if any results are forthcoming, in terms of sales. I’m pretty sure they will be. They say that “all things come to they who wait”, but I believe that you also have to throw out little signals (eg attend tastings) otherwise no-one will know of your existence. Also, I’ve come to believe that it doesn’t pay to rush things in the (natural) wine world, not in the vineyard, nor in the bodega, nor when looking for an importer in Japan! (hint hint) :)

I also met, on the first morning before the tasting started, a fellow natural wine-maker, Jordi Llorens, from Montfort in Catalonia. It turned out that we had a lot in common and had lived sort of similar parallel lives which took us both to where we are today, ie practicing organic agriculture, and making natural wine.

Winemaker Jordi Llorens myself

The lock filling up with water 

And lastly, here’s an anecdote that couldn’t be more appropriate to this post. I was sitting behind my table during a quiet period, and I was doing a bit of anti-social media on my mobile (as one does) and did I not see a tweet by @AliceFeiring with a link to an article on natural wines in the Wine Spectator; so I thought ‘how appropriate’, I went to read it, and after reading I tweeted back “There seems to be a disconnect between theory and reality here”. I had to make an effort to be polite and correct here, because otherwise I’d have come across as a raving fanatic – which I’m not!

The article is a complete fantasy by the author who cannot possibly have much experience of natural wines. To me it read like something out of a creative writing workshop, ie good use of the English language, nice turns of phrase, good sound-bites, condescending platitudes in the introduction, inappropriate but alluring analogies later on, in general an excellently written ‘piece’. But unfortunately it has nothing to do with the reality of natural wines. The author, Harvey Steiman, is of course immensely knowledgeable about wine and food in general (he’s been writing for the WS for decades), but as far as natural wines are concerned, I’d respectfully say that he lacks the knowledge and experience to give a balanced and informed opinion.

And of course, as usual, no names were given regarding the faulty wines (of the winery, the wine or the vintage), just the usual generality along the lines of “the natural wine movement has a great tolerance for faults” Is this out of politeness, or is it lack of hard evidence? Even after all those times "sitting round a table wanting to moo at the barnyard aromas wafting ..." ?

Over just two days I must have tasted +100 natural wines at Le Chateaubriand, and:

- not one had Brett
- not one had excessive VA
- not one was like cider
- not one had funk (whatever that is!)

They were all in fact completely fault-free. Is that so amazing?

But c’est la vie! I’ve reached the stage now (in the development and evolution of my attitude) where ‘frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ what the mainstream writers write. But at the same time I think it’s a terrible shame that with such a wide readership, many people will be put off or will become skeptical of natural wines and will not bother to taste any. Again, c’est la vie, I’m not out to evangelize or ‘convert’ anyone to natural wines. Each to their own, and a wine for each occasion.

After all this time (12 years making natural wines; 5 years participating in the wine world) I still don’t understand the attitude of the mainstream wine world (writers and trade) towards natural wines. This article in the WS was just ignorance, but many other articles are aggressive/denigrating/mocking. Why? Is it fear? Fear of losing market share or sales? Ridiculous, IMO, because the best guestimates puts natural wines’ share of the world market at less than 0.01%.  Fear of the public realizing that about 90% of all wines produces are full of additives and subject to industrial manipulations? Again unlikely, IMO, as natural winemakers do not have a marketing lobby or the resources of the budget to do any advertising. Is it just mockery? Just pooh-poohing a passing fad? I don’t think so, because the modern manifestation of natural wines has been going on since the 1970’s.  I really don’t know (or care) but I would be curious to hear of any theories that anyone may have on this question.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

How on earth did I manage to achieve all that?

It's been a long time since my last post, and such a lot has lot has happened; so much in fact that I haven't had any time to write any posts on this blog!

That's probably a good thing though, all things considered, as after all, my 'core activities' (as it were) are growing grapes, making wine, and marketing and selling said wine; not writing a blog.  On the other hand though, one could consider writing this blog as part of my marketing!  I suppose it is, really, even though I like doing it just for its own sake.

There's a lot of information in this blog (especially in the "Pages" above), and I get a lot of good feedback about it from many different sources; so I guess I must be doing something right.

So like I said, I've been busy, busy, busy. But in a good sense, not all stressed out and running around madly constantly doing stuff. Like last year!

So here's a quick summary of what I've managed to achieve recently:

1. The pruning. Incredibly I'm on schedule! Usually, if I remember rightly, I'm always running late, some years really, really late, and other years just late! But this year is perfect, so far (touching wood here!). Carabaña (field blend of Airén and Tempranillo) is done; Villarejo (Malvar) is done; my low altitude Garnacha plot in El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos) is just under half done, and my high altitude Garnacha plot (also El Tiemblo) is the last one to be started on, in a few weeks.

My half-pruned low-altitude Garnacha vineyard (El Tiemblo, Sierra de Gredos)
2. Bottling. Again, much better than last year, when I had to bottle up madly during the summer to free up tanks before the harvest. This year, I'm about half done already. I just have to bottle up the Airén 14, Doré 14,  Albillo 14 (from an amphora which will be very time-consuming), the Sauv blanc 14 (ditto), and just 1 more barrica of Garnacha.

Bottling up
3. I started beautifying the patio, and preparing a plot of ground to plant some vegetables in.

My rather messy looking patio at the bodega
4. I bought 200 vines to plant in the empty spaces in my Carabaña vineyard (Tempranillo variety, grafted onto Paulsen 1103 rootstock) which I hope to do in April, depending on the temperature and weather

5. I managed to source and buy 2 kg of organic beeswax, so I can line that new baby amphora that I bought on the spur of the moment a few months ago!

6. I prepared and delivered several nice orders (Thierry Puzelat (France), Restaurante Montía (El Escorial), Restaurante Los Asturianos (Madrid), Le Petit Bistrot (Madrid), CienPorCien Natural (Cádiz), Restaurante Bodeguita de Pilar (El Tiemblo), a CSA type group in the mountain village of Bustarviejo)

Boxes, having been prepared, ready to receive bottles of wine, having been corked and labeled
7. Sent off samples to people who were interested in tasting my wines: Barcelona, Vienna, London, Avila, Grenada, Madrid (being discrete here, no names!)

8. Organized some tastings in my bodega with possible importers/buyers (Australia, Norway, Barcelona) and with other people (not possible buyers) who just came to taste because they wanted to (Japan, Boston, Portugal/Belgium, Madrid) (being discrete again here, no names!)

Doing a bit of tasting in the bodega
9. Did a presentation/tasting of my wines in the Petit Bistrot (Madrid) (see this previous post)

10. Went to a Slow Food / Slow Wine event in Zaragoza, to pour my wines, and managed to find a distributor for Aragón, one Carlos Scholderle, #winelover ambassador to Spain. (This two-day event deserves a whole post to itself!)

My table at the Slow Wine tasting, Zaragoza (Aragón)
11. And am in the process of calmly updating the paperwork/redtape/bureaucracy that has to be done if you want to have a legal wine business. Instead of madly doing it the day before the deadlines!

12. And all the while working at my day-job!

 Not bad, eh?  Another new year's resolution was to write down all the things I manage to achieve, which I've been doing. This makes you feel good about your life! Before, I just had the to-do list, which is of course never-ending, but it seemed that I wasn't achieving anything. In fact I was, but I just didn't realize it!!!

Anyway, I hope that wasn't too boring to read through. But it just goes to show that winemaking is not just about being mystical in the vineyard and getting to taste some really interesting wines at tastings! Though of course I love those occasions too, when they occur! There's lots and lots of rather mundane stuff that has to be done, but which is not really photogenic or interesting to write about!

So I think I'll just post this now, without any further ado, and maybe get round to writing some more specific posts next week (or at least before the end of March!)

PS. Just to say that I'll be off to Paris, France this weekend: see here. It's a tasting organized by Thierry Puzelat of all his 'natural wine' producers that he imports into France.

PPS. And also just to say that on Friday 13th, I'll be presenting my wines at Enoteca Barolo (Madrid). 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Some Thoughts and Comments and Feedback on my Recent Natural Wine Tasting

I got a lot of good feedback from the people who came to the tasting of my new wines the other night at the Petit Bistrot. There were not many of us there which was a good thing as I could circulate and chat to the different groups, who didn't really know each other.

It was quite an informal affair as far as tastings go. The normal procedure seems to be to set up a sort of 'high table' or stage with the speaker speaking at an audience who are all sitting facing him or her. But in this case we were all just standing around in groups in a restaurant which, being a weekday, was empty apart from ourselves.

I came away with a very positive feeling of satisfaction and of the certainty that I must be doing something right! A feeling that I really needed, given my recent string of acetic disasters (see my previous post).

Here are the wines I presented:

Airén 2014
Doré 2014
Albillo 2014
Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Tempranillo 2013
Garnacha 2013

The first three were very young whites, which are not even bottled up yet. I bottled six bottles of each specially for this tasting straight from the stainless steel fermentation tanks (Airén and Doré) and from the amphora (Albillo). I am very happy with all three, and I think they should be drunk between now and this summer, ie young, while they are nice and fresh, especially the Airén. I know my Airens can last for years and still be drinkable, but they evolve into a different wine, which becomes less and less fruity and more and more Sherry-like as time goes by. Again, there's no accounting for taste, and many people like them that way. It's just that I personally like the Airén while it's young and fruity and full of complexities.

Regarding the Doré, there's not much I can say as it's the first time I've used that variety. So, I will keep back several cases and taste them over the years. At the moment, it's interesting to drink.

The Albillo 2014 is enormous! It's super complex and interesting and intense. It has the body of a big red wine but the aromas of a white! I'm pretty sure it will evolve well over time too, but it's perfectly fine right now too.

The Sauvignon blanc 2013 is an orange wine, ie made with white grapes but macerated on the skins like a red wine - and then racked into an old clay amphora, then bottled and aged.

I have to say that I myself was really surprised and impressed by the reception the wines got; which sounds like a silly thing to say, as I'd obviously tasted them all before. But I'd always tasted them on my own, straight from the tanks, in a silent and empty winery. Whereas at the tasting, it was like being an actor on stage, with all the related nerves and stage-fright!  Especially during the first wine, when everyone is paying close attention to what I'm saying (as opposed to chatting with their mates like they were doing by the sixth wine!)

So, I think I've managed to tick all those natural wine boxes that I'm interested in ticking:

- Express the terroir
- Express the grape variety
- Pleasant and enjoyable to drink
- Comment-worthy
- Complex and interesting aromas and tastes

I won't go into details about the actual aromas and tastes perceived or comments made by all the different people who kindly shared their opinions with me, as they were all different and even conflicting! Never would it be more appropriate to say "There's no accounting for taste"!

In any case, I'd rather let the wines speak for themselves, and I'd also rather let tasters and critics and winelovers in general speak their opinions, instead of me. Just because I can grow grapes and make wine, doesn't mean that I can write critically and usefully about my own wines! Strange as it may seem!

During the course of the evening I had an interesting discussion with a group of people about the visual aspects of my wines, which were all rather cloudy, all had sediments, and one even had some precipitated tartrates. In a nutshell, my opinion about the visual aspect is, as Clark Gable said to Vivien Leigh: "Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!".  Now that's not meant to be rude or disparaging or anything like that, it's simply the reduction or summary of a topic that I've though about for a long time. A more detailed explanation for this attitude is as follows:

1. I believe that the current modern standard of beauty in wine is just a mere casual collateral consequence of industrial large-volume producing wineries' need to stabilize their wines for transport and storage purposes. I don't think that all these wineries independently and simultaneously started thinking about how to make their wines look better; no, they looked for a way to be able to transport and store their wines cheaply and over long distances and for a long time.

2. I don't believe that transparent, shiny, liquids are for some reason intrinsically more pleasing to look at than cloudy, semi-opaque liquids. This is just the prevailing opinion in the spirit of the times in which we happen to be living. The analogy that sprang to mind in the heat of the moment was of nude paintings of the past, where the subjects were fat! The opposite, in fact, of what is held to be beautiful today, ie not an intrinsic, universal quality, but based on other criteria that are held to be valid at the time in question

3. I also believe that wines are primarily best enjoyed for their taste, and secondarily for their aromas (which are of course closely related), while the visual part is in a different league altogether. I mean how much enjoyment can you get from just looking at your glass of wine?  Most winedrinkers don't pay that much attention to it anyway - just a cursory glance I would say. Most winedrinkers don't even smell their wine before drinking it - I'd say that smelling your wine is a rather geeky thing to do.  So actually looking at your wine and analyzing all those points that you read about in "How to drink wine" manuals seems to me to be only for people studying to become professionals, and a completely useless (and maybe even pretentious) exercise for 'normal' winelovers.

I have an info sheet for each one of the wines we tasted, so if anyone is interested, just write me an email or whatever and I'll send it along.  Ideally I should just put them online somewhere and make a link, but I don't know where to upload them to!

For a post in Spanish, written by Vicente Vida, a Spanish wine blogger, who came to the tasting, click here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tasting Presentation of Six (6) Natural Wines

PROXIMAMENTE - Cata de Nuevos Vinos de Vinos Ambiz:

COMING SOON - A Tasting of New Wines by Vinos Ambiz

Cuando - El jueves 22 de enero
When - this Thursday 22 of January

A qué hora - a partir de las 20:30
At what time - starting at 20:30

Donde - en el Petit Bistrot, c/Principe de Vergara, 210
Where - at the Petit Bistrot, c/Principe de Vergara, 210, Madrid

Qué vinos:
What wines:

3 blancos/whites 2014 (Airén, Albillo, Doré)
1 naranja/orange 2104 (Sauvignon blanc)
2 tintos/reds 2013 (Garnacha, Tempranillo)

Hay que reservar: 91-426-7405
Booking required: 91-426-7405

Qué más - charla informativa y ronda de preguntas y muchas cosas ricas para cenar
What else - a presentation and question answer session, and lovely food for dinner

Cuanto cuesta - €25
How much - €25

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Natural Wine Catastrophe

In contrast to my second-last post (Visits, Tastings, Wine Fairs and Other Jollys), which was all about the good times, this one is about the bad things which have happened to me recently. 

Specifically, it’s about how my wines have turned into vinegar this year! Just a few weeks ago I had yet another lot go bad on me (this time about 2000 liters of Garnacha from Sierra de Gredos), which I poured down the drain.

Needless to say I've been thinking a lot about the possible causes of this series of acetic events. Why so many instances this year (4 different lots) when I've been making wine in the same way for 12 years, and only one lot ever turned into vinegar in all that time (back in 2008 I think)?

Well, I won't bore you with all my thoughts and theories and ramblings over the past few weeks ... I'll just come straight out with what I think has happened:

- (1) The major difference between what I'm doing now, and what I was doing back in the 'old days' is that nowadays I'm making a lot more wine, and a lot more different types of wines. I used to just make about two or three thousand bottles of Airén plus 2 barricas of Tempranillo crianza. But now I'm making about 12,000 bottles of at least 10 different wines plus assorted mini-experiments. This must be a significant factor somehow. I obviously can't just carry on doing the same things as I was doing before

- (2) I don't have so much time to look after each wine and do what has to be done at the right time as I did before, due to a number of different circumstances

- (3) I still don't have airtight pneumatic lids for all my tanks. Maybe if there is a source of contamination somewhere in the bodega, it's easier for the vinegar bacteria ("acetobacter") to get into the tanks if they're not sealed properly?

The fact is that all my containers and assorted equipment and machinery is not the result of careful planning based on expected needs. It is in fact the complete opposite! Everything I own was bought incrementally year after year whenever I happened to have some spare cash available. Thus some years I bought a stainless steel tank, including hermetic seal, and some years I could only afford the tank but not the lid.

- (4) I don’t have enough stainless steel tanks (with or without hermetic lids); I have to use open top plastic containers, open top oak barrels (which I opened up myself), and ceramic amphorae, which are difficult to close off in an airtight manner. So I will have to think about that little problem too.

One thousand liters going down the drain

So, conclusions:

1. I'm going to invest in airtight lids for all my tanks, even though it will be hideously expensive. Though perhaps not as expensive as pouring thousands of litres of vinegary wine down the drain!

2. I'm going to become even cleaner and more hygienic than usual. Not sure how, but I'll think of what can be done in that area, over the course of the year.

C'est la vie. And the bright side?

Well, I can't think of anything positive about this at the moment. I'm really angry and upset and depressed :(   But I'm sure I'll get over it!  Any helpful suggestions would be most welcome.

Actually, there is one thing that is helping to cheer me up, even though it’s got nothing to do with the lessons to be learned from the above. It’s that I’ve just received an order for a mixed pallet of wines (mostly Garnacha) from ... wait for it ... from France! Amazing! I still can’t quite believe it! Coals to Newcastle and Grenache to France, what? :)

The importer is Thierry Puzelat, a well-known winemaker based in the Loire, who has also started to distribute other wines. I can’t wait to find out where my wines end up, hopefully some interesting wine bars in Paris :)

I strongly suspect this will be my last post this year, so on that happy note ... Merry Christmas, everyone, and I hope you all drink some interesting wines over the holidays :)

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