I now tend five (5) vineyards myself:
- Carabaña (Madrid); Airén and Tempranillo field-blend
<1 ha="" p="">- Villarejo de Salvanés (Madrid); Malvar1>
<1 ha="" p="">- El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos); Garnacha; 0.25 ha1>
<1 ha="" p=""><1 ha="" p=""> - El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos); Garnacha; 0.8 ha
- El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos); Chelva; 0.5 ha
I also buy in grapes from local grapegrowers, if (and only if) they agree to certain conditions; like not using pesticides, harvesting in small crates, Me choosing the date of harvest, etc. I buy in Albillo, Sauvignon blanc, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Chelva and Doré.
1. Original Vineyard in Carabaña
Carabaña is a small village about 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Madrid. I've been managing this vineyard for about 12 years (since 2003). It is about 1 ha (2.5 acres) in extent and has about 1,200 vines: 800 are white Airén and 400 red Tempranillo. All the vines are about 60 years old, which is advantageous, as old vines produce good complex grape-juice. Production varies from between 2000 bottles to 5000 bottles depending on the climate and on the voracity of the rabbit population, in a given year.
In 2014 and 2015 I planted about 200 new vines in the spaces available where the original vines had died in the past for some reason or other. But both years they didn't survive the heat of the summer. The first time I didn't know that they had to be watered at all, so I didn't - and they all died. In 2015, I watered them abundantly 3 times, using a tractor pulling a cistern of water, but it was such a long hot summer, that 3 x 10 liters wasn't enough for them; about 3 or 4 vines survived! I shall try again in the Spring of 2016.
|Carabaña: new vines protected by tubes|
2. Second Vineyard in Villarejo
In 2010 I took on another vineyard in the neighbouring village of Villarejo, about 10 km from Carabaña. It's slightly less than 1 ha (2.25 acres) and is planted to the white variety called Malvar. The vines are over 100 years old. Approximately! The present owner bought the vineyard about 30 years ago from an old man who told him that the vines were already old when he was a young man!
3. El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos), Garnacha I
This is a very small, but lovely plot, about 2 km from the bodega, in an area known as La Dehesa.
4. El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos), Garnacha II
This vineyard is unusual in that it is surrounded by a pine forest.
5. El Tiemblo, Chelva
This vineyard used to be outside the old part of the village, but now it is surrounded by roads and houses.
The two other lots were from different vineyards near the town of Méntrida. The deal here was that the grapegrower would harvest and bring the grapes to my bodega for free, and in return I would give him half the wine. I was hoping to establish a more permanent presence in the area, somehow or other, in the future.
- - - - -
Ex-vineyard in Ambite (now abandoned)
In October 2008 I took on a rather large vineyard near Ambite (a village about 50 km from Madrid, to the south-east). It was about 8 hectares in area (20 acres) and had approximately 8,000 vines. Like the original vineyard in Carabaña, the vines were also quite old (about 40 years).
Production in a normal year should have been around 40,000 bottles, though this is always difficult to estimate exactly. This number is a statistical average for vineyards in the Castilla La Mancha region, but each vineyard is different and so it could be slightly more or slightly less.
The vineyard was very nice to look at due to its setting and, unusually, there was a very large oak tree growing in the middle of it. This is where I got the idea for a label!
The vineyard was divided into two plots that were very close to each other. The largest plot (5.5 hectares / 14 acres) was Tempranillo and the smaller one (2.5 hectares / 6 acres) was Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Tempranillo Plot
The Tempranillo plot (see oak tree photo above) hadn't been pruned or tended for two years This meant that the harvest for the next few years would have given less quantity of grapes than usual (it would have taken about two or three years to return to full production). In addition, the plot was right next to a game hunting reserve (deer, boars) and as the enclosure fence was in a state of disrepair, the animals had been eating the vine shoots.
The Cabernet Sauvignon plot also hadn't been pruned or tended for two years, but fortunately was not adjacent to the game reserve and so could have returned to full production quicker.
One year later (around September 2009) I decided to leave it. It turned out that that most of the vines were in fact already dead! It would have meant uprooting and replanting from scratch, which would have been very expensive, and there was no way I could have afforded to do it.
This is a good example of an expensive lesson learned! I invested a lot of time and money in this vineyard.