My First Ever Vintage
Our current apprentice, Aoife Curtin, reports on her vintage in Spain's Conca del Riu Anoia region...
This was my first ever vintage experience and I am very grateful to the impressive winery team for showing me the ropes. It is difficult to put five intense weeks of learning into words, so below is just a snippet from each week of this action-packed harvest.
Week 1 The first week was new, exciting, and exhausting. From the get-go, I was shown how to collect a representative sample size from each parcel, which we then analysed in the lab, checking acid levels, pH, potential alcohol percentage and weight of the berries. While most of the team chatted away and gave me instructions in Castellano, I quickly learned the basic Catalán lingo necessary to keep the local farmers, or ‘campesinos’, entertained as they stood in long queues, waiting to have their daily yield of grapes weighed, analysed, and dumped into the press!
Week 2 During the second week I spent a lot more time inside the bodega. Once the team discovered I had never worked at a winery or cleaned a tank before, they took it upon themselves to change this and I eventually lost count of the number of tanks I had to climb into! When we weren’t cleaning tanks, we spent the days transferring grape must from one side of the bodega to the other, lifting and washing the heavy rubber tubes used to move the must, and preparing the ‘licor de expedición’ and ‘licor de tiraje’ that will be used for the second fermentation in bottle later this year.
Aoife cleaning the tanks at the bodega
Week 3 Things really ramped up in the third week. Heavy rains were falling almost daily, and the team were worried about the risk of rot developing. This week was all hands on deck, as we worked tirelessly to get the indigenous Xarel.lo, Parellada and Macabeu grapes into the press between sporadic thunderstorms. It was here that I gained a new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into every bottle of wine.
Week 4 The day-to-day tasks changed considerably from week four onwards. By then, most of the grapes had been harvested and were at varying levels of fermentation in the tanks. Therefore, we spent the mornings carrying out battonage and pumping over, and the afternoons were passed in the lab, checking and rechecking sugar levels and volatile acidity.
Week 5 As the harvest started to round up, I had some great opportunities to take a step back and reflect on the experience. I visited local vineyards with some of the team to inspect the quality of parcels that had yet to be harvested. Another afternoon was spent at a vertical tasting of several impressive Xarel.los. We celebrated the end of harvest with a dinner in the formal dining room of the finca and it was here that we broke open the bottles of Irish whiskey and English sparkling wine that I brought over in my suitcase. After all, it is only fair that I should share a taste from home with the team, as they were kind enough to introduce me to theirs.