It’s mid- September and all eyes are on the vines. As we aim to make fresher Garnachas we aim to pick the grapes while they are still crunchy, with good levels of acidity, and maximum potential alcohol levels of 13-13.5º. This means that although some producers are leaving their grapes on the vines for a little longer to accumulate sugars, we started picking our white grapes and red wine grapes grown at lower altitudes between the 12th and 15th of September.
The quality in general has been very good, although 2018 has not been without its challenges, as Fernando explains:
“It has certainly been the wettest and one of the cooler vintages I’ve seen in the Valdejalón since I started making wine ten years ago and for making the fresher styles of wines that we do is a good thing. As we don’t irrigate, we were very grateful for the rain that fell at the start of the season – 350hl over the first four months of 2018, compared to 80hl last year, which caused the cycle to get back to normal dates rather than being early as it has been in recent years, but the heavy storms – on the 17th August 60l of rain fell in just 12 minutes – caused some complications. Some hail fell on one area of vines, which will affect production but we’re managed to keep oidium at bay and the vines are looking very healthy. We are monitoring ripeness carefully and have started harvesting although we expect to wait two or three more weeks for some of the parcels at higher altitude which were still at 9.5-10% at the start of September.”
We’ve been putting our new selection table into good use, removing any damaged berries to ensure only perfectly healthy grapes go into make our wines. Other new purchases that will be pressed into service for the first time this year are Garbellotto “botti” or large oak casks (toneles). Fernando first saw these in use at Giuseppe Rinaldi’s Barolo winery in Piemonte and this year we imported three 25hl botti for producing red wines, one small 10hl foudre (fudre) for fermenting white wines and three 0,45hl botticellas for our top Frontonio wines.
As for the Cuevas del Arom vines in the Campo de Borja, harvest is still a little way off as the sugar levels have not crept above 10% yet. Fruit-set was fairly good this year and the berries are small and loose, perfect for making high quality wines. Although storms have been an ever-present threat throughout the summer, the weather held up well in this area, apart from a very hot week at the start of August, which blocked ripening for a short period, although, unlike Tempranillo which drops its leaves, Garnacha can cope well with this and when the weather cooled slightly the maturation continued to develop.