Vendimia 2016 in Casas 15. A story of one vineyard

It’s been over a week since we’ve had our own vendimia – grape picking. As some of you might know, when we purchased this property in late 2013, both the house and vineyard were in a very sorry state. We didn’t know that vineyard, or what’s left of it, could be even saved – it was abandoned for years, overgrown and covered with two-meter brambles. I remember the day when our next door neighbour said we are ‘wasting our time clearing it and vines are dead’ which quite upset my mother who was visiting at the time.

We still had to clear the land and did our best to treat vines with respect – after all, they were supposed to be between 70 and 100 years old. Vines can produce until ripe age of a hundred and up. Besides, due to more depth and intensity older vines can potentially make very special vintages – the reason professional bodegas are always on a search for old vineyards. We’ve heard that our little vineyard caught attention of some before we came along, but I guess nobody fancied ‘restoration work’…

Our abandoned vineyard in 2013
Not exactly looking like a vineyard, is it? In 2013…

 

Our vineyard back in 2013
‘Brambled’ vineyard back in 2013

Here are different stages of our vineyards’ recovering. When I look at these pictures, a word ‘mad’ comes to mind. How did we do it? My dear husband worked for weeks with a strimmer to get rid of brambles, and then for the next two years we continued to manually uproot them, as they kept coming.

Brambles down, vines revealed weeks after purchase in 2013
Brambles down, vines revealed. After weeks of clearing, 2013

We have three areas where vines grow, and all now produce and look pretty too. People often stop when see us in the vineyard and comment how great it looks now. Determination and hard work can do wonders, can’t they? We don’t use herbicides, fertiliser or any toxic chemicals anywhere on our land, growing everything organically. As an anti-fungus for vines we use organic copper sulphur. For weeds – lawn mower, hands and a lot of patience…

Back garden vineyard in 2013
Back garden little vineyard in 2013. We didn’t even know there are vines there until we cleared the land!

 

The back garden vineyard now. 2016
The back garden vineyard now. 2016

 

And this is the crop from the back garden in 2016
And this is the crop from the back garden in 2016!

Now, nothing pleases me more to tell you what the same neighbour has said to us a few weeks ago gazing at our grapes: ‘Whatever you do to your grapes, we have to copy you. How do you know all about it??’ Well, we were speechless for a minute, because this is one hard man who doesn’t do much praising. Whatever we did, was always ‘wrong’. He added that his friends visiting another day also commented on how many grapes we have, and this is supposed to be a very bad year for grapes with disease and weather reducing the crop significantly.

Our organic mencia grapes
Our organic Mencia grapes. 2016

 

Jerez grapes are ripe for picking. Vendimia 2016
Organic Jerez grapes, ripe for picking. Vendimia 2016

Needless to say, Steve and I felt totally victorious. Ingleses are not so useless after all. I don’t know why locals generally think so about foreigners. I am also now known as a tomato queen in a village, as apparently I grow the biggest and tastiest tomatoes in the area. How about that?? I was also asked by someone how have I learnt to grow such tomatoes? Mr. Google, common sense and a lot of hard work is my answer. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly rocket science…

Back to grapes, we have picked about a ton this year. We have more white than red grapes, but we also have to replace over a hundred vines dried out during years of neglect, it was nothing we could do to save them. We plan to replant with more Mencia which is a grape very much valued in the area as it is the main red grape of DO Ribeira Sacra. Then we’ll have a good balance to make enough red and white wine. I am even thinking of some rosé considering varieties we have…

Our grape harvest 2016
Our grape harvest in 2016 – almost a ton.

 

Our organic Jerez is also great for eating - so sweet! Vendimia 2016
Our Jerez is also great for eating – so sweet! Vendimia 2016

 

Our organic grenache is great too! Vendimia 2016
Our organic Grenache is great too! Vendimia 2016

Talking about Mencia, very few of them survived in our vineyards. We had a visitor just before vendimia who was so taken with our Mencia that he asked us to sell them to him – ‘to improve his wine’. Not sure he realised just what he has said as he got so excited.  He was amazed at the quality of our organic grapes. Our oldies had higher alcohol and sugar levels on refractometer (a sign of a good grape) than his own, also organic, grapes. Again, we both were gobsmacked and so proud!

Our very special organic Mencia
Our very special organic Mencia

All in all, vendimia 2016 was a success. Three years of hard work had paid off at last. ‘Agriculturists and now viticulturists’ – that’s what another bemused Spanish local called us. Well, next is oenologists! Guess they are slowly getting used to the foreigners who don’t spend their life abroad in cafes and beach loungers (not that we don’t like it!). We are still learning every day, and have a long way to go before we produce award-winning Casas 15 wine (!), but it’s a start. I’m designing a bottle label already, even if in my dreams…

Our organic vneyard now. 2016
Our organic vineyard now. 2016
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