IT’S HERE!!

Hi everyone,

Well, it feels like it’s been a long time coming but both wines have now arrived in the UK and are available to purchase. I’m really excited that they can finally be tasted and appreciated by the people who have been reading all about how they were made.

The labels have been designed by Swci Delic, a Carmarthen based artist who quite a few of you already know. I’ve never seen  wine labels anything like these before which I think really suits the unique nature of these wines.

I have put a tab at the top of this website’s menu which gives a list of STOCKISTS and the chance to purchase online. The wines only available in Wales at the moment although, if it is purchased online, it can be delivered anywhere in the UK.

 

100% Garnatxa made in the Priorat.

TRENTA PICADES

This is one of the best growing areas for Grenache (or Garnatxa) in the world and this has allowed me to make a single varietal from a fantastic grape variety which is often undervalued and lost within blends. I only made 300 bottles of this (one barrel) so I imagine it will not be available for very long. If you want to have a look at the red wine and find out more information, then just click HERE.

 

 

100% Arinto dos Açores made on Pico Island, Azores

ROLA-PIPA

 The island of Pico (in the Azores) is a UNESCO world heritage site for viticulture and the wines have a unique sense of place due to the climate and viticultural practices. For more information on the white wine and to see a picture, click HERE.

I’m really happy with both wines and feel like they have been worth all the hard work and I’m glad to have been able to share the reasoning behind my wine making decisions with you. Remember, if you want to look in detail at all the decisions behind the wines and see their development over time, then you can look at the archived blog posts at the right hand side of the page.

I’ll let you know if any more wine is in the pipeline….

 

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Coming soon…..

Hello all,

It’s been about a year since my last post and I should let you all know what has been happening. There are times in winemaking, when you just have to leave the wine alone and this is the reason for the large gaps between posts. Now, however, I can update you as to what has been happening in the last year and what will be happening over the course of the next month or so.

 

I was in Catalonia last June in order to perform final analyses on my wine and get it out of the barrel and into bottles. You may remember that there were two wines made from the same batch of grapes. Both wines have been bottled and the smaller of the volumes (around 300 bottles) is now on its way to Cardiff in Wales.

The bottling line about to start.

As soon as I know the final date of arrival, I will be able to let you know the name of the wine, show you a picture and tell you where it can be bought. I did try a bottle of this at Christmas with some roast duck and it went down really well. It should age and develop gracefully for many years to come.

The white wine (1200 bottles) has also been bottled and is also on its way to Cardiff. I have decided on a final blend for this wine and I am pleased to say that it is a wine that drinks excellently now (having benefited from some months in the bottle) but will also age very well over the next five or more years.

I don’t want to show you any images of the wine until it is in Wales and ready for sale (really soon I hope!) but I’m very excited to have worked with an amazing Welsh artist who produces really vibrant and joyous pieces of art. This artist has designed the label for both the red and white wines, so as well as being very unique and individual bottles of wine, they will also be unique and individual pieces of artwork. I’m really looking forward to being able to put the images of the wine up on this site.

 

I’ll tell you more when the time comes and the wines arrive.

 

Thanks

 

The white wine

Hello all,

In my last post I described what happens in most white winemaking. Today I will tell you what happened to the tanks that will eventually make up my wine.

Crushed and destemmed

As is usual in white winemaking we crushed and destemmed some excellent quality Arinto grapes. However, less usual is the fact that we pumped this mix of grape skins and juice directly into a tank rather than sending it to the press.

We kept this must in a tank which was chilled to 10ºC. It stayed there for 24 hours and then it was pumped to a press as normal. We did this to extract more flavour from the skins. The skins of the grape is where most of the flavour compounds reside so I wanted to get some of this flavour into the wine before I fermented it.

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A Balseiro. A big wooden tank with cooling capabilities.

After pressing, the juice was chilled for 24 hours in order to let any sediment settle out then it was racked as normal into a wooden tank called a Balseiro and the temperature of the juice was allowed to rise to 13ºC. 

Balseiro

The Balseiro acts like a wooden barrel in that it is made of oak so can give some oak flavours to the wine. This Balseiro holds 5000 litres and a normal barrel holds about 225 litres which means that the ratio of wood to wine on a Balseiro is much less than with a barrel. Also, this Balseiro is one year old and had been used to store a fortified wine in which has stripped a lot of the wood flavours. All this means that we are not making a heavily oaked chardonnay here but a very refined wine with the merest merest hint of oak that will add a touch of complexity to the wine.

The other great thing about a Balseiro is that it has cooling plates in it just like a stainless steel tank which means I can keep my fermentation temperature between 13 and 15ºC which is how I like it.

Inoculation and fermentation

When I was writing about the wine I made in Catalonia, I wrote a post about the pros and cons of using wild yeasts which you can read here.

From this you will all know that I am a fan of using two different species of yeasts in sequence so that we can get some of the interesting flavours of a wild ferment with no risk of spoilage yeasts being involved in the fermentation. So this is what I did, the two yeasts  worked  together in happy harmony to make a very nice fruit driven wine which tastes of fresh pears and white peaches.

Malolactic fermentation

At this point my wine had finished fermentation using two yeasts in one Balseiro tank. I really liked the wine as it was but I also knew that adding malolactic bacteria to the wine would result in a softer, rounder wine, with some notes of dried fruit and a creaminess on the palette (I say a bit more about malolactic fermentation here). This sounded pretty good to me but I was very much in love with the fresh pear aromas that I was getting and I did not want these to be masked.

50:50

I decided to divide the fermented wine into two tanks with equal amounts of 2500 litres in each. One had the malolactic bacteria added to it and one was kept as it was. Writing in January, this is the stage that these wines are at. One very crisp and fruity wine and one with dried fruit notes and a creamy texture.

I should remind you all that I am only making 1000 litres of wine but I was also commissioned to create a top quality white for the Cooperative I have been working for. The Balseiro of wine that has now been split into two will form the basis of both my own Cunning Anchovy wine and the new wine for the Cantina Vitivinicola do Pico.

What will make the two wine different is the proportions in which I blend these two very different tanks of wine. I have done some preliminary tests and was able to try two different bottles at Christmas time.  I was very happy with the results but I have not made a final final decision yet. When I do I will let you all know.

Tchau for now

 

 

 

 

Classic white

Hello all,

As promised, this post will give a general overview of white wine making as it is practised in a large part of the world. I should point out that this is a complete generalisation and that, at each of the various steps, different decisions can be taken depending upon what you want to achieve with the wine. However, this will give you a good basis in white wine making.

Crushing and destemming

crusher-destemmer

Crusher destemmer. You can see the drum with the holes in.

When the grapes arrive at the winery, they are put through a crusher destemmer. This machine has two components. The first is a big steel drum with grape sized holes in it. This separates the grape berries from the stalks by  spinning them around so that the grapes are shaken off the stalks and allowed to fall through the holes whilst the stalks come out of the end of the drum to be disposed of.

The grapes that fall through the holes now go into the crusher. Crush is a bit of a misleading term I think, as we don’t actually pulverise the berries but merely crack them open like an egg to release the juice. In fact, if you pick up a berry after crushing you will see that it is still intact (it just has a split in it). This is important as we don’t want to crush the seeds of the berries which (as we tend to pick white grapes earlier to preserve their freshness and so that they are not too high in alcohol) will tend to have bitter oils in them.

adega40

Loading the crusher destemmer with a man called Herculano (heroic name).

Pressing

After crushing and destemming, the mix of grapes and juice (usually referred to as the must) is pumped to a pneumatic press. These presses are steel cylinders with a large bladder inside. One part of the cylinder will have sieve-like screens which keep the grapes and seeds inside but allow the juice to flow though.

The bladder is inflated using compressed air and this then squeezes the crushed grapes in order to release all the juice.

We will taste the juice that comes out of the press and we will stop pressing when the juice that is released starts to taste a bit astringent and bitter.

 

Clarification

The juice that comes from the press is pumped to a tank and the tank is cooled to around 8-10⁰C. This is important as the juice, despite having been “sieved” through the press still has a lot of solids in. This lower temperature will help these solids settle to the bottom of the tank.

Racking and inoculation

After around 24 hours, the juice should have clarified sufficiently to be able to separate it from the sediment (also called lees). We then “rack” the wine which means moving the clear juice via a pump, or gravity, to another tank. It is this clear juice that we inoculate with yeast to start a fermentation. You can do this at any temperature above 10⁰C but I tend to let the juice warm up to 13⁰C which is the temperature that I like to ferment most white wines at.

OK, that’s it for now. In the next blog (which will come out soon), I’ll talk about what I have done with the tanks that will make up my white wine.

Tchau for now

 

 

 

 

A bit of an overview

Hello all,

Harvest has actually been happening for a few weeks, hence no blog posts recently. Things are starting to get a bit quieter now so I should have the chance to get you all caught up with what has been happening.

Grapes

We have a few indigenous grape varieties out here, but the one that is most important for this blog is Arinto dos Açores. This probably accounts for around 85% of our production here and is likely to account for the majority of the wine I make for Cunning Anchovy.

Arinto is not a grape variety I was familiar with before coming here but it makes excellent white wines reaching good levels of sugar and flavour maturity (it will make a wine of around 12 to 13% alcohol normally) with an excellent balance of acidity which is particularly desirable in white wine.

arinto

Arinto dos Açores

 

I’ve also noticed, since we started crushing and destemming the fruit, that Arinto gives off a very pleasant and yet very delicate scent of roses as it is being crushed. As I say, it’s a very delicate aroma so we shall have to see if it remains in the finished wine. I have certainly been trying hard to preserve it…

Wind

A feature that enters into a lot of wines from this region is the salt wind that I mentioned in my previous post. This salinity persists throughout the winemaking process so that you end up with fresh wines having a very elegant mineral, salt finish.

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Arinto with some leaves removed near the fruit. This allows wind to penetrate and help dry the grapes after rain, preventing disease.

It especially amazing in white wines and I was delighted upon tasting this effect here. For me, this is incredibly exciting. A lot of wine nowadays can have a certain similarity because of a standardisation of production methods and a spread of internationally recognised varieties. Because of this, it can sometimes be hard to really identify where a wine has come from. The wines we are making on Pico have an absolute, undeniable sense of place. They also taste fantastic and go great with roast octopus (my current favourite meal out here).

Anchovies

This saline finish fits perfectly with the theme of Anchovies so I’m glad to be making a white wine here. As this is a larger winery than the one I worked at in the Priorat (although it’s still tiny by most international standards), I have been busy overseeing all the winemaking here, not just a few tanks.

This has worked out well for me as the winery is very innovative and we have been experimenting with lots of interesting techniques on both white and red. At the end of harvest I will be making a blend from various batches to make wines for them in order to maintain their style from previous years and also to help them create a new premium white wine.

I have been making various tanks of white wine in differing styles, using varied techniques in order to have a large choice from which to create individual wines. Even small amounts of different styles can have quite a significant effect on the final wine.

In the next post I will describe “classic” white wine making so that then you can see the difference in some of the winemaking techniques we are using here.

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Not the prettiest feet but highly functional for crushing grapes!

Some of the techniques we have used are quite traditional such as destemming grapes by hand and crushing them with feet (mine to be precise). So, as a final treat, here is a picture of my feet!

 

Tchau for now

Wine number II

PICO!

Hello everyone,

Firstly, I should just say, as mentioned in my last blog, the Garnatxa is doing great and just relaxing in a barrel until it’s ready to come out (in 2017).

pico island

Pico Island from above showing the imaginatively named Pico mountain (a mostly dormant volcano)

In the meantime, I have taken on a job as the harvest winemaker for a cooperative company in the Azores (way out west of Portugal, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean).  Specifically I am on an island named Pico. I say island, it’s essentially an old volcano with cooled lava around it. Of course, I will also be making a wine for The Cunning Anchovy and I will keep you informed about it via this blog as usual.

A bit of history

There have been vineyards here since the 1500’s but in the mid 1800’s,  Phylloxera (a little bug that eats up the roots of European vines) destroyed most of the vineyards. Vines were later replanted using American rootstocks grafted onto European plants. This has been a similar story all across Europe. What is more unusual in Pico is that many American varieties were planted. These vines are not allowed to be categorised as so called “Quality” wines in Europe but they are used by local winemakers to produce Vinho de Cheiro (literally: wine of scent  It is very fragrant, fairly low in alcohol and often made as a homebrew wine in peoples homes. I will be making a different wine to this but I think it is interesting to know what they do here.

Climate

The climate here is fairly mild all year round. There are no huge extremes of temperature, although it gets fairly warm in the height of Summer. What is particularly interesting about the place is the wind. There is a fairly constant wind buffeting the island. Often it takes the form of a mild and extremely welcome breeze. But, every now and then, the winds can get pretty fierce and cause a lot of damage to plants.

Currais

In order to be able to plant and grow vines successfully, the inhabitants of Pico had to try to counteract this wind. The result was a very interesting vineyard layout, using dry stone walls (known as currais) made out of  basalt lava rocks.

good curraIS

Currais

These sites are almost labyrinthine in shape with walls cordoning off small areas with only five or six vines planted. The result is very beautiful and, in fact, Pico is now a protected UNESCO world heritage site and even new vineyards have to be planted in this fashion. It’s a lot of hard work, not just building the walls, but also working the vines as they are very low to the ground and there is no room for any machinery whatsoever. Still, it helps protect vines from this wind which can get pretty fierce. And, as I said, it looks beautiful.

In the next blog I shall talk a bit about some of the grape varieties that we have and the particular one that I will be using.  Also, I will talk about why the wines here are pretty unique.

The wine I’m making here in Pico, the Azores this year will be a white wine which I will hopefully be able to release at the same time as the red (from Catalonia)….

Tchau for now

A much delayed blog

Hello all,

First of all, I would like to apologise for the long delay. I seem to remember promising an update for January about the wine I’ve been making in Catalonia. What can I say? I started a winemaking job in Gisborne, New Zealand at the beginning of the year and suddenly I was either working or sleeping. I have just returned from there so I would now like to let you all know what I actually got up to in Catalonia in early January.

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Views from the vineyard in Torroja. Above you can see a shelter where farmers would spend the night.

As you may remember, I left the Priorat in November, having put my wine in barrel and having inoculated it with malolactic bacteria (see Adéu for the time being…). I returned in early January in order to taste the wine and get an idea of any blending I might wish to do (along with figuring out when I would like it to be bottled).

I am pleased to report that the wine went through malolactic fermentation without any incidents. The wine has softened in the mouth whilst retaining all of its fruit and floral characteristics.

Upon tasting the wine, I was very pleased with the results but I have decided that it should stay in barrel for a while and therefore my current plan is to leave the wine alone until January 2017 and then to bottle it with a view to releasing it around April/May of 2017. I will be going back out to the Priorat in November just to check that everything is still OK.

So what now?

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Pictures of me mucking around with the wine. It was actually a lot of fun tasting all the possible blends.

Well, in January, I didn’t just go to the Priorat. I also travelled to Slovenia to talk with a gentleman about making a white wine there this coming year. Slovenia is a beautiful country with some diverse wine regions and a cool climate that can produce some excellent white wine.

However, due to much of Europe being affected by late spring frosts, there is a shortage of top quality grapes to be had for a reasonable price. This means that I have put the Slovenian wine on hold for a while although I hope to make one in the future….

Luckily, I have recently been offered a winemaking job in a very interesting part of the world which will mean that I am able to use their facilities to make a white wine or two from some exciting indigenous varieties. This should mean that I will have a white wine and a red wine ready for release at the same time next year. More details will follow in another blog post to come in a few weeks time (honestly!).

As with last time, these posts will become more regular as we get nearer to harvest when they should start coming thick and fast. I look forward to sharing the excitement with you all once again.

 

Tchau for now….

 

 

Adéu for the time being…

Hello all,

This will be my last blog post for a while as I have now left Catalonia. My wine is now in two barrels and has had malolactic bacteria added to it.

This bacteria has been added in order to start a second fermentation in the wine. This is known as malolactic fermentation (we normally refer to this as MLF). Now, MLF is different from normal alcoholic fermentation because it is performed by bacteria (rather than yeast) and it does not involve the conversion of sugar into alcohol. In MLF, the bacteria convert malic acid in the wine (quite a strong acid that is found in apples – malus is the latin word for apple) into lactic acid (a less strong, softer tasting acid that is found in dairy products like yoghurt).

The overall effect on the wine is that it becomes softer and rounder feeling in the mouth. Depending on the particular bacteria used, it can also result in caramel and chocolate notes in the wine. I have used a bacteria that will create some softness but will not mask the fruit (which I have worked very hard to preserve throughout the winemaking process) with too much caramel flavours.

My wine in its barrel. You can tell it's mine because of the appalling handwriting..

My wine in its barrel. You can tell it’s mine because of the appalling handwriting..

As with the yeast, I could have just left the wine with nothing added and a bacteria would most-likely have started MLF. However, there are some strains of bacteria which consume other acids in the wine and can then produce off-smells. So, I took the decision to avoid that risk by adding bacteria which I knew would behave as I wanted.

During MLF, a small amount of Carbon Dioxide is produced which will prevent the wine from oxidation. When MLF finishes, this will stop so I will be adding some Sulphur Dioxide to prevent oxidation and also prevent any strange bacteria or yeast trying to make a mess of my wine. Just so that you are all aware, the amounts of Sulphur and any other additions I make are all in line with Organic winemaking practices (actually they are a lot lower than the maximum levels permitted in Organic wine) so we are talking tiny amounts (a WHOLE lot less than a packet of dried apricots for example).

I will be going back to Catalonia to taste the wine in January and to make plans for bottling it next year. Of course, I will keep you all informed of what is happening and how the wine is developing.

Before I go, just to give you a truer sense of this place I have been working in, here is a little bit of local history.  The vineyard in Torroja is a beautiful, tranquil place, touched by breezes which are heavy with the scent of fennel, pine trees and wild thyme. I visited it on my last day just to appreciate the peace of it one last time.  However, this peace is relatively recent as this area was one of the last bastions of resistance to General Franco during  the Spanish Civil War. Members of the resistance would hide out in these hills, in this very vineyard in fact (some grenades were found here less than 10 years ago) and try to mount a defence against Franco.

Solitary pine in the vineyard. In the valley below, passes the Ebro river, at the mouth of which one of the last battles against Franco was fought..

Solitary pine in the vineyard. In the valley below, passes the Ebro river, at the mouth of which one of the last battles against Franco was fought..

Apparently, so I have been informed by the local people, Franco bore a bit of a grudge against the Priorat region after that, and so it was always last in line to receive improvements in infrastructure, education and hospitals. This has meant that the Priorat has maintained its character and hasn’t been overly modernised. All of which is great for a visitor but, I suspect, has been pretty hard on the people living here.

If you should finally come to taste this wine, then I hope you will get a sense of the place it has come from, and the history that it has been a part of.

I’d like to thank you all for following this process and I will be back in touch around January.

Merci and adéu,

Antonio Rizzo

What else has been happening

Bon dia.

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Me doing some precision barrel whacking.

I just thought you might be interested in knowing what else has been going on in the winery. I’ve been making my wine there but I have also been looking after a bunch of different wines. The idea  being that, if any are appropriate to what I want to achieve, then my friend and myself can share some of these wines out between us. This has allowed us to get a bit creative. This blog post will also allow me to shoehorn in some more pictures as I’ve been told I need more, so it’s a win win!

First off, we decided to ferment a few batches of Cariñena in big 600 Litre barrels. This involved opening the barrels up and then closing them again. It looks like I’m just whacking it with a lump hammer but it’s actually a bit more involved and takes a bit of knowledge to get right and make sure that the barrel doesn’t leak afterwards.

We have also fermented some more Garnatxa. We have two batches, one fermented at higher temperatures (this will produce a less fruity but more full bodied wine), and one tank of whole-bunch (not destemmed at all). This whole-bunch tank is what we call a semi-carbonic maceration. In carbonic maceration, whole bunches of grapes are kept covered by Carbon Dioxide without the addition of any yeast. Enzymes within the berry start to break down the sugars and create some alcohol. These enzymes will not consume all the sugar and so you need yeast to complete the fermentation.  A semi-carbonic maceration means that we added a small amount of  yeast with grape juice to the bottom of the tank. This is because, without specialised tanks, it is hard to keep enough Carbon Dioxide in the tank to wholly prevent any oxidation or spoilage caused by micro-organisms. So, by adding a little bit of yeast to a little bit of juice we can ferment a small portion of juice which will then produce Carbon Dioxide and protect the grapes. This kind of winemakng results in very fruity, low tannin wines which can be a useful component to add to blends.

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Wine Amphorae looking like they are about to fall over, luckily they haven’t yet….

Finally, we have gone a bit Roman and fermented some Cariñena in Amphorae. This is how wine used to be made and, apparently, the shape of the Amphora encourages maximum Brownian motion (the random movement of particles in a liquid). The important part of that for us is that the temperatures in the vessel should be fairly constant as the wine is constantly mixing.  Again, wines made in Amphorae tend to be more fruity. 

Ok, that’s about it. I just wanted to keep you all up to date on the other cool things that we’ve been trying in the winery. I’ll tell you what’s been happening with my original wine soon…

Adéu

The sweet spot

Hello!

Here is an update of what has been happening with my wine in Catalonia…

For the last few weeks, my fermented wine has been stewing with its skins in a tank. During this period, the alcohol in the wine has been extracting more tannins from the grape skins and seeds. In addition, I have heated the wine a little bit (only to around 24ºC) in order to help extract polysaccharides (these are basically “sugary” molecules which help contribute to a smoother, rounder sensation in the mouth). 

The wine, at this point particularly, is a constantly evolving, living thing and changes daily. This is because the tannins are combining with other compounds in the wine and then breaking away from them again. These changes mean that the wine can taste very drying in the mouth and then become perfectly in balance with the acid, flavour and mouthfeel. This all happens over time so, when the wine is tasting dry, you need to be patient and wait for the sweet spot when everything aligns. If you miss it, you have to be REALLY patient and have faith that the wine will come back into balance again (this is always quite a tense period and you have to taste the wine everyday so you don’t miss anything).

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Benaisa pouring grapes into our vertical basket press

The good news is that yesterday, we hit the sweet spot and I pressed the wine. I first drained off all the wine I could into a big barrel using a type of sieve (this portion of wine is usually referred to as the “free run”). Then, a bucket was used to transfer all the grape skins into the press where they were squashed to release the rest of the wine. This “press wine” tends to have more tannin content and can add a good structure to the wine.

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Lovely lovely wine!

So I now have two separate barrels (one of 600 litres and one of around 180 litres), these will be left for a few days so that all the lees (dead yeast cells and solid particles) can settle to the bottom. Then I will take the clear wine off it, put it into other barrels and start malo-lactic fermentation (subject of a forthcoming blog).

By the way, the guy pouring the grapes into the press is Benaisa, a legend from Morocco. He’s the same guy who didn’t get attacked by any wasps at all last month, but who was kind enough to go and find my bucket and secateurs after I had valiantly flung them away whilst fleeing for my life. A nice guy.

Lastly, I should probably mention that I am super happy with the wine at the moment, it smells beautiful and it also tastes beautiful and balanced. Also, I haven’t had an animal related “incident” for a while (well I did find a snake in the winery but at least it didn’t attack me) so that’s good news all round!

Adéu for now.