Wine Pressing and facts about Wine.

Wine press
Sam And Heather pressing wine

The earliest known traces of wine are from China (c. 7000 BC). Mead, also called honey wine, is created by fermenting honey with water. The French are the biggest wine drinkers in the world. They drink 53 litres per person per year. (this fact is disputed because it is said that the Vatican drinks 73 litres per capita) People who are scared of wine have “oenophobia”.

Alcoholic beverages, including wine, are forbidden under most interpretations of Islamic law. Within ten years of the death of Mohammed in A.D. 632, wine was largely banned from muslim countries. Top sommeliers think that smell is by far the most important sense when it comes to drinking wine.

The custom of raising a glass to one another and saying “cheers” before drinking originated with the Romans and the Greeks, who used to offer wine to their gods before celebrations. The world’s oldest bottle of wine is over 1600 years old and can be found at a museum in Germany. It was buried nearby in 350 CE and was found again in 1867.

There is scientific evidence that moderate, regular wine drinking can reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and gum disease. Heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, drives an Aston Martin DB5 that’s powered almost entirely by wine derived bioethanol. It is a convertible and the wine powered car averages 300 miles per year.

It takes about 4 or 5 years for a newly planted grape vine to get to full production. A single celled organism called yeast converts the sugar in grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and also release heat in the process. 70% of the alcohol is produced in the first 7 days of fermentation. This is called primary fermentation. At the start the wine can ferment so fast that it appears to be boiling. If the yeast converts all the sugar into alcohol it is a dry wine. Wine ferments fastest at 21C. Yeast will die at 37C.

The pomace left over after pressing wine.

Pomace is the solid remains of grapes, olives, or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit. Wine fermenting at high temperatures creates more acetaldehyde which is a chemical which can produce hangovers so it is best if the wine does not ferment too fast. The largest wine producers in the world are France, Italy, and Spain. Michael Jackson used to order his wine served in diet coke cans during flights, due to being a ‘private drinker’ and not wanting his kids to see him drinking alcohol.

In a blind tasting it is very difficult for most people to differentiate between red wine and white wine (try this at home if you don’t believe it) . The Romans added lead to wine in order to give it a sweet taste and pleasant texture. Some people believe that the decline of the Roman empire was due to lead poisoning. For purists wine glasses should always be held by the stem and not the bowl because the heat of the hand will raise the temperature of the wine.

Enologists are wine chemists who analyse samples of wine and advise winemakers. In the late 19th century most of the vineyards in Europe were destroyed by the phylloxera epidemic because some infected vine cuttings were introduced from America. Phylloxera is a type of aphid which sucks the sap of the vine. American vines have adapted a defence mechanism against phylloxera. Nowadays, most vines in Europe have American roots and the top of the vines are grafted onto the rootstock.

Vineyards buy ready grafted dormant plants and plant them in the ground in winter. It takes at least 4 years before many grapes can be picked. The colour for red wine comes from the skins. Hardly any varieties of grapes have red flesh. Grapes contain all the necessary ingredients to make wine, the yeast is found on the skin and all the sugar and nutrients are found in the grape. A high concentration of alcohol will kill the yeast so the maximum strength of normal wine is generally around 15% alcohol by volume, but the exact amount will depend on the type of yeast.

Here are 3 videos of very small scale wine production in Spain showing the process of pressing the wine.



How to plant seeds in a flower pot

How to plant seeds in a flower pot

Planting seeds in pots

Planting seeds in pots

There are 3 main ways of sowing seeds:

  1. Sowing directly into the soil where they will grow.
  2. Sowing them into modules
  3. Sowing them into flowerpots. (or other containers) 

Here we are going to talk about sowing seeds in plant pots, flower pots or containers.

Here are some of the advantages of using pots:

 1. No weeds: You can be certain that the only seeds in the soil are the ones that you want to grow so there is no weeding or competition from weeds. 

2. Portability: Pots are portable and they can be moved around. For example moved into warmer or sunnier places or moved away from the cold if necessary. It is good for young seedlings  to have some air movement to strengthen the stems and also to have some direct sunlight. Plants tend to lean over to face where the light is coming from so you can move them around if light is coming from a narrow source.

3. Preparation: The purpose of growing seeds in pots is to raise small vigorous healthy plants.  When they are eventually planted into their final growing place as healthy robust plants all weeds can be destroyed at the moment of planting. If a mulch is applied immediately after planting our plants will have no competition and very little weeding will be necessary.

Which seeds are not suited to being sown in a flowerpot? 

I don’t plant very big seeds such as broad beans in pots. Some plants hate being transplanted so it is best to sow them where they will grow. Examples of these are root crops such as  carrots and parsnips. However if seedlings are handled very carefully they can be planted in pots. Radishes germinate very quickly and are very vigorous so it is best to plant them in the field. 

What type of soil should be used in the pot? 

The most important part of the soil in the pot is the first 3 cm. I fill up the flower pot with any old garden soil to within about 10cm from the top of the pot. Then I use some commercial potting compost soil from a  garden center to within 1.5cm from the top.  The soil right at the top should be fairly fine without any big lumps and it must be totally sterile. You can make your own seed compost for this purpose by putting some soil in a microwave or heating it up in a pan and then passing it through a sieve.  I tend to buy specialized seed compost from the garden center if they have any.

How to sow the seed? 

The most important factor is the depth that you put the seed. Very small seeds tend to  to be left on the surface and bigger seeds are planted deeper.   It often tells you on a seed packet the depth they should be planted. Some seeds need light to germinate whereas others will germinate in the dark.  Many people say that you should sow the seeds on the surface then cover them with other soil to the recommended depth. I tend to put the seeds on the surface and then mix them in with the end of a pencil so that most of them are more or less the correct depth. 

How long does germination take? 

Normally between 7 days and 3 weeks. The time is very dependent on temperature. Plants that need high temperatures to grow like pepper and aubergines like a high temperature say 20C. Cold tolerant plants such as cabbages will germinate at 8C.  The rate of germination depends on how old the seeds are.  In time the germination rate of a batch of seeds goes down until eventually they are all sterile. Below is a viability chart for common seeds.

  • 1 year: onions, parsnips, parsley, salsify, and spinach
  • 2 years: sweetcorn, peas, beans, chives, okra, dandelion
  • 3 years: carrots, leeks, asparagus, turnips
  • 4 years: peppers, chard, pumpkins, squash, watermelons, basil, artichokes
  • 5 years: most brassicas, beets, tomatoes, aubergine, cucumbers, celery, celeriac, lettuce, endive, chicory

What are common mistakes when planting seeds?
If you look at the pictures of novice gardeners on facebook, the biggest mistake is letting the seedlings go leggy.  Being leggy means having a very long thin stem. This is caused by having insufficient light and maybe being too warm.  A 10cm long seedling with a tiny thin stem and 2 small leaves at the top will most likely die very soon.  As soon as  seeds germinate they need lots of light and if they have been put in a high temperature to germinate they should be put in a cooler place. Seedlings grow stronger if they have some air movement which will make them sway around and strengthen the stems.  People growing plants inside in artificial lights use rotating fans.

The most common problem with seedlings is damping off. This is when the seedlings start to die and rot for no particular reason.  It is caused by  fungus or mould that thrives in cool, wet conditions.   If you have this problem, use sterilized pots or trays with good drainage and use clean new potting soil to prevent damping off. Pots can be sterilized with bleach and soil can be heated in a microwave  or a pot. To get complete sterilization,  you should heat the soil to between 80 and 90C for 30 minutes.  By the way, heated soil smells terrible. 

What to do with the seedlings? 
You have to wait until the seedlings are big enough to be transplanted. Generally speaking, seedlings should be more than 3 centimetres high. Seedlings can be either planted into small pots or modules or planted into the ground. 

Inverna Winter lettuce

Inverna Winter lettuce

The image above is of winter lettuce. It has actually been in the pot for some time. I have already potted up many seedlings from this pot into modules. These seedlings are big enough to be planted into the ground or into little pots. I would normally transplant the seedlings when they are smaller than they are in the photo.  In the background of the photo, you can see plastic modules. Seedlings can be planted into modules to let them get established.

Don’t forget to label your pots very clearly. You will need a permanent marker. Garden centres sell labels with a special pencil which will not become illegible.  In the past I have made home made  labels out of recycled  plastic bottles.  

How to transplant seedlings?
The only tools I use for this job is my index finger or if the seedlings are small I use a pencil. First I plunge my finger or a knife into the pot  to bring up a clump of seedlings. Then a seedling is pulled away from the clump. I only touch the seedling by the end of one of the leaves.  A hole is made in the place where the seedling is to be planted with a pencil or a finger and the root is lowered in. Afterwards, the soil is very gently  firmed down, then the seedling is watered in with some water from a cup or given a squirt from a spray. The seedling should not be lying down on the soil. The leaves should be in the air. They will take 2 or 3 days to get established. Some of them may die. In that case, just transplant another one from the mother pot.  This is a very pleasant activity on a sunny day. Make sure you listen to music while doing this activity. I find reggae is very suitable. 

Luke Jayne and Ditte transplanting seedlings

Other Comments
The soil that seeds are planted in does not  need any fertilizer. Once the seedlings have been transplanted, they benefit from some nutrients. They seem to like dilute shit tea. Just put some manure in a  bucket of water to soak for a while.  Dilute it with some water and pour over the plants. 

Maravilla Lettuce

Maravilla Lettuce

The image above shows the final product. These lettuce have been recently transplanted from modules. They will quickly expand and completely cover the soil. No weeds will be able to grow. 

Facts about our Vineyard

This is just an information sheet to contain the information about our vineyard for internal use.


We start by planting 75 petit verdot on the Era field. There are also a few plants made from cuttings which are white grapes.

Planted 250 new vines on the new field. Half of them Cabernet Sauvignan the other half Bobal.
We did make some wine but it was a mix of our own and some grapes from over the hill.

We made about 40 litres of wine.
The plants were pruned correctly for the first time in October.

We planted 125 Tempranillo and 125 Cabernet Sauvignon

An audit in June by Daniel the Dressing Gown Man states:
There are 660 growing vines.
About 50 did not make it to October.


The harvest happened on the 21st September.
4 crates from new field
3 crates from the Era field
3 crates from down below.
It took about 2 hours with 6 people to do the harvest.

Made about 100 litres of grape must.
About 12% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Jordan, Pierre, Jane and Caroline the Belgian girl. The wine was quite dry. I estimate that there were about 65 litres.

Notes: Many of the new vines planted were ripped out by foxes searching for insects.
Maybe the goatshit, leaf mold and earth mix should be aged longer before use.

100 bobal ordered. Arrival date 1st April.
 We planted 1 new line and the rest were used to replace dead vines

This time we used the new petrol auger and it took most of the work out of preparing the holes. In August we put the top wires on all the lines.

The team was Sam, Heather, Alex (skateboarder), Phil Kiwi, Nitsan

The harvest happened on the 15th September.
35 crates in total.
18 crates from new field
11 crates from the Era field
It took about 3 hours with 6 people to do the top fields
6 crates from down below this took about 25 minutes

Made about 450 litres of grape must.
About 15% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Sam, Heather She-Wolf,  Phil Dynes. The time before pressing was much shorter and wine was still sweet. I estimate that there were about 280 litres.

We planted 200 bobal in the top half of the Era field .
This was done by Aida and me after Christmas.
It is the first time I have planted the vines early.
All of the holes were done with the petrol auger.

Aida counted all the vines and there were 813.

The team was Jen (australian) Amber kiwi, James.

The harvest happened on the 9th October.
30 crates in total.
21 crates from new field
9 crates from the Era field
It took about 3 hours with 4 people to do the new field
4 crates from down below.
These had powdery mildew so they were dried for sultanas rather than wine.

Made about 390 litres of grape must.
About 14% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 9th of November with just Sarah and I.  I estimate that there were about 260 litres.

The harvest was less than the previous year because the table grapes below the house got a bad case of Powdery Mildew

Chemicals for powdery mildew. Contact fungicides work well as preventatives and for early, mild infections, notably potassium bicarbonate compounds and horticultural and neem oils.  Phytotoxicity can be a problem with some plants, however, so care should be used before broad scale application.  Systemic fungicides include triflumizole (e.g., Terraguard), myclobutanil (e.g., Eagle), the strobilurin group (e.g., Compass O, Insignia, Heritage), which is very prone to inducing resistance in pathogens, and thiophanates (e.g., Cleary’s 3336, OHP 6672).

Chemicals for downy mildew. Contact protectants such as mancozeb (e.g., Protect) and copper, alternated or mixed with systemics like mefenoxam (e.g., Subdue MAXX) applied as a drench at the beginning of the season and sprays of dimethomorph (e.g., Stature DM), phosphonates (Aliette), and strobilurins (e.g., Fenstop, Compass O, Insignia, Heritage), have shown good control.  Effectiveness of any given chemical depends on the particular downy mildew pathogen present; what works well for one may give minimal control for others.  Tank mixes of more than one of these agents in a rotation can be useful.




The team was Pud, Julie, Rael, Maggie, Helen Tinsel, Sarah

The harvest happened on the 7th September
About 15 crates in total.
It took about 2 and a half  hours. 

The low harvest was maybe due to the fact that we did no irrigation.
The powdery mildew was very successfully controlled. 

We had no tractor until around may so the weed clearance was done with the weed wacker in May.

About 13% alcohol potential on the light meter.
There was about 150 litres of wine. It started to taste very good after about 1 year.



The team was John Sarah

The harvest happened on the 24th, 25th, 26th September

42 crates in total.
24 crates from new field
16 crates from the Era field
2 crates from down below.

About 460 liters of must.
Sarah and I pressed the wine on 18th October 2020.
There was about 340 litres of wine.

We had some powdery mildew in the middle of the fourth row on the right hand field and
a couple of vines in the middle of the left hand field.

The weed clearance was done with the weed wacker in May.

I planted about 20 new vines made from hardwood cuttings.

About 13.8% alcohol potential on the light meter.



The team was John Sarah, Maika, Natasha, Cleo

The harvest happened on the 22th, 23rd September

50 crates in total.
34 crates from new field
16  crates from the Era field
 0 crates from down below.

About 520  liters of must.
—-Sarah I, Pierre, Jordan and Jorge  pressed the wine on 16th October 2020.
—-There was about 400  litres of wine.

Sarah sprayed the grapes quite a lot with the yellow powder and powdery mildew was quite well controlled.

We did no  weed clearance and we did not reduce the amount of buds.

All the new vines made from hardwood cuttings died. They need to be better looked after.

—-About 13.8% alcohol potential on the light meter.



The team was John Sarah, Paul, Chelsea, Kat.

The harvest happened on the 16th, 19th September 2022

35 crates in total.
20 crates from new field
15 crates from the Era field
 0 crates from down below.

About 350  liters of must.
John Sarah, Paul, Chelsea, Kat. pressed the wine on 27th September.
There was about 230 litres of wine.
Note that the fermenting on the skins was much lower this year.

About 15% alcohol potential on the light meter.




The team was John Sarah, Melanie, Sharon, Marshall.

The harvest happened on the 12th and  13th September 2023

46 crates in total.
24 crates from new field
22 crates from the Era field
 0 crates from down below.

About 540  liters of must.
John, Marshal and Sharon  pressed the wine on 26th September.
There was about 375  litres of wine.
About 14% alcohol potential on the light meter.



2015 – 40
2016 – 65
2017 – 280
2018 – 260
2019 – 150
2020 – 340
2021 – 400
2022 – 230
2023 – 375

Total: 2140 litres
2,846 bottles of wine.

Note: 1 Liter = 1.33 Bottles



Wine recipe

Wine stick for mixing wine

Wine stick for mixing wine

Our recipe for making wine was jotted down on a small piece of paper by the man in the shop selling the wine equipment.


Wine recipe and instructions

The wine is started in four plastic vats, each holding about 150 litres. Because of the possibility of the wine overflowing when it starts to ferment, we decided to use a fourth one. The grapes are first destemmed and crushed by machine and then transferred over into the vats.For each 100ml,1 tablet of Potassium metasulphate is crushed and added to the liquid.

The vats are then left for 7-10 days and  and are mixed three times a day using a wooden pole nailed to a square piece of wood with holes drilled in it so as to thoroughly submerge the grapes that float to the top. This process is know as “punching down the cap”.

MACERATION is the process by which the tannins, colouring agents (or anthocyanins) and flavours of the grape are broken down from the grape skins, seeds and stems into the grape juice or must. Maceration occurs during the first stage of wine-making but also continues throughout the second stage of fermentation.

During the first fermentation, the grape juice is then pressed in a grape press and returned to clean, plastic vats. The vats are left for 30 days.

During FERMENTATION, carbon dioxide is released when the sugar in the must is converted into alcohol. The process of maceration continues during this stage.

After 30 days, the liquid is transferred to a stainless steel “always full” vat and left for a further 60 days. The idea of the “always full” vat is that has a lid surrounded by an inflatable tube which adjusts to the diameter of the vat. Whenever liquid is removed from the vat, the lid is then lowered and the tube prevents any air from entering.

The secondary fermentation or ageing process is slower and can take any time from three to six months.



First viticulture experience: making wine with bought grapes

making wine

Making wine

This year we planted 125 petit verdot vines on the area of land that is to be our vineyard. It will be a good couple of years yet until they are ready for wine-making so we decided to buy some grapes from a local vineyard so that we could get our hand in at wine-making in preparation for when ours are ready.



To all intents and purposes, Petit Verdot is a red grape and good to grow at the cortijo because it is resistant and will put up with extremes of temperatures as well as drought. Although it can be used by itself, it is normally combined with other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Time will tell whether it lives up to its reputation. Originally from Spain, for many years it was grown in the Bordeaux region but it became increasingly unpopular because it ripened later than other grapes.

On Saturday 5th October 2013, we went to a local vineyard to buy some grapes. Generally speaking, you will get a 75% yield of the grapes purchased.Thinking that we would be producing about 400 litres of wine, we therefore bought 600 kilograms of a mixture of Tempranillo and Syrac.

For the records, the grapes weighed in at 670 kilos in 30 crates. So allowing for 2 kilo per crate the net weight was 610kg.

Weighing the grapes

Weighing the grapes

Once the grapes have been cut and loaded into crates on the tractor, they are weighed 5 crates at a time on a traditional balance scales.

We took the grapes home and after lunch we began the second stage of the process:

Mechanical grape crusher/destemmer

Mechanical grape crusher-destemmer

The grapes are passed through the destemmer-crusher twice: first to remove the stems, twigs, leaves and branches and the second, to crush the grapes.

Removed stems

Removed stems

For this amount of grapes, we used 4 large vats (each of 220l), transferring the contents of 7 crates of grapes into each one.

Wine in the vats

Wine in the vats