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.

Vineyard

Vineyard

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

 

 

Autumn 2012

Still life in those fresh vegetables

This is my favourite time of year. The weather is still good but not too hot and we get to eat all the vegetables that we’ve planted throughout the year. I’ve been meaning to write a list of things that we are/have been self-sufficient in and no longer have/had to buy so here goes:

lettuce, onions, leeks, garlic, potatoes, aubergines, courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, popcorn, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red peppers, green cabbage, white cabbage, broccoli, kale, Chinese leaves, radishes, fennel, beetroot, strawberries, figs, apples, quinces, walnuts, almonds, olives (and olive oil), watercress and herbs such as mint, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme

Projects for next year include bees so that we can get our own honey.

Stringing up red peppers

“Ristras” of red peppers hanging on a neighbour’s house

Around this time, houses in the village are decorated with strings of red peppers which are left to dry and then used throughout the year to add flavour and colour to stews.

There’s a bit of a knack to tying them up but the idea is to have a loop at both ends so that can be turned upside down every week so that every side of the string gets its turn in the sun.

To make a string, cut a length of 120cm of strong thin string and thread a large needle. Tie a knot at one end and then make a slip knot so the loop doesn’t come undone.

It’s easiest to sit on a step with the knot at your feet, arranging the peppers on the ground as you thread them onto the string. Stab the needle through the stalks of the red peppers, arranging the first to the left, the second to the right and the third to the centre. From time to time, press the peppers to the bottom of the string. Continue until the end of the string and tie a slipknot and knot the end of the string as you did at the other end. Hang up to dry.

Feeding Purslane to Chickens to increase the Omega-3 in the eggs.

Two chickens eating dried pursulane.

A prolific weed on our  vegetable garden is Purslane. I was told by the neighbour that chickens love eating it. After looking it up on the internet I discovered that it has a very high omega 3 content. After further research I found out that if you feed Purslane to chickens it increases the omega 3 content of the eggs. There seems to be scientific proof.
Here is a link to the abstract and we quote the conclusion.

 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20564433

“CONCLUSION: This study showed that adding dried purslane to the diet of laying hens significantly increased egg production and egg weights although there was no reduction in the egg cholesterol concentration. This study also showed that inclusion of purslane into diet enriched eggs with omega-3 fatty acids and decreased the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 in the yolk.”

I tried two ways of feeding the Purslane to the chickens. The first one is to pick the Purslane and then leave it in the sun to dry. It takes a long time to dry because it is a succulent and is designed to resist dessication. However after 3 or 4 days it does eventually go dry. The thick stems take a little longer. I put the dried pursulane through a garden riddle (sieve with 1cm holes)  and with a bit of scrunching up it forms a nice  mixture of particles most of which are about 3 or 4 millimetres long. This is ideal for adding  to the normal chickenfeed.  Below you can see the  initial test with the chickens eating from a plastic cup of dried purslane. They seem to like it. In the scientific study mentioned above  purslane is added at 10 or 20g per kilo. If that is a good guide for the proportion needed then only a modest amount of dried purslane would be enough to last the winter.

The plastic cup contains dried purslane.

The second method is to give the chickens fresh purslane.They love it if you hold it up to them and they attack it ferociously.

Chicken eating fresh pursulane

They seem much more interested in the purslane if you hand it to them but also it is a good idea to hang it up.

Chicken eating purslane

Don’t forget that you can add purslane directly to salads for human consumption. It has a pleasant lemony taste. I now look upon purslane as a welcome plant rather than a weed.
The omega 3 enriched eggs you get from the supermarket have a fishy taste. Maybe the use of purslane to make omega-3 enriched eggs will become more popular.

There is more info about the plant here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portulaca_oleracea

 

Self-seeding Godetias

Godetias in a Pot

Godetias in a Pot

The other day I found a flower pot full of self seeded Godetia seedlings. I planted them about 6 years ago and they have survived in the pot on their own. The temperature in winter  gets well below 0C and in the summer it is very dry and well over 40C. The flowerpot has formed a tiny ecosystem and by an evolutionary process they have managed to survive.

 

Godetia Transplants

I have transplanted 18 of them into plastic modules and also planted the seeds which were in the dried seed pods into a pot.

I would like to make a self seeding area of Godetia plants which will come up every year. As they have survived for 6 years in very hostile conditions they should be able to cope with the harsh conditions at the Cortijo.

Notes: There are very precise instructions in Spanish for growing Godetia on this page
They germinate best at 21C, sowing in January will produce flowers in May/June.

I learned today that plastic modules in Spanish are called charolas

Godetias are actually called  Clarkias.

 

MOVE FORWARD TO MID MARCH

The Godetias looked very nice on the table for a long time.

The modules that I planted died after forgetting to water them during a weekend.
However the little seedlings that I planted in other pots were lovely. The Godetias flowered for about 4 weeks and were really lovely.