An experience distributing vine vigour through corrective pruning (II)

November 9th, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
  • castellano
  • català

In a former article (23rd April 2012), I told you a bit about our experience of vigour distribution in some Grenache vines. I’d like to recommend that you have a look at it again so that you can connect it with this one. In order to help you interpret the results, we examine several connections to better understand how the vines responded to our pruning.

Observation and discussion of results

1. Wood production

After analysing the graphs showing the data on vigour and stems, we can see there is a direct relationship between the reduction of number of stems during pruning and the increase of vigour during the vegetative cycle.

Graph #1

Graph #1

At the beginning of this experience, that is to say, in winter 2011, pruning was done taking into account the weight of the stems of a vine, i.e. taking vine vigour into account. As we can see on graph #1, the vines in the first three groups, in 2010, had too many stems left in relation to their vigour so in the following year their number was cut down. However, in group number 4, the amount of stems left was insufficient in relation to their vigour and in 2011 some more stems were left unpruned.
The response of the vines, at the end of the 2011 cycle, resulted in the first three groups increasing their vigour in comparison to 2010 and in the fourth group reducing it, as shown in graph #2.

Graph #2

Graph #2

We have also observed some variation in the weight of stems. On graph #3 we can see there is an inversely proportional relationship between the variation in the number of stems and the variation of individual weights.
The first group, with extremely short stems, has increased the length and weight of each stem the most. The second and third group follow the same trend but group 4 has reduced the weight of its stems.

Graph #3

Graph #3

All these variations are shown in the following table:

Table #4

2. Grape production

Grape production per hectare has been very different in the groups due to the difference in vigour. So, production per hectare and production per vine are directly proportionalto vigour. Logically those vines with longer arms or cordons with more stems produce more grapes. See graphs 5, 6, and 2.

Graph #5

Graph #5

Graph #6

Graph #6

It is very interesting to state that, on the other hand, production per stem is roughly equal in all the groups, with only a slight difference. Graph #7

Graph #7

Graph #7

3. Stem length

In the whole plot of land, all the stems and their grape clusters were pretty similar. Remember that in the first group there were vines with productive arms of about 40 cm in length and 120 gr in vigour and in the fourth group there were vines with productive arms of 2.4 m in length and 3.800 kg in vigour. In spite of that, the stems and their grapes were morphologically very similar. They did not only look quite alike but the small difference among them is inversely proportional to vigour. On graph #8 you can see that the less vigourous vines have slightly longer stems and the most vigorous vines have them a bit shorter.

Graph #8

4. Wine

If we now relate production to foliar surface in order to see the grams of grapes in one m2 of leaf, we can see on graph #9 that there are some differences among the groups, particularly between the first group and the rest. The first group has produced a yield of 540 gr of grape per m2 of leaf, whereas the remaining three groups have produced between 700 and 800 gr.
Because the stems in the first group were longer, that means more foliar surface and therefore less yield per m2 of leaf.

Graph #9

Graph #9

This is also reflected in the wine analyses for each group. In table 10 we can see that the wine from the first group has a higher alcohol, polyphenol and tannin content.
When tasting the wines, we also found a more structured type of wine in the first group, similar wines in the second and third group and wine with less body in the fourth group.

Table #10

We can see a summary of the production data in the following table:

Table #11

Conclusions

We do not dare to jump to any final conclusions because, among some other actions, we will repeat this experience some more years so that we can check and confirm vine response to corrective pruning.

So far though we can say that:

- Doing some corrective pruning and leaving the right number of stems in relation to the vigour of each individual vine implies that the stems have a thin diametre and a length between 1.20 and 1.50 metres.

- These stems produce middle-sized grape clusters with loose berries (not compact).

- Consequently, if the vine is vigourous and accepts many stems, we will have to adap the trellis and cordon training so that we can leave the necessary number of stems.

- The use of an automatic irrigation system is indispensable to control the amount of water necessary, in a specific part of the plot of land and at the best time, monitoring the state of the vines through soil humidity sensors.

- This vigour control method can be employed for any variety but it is particularly good for vigourous varieties such as Cariñena and Grenache.

These results, nevertheless, lead to some reflection: generally speaking, does a vine, when left with less stems than before, react by increasing its vigour? And the other way round, does a vine, when left with some more stems than before, react by decreasing its vigour? …

How can all this affect grape quality, which in short is what we are interested in?

We hope we can answer all these questions with the help of some future experiences we have already set out.

Revisiting history

July 2nd, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
  • castellano
  • català

From 1992 and, particularly in 1993, our wines start to have some impact in specialised publications. The media from Madrid appear in our lives and we start to be interviewed. There are also newspaper articles. Presenting our wines in the restaurant industry allows us to get in contact with many professionals (restaurateurs, sommeliers, and waiters) and through our distributors we can approach customers directly.

Abroad, it is also importers who approach our product to consumers and professionals. These experiences provided us with a feeling of responsibility. It is not a matter of producing and selling. There are people that, with their sensitivity, can or cannot enjoy our wines and our wine can also be a topic of conversation, discussion, intercultural exchange.
Through the wine I make I communicate with consumers. There is a certain amount of cooperation. I have often been called by people who say they have enjoyed one of my wines so much. And the other way round, I have, after tasting some wine, phoned the wine producer to thank them for the moment of pleasure I experimented when tasting their wine.
I loved those experiences and I became aware of the importance of producing quality wines.

Moreover, there was another essential aspect for me, which I would like to talk about: the social aspect. The wine producers in Priorat. The people that went through that stage in the development of the Project.
My position in Priorat was slightly different from the other members of the group. In the 80s I taught at the school of Oenology in Falset and I also was an INCAVI (Institut Català de la Vinya i el Vi/The Catalan Institute of Vines and Wine) technical consultant for the cooperatives in El Priorat, Ribera d’Ebre, and Terra Alta. I had taken part in the development and creation of The Second Degree Cooperative of El Priorat in Gratallops. I lived through the troubled times in the region, with the emigration of the youth and the increase in the number of elderly people. In the bars of the region it was almost embarrassing to talk about wine or oil. The topics were mainly about growing hazelnuts or almonds but not vines and olive trees.

In that strained situation you can easily understand that my position was quite contradictory. On the one hand, the “Closos” project was running well and on the other hand, the elderly had absolutely no hope for the future. Their discussions at home or in the bar were fruitless: their generation would be the last one to work on the vineyard. Their children had left for the capital because the situation had forced them to do so.
I did not like the situation. It was quite a contradiction and I was not satisfied. I needed to involve all those elderly people that had made what we were doing possible. I needed to revisit their history and incorporate it into our Project. Without their endurance, we would not have been able to set up our Project on strong grounds.
I thought that if we succeeded, we had to present the new Priorat as a continuation of the past. It would not have been logical to ignore the past because El Priorat had a history.

All those reflections led me to the essential element that could link past and present with the possibility of involving those people in the project.

That element was ELS CEPS CENTENARIS (CENTENARIAN VINES) and the new Project that would allow us to include all those dejected and hopeless people in our success was CIMS DE PORRERA.

Martinet Degustació and Martinet Especial

June 14th, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
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  • català

I started to plan experiences that could broaden our knowledge. I really wanted to find an answer to the many questions I had, and between 1993 and 1996 I studied and applied different techniques with different aims. The result of this was the production of 30 different wines that we grouped into the line Martinet Degustació.

The main aim when making all those wines was my own training. I needed to experiment and to search in order to find Clos Martinet’s personality.
Since we produced about 300 bottles of each wine, I used them to offer some short courses to professionals and people who were interested in getting a better knowledge of the world of wine tasting. We also offered some of those bottles to sommeliers so that they could use them for their own practice.
Each wine was accompanied by a specification sheet including the specific winemaking process and the wine’s technical data, which could be used as background on the wine in the wine tasting session.

All those experiences helped me to go into wine and winemaking in more depth. I understood how important experience was. Hypotheses are just that, hypotheses and they often do not correspond to reality, no matter how much we believe this is the case.
We should keep on experimenting, experiment where we are and with the tools we have. Grapevine production is subject to climate changes during the six months the vegetative cycle takes. And wine is the result of the interaction among the genetic code of a given variety, climate, soil, and the winemaker’s action. We have to know all these varieties really well and be ready for action when needed. I would like to emphasise that my experiences cannot compare to those described by a research centre, they are just “trials”. The only thing is that, when I carry out these trials, I use Scientific Method with rigour so that the results can be analysed later on and some conclusions can be drawn from them, which will allow us to continue making progress.

In the Martinet Degustació line, we had the following experiences:

- On CARBONIC MACERATION, we compared three varieties fermented in Carbonic Maceration and in conventional fermentation. 6 final different wines.

- On YOUNG RED WINES, we compared three varieties harvested at 12º and 13º. 6 final different wines.

- On WHITE WINES AND WOOD, we fermented two white varieties in wood barrels and in tanks and ageing was done in barrels and in tanks. 6 final different wines.

- On CRIANZA RED WINES. This was the most complex experience because the result was 12 final different wines: the same coupage with varieties harvested at 12º and 13º. Each of them was macerated with 8- and 20-day skins. Each of them was aged in tanks, American barrels, and French barrels. In the end, we had 2 x 2 x 3 = 12 wines.

Martinet Degustació

These resulting 30 wines were not put on the market; they were used just for the wine tasting courses or for analysis so that we could see the differences, understand the reason behind every property and check the results of the different procedures.

From 1993 to 1996 we also made some wines called Martinet Especial. Every year we made one, two or three wines. The aim of this line was to use the experiences from Martinet Degustació and apply them to wines we would commercialise and so be able to know the answer of the consumer. We also tried different coupages with the different varieties.

The bottles had a back label giving information about vinification and the aim pursued, inviting the consumer to give his / her opinion. Each wine had to be unique, which meant we could not elaborate the same wine in future years.

All those actions were very positive in order to get familiar with the behaviour of the different varieties and the possibilities of the terroir.

Martinet Especial

I think there are still a few bottles left. We should open them one of these days …

Setting up the project. Separation. Expression of one’s own personality.

May 15th, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
  • castellano
  • català

During the first three years, from 1986 to 1989, we devoted our energies to vine installation, terracing, plantation, trellising, building the joint winery … In 1989 we had the first harvest but it could not be included in the DO because it did not reach the minimum required alcohol by volume (ABV), it was only 12.5º. If my memory serves me right, we adopted the recommendations from the Department of Agriculture, which advised us to use improving varieties (Merlot, Cabernet…) and keep alcohol volume not too high, like Rioja wines, which sold well …
This first drawback forced us to reconsider our project. We wanted our wines to be part of the D.O. Priorat, we wanted our work to have a positive effect on the region. We learnt our lesson; either we adapted to the norms of D.O. Priorat or we had to make wine somewhere else. We also learnt that in order to make an excellent wine, the grapes had to be mature and I still remember the Grenache Rosé grapes we separated because they did not have the quality we wanted. And this we did in the first three years.

When, in 1992, the partners in the initial project broke up so that each of us could find their own path, I felt somehow relieved. Subconsciously, when we were together, I could not give full expression to my ideas and I could not make the other take some risks I would have taken on my own. On the other hand, René knew a lot about wine and I was just beginning and I still had so many things to learn. I am convinced that the break was the correct step to take because we all had and still have our own and different personalities and, this way, we could transmit it to the wine, which helped to diversify and enrich the wine market.

I needed to start my own line of wines but, in order to get that; I could not do it any old how. I am a biologist and had a scientific university education. That is the reason why in my career I am always trying to find some justification for the importance of applying scientific methods in favour of wine quality. My impression is that the production of great wines is incompatible with science. It seems that the terms “science” and “technique” can only be used in relation to technological and commercial wines and that only if we work according to tradition and the way it has always been done, can we join the group of mythic wines …

I hope you can forgive me but I do no agree with this. I believe that the evolution of our knowledge can be compared to a relay race, where each generation has to make improvements and these, at the same time, will be used by future generations. This is what justifies our intellectual ability as human beings.
On one occasion I attended a speech given by a very well-known owner of a winery in our country, a winery that deserves great respect for its products and its trajectory. He claimed that the fact that some wines were excellent had to do with their origin, with the plot of land chosen by some medieval monastic order, he also praised the weather in that specific place. He even said oenologists have to be very careful and try not to spoil what nature offers them. This truly shows contempt for any type of human participation, and willingness to absolutely connect quality with land. A good plot of land is, needless to say, important but man has intelligence and sensitivity and he is the one taking decisions and implementing them.

In spite of everything, we know not everybody agrees with this and there are people who are central figures and have largely contributed to the evolution of viticulture. There is a very interesting and old document written by the owner of Romanée Conti in Burgundy. And although the vineyard with a specific type of soil and climate that give the wines some particular characteristics, one can see the indomitable will to make everything possible to produce quality wines.

The proposal

April 26th, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
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  • català

Midway through the course of 1985, René Barbier and Carles Pastrana came to see me at the vocational school in Falset where I was teaching and offered me to participate in the project they were planning.
The aim of the project was to produce high-quality wine, expensive but sustainable in the area of El Priorat.
The argument René put forward in justification was the answer to his clear vision of:
- The potential for producing good wines in the region.
- The high production costs associated with vineyard installation and with the annual works carried out on the vineyard.
- The response of communication experts in the wine business.
In the presentation made by René on the project, one could easily see that he had been thinking about it long and hard. It was not an improvised thought that had just crossed his mind.
He knew that the orography of the area responded to mountain viticulture, that the slate soil was primary, not very deep, stony, and with little water retention, and on top of that, rainfall was poor between June and September. All these parameters make the soil of El Priorat not very fertile and consequently not very productive. Therefore, if production costs were going to be high, the wines would have to be expensive. But production costs would not make all the difference, it would be quality.
Will the wines have enough quality to match the prices?” René categorically replied “Yes!

The proposal implied a number of determinants that had to be accepted if I wanted to take part in the project:

1. I would be in charge of the viticultural and oenological technical issues.
2. I would have to buy a plot of land and grow vines.
3. I would have to participate in the building of a joint winery.
4. The production of all the vineyards, for the moment, would be elaborated jointly and only a wine would be made but each of us would have their own label so that the wine could be sold as if were own produced. This would be done until the production of each partner was sufficient to elaborate their own wine separately.
5. Price per bottle would be 1,500₧ (9€ at the current exchange rate, we were in 1985!) for all of us and therefore the quality of the wine would have to match the price.

René told us that the wines that were considered worth the attention of wine critics were expensive wines but, of course, they had to be of excellent quality otherwise they would have no stability on the market.

I took on the challenge although the idea sent a chill down my spine. At the same time I felt flattered by the proposal. I was willing to do my very best. I felt strongly attached to El Priorat through the students I taught at the oenology school. I was as worried as anybody else about the depopulation of the region basically because the youth would leave for the capital and try to earn a decent living.
I was immensely pleased to take part in the odyssey of recovering this rough region, which at the same time has a strong personality.

We have to travel back in time to the mid-eighties, when wine was just another element in gastronomy, more or less, like table wine currently, which has to be good but bought at an affordable price. It was just another food product. We had no tradition of producing or consuming the type of wine René was talking about.
In Spain, the only two well-known regions were La Rioja, for its wines and El Penedès, for its sparkling wines. There was a culture of table wines but we had no culture of quality wines. There were just a few people that knew about great wines and could afford their high prices.

The first time I went to commercialise our wine in 1991, I went to a specialised shop in Tarragona and when I told the owner the price, he said I was crazy. He said that Priorat wines sold in bulk cost 100Pts per litre and if bottled, a maximum of 400Pts per litre: “1,500Pts, you must be joking!”
We had to wait until 1992, when some sommelier courses were first taught and their provincial associations were founded. There were more and more wine tasting courses and wine culture was becoming fashionable. We have to be really thankful to those who promoted this specialty because, without them, our efforts to commercialise quality wines would have been fruitless. We would have failed in our own country, whereas abroad, where there already was a wine culture, we were positively welcome.

An experience distributing vine vigour through corrective pruning (I)

April 23rd, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
  • castellano
  • català

All the concepts about vigour that have been mentioned earlier and that are based on our experience and occasional checks throughout the years have been extended and systematised in a detailed study on Grenache. This is a study carried out by Ms Jolette Steyn as a final project for the International Master Vintage and presented at the Higher School of Agriculture of Angers (France) on 12th October 2011.
The study was based on a very heterogeneous plot of land where, in the previous years, between 15 and 25 buds were kept on each vine. As a result of this heterogeneity in vine vigour, some of the vines, the most vigorous ones, had to be pruned two or three times whereas the shoots of the weakest did not reach 50 cm in length. Because of this, we decided to apply the concept of vigour distribution.

Description of the plot
- 1.473 seventeen-year-old vines: a mixture of Grenache noir and Grenache peluda (hairy Grenache)
- Plantation framework: 1.20m x 2.50m
- Density: 3.300 vines/ha
- Vine training: en lyre or double-trellised vines

Bancal Gran

Aim
To distribute vine vigour among its shoots

Methodology
1. During winter pruning, all the vines were pruned and their shoots were weighed.
Each vine was labelled with the following information:
- Total weight in grams
- The quotient resulting from dividing the total weight (g)/50 (the weight in grams of a wooden shoot with an average length of 1.20m and 10mm in diameter) = number of buds to be kept on each vine.

2. During spring pruning, the number of shoots left was adjusted making sure that it was the number indicated on the label.

3. Every week, shoot growth was measured, from the stage when the shoots reach 60 cm on the trellis wire until their vegetative growth stops (from 17th May to 7th July).

4. The vines were divided into 4 different vigour groups:
Group I: vines with vigour between 100g and 349g (low vigour)
Group II: vines with vigour between 350g and 649g (medium vigour)
Group III: vines with vigour between 650g and 999g (medium-high vigour)
Group IV: vines with vigour between 1000g and 2000g (high vigour)

We will tell you more about the results in the second section of the article.

Key people in winemaking in Spain

January 23rd, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
  • castellano
  • català

I would like to review the contributions to the improvement of wine quality in Spain. There are many winemakers and oenologist, and luckily their number is increasing, who focus on quality and contribute their knowledge and know-how to winemaking. I would simply like to remember three of these great contributors, who I deeply admire and who were key figures in the 80s and 90s.

In the 80s, on a visit to Rueda and Ribera del Duero, I was offered some Pesquera wine that was fantastic. Back then that wine was not well-known yet. How balanced and structured! Mature, with elegant tannins, deep, long. I was pleasantly surprised by it since that was what we were looking for in El Priorat: making wines from mature grapes.
When I had a chance to visit Pesquera, I jumped at it. Alejandro Fernández showed me his vineyard and told me about his new projects, a new vineyard he was working on at a height of more than 1000m. During the course of the conversation, I had the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question in my head so I finally asked “Listen Alejandro, what criteria do you use to know when to harvest?” “Why, I do what my father did, I harvest after La Pilarica!”(a festival celebrated in honour of the patron saint of Zaragoza, on 12th October) replied Alejandro. His answer confirmed the stage of maturity of the grapes expressed in his wine.
On a different occasion, in conversation with some oenologists, the subject of Alejandro’s harvest came up. Some of them said (with a kind of giggle …): “Alejandro gets to the vineyard, takes a few grapes at random, crushes them, rubs his hands with the juice, and, depending on what he sees, he decides to continue harvesting there or he may change to a different plot of land.” The oenologists said Alejandro trusted more his sense of touch than any analytical monitoring. To me that was quite shocking because this is in fact a very rigorous way of getting the same information as with an analysis of phenolic maturity; if your hands are stained red with the juice and are sticky, that surely means that the hypodermic cells have started lysis and the level of sugar is sufficient to start harvesting. Alejandro’s father’s observations were quite extraordinary and represented the conclusions drawn at that time.

Another important figure in the decade of the 80s is Fernando Remírez de Ganuza. With his dedication to achieving quality, he found the different concentration levels (of tannins, colour, aroma, polyphenols …) in the upper and lower part of the same tempranillo grape bunch. So, in order to make the most of this, he cuts each bunch in two so that the upper part is used in the elaboration of reserva wine and the lower part in the elaboration of young wine.
He has also devised a system of static press that works by placing a water bag on orujo that has been previously drained; the bag is left on the orujo for a while so that the weight of the bag itself acts as a static press without any type of energy consumption. With just some gentle pressure and longer time, he manages to get the best of draining.
I think that actions like these showed rebel and subconscious nonconformity when they decided not to abandon their land. They were committed to economic and intellectual effort, creating wines that, in time, have achieved to be among the best.

I do not know if Mariano García has invented anything but I do know that, with his experience, knowledge, and deep sensitivity, he has contributed enormously to improving wine quality. When he comes across a vineyard that can produce quality grapes, he does not care about denominations of origin. He shows that he knows the vineyard and its environment and knows how to work in the vineyard in order to get great wines: tasty, robust, and elegant. Wines that we enjoy drinking. This is Mariano García’s distinctive imprint.
He is probably the most well-known and respected oenologist in Spain. He is able to transmit a strong desire for self-improvement to those of us who are in the field of winemaking.

I would just like to thank them for their contributions. All the best for you three!

In art, lineages don’t mean much

January 16th, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
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  • català

The French revolution overthrew monarchy in France but it is quite surprising to see that, after all, some subconscious remnants still persist in some aspects. This can be observed in, for example, their strong defence of “terroir”. The quality of their great wines is attributed to the soil and climate, which have obviously prevailed for ever and ever like a reigning dynasty. Moreover, in some cases, the soil is believed to be a kind of “sacred gift”, where quality is a consequence of the monks’ work, since they are the representation of heaven on earth.

I am convinced that things will go on like this for as long as the current generations last, since great wines will go the same way as cuisine, I mean, until not long ago haute cuisine could be found in famous restaurants but, what happens nowadays? We are no longer interested in going to a classic, renowned restaurant. We now look for a given cook, the authentic artist, the one who incessantly tries to find balance and harmony in his/her dishes, apart from an explosion of aromas and a wide variety of textures, always taking into account the quality of the produce. Nowadays we are much more demanding than we were in the past and this is due to social evolution. We evolve all together and although we sometimes believe that the old days were better, food and wine included, we are wrong.

It is interesting to see how man is anchored to this world, even though he meets his individual, personal death. It is absurd to ascribe the exclusivity of particularity to the environment. ART is an asset to the individual, to singularity. Collectiveness leads to tendencies but it can never substitute it. Being a descendant of an art genius does not imply that you are an artist. The way of working can be passed down but one’s creative spirit is unique, on one’s own inside; you either have it or you don’t.

I think it is important to clarify that the environment, terroir (soil and climate), has a direct influence on wine “typology”. This breaks new ground for those of us with an artistic vocation for the making of new wines. But in any “great” wine there is a bonus for excellence that does not belong to any “lineage”; it belongs to the artist that has created it. These are things that we all have to earn, lineage or monarchy mean nothing in this regard.

The key is grapevine vigour distribution

January 9th, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
  • castellano
  • català

The studies done in the last years have helped us to understand what actions need to be carried out in grapevine growing so that the shoots are not too big. The base of this principle is VIGOUR DISTRIBUTION.

- Grapevine vigour can be defined, in a simplified way, as the weight of wood (shoots) produced during the vegetative cycle.

- Grapevine productive capacity or vigour is more or less constant if the external parameters it is defined by do not change over time. But the number of shoots left after pruning can vary depending on the adopted criteria.

- Vigour, i.e. the capacity to produce wood, is distributed or “used” as the shoots grow. That is to say, if the weight of all the shoots on a vine is the expression of its vigour, when more or less shoots are retained, we are in fact distributing vine vigour. If many shoots are left, they will grow a little. If a few shoots are left, they will grow a lot.

For example, in a vine of whose vigour is 500: “The weight of all its shoots is 500 grams”

- If, after pruning, 10 shoots are left (500/10), each shoot will weigh 50gr and will measure approximately 1.20m in length. The diameter will be more or less 8 – 10mm.
- If, after pruning, 5 shoots are left (500/5), each shoot will weigh 100gr and will measure more than 2m in length. The diameter will be larger.
- If, after pruning, 20 shoots are left (500/20), each shoot will weigh 25gr, will measure approximately 0.60m in length, and will have a small diameter.

Length has been checked by measuring and weighing shoots of different dimensions and varieties. You can check how we did that in this article.

In short, what we want is to have shoots of 8-10mm in diameter and approximately 1.20m in length at the most in order not to remove shoot tips. In other words, we want to get shoots that weigh approximately 50gr.

Conclusion: Vigour is distributed dividing the weight of the wood cut by 50gr. This will give us the number of shoots that can be retained so that they can show good morphological characteristics and produce quality grapes.

Wine in the World

January 2nd, 2012 by Josep Lluis Perez
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  • català

In the 80s there was a plethora of nonconformist ideas coming from all the wine-growing regions in the country. We had come from a decade when the demand for bulk wine had reduced. Spain, which back then was the country with the highest production of this type of wine, was hit by a sale crisis and wine surplus rose.

The cause was mainly the use of technology in northern European countries. In those countries sugar was added to increase the wine colour and as a result of this, they did not need to import so much wine from southern Europe.

The reaction to this was collective all over Spain. The so-called “improver” wine varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, etc, started to be planted and regrafted. All over the place new wineries were set up by people who did not belong to any winemaking family saga but to other professional fields and were not willing to let their homeland to lose economic power. That was an extraordinary moment! Together with some of the former students at the vocational school in Falset, we planted French grafted vines in the regions of Rueda, Ribera del Duero and some others. In those parts of Castile big plots of land, where beetroots had previously been grown, were now planted with vines.

That was the time when the well-known critic, Mr Robert Parker, wrote that he had found the “Spanish Petrus” in reference to Mr Alejandro Fernández’ Pesquera wine. That provided a morale boost for all those people who, like ourselves, had their hopes pinned on their own incipient projects. Mr Parker has been frequently criticised but I believe that the idea he wanted to express is that quality wines can be made wherever man likes (within limits, of course) and that great wines do not belong only to classic European wine-producing regions, as it was believed then.

Italia 1985

We would, nevertheless, like to draw attention to the importance that these regions, like Bordeaux or Burgundy, have had in the development of quality wines all over the world. Back then, we paid constant visits to all the European wine-growing regions. The students in the vocational school, as it is mentioned in the previous article, with their way of acting and that moment in our lives also left their positive imprint on each of us.