Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Climate change?

To be honest we don't get too many comments on our blog, but recently one reader, Ryan, asked the following question:

I want to hear more about how your winters are changing or not due to climate change. Is it colder/warmer, do you see any effect on the vines?

A very good question, and also quite appropriate to post as any entry in itself. Here is how I replied:

Well, actually, my view of 'climate change' is simply that the weather has become more unpredictable - there appear to be more extremes of weather, but not necessarily at the times of year they are expected, in other words 'unseasonal'.

Certainly the last two winters have been quite different, two years ago with a shortage of rainfall, and last year with plenty of rain (albeit after the turn of the year), and there have been periods in early spring when temperatures have been higher than the norm. If you look back in our blog, using the 'WEATHER' label, you might find reference to these.

It is difficult to say what effect this is having on the vines themselves - certainly in the last two years yields have been smaller than average, but I tend to put this down to the record crop that we had in 2006. It is quite normal for the vines to take a couple of years to recover, simply as they are exhausted from yielding such a large amount. The cycle of smaller crops following a big one is however, quite normal in any wine region.

Over an entire year it might be fair to say that the mean average temperature is possibly a fraction higher, and that our summers are getting marginally warmer. Having said that the summer of 2008 was cool and wet, and at this moment we are experiencing a spell of very cold weather (the same as much of north west Europe) .... as I mentioned previously, weather patterns are just more difficult to predict!

This is of course just my local view - a climate expert will probably tell you differently, but then again the so called 'experts' are always contradicting one another!

Not very conclusive I'm afraid, but interesting nonetheless.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Relaxing on the lees

As you can see from the photo the bodega is a regular hive of activity at this time of year (not). Now that the Christmas rush is over it leaves little to do in the bodega, and so we turn our attention back to the vineyards and the back breaking job of pruning, which now takes precedence over all other work.

Inside the cellar the only activity is in the tanks, as the new vintage rests quietly on it's lees, gathering nuances of flavour and depth of character from the spent yeast cells at the bottom of each tank. My impression is that our 2008 wine will really benefit from this process as the wine is still quite 'green' at this point in it's life. Given this extra time the wine will mellow and lose some of it's 'angular' structure - it will also gain greater depth as well as additional complexity. Only time will tell, as we taste each tank on a regular basis over the coming months.

So, whilst the wine relaxes in the cellar, outdoors our young team are working hard in the vineyards as they rush around brandishing their pruning shears. Fortunately, as I write this post, the weather for pruning is perfect, clear blue skies, with just a hint of frost in the air. Over the coming weeks the vineyards will be dotted with small plumes of smoke as the vine cuttings are systematically burned - a typical autumn scene in most wine producing areas. To be honest, weather wise, this is probably my favourite time of year, I guess that the cold, clear days remind me of England!

Let's just hope that the sun continues to shine for a while at least. There is nothing more miserable than trying to prune with the rain falling directly in your face and water running up your sleeves (don't forget that with our pergola system of vine training pruning is actually overhead, looking up at the heavens!)