Tag Archives: DO Rueda

Cuatro Rayas and its commitment to recycling

Cuatro Rayas Winery has just joined the 2017-2019 Business Plan for Packaging Waste Prevention intended for the wine and spirits industry. This is an initiative from Ecovidrio, a non-profit organisation in charge of managing the recycling of all glass containers in Spain. Admittedly, recycling is everyone’s task and a simple gesture –like throwing away a bottle in a green bin– can help society if all of us make our contribution.

The philosophy of Ecovidrio and the extraordinary work they have been developing for two decades has encouraged us to sign this collaboration agreement that has a lot to do with the protection of the environment and sustainable development. The first line of action we have committed with is to adopt a series of measures to reduce the weight of the primary packaging; e.g., the usage of lighter bottles, in our case. Another established objective has to do with the weight of the tertiary packaging, pursuing to reduce the micronage of the stretch film (for palletisation) and shrink wrapping (to put together primary packaging); e.g., pallet wrapping film will be thinner, although it will improve its elastic properties.

Another of the commitments of Cuatro Rayas with Ecovidrio refers to the increase of the percentage of recycled material used in our winery, not only in the packaging but also in the cardboard packages. The latter concerns to the generic cardboard boxes we use at Cuatro Rayas Winery and, since we joined the plan, even the dividers of the interior which we are using are made of recycled material.

As you can see, Cuatro Rayas makes its contribution to recycling committing to sustainability. We believe, and we are sure that the project will become bigger soon with the help and responsibility of everyone.

Wine tasting of the wine with the longest tradition in Cuatro Rayas

‘61 Dorado’ is the oldest wine of Cuatro Rayas Winery. It is said to be the most genuine
and with the most tradition. It was born and bottled in our cellar more than half a
century ago. Undoubtedly, it best represents the purest tradition of wines produced and
consumed in the region of Rueda, long before the arrival of young, fresh and fruity
Verdejo variety wines that we know today.

Ángel Calleja –governing board member of Cuatro Rayas and, for more than four
decades, winemaker of the cooperative– knows very well the history of this wine. Ángel
tells us that 61 doesn’t refer to vintage, but actually, it has to do with the numbering of a
vat. Because, at the very beginning, winegrowers used to make their wine at home until
they established the cooperative. It was then when they took the wine from their houses
and poured all their contributions in a shared vat. Even though there were a few, number
61 was the best of all. Hence every wanted to buy its wine. So, that is the reason for the
name.

‘61 Dorado’ is a dry, liqueur wine, as a result of the oxidative ageing. Its alcohol
content is no less than 15% and must remain in oak for, at least, the previous two years
immediately before its commercialisation. Given Cuatro Rayas Winery performs the
traditional method, this wine has to types of ageing: biological (developing a film of
yeasts in a Jerezana butt) and oxidative (in 640L casks that allow the contact of the
wine with the wood). We can’t talk about vintages with this wine, as we produce it
following the tiers and soleras system.

Ángel Calleja and the current Cuatro Rayas’ winemaker, Elena M. Oyagüe, help us to
understand this wine better through the language of wine tasting. Appearance stage: it is
bright, limpid and golden because of the oxidative ageing. It has characteristic aromas
of biological ageing: hints of dough and yeasts, and oxidative ageing: almonds and nuts.
Balsamic, complex with bitter hints and a long finish. Regarding the pairing and
consumption, Elena recommends pairing it with a wide variety of cheeses, while Ángel
opts for game meats and artichoke stews.

Sugarcane “seals” Cuatro Rayas’ wine range

We have already talked about the closure of the bottle, about the process that surrounds
it, and, especially, about the materials used. Along with cork, synthetic and natural
stoppers, now a new addition closures the range of Cuatro Rayas’ wines. We are talking
about a cork made from polymers derived from sugar cane.

The new kind of cork provides a high-quality closure, although its main advantage has
to do with the control of oxygen ingress in the bottle. In addition to the oxygen control,
another particular feature is that it is the world’s first virtually zero carbon footprint
closure for fine wines.

Another of the advantages is that this kind of closure doesn’t provide flaws to the wine.
Furthermore, it has an excellent mechanical action in the closure, in other words, it
corks perfectly and keeps good closure conditions, at the very least, for five years. It is
certainly a great innovation in the wine sector that, in this case, benefits from a
vegetable raw material such wonderful as the sugar cane. Environment-friendly,
sustainable, easy-to- uncork and provides all guarantees for wine preservation. These are
the new stoppers that seal the wines of Cuatro Rayas Winery. Could we ask for more?

Sample collection: from veraison to the end of the harvest

It is one of the most important processes before the beginning of the harvest since it will determine when the picking of the grape can begin. We are talking about the sample collection, and we always do it on site. Sampling is essential to know the state of the vineyard before harvesting. If grapes are not ripe enough, it will have an impact on the quality of the wine, that is why controls in the vineyards are so important just before the harvest.

The technical staff of the vineyard of Cuatro Rayas Winery is in charge of this important task. In general, they use defined sampling patterns in order to ensure repetitions and that all of them are taken in the same places. That is to say, in the same vineyard terrains, in the same row of vines, around the same vine plants.

It is important to know that the samples are taken randomly, but the result of the tests will provide us with the same results as if they analysed the whole plot. This process is constantly performed, from veraison, usually in mid-August, until the end of the harvest. In the case of Cuatro Rayas Winery, we take samples on almost all of the 2,300 hectares of vineyard owned by our cooperative members. Once collected and accurately identified, the samples are transferred immediately to the Laboratory at Cuatro Rayas Winery.

When the grapes are in the Laboratory, firstly, they weigh the berries. Next, they crush them to obtain must, and they analyse the acidity and potential alcohol. If the tests meet the desired parameters, they send the results to the Vineyard Department, which will begin to schedule the harvesting of the grape from the plots that were given the green light, right away and as soon as possible.

 

Manual harvest in Cuatro Rayas

When the harvest time comes, the engine of the winery sets in motion. Tractors, trailers, loading hoppers, machines and all technical staff of the winery work at full capacity. Grape pickers also have a key role; even though we harvest the majority of the vineyards in Cuatro Rayas mechanically, gobelet-trained vineyards require manual harvesting.

Today, we came to the vineyard terrain of two brothers, Ignacio and Jacinto Martín, located in Pago Bodeguilla de Serrada (Valladolid). Both are winegrower members of Cuatro Rayas, and during these days, grape pickers work hard to harvest the grapes. The process is completely manual. Nowadays, baskets and old panniers gave way to boxes, where they place the freshly cut bunches, one by one, rejecting the damaged ones. The process requires a delicate and skilful handling, sometimes bordering artisanship, from the cut with the secateurs to the placing into the boxes. Once boxes are filled, they are load into the trailers, and then the load is transferred to the winery in the shortest possible time. In this way, we can maintain, to the extent possible, the temperature and the quality of the grape.

Having a chat with Jacinto Martin made us remember how different harvesting was in years past when everything –absolutely everything– was picked by hand. It had little to do with the economic activity generated nowadays with the sales and the production of wine: harvest was simply a big celebration and a family gathering. It is difficult to forget the picture of the vineyards crowded with children, old people, people of all ages, neighbours from other villages, pack animals, charts, baskets crammed with grapes.
Over the years, first changes arrived, and machines changed harvest into something completely different. The first machines arrived in the region in the 80s from France. At first, winegrowers looked at them askance, but soon enough, they realised their advantages: they picked grapes faster, and they saved many costs, mainly workforce related. However, despite the mechanisation, those precious gobelet-trained vineyards kept by some of the members of Cuatro Rayas Winery deserve human and individual care and attention.

Click here to watch the video

From the bunch to the stem

We have already spoken about the advantages of the mechanical harvest. Its benefits are related to time-saving, harvesting costs, better precision, and the improvement of the quality of the grape. As you can imagine, turning the bunch into a stem in record time and with all the guarantees is another of the great advantages of the mechanical process. Have you ever asked how destemming of the berry from its “skeleton’” is done? Well, let me enlighten you right away. As you already know, the harvesting machine works as it straddles on every row of the vines. It shakes the bunch of grapes vigorously with a kind of “beater bars”. Thanks to the vibratory movements, berries come out of the bunch easily and fall into a conveyor belt housed inside the machine. This method is so effective, that 80% of the bunch – of course, empty – remains on the vine.

But, what happens with the stems that, inevitably, come into the machine? A built-in stalk remover, inside the machine, takes care of it. It is so efficient, that it manages to remove them immediately before the berries enter the hopper. In so doing, the berries are completely free from stems avoiding any foreign object, which could infuse the must with undesired bitter flavours, to come into the press. As you can imagine, destemming is an essential process. Not only removes the berry from the stem, but also many other plant residues, such as leaves and small vine shoots.

In the case of Cuatro Rayas Winery, another advantage of the mechanical destemming is that we do it in the field, making sure that the grapes that go into the winery are completely free of those residues. However, the whole process, which we have just explained finishes with a final check in the cellar, once the trailer comes with the grape load.

Bodega Cuatro Rayas indigenous yeasts

It is not always easy to understand some terms related to the winemaking process. We often hear about yeasts, which are nothing but a microscopic fungus, and are in charge of the alcoholic fermentation when they enter in contact with the must. This is a key process in winemaking. However, not all the yeasts are the same: there are many kinds and species. This time, we will focus on the indigenous yeasts, namely, those that can be found naturally in the grape, without human intervention.

But let’s go one step at a time. Laboratories select commercial yeasts that come from different parts of the world; they are dehydrated products that we add to the must. But indigenous yeasts are a completely different thing; you can imagine how we obtain them with this example: if we go to the vineyard, and we crush a bunch of grapes to obtain the must –and we leave it in a container– after a few days, must fermentation will take place spontaneously through the action of lots of yeasts attached to the skin of the grape. Those are the indigenous yeasts.

Each region, even each vineyard, has its own indigenous yeasts. They are essential because, when performing the alcoholic fermentation, they pass on their distinct character to the wine. This is a part of what we call ‘terroir’, making that wine different to other produced wines, even with the same variety. However, a wine produced like this doesn’t behave in the same way every year, since it won’t develop the same yeasts because the development of the so-called ‘microbial flora’ depends on the weather and environmental conditions and the usage of phytosanitary products. Furthermore, some of these yeasts won’t be able to carry out the alcoholic fermentation completely, or even they could transmit bad aromas and undesired flavours to the wine. For this reason, the vast majority of the wineries use commercial yeasts to carry out a controlled alcoholic fermentation.

In Bodega Cuatro Rayas, we have been performing a selection process of our indigenous yeasts since 2012 vintage, in a project developed with the support of LEW 2050, a company related to the Universidad of Navarra. The Department of Oenology at Bodega Cuatro Rayas is the responsible for this, selecting the most suitable yeasts, among all spontaneous fermentation yeasts, to transmit our wines the character of the vineyards of our region. In this way, using our yeasts, we make wines with character and a particular authenticity.

The Lab team: The sentinels of Cuatro Rayas

The Lab team at Bodega Cuatro Rayas moves with ease among hydrometers, beakers, flasks, test tubes, pipettes and distillation equipment. Equipment set up every day to ensure the wine quality and all the parameters related to it. The team works closely with the other departments, but especially with winemaking, as the winemaker will depend on their analysis to take the right decisions.

In charge of the Lab at Cuatro Rayas is Juncal Gonzalez, who is supported by the assistant Rubén Navarro, two professionals who know not only the ins and outs of their department, but also the wine process in its broadest sense, from the vine to the bottle. Their tasks focus on the analysis of numerous parameters, long before the cork finally closes the bottle. Their work starts at harvest, collecting grape samples, analyzing ripeness indices to determine when harvest can be started. All the grapes from each plot literally pass through their hands, so they can usually be seen alongside the scales when the grapes enter the cellar, testing the sanitary condition of the grapes thanks to their Lab being equipped with infrared technology.

The Lab is the team of sentinels at Cuatro Rayas. All musts coming out of the press are monitored in detail, as are fermentations, measuring the densities and temperatures daily. They also control the condition of the wines from the moment they enter the vats unfiltered, until they end up going through the process of stabilization, before bottling. Precisely this latter process of bottling is where they dedicate a large part of their efforts, since in the final section important parameters such as the fill level volumes of the bottles and the acidity are controlled.

Undoubtedly the work of the quality control Lab is as important as bottling control, the final part of a long process that seeks wine excellence, with rigor, detail and professionalism.

Cuatro Rayas oak 2015: the organic Tempranillo

The winemaker Roberto López guides us in our organic Tempranillo red tasting. This unique wine is part of the Cuatro Rayas range. It has spent three months in oak (French and American) and belongs to the 2015 vintage. The back label displays two stamps: that of the Rueda Designation of Origin and that of the Organic Farming Council. What does the latter mean? Like other wines from our cellar, our organic wine comes from vineyards cultivated using parameters based on respect for the environment, as does its production method.

Tasting allows us to discover the organoleptic qualities of the wine. In this case, the winemaker from Cuatro Rayas, Roberto López pays special attention to the description, step by step from the visual phase, to the olfactory phase to the tasting one. The first thing that strikes us is the color: strong rubyred with purple reflections at the rim. It is clean, bright and of medium intensity. On the nose there are aromas of ripe forest fruits, such as blackberry and raspberry. On the palate, it is smooth and velvety, showing balance and persistence. Undoubtedly, a red wine with character that enriches the Cuatro Rayas range in all its dimensions.

Vineyard Technical Department: professionals down on the vineyard

They are specialists in winegrowing and have a perfect understanding of the vegetative cycle of all varieties. They also understand soil types, the morphology of the vines, sensory analysis of grapes and all the cultural practices needed by the vineyard throughout the year. They are able to make a brief note about pruning, while handling the powerful database that records every detail of their co-op growers’ plots. Through their hands pass the control of a vineyard where Bodega Cuatro Rayas reaches 2,500 hectares, 20% of those registered in the Rueda Designation of Origin. Not only do they patrol the vineyards, but they also serve a membership base of 300 winegrowers: the most powerful cog in the machine at Bodega Cuatro Rayas.

The Technical Vineyard Department at Cuatro Rayas comprises the technical vineyard director, José Martín; in addition to technicians Enrique González, Rebeca Altable and Mercedes Bragado. They work down on the vineyard with a refractometer and are also glued to the computer, monitoring the winegrowing registers and the condition of the vineyard in all seasons. Their duties include such important tasks as the control of the vineyard for all the cooperative members (advisory service in the area of vineyard tasks or treatments, management of new plantations, field notebooks and agricultural insurance) and plot monitoring throughout the growth cycle, from pruning operations to post-harvest.

 

The Technical Vineyard Department also deals with administrative issues related to cooperative members, manages export aid and third countries, as well as organizing such delicate tasks as harvesting, which during the campaign mobilizes the entire department, even doubling it on occasions, until such time as the last grape is harvested and brought into the winery.