Tag Archives: soils

Plot control via Satellite: precision in the vineyard and quality in wines

Cuatro Rayas Winery has launched a project in collaboration with ITACyL (Technologic and Agrarian Institute of Castile and Leon) to make a precise monitoring of particular plots of our winegrower members. All of them have a common denominator: the vigour of the vineyard. It is not always the same, that is why there are three differentiating levels: high, medium and low. This is a very precise project in determining this feature, as we have the advantage that the plots have been identified through satellite images. In this way, we can observe the evolution of the vineyard in detail, which is very important for any work done on site.

Once the plots are identified, the project envisages the establishment of two working groups to carry out their monitoring: on one side a group formed by the technical team of ITACyL and on the other hand, the technical and oenology teams of Cuatro Rayas Winery. Both groups of professionals perform the same tasks, in the vineyard and the laboratory. Including sample taking, grape harvesting and even the analysis of the material and the subsequent winemaking. That is to say, we address the process thoroughly, from the vine to the wine, but separately and taking into account the vigour of the plots. The only difference is that while the institute works with small amounts, the winery applies the same sampling criteria but on a larger scale.

What it is exciting about this job is the contrast of both working team results on the same sample. It is still early to reveal them, as the collaboration project consists of two years, but this detailed work intends to draw conclusions that will allow us to improve the future quality of the wines. Carrying out vertical sampling will show, in the future, results to be taken into account and they will have an impact even when organising the harvesting.

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.

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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.