Tag Archives: spanish wine

Cuatro Rayas Cuarenta Vendimias Sauvignon Blanc

Just a few things are as pleasing as uncorking a bottle and tasting the wine. We burst with excitement when we observe how it entices our senses, the complexity of its nuances, the colour, and the aromas and how palate-pleasing it is. In the next video, you can watch a wine tasting of the white wine Cuatro Rayas Cuarenta Vendimias Sauvignon Blanc.

Elena Martín Oyagüe will guide us. She is the successor of Ángel Calleja –also a winemaker– and worked closely with him for two decades. She signs this special selection, produced with grapes from vineyards planted in 1990, which there are four hectares now. If you have the chance to assist a Cuatro Rayas Cuarenta Vendimias live wine tasting, you will confirm that the description fits perfectly to the wine you are about to taste.

Elena knows this wine very well and, among all its qualities, she highlights the colour, a bright pale yellow colour. It also has a fresh nose, with citric fruit, mint and white flowers hints. On the palate, again, you can pick the citric fruit hints and it shows a refreshing acidity. When pairing, the range of dishes and products is as wide as consumer’s taste, but we know it never disappoints if you pair it with fish, shellfish and cold soups and creams. We hope you enjoy this wine as much as we do when we uncork a bottle. Cheers!

 

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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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.

Century Old Vines, historical and human heritage of the winery

Beyond sentimental value, an old photograph provides extremely valuable information. Even though the passage of time has slightly faded it or despite the poor quality of the image, the fact is that to behold such a flash of the past is like holding a small treasure. The picture we want to show you today was taken almost 80 years ago in the same place where the participants in the next video are having a chat: José Martín del Campo, vineyard technical director at Cuatro Rayas, and two of the members of the winery, Carlos Gómez Sanz and Alfredo Barreras Agüero. These latter two have a lot to do with the picture since some of their close family members appear in the black and white photograph. In this historical harvest-season setting, children, parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents pose next to pack animals, baskets, carts and large grape bunchs. Although 80 years have passed, the vines were there long before that.

 

 

Now, this group picture comes out from this family photo album becoming a documentary source, as the vines behind the image are the same that nowadays remain in the vineyard –where our three guests are sitting– in the municipal district of Aldeanueva del Codonal, Segovia. In fact, this area preserves the largest amount of century-old vines, since they were uprooted in many neighbouring villages. Locals have always referred to this area as Las Viñas Viejas (“The Old Vines”); even though only this small parcel of land remains, the entire vineyard used to stretch back to the pine forests that stand today at the far edge of the landscape. Bodega Cuatro Rayas owns a century-old vineyard in this area, including 10 hectares of pre-phylloxera vines without rootstock. Likewise, some members of the winery own a large area of vineyards, which apparently were planted 80 years ago. In other words, a great richness that some of the Bodega Cuatro Rayas members treasure since they decided to keep these small vineyards in the plots that some of their ancestors planted. They are true hidden treasures and their grapes, the most coveted fruit. Nowadays, they cherish these vine plants as their elder ones, because they bear little fruit, but what they do produce is of outstanding quality.

We also brought to the estate two of the wines made with these century-old grapes from this type of plots. Our guests hold in their hands two of Bodega Cuatro Rayas’ gems: Amador Díez (Verdejo Cuvée) of the 2015 vintage and Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios, a white Verdejo of the 2016 vintage. From this old picture to the modern wines, only 80 vegetative cycles have passed, and many more still to be harvested, bunch by bunch.

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.

Natural, synthetic or screw cap? The cork revolution

When a bottle is placed on a table, the ritual of serving the wine begins. While the uncorking releases it from its container and allows us to taste it, rarely do we look at the type of material used to close the bottle. Let’s talk about cork, the material that seals most of the wine bottles produced in the world. However, when closing a bottle, new materials are sometimes as versatile as they are unknown. Undoubtedly, there are significant differences between them, so today we are going to explain their characteristics and common applications.

Generally, there are three types of stoppers: cork, synthetic and natural. Cuatro Rayas uses all of them in their bottling, but always chooses the one that best fits the needs of each wine: it all depends on how we want it to evolve once bottled. Until not long ago, cork was the only option to stop a bottle. There are four types: natural (extracted from a single piece of cork oak); the so-called ‘colmated’ stopper (also extracted from a piece of cork, but lower quality); the agglomerated cork (manufactured with cork granules or chips); and ‘technical’ stoppers (with an agglomerate body, but natural disks). What are their advantages? Cork is a light, elastic, porous and resilient product. It also facilitates the conservation and evolution of a wine and allows a small amount of oxygen to pass through its pores. Among the disadvantages are the feared TCA, i.e., tainted cork aromas, which sometimes occur in the wine.

Synthetic stoppers do not come from the cork oak bark. They are made from ‘thermoplastic elastomers’, i.e., plastic materials with elastic properties. Synthetic stoppers are either made by extrusion or injection (two terms which only determine how they are manufactured) and figuring among their advantages is that do not give any TCA problems, offer a wide range of colors and allow the uncorking ritual to continue. Their drawbacks are reflected in the preservation of wine, since they allow hardly any oxygen through, preventing that the wines evolve in the bottle.

There is a third option: the screw cap. It is made with aluminum coated with different materials. Technically the perfect closure. In addition, it is very handy. However, it does not allow any oxygen through and, of course, no uncorking takes place as it is opened by turning the cap on the bottle mouth.

Cuatro Rayas 2016 organic verdejo: the most natural bet

Its existence demonstrates every day that it is possible to grow and produce within the parameters of environmental respect. The ‘organic winegrowers’ – that is to say, those who defend the cultivation of their grapes under these criteria- guarantee that looking to the future, another way of making wine is possible. From among the array of new 2016 vintages, the young white varieties verdejo and sauvingnon blanc are well known, but there is a third path, that does not exclude, but rather enriches everything we do-, a production endowed with a distinct personality that closes the triumvirate of the young Cuatro Rayas wines. It is the organic verdejo.

The white Cuatro Rayas 2016 organic verdejo is made exclusively from the grapes from 20 hectares of vineyards, distributed between La Seca (Valladolid) and Aldeanueva del Codonal (Segovia). In all, this year 120,000 kilos of grapes were harvested, which translates into 100,000 bottles of exclusive organic verdejo. The harvest is manual and almost all of the vineyard is goblet trained. The winegrower that follows the organic practice guarantees the absence of fertilizers and pesticides. The production method follows the same parameters as the rest of the wines, except that it eliminates the addition of sulfur dioxide and the maceration excludes the press because it is done in tanks. The new vintage will be available in March, 2017.

Are there many differences in its tasting notes? Yes, for example, in the color. In this case we are talking about an intense lemon yellow (clean, bright, transparent). Notes of violet, ripe stewed fruit, stone fruit and a hint of peach. On the palate it is smooth, with body. The ripe fruit and its obvious long aftertaste are perceived in retronasal. And, with regard to the bottle, we strongly recommend that you look at the back label, because next to the stamp of the DO Rueda you will also find the certification of the CAECYL, the Council of Organic Farming of Castille and Leon, which guarantees compliance with all the legal regulations.