Tag Archives: viñedos

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.

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.