Tag Archives: winery

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.

 

Wine Press: from Roman wine press to oxygen free atmosphere

Just a few implements have contributed such efficiently to the development of winemaking as presses.  Even though modern wineries do not use Roman wine presses anymore, the main idea remains.  Wooden beams have given way to more modern materials, and nowadays, human power is not necessary to put into operation the pressing process.  Much water has flowed under the bridge between the Roman beam time and the modern systems of pressing. In fact, Cuatro Rayas Winery has given priority to the technology area, being always equipped with the best technology solutions for winemaking.

In this regard, we want to talk to you about the Inertis pneumatic press system, which works in the total absence of oxygen atmosphere, with the aim to protect the must during the pressing process. In so doing, we avoid the development of oxidation, a consequence of the losses of aromas in the musts, which are the key to the quality of our future white wines. Without a doubt, it is one of the most delicate processes for the grapes before they transform into wine. Further, in our case, these Inertis pneumatic presses are environmentally friendly, consuming very little energy and managing to rework the nitrogen generated during every process. The press we use at Cuatro Rayas Winery is part of our most advanced technological equipment. Undoubtedly, a new example of the cutting-edge technology in service of the quality and the wines of the 21st Century.

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.

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.

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.