Viticulture

Viticulture

In the middle of the harvest we observe the vineyards. They have come this far, with all their might, in spite of the drought, in spite of the wind, in spite of the risk of fire this summer. We are very grateful to be able to work and harvest their fruits. We thanks nature to be able to take care of them.

The vegetable covers are yellow, the color of the straw dominates, if it were not the leaves and underneath, the grapes that we now harvest, we would say that the earth cannot bear fruit like this. Plants teach us slow adaptation to changing climatic conditions, resilience is their most authentic way of life. Our obsession is to make their future easy, creating spaces so that the water does not carry away the soils, redoing the dry stone walls, using drip irrigation very occasionally.

We keep on going on harvest ????

To determine the optimal degree of ripeness of the grapes, we carry out periodic checks in the vineyards. Every day, a few grains to taste, observe and analyze.

Today we checked the ripeness and maturity of the white grenache vineyards, in Vilajuïga, the first to ripen and harvest. We repeat steps in stages to see small variations and find the best time to harvest. In this case the seeds are not yet woody, that is, green. In addition, a slight sour taste indicates that we still have a little to go before we can start, but we are already close. After collecting the samples, we press the grains, and taste the must. Here we will have more data on acidity, sugar, taste. As if that wasn’t enough, we finally also analyze this must. The scientific data usually ends up corroborating the conclusions we had already reached tasting, but we have to split hairs to be perfect!

After today’s tastings, everything is an evidence that the harvest is very close. At this point, after all the efforts and joys that the vineyard gives us, we are very happy to start harvesting 🙂

Verol  is when the grape begins to take on the color it has when it is ripe. It is one of the most beautiful changes of the vine. It should be fast and uniform. Moving from the color with which all the berries are born, green, to all the shades of the grape we know. It is a key ripening process for the grapes. In our vineyards we often see the logical evolution considering altitude and latitude, they are a few meters apart. The variations are subtle, but we find them there and they surprise us every year.

Thus, we have make an effort to deeply observe in order to describe you all the variety between terroirs in this post. The first to verol are those of the plain, black and white grenache, macabeos and other grapes that we use for younger wines. They are the origin of the winery, where we started and from where we have been learning what we know.

Then we have the mountain vineyards of Vilajuïga, granite enclave, rugged terraprim full of aromatic plants. They were planted between 1998 and 2002, and much of it was Anna’s final master’s project. We started to climb the mountain again to rediscover the authentic Empordà terroirs. They are 25 hectares completely ecological, of black varieties, where the Mediterranean ones predominate. It was also our first experience when rebuilding terraces, so important to prevent erosion in our climate of heavy rains.

Later, it is the turn of Rabós, very old vineyards, between 30 and more than a hundred years old, with varieties such as carinyenes, black, white and red Grenache. Old and wise vineyards, always planted on slates. These are very low yields, which give complexity and power. We looked for vineyards that taught us who we are, who we were, and we found these gems.

The last estate is Mas Marés, vineyards by the sea, in Cap de Creus. They are ecological grenache, picapoll and monestrell in an agroforestry project that aims to recover the Mediterranean mosaic by combining vineyards with cork oaks, pastures and steppes. Here we find granites, north wind and sea wind, the ideal sum to make very Mediterranean wines: complex, intense and delicate.

It is said that in variety there is wealth and we add that also a path for learning!

Soils are one of the most precious elements of a vineyard, perhaps the most important. The land and its wealth are essential to have happy vineyards that produce good fruit. But not only. It is also in the soils where it all begins, where the roots settle. If we have well-structured soils we will have more microorganisms and more macrobiota and therefore more life. Living soils will help us make a better wine. Green roofs or the reconstruction of dry stone walls are two of the active measures we have taken for this purpose. Today World Soil Conservation Day we remember that caring for our soils gives us many benefits in viticulture. Moreover, they are the first stone so that the earth in twenty, thirty, forty years from now, is more structured, needs less water and our work with him is more harmonious. In our Mediterranean landscape, with torrential rains and intense droughts, good soil management is essential in order to  to have a sustainable and wealthfull agriculture in the future.  It has benn I while since we became part of the European project MIDMACC, which aim is to study the effects of climate change on the vineyard and how we can adapt to them. The results we hope will be revealing. We will keep you informed!

Since we know that the climate change is almost irreversible we do not stop asking us what we can do to adapt us in. Of course the world is in a climatic emergency, whose effects stil we are not aware of.

The MIDMACC research project, part of the European program Europa Life, has been working in our vineyards for more than a year to find answers to a question we often ask ourselves: are we doing everything we can to cushion climate change? Mid-mountain vineyards, such as those we have in Mas Marés, can be a good tool to prevent erosion and therefore influence the consequences of climate change. Researchers have placed small machines in the vineyards to find out how the water moves in our vineyards, because this gives us clues about soil erosion. These data will help us determine the differences, at the environmental level, between working in gobelet-trained or in trellis.

Collecting data is a very subtle way to open a window into the future. We hope to be able to tell you all the fruits.

When spring breaks out, it’s a good time to graft. We’ve had some grafts for a few months now. The story comes from a dreamy vineyard, because year after year the wine that comes out of it is good, very good. We’ve visited the vineyard many times and it’s beautiful. We’ve been in love with it for a long time and we finally decided. We asked the winemaker for wood to reproduce. Now we can have a little bit of it at home and we can’t be happier.

The vines we grafted were from Merlot, from the vineyards that are closest to the winery. Adding these local varieties of old vines we created a frankenstein vine, as Miquel Hudin would say, but for us they are daisies next to Lake Léman. Having vines replanted with local varieties has become one of our main goals to reduce the environmental impact of our work. We have been observing the behavior of plants in the face of climate change for some time and we have found that those that are best adapted to it are those of local varieties.

We know that today’s work will bear fruit in the near future. It won’t be until a few years from now that this vineyard will give us wood to reproduce more vines, and we’ll also have to wait a while to make wine. A long journey to achieve sustainable viticulture, with vines that need less water and more resistant to climatic conditions in the area. A path that is also a tribute to the legacy of the viticulturists who preceded us: this encounter, the vineyard that we fell in love with some time ago, the wood that a good viticulturist, who has cared for it for so long, has offered us. All in all, a gift for the future of our landscape and the winemaking tradition of the Empordà.

This week finally wind stopped and were able to restart cuttings planting.

The cuttings are the feet of the vine, which after a while will carry the graft of the variety we choose. The rootstocks are planted and left for a year or two to adapt well to the soil. All the vines we have are grafted with American vine, a foot, therefore, which is not of local variety;)

However, all the vines are grafted and in fact it is the only way we have so that the phylloxera does not make the plant sick.

A few days ago we told you that one of the jobs we do during the winter is to uproot varieties that we have seen over time that did not adapt and did not give very good yields. In recent years, and thanks to the study of the library of varieties of the old vineyards, we have rediscovered varieties that lived among us, more or less forgotten, such as the white Carignan, the black Picapoll, the red Picapoll or the red Granache.

In a year or two, we will choose one of these local varieties and be able to start grafting plants. In the meantime, it’s time to wait and follow nature’s long cycles.

It has been a long time since we decided that we want to work with local varieties such as Grenache, Carignan, Muscat, Picapolla. There are several reasons, but surely the most important is because they are varieties very adapted to our soils and our climate and therefore this already makes the fruits better, because the plant can concentrate on making them the best it knows instead of fighting inclement weather, such as the north wind. These strains of local varieties need less water and have periods of sprouting and maturity fully adapted to our climate. They are definitely more sustainable!

We also do it because of the legacy, the tradition and everything that those who were there before us have taught us. The unique nature of these varieties will also give us the wines we want, deeply Empordà. The varieties are adapted to the north wind, need less water and have periods of sprouting and maturity adapted to our climate.

From time to time it is time to uproot vines, because more than thirty years ago we planted other varieties from outside. At the time, they were called “improvers” because they believed they could benefit the terroir. Now we know much more and in fact they have helped us to improve in our work, we have learned a lot from them and we thank them for all this learning. The ones we still have are uprooted little by little every year, some of which we replant with local varieties such as Grenache, Carignan of all colors, Picapoll, Muscat and Malvasias.

Winegrowers, like all farmers, live in permanent uncertainty. This year this tradition has allowed us to embrace this difficult vintage with love. We took the opportunity to connect with the earth like never before.

We already knew that we wanted the vineyards and the environment that surrounds them to be one: vineyards together in armony with the natural parks of Cap de Creus, Albera and a little further the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà. We knew that the vineyards and the wild life are synergistic and that they protect each other. It’s an idea that doesn’t come out of the blue, but it’s a resulta of 20 years of work. This year we achived the ecological certification of all the vineyards and, although it is only a milestone in the path we are taking, it is quite significant.

This vintage, that we just harvested a few days ago, began a year ago. It was autumn and we had torrential rains that scared us for its virulence. The decision was to prioritize erosion containment as the primary reason for any decision-making in viticulture. The earth, the soils, are the basis of all life, and they must be preserved.

In the winter, Gloria, although it did not affect us much, reaffirmed all the thoughts of autumn and reminded us again that the climate is changing and that we do not want to be party to that.

And when spring was starting to blow its nose, COVID arrived. Then it was time to put into practice all the learnings about the uncertainty we had learned and also those of the generations before us (thank you Grandma Quimeta!). The big challenge was that no one would lose their jobs. Despite not knowing what would happen, the harvest would go ahead. The team became stronger.

And then THE RAIN. Rain and more rain and more rain and more rain. Be careful with your dreams, they might come true. The vineyards had never been such green and full of life. We had time to look at them in a different way: with much more calm and with the feeling that stepping on them heals our souls and removes our fears. The vineyard is grateful and knows that we take care of it like never before and it gives us fruits despite the difficulties and the mildew. We were happy and grateful.

In May, fifteen days of drought changed the landscape. And when summer came, we thought drought was important. The vigor of the vineyards stopped abruptly and the viticultural landscape that had been green until then became earthy. Eventually the fungus stopped and we were able to breathe a little quietly.

Finally, the harvest, one that we will remember: full of senseless scares. We looked compusively at the weather radars that signaled approaching hailstones or torrents but never reached us. Thanks Earth. The wild boar did not respect us so much and we had to harvest some vines earlier to get there before them. The feeling of helplessness is terrible. It has been too difficult to see how the grapes from whole vineyards disappear. We decided to close vineyards and concentrate again.

The vintage has been an endless obstacle course. However, the harvest has been quiet. The cellar has been slowly filling up, a little every day. Now the slowness of the vine is transmitted to the vats. We separate plots and parcels and we thank them for showing us the character of each. We have learned slowness in doing, in thinking. It helps us to be more aware and to better understand the profession and the land that sees us living on. And so we face autumn, looking forward the vintage that is already taking shape.

Anna Espelt Delclós

It’s August, we already feel the end of summer and, even so, there are still a few emotions to uncover. It has been a complicated year, we all know it, Covid-19 has turned the world upside down, and the climate emergency is becoming more present year after year: this 2020 with the Gloria, the high temperatures and the rain that seemed that would never end. From time to time, we receive good news, such as the excellent scores from the Peñín Guide 2021 and the recent eco certification of all Espelt wines since this vintage, milestons that help us to continue with strength.

It has been a complicated year, we all know it, Covid-19 has turned the world upside down, and the climate emergency is becoming more present year after year: this 2020 with the Gloria, the high temperatures and the rain that seemed that would never end. From time to time, we receive good news, such as the excellent scores from the Peñín Guide 2021 and the recent eco certification of all Espelt wines since this vintage, milestons that help us to continue with strength.

However, we have renewed strength every time we see that year after year the biodiversity indicators of the vineyards improve, and that the land, the soils, our most precious legacy, which we also take care of every day, they withstand storm surges, torrents and everything that the weather puts them ahead. Making wine respecting the territory has a very high reward for the planet, the Earth, and sometimes also a more mundane recognition —but of which we are very proud— such as the organic certification that all Espelt wines will wear from this harvest after many years of working in eco and improving processes.

It was the year 2000 when Didier Soto from Mas Estela told Anna Espelt: “in the Empordà we should all make local and eco varieties”. Saying it then was revolutionary, doing it seemed impossible. But Anna, then a recent graduate in Biology and with a strong connection to associations in defense of the natural heritage of the region, found that that phrase made all the sense and that this must be the path of Espelt wines. Years later, Anna decided to spend a part of the vineyards in organic viticulture, it was 2003 and the beginning of a carrer that after many learnings has led us to what is now Espelt. Our work focuses on a preventive cure of the vines: taking care of soils, and using compound and treatments, when there is no other option, with products allowed in eco viticulture, such as copper and horsetail. We have overcome a very difficult year with these tools and we must celebrate it.

Working organically is for us the only way to keep the soils alive and also to understand the terroir that is nourished by everything that surrounds it, seeking the synergy of the four elements: the soil, the plant, the climate and the viticulturist. This new stage that we are now beginning reaffirms and recognizes our desire to be part of the landscape and ecosystems. Because sometimes it is not enough to love the land, you also have to take courageous steps to change the way things have been done so far. We still live glued to the meteocat radar fearing hail, now we only think on how proud we fell of every little work we have done. So let’s enjoy and toast to this vintage that has just begun. Cheers!

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