Archive for October, 2012

Alambique

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

No vindima in Portugal is complete without the last part of the process of wine production. Once the wine has been separated from the skins and pips and put to ferment in casks or bottles, the remaining must is distilled to produce aguardente.

It was never my intention to get into distilling – I rarely drink spirits – but while discussing matters spiritual with two of the area’s greatest exponents in the village above us, it emerged there was a surplus alambique in the village which the scrap man had his eyes on. With what seemed ridiculous haste, I found myself a short while later the owner of a venerable 80-litre copper alembic or pot still, scratching my head over what I was going to do with it, but somehow certain it was a Good Idea to have rescued it from certain meltdown. If nothing else, I was thinking biofuels …

A copper alembic or alambique

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Vindima

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Grape harvest! And our first real harvest.

When we came here, the vines had been left unpruned for some time and we had to cut them right back to a manageable size, taking away most of the previous year’s new wood (ie. the next year’s fruiting wood) because it was all too far from the main stem. This meant a very meagre harvest in our first year. Last year, the late rains in May did for pretty much the entire valley. The combination of heat and rain are perfect conditions for fungal diseases to flourish and the young fruit rotted as it formed, regardless of whether it had been doused with chemicals or just left, as we did. But being busy with building, it wasn’t so much of a disaster and we still had grape juice left from the previous year.

This year we’ve had a decent amount. There are still many vines in desperate need of some TLC to bring them back into best fruiting condition, but it’s going to have to wait until we’ve completed most of the building and can concentrate on growing full time.

Alvarelhão red wine grapes ready for harvest

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