EWGA go to Harvest

In late September, Jack and Dan, from the sales team, went out to watch and pick the 2017 Rioja harvest in Cenicero, Rioja with Bodegas Riojanas, accompanied by Dave Roles, the UK ambassador for Riojanas, Sam Webb from the Grand Hotel Lytham and Kieran Raven from The Langdale Estate.

The harvest in Rioja begins only when the Consejor Regulador allows picking to commence, once they are satisfied with the ripeness and sugar content in the grapes. This announcement is marked by the start of the Fiesta San Marcos, a celebration in Logrono and neighbouring towns to celebrate the new harvest with wineries parading around the town with a brass band wearing their own colour neckerchief.

Logrono is famed for having the largest number of tapas bars and each bar specialised in a certain dish, most notably the pineapple prawns and the garlic mushrooms.

The group was escorted around the vineyards near Cenicero in La Rioja by Pablo, one of the wineries winemakers, tasting the different varietal grapes from the vines and inspecting the condition of the vines (mostly bush vines, also some trellising). It was interesting to see the stoney soil was dominated by large pudding stones (large, round, smooth stones), similar to the vineyards of the Rhone Valley.

During the second morning, the group took part in picking and watched a team hand pick a vineyard. Picking takes place early morning until midday and from 3-7pm to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. The grapes were collected and delivered to the winery by the trailer load, dumped into a pit before moving into a destemming machine. 

Estre, a winery tour guide showed the group the working winery, which was constantly busy pressing the grapes and moving the juice - the winery is designed to take advantage of gravity to move the juice into the fermenting tanks.

Bodegas Riojanas also use some traditional method carbonic maceration in large pits to crush the grapes and use the juice to blend, 10% in the Monte Real Tempranillo. Estre and Pablo were able to show the group the pumping over process and taste some of the free run juice.

Bodegas Riojanas have their own bottling plant, which delivers 8/10,000 bottles per hour bottling the juice, an amazing spectacle to watch.

Throughout our visit, Pablo was constantly talking us through tastings, why the wines gave certain characteristics and how he is able to influence the wine with different techniques. Pablo demonstrated the stirring of the lees in the Monte Real Blanco the barrel fermented style. 

The winery is dominated by barrels, and vast amounts of wine ageing. On the last day we were taken off site and shown around the cooperage. There, they explained the process of making the barrels from American Oak, using both steam (a more modern process) and fire to shape and char the wood to influence the wine.

It was great to see such an interesting time in Rioja and the winery and to see the whole process from grape to glass.