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In For Work, Out for Play

The first two weeks in Magallon; The Whites, The Parentals and the People

sunny 24 °C

Then on saturaday, I went to zaragoza and checked into the only hostal in zaragoza. I figure I would get to know them because my town is small and zaragoza is my escape from the country side and the small town life. Once in a while I love being lost and going unnoticed in a big city. Fine. That’s a lie, a like doing that quite a bit.

That night my highschool friends gathered wherever they were in the world and thanks to such advances such as the internet and skype were able to select their fantasy football teams in multiple continents. I know it’s nerdy and dorky, but it is a tradition and Fantasy Football unites are friends as few things can these days. We might be 10,000 miles away from each other, but at least I can still talk smack to every one each week as my receiving core puts a smackdown on them. My team is good and I was very happy with the draft. More so I was just happy to talk with everybody, I miss ‘em.

I went back to Zaragoza that night and got comfortable for the next days work. I got up early and walked down the street, with everyone noting my new, distinct un-Magalloness. Perhaps it was that I don’t smell bad. No, it might have been the fact that I like vegetables that sets me apart. Whatever it was they all say “holadios” as I pass. At first I was like, ‘wow, these people are cool, they think Im god. But no, they just don’t pronounce the second ‘a’ sound. That would be redundant.

Work was great the first couple of days. All I did was shadow a cellar worker, named Jose Miguel, or Fuentes. He is el major and our goal became getting me to become el major de California so he could come work for me. In the morning we did a tour of the winery and in the afternoon we cleaned tanks. At lunch I went with Paz to Fuendejalon, the other coop just 8km away to have lunch. I almost forgot, Paz is my Chilean roommate. She is nice, always laughing and helps me with words I don’t know in Spanish. My vocab is getting re-worked and expanded. Everything is called something else and I often don’t know the key word to understand how the feel about something. It sucks but it will better as time goes on.

The first week is great as work is light, the jobs can be done in time and aren’t rushed. But Fuentes always is telling me how it is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets a whole lot better. Boy was he right.

That Saturday I began doing duties independently, as I was now comfortable with all the equipment in the winery. I spent a lot of time cleaning, getting everything ready for the whites that would be coming in starting on Monday. We were to hit the ground running on Monday as Chardonnay would be the start of a long, 5-8 week harvest.

After work, I took the 40 minute bus ride and met my parents in Zaragoza. I was sooooo happy to see them and man was my mom happy as well. It had been three months without seeing them and it was great to be reunited. My dad had vacation during these next two weeks and they’ve always wanted to go to Barcelona and northern Spain. Me working here was just the excuse they needed for a holiday in Spain. We went out for a nice dinner, hit the sack and woke up early to hit the town. Unfortunately if you’ve ever been to Europe and especially Spain, eeeeveeeryyything is closed on Sundays. Everything. But that didn’t stop my mom as we filled the day with a tour of the city through the lens of Goya, the city’s most famous artist. We had lunch and then went to the Alhaferia, a Moor castle that the Christians then put a church right over it. Pretty sweet stuff. We walked around and enjoyed the great company. Next weekend I would take AVE, the high speed train and go to meet in Barcelona. I must admit I was a little excited for the end of the next week.

Before I got to work at ten(I have the later shift), the grapes were already being poured into the hoper. It was Chard and it I have to admit, the first Chard was a little green and phenolic, but in a large winery, that is exactly the challenge. Sometimes you just don’t get good grapes and you have to manage making quality wine. Easier said then done. So the Chards go direct to press and we are trying a relatively new technique called flotation, a method that uses nitrogen to bond to insoluble solids and floats them on the surface. You can then get clear juice by transferring the juice from the bottom and stopping once you have hit the foam. You know Guinness, it has really stable foam because of its high protein content and use of N2 instead of CO2. Its the same idea here. To increase the stability and clarity of the juice, we use fining agents, gelatin(yeah, that’s not a typo, gelatin) and bentonite(a clay) to bind to proteins and polysaccharides that could form instabilities later on. So floatation is letting a pint of Guinness sit there for two hours and then sucking the beer out of the bottom and leaving the foam on top. And yes, we ferment the foam as well. Dee-sgusting, but don’t worry it gets distilled.

The floatation machine isn’t exactly straight forward and it takes me about two days to really understand what is going on and be able to operate it on my own. It is not so straight forward and there are a lot of parts to the system. Making things harder is that everything the first couple of days goes wrong with it, so we are constantly troubleshooting and figuring out what piece needs to be addressed. Making things even worse is the high amounts of grape skins and seeds that clog up the rough filter and cause us to loose pressure every five to 15 mintutes. Ughhhhhhhh!!

My lunch break has been shortened from 2 hours to one hour, so going anywhere is simply out of the question. After work Paz, the girls and I usually go out if we aren’t too tired. On Wednesday we went to Tarazona, a nearby town and celebrated as the town was having their annual festivities.

Working with Fuentes is awesome, we have a lot of fun together and joke about how nothing works in the winery, how there’s a lot of money in Spain and just about every other topic we can have fun with. We have had some heated discussions about interesting topics, some tasteful and other not so tasteful. The Chileans have this thing where they think the Spaniards are Africans because they share a common tectonic plate. I am like excuse me, we don’t classify continents by tectonic plates anymore guys. Anyways, I think you know where I am going with this. But the relationship with Fuentes is awesome and having eachother’s back during harvest is important. Those guys can pick you up or break you on a long, stressful day. I think people need more pickin up then pushing down.

Right now most of the work is separating out free run and press fractions, transferring them from the press pan through a cooling, tube in tube ‘interchamber’ and into a cooling holding tank. From there we use flotation and separate them into lots. There are four plastic tanks that we use to settle the juice as it does its things and floats. From there we transfer them into larger tanks to ferment.
In the begining of the day I spend a lot of time floating and transferring wines and on the days that there are select, specially classified grapes, we inoculate them with yeast. Yet inoculating a 50,000L tank isn’t exactly throwing some yeasties in the and letting them rip.
So, here’s what I do. A. get hot water only that there is no hot water in the main winery. Yes, mucho dinero en espana. So I have to go to the bottling line a block away with buckets on a carrito (while my Spanish vocab is increasing my English vocab is shrink oh it’s a dolly. I hang 40 liters of water in two buckets on the handles and go back to the main winery. B. Commercial yeast usually come in dehydrated form so that they can be used when ever. So to rehydrate them I sprinkle em over the hot water. By the way this is in a 1000 liter, square plastic bin. You can see them rehydrate as they swell and become metabolically active. Then you add juice, but you have to be careful cause a large temperature swing will ‘shock’ the yeast and kill them. So you have to add the juice a little at a time. I then pretty much do fermentation management until its ready to go in. I add it once it is a certain specific gravity.

Let me explain, sugar is much denser then alcohol and you can estimate the stage of the fermentation and the amount of sugar in the solution by measuring how dense it is. Water has a SG of 1000. So the more dense it is the more sugar there is and the less alcohol. Once it goes below a thousand, you know that it has little to no sugar left and its resting and its terminal minima(hopefully) is dependent on how much sugar there was to be begin with and how efficient the yeast were at converting it into alcohol. The max chemical efficiency is .6(1 mol of sugar goes to .6 mol of ethanol) but in practice it is around . 575. That’s pretty good. They must really want NAD+, and that makes us all really happy.

The only thing that can screw up this measurement is glycerol. It can be made be made by our yeast buddies or our mutual enemy, Botrytis cinera, a mold that infects the grape and by far the cause of most rot. Glycerol makes it more viscous, which is great in the finished wines but throws off SG readings. That and a simple temperature correction is needed if it strays from 20 degrees C.

So yeah that is what I do. Just got into Barce, met up with my parents and Im gonna go to bed. We leave for Girona manana and then go to Figeras, the home of Dali on Sunady.
Ciao ciao.

Posted by dvpescet 13:26 Archived in Spain

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