Chapter 2 Sensations

11th of September

With my daily tasks, I lose track of the harvest process. In the office, I overear something about the collection of Chardonnay, and realised that it is almost a moth that I haven’t talked with Susana. Rapidly, I text her to ask when could I join when harvesting. She reassures me; they have just picked out some grape samples and the following day harvest would not take place.

“Degrees are still too low. Syrah variety is the most advanced one in terms of maturity. We are going to stop the irrigation of this parcel and next Thursday, around 8:30am we’ll check it and decide if it can be harvested on Friday.”

And I, I just join them to watch the grapes.

13 of September

Today I have been able to experience the importance of sampling: in both, analytical and sensorial ways. I arrive early to the winery. Susana put me in context. Meanwhile, I can help but filling my notebook with comments and notes.

  1. Last week the harvest started with the variety Tempranillo. The output was maximised: we obtained white wine that will be part of the wine Blanco de Tempranillo, red wine as the basis for the elaboration of other wines and last but not least, rosé. This is possible due to early Tempranillo grapes bleeding (so the skin of the grape do not cede any colour. Other portion of the grapes is pressed to obtain rosé and the remaining part is left in the tank to get strong red wine.
  2. Today we will sample 3 varieties: Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot.
    1. The grape with the highest temperature is Chardonnay (which is employed to elaborate our Talva). Last week it was close to 13o
    2. Syrah grapes were tasted the previous week too. On a first sampling, everything indicated that the grape was ready to be picked. A second sampling was done next day and the result was quite the opposite. We have hold our horses and be patient.

We get ready to go to the vineyard. In the car, I continue taking multiple notes; this time about the following matters.

  1. The sampling procedure
  2. Senasations vs parameters
  3. Observations of each grape type

Sampling procedure

  1. Grapes from different parts of the bunch are picked up (specifically from the top and the bottom, the right and the left) A drawing is enclosed. Moreover, a same row of vines of a grape variety will be sampled. The aim is to obtain a high representativeness of the simpl
  1. We are a team of 3 people. Each of us will select 40 grapes. We’ll coordinate as follows:

What is it analysed when sampling?

It depends. The response is easy in broader terms; it is all about examining some parameters as the facility of peeling the grapes or it hardness (the harder the riper). The difficult part is to assume the importance of the sensations of the day. Even if the temperature is the optimal, if sensory the grape is not perceived to be ready, we will not picked it up (it will happen the same for the maceration).

About the different grape types

Chardonnay; row 65. In this case the sedes are not relevant, because these will not be include in the maceration process. Now fruit flavour is seeked. Today, fruity notes are percieved, much more intense than last week. Personally, having tasted and recognised these flavours is especially gratifying. So much so that I take care of the hundred grapes I have in my hands, the same that Susana will analyse in the lab.




Syrah; rows 70-71. The variety Syrah is special in Pago del Vicario. Syrah grapes have a very thin skin, that will be a foundamental part of our lighter wines. The fruit cede colourful and intense tones due to the presence of anthocyanins. Accordingly, grapes undergo a fast maceration process. It skin is comparably softer. Today the skin is softer than the previous week.

Its taste is singular; it is said that there are is not middle ground opinions when it comes to wines that are elaborated with Syrah. Either you love them or avoid them at all cost. Further, it is told that wine lovers adore it and that it provides animal notes such as leather, or even horse sweat. In our case, fortunately, it gives hints of black olives.

A last point. The parcels of Syrah are in the middle of a process of adaptation. Vines formations are guided upwards to foster the growth of the plant to a higher point. The aim is to prevent the direct incidence of the sun, achieving in this way, a more homogenous ripening of the fruit.

Merlot; rows 50-51. This year is rather atypical for the variety Merlot. The grapes are unusually bigger since, as it happens with Syrah grapes, the vines are also undergoing a level up adaptation process. Thus, bunches are concentred and compounded of a greater number of fruits. Promptly, I discern the difference in the characteristics of the abovemention grape types: Syrah grapes form is egg-shapped, while Merlot are completely rounded. 

Not only this variety cede color but also hints of sugars are particularly present. This type provides the most intense fruit palet than any other variety at Pago del Vicario. In such way, it has a notable role in our Penta wine; it provides the sugary hints characteristic of this wine. In this moment, the skin of Merlot grapes are still a bit hard, however it flesh has rich fuity flavour, close to caramel. What concern to our wine style, the sweeter the Merlot grapes, the better. Therefore, the forecast for this year is positive, yet nature is whimsical and patience is required.

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