An empty beach in autumn in Galicia

Autumn in Galicia

Ever since school, September always feels like a fresh start. So as the memories of the beach fade in the rearview mirror, we thought we’d catch up with our Italo-Gallegan (if that word exists?!) winemaker friend, Benedetto Carcieri from Atlantic Galician Wineries, and ask him what life looks like over the next few weeks and months.

Benedetto is a slightly unusual member of the Simply Spanish Wine family of producers. He’s based in Ourense but is constantly on the move, whizzing around and making wine in three of the five Denominaciones de Origen in Galicia: whites in Rías Baixas and Ribeiro, and a delicious Mencía-based red in Ribeira Sacra.

Benedetto Carcieri from Atlantic Galician Wineries

Benedetto Carcieri from Atlantic Galician Wineries

With focus spread across a large area, it’s no surprise to hear that the immediate challenge is the harvest. 2022 is an atypical year - as elsewhere in Spain, the extraordinarily hot weather they’ve had in Galicia means the harvest will likely start slightly earlier than usual, probably towards the end of next week.

What sort of a harvest can we expect? As Benedetto says "it’s been a complicated few months with periods of drought and exceptional heat here in Galicia. High temperatures mean the vines have been under pretty extreme water stress, so harvest time really is the moment of truth when we see what impact all that has had on the fruit." While the expectation is that all that heat means yields will be lower than recent years, on a more positive note the hope is that all that heat will have helped the fruit to ripen fully and stave off the fungal diseases which can plague winemakers in traditionally cool, damp Galicia.

In Benedetto’s Galician vineyards, the heat has had a visible impact on the fruit, with each individual grape a little shrunk compared to a normal year. But thankfully temperatures have been freshening a little since the start of September and there’s even been a few hours of rain. For Benedetto, "a little rain followed by a few sunny days just before harvest gives the fruit a much needed boost and helps ensure optimum quality just before picking."

A winemaker’s life involves a lot of observation, and this is particularly true at harvest time, when you’ll find winemakers pacing their vineyards row by row on a daily basis to check how the fruit is evolving. As well as on the look out for any sign of disease, they are also checking all important sugar and acidity levels which are key to ensuring the all important balance in the wine and the overall quality of the vintage. Deciding the optimum moment to start picking is key – if the grapes come into the bodega in tip top condition, a lot of the hard work is already done.

Once the decision has been taken to start picking, things get underway in the early morning when temperatures are cooler. This isn’t designed to make the pickers’ lives easier; the cooler the temperature and the less time the grapes spend in their crates en route from vineyard to press, the less chance there is that the grapes start to oxidise prematurely and spoil. Speed is of the essence – if you’ve ever followed an experienced team of pickers through a vineyard, you’ll have been amazed how swiftly they can strip a bush and move on to the next.

With the grapes in the winery and pressed, winemakers can move on to the next stages of the winemaking process. Again, observation and control are the order of the day, whether that means ensuring the right temperature for fermentation, or regular operations like batonnage or stirring the lees whilst the wine is resting in tank or barrel. And of course, even when the wine is finally resting over the winter before bottling, there are still things to do, not least the all important pruning of the vines in the vineyard to get them ready for the following year’s crop.

As we wait for the vintage, you can try Benedetto’s wines now on our website. From Rías Baixas we’ve got Marola & Mas, a fresh, balanced Albariño packed with fruit. From the next door DO of Ribeiro there’s D’Mateo Quintas, a blend of Godello, Torrontés and Treixadura grapes with a steely, mineral nose and aromas of fresh young apple and crisp pear. Or why not try Massimo, Benedetto’s red from DO Ribeira Sacra made with Mencía and a dash of Sousón and brimming with delicious aromas of red and tropical fruits.

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