Clipping grape clusters from the vines in the morning. Lunching with friends around a big table under the trees in the afternoon. Sipping wine on a terrace with views out over the vineyards. I admit it. My vision of living in Spain included scenes like this, bumping more pragmatic thoughts out of the way. I knew they were just daydreams…or were they?
We passed just such a day last week at Bodega Vera de Estenas in Utiel when we joined a Grape Harvest Tour organized by Valencia Wine Consulting & Tours. Sure, it was contrived for our enjoyment, but we didn’t care. We had no illusions that we were actually experiencing the hard work of a harvest. It was just plain fun.
We started in the vineyard, where Bobal vines grow in the dry red clay soil. These particular vines were 70 to 80 years old, their thick gnarled trunks supporting them in the traditional bush vine method. Since Bobal is native to this area, no irrigation is used in this section of the vineyard. This is in contrast to the Cabernet Sauvignon vines growing along trellises in the gray rocky soil next to the bodega.
Eduardo Vives Martinez, grandson of the winery’s founder Francisco Martínez Bermell, was our grape harvesting “instructor” and guide for the day. Eduardo showed us how they decide which grapes to collect during harvest. Only the clusters of big ripe grapes are taken. The deep purple, almost black fruits had the sweetest, most robust flavor and are the best for winemaking. Shriveled grapes scattered among the clusters are the result of lack of water. They may not look good, but the taste was intense and raisiny, which adds depth and richness to the wine.
Normally clusters of small sour grapes are left behind (the bodega dog has acquired a taste for them and lounged under the vines munching grapes), but today we could pick everything. We were just going to be playing with our grapes. Armed with shears, we spread out in the vineyard to fill our crates, clipping off clusters and occasionally popping the best grapes into our mouths.
Back at the bodega, we unloaded our crates from the tractor and prepped for the stomping. Feet bared and pants rolled up to our knees, we tip-toed into the buckets in pairs. The idea was to dance around together in a slow circle. This was not as easy as it seemed, with grape juice gurgling between our toes inducing an uncontrollable urge to giggle.
After we cleaned up our sticky fingers and purple feet, it was time to get serious. Eduardo led us on a thorough and informative tour of the winemaking facility to show us how the real winemakers handle the harvest. Believe it or not, they are not stomping grapes in buckets.
The tour concluded in the museum room with a tasting of three of their delicious wines before heading back outside to lunch, the moment we were all eagerly waiting for. Pretend winemaking sure builds up an appetite!
Tables were spread out on the terrace in a picture perfect setting overlooking the Utiel countryside. We feasted on plates of traditional pâtés, empanadas, grilled vegetables and sausages. It was all washed down with bottles of Estenas vino blanco, rosado, and tinto. Sitting there on the terrace, lunching with good friends and exchanging emails with new friends, it all felt so familiar. This was one of my visions of the perfect day in Spain.
To read more on touring this beautiful winery, see our previous post Day Trip to Bodega Vera de Estenas