"I have had a brilliant first week here in Cambados at Martín Códax. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and friendly; there is a really nice feel to the place which reminds me of Liberty Wines – everyone stops to have coffee together at 11am, from cellar hands to the head of the company Juan Vázquez. I have had lunch with colleagues every day and yesterday when I didn’t have time to pop out as we had to do so many inoculations, my lovely colleague Cecilia from viticulture brought me a sandwich. I am being very well looked after.
The work has been intense – I’ve done several 14-hour days, but other people have been coming in at 8.30am and leaving at 2am. I knew it would be hard work, but couldn’t have imagined that at 11pm I would be in the winery with Juan the oenologist removing Pinot Noir grapes from a barrel for pressing, standing on a bucket so I could reach down and armed only with a very small sieve!
I love it. The great thing about being in the experimental winery is the huge variety of work we are doing, ranging from artisanal and very old-school techniques (see above with the sieve! We have also crushed lots of grapes by foot), to using hi-tech machines and analysis. My colleagues all know so much and it is brilliant to be able to see how Katia and the other winemakers work. I have learned so much this week and have also discovered new muscles doing manual punch-downs and carrying boxes of grapes. Initially the boys I am working with in the bodega were reluctant to let me do the tough manual tasks, but after seeing me in action with the rake they just left me to it.
I have also spent lots of time in the vineyards getting samples and even doing some harvesting. It has been fantastic going out to visit vineyards with Xaqui who oversees viticulture. He is amazing and knows absolutely everything about Albariño and Rias Baixas. We have visited the different parts of the Rias Baixas D.O - O Rosal, Condado and Salnes and Xaqui explained the differences in soil types, training systems, grape varieties, clones, rootstocks, everything. One of the most interesting visits was to a small vineyard near the Martín Códax bodega where the grower Santi has lots of old vines of rare indigenous varieties such as Espadeiro and Caiño. Xaqui is keen to preserve these varieties and while the quantities are tiny, the winery uses them to make very limited quantities of special wines to help their research. Harvesting was fun too – I worked with Diego and Jesús who showed me which bunches to harvest and which to leave. They asked me if it was as a prize or a punishment that I had been sent to harvest, as it is such hard work.
Viticulturist Cecilia works with the winery’s ‘socios’ (grape-growing partners). She explained the way they organise the harvest, classifying the majority of the vineyard parcels by vigour to help determine when and how much can be harvested. She has to walk a fine line between keeping everyone happy and also making sure that the grapes harvested in a day don’t exceed capacity.
All in all, I have been coming home every night tired, with lots of grape juice in my hair, but very happy. This weekend is quieter as there are elections tomorrow. Rain forecast tonight and tomorrow morning may put harvest on hold for a day. There are still 40 fermenting vats to deal with in the experimental winery so I definitely have my work cut out."
Cecilia Gibbons, Liberty Wines Apprentice 2015
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