Life at Casa Tyr

Vendimia 2008

Article text
Jesus catches a few winks!
Once again the end of September finds us working in the vines of our friend Manuel Lopez. This has been a bumper year for grapes - every vine is heaving with gorgeous grapes! Manuel grows about 12 varieties of grape, ranging from red and purple to the honey-yellow Moscatels. They all go in the mix to make the Yunquera version of 'mosto', a local white wine.

The cast of characters changes from year to year. His older brother Francisco, who lives in Barcelona, doesn't join us this year - at 79, his heart will no longer take the hard work. Another wine maker in the village, Manuel's brother Antonio, has suffered a serious stroke. The hard life suffered by villagers during the 'hungry years', as they call them, takes its toll.

Pickers this year range from young Jesus at 17, to Englishman Terry at 64. (I exclude Manuel, at 68, simply because he's the boss!) Daily pickers include Jesus, Juan, Reuben, Manolo, Ildefonso and me. Ildefonso, Manuel's brother-in-law, is supervisor when Manuel is not there.

We actually managed to talk several English volunteers into working on the sunny days - a very welcome change to the local perception of the ex-pats as being lazy! The regular pickers (aside from me!) are all young men earning money for the upcoming October fiesta - that is all they talk about! They wax lyrical on the delights of the lovely Anna, who runs one of the local bars.

This was the longest vendimia ever - 7 days of back-breaking labour. Bend over, cut grapes, put in crate. Stack crates into mule-ready loads of 6. Repeat ad nauseum! The only breaks in the days are mealtimes. Breakfast: 10am, bread with cheese and/or salchichon. Wine. Lunch: cooked communal lunch hosted by Manuel. Wine.

Several injuries, as usual - fingers cut by knife or secateur. Luckily, Nurse Annie is on call, as usual, passing out plasters and tape as needed!

This year was also the year for the Bad Cold. Started by Manuel, it passed quickly through the tired crew. Once again, Annie to the rescue with cold tablets. Spanish men, despite their macho public image, love to be taken care of, often showing me their cut fingers, and wincing dramatically! So brave!

Most days, Kenton and Manuel were in the bodega, pressing the grapes. This year, the first crushing was done using a 200 year old wooden mill. Kenton's comment: "I wish for once that man would update or fix his gear!"

8 days after it started, it was all over. Grapes picked and pressed, barrels full. After an aging period of 40 days (yes, I did say "days" !!), the first wine will be ready for purchase. Manuel is very pleased!