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Spanish Secrets: Do Not Disturb

“During the summer we’ve made delicious orange and lemon flavoured cocktails with the white, where colour became inconsequential, and deliciously fruity and spirit-laden Sangria, served freezing cold with an abundance of crushed ice, with the red…’’ Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie can look forwards to many more tasty wine-based drinks because this year they have harvested a bumper crop of grapes.

Having last week thoroughly cleaned and sterilised our two stainless steel wine vats, we were now fully prepared for this week’s grape picking. Last year’s vintage certainly wouldn’t have won any awards - “but if at first you don’t succeed….”

The white wine proved to be the most successful with regards to taste, although it’s specimen like colour was somewhat off-putting. Alternatively, the red wine had a fantastic deep-rouge tint and fruity aroma, but was best drunk with the addition of lemonade.

Nevertheless, throughout the year we’d managed to consume most of our production. During the summer we’ve made delicious orange and lemon flavoured cocktails with the white, where colour became inconsequential, and deliciously fruity and spirit-laden Sangria, served freezing cold with an abundance of crushed ice, with the red.

Having a small amount of red wine left in the vat, I decided to experiment with wine fortification. My base spirit would be the locally-distilled, aguardiente. This quite potent, yet clear spirit is made from the grape skins, pips, and other debris remaining after the wine fermentation process.

Using a combination of one or two teaspoons of white or brown sugar, and varying quantities of the spirit, I hope to produce a similar fortified wine to Port. If unsuccessful, it at least ought to be fun testing the 18 bottles of differing samples.

The vines circling our home had suffered years of neglect prior to our arrival. Even after we’d purchased the house they suffered terribly at the hands of our builder and his brothers. Add to this the Luddite style pruning of a botanically ignorant ex-businessman from Huddersfield, Yorkshire ( me} it is quite amazing they survived at all. But survive they have, and since the intervention and training from our neighbour Jesus, who sadly passed away earlier this year, they have begun to thrive.

These most resilient of plants are now repaying his expertise and my tender loving care with a bumper harvest. Almost double the quantity of grapes compared with twelve months ago, to say nothing of the improved quality. The grapes, both black and green, are bigger, more tightly packed, sweeter and more succulent.

With my sister due here for a four-day break from the hustle and bustle of London life, Melanie and I decided to harvest half the grapes on Wednesday before her arrival.

Whilst I carefully snipped away with the secateurs, relieving the heavily laden vines of their precious cargo, Melanie began the process of crushing. Five hours later all the green grapes had been harvested and crushed, and are now safely stored in a clean vat. Two days later with the help of my sister Julie, we completed this year’s harvest by repeating the process with the black grapes.

Most people in the area are very busy at this time of year. We were therefore surprised that planned improvements to the village lanes had continued during the last two weeks.

They’ve been a matter of great interest to the villagers, who stand for hours on end watching, and where necessary advising the workmen on how best to get things done.

To accompany the work the local council even erected a very amusing public notice which read as follows.

“We are working to improve the quality of your life. We are sorry to disturb you”.

Embarrassingly for the council, the workman responsible for its erection had positioned the notice directly in front of the village cemetery. After a similarly amused local journalist had photographed the sign, it mysteriously disappeared.

email address
craigandmel@msn.com


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