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Spanish Secrets: Confessions Of A Window Cleaner

In a scorching hot Galician September preparations for the grape harvest and wine making are well under way, as Craig Briggs reveals.

To read more of Craig’s tempting articles about life in rural Spain click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on his page.

The changeable weather of August now seems like a distant memory. September has been a real scorcher. Earlier concerns about poor harvests and sour grapes have long since been forgotten.

Efforts to protect my precious grape crop have met with mixed results. In the main I’ve managed to prevent the most destructive bird species from feasting on my ripening fruits. Unfortunately bees are not the least bit deterred by the bright mirrored surfaces of compact discs swaying gently from the training wires. Hungry bees can devour a bunch of gapes in a few days.

Annual preparations for the vendimia (grape harvest) are well under way. Earlier in the week I cleaned my modern stainless steel vats. The purple velvet coating of moist sediment was quickly rinsed away. This year’s vintage will be as original as last year’s; no carried over flavours from aging oak barrels.

The romance of oak-aged wine is soon lost when replacement barrel costs are factored in and the taste is soon lost if the barrel is used above twice. As the barrel ages the wine becomes earthy. Cleaning sodden and rotting barrels is not quite as easy as a quick rinse with cold water.

With 30 litres of white wine still to drink and the vat to clean, we invested in a large plastic barrel. Its purchase has given me the chance to use the finings bought for me last year in England. They arrived a little too late. We’d already filtered the wine twice and air-sealed the vat.

Both red and white wines were quite palatable last year, although the less-than-clear appearance of the white was somewhat off-putting. Hopefully the addition of finings will change that. Our viniferous investment continued this week with another addition to our ever-increasing equipment levels. The acquisition of a still gives us the necessary equipment to distil our own aquadiente.

For an allegedly illegal undertaking one might expect to find such equipment available on the black market or from a dodgy looking bloke hiding it in the back of a van. Not here. A visit to the open-air market in Monforte de Lemos gives prospective purchasers an opportunity to browse around different suppliers, ask questions and compare prices. Our final choice was a 60 litre still.

When assembled it stands about a metre tall from the ground. A hand beaten caldron manufactured from tarnished copper rests below an inverted copper funnel. A metre length of pipe, also in copper, runs from there to the cooling chamber. For 364 days a year a classic work of metallic art and on the other day an illegal still.

From this local fire-water, aquadiente, an astonishing array of liqueurs can be produced and a wonderful collection of preserved fruits; some delicious, others not. Of course, all this would be quite illegal. Only a fool would confess to such an undertaking on the internet?

Aquadiente is also a very handy cleaning agent; you name it aquadiente cleans it.
I quite like the idea of cleaning my windows with it?

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