Greetings from Spain! I am so excited to be working at Celler La Muntanya (http://www.cellerlamuntanya.com/) in the small town of Muro, and have just finished my first full week of working. Celler La Muntanya uses the idea of ¨microvinyas¨ which allow individual owners of small vineyards to produce wine without needing to have a winery.
Everyone here has been so unbelievably hospitable and nice, which is making my first time in a foreign country a lot less scary! The boss, Juan Cascant, arranged for me to live in an apartment with two other girls: one who is a Muro local (Judith), and and another (Ana) who is interning at Celler La Muntanya as well. They have both been so welcoming, and I have had the privilege to be able to meet some of Ana´s school friends, hang out with Judith´s friends for some dinners, eat a traditional Spanish paella lunch at Judith´s parents´ house, and even attend a wedding reception! My goal for my time here is to speak as much Spanish (and as little English) as I possibly can, which should be pretty simple considering most people here do not speak any English whatsoever! Already in the one week I have spent here, my speaking and comprehension has improved immensely.
The day I arrived, last Thursday, Ana and Juan came and picked me and my mom up, and then gave us a tour of the winery (located in a warehouse on the outskirts of town), and the ¨Casa antigua¨ that they are little by little converting to be the new face of the business, to use for events and meeting with clients. When they say ¨antigua,¨ they really mean it. The house dates back to the 1500´s, and has been used as a winery since the 1700´s! When they first acquired the house this past year, they found all the abandoned ancient winemaking equipment as well as a grinder to make olive oil.
One of the core beliefs of Juan is that wine should unite with the local culture (such as music) and food, so to represent the flavors of the region. When I arrived, the courtyard was being used to shoot music videos of multiple local bands, which was pretty cool to see. Here is a picture of me, my mom, Ana, and one of the (headless) musicians performing in the courtyard:
My second day in Muro, I went with Ana and Juan to a conference in Valencia at the polytechnic university there. The conference was on the topic of precision viticulture, and included presentations by many different speakers. It was interesting to see how the technology and practices they use here are basically the same as that which the United States uses for precision viticulture.
On Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon, Juan brought me around to some of the microvinyas that Celler La Muntanya oversees. Although all the microvinyas are relatively close to each-other in terms of distance, there were noticeable differences between each site with regards to the soil (dryness, presence or lack of ground cover), the vines themselves (age, trellis or vaso formation, vigor), and even the climate (some sites had more damage from the recent hail storm).
These 80 year old vines below are in a ¨vaso¨ formation, without a trellis.
Essentially, a contract with Celler La Muntanya allows the proprietors of the microvinyas to choose any degree of their involvement in the management of their own vineyard, and have their wine produced by Celler La Muntanya either under that label, or under their own individual label. In these negotiations, Celler La Muntanya receives a proportion of the wine that is produced, and the vineyard owners receive wine without needing to have their own winery or knowledge of enology.
The rest of my first work week was mostly spent bottling wine, which is kinda monotonous, but kinda peaceful at the same time.
I can now say that I am an expert at bottling, corking, putting on labels and capsules, and packaging the wine in boxes.
They use really awesome corks! They´re synthetic, but contain multiple different parts, including a clear plastic bottom, and solid plastic inner frame to ensure that the cork maintains its shape over time.