Feeling Quite At Home

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Winemakers generally tend to be proud of their achievements, their masterly skills, their finesse and their crafty connoisseurship. At Vineyard Son Alegre, however, we do not have much time for such self-praise; in fact, we don’t think that we do all that much for our wine, really. It’s Nature who does it all for us – the wind, sun, rain, the soil, birds, sheep, ladybirds (Coccinellidae), the moon, insects, beetles, ants, bugs and bees. Believe it or not, it’s all of these that make our wine. The human input in our vineyard is only marginal and we try to reduce our involvement even further.

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Talking about the birds on our land for instance: we have observed that birds have multiplied in numbers and in varieties of species since we established our vineyard in 2002, in the south-east of Mallorca, just north of Santanyí. We must be doing something right in not doing so much to our vines that so many birds are feeling at home on our land. They are happy building their nests year after year and laying their eggs, to brood and to hatch the next generation of Common wood pigeons (Columba palumbus), Common quails (Coturnix coturnix), Rock partridges (Alectoris graeca) or Common pheasants (Phasianus colchicus).

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We have also seen, or better, have heard, the Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) as well as the Common nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos).

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We believe that we have had visits from the Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla), a member of the Woodpecker family, as well as from the Hoopoe (Upupa epops).

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We have in addition evidence of the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster), easily the most beautiful of all our feathered visitors, despite the fact that we have not found their nests or eggs yet. We are on the lookout, though.

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We have admired the Alpine swift (Apus melba) as well as the Pallid swift (Apus pallidus), even though they would build their nests not amongst our vines but under the roofs of our storage barns.

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There is evidence of the Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) on our land and of the Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris).

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We get the occasional visit from seagulls; the sea is not far from here and, during the hot months of summer, the ‘embat‘ airstream seems, for instance, to bring the Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and the European herring gull (Larus argentatus) to our property. We do not think that they nest on our land though. We are not sure, however; we are still learning about the wildlife happening before our very eyes.

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We believe that all these birds, and other species yet to be identified in time to come, feel at home on our land precisely for the same reasons that make our wine so special: the fact that we leave them undisturbed and unmolested. We do not plough the soil, nor fertilize our land. We do not use pesticides to fumigate, nor employ chemicals to combat the so-called weeds, neither for plant diseases nor for insects.

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We let Nature do its job and we do not assume that we know better. Nature has been making wine for over two thousand years here on the island of Mallorca and we are happy to step back a little to let Nature produce some more great wine for the next two thousand years.

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All we want to do is say thank you. Thank you, Nature, thank you, birds, thank you, wildlife. Thank you all.

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¡Salut!

At Son Alegre, we are passionate about Nature. Our wines reflect that passion.

Son Alegre Callet

At Vineyard Son Alegre, we follow an organic and biodynamic approach of agriculture. We believe that natural processes and interactions are not only necessary, but are quite indispensable in the growing of quality grapes and, in the end, outstanding wine. We believe it is best to leave nature undisturbed to the largest possible extent. That is why we have not ploughed our land for over ten years because we do not want to harm the microbiology of our soil. We do believe that a more diverse soil microbiome will, in general, result in fewer plant diseases, in a higher yield and in a better crop of grapes. For us, a passionate approach to an organic, ecologic, biologic and biodynamic agriculture is the only conscientious way to make wine.

Ramon lo Foll white

This wine is composed of grapes of the Chardonnay, Giró Ros and Malvasia varieties. It matured for 6 months in stainless steel tanks and aged for 3 more months in the bottle. It was bottled in March 2017. The alcohol content is 12.5% vol.

Pep Costa white

This mono-varietal wine is made 100% of the autochthonous Mallorcan grape Giró Ros. It matured for 10 months in stainless steel tanks and aged for 10 more months in the bottle. It was bottled in June 2016. The alcohol content is 11.8% vol.

Foner rosé

This wine is a coupage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes. It matured for 6 months in stainless steel tanks and aged for 3 more months in the bottle. It was bottled in March 2017. The alcohol content is 13.5% vol.

Calonge 1715 red

This wine of the 2015 harvest is composed from grapes of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot varieties. It matured for 15 months in stainless steel tanks and aged for 6 more months in the bottle. It was bottled in January 2017. The alcohol content is 14.5% vol.

All our organic wines are grown in harmony with nature and made with loving care.

The Astounding Ways of Nature

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All winemaking, anywhere in the world, starts with agriculture, on the land, in the vineyard. All the components of growing wine are nature based – soil, climate, the vine plant, the nutrients in the ground nourishing this plant, water, mycorrhizae, insects, ants, worms, microorganisms, bacterial cells, and so forth. Each gram of soil in and around plant roots is inhabited by up to 10 billion bacterial cells. It makes you wonder how much – or how little – we actually know about our land, our soil and our role in agriculture and, as a consequence, about the true mechanisms of growing agricultural crops, or in our case, about cultivating wine.

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The key to agriculture and, by extension, the key to winemaking is a profound understanding of nature and its magical simplicity, combined with its infinite complexity. Us humans tend to think that we know it all and that we can control it all, can shape and master and manipulate nature and its mechanisms and can maximise the yield of our agricultural production. But little do we know, really.

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Our way of thinking about agriculture at Vineyard Son Alegre is marked by an organic and biodynamic approach. We believe that natural processes and interactions are not only necessary but are in fact indispensable in the growing of quality produce and food, or, in our case, quality grapes and outstanding wine. We believe it is best to leave nature undisturbed to the largest possible extent. That is why we have not ploughed our land for over ten years because we do not want to harm the microbiology of our soil. We do believe that a more diverse soil microbiome will in general result in fewer plant diseases, in a higher yield and in a better crop of fruit or wine. For us, an organic, ecologic, biologic and biodynamic approach to agriculture is the only conscientious way forward.

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With this approach, we have been farming our land on the outskirts of Santanyí for the last 15 years or so, ever since we acquired this land. We thought we were doing things the right and balanced way, in harmony with nature and in congruity with the Universe. Our vines – and olive trees – prospered and grew over the years. Our extra virgin olive oil and our organic wines found acceptance in the market. From 8,000 bottles of wine (red, white and rosé) we gradually increased to 10, and 15, and even 20,000 bottles per year. This year we increased our output to almost 25,000 bottles. All was going well. Or so we thought.

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But BANG. On Saturday July 1st, 2017, Nature taught us a lesson and showed us that even a conscientious and biodynamic approach is no guarantee of success in agriculture. Our land suffered a downpour of 60-65 l of hail and ice over the course of 45 minutes at around midday, a hailstorm the likes of which had never been seen before in our area. In fact, nobody in Santanyí can remember such a wild and devastating storm of heavy hail, ever.

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Our vines were almost completely destroyed and we lost an estimated 90 % of our crop of grapes. In the end, we managed to harvest barely 1,700 kg of grapes this year, compared with 22,000 kg last year. Our olives suffered a tremendous setback as well. We believe we have lost about 70 % of our olive crop and we are not sure that we will have more than 100 l of olive oil when the time for the olive harvest arrives at the end of October.

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Surprisingly, and Nature often surprises us, our vines started sprouting new buds around ten days after the natural disaster and have developed a new and second growth of grapes since then. There may be a possible second harvest after all, albeit in late October, and weather permitting.

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The second growth grapes, if any are harvested, will not have been subjected to the normal conditions of our land and of our Mallorcan climate, with the heat of July and August and hot nights during the Summer, but will have grown under conditions similar to those on the French Atlantic coast. It will be interesting to see what the end-result of this act of capricious weather will be and what kind of wine, if any, might result from it.

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But that’s what nature is all about. Nature is always full of synergy and mystery, full of wonder and yes, amazement. The natural world surprises us in the good and in the bad. In the long run, it has proven again and again, that Nature is our friend. Even if this marvellous wonder of the natural forces can at times have painful consequences, we happily accept Nature’s wondrous ways. Ultimately, it is the best we can get.

If it is God’s will, a miracle will happen. If it does not happen, never mind. The lesson in humility is worth more than the fruit that the vineyard can possibly give us.

(Miquel Manresa Vadell)

Presenting Our New Organic Red Wine, Calonge 1715

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Vineyard Son Alegre dedicate their 2015 organic red wine to the honour and memory of those who fought for independence and freedom in 1715. This wine was composed with great dedication and effort from our Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It is called Calonge 1715 to pay tribute to an important historic event.

Son Alegre Calonge 1715

Between June 15th and 16th, 1715, the village of Calonge, which in those days had no more than perhaps fifty inhabitants, lived through an important chapter of the final phase of the War of Succession.

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1715) pitted two European empires against each other and, with it, two dynasties with two differing models of government. The Austrian empire represented a diplomacy of treaties and a culture of comprehension, whilst the Bourbon empire symbolised Absolutism. The Kingdom of Mallorca, the Court of Valencia, the Principality of Catalonia and the Kingdom of Aragon all supported Charles III of Austria. But Valencia and Aragon had already fallen in 1707 and Barcelona in 1714, with only Mallorca and Ibiza remaining; Menorca had since 1708 already been under British rule.

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The Viceroy of Mallorca, who had assisted in the defence of Barcelona, ​​decided to resist the advances of the House of Bourbon and refused repeated requests of submission. An expedition of nearly 30,000 men of the Bourbon army set sail from Barcelona to Mallorca. They landed in Cala Llonga, Cala Ferrera and Cala Figuera during the afternoon of June 15th, 1715, carrying some 11,000 French soldiers, all well armed and trained. The next day, a militia of about 600 Felanitx residents fought back near Calonge. Thirty men lost their lives. The Bourbonic expedition continued to advance to Felanitx, Petra, Santa Margarita, Alcúdia, Sa Pobla, Binissalem and, finally, on July 11th, requested and was handed over the keys to Palma, the capital city. The Kingdom of Mallorca was henceforth subjected and subordinated to the Crown of Castile, their military commands and their language, who imposed their laws, taxes and even their language.

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However, over the past 300 years, the people of Mallorca have maintained the defence of their symbols and their own language. This wine stands as a guiding principle for independence and freedom.

All vines at Son Alegre in Santanyí are cultivated according to EU organic farming standards following quintessential biodynamic principles. Our vines were planted in 2004 and had an average age of eleven years when the grapes were lovingly harvested by hand in September 2015.

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The vinification of this wine occurred in stainless steel tanks under strictly controlled conditions of temperatures between 24º and 26º C during the fermentation process, followed by a maceration practice of 21 days. The ageing process involved thirteen months in stainless steel vats and twelve months in the bottle. The wine was bottled in October 2016. Only a total of 4,000 bottles were produced. That is not very much; we know. But we are only a small vineyard and our growth will always be as organic as are our agricultural endeavours.

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Our Son Alegre Calonge 1715 red wine has an alcohol content of 14.5% Vol. and is best served at between 15º to 18º C. Calonge 1715 is an honest Mallorcan red wine with a balanced nose and a satisfying finish in the mouth. This wine will age well over 6 to 8 years.

Calonge 1715

¡Salut!

Nature’s Secret Canon

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Nature is extraordinary, almost strangely funny in a way,  in as much as it is so simple in everything it does, whilst at the same time the environment, the earth and the whole universe are incredibly complex and complicated in their vastness and their seemingly endless, infinite expansion.

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Spending a lot of time on the farmland, as we do on a daily basis at Son Alegre in our vineyard, and that includes Sundays as well as weekdays, we are in constant contact with the wonders of Nature and the natural world, the marvels of the elements, the wind, the weather, the effects of the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets. There is vibrant plant life and flora and there is boundless animal activity and inexhaustible fauna. There is a buzz all around us day-in and day-out, a constant movement of tiny creatures, ants, beetles, insects, worms, butterflies, bees, birds and wildlife such as rabbits, hedgehogs and rodents, and so on.

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Working on the land and in the vineyard gives one the opportunity to watch and to learn. One cannot but observe that Nature does not follow our human rhythm, our clock or our calendar. There is no twenty-four hour period in Nature. There is no seven day cycle. There is no Summertime and there is no holiday, festive or otherwise. Nature and plants, bees, ants and mycorrhizae are busy doing their job, only guided by daylight and the sun, the moon and the stars, being not much bothered by wind or rain, although occasionally interrupted by storms or hail, by torrents or flooding.

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Nature does not take a day off on Sundays, for example, and ants, worms and butterflies do not get an eight hour day, or sick leave or vacation, ever. They are all on the job continuously, day after day, from morning to night, and then again the following day. Our sheep demand their feed, as do our pigs, be that workdays or Sundays; they would more than just wonder if they did not get their food or water at the appointed hour.

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As we watch and observe, inevitably we come to realise that there are patterns, structures and schemes in everything Nature does and creates. There are rules and regulations that get repeated again and again. One might say that there is an underlying code, a secret canon perhaps of form, shape and conduct that governs the way things are shaped and the way things grow. The makeup of organisms and the structure of plants and animals all seem to follow a rule that perhaps is best explained by the shape of a spiral. A snail’s spiral pattern might be the pattern that illustrates best the way Nature organises herself.

The Italian mathematician Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, better known as Fibonacci (ca. 1175-1250) was perhaps the first to discover that secret canon (well, it should be mentioned that even before him, the sequence had been noted by Indian mathematicians as early as the 6th century). Fibonacci came to express it in a mathematical formula that is known as the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, ad infinitum.

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One might call the Fibonacci sequence Nature’s numbering system. It seems to appear everywhere in Nature, from the leaf arrangement in plants to the branch arrangement on trees, from the pattern of the florets of a flower to the bracts of a pinecone and the scales of a pineapple. The Fibonacci numbers seem applicable to the growth of every living thing, including a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, and even man and woman and all of mankind. Even the Milky Way seems to be structured around the same shape or pattern, and other galaxies also follow the spiral Fibonacci pattern. This pattern or number sequence is often called Golden Ratio or the Golden Section.

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What has all that got to do with wine you may ask?

Well, if you make organic wine the way we do at Son Alegre there is no question that Nature has to be the guiding force. We cultivate our vineyard according to the principles of Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) which implies a “total respect for Nature and the environment”. Our vineyard is a perfect example of how Nature looks after herself. We love our work and our vineyard; hence we are grateful to each stone, each branch, and each animal or insect, thanking them for their contribution and collaboration so that this land enables the vines to produce grapes and give us the best 100% organic wine possible. Only through respect and love of Nature can we find the balance and harmony that we have all lost and which we do need so urgently.

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The particular weather conditions of our land give our wine the unique and special qualities it has. During the hot months of summer, the cold air coming from the sea is reacting with the warmer air which has been heated by its contact with the warm earth and this encounter generates a fresh air stream during the hot afternoons. One tends to believe that it is the grape which gives the wine its flavour, when it really is the soil on which the grapes are cultivated creating our wine’s particular taste. This is due to the typology of the soil, Call Vermell in our case, providing some elementary nutrients to the vines, and also partly due to the microclimate of the area.

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At Son Alegre, a very important guide for our work is the lunar calendar. By observing the phases of the moon, the way our ancestors always have, we know the most propitious time for the pruning of our fruit, the grafting of plums on to almond branches, the planting of new trees, the sowing of cereals, the harvesting of our grapes, the mating of pigs, sheep or donkeys, or even the cutting of our hair. Nature creates and gives peace, supports us and helps us find a balanced state, just what is needed so badly in our times.

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We grow vines on 12 hectares at Son Alegre on the edge of Santanyí, in the area between Son Danus and Ses Angoixes. For us, growing the grapes is an opportunity to live out our fascination of the wonderful complexity of the natural environment. We use the classical methods of practice in viticulture and oenology. The grape harvest is done only by hand and in crates, the pressing is done the traditional way, the fermentation is facilitated with indigenous natural yeasts and the barrels used for the ageing of our red wine are made of French oak.

And all of this makes for a better wine. At least this is what we believe.

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We Are Proud To Introduce Pep Costa 2015, An Elegant White Wine

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The fruity mellow white wine of our 2017 season is dedicated to Josep Costa Ferrer, the founder of Cala d’Or. We applaud Pep Costa’s visionary perceptiveness and are happy to bear witness to him being named Hijo adoptivo de Santanyí (adopted son) later this year (August 11th, 2017). The photo below shows Josep Costa Ferrer and his wife Modesta Gispert Vilardebó in the year 1905.

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Our elegant new Pep Costa 2015 white wine is composed of organically grown Giró Ros grapes, an autochthonous Mallorcan variety. The grapevines were four years old when the grapes were selected by hand at the end of August 2015. Son Alegre is one of only a few vineyards of Mallorca cultivating all their vines according to EU organic farming standards following the principles of Biodynamic Agriculture. All our wines are rigorously controlled by the CBPAE (Consell Balear Regulador de l’Agricltura Ecològica – Balearic Council of Organic Agricultural Production).

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The mature white wine was vinified at a temperature of between 16 and 18º C during the fermentation process with a maceration of 21 days. The fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine matured for ten months in the tanks and a further ten months in the bottle. The wine was bottled in February 2017. The alcohol content is 11.8% Vol. Only 4,000 bottles were produced. We would like to have had more of this wine but we are a young and still small vineyard. In any case, we are grateful for what we have been able to achieve in the fifteen years of our existence.

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Pep Costa 2015 white wine is best served at a temperature of 8-10º C and is well suited to the hot days of the Mediterranean summer and the setting of our beautiful Isla de la Calma. The wine is agreeable on the palate, fresh and distinct. The colour is crisp and full. The wine has a complex disposition and can be drunk on its own, in the company of good friends, with appetisers, tapas or cheese, with fish or seafood, with chicken or white meat, with  pasta and also with vegetarian dishes. 

Giró Ros 2

At Son Alegre, we continue to cultivate all our grapes and all other crops with the utmost regard for Nature, respecting our land and our soil by following biodynamic principles according to Rudolf Steiner and adhering to some guidelines of Masanobu Fukuoka and Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison, by applying methods of natural farming and permaculture to agriculture done the organic way. We simply allow Nature to fulfil its integrated and holistic function, although this may occasionally lead to reduced volumes and a lower profit margin. Profit-making is never our primary concern.

Quality is our principal objective.

 

 

The Soil Has the Last Word

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Son Alegre‘s Miquel Manresa was recently asked to give an interview by the new magazine ConCiencia, published in Palma on a monthly basis and now only in its second month. The interview was published in the issue of December 2016 under the heading ‘La tierra tiene la última palabra‘ (The soil has the last word). We at Son Alegre are very happy about this published feature and would like to give you the opportunity to see and read it for yourself.

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For those of our friends who might struggle a bit with the Spanish language, here is a brief translation of the interview:

THE EARTH HAS THE LAST WORD

Vineyard Son Alegre

The owner of Son Alegre, Miquel Manresa, proudly shows us his vineyard, a perfect example of how Nature looks after herself.

Our walk begins by listening to the “sound of the earth”. This man is in love with his work and his vineyard; he lets us participate in his dialogue. He speaks with each stone, with each branch, and each animal or insect, thanking them for their contribution and collaboration so that this land enables the fruit produce to give us the best 100% ecological wine.

The land is doing the cultivating process all on its own. There is no need for us humans to do what roots, worms and microorganisms can do best. In addition, the act of ploughing the soil alters the natural environment and promotes the growth of weeds. Miquel tells us with absolute conviction that only through respect and love of Nature we can find the balance and harmony we have lost and which we do need so much.

Miquel continues to tell us that the vineyard is cultivated according to the principles of Fukuoka [1] which implies a “total respect for Nature and the environment”.

The particular weather conditions of our land give our wine the unique and special qualities it has. The cold air coming from the sea is reacting with the warmer air which has been heated by its contact with the warm earth and this encounter generates a fresh air stream during the hot summer afternoons.

We tend to believe that it is the grape which gives the wine its flavour, when it really is the land on which the grapes are cultivated which creates its particular taste. This is due to the typology of the soil, providing some elementary nutrients to the vines and also partly due to the microclimate of the area.

At Son Alegre we grow vines on 15 hectares at two different locations, one on the edge of Santanyí, in the area between Son Danus and Ses Angoixes, and the other one in the neighbouring area of Can Taconer in Calonge.

For us, growing the grapes is an opportunity to live out our fascination for the wonderful complexity of the natural environment. We use the classical methods of practice in viticulture and oenology. The grape harvest is done only by hand and in crates, the pressing is done the traditional way, the fermentations are facilitated with indigenous natural yeasts and the barrels used for the ageing of the wine are made of French oak.

At Son Alegre, a very important tool for our work is the lunar calendar. By observing the phases of the moon, the way our ancestors always have done it, we know the most propitious time for the pruning of our fruit, the grafting of plum on to almond branches, the planting of new trees, the planting of cereals, the harvesting of our grapes, the mating of pigs, sheep or horses, or even the cutting of our hair.

He speaks very animatedly, explaining all the intricacies of the finca, that we find it slightly difficult to follow and, more so, transcribe so much information in a single interview.

Nature creates and gives peace, supports us and helps us to find a balanced state of equilibrium, just what is needed so badly in our times. Here, the conversation focuses on education and the importance of keeping children in permanent contact with a natural and healthy environment. *

* ConCiencia and MundoFeliz propose to our readers to use this special set-up to hold workshops for schoolchildren, to give the young ones an opportunity to connect with the land.

We could spend hours and hours talking to a person who conveys so much ancestral wisdom, learned through the work which he carries out day by day in his vineyard, being continually connected with Nature which he loves and so deeply respects.

Miquel, it would be an honour for us to have you at some of our conferences and events. You will always have a special space in our magazine. And of course, we will taste your wines!

To which he responds, with his usual relaxedness, being as calm and cheerful as is his land, that he will gladly share his knowledge with us, our readers and friends.

See you soon, Miquel.

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[1] The Principles of Fukuoka:

Do not plough or turn the soil: In this way the structure and composition of the soil is maintained with its optimal conditions of humidity and micronutrients.

Do not use chemical fertilizers or prepared compost: Through the interaction of the different botanical, animalistic and mineral elements of the soil, the fertility of the cultivated soil is regenerated as in any non-domesticated ecosystem.

Do not use herbicides or weed killers: These destroy the nutrients and microorganisms of the soil, and are only justified in monocultures. Instead, Fukuoka proposes an interaction of plants to enrich and control the biodiversity of the soil.

Do not use chemical pesticides: These also kill the natural richness of the soil. The presence of insects in farming can be healthy.

Do not prune: Allow the plant growth to follow its natural course.

Use clay seed balls.

These fundamental working principles are based on a philosophy of Do- Nothing (Wu Wei), or more accurately, of not intervening or forcing things.

Fukuoka reached a degree of comprehension of the microsystems of the soil and devised a system of farming that desists from unnecessary tillage and unnecessary endeavours of traditional agriculture. His method, which he sometimes called Natural Agriculture Mahāyāna, is based on starting to give and to then receive in a natural way, rather than be demanding on the soil until it is exhausted.