We Have a Winner

Vinyes Son Alegre SL has once more followed its tradition of instigating a creative competition for the design of its current wine labels. The contest was launched in partnership with the Ajuntament de Santanyí, the Cultural Association Lausa and the Cultural Association of Calonge, Es Mayoral. The event was open for all artists over the age of 18, local, national and international. Design labels were sought for the new wines under the names of Penya Bosca (for the Red wine), Roca Fesa (for the Rosé wine) and Es Faralló (for the White wine). This year’s design challenge was won in all three categories by local Santanyí artist, Llorenç Vidal Lledó, better known by his artist’s name, Garrit.

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Enhorabuena, Garrit. Congratulations.

The bodega Vinyes Son Alegre SL is a young enterprise practising organic and biodynamic agriculture on the outskirts of Santanyí. We grow grapes, olives, almonds, carob and Xeixa wheat according to the principles of the Consell Balear de la Producció Agrària Ecològica and the European Union organic farming standards. Our wines thus continue in the tradition of quality wine making that has been practised in Santanyí over centuries but, sadly, was discontinued in 1895 due to the devastating effects of the Phylloxera vine pest.

We name our wines, such as Picarol, Sant Andreu, Sa Porta Murada, Es Pontàs, Sa Cala, S’Antigor, S’Aragal Blau, Cocó Barber or Penya Bosca, to name but a few, paying homage and tribute to local people, geographic landmarks, historic dates or other phenomena particular to our region in order to demonstrate our geographic, cultural and social roots here, in the Santanyí area and community.

Artists who have helped us design our wine labels in the past have included Jesús Pablo Camargo del Hoyo, Aina Noguera Tugores, Vera Edwards and Elena Sierra Forteza. We welcome Garrit (Llorenç Vidal Lledó) into our family of collaborators and friends and are looking forward to next year’s wine label competition, going then into its third year.

Salut.

Tree Hugging in Santanyí

Hug a tree or, even better, plant a tree. That’s the motto of Tu Bishvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees. Tu Bishvat is one of the four Jewish new years (Rosh Hashanahs), and this year’s Tu Bishvat is marked for today, January 24th. As always, festivities start with nightfall on the day before, i. e. Tu Bishvat already started last night after sun down. The tree day marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. As it happens, here in Mallorca the New Year for Trees coincides pretty much with the almond blossom season which now is at the brink of breaking into full gear. And you don’t have to be Jewish to join in the celebrations, or the tree hugging.

The Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat always coincides with the full moon. January’s full moon in Mallorca could be admired last night, and yet again we were blessed with another lovely lunar sight. It will probably be a splendid sight again tonight, all going well.

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We are planning to do some tree hugging on our land today, at Son Alegre. If you want to join us, feel free to come along. We will also plant a tree today, a pomegranate tree (Punica granatum). Of course you could hug any tree today, anywhere in Mallorca; it doesn’t even have to be your own tree. Any tree will do, anywhere. And any faith will do; trees don’t mind if you are Jewish, Catholic or Muslim, you might even be agnostic. That’s quite alright for trees as well.

Should you be inclined to plant a tree on your own land, here are some suggestions. Depending on your garden or the size of land that you have available you could plant a young orange or lemon tree. Or an almond tree, to keep in with the spirit of the season. We would, however, recommend a pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) which grows fast, gives a lovely flower and produces a very healthy fruit. An olive tree would also be a nice choice but, the olive is relatively slow in growing to full maturity. Or, why not plant a tamarisk tree (Tamarix gallica) which has a delightful pink flower and is ever so pleasing to the eye.  You will see its flowers coming out any time soon, in March and April. Anyway, the second half of January is a perfect time for tree planting of whatever kind so, don’t be shy. And if  no tree planting is possible, don’t despair. Just hug a tree. Or two.

Happy New Year of the Trees, everybody.

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And thank you John Hinde for the photographs, as always.

One Of The Most Innovative And Craziest Viticulture Projects

abc mallorca

Our friends from abc Mallorca Magazine have done it again. A long and informative article on the town of Santanyí was published recently including a friendly recognition of Son Alegre and its wines.

One of the most innovative and craziest viticulture projects is currently under construction in Santanyí. The young winery has been subjected to biodynamic principles. Living with nature is not just lip service for Miquel Manresa. Commercially run vineyards are ploughed and ploughed: the vines shall not compete with other plants.

The Son Alegre soil, however, is not artificially changed. Respect for life of any kind is the most important thing. Every wild flower, every worm, every bee, and a variety of insects contribute to the circle of life. The vines are just a part of it. The principle is: “Leave nature undisturbed in the best possible way.” The sporadic watering for the plants comes from private wells. Electricity is produced by solar panels without CO2 emissions. Everything is well organised and gets back to the roots of winemaking……

In case you are interested in the complete article, here is a link:

abc Mallorca – Son Alegre Wine Cellar

We want to say thank you for the compliments.

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Of course you will probably know that we do not only produce wine but also, olive oil, flour, almonds and carob. Yes, we are crazy but by the looks of it you seem to love what we are doing. And so do we.

¡Salut!

The Cycle of Life

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Autumn is usually the busiest time of the year for us here at Son Alegre.

You might think of us as a wine maker but that is only half the story. We do cultivate grapes for our organic Son Alegre wines and we finished harvesting the red grapes a week or ten days ago, that is the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot, the Syrah and the Petit Verdot grapes. But we also grow olives for our SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the harvest of this year’s crop is about to take place within the next week or ten days.

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We also grow almonds. We grow carob fruits. And now is the time for their harvest. And we grow Xeixa, an ancient, indigenous Mallorcan wheat, as well as Blat Mort, which we use for animal feed. Our cereals, we harvest twice a year, so autumn is not the only busy time we have. Everything we grow is grown organically and under biodynamic conditions. We do not yet have the certificate of DEMETER (International Demeter Processing Standards) but we are aiming for it in the long run. All our crop is, however, controlled by CBPAE (Consell Balear Regulador de l’Agricltura Ecològica, the Balearic Council of Organic Agricultural Production).

Son Alegre 01

We also keep bees. We raise sheep. We rear pigs. And we breed goats. We don’t sell our livestock, so there is no control necessary by the official authorities. We don’t eat our animals either, just in case you wondered. We simply enjoy having critters on our land. We do get them to do their bit by helping us fertilize the soil and make them earn their upkeep by making them work our land. To be honest, they almost work harder than we do ourselves.

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We try to nurture wildlife on our land as much as possible and encourage insects, beetles, spiders, ants, snails, butterflies and birds, plus millions of unnamed tiny creatures and creepy-crawlies, some of them unrecognized, undiscovered and unnamed as yet, to come and settle on our land to help us with our agricultural efforts. They too, and that is all of them, have their busiest time of year just now, getting ready to prepare the land, the soil and the underworld for the winter season when everything and everybody gets ready for the new cycle of life that our land, and nature in general, is about to start soon. Year after year after year.

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Time to say thank you to all our little helpers. Or gràcies, as it were. Without our unpaid helpers, there would be no wine, no oil and no Son Alegre, nothing. That’s a fact.

And thank you to John Hinde for taking all the photos on our land, shown here and in many other of our blog entries. Cheers.

The Start of This Year’s Wine Harvest

vindimia

Earlier this week, we started the wine harvest at Son Alegre in Santanyí. In the lead-up to yesterday’s August Full Moon we harvested our white grape – Chardonnay, the French grape variety. The grape picking started at sunrise in the early hours of the morning to avoid the hot temperatures later in the day.

We shall harvest our Malvasía grapes, the traditional Mallorcan variety, in a few days time.

Our red grape varieties, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier, will probably be harvested during the second half of September, depending on nature, the grapes’ state of maturation, the weather, and good fortune.

Chardonnay grapes

This year we celebrated the sixth year of wine harvest at Son Alegre. All our vines were planted in 2004 and in 2010 we were able to harvest our first grapes.

We will be processing our new wines in our very own bodega for the first time ever, hooray. More about that in a separate blog entry.

Salut. Y hasta la vista.

Paying Tribute to World Environment Day

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Every year since 1972, the world has celebrated World Environment Day on June 5th, which is today. The aim of this commemoration is to raise global awareness, to take positive environmental action and to protect Nature and planet Earth. This year’s motto is Sustainable Consumption and Production.

We are all part of the environment, we live in it and we live from it. Sadly, we often forget that we also depend on it. We all depend on the land, the water, the air, the nature and the holistic interaction of it all.

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At Son Alegre, we have some 50 hectares of land. On it, we have planted over 1,000 olive trees, a few dozen carob trees and about 20,000 vines. We have also sown Santanyí Xeixa wheat as well as some barley and legumes as our own natural animal feed. We have 60 sheep and a dozen Mallorcan goats on our land. Everything is organic. We want to continue to plant more olive trees and more vines. At the moment, we produce wine, olive oil and flour. As farmers, we try to follow organic standards, some of them based on the principles of biodynamic agriculture. We aim to adhere to the principles of Natural Farming. Our principle is to leave Nature undisturbed in the best possible way.

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We see Mallorca as a big garden, a massive orchard. If this garden were no longer to exist there would not be nothing at all. The tourist industry should see that we are all sitting in the same boat. It would be nice and important if some of the resources generated by tourism would be reinvested in our Mallorca garden. Perhaps the next government will indeed reintroduce a Green Tax for the benefit of environmental causes. By the time our agricultural products reach the end consumer there is all too often no margin left for the producers. The farmers of Mallorca have almost disappeared because parents want their children to go off to do different things and earn more money than they could earn in agriculture. Now our land in Mallorca is devoid of people; this proves to be wrong and this we have to change.

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Some 12 million tourists come to Mallorca every year and still, we cannot sell our almonds to them. With the almonds we could do so much and with the carob too. We have no sense of valuing what we have and where we live. If only we could sit in a plane and see our island from above, we would surely marvel and value this land. It is time for tourism to join forces with the rural world and its products. That is the solution to revive farming and the land.

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In the absence of any general profitability of farming land, some form of public funding would encourage young people to stay on and work the land. This could fulfill an important function. The future of the our land is in the hands of young people, and some financial incentive would allow young farmers to get ahead of the game.

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For hundreds of years, this island of Mallorca has been in harmony with Nature, its inhabitants and its wildlife. Now, things have become unbalanced. The time has come to protect Nature and the environment as best we can. It is our duty to look after our land and our soil, by acting in a responsible and sustainable way. It is time for us to give back to Nature what she has given to us and our ancestors. If and when we look after our land and maintain the garden of Mallorca, our children and future generations will benefit from the fruits of the land. If we don’t, our children will know who to blame.

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Presenting Our New Organic Rosé Wine S’Aragall Blau 2014

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Our new organic Rosé wine S’Aragall Blau 2014 is a composition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes with a dash of grapes of the Syrah variety. All grapes were harvested by hand in the second week of September of last year on our land at Son Alegre near Santanyi in the southeast of Mallorca where the coastal hinterland of Santanyí joins the hills of the Mallorcan Sierra de Llevante (altitude 61 – 72 m). The vineyard benefits from the Sierra’s moderating impact on climate as well as from the thermal conditions of the coastal area, at 7 km from the Mediterranean Sea to the South-East and 12 km distant to the West.

Cabernet Sauvignon

The vinification of our S’Aragall Blau 2014 Rosé wine was conducted at a controlled temperature of between 15 and 18º C during the fermentation process with 20 days of maceration. The fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. The aging process occurred over six months in tanks plus a further three months in the bottle.

Merlot

The wine was bottled after a gentle clarification and filtration in March 2015. The alcohol content is 13.5% vol. Only 8,000 bottles were produced. If you are a small vineyard you can’t expect a high output in volume.

Syrah

The S’Aragall Blau 2014 Rosé wine is best served chilled at a temperature of 8º C and is best consumed during the warm days of Spring and the hot days of the Mallorcan Summer.

S'Aragall Blau

The design of this wine’s label artwork was created by Aina Noguera Tugores. Thank you, Aina.

Hailing Permaculture

Permaculture Son Alegre Santanyí Mallorca

We could tell you lots about Son Alegre wines, Mallorcan wines in general or our grape varieties and so forth but we prefer to direct you to the basics of wine making. Soil is the main ingredient for wine making, believe it or not. There would be no wine without the soil and there would be no wine of any quality if wine makers did not respect the soil, if we did not regard nature as a holistic organism, if farmers did not esteem the elements and if society did not adopt the philosophy of working with instead of against nature.

According to Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison (born 1928 in Stanley, Tasmania):

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.

Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison, Tasmania, Australia: Tagari (1991)

Yesterday, May 3rd 2015, Vinya Son Alegre was invited to participate in an event celebrating the International Day of Permaculture at Caroline Sulzer’s Finca Som Terra near Cas Concos des Cavaller (Felanitx). We are glad we went and we are proud to be part of a movement of sustainable, regenerative and ecologic agriculture here in Mallorca.

Som Terra

Finca Som Terra and other Mallorcan setups, also related to Permaculture, such as Escola Kumar in Marratxí, Finca Son Barrina in Llubí and Ses Aigües in S’Horta, are doing a terrific job in trying to apply the methods of Permaculture to areas of daily living in a more sustainable, economic, ecologic and efficient manner. Check out Finca Som Terra on Facebook, PermaMed on the Internet or watch the following video clip on Vimeo.

Permaculture and organic agriculture ought not to be, however, celebrated only one day a year. Nature and our respect for it should be an ongoing concern, year in, year out.

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At Son Alegre we are trying to treat our soil in a responsible, sustainable way by doing very little. We do not plough our fields, we do not use commercial fertilizers, we do not spray any chemicals nor other, non-organic matter. In short, we simply allow nature to do its job, to fulfill its integrated and holistic task even if that may lead to smaller quantities and to a lower profit margin. Our respect for nature has so far given us good harvests. It may not always be perfect, but it is always in accordance with our sanity, health and peace of mind. And it is always in accordance with the way farming was done for thousands of years – sane, natural and humane.

Celebrating Earth Day

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Please join us at Son Alegre in celebrating Earth Day today, April 22nd, an annual event first celebrated in 1970, and now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day is celebrated in more than 190 countries this year and every year. The celebration is meant to make us aware of the environment, the planet earth, sustainability, the future of this planet and the survival of life on earth. Every day, but especially on Earth Day, we need to take a stand so that together we can show ourselves and the world a new direction. Now is the time to set an example.

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At Son Alegre we actually try to set an example every day of the year, but once a year we want to talk about it. Talk about our concerns and give gratitude to the earth and to nature for what she gives us on a daily basis, minute by minute.

Let us say thank you this Earth Day for what we are about to receive and let us contribute to help heal the wounds that we have inflicted on mother earth.

And let us not forget that the only thing that matters to Earth is everything we do.

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Introducing Our New Organic Cocó Barber White Wine

Cocó Barber Santanyí Mallorca

Vinya Son Alegre is happy to present the new white wine  of our 2014 season, the Cocó Barber 2014.

Our new Cocó Barber white wine is a composition of organically grown Malvasía and Chardonnay grapes in equal parts. Our grapevines were nine years old when the clusters were harvested, by hand, at the end of August 2014. Son Alegre is one of only a dozen vineyards of Mallorca cultivating all their vines according to EU organic farming standards following some principles of Biodynamic agriculture. The certificate of DEMETER (International Demeter Processing Standards) has not yet been awarded but an affiliation is said to be on its way.

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The young white wine was vinified at a controlled temperature of between 15 and 18º C during the fermentation process with a maceration of 20 days. The fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. The wine matured for six months in the tanks and a further three months in the bottle. The wine was bottled in March 2015. The alcohol content is 13.5% vol. Only 8,000 bottles were produced. We would like to have had more of this wine but we are only a small vineyard. In any case, we are grateful for what we have been able to achieve. Cocó Barber 2014 white wine is best served at a temperature of 8º C and is well suited to the Mediterranean climate and the setting of Mallorca.

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The Cocó Barber 2014 wine is best consumed at a temperature of 8º C and is well suited to the Mediterranean climate and the setting of Mallorca.

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The artwork of this new wine’s label was created by Vera Edwards for a design competition which Vinya Son Alegre initiated in collaboration with the Ajuntament de Santanyí, the Cultural Association Lausa of Santanyí and the Agrupación Folclórica Es Mayoral of Calonge. Vera Edwards was born into a family of esteemed artists: her grandmother is Anne Berthelot, a sculptor of quite some fame in Cala d’Or. Vera’s great-grandfather was Robert Berthelot, a French-born painter and sculptor (1913-1995) who lived and worked in Mallorca from 1946 until his death, 20 years ago. Some of his work can still be seen in Mallorca, at the Oratori chapel of Cala Murta, at the church of Colònia de Sant Pere and at the church of s’Olivera (Palma). He also created the mosaic of the Juan March mausoleum at the municipal cemetery of Palma with scenes from the Old and New Testaments which, sadly, is not open to the general public.

Celebrating World Wildlife Day

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Join us today, March 3rd, in celebrating World Wildlife Day. This is the date set by the United Nations General Assembly as the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). World Wildlife Day is celebrated as an opportunity to laud the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people. Wildlife has an intrinsic value and contributes to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of sustainable development and human well-being (yes, UNESCO).

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At Son Alegre we celebrate World Wildlife Day every day of the year. When we acquired this piece of land, we could see nature but there was not much wildlife to speak of. Now, thirteen years on, we are amazed, excited and grateful every single day about the amazing diversity of wildlife establishing itself on our land. Where we had perhaps a bare dozen of plant species just before we started with our organic way of farming, we now have evidence so far of perhaps eighty different types of flora. Here is what we have classified so far; our list is growing by the day:

Asphodelus aestivus
Atractilis tomentose
Alyssum serpyllifolium
Alyssum spinosum
Anacyclus clavatus
Arum italicum
Asparagus acutifolius
Bellis sylvestri
Carduus assoi
Carlina acanthifolia
Ceratonia siliqua
Chrysantemum coronarium
Convolvulus valentinus
Crepis vesicaria
Cynoglossum creticum
Ficus carica
Galactites tomentosa
Helleborus foetidus
Lippia triphylla
Lunescari comosum
Melilotus officinalis
Muscari comosum
Olea europaea
Olea sylvestris
Opuntia maxima
Oxalis pes-caprae
Papaver rhoeas
Pistacia lentiscus
Plantago lagopus
Prunus dulcis
Sinene vulgaris
Silybum marianum
Solanum linnaeanum
Triticum aestivum
Urtica incisa
Vitis vinifera

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Similarly, the fauna too is settling in nicely at Son Alegre. We are thrilled about the heterogeneous collection of bird life on our estate, the variety of insect life and the sheer number of ants, beetles, worms and other invertebrates creeping and crawling as the day is long. We have not indexed our fauna yet but hopefully that by this time next year we will be able to present you with a list of the heterotroph animal life at Son Alegre.

You may wonder what all this wildlife has to do with making wine. Think again. We believe that you get out of your land exactly what you give to it in the first place. Of course, as for the question of how to deal with what you are given to start with, it all depends on your approach. You might elect to give up ploughing, as we have done, or refrain from fertilizing your land with commercial manure or compost like we do. You might aim for an organic way of producing your grapes or even set your sights on an approach by biodynamic principles as we do. We like to do things and practice agriculture on our land the organic, healthy, natural way because we believe that our produce, i. e. the grapes for our wine will be organic, healthy and the best natural way possible, as a result. We trust nature. Nature always knows best, at least in the long run.

Establishing a New Vineyard

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Just over three weeks ago, right before the February full moon, we planted our new vineyard at Camp d’en Ventura, just outside Calonge (Santanyí/Mallorca), at the foot of the sloping hills of the Serra de Llevant. During that phase of the moon, the gravitational pull is lessening whist the moonlight strengthens and there tends to be more moisture in the soil. As it happened, we had to abandon our planting task due to excessive rainfalls and were obliged to wait for three days before we could send the planting tractor in again to continue the planting operation of our new rootstock.

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Whilst in our vineyard at Son Alegre outside Santanyí we have Chardonnay and Malvasía white grapes as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot blue grapes, we opted to plant vines with different grape varieties at Camp d’en Ventura, such as Callet red grapes and Giró Ros white grapes. In total, we planted some 5,200 vines over a total expansion of 18,000 square metres. The newly planted grapes won’t mature until 2017/18 and wine from the bunches of grapes will not be ready until 2018 at the earliest. Patience is the key ingredient in wine making and haste is your enemy number one.

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The soil here at Camp d’en Ventura is of a similar character to the one in Son Alegre. It is of the Call Vermell composition, which is a fertile clay loam formation containing plenty of iron oxide and lime. Here too, the land is equally interspersed with plenty of stones and small rocks, characteristically preserving humidity a little bit longer than soil of a different makeup.

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As at Son Alegre, we shall continue to farm our land at Camp d’en Ventura true to organic and ecological methods as laid down by the CBPAE (Consell Balear Regulador de l’Agricltura Ecològica – Balearic Council of Organic Agricultural Production). That means, no chemicals, no pesticides, no herbicides; that also means that we don’t use commercial fertilizers be that chemical or organic. If everybody uses the same commercial fertilizers, people shouldn’t be surprised when a lot of wine tastes similar. You always get out of things what you first have put in, don’t you think?

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As always, we shall also adhere to the principles of biodynamics according to Rudolph Steiner even though we have not yet been granted the certificate of DEMETER (International Demeter Processing Standards). That implies no ploughing with heavy machinery, the use of biodynamic compost produced from the pulp of grapes and other plant and mineral components plus our own organic manure, principally from our own flock of sheep. And of course we follow the cycles of the moon, a practice which has been adhered to already by our great-grandparents all those years ago. We allow a ground cover of wild flowers and grasses all year round, inviting insects, beetles and birds to take habitat and thus work the land and nourish the soil for us. It’s a long way to Tipperary but the journey, as always, has to start with the first step.

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We are looking forward to 2018 and we don’t mind having to be patient a bit until then.