Cecilia Gibbons

Liberty Wines Apprentice 2015

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Martín Códax, Galicia, Spain - 2016 vintage

"I have learned so much and have also discovered new muscles doing manual punch-downs and carrying boxes of grapes."

I knew doing a vintage would be hard work, but couldn’t have imagined that at 11pm I would be in the winery with Juan, the oenologist at Martín Códax, removing Pinot Noir grapes from a barrel for pressing, standing on a bucket so I could reach down and armed only with a very small sieve!

I have learned so much this week and have also discovered new muscles doing manual punch-downs and carrying boxes of grapes. Initially the boys I am working with in the bodega were reluctant to let me do the tough manual tasks, but after seeing me in action with the rake they just left me to it. They are teaching me some of the local language, Gallego, mostly insults for the time being but it is coming in handy. I have gone days without speaking any English.

Harvesting was fun too – I worked with Diego and Jesús who showed me which bunches to harvest and which to leave. They asked me if it was as a prize or a punishment that I had been sent to harvest, as it is such hard work!

I have been coming home every night tired, with lots of grape juice in my hair, but very happy.

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Altos Las Hormigas, Mendoza, Argentina - 2017 vintage

"In a couple of days the grapes will start coming in thick and fast and the winery will run 24 hours a day...The work is intense, but the team is great."

The timing of my arrival at Altos Las Hormigas couldn’t have been better as my first day of work coincided with the first day of the harvest. Leo, the winemaker and viticulturalist, took me straight out to visit the vineyards in Luján and explained the different soil types in the region, including the huge calcareous pudding stones in the best vineyard sites.

Since then, I have been doing a bit of everything at Altos: visiting vineyards with Juan (viticulturalist) to get grape samples, then analysing them in the lab with Coti, Fran and Noélia; analysing pH, acidity (total and volatile), Brix, sugars and free SO2 in the lab; working on the sorting table with the guys from the bodega; manual punch-downs and pumping over; and of course, lots of cleaning of bins, tanks etc. As all the fermentation takes place with natural yeast we don’t do any inoculation, but have to keep a very close eye on the fermenting vats. The winery is carrying out some terroir-focused micro-vinfication projects in addition to the main task of making the 2017 Clásico, Terroir, Reserve, Altamira and Gualtallary Malbecs. I am hugely excited as Leo says I can do my own micro-vinification project – watch this space!

There is a nice atmosphere in the winery – we sit down to have lunch together and there is always music playing (generally reggaetón in the lab, but I am getting used to that!). On Saturday we had an ‘asado’ (a barbecue) after work with the whole winery team and ate lots of steak and morcilla with Malbec.

In a couple of days the grapes will start coming in thick and fast and the winery will run 24 hours a day, everyone working at least twelve hours from 8am-8pm or 8pm-8am. The work is intense, but the team is great and I need to do something to burn off all the asados!

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