We usually start pruning our vines in January, when the vine sap is at rest, concentrated in the trunk, and the shoots are withered or dried. The shoots and stems, on which, until recently, the leaves grew, are gradually removed, leaving only the buds (10 to 13 per vine, as established by the Rioja Regulatory Council.) The cuts are sealed to prevent disease. This task helps to revitalise the vine, which will grow back stronger and more vigorous.
Every year, the whole field team, led by Jose Lopes, manage the vines, shaping them so that the sap flows well through the whole vine when they wake up in spring and making sure that there are enough buds. In this way, they also minimize the need for green harvesting, which consists in removing excess green bunches at the end of spring, after budburst.
It is a vital viticultural task, very laborious, and is carried out completely by hand by expert workers. Their working days commence at dawn, so they stop mid-morning for a break among the vines. Curiously, these snacks are known as ten or las diez in Rioja, perhaps because that is the time when they usually stop for a few minutes.
The ingredients of good lunch
Bread and wine, a good sheaf of vine shoots to reduce down to embers, salt and a little bit of meat, you don’t need anything else. In Rioja, the most traditional recipe is baby lamb chops roast over vine cuttings, one of the region’s most significant contributions to gastronomy. Vine cuttings from previous years are formed into bundles, known as gavillas, used to make a fire that is reduced down to its embers. Before they burn down completely, the grill is placed over the fire to clean it, then the food is placed on the grill, which as well as lamb chops, could include pancetta, pork cheek and snout and many other cuts of meat. The grill is turned over so the meat roasts well on both sides, and salt is added at the end, to avoid drying out the meat. This is a simple recipe, ideal for warming up and recovering your strength to continue with the hard work of pruning.