Although France and Italy have a higher production, Spain is the world's largest wine country. In this country they have made wine for more than five thousand years. With a little planning you can participate in grape harvesting.
The Villena area has more wineries than anywhere else in the region. We participated in an organized trip from Altea to Bodagas Santa Margarita in Villena. The tree in the picture above is included on the label of the bottles of this manufacturer.
The harvest is critical. If they are taken too early, the wine becomes too sour - taken too late, the wine will be too sweet. It is the overripe grapes that give sweetness. A good wine requires an ideal blend of ripe and overripe grapes.
The vineyards extend all the way to the mountains (1400 hectares). Unlike the grapes we eat, the wine grapes are sour and small, the size of blackcurrant.
We were given a smaller area that the workers had not managed to harvest. After five minutes of instructions on how to cut the grapes, we were started.
Many of the wine producers in the area have produced wine for centuries, but this one was founded in 2003. Three brothers sold everything they owned and bought a farm where they previously had produced ham.
They had no experience in wine production, but two of them had training in developing vine plants. One of those specialized in grafting new variants and promoting desired properties, and this business is the farm's largest and most important product.
The other one specialized in horse farming.
The third brother (in the middle with green t-shirt in the picture above) specialized in wine production.
After harvesting, we got to the next stage of the process. The grapes were poured over to a collection line where they were sorted. Then they were transported into a mill that crushed the peel on the grapes so that the liquid contents could leak out.
From the mill, the grape mass goes into large containers where they start the fermentation process by the yeast that is naturally found on the grapes. In this first phase, the kit is kept cool in padded refrigerated containers to prevent too fast fermentation.
Later, the wine is filtered and sent to other containers where it can continue fermentation which is now taking place at a calmer tempo at room temperature.
Young wines are transferred to bottles, but wine from crops suitable for storage is laid on oak barrels where it can mature for a few years.
More excursions: www.turideer.com
Excursion of the week: wine trip with grape harvest and visit to the Bodegas Santa Margareta in Villega.
Duration: This trip lasted two days with one night stay. We got lunch at a local hacienda, were allowed to participate in grape harvesting and processing in Bodega, got dinner in the bodega in the evening, sightseeing in the medieval city Biar and a nice bus tour. Other trips to other Bodegas can last for 2-3 days or longer.
Where to order: If you search on the internet you will find many bodegas you can visit in the Villena area. You can make direct contact or sign up for an organized trip. We chose to join the owner of Casa Vital Restaurant in Altea, Åge Folkestad on one of his wine tours. He speaks English, Norwegian and fluent Spanish. He is also good at creating a good mood and including everyone.
To get in touch with Åge, call +34 965 840 936 or visit Casa Vital's website: www.casavital.com. You can also contact Casa Vital's pages on Facebook.
Would you like to contact Bodegas Sata Margarita directly, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (written in Spanish or English). You can also call +34 965 979 003, but then you should be able to speak Spanish.
Get there: Villena is located a few miles within the coast of Alicante. Bodegas Santa Margarita is located a few kilometers west of the city of Villena.