18 October 2018

When is the right time to grape harvest? The “likely alcohol content” indicates it to you

If you want to produce a good wine, it is clear that, it is necessary to start from a good raw material, that is to say, the grape has to be harvested in its optimum state. A very important point in this regard is the Baume degree and likely alcohol content that the grape has to set the date of its harvest, also called vintage (there is a direct relationship between the Baume degree and likely alcohol content). As we have already told you on many occasions talking about grape harvesting, vineyards, grapes,... we are not experts in this matter because we do not cultivate this crop. For this reason, we visited our great friend Oscar Escribano at his farm in El Provencio (Cuenca) to talk about the grape harvest, likely alcohol content, optimum state of the grapes, etc.

In order to know when the winegrower must be harvested, we normally use a field or hand refractometer which helps to know the approximate sugar content of the must of our grapes. Besides, it is important to take representative samples of the vineyard (as you can see in the photos), going through the field and selecting both grapes that are in the sun (perhaps 60% of the sample) and grapes that are not exposed to the sun (40% of the sample). It should also be taken into account that the alcohol content is lower in the morning than in the central hours of the day. Once selected the grapes for the sample, they must be squeezed to the maximum to have a representative must. Then, we should use the refractometer to measure the grade. The refractometer contains inside a prism that allows us to measure the refractive index of the grape must. This is achieved once the light passes through a thin layer of fluid and enters the refractive prism, where through the angle of refraction produced, we can evaluate or identify a sample of liquid. In our case, from the refractive index we can know the sugar concentration (measured in Baume degrees) of our sample. The refractometer has inside a scale converted directly to Baume degrees to avoid the use of conversion tables (you can see photos of the Oscar's hand refractometer). The winegrower who does not have a refractometer can take a sample to the winery where it is analysed for free, as you can see in the photos. In some varieties such as Berdejo, Moscatel, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc,... the technicians of the winery are who monitor and set the date of grape harvest.

Oscar takes all his grape production to the Campos Reales winery, located in El Provencio. There, the technicians analyse the grapes before entering the winery (they have 6 downloading points so that they can organise all the entries of different varieties). The machine they use is much more precise than the hand refractometer we have mentioned before. This machine extracts a multitude of parameters during the 7 minutes it takes to analyse the sample. Some of these parameters (as you can see in the photos) are Ph, acidity, potassium, rottenness, probable alcohol content,... Undoubtedly, this is one of the best wineries in Castilla-La Mancha that makes extraordinary wines.

The farmer is paid for his grapes according to the kilograms delivered and the probable alcoholic strength he obtains. In this sense, it depends on the variety delivered to the winery. Here are some examples:
  • Cencibel grape (red): 
    • I Grape Category: 13.6 or more probable alcoholic grades. 
    • II  Grape Category: 12.5 - 13.5 probable alcoholic degrees. The winegrower has a penalty on the price.
    • III  Grape Category: less than 12.5 probable alcoholic grades. The grower has a penalty on the price.  
  • Airen or Macabeo grapes (white variety): The winegrower has no range of likely probable probable alcoholic degree. Normally a probable alcoholic degree is between 12 and 13 (you can see it in the photos).

From here, we invite you to taste the great selection of wines that Campos Reales winery have... surely it is an unforgettable experience.

26 September 2018

John Deere 5100R. A multipurpose warranty

A few months ago, the official John Deere dealer of our area (Tajada Barrio S.L.) offered us to test one of their demonstration tractors. These tractors are those ones that any interested farmer can see and work with them and, in this way, the farmers are able to solve their doubts at the moment of choosing their tractors.

We had several tractors to choose from to try, such as, the 5G, 5R, 6M and 6R. In the end, we selected the 5100R because it is a type of tractor that fits our farming, since it is a very versatile tractor for soil work, manoeuvrability with a front loader and, besides, it is ideal to woody crops (vineyard, olive trees, almond tree) just as specialized crops such as purple garlic in our region.

The aim of our demonstration was to test the tractor in vineyards because it is the narrow version. We left it for a few days in El Provencio (Cuenca) so that our great friend Oscar and great winegrower could try it in his vineyards using his trailed Rioja Vid atomizer of the General Agrícola brand. As you can see in the video, the day was very entertaining and the tractor fulfilled our expectations.

The main features of the John Deere 5100R are described in the following paragraphs:

  • John Deere PowerTech PWX engine with 4.500 cm3 and 6 cylinders. Common Rail injection system (Stage  IIIB) 
  • Maximum power : 110 CV
  • Maximum torque: 437 Nm at 1,500 r.p.m (torque rise of 36%).
  • Fuel tank capacity of 178 litres.
  • Command8 Gearbox of 32x16: 4 speed range transmission synchronized (A, B, C y D)  and 8 speed power shift.
  • Maximum speed of 40 km/h at 1,750 r.p.m.
  • Mechanical cab suspension and front axle hydro-pneumatic suspension.
  • Grammer Professional seat with pneumatic suspension.
  • Lifting force rear of  5,300 kg (optional front lift of 2,900 kg).
  • PTO speed: 540, 540E and 1000.
  • Integrated and sound-proofed safety cab with noise level of 74dB.
  • New color cornerpost display.
  • Pump flow rate of 96 l/min (open centre) or 117 l/min (open centre with load sensing) 
  • Maximum permissible total weight of 8.6 tons and effective load of 4.3 tons.
  • Wheelbase: 2.250 mm
  • Steering radius of 3.75m

In this narrow version it has a width of 1.9m so it fits very well to vineyards that have a planting frame of 3 meters between rows. The maximum permissible total weight is 8.6 tons, so you can have a wide range of implements to use with this tractor. For the vineyard another positive point to take into account is the hydraulic flow. This tractor has a flow rate of 96 l/min with open centre and 117 l/min with closed centre and load sensing. In addition, the tractor has three speeds in the PTO, so it covers with guarantees the needs of the implements to be used. As far as comfort is concerned, the cab is fantastic with a flat floor and all the steering ergonomically designed, which makes working days very comfortable. Without a doubt, this can be considered as a good tractor that John Deere manufactures in the USA and we will be able to see in the fields of Spain very frequently.

Like everything in this life, nothing is perfect and something can always be improved. As a suggestion, an important point for us as a substantial improvement could be that the gearbox when working with groups C and D for transport would not pass through the 16 gears that make up those two groups. Perhaps, if the load permits, the gearbox should be able to jump a few gears to reach the maximum programmed speed as soon as possible. Maybe it's a feature you've already implemented, but we couldn't configure it to work.

In conclusion and in our opinion, the tractor works very well. The comfort and materials of the cab are really fantastic and make it look like a robust and durable tractor like almost everything made by John Deere. Another thing is that this tractor cover the needs of farmers according to all the specifications the tractor offers... it's something the farmer has to evaluate when deciding which tractor best suits his needs and those of his farm.

Versión en español.