Temperature:

The month of November was very cold overall, with an average temperature in peninsular Spain of 8.2 ºC, which is 1.2 ºC below the average for this month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the tenth coldest November since the beginning of the series in 1961, and the fourth coldest of the 21st century, behind November 2008, 2001 and 2010. This was also the case in the Rioja region, with even colder temperatures in the mountainous area of the Sierra de la Demanda, which represents its south-western boundary.

Rainfall:

The month of November was dry in terms of rainfall, with an average rainfall value over peninsular Spain of 56 mm, a value that represents 71 % of the normal value for the month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the seventeenth driest November since the beginning of the series in 1961, and the seventh in the 21st century. However, it was wet, and even very wet, in the northern part of Spain, which includes the Rioja region, especially in the areas closest to the Ebro (between 125% and 175% of the normal value for the month). Naturally, the Ebro basin received all this increased rainfall.

Insolation and other variables:

The accumulated insolation throughout the month of November was above normal values (reference period 1981-2010) in a large part of the Peninsula. However, the Rioja region remained within the average, with an increase in insolation of around 10% in the eastern area. There were few and insignificant episodes of strong wind.

Temperature:

October has been warm overall, with an average temperature in peninsular Spain of 15.4 ⁰C, a value that is 1.0 ⁰C above the average for this month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the 19th warmest October since the beginning of the series in 1961 and the 10th warmest of the 21st century. However, in the land of the Rioja there was no increase in temperature with respect to the average. However, there were significant fluctuations of cold and warm episodes.

 

Rainfall:

October has been dry in terms of rainfall, with an average rainfall value over peninsular Spain of 57 mm, a value that represents 75 % of the normal value for the month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the 24th driest October since the beginning of the series in 1961, together with 1984, and the sixth driest in the 21st century. In the Rioja region, the drought was more pronounced in the eastern area. The Ebro basin showed a significant decrease in rainfall.

Insolation and other variables:

The accumulated insolation during the month of October exceeded the corresponding normal values (reference period 1981-2010) in almost all of Spain. Only in some areas of Murcia, Alicante, Barcelona, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands were values close to the normal value recorded. In the Rioja region, the excess of average insolation can be estimated at 10%, reaching a maximum of 30% in the far west.  Episodes of strong wind were scarce and insignificant.

Temperature:

September has been warm overall, with an average temperature in peninsular Spain of 19.7 ⁰C, a value that is 0.5 ⁰C above the average for this month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the 21st warmest September since the beginning of the series in 1961 and the eighth warmest of the 21st century. Although it was normal or cold in large areas of the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, it was warm or very warm in the rest of the Spanish peninsular territory, becoming extremely warm in coastal areas of the southeast quadrant and in parts of Catalonia, not exempt, as is now usual, from abrupt alterations such as the cold episode of 18-22 (coinciding with the non-festivities, due to Covid-19, of San Mateo).  In the land of the Rioja, the value of the excess can be placed at the national average.

Rainfall:

September has been very wet in terms of rainfall, with an average rainfall value over peninsular Spain of 58.8 mm, a value that represents 133 % of the normal value for the month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the thirteenth wettest September since the beginning of the series in 1961, and the third wettest in the 21st century. However, in the Rioja region, such an increase can only be detected in the eastern area, and with greater intensity the further south and east of the region. In terms of basins, the Ebro basin was slightly wetter than average.

Inssolation and other variables:

Accumulated insolation during September was more than 10 % below the normal value (reference period 1981-2010) in Asturias, Navarre and northern Castile and Leon. On the other hand, it was more than 10 % above the normal value in the northwest of Andalusia, Melilla and large areas of the Canary Islands. As for wind, in September there were very few and insignificant cases of strong winds, including in the Rioja region.

Temperatura

El mes de agosto ha tenido en conjunto un carácter muy cálido, con una temperatura media en la España peninsular de 23,6 ⁰C, valor que queda 0,9 ⁰C por encima de la media de este mes (periodo de referencia: 1981-2010). Se ha tratado del noveno agosto más cálido desde el comienzo de la serie en 1961 y del sexto más cálido del siglo XXI.

Nuevamente en la Tierra del Rioja la mayor calidez correspondió a la mitad occidental, resultando más suave precisamente en las zonas próximas al Ebro. A mediados de mes hubo unos días de intensa ola de calor provocada por la irrupción de una masa de aire muy cálido procedente del norte de África, alcanzándose los 40 grados, aunque no fue tan extrema como en otros lugares de la península.

Precipitación

El mes de agosto ha sido seco en cuanto a precipitaciones, con un valor de precipitación media sobre la España peninsular de 15,9 mm, valor que representa el 70 % del valor normal del mes (periodo de referencia: 1981-2010). Se ha tratado del decimoséptimo mes de agosto más seco desde el comienzo de la serie en 1961, y el séptimo del siglo XXI.

En la Tierra del Rioja sin embargo esa sequía fue algo menor, e incluso hubo una mayor pluviosidad, en torno al 125%- 150% en el sector más oriental. La precipitación media en la cuenca del Ebro fue de 21,4 l/m lo que le sitúa en el 60% de la media del período.

Insolación y otras variables

During the month of August the grapes start ripen and gain sugar and sweeten while their skins take on their colour. Red grapes tur red and white grapes star to take on their golden colour. In the vineyards our work for the season nears to an end and we start with the harvest preparations. In the cellar we start preparing our wines for bottling so that we can make room and empty the tanks in the cellar for the new grapes that will be coming in.

Temperature:

The month of July as a whole has been ever so slightly cooler than normal, with an average temperature in mainland Spain of 22.8 ⁰C, a value that is 0.1 ⁰C below the average for this month (reference period: 1981-2010) . It was the thirty first coldest July since the start of the series in 1961 and the tenth coldest of the 21st century.

However, throughout Rioja, the thermometers overall maintained the average, although this average was the product of days that were especially cold and others that were especially warm.

Precipitation:

The month of July had been very dry, with an average precipitation value over peninsular Spain of 10 mm, which represents 58% of the normal value for the month (reference period: 1981-2010). It was the twelfth driest month of July since the beginning of the series in 1961, and the third of the 21st century.

 

In Rioja, the highest percentage of drought corresponded to the central, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa areas, and to a lesser extent to the Rioja Oriental; In general terms, it can be estimated at 25% of the average of the reference period. In the Ebro basin, the average rainfall was 19.6 l/m, this is 59% less than usual.

Insolation and other variables

In terms of hours of sunshine and low wind frequencies, they were at the average for the period in the entire denomination.

Work in the vineyard

During July we are continually working in the vineyards managing the shoots, controlling disease pressure and mechanically removing weeds. We position our shoots evenly and help create equal spaces for each bunch to develop in its own space. We still remove the odd side shoot and the odd leaf around the bunch zone and we can tip the growing tip so that the shoot does not elongate too much and then fall over.

 

After ploughing with a light ripper

All this requires very experienced manual labour as you can remove too many leaves or shoots at this stage and that would have a detrimental effect towards the quality of the grapes.

For the weed control we plough the rows with a light passing with a tined ripper plough to mechanically remove any weeds that have germinated during the last month or two and to leave the vine rows flat and even. Between the vines we have to work with the “azada” to mechanically remove any weeds that have germinated in the last month or two.

 

Light ripper

We keep a watchful eye on the weather throughout July as any thunderstorm could potentially destroy the crop and any rain at this stage of the game could be beneficial for the plants if it is a dry summer or it could be detrimental to the plants if it is already a humid, wet year with a large spore count of fungal diseases.

 

Barranco del San Ginés / Soft soil texture

Towards the end of July the vineyards reach their maximum shoot length and start to decrease in their shoot growth rate as the growth phase starts to change from the shoot development phase into the fruit development phase.

 

Ploughing the Laderas de San Julian

Temperature:

June has been on the whole normal, with an average temperature in peninsular Spain of 19.9 ⁰C, a value that is 0.1 ⁰C above the average for this month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the 22nd warmest June since the beginning of the series in 1961 and the 14th warmest (eighth coldest) of the 21st century.

Once again this month, with respect to the land of Rioja, the further west we look, the greater the increase in temperature compared to the average, but without exceeding the 20% margin of the warmest years. In any case, with large differences between the first half of the month, which was very warm, especially between the 6th and 16th, and the second half, with very low temperatures for the average.

Rainfall:

June has been very wet, with an average rainfall value over peninsular Spain of 49.8 mm, representing 147 % of the normal value for the month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the fourteenth wettest June since the beginning of the series in 1961, and the second wettest in the 21st century.

In the land of Rioja, the greatest increase was recorded in the western area, even reaching 200% of the average, while in the eastern part it remained at around 125%, being lower in the Ebro plain than in the mountainous area.

In the Ebro basin, the average rainfall for the reference period was 42.1 l/m, reaching a figure of 68.4 l/m, i.e. a percentage of 162%.

Insolation and other variables

The accumulated insolation throughout the month of June remained around normal values (reference period 1981-2010) in most of Spain.

As for the wind, in June there were few and insignificant situations of strong winds, especially on 12 and 13 June, which affected mountainous areas in the province of Ourense.

Nothing of particular note in the land of Rioja.

In June, our vines are in the seventh to tenth week of their growth phase. After the “espergura” (suckering or disbudding) process that we carried out in May to encourage the best formation of the buds that will eventually become shoots, we now had to take care of the side shoots that form along the vertical shoots; we proceeded to remove, as is normally done, two or three of these side shoots that come out at the base of the vertical shoot, which is called the basal zone, so that the clusters that form in this zone can develop freely, with good ventilation and sunlight. Above this basal zone, the development of the lateral shoots is maintained, with a view to the future formation of leaves.

This is because vine leaves have a very short active life span of about forty to sixty days. During this period, they are very active in photosynthesis and metabolization. After this period, their work begins to decline and photosynthetic activity decreases, to the point where it can be said that their usefulness is reduced to providing shade. We therefore rely precisely on those tall lateral shoots of our goblet vines for the development of young leaves in June and July, as these are the ones that will contribute to their final phase of growth and to the ripening of the grape clusters at the end of August and September. The clusters require these healthy, vigorous leaves for optimal acid and sugar production.

During the month of June the weeds began to grow again so the vineyards had to be ploughed once more, this time working from the centre of the rows (or “renques”) towards the plant, the work being completed around the plant with the hand hoe. Naturally this is always best done shortly after a small amount of rain has fallen, as it softens the soil, making this manual work much less cumbersome.

 

 

TEMPERATURE

The month of May was warm overall, with an average temperature in peninsular Spain of 15.7 ºC, which is 0.6 ºC above the average for this month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the 22nd warmest May since the beginning of the series in 1961 and the 11th warmest of the 21st century.

However, with respect to the land of Rioja, it can be said that temperatures were around average in almost all areas, with the exception of the westernmost area, i.e. the Oja-Tirón basin, especially in the Montes Obarenes area, where they were slightly warmer. In any case, there was a notable alternation of cold and warm days.

RAINFALL

May was very dry in terms of rainfall, with an average over peninsular Spain of 34.0 mm, which represents 57% of the normal value for the month (reference period: 1981-2010). This was the twelfth driest month of May since the beginning of the series in 1961, and the sixth in the 21st century.

In the land of Rioja, the drought was most notable in the western area (around 60% of the average), becoming less severe as we move eastwards, until reaching practically normal parameters in the lower or eastern Rioja.

The Ebro basin recorded an average rainfall of 40 l/m, which represents 60% of the 1981 – 2010 average, a period which was therefore undoubtedly very dry.

INSOLATION AND OTHER VARIABLES

Accumulated insolation throughout May was practically normal throughout the Rioja region, except in the Sonsierra area, which recorded an increase of 105%, which coincides with the general situation on the peninsula. As for the wind, in May there were few and insignificant situations of strong winds, with the following being of particular note: on 8 and 9 May, which affected mountainous areas of the Cantabrian coast and the Pyrenees, and on 11 and 12 May, which affected some areas of the northwest of the peninsula.

At the end of April and during the first weeks of May the vines were growing very actively, so we had to start the treatment programme to avoid the possible development of fungal diseases. Since, as you know, most of our vineyards were planted before mechanisation, they are very dense and the space between the rows (the so-called renques) is very narrow, so it is impossible to carry out such vineyard treatments with a machine, and we have to carry them out on foot, carrying backpacks.

It is exhausting work, but we prefer to keep the vineyards in their original state rather than removing rows of vines to make it possible for the motorised vehicles to pass through. It also has its advantages, as we can do it even just after the rains, when the soil is still waterlogged, because our feet (our weight) do not compact the soil. The tractor loaded with the sprayer can weigh up to four tons, and compacts the root zone of the vines as it passes through, precisely the area most in need of sponginess and water assimilation capacity.

In May, the canopy of the goblet vines also begins to be managed. The vines are checked vine by vine to eliminate those shoots that are of no interest to the proper development of the plant. This work is known as “espergurar” (debudding or disbudding). It allows us to manage the number of shoots, their load, and the space between them, trying to improve the aeration and sunshine of the vine. In this way we help the fertility of the shoots and the reduction of the possible appearance of diseases, and we even facilitate the pruning work after the following winter as the vine is better formed.

Finally, we also start another process known as tipping. This is carried out on shoots that have grown so vigorously that they are in danger of breaking under their own weight. We stop the elongation of the shoot, which has a positive effect in that it helps to strengthen its base, preventing it from breaking under the force of the wind. In some grape varieties, a third effect is produced, as it encourages the development of lateral shoots that must then be eliminated in June.

 

According to the AEMET (Spanish State Metereological Agency), April 2021 was, on the whole, a normal month in terms of both rainfall and temperature. The tenth warmest April of the 21st century, the twenty-ninth driest April since 1961, and the eleventh of the 21st century.

The average temperature in peninsular Spain was 12.0 ºC, which is 0.6 ºC above the average for this month (reference period: 1981-2010). The temperature anomaly in La Rioja was almost negligible.

In terms of rainfall, the average rainfall over peninsular Spain was 63.4 mm, which represents 99% of the normal value for the month (reference period: 1981-2010). Although it should be noted that it was very dry on the Cantabrian coast and Navarre and disproportionately wet in the Valencian Community and Murcia region. Consequently, it was also dry in the Rioja region, with the percentage of rainfall standing at approximately 75% of the average for that period.

 

 

(Although it is also noted in the report that the change in measurement methodology initiated in September 2020 may imply significant differences in the results with respect to those obtained with the previous method).

It is obvious that when we divide the year into months to tell you about the work we do in the vineyards during those months, we are not setting peremptory and inexcusable dates. It is nature that sets the calendar to which we must adapt.

Once the vines have been prepared by pruning and the land has been cleared and cleaned, which as you know has kept us busy for the past few months, it is time to wait for life (the vineyard) to mysteriously make its way once again. This is our essential work for the month of April.

Autumn and winter leave the vines in an initial state of dormancy. This is known as endo-dormancy. Shorter days and colder temperatures inhibit bud growth, ensuring a hormonal balance. The buds become dormant. But internally they prepare for what is called “bud break”, which is essentially the swelling of the buds, preluding the return of life and the annual repetition of the whole vegetative cycle that will culminate in the bunches. When the bud has acquired this faculty, it enters the second period, which is called eco-dormancy; the vines are now ready to bud. Whether this budding occurs depends on the activity of the roots, which in turn depends on the air and soil temperatures, as well as on the water present.

 

 

In the end, it is the heat or rather, not to exaggerate, the absence of cold what brings the vine back to life. And like all life, this is a risky business. Basically, in these early stages, the risk lies in the possibility of frost, so much so that naturally the earlier the “bud break” takes place, the greater the risk of low temperatures.

This year, with the warm temperatures in February, the vines came out of eco-dormancy earlier than usual, the roots started to activate earlier than usual, taking up water and nutrients which then led to an increase in turgor pressure in the buds, resulting in earlier bud break. These tender shoots are very sensitive to freezing water temperatures, below which (that is, zero degrees Celsius), they will die, and with it obviously whatever fruit there might have been.  It is not uncommon for a vineyard that has suffered frost to produce only 10-15% of its expected production, which is a major economic risk.

 

Thus, during April we kept a constant eye on the temperatures, and we were aware of the need to take measures to reduce the risk of frost. Fortunately, this did not occur. However, our work was not only about our inner suffering, we also began the so-called work of espergura, a special type of pruning. The DRAE attributes the Spanish verb espergurar to Rioja and defines it as follows: To clean the vine of all the stems and shoots that it puts out on the trunk and wood, which are not from the previous year, so that they do not suck the sap from those that come out of the buds of the new vine shoot, which are the fruit-bearing ones.

This marks the beginning of the so-called “green work”, which will keep us busy for the next few months as long as the grapes do not change colour. We will keep you updated.

According to the usual summary of the month’s weather published by the AEMET, (State Meteorological Agency), March 2021 was the fourth driest March since the beginning of the series in 1961 and the driest of the 21st century, with the aggravating factor that the month was wet or very wet in the southeast of the peninsula and in the Balearic Islands, so that the dryness was proportionally more intense in the rest of the peninsular territory and in the Canary Islands. In the Rioja region, the average rainfall was 50% higher than in the reference period 1981 – 2010.

AEMET MARZO

In terms of temperatures, March was on the whole a normal month, with an average temperature in mainland Spain of 9.9 degrees Celsius, 0.1 above the average for the month for that period. From the 23rd to the end of the month a particularly warm spell was observed with temperatures well above normal, reaching, on the last day of the month, over 30 degrees Celsius in areas of Extremadura and Andalusia and in some parts of the Cantabrian Sea. Overall, this was the 22nd warmest March since the series began in 1961 and the 11th warmest of the 21st century. However, except for this final period, it was cold or very cold in the southeast quadrant of the peninsula, and normal or warm in the rest of the Spanish peninsula. In the Rioja region, depending on the area, it could even reach an increase of 0.2 degrees Celsius.

In March we completed the work we had started in previous months.

 

 

On the one hand, once the vine shoots had been saved for gastronomic use, we proceeded to burn the remains of the wood left by the winter pruning. This is the most effective way to disinfect the vineyards and reduce (drastically) the number of spores of various micro-organisms that live in the dead wood and can infect the vines during the growing season. We like to do this work towards the end of winter and just before spring, when the days have already started to warm up and dry out the wood. (This work is also subject to administrative control).

The second major task to be completed was the clearing of weeds and weed control. You already know that we opt for exclusively mechanical means for this work in our vineyards, without the use of herbicides, and you know the advantages of all kinds that this entails, both from a health and ecological point of view and in terms of improving the quality of the vine and its product.

Since most of the work was done in February, we can now complete the information with data that may be of interest to you.

First of all, a plough called a “forcate” in the land of the Rioja is used, which is recognised as such in the DRAE (Spanish Royal Academy Dictionary): “A plough with two shafts to be pulled by a single horse”. By means of this plough, which contains a pointed plane about 30 cm long and 15 cm wide capable of greater pressure when introduced into the soil, we make criss-cross furrows in the soil, to eliminate weeds and facilitate water penetration with minimum erosion.

 

Arado llamado forcate

 

This prepares the soil for the subsequent use of a special mouldboard plough. A mouldboard plough is any plough that allows the furrowed soil to be turned over by “pouring” it to one side or the other. This peculiar plough, known as “borracho” (drunkard) in the land of the Rioja, has a sort of step on one side or the other that allows the operator to wind between the vines, moving towards and away from them, uncovering the base of the soil and throwing it towards the centre of the so-called renque, i.e. the space between the rows. Bryan suggests that its name comes from the zigzagging movement that the plough has to make around the vines. Then we see that WikiRioja defines it as follows: “Two-handled mouldboard plough with a guide wheel, which was used to dig around (“desacollar”) the vines without damaging the trunk, the name comes from the difficulty the vine grower has in handling it, as it goes all over the place, like a drunkard, and can break many vines”.

 

Arado vertedera

 

(“Desacollar”, in case you are fond of the Alphabet Game –TV contest known as Pasapalabra, in Spain-, is also a local word accepted by the DRAE: “To dig around the vines, leaving them a hole in which the water stops”).

And so the soil is finally prepared for what has been the real work of March. The cleaning around the trunk of the vine, which the ‘borracho’ obviously cannot complete with total cleanliness. For this purpose, the hoe that everyone knows is used, obviously a small hoe adapted to the task. Hoeing is a manual job that few farmers do, as it is exhausting; one person can cover little more than 1000 m2 of vineyard in a day. Another advantage of clearing the trunk of soil and preventing water from reaching it is that it stops the formation of fine hairy roots at the junction of the graft and the base of the vine. In this way the vine is forced to send its roots downwards in search of water and nutrients. We are now entering spring, therefore in the phase of root growth, and it is very beneficial for the roots to go deeper, considering the time when, due to the lack of rain, there is a shortage of surface water resources.

 

According to the monthly report of the AEMET, February was very warm overall, with an average temperature in mainland Spain of 9.5ºC; About 2.5ºC above the monthly average for the month with respect to the reference period 1981-2010. In Rioja we even surpassed in 3.0ºC. It has been the third warmest February since the beginning of the records in 1961 falling behind the months of February 2020 and 1990, and therefore the second warmest of the 21st century. The minimum temperatures were particularly high, which were 3.1ºC above the normal average for the month, the highest recorded minimum temperatures in February since the beginning of the record.

Three particularly warm episodes were identified within the month, the first lasted between days 1 and 6, the second from 8 to 21, and the third between 23 and 27.

 

In terms of rainfall, it has been described as a wet month, with an average rainfall of 71 mm over mainland Spain, a value that reaches 35% above the normal value for the month. It was the 22nd wettest February since the records began in 1961 and the 8th wettest of the 21st century. In the land of Rioja this increase has been proportionally higher when we are further west. Which naturally corresponds to the different basins: more humid in the Atlantic slope, drier in the Mediterranean, being able to estimate the increases with respect to its average value in 153% and 83% respectively.

On the other hand, the accumulated insolation throughout the month of February was lower than the normal value by more than 10%, and as for the wind, the Karim squall that gave rise to very strong winds in the northern half of the peninsula deserves to be highlighted. Between days 16 to 21.

In such circumstances we were able to finish removing the vine shoots from the vineyards in bundles called ¨gavillas¨ and make our first ploughing of the season.

 

 

The ¨gavillas¨ will be used to grill lamb chops later in the spring and summer months. It is perhaps the most important gastronomic specialty of the Rioja, and a reason for a family party.

The ploughing of the vineyard at this time has several reasons. It is used to eliminate weeds mechanically, without the use of herbicides, the weeds would later compete with the vines for nutrients and for water in the growing season. Ploughing aerates the soil and helps to allow the spring rains to penetrate the land without running off or causing erosion. The aeration and tilling of the soil helps to start the nitrogen cycle and improves the structure of the soil if executed in the correct manner and at the correct time.

Again this year we have chosen to use draft animals in the old vineyards. These vineyards were planted in the 1920s, 1930s and 1935s in a square pattern, with a high density of vines and with narrow spacing between rows. It was the way vineyards were planted in those days, when ploughing was only conceived with such animals. Mechanization did not even exist as a concept. Such a planting pattern allows for the criss-crossing of the plough passes, top to bottom and bottom to top, side to side and back, and last diagonally. This is very effective to eliminate, without chemical herbicides, the weeds around the trunk of the vine, to ensure the respiration of the soil and to reduce the risk of erosion, since the furrows not only go up and down the slope, but also perpendicular to it and also diagonally. The water does not find paths by which to run wild, dragging the earth in its path. It is thus the most respectful way with the environment to avoid weeds in the vineyard, at the same time as ensuring the conservation of the surface layer of the soil where the microorganisms that contribute to preserving it live. It is this layer of about thirty centimetres thick that houses the living microorganisms that represent no less than 80% of the living biomass of the planet, and it is they that contribute to the greatest extent to the quality and personality of the result of the strains that welcome.

Working with animals in the vineyard has, in addition to all that has been said, the great advantage that the soil is not compacted as heavy machinery does. This allows for further root development and ultimately healthier vines and better quality grapes.

 

Working with draft animals is an art. Luckily we still have some people in Spain and specifically in the land of Rioja who keep it as a profession. They preserve a culture in the process of extinction. There are different types of ploughs in different shapes and different materials, some made entirely of wood, others combine it with steel and others are made of pure steel or wrought iron. The diversity allows to attend to different types of soil depending on its texture, humidity and structure, its different types of cultivation and the different tasks that proceed depending on the time of year or crop. There are also different ways of fixing the bridle, of attaching the plough to the animal, types of drawbars, pulling heights…, many variables from which the most subtle differences will be felt. As you can imagine, when working with one horsepower, the smallest setting can determine the most significant differences. Quite an art we have already said.

The work with manual plough allows to feel the earth; you are in direct contact with it, which means perceiving the different types of soil and working them in the most delicate or rigorous way that helps to maintain and improve its structure. Mechanization inevitably implies the loss of this intimate connection with the soil; Today most tractors and mechanical ploughs have enough power and steel to destroy the soil structure without the operator being aware of it.

Other years we have worked with horses and mares. This year it has been with a mule. There is a long tradition of working in agriculture in Spain with mules; arguably the preferred draft animal. The mule is a sterile hybrid, the result of a cross between a donkey and a horse. It has generally been a preferred option over the donkey, as it is larger and stronger, allowing it to pull a plough or cart with less effort and at a better pace. The mule is said to be much more resistant and tenacious than a horse – more stubborn than a mule is a common phrase – being able to work for long periods without rest pulling the plough through uneven terrain, feeding on what the farmer has available. They are also said to be more docile than a horse and less nervous, good traits when working between otherwise narrow crops.