The soil of “El Aljarafe” dedicated to the cultivation of vineyards is whitish soil of the best quality, where the Garrido grapes punctually ripen every season. The freshness of the soil allows the stock to mature its fruit in spite of the long summer.
Most of the grapes are of the "Garrido Fino" variety, but we also cultivate grapes of the "Moscatel" and "Pedro Ximénez" varieties, which are very suitable for the sweet wines because of their high natural sugar content.
Bodegas Góngora, standing on an area of 11.400 m2 have all their “soleras and criaderas” in casks of American oak, which lie under different sites along the cellars: “La Virgen”, “El americano”, “Las 70”, “La Esperanza”, etc., rearching its capacity to 2.000.000 litres. For the stabilising and adequate treatment of the wine, there is a plant with all the installations and equipment necessary to attend the requirements of the markets.
These Bodegas still keep the old “Lagar” of the XVI Century, with its “Prensa de Viga y Husillo” (a huge lever of 17 Mts. of length and 15.000 Kg. of weight) which the Culture Ministry has declared National Monument. It is the only lever (among many others which existed in Spain) that is kept in perfect working order.
The cellar conserves a sixteenth-century winepress, which is the “Sancta Santorum” of Bodegas Gongora. This winepress dates from 1.574, and between the old “lagar” is the oldest part of the cellar. The Spanish Ministry of Culture has declared this press as a national monument, and is the only one of its kind that has been perfectly conserved, working once a year after the harvest.
The beam and spindle press is a huge set of wooden pieces joined together with hemp ropes, it has total length of 17 metres and a weight of 15.000 kilos.
At one end it finishes in the Chapel where, when it is loaded the beam is fixed and set into “the Virgins”. Above the Chapel is the tower, which serves as a counter weight to the force obtained from the second lever, which is the beam.
At the opposite extreme of the chapel, the beam contains a wooden screw through which the spindle passes with a thread so perfect that it is only necessary to grease it with soap for it to form the the power point as it lowers the two 4.000 kilos mill stones.
13 cart loads of grapes form an enormous cake of 15000 kilos which has previously been trodden, from here its name, “the foot” (pié). This grape cake has a diameter of 4 metres and a height of 1.2 metres.
We try to make the cake as round as possible and it is circled three or four times with the rope. This is a hemp rope, which at one end has a needle, which is stuck into the trodden grapes, the rope is then secured so that it can not escape.
Some wooden boards are placed over the grape cake forming a large stage. Criss-crossing these boards are three large poles (they are called “marranos”), and over these three poles the “marrana” is placed and it is on this that the beam rests with a curved iron plate called “galápaga”.
When the foot is finished and the marrana is under the galapaga, the winepress begins working.
Four men who push the “vigarios” (two perpendicular poles) that pass through the spindle or wooden screw, so that the end of the winepress, which has a great screw at one end, rises almost to the end of the spindle move the spindle. This elevation is decided by the “maestro de viga” (the master of the beam) who directs the work.
Then the winepress is set down over the marrana and on the Chapel by means of longitudinal openings of the virgins, with two wooden pegs called “cuños”.Once the winepress is set the spindle is turned in the opposite direction to lower the end of the press, which puts pressure into the foot of grapes. The spindle is turned round and round until the stones hang free.
Now it is when the press starts to work as a second level lever: the support point has been formed in the Chapel and the resistance point in the marrana over the grapes and the power point in the screw of the spindle, with the stones hanging free. A power arm 15 metres long (distance from the galapaga to the spindle), multiplied by the 4.000 kilos of the stones which by hanging at one end will give a mass of 60.000 kilos.
To this you have to add the 15.000 kilos that the wood of the beam weights, it gives us a total weight of 75.000 kilos, which will press the grapes until the stones are once more on the floor.
Once the foot of grapes does not give off any more mosto (grape juice) the cargazón is finished, this is the name given to the pressure the beam puts on the foot of grapes.
There are usually four cargazones on the same set of grapes, rebuilding it over and over.
The mosto runs over the floor of the winepress to the basins. After it will be decanted into the fermentation cellars.
The best quality mosto is that which is obtained in the first treading and is destined to Fino and White wines of the best quality.
From the second and third cargazon we obtain a denser wine which is assigned to oloroso and medium wines.
The fourth cargazon produces grape juice of inferior quality, which will be distilled into alcohol or vinegar.
For the ageing of the wines we follow the “Criaderas y Soleras” System, which is a classic system of maturing wine through scales or “criaderas” (the rows of barrels).
The wine drawn from the solera (solera is the first row of barrels in the tier) is refilled with wine from the first criadera, and this in turn with wine from the second criadera and so the top row is refilled with new vintage wine. The barrels from a criadera or a solera are never completely filled or emptied when they are sprayed or are being taken out.
At least a third part of the capacity of the barrel is left, and it will be this third part that transmits its qualities and characteristics to the new wine, making it of the same style.
This is the system used in these bodegas from the old times, and still today continues working.