Francis Wharton.

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few salted sardines, rice, and stock-fish, and of broa, or
maize-bread, and the accommodation of mother-earth to
sleep upon, with a roof overhead through which the star-
light and the silvery rays of the harvest moon gleam in at
a hundred chinks and crevices. A happy lot, these Galte-
gans, happy in the possession of content, happier far than
their more impulsive brethren, th^ socialistic peasants of
Andalucia, of whom we have just spoken.

Portugal. — The Vintage in the Alto Douro.

Fain would we pause here for a few moments among
those rugged hills of the Douro, amidst which, long ago, we
first witnessed the spectacle of the vindimia—a sight which
has left a deep and pleasing impression. Everywhere on
the terraced slopes are scattered groups of vintagers,
whose not unmusical voices fill the still air. Heavy
bullock-carts go creaking discordantly up and down the
dry boulder-strewn gullies which serve as roads ; droves of
nimble little donkeys, with pig-skins full of wine strapped
across their backs, or bringing bread for the people
employed in the vineyards, wend their way along zig-zag
bridle-paths ; farmers with wine-samples and pedlars

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with their packs on mules, equipped with jingling
bells, jog leisurely along the mountain roads ; groups of
buxom women, with bright-coloured kerchiefs tied over
unkempt tresses, and bare brown legs, dexterously de-
tach the bunches and fill them into baskets, the men
meanwhile lazily smoking under the shade of some olive-
tree till their burdens are ready. Along the mountain-
paths file strings of sturdy Gallegans,* each bearing
upon his shoulders a huge basket {JW>)f crammed with
grapes. THhejigo weighs nearly a hundredweight, and the
shoulders of the bearer are protected by a woolly sheep-
skin. These burdens they bear to the lagaresy where, when
the great stone trough is filled, a gang of men step in and
commence a sort of devil's dance, treading out the rich
juice, which, after many hours' fermentation, pours in
purple streams to the toneh below.

Within the sombre shade of the lagares that strange
dance proceeds, at first briskly, amid laughter and song,
to the squeaking notes of fiddle and guitar, the rattle
of drum, and the chaff of the women who gather round the
open verandas ; but as the hours roll by and the air grows
heavy with the exhalations of fermenting " must," the
work begins to tell, and the treaders, all bespattered
with purple juice, move slowly and listlessly. In vain
the fiddle strikes up anew, the fife squeaks, the guitar
tinkles, and overseers upbraid. After some eighteen hours
of this tread-mill exercise in an atmosphere charged with
soporific influences, music has lost its charm, and
authority its terror. The men, by this time almost dead-
beat, languidly raise first one purple leg and then the
other, working on far into the watches of the night. Thus
has wine been made since before Homeric times.

* Except at vintage-times the Alto Douro is almost \minhabited.
Hence in early autumn, when work is plentiful, there occurs an
extraordinary influx of labourers — men and women — many from con-
siderable distances, and especially from the Spanish province of
Galicia, flocking into the Alto Douro as the hop-pickers in September
pour into Kent from the arcana of London, or as the Irish harvesters
at that season flood the Midlands and North of England.

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The wine district of the Alto Douro, whence comes our
port wine, is a singular region, extending some thirty
miles along either bank of the river, but chiefly on the
north side, in the province of Traz-os-Montes, and having
a varying width of five to ten miles. The whole paiz
vinhateiro consists of grey and arid-Jooking mountain-sides,
divided by deep gullies and ravines, and all so steep that
their soil of friable mica-schist, more like bits of broken
slate than fertile earth, can only be cultivated by means of
terraces roughly built up, tier above tier. Mountain after
mountain has its sides thus scored with terraced lines
like Cyclopean staircases, and on particular slopes as
many as 150 may be counted rising one above another,
the effect of which is most peculiar. Here and there a
gleaming white casa, with its grove of orange and cypress-
trees; or a water-mill, shaded by oaks and chestnuts,
breaks the monotony of the landscape. Below, the yellow
Douro courses swiftly, bearing picturesque boats, high-
prowed and long-hulled, impelled by a white cloud of
sail, and steered by a huge oar worked from a pivot in
the stern-post, while far above the zone of vineyards rise
mountain peaks in jagged outline.

Grapes are growing by the wayside, hanging from every
crag or tree to which a vine can attach its tendrils, and, per-
haps most picturesque of all, from the ramadas or trellises.
These ramadas roof in the courtyard of cottage or farm,
and even span the village street. As one rides through
the hamlets which nestle in the valleys of the Douro, the
heavy purple clusters, six or eight pounds in weight, hang
temptingly just overhead — temptingly to the stranger to
raise his parched lips and snatch a mouthful of the juicy
spheres. Partridges, too, appreciate the luxury of a grape-
feast, and in the evening, at this season (September and
October), their call-note is ubiquitous. But it is terrible
work to follow them amidst the tangled vines and crum-
bling terraces under the fierce afternoon sun ; and a better
chance of sport will be found at mid-day on the heather-
clad ridges above. Thither, after their morning feed, they
retire to enjoy a siesta, and with the aid of a good dog

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will afford excellent sport till towards 4 p.m., when they
return to the lower grounds. There is a cooler breeze
on these heights, and a superb panorama of the wildest
region of Lusitania, bounded by the Serras do Gerez and
Marg,o and the highlands of Traz-os-Montes. There hand-
some Swallowtails (Papilio maclueon) curvette around on
powerful wing, and among the shaggy heather, rocks,
and rough straggling woods, one may chance upon a
slumbering wolf, the hete noir in the winter of the
Douro goatherd ; though nothing ever fell in the writer's
way more formidable than a black fox, for the destruction
of which was awarded the premium fixed by law — 800 reis,
fifteen pence ! It is a land of insects, from the singular
mantis and merry grasshoppers of many hues, to the
scorpion, and centipedes of enormous size. As evening
falls the air rings — the earth seems to vibrate — with the
rattle of mole-crickets and cicadas, and the gentle tinkle
of the tree-frog: glowworms sparkle on each dark slope,
and by the feeble light of fire-flies we have to pick a
devious way along miles of broken rock and hanging
thicket, by what in Portugal passes for a bridle-path.

Twenty years ago the Alto Douro could only be reached
on horseback, crossing the Serra do Mar&o by the Pass of
Qaintella« A pleasant ride it was, nevertheless, in Sep-
tember, by Cazaes, traversing the valley of the Tamega to
Amarante, famed for its peaches and " vinho verde *' (green
wine, so rough as to bring tears to one's eyes) ; thence up
the slopes of the Mar§»o, and through the granite defiles of
Quintella, which look down upon Pezo da Regoa and the
valley of the Corgo. It was here — in the Baixo Corgo
— that the port wines of three generations ago were
vintaged ; now all the most valued growths come from
further east, beyond the Corgo (Cima Corgo).

The return journey in those days (now there is a rail-
way) was by boat, down the Douro, seventy miles, which
was accomplished in one long day. Hour after hour we
glide down the rapid current, through green vineyards,
all resonant with the long-drawn songs of the vintagers.
Now the cliffs close in, and we pass through a gorge, whose

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sides rise a thousand feet sheer from the water, over-
grown with masses of broom, heath, gorse, and a variety
of evergreen shrubs wherever a ledge or cranny afford
hold for their roots. Gigantic aloes with broad spiked
blades and towering stalks stud the rocky declivities, and
the cactus, wild fig, and other sub-tropical forms of plant-
life lend character to the scenery. Amidst these crags a
pair or two of the handsome black and white Neophrons
may generally be seen.

Dangerous during times of flood are the snag-set rapids
of the Douro, as many a little cross or inscription, cut on
the impending rocks, bears witness. That rude mark
indicates the spot where some poor fellow has lost his
life, perhaps a whole boat's crew ; and our men, as we
pass each memorial tablet, remove their hats and cross
themselves with simple piety.

At intervals we pass picturesque cargo-boats, upward
bound, and laboriously making their way against the
current, motive power being supplied by a gang of water-
men hauling on a tow-rope ashore. Where the path
becomes precipitous, one sees the string of bare-legged
men walking, as it were, down perpendicular rock faces
like flies on a wall, each hanging on by the sustaining
rope. As already mentioned, there is now-a-days a rail-
way to the Upper Douro, and much of the picturesque
river life of twenty years ago is a thing of the past.

Spain. — The Vintage in Andalucia — (Continued).

But we have wandered far from our original subject, and
must now leave Portugal, and return to the Andalucian
vintage. We are not going to enter into the technical
details of wine manufacture, which have been fully
described in special treatises ; suffice it here to say that
from the wine-press, the must (or juice) is run direct into
casks placed beneath, and in which, almost as soon as
made, the process of fermentation begins. In this state

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the young wines are removed on bullock-carts to the
bodegas of Jerez, or San Lucar, and there remain till
January, when fermentation is complete ; the wine is then
placed in clean casks, and so left to mature. The contents
of each cask, however, are kept distinct and separate-
that is the wine- juice that ran from the lagar into one
cask is not mixed or blended with another.

And now follows one of the most curious circumstances
known in oenology. The wines thus made — the uniform
produce, be it repeated, of a single vineyard, gathered the
same day, pressed in the same lagavy and subjected to
identical treatment — develope wholly different characters
and qualities. Some of the casks prove to be wines of
the highest grade and value ; others indifferent, some
coarse, and some even vinegar. Then amongst those
casks which have developed into the wines styled in Jerez
yinos {Le.y soft, dry, and delicate, with a fresh, pungent
flavour), there is found here and there one which has
acquired the rare and highly valued amontillado character.

This singular inequality in development appears to be
.merely a matter of chance — of caprice in fermentation ;
and is quite inexplicable and uncontrolled by any known
laws or causes. Some years ago an attempt was made to
bring the light of modern science to bear on the old rule-
of-thumb methods of "rearing" sherry. An English
scientist of high standing essayed the task of assuring
an approximately equal development of all the wines
grown in one year and one vineyard. The result, how-
ever, was unsuccessful ; or if an approximate level was
attained it was, unfortunately, the level of mediocrity, or
worse ; the wines operated upon were destroyed, and the
savant left Spain under a cloud.

Although the vine is almost ubiquitous throughout the
south of Spain, and the production of wine practically
unlimited, yet there are only two districts which yield the
specific wine entitled sherry. These two districts are
the amphitheatre of hills which surround the city of
Jerez de la Frontera, and a small area of 1,500 acres in
Montilla called Moriles. It must also be remembered that

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there are dififerences in the grape as well as in the soil.
The vine has several distinct natural species, as dis-
tinguished from mere varieties (whether artificial or
climatic), and the character of wine is largely dependent
on the vine producing it. Vast quantities of wine are
grown in adjacent districts, good genuine wines, sound
and wholesome, but the two localities named stand out
in marked prominence. The area of the choice vigiiobles
around Jerez is some 12,000 acres, divisible into four
classes according to geological formation.* The average
yield of the fine vineyards being two and a half butts per
acre, it follows that the total annual production of first-
class sherry is some 85,000 butts, or thereabouts.

In addition to the above quantity, there are also grown,
as above stated, large quantities of wine in the adjoining
districts. These, though pure and genuine, are but of
second rank. From what we have already written, it will
be apparent that in this land of the vine (and the same
remark applies to Portugal), there is nothing so cheap as
the grape. There is therefore no temptation to seek
substitutes for this, its commonest product, or to employ
other materials in its place.

Viticulture abstracts from the soil a smaller proportion
of alkalies and other mineral constituents than either
corn or root-crops : hence the exhaustion of the soil is
slower and the vine can be cultivated on land incapable of
yielding any other crop. An acre of vines on sandy soil
will cost but one-half the money to cultivate, and yield
three times the weight of fruit that an acre of the

♦ The following are the constituents of the four diflferent classes of
soil of the Jerez vignobles, according to Don Simon de Boxas
Clemente : — Ist. Albarizaj chiefly consists of carbonate of lime, with
a small admixture of silex and clay, and occasionally magnesia.
2nd. Barrosy composed of quartz or sand, mixed with clay and red
or yellow ochre, which forms horizontal bands extending along the
coast from the mouth of the Guadalquivir as far as Conil. 8rd.
ArencLSy or pure quartz ore sand. 4th. BugeOy which contains argil-
laceous loam, mixed with carbonate of lime, some quartz ore sand,
and a large proportion of vegetable mould. — "History of Modem
Wines," by Dr. Alexander Henderson, p. 190.

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afa^ras will produce.* It is a. curious fact that these sandy
soils never yield, even phenomenally, a cask of fine wine.
These better wines require years of keeping to attain the
perfect development of maturity, while the others, being of
a lighter description, are as good at first as they ever will
be, although in appearance and flavour the grapes of the
sandy soil may even seem the best. These facts serve to
explain the difference in cost which must exist between
the produce of the two classes of vineyard.

So much for the wines of Jerez ; but sherry, though in


British eyes it looms the largest amongst the wines of
Spain, and is, in fact, of the greatest intrinsic value, yet
represents a mere drop in the ocean as compared with the
whole produce of the land. Spain overflows with wine.
Hardly a village but has its vineyards and its vintage-time,
when the very earth becomes encarnadined, and when the
chief care of the peasantry is rather to find casks, goat-

* Dr. Henderson makes a contrary statement in his " History of
Ancient and Modem Wines," p. 190 (London, 1824) ; but this we
imagine must be attributed to a slip of the pen, and is, in any case,

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skins, or other receptacles wherein to store their redundant
crop, than wine to fill them withal. In traversing many a
hmidred dusty leagues of the wildest parts of Spain, we
seldom failed to replenish our wine-skins with good, rough,
red I'ino del jxiiSy grown on some neighbouring slope ; racy
of the soil, refreshing, and delicious after hard work under
a torrid sun, and at an average price of two pesetas the
arroba, or about one-third the price of " small beer *' !

One soon grows to like and appreciate these rough red
wines of Northern and Central Spain, whose generous
fulness and refreshing asperity are so requisite in this hot
land. After a course of several months of the Eiojas and
Yald6pe£ias of Spain, how thin tastes that first bottle of
the Bordelais— price two francs — at the breakfast-bufifet of
Hendaye !


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Is the Great Bustard polygamous or not? We have
watched these birds in early spring-time, following every
movement, and at quarters close enough, with the binocular,
to distinguish the very feathers : we have inquired of
the best and keenest bustard-shooters on the Spanish
plains — men who ought to know — and yet are unable to
give a positive opinion. The best ornithological authorities
are also silent on the point, or treat it in doubtful terms.

The Andalucian Bustards may be divided into two
classes : — (1) Those which inhabit the undulating corn-
lands extending from Jerez and Utrera eastwards — by
Marchena and Osufia — to Bobadilla and the borders of
Malaga province, which race is stationary throughout the
year ; and (2) the Bustards of the marisma, or flat delta
of Guadalquivir and other great rivers, which seasonally
shift their ground.

The corn-land Bustards (as we will call them for dis-
tinction) are altogether a finer and heavier race than those
of the marismas, scaling commonly twenty-nine, thirty,
and thirty-one pounds — some huge old harbones exceeding
even this great weight ; while birds of the semi-migratory
race run from twenty-four to twenty-six or -seven pounds,
rarely reaching twenty-eight, and show less of the
magnificent ruflf-development which, in spring, charac-
terizes the old males of the campiflas of Jerez.

All the year round these latter are to be seen on the
same grounds. During the months of February and

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. March they are in bands of from five to fifty, males and
females together, though some of the former already begin
at early dawn to ** show off" and to indulge in those fero-
cious-looking rehearsals preUminary — in appearance — to a
pitched battle, but which always seem to end in smoke.
Eound and round, in slow majestic circles, revolve the
rival harhonesy each with trailing wings and tail expanded,
fan-like, over his back, the bristling head carried low,
the neck swollen out to abnormal thickness. Now, on that
stately parade, they meet; the champions stand face to
face — intent on mortal combat. One almost fancies one
can hear the rustle as they shake out their wings and set
every feather on end — each striving to daunt and demor-
alize his opponent by a display of apparent bulk. But the
issue is disappointing ; only on three or four occasions
have we seen battle actually joined, and then the scuffle
only lasted a few seconds.

It is, nevertheless, a magnificent spectacle to watch,
perhaps, ten or a dozen of these huge game-birds, all
" showing off " under the early rays of an April sun, and
set off amidst the green com and flower-spangled herbage
—each as he slowly struts round, "echando la rueda/'
displaying alternately the swollen gorget and yellow-barred
back, then the white underparts.

This state of affairs continues during March and into
April ; rehearsals, but no actions — at least we have seen
none. The males really appear to show off rather one
to another than to the females, which, though not far off,
exhibit no more visible interest or concern than does our
grey hen under similar circumstances. About the 20th of
April the hen lays her two big greenish eggs amidst the
growing com, and disappears ; but even this circumstance
has no appreciable effect upon the other sex, who continue
for weeks their complacent performances in spite of the
fact that the females — for whose behoof these displays
were presumably inaugurated — are no longer present to
admire, as they have now commenced the duties of incu-

During the earUer period of this courtship, and at the

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time when pairing presumably occurs, it is extremely rare
to see a single male associated with a circle of females — as
is the case with black game. Each band is composed of
mixed sexes, females preponderating. We have often seen
two males along with five or six females, but never ane
alone ; another band consists of three males and seven
females ; a third of five and thirteen ; a fourth of ten and
thirty, males and females respectively ; but fiotie, as just
stated, are formed of a pair, or of a single male with
his harem, as one would expect if the species were poly-
gamous in the ordinary sense.

After incubation has commenced the males remain in
separate packs during summer, and take no share in
domestic duties.

Turning now to the Bustards of the inarisma^ we must
first explain that there are no bustards in the marisma
proper — that is the home of the Flamingo. But here, for
the sake of convenience, we include the whole of the
plains, some pasturage, some arable, which, together ivith
the marinma proper, form the delta of the Guadalquivir ;
and especially those parts known as th© Isla Mayor and

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Isla Menor, so-called " islands " formed by the triple
channel of that great river.

These " islands *' comprise vast areas of level pas-
turage — in winter bare of herbage, almost dry mud, but
by April, knee-deep in richest grass and vegetation,
resonant with the " whit-ti-wit " of unnumbered quail.
On these flowery plains are reared some of the choicest
breeds of the fighting bull — those, for example, of the
Marques del Saltillo — which may here be admired at

The first point in the life-history of these Bustards of the
marisma is their semi-migratory character. We do not
mean to infer more than that they are locally migratory,
shifting their ground according to season and food-supply,
but not leaving the country or crossing any sea, Africa is
the only country they could go to, but Otis tarda appears
to be unknown, or at any rate very scarce, in Morocco and
Algeria, Their migrations are confined to Spanish territory.
In the middle of May, while ibex-shooting, we have observed
a flight of seven Bustards in the heart of the Sierra de
Eonda, passing high over those lofty peaks.

On thes^ plains there are Bustard of one sex or
the other (not always both) at all seasons. The males
leave the pasturage for the com in February and March,
followed later by the females as the laying season
appjroaches. Both sexes are then seen in mixed bands as
above described — two or three up to a dozen males in
each band composed of five or six times that number of
females, but iiever in single pairs or a single male consort-
ing with a female retinue.

Here also we have enjoyed watching, at sunrise, the
imposing performances of the males— often five or six
bands in view at once,* but, as before, without detecting
any specific action — nothing beyond ** show.''

* Nowhere can these spectacles be witnessed with greater ease,
or to better advantage, than on the Lower Guadalquivir, where,
from the deck of our vessel, we have counted as many as forty or
fifty barbones within easy reach of a field-glass. It is, however, only
in the first hours of daylight that they are thoroughly ** on view.'*

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The eggs are laid in the last week of April (we found
two females, already sitting each on two eggs, on the 26th),
and about mid-May the males disappear. To Africa they
have gone, the local shooters aver ; but this, we know, is
not the case, and are far from sure that the missing
males are not simply hidden amidst the vast stretches of
corn, then near four feet high, pending their moult.

Bustards moult very severely, casting all quill-feathers
(as wild geese do) almost simultaneously. H^nce, at the
end of May, they 'become for a time incapable of flight,
and naturally, under such conditions, seek the utmost

Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 26 of 36)