Oops, washing!

August 21st, 2014

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WashingI am a keen amateur photographer, and undertake most of the photography needed for our business myself. OK, it might not be quite as professional, but I have to say that it saves quite a bit of money!

Probably the most difficult of all subjects to photograph is food – certainly if you want to make it look appetizing, it really is quite an art. There is a lot of ‘re-touching’ that goes on, both before and after the shot, but thanks to software such as PhotoShop it has now become slightly easier to achieve the required result.

Believe it or not, another difficult subject is wine, or more specifically the bottles – they are after all made of a reflective material and therefore getting the highlights and shadows exactly as you want them can become quite a challenge. Reflections can  also be a problem, as proved in my most recent session.

Some of the bottle shots that I use on our website are done at home, on our terrace – I quite like the effect of the background image mirrored in the bottle. It makes the pictures just a bit more interesting, and also helps add a bit of colour….. or at least that is, until the washing on your clothes airer appears in the background (see today’s photo)! Despite looking closely at every possible detail – potential scuffs or marks on the bottle or label, lighting, shadows, focus, aperture etc., etc., I did not notice that part of the reflection in my latest series of shots was of our washing! Of course, it would have been possible to modify the image in Photoshop using a healing brush or clone tool but to do a good job is actually quite time consuming, and so, upon reflection (no pun intended), I opted to do the entire shoot again. I guess that’s why we sometimes need to call in the professionals.

Posted in Photography

A drink too far?

August 18th, 2014

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NovinophobiaSome of you may know that I go running along our local seafront every morning – the same route used by young people returning from our local bars and discotheques. On some days I actually encounter the revellers themselves but more often I simply encounter the trail of havoc that they leave behind. Broken glass, empty bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, emptied litter bins, broken plants and trees, and other things too unpleasant to mention. Each day our local council dutifully sends cleaners to gather up the debris, but unfortunately this carnage only leaves me with a feeling of despair….. nearly all of this misbehaviour is down to the effects of alcohol, and therefore only succeeds in damaging the reputation of our industry.

The specific reason that I feel compelled to write about this once again is that a Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse, formed in the UK, is now calling for the calorie content and health risks associated with alcohol to be spelled out clearly on all wine and beer labels, in a similar style to cigarette health warnings. The group has also supported calls for a minimum price per unit of alcohol to be introduced to increase the cost of the cheapest drinks bought in supermarkets and off licences.

Unfortunately the ‘Botellon’ as it is known in Spain is fuelled by the Supermarkets, whereby drinking in bars and discotheques is supplemented by much cheaper alcohol purchased over the counter. I did read somewhere that on one of the recent Bullfighting weekends in Pontevedra (mentioned in a recent post) some 19 young people were admitted to our local hospitals with varying levels of alcoholic poisoning.

Of course, I doubt very much that these problems were caused by albariño, but unfortunately we simply find ourselves listed  in the general category of alcohol, and most of the anti-alcohol lobby does not discriminate sufficiently between the different types. After all, I’m sure that the vast majority of us are quite responsible drinkers!

Summer Holiday

August 14th, 2014

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Keep calm summerTomorrow is a national holiday in Spain (the Assumption of Mary to give it it’s correct title). There are lots of public holidays in this country, but not all are national, and do vary from region to region. This can be quite confusing and also very inconvenient, especially for national businesses. At Castro Martin we quite naturally observe the local holidays of Barrantes (our village), Ribadumia (our municipality), Pontevedra (our Province) and also Galicia (our Autonomy). Believe it or not there are different holidays according to exactly where you are located, and the village where you live might actually have different holidays to the place that you work (even if it is only a few kilometres away)! Complicated.

In addition to public holidays our employees also have their annual holiday allocation, but then persuading them to take time off is quite another matter! In order to ‘encourage’ them we will often add an odd day (or sometimes two) to the public holidays in order to form bridge days, but this time we are actually adding an additional week to Friday’s festivo. This will be our last break before the harvest, and the last chance for our team to put their feet up and relax before the onslaught. The lull before the storm if you will.

In effect this means that we will be closed from Friday 15th August until Monday 25th….. have a great summer!

Posted in Fiestas

Dull & Boring Day

August 10th, 2014

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BlandWeather…. my favourite subject, and as I look out of my window you would not believe the view that greets me. The cloud and mizzle is so bleak that I can hardly see the hills a couple of km away. This is really not August/Summer weather, and might well be the tail end of Hurricane Bertha! (By the way, is mizzle actually a recognised word – a cross between mist and drizzle?) This is not really great bullfighting weather either. 

Sorry, this is just a bad attempt to make a link between my weather comment and the bullfighting ‘festival’ this weekend in Pontevedra. Yes, our provincial capital still allows this annual spectacle – I will not call it a sport, as that might imply that the bulls have a sporting chance, which clearly, they do not. Over two weekends at the beginning of August ‘La Corrida’ takes over the city, and is typified by the young supporters (peñas) who move around in groups wearing brightly coloured t-shirts, usually emblazoned with some witty slogan or other. This part of the festival is harmless enough, although I should add that as the day progresses, then the consumption of alcohol tends to become a factor in their general behaviour. Enough said.

So, why is this a Dull & Boring weekend (apart from the gloomy weather)? Well, yesterday, 9th August, was officially Dull & Boring Day, celebrated by the ‘twinned’ towns of Dull in Perthshire, Scotland and Boring in Oregon, USA. The two small towns joined together back in 2012, and this year it was to turn of Boring to host the celebrations. They did so in style, with an ice cream feast and a lone piper…. they really need to visit Spain to see how a fiesta is done properly!

Oh, and by the way, there are actually another couple of places waiting to join in all this fun – the Shire of Bland in New Zealand, and the small town of Yawn in Louisiana.

BCM 2013The Bodega Castro Martin label that we have been using until now, was the original design that we created for the very first vintage of this brand back in 2002. It is quite unusual for any label to survive for so long without even the slightest modification, but we unwittingly created such a ‘timeless’ design that even now it does not looked in the least bit dated. This doesn’t mean however, that the time for change doesn’t eventually arrive, and so last year we set about working on an upate – very much with the 2013 vintage in mind.

The design brief was to try to come up with another classic design that would also stand the test of time. Of course, being our premium brand we also wanted the label to exhibit an aura of quality, and so it was never going to be an easy exercise.

Our new 2013 Bodega Castro Martin (Family Estate Selection) is only now starting to appear on the market as customers take their first shipments of the new vintage, and so we anxiously await the initial reaction. Please take a moment to examine this new label closely and notice the attention to detail – the raised screen printing, the gold foil with shadow outline, and the embossed border. It certainly looks minimalist, but I can tell you that a great deal of thought went into the final design. We really hope that you like it!

Posted in History, Labels

AlbariñoToday, and most of this week, it’s all about Albariño. Not only are we celebrating the first truly co-ordinated International Albariño Day, but we also have the Annual Albariño Festival here in Cambados (the acknowledged capital of the Albariño producing region).

The reason that I say “co-ordinated” is because last year there were actually two in the United States – one at this time of year, to coincide with the Cambados Festival, the other in May, which was simply selected as a day that we should all enjoy albariño. (Actually, the truth is that we shouldn’t really need a reason, or a special day to drink our wines, we should simply enjoy them for 365 days of the year!)

As always, my favourite part of the Albariño Festival is the ‘tunnel of wine’ – an opportunity to taste the vast majority of wines from the latest vintage (or as many as your palate can take). For me this is simply an opportunity to formulate my own personal impression of the vintage, and to taste some of the best wines, made by Castro Martin and some of our close associates from the region. I think it’s fair to say that the best winemakers are always the most consistent and so it’s usual quite easy to predict which bodegas will emerge on top.

At the tasting I think I was the only person making notes (and also one of the very few spitting as I tasted). Making copious notes is something that I was trained to do, and as a result has become something of a habit. For some reason the practice of writing appeared to attract some attention, as I became the target of local newspaper and radio. One guy from the local radio station could not believe that I was making dozens of tasting notes simply for my own reference, he was convinced that they must be for publication….. My 15 minutes of fame at last!

Val do SalnesI have commented often enough about wine descriptions, and the vocabulary that we use in an attempt to describe a taste or smell. Writers will sometimes go to extreme lengths to stimulate our tastebuds, and perhaps steer us towards a new wine experience. When it comes to describing a denomination of origin, such as Rias Baixas, then that is another matter….

Our good friend Xoan Cannas is a former Nariz de Oro of Spain (best sommelier), and his passion for our region is made clear in a recent newspaper article, when he describes his home territory of Rias Baixas. I should mention that I have done my best to translate his paragraph, carefully choosing words in order not to detract too much from the original:

“When I think of the sea, the wine that first comes to mind is that of Rías Baixas, that is my territory, inseparable from the sea, and its connection with the bracing winds, the salt, the image of the breaking waves, that produces such crisp, ‘electric’ wines. They are inseparable from the fish and the produce of the sea, the mussels and their platforms. Vineyards so close to the sea, that their vines are simply burnt by the salt, sea spray”

Words that really paint a picture!

EatocracyBack in April our Castro Martin Albariño was featured on the ‘Today Show’ (NBC) website as part or their Spring selection. As though that wasn’t exciting enough, we’ve now been singled out for the ‘foodie’ page of the CNN website, called Eatocracy – this time as a part of their Summer selection.

Ray Isle is Food & Wine’s executive wine editor, and with a circulation of nearly 5 million, Ray’s comments were also posted on their own Food & Wine website. He commented:

“What goes best with…? That’s the baseline wine-pairing question, and every wine expert worth his or her Riedel decanter has an answer for it. But realistically—and especially during the summer—there are plenty of times when a glass of wine will find its way to your hand with no food anywhere nearby. Cocktail parties, pre-dinner lounging around, beach house afternoons hanging out with friends, you name it. For these occasions what you want is the ideal aperitif wine: something light and crisp, not too high in alcohol and endlessly refreshing.
At the recent Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, which I was lucky enough to attend, I spent my time in the Grand Tasting tent hunting up some ideal, affordable, white wine candidates for this category. Here is one of my top picks:

2012 Bodegas Castro Martin Albariño ‘Sobre Lias’ - One of the best out of an ice bucket–full of Albariños I tasted, this layered, lemon-grapefruity white from Spain was impossible not to like. It’d be a great cocktail party pour.

IndependentThere is so much written about wine these days that it is quite normal for the odd review of our wines to slip under the radar. A month or two ago our Castro Martin wine, sold in Marks & Spencer was recommended by the Independent Newspaper as one of their wines of the week. Their correspondent Terry Kirby wrote:

Bodegas Castro Martin Albariño 2012 – “Great credit to M&S to be stocking Albariño from this family-owned estate in the Rias Baixas in north-western Spain. Zesty, medium-bodied and full of flavours of pears and quince, it is almost perfectly designed for the bountiful local fish and, particularly, shellfish, while it is also fine for sushi.”

Posted in Press

Three Wine Men

July 22nd, 2014

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Three Wine MenOz Clarke, Tim Atkin (MW) and Olly Smith (aka ‘The Three Wine Men’), are all rated amongst the UK’s top wine writers. They recently held their annual summer tasting in Manchester, and were were very pleased to receive a mention for our Castro Martin wine that we sell to Marks & Spencer.

“Oz,  Tim and Olly made notes on their favourite wines from the event: Tim Atkin MW - Bodega Castro Martin ‘Sobre Lias’ 2012 ‘Lovely stone fruit aromas segue into a fresh, lime zesty palte with a crunchy mouth-watering finish.’’

Posted in Press, Tasting

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