Refuge update

July 19th, 2018

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The other day Angela’s younger sister Duliana, who works in a dog refuge in Cambados, kindly sent us a photo of their latest summer window display. As you might be able to make out, it features our Casal Caiero label wine that we still supply to them (with all profits, of course, going to this charity). I should add that for the purposes of the window display, our bottles do not contain wine, but rather water, and they are clearly marked on the back of the bottle as such (so that they don’t get sold by accident – which actually happened once!).

Of course, we are not advocating for one second that dogs should be drinking albariño – after all, we already recognise that dogs very much prefer a good Beaune!

Posted in Local News

The other day my UK journalist friend Tim Atkin wrote an article about typicity. In the context of wine, this simply means the typical characteristics that you would expect to find in a particular type of wine – a combination of factors typical of the denomination, of the grape variety, all ultimately influenced by the local climate and/or vintage. 

In Rias Baixas the definition of a typical albariño will certainly vary according to the sub-zone. Although there is only 60km seperating the north from the south of the denomination, climatic and soil variations can already produce some widely differing styles. These days, unfortunately, flavour profiles can also be manipulated by the use of cultured yeasts whereby a wine’s typicity can be can be rendered almost unrecognisable. At Castro Martin however, we always opt for a very ‘neutral’ yeast, doing our very best to preserve and protect the delicate aromas of the albariño grape. Our extended lees ageing period helps not only to enhance this, but also adds further to the complexity of the finished wine.

In our view an albariño should always have a delicate fruit, perhaps slightly floral nose, sometimes offering a hint of salinity. On the palate flavours are often piercing and intense – a lively sweet and sour mixture. Notes of freshly cut fruit dominate – citrus, green apple, pear  and can include more exotic fruits such as melon, apricot and white peach. On the finish is can have a ‘nervous’, granitic edge and a streak of a salt-lick zestiness. It sounds like a real mouthful – but this is exactly what the typical albariño should be.

Anyone who knows me will know that (at best), I am just a bit sceptical about some wine competitions. Of course, there are some very reputable events, judged by professionals who know what they’re doing, but then equally, there are now a lot of  second rate and fairly worthless competitions, that spring up out of nowhere with monotonous regularity. Nearly every week there is some new ‘International’ wine competition contacting us, asking us to send samples (not to mention sending money for them to taste our wine). The average price of submitting a single bottle these days can be well in excess of 100 euros.

The consequence is that every year or so, I have a moan about it.

One of the problems of these new competitions is that they all claim to be ‘International’, even when they are just starting up. Often they are held in some obscure corner of the country, and sometimes not even mentioning the address/location at all, merely adding mobile telephone numbers and e-mails as a point of contact. Call me an old cynic, but I often wonder if at least some of these could be elaborate scams. Think about it….. a great way of financing a huge party with free wine!

Since 1776, when they signed the US Declaration of Independence, the Americans have been celebrating beating the British, and eventually expelling them from US soil.

Since 3rd July 2018 the English have been celebrating beating Columbia on penalties in the World Cup! (OK, maybe not quite the same historic significance, but a reason to be happy nonetheless).

The English are especially ecstatic as they have a wretched record in penalty shootouts – losing shootouts in the World Cup in 1990,  1998 and 2006, and in the European Championship Finals in 1996, 2004 and 2012.

So whatever you are celebrating today, football or Independence, Happy 4th July!

Tank Story II

July 2nd, 2018

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Last week I mentioned briefly that putting the tanks back together, welding the steel, is a much more difficult job than cutting them in two (not to mention very highly skilled).

The process of maneuvering the two halves into position and the spot welding is slow, precise and painstaking. As you can perhaps make out from today’s video every small weld is made centimeter by centimeter, re-aligning the metal between each fusion – it really is very exacting work. Once the circle is complete the result is a line of hundreds of individual spot welds that form the new joint. The welds are then hammered flat, with two men working simultaneously, perfectly co-ordinated, one inside the tank and the other outside – it’s really fascinating to watch.

After the hammering comes the final clean up. This is a two part process. Firstly comes the grinding, when the small humps and bumps of the join are removed, leaving a comparatively smooth, flat surface. Finally comes the polishing, when the tank is left with nothing more than a ‘brushed metal’ effect is visible (masking tape is used the give this brushed effect perfectly straight edges). Et voila! Job done!

Of course, now that the new jacket is in place it simply needs to be connected and tested. The odd fact is that this work is not carried out by the same people that made the tank modifications. Connecting to the cold water system will be carried out by either a plumber or refrigeration engineer in the coming days.

New shirts!

June 27th, 2018

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After a week away from the bodega our tanks (or should I say half-tanks?) have arrived home, complete with their new shirts. These bottom sections have had new cooling jackets added, to make them more efficient and improve temperature control, especially during fermentation. In English we call them ‘jackets’ whereas the Spanish call them ‘camisas’, which literally translated means shirts.

Obviously it is now down to the simple matter of welding them back together again, which is a highly specialised job, and a good deal more difficult than the process of cutting them. Having said that, the guys who do this work are so good, that once complete you can barely see the join. I will probably add a short video later in the week.

(By the way, the cardboard wrapped around the tanks in the photo are merely there to protect the jackets whilst in transit, this does not form a part of the tank insulation itself – we are just a bit more hi-tech than that! Also, the tanks are turned upside-down, so the strange fins that you see on top are actually the feet).

We often hear stories of celebrities who insure parts of their bodies against loss or injury – dancers may insure their legs, singers can insure their voices and I have even heard of tasters who insure their palates. So what about tasters insuring their teeth?

As a former wine buyer I used to take every possible precaution to protect myself against colds and flu, as in the short term, it would simply be impossible to taste, but what about teeth? By coincidence Angela and I are both undergoing some significant dental work at the moment (no, we haven’t been knocking each other’s teeth out), and I have to tell you that it has had a notable effect on our ability to taste easily. Fortunately is has not prevented us from tasting completely, but has meant that we have both had to modify our techniques.

Angela has had a mouthful of plastic for more than a year now, and then recently, just for good measure, they have added a bit of wire too. My treatment, an implant, has meant that I have been given a denture to wear for the last ten weeks, as the dentist waits for the bone in my jaw to recover.

Whilst I cannot “shpeak” for Angela, I can tell you that I find it quite “imposhible” to taste with a denture, which means that the only option is to remove it. However, this in itself causes another problem. When I try to draw air over my tongue to intensify the taste, the wine simply tries to escape through the gap in my teeth! Stupid I know, but significant…. Of course, I still have the ability to taste, but in the short term (until the work is complete) I have had to modify my physical technique. Not so easy after decades of doing it in my sleep!

Posted in Odds & Sods, Tasting

Half a tank?

June 19th, 2018

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When you start cutting your tanks in half it’s never just for a bit of routine maintenance – it’s usually much more significant than that. Indeed, the last time we did this was following a catastrophe in 2008 when half of our tanks were accidentally crushed by a powerful vacuum (whilst testing the tank cooling jackets).

Today’s ‘vandalism’ has actually been triggered by choice, albeit once again related to the cooling jackets. This time we are adding more cooling to the tanks to give us greater control and more flexibility during harvest. Logistically it’s quite an undertaking, and to be honest there’s no really good time of year to carry out this work. Having just completed the racking, then obviously we were able to relocate the new wines away from the work area, but even so, tank space is always at a premium (because of our extended lees ageing).

The only option is to do this work, step by step, and when time allows. For example, today we will be cutting and removing just four tanks.

Obviously my short video shows the cutting process, but the one thing that a video cannot highlight is the smell! Cutting metal generates, well, a burning metal smell, and so we have to make sure that everything is completely locked down to isolate this as much as possible. We are actually using our powerful extraction system (used during harvest to remove the CO2), to keep the air as fresh as possible.

Just after I wrote this post, and purely by co-incidence, this article appeared in our local press. Obviously my views differ slightly from that of the author (click on article to enlarge).

A question that I often ask myself, and that is apparently a frequently asked question is – when a restaurant is awarded a Michelin star, does the star belong to the chef or the restaurant? The answer is not quite as clear cut as you might think. Certainly is is the chef who takes the accolades for his menu, but in reality Michelin stars are awarded for the total experience including service, wine list, amenities, general ambiance etc.

Once awarded a star or two does this then mean that the chef has to spend all his waking hours cooking and supervising his kitchen? Well, no, not at all (much to my own chagrin). A chef can apparently train a head chef to prepare his menu and then, if he wishes, move on to set up another enterprise, which explains how a chef can run several different establishments at the same time, clocking up Michelin stars around the country. Indeed there are some celebrity chefs that have been awarded a multitude of stars in a number of different locations (sometimes on different continents!).

Of course, if said chef sells up, moves or forms a different company, then the star rating does not automatically follow him or her, it stays with the restaurant. In these circumstances the restaurant would normally be re-reviewed pretty quickly.

I suppose these ‘roaming’ chefs are a little like flying winemakers, they make their mark and then ‘hover’ around different locations, juggling to keep all the pieces in place.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see a talented chef where he should be, in his kitchen, showing off his cooking skills to the paying public.

El Mundial

June 15th, 2018

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As if you didn’t know the World Cup kicked off yesterday, with the Russian hosts giving the Saudis quite a comprehensive beating (no surprise perhaps, that they ended up in probably the weakest group of the tournament).

So football and politics aside, it’s time to put your feet up, kick back on the sofa and enjoy a glass of something refreshing whilst watching the next game – and by that, I mean of course, a well-chilled glass of Castro Martin albariño.

Even if football is not your thing, then you can just as easily recline on your favourite garden chair and savour a glass or two, simply because albariño is the type of wine can you can drink just as easily on its own, even without food. On the other hand, if you are planning to stoke up the barbecue this weekend, then Castro Martin will still be the prefect choice.

Just how versatile can a wine be?

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