Spring at last?

March 26th, 2015

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Bud break 2015One of the biggest chores of the year is pretty much behind us, as we come to the end of the pruning period – and not a moment too soon. In the last couple of weeks the weather has certainly picked up, and recent days have been largely fine and sunny. In the early part of the month the thermometer actually touched the 20°C (68°F) mark during the day, but since then the average has been closer to 15/16°C (60°F). The forecast for the coming week is for warmer weather, as our weather experts predict temperatures up to the mid-20′s C (around 75°F) – quite warm for this time of year.

Of course, with this warmer weather comes the first sign of life in the vineyard. The buds on the vines are just starting to break, and no doubt when the warm weather arrives next week, this small movement will be accelerated. Now that we have some growth, we have our fingers crossed that the winter frosts are behind us – certainly being so close to the sea does help to regulate our temperatures, meaning that we usually don’t suffer from extremes of temperature either in summer or in winter.

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

Catch up time

March 21st, 2015

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Prowein 2015To be honest I don’t know where to begin! Angela and I have been away for most of the last week at Prowein in Dusseldorf, to my mind certainly the best wine fair in Europe, if not in the world. It’s a very humbling place, and puts a perspective on where we are placed within the world of wine – one tiny grain of sand on a beach. The number of producers and wines on offer was truly mind-boggling, and made me ask myself, when I was a buyer, how did I cope with this? Well, there is a simple answer. Clearly you can’t taste everything, and so the very best that you can do is set out with a plan, and make sure that you stick to it (allowing perhaps a little extra time each day to make one or two random discoveries). If you simply arrived at the entrance, not knowing what you were looking for, then you would very quickly be overwhelmed. In any event, wine fairs are tiring, whether you’re buying or selling – it’s three long days on your feet, not to mention that Dusseldorf is already quite a ‘trek’ from Galicia (two flights via Madrid, taking more than half a day).

But having to play catch up with a backlog of work from the fair is only half the story – the day before we left for Germany, my computer packed up again, but this time completely…… Nothing… Nada… Rien… I couldn’t even open a programme! Of course I had already been experiencing huge problems in the last couple of weeks, but thought that it had largely been resolved, albeit not perfectly. I was wrong, this time it crashed and took my entire Prowein appointment calendar with it! Of course I had a back up, but this is only of use if you have somewhere to re-install it! At least I was able to leave it with the engineers until we returned from our trip, but I still had to wait another 24 hours before it was returned to me. I then spent an entire day re-loading programmes and changing the settings, to at least make it feel like my own computer – fortunately, I believe that all the data files have been retrieved. After this experience now might truly be the time to consider cloud computing.

So now, it is simply a question of catching up and wading through the backlog of mails in my inbox. Heaven help me.

Holiday 2015

March 6th, 2015

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ArousaWhen you look at today’s photograph, you might be forgiven for thinking that it was taken in the Caribbean, or perhaps the Greek Islands, but you would be wrong. Prepare to be shocked….. As the crow flies, this beautiful little island is actually a mere 12.43km (7.7 miles) from the front door or our bodega, in the Ría de Arousa, near Cambados. (For those who might not remember, a Ría is a river estuary, and the Ría de Arousa forms a part of Rías Baixas – the lowers estuaries, from where we get our name).

I am sure that I have mentioned before, our Rías are dotted with hundreds of small beaches and tiny islands, it really is a beautiful place….. when it’s not raining! Of course I only say that now because in winter it can be pretty grey and dismal, but in summer it is transformed by the sun, into a really beautiful corner of Spain. And, it is still quite authentic, in that it hasn’t been exploited by too much (foreign) tourism. True, many Spanish people holiday here, and have second homes on our coast, but you still wouldn’t bump into too many English speakers, for example.

So that’s today’s holiday propaganda over and done, apart from this link to this fabulous video of Salnés (also on our website’s YouTube page). Oh, and by the way, did I mention that we also have great wine and seafood!

Posted in Galicia, Rias Baixas

AllergyI don’t know if it’s my imagination, but I have a feeling that there are an increasing number of people with allergies these days. It could be that we live in such a clean, sterile world (where children aren’t allowed to play in the dirt as they used to), that our immunity and intolerance to certain foods and materials, is slowly being eroded. Please don’t quote me on this thought, it is based solely on my own personal observations, and is not necessarily a scientific fact. Whatever the truth, I now find myself living my with own personal sensitivity…..

This winter I have been suffering from a throat irritation that only occurs when I am working in our bodega. This does however, exclude the offices, which are the only part of the wine cellar that have any form of heating. This being the case we are able to keep them dry and warm for the most part, during our long, cold, humid winters. My problem is that the minute I step out of the offices I can feel my throat tightening, and almost immediately, the irritation begins, resulting in a rather annoying dry cough. This is compounded when I spend a lot of time working outside the office, and means that sometimes I actually become short of breath. This week I finally decided to get it checked out. (Why are men always so reluctant to visit the doctor?)

After a battery of tests with a specialist in respiratory problems, resulting in a forearm that resembled a pin cushion, it was finally determined that I am now allergic to fungus and mold. Now, please don’t imagine for one second that our bodega is a filthy hovel, with dark, damp, black walls covered with mold, because I can assure you that it’s not – but inevitably, wherever there’s darkness and humidity, then there’s going to be fungal spores hanging in the atmosphere.

So, what’s the solution? Tablets? Stay in the office all winter? Well, apparently the suggestion is that I should probably wear some sort of surgical mask to filter the air that I breath when working in the cellars. (I do of course, already use a full face mask with filters for working with sulphur dioxide, but for this minor irritation that might be just a bit extreme!). I will have to try it and see.

Wine not wineAnswer: When it’s a ‘wine based drink’!

Reading back labels might well be a boring pastime, and you might consider it to be the reserve of the so called ‘wine anoraks’, but actually they might well discover something that you don’t….. The small print could indicate that the ‘wine’ that you think you are enjoying might not be wine at all, but rather a ‘wine based drink’ containing only 75% of real wine.

The make-up of the other 25% is not quite clear, as legally, ‘wine’makers are not obliged to specify, but speculation is that it could be water, grape must, or a combination of water and sugar. Whatever, the unknown constituent, the wines have been described as “ lacking genuine character, dilute, unpleasant, contrived and manufactured”….. they sound delicious!

Having said that, the problem is not so much the flavour (as consumers will inevitably vote with their taste buds), but more the fact that they are being sold alongside real wines, with no obvious distinction between the two. Of course this is not only highly misleading, but could potentially damage the integrity of our industry.

Posted in Retail, Winemaking

steak & wineAnyone who has read my posts over recent months and years will know that included in my ‘soapbox’ issues are the conflicting reports that we read on a regular basis, concerning what is and isn’t good for you. The experts abound, each one claiming to make some startling new discovery, that contradicts everything we have been told before about what we should eat or drink to stay healthy.

There have been various claims and counter claims relating to wine, admittedly mostly relating to red wine. Some of the alleged health benefits include protecting the body from heart and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer prevention, and even a control for obesity. Without getting too technical the benefits are attributed to different compounds found in the tannins and phenols – these are the very same compounds that contribute to the colour and flavour of a red wine.

A new study in the British Medical Journal completely contradicts many of the popular beliefs about food and drink, the most dramatic of which is that saturated fats are actually good for your heart, and that the real killers are carbohydrates. The study is extensive, and will certainly leave you more confused than ever before about healthy eating – probably the best summary of the report can be found using this link.

Oysters & Albariño

February 14th, 2015

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Valentines testI often write about the conflicting/contradictory ideas that we are given about the rights and wrongs of consuming different types of food and alcohol. (I recently mentioned a claim that drinking a bottle of wine a day won’t do you any harm). So what about aphrodisiacs? Today being St Valentines, I thought I might find at least one excuse to mention albariño, and I think I’ve found at least one…. oysters.

Whilst it’s true that certain compounds attributed to sexual arousal do exist in some foods, the problem is that, generally speaking, the concentrations are so low that it’s unlikely that they would ever reach the brain, where the stimulation takes place.

However, it is widely accepted that oysters have at least some aphrodisiac qualities (albeit I am not exactly sure how many you would have to eat), but the one thing that I can tell you, hand on heart, is that they really do make the perfect pairing to a refreshing, chilled glass of albariño. (Possibly one of the best matches that there is). So tonight, if your menu includes a plate of fresh oysters, then there truly is only one wine that you can drink…. Castro Martin albariño!

Posted in Food & Wine

Cocido in LalinGroundhog day was actually two days ago, when Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six weeks more of winter, but that’s another story. Most of us remember Groundhog Day because of the well-known Bill Murray film, finding himself trapped, living the same day over and over again. Today’s subject is not exactly a daily recurrence, but actually an annual event that I have written about at least once before….. the Cocido Festival!

Cocido is a type of local stew or casserole made by cooking various types of meat and vegetables in stock – in many ways similar to the French ‘Pot au Feu’ (except using different meats). Usually a traditional Galician cocido would be made from a selection of salt pork cuts, including the head, ears or tail, together with pieces of cock or chicken. Chorizo and pork belly or bacon, are also added. The selection of vegetables includes potato (a food staple of the Galician diet), grelos, which are actually the leaves of turnips (although cabbage can be used as an alternative to this), and finally garbanzos, or chickpeas to you and me.

OK, so it’s not for me to judge whether Cocido is good or bad, as with everything, it’s all a matter of personal taste. As always, my only problem is with the publicity shot that they have used to advertise the Festival (todays’ photo). For the undecided, or uninitiated I don’t believe that you would be particularly attracted to Cocido by the picture that they have chosen….. but then that’s just my own point of view.

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

drunkThis Superbowl weekend many of us will settle down in front of the TV, beer in hand, to watch the big game. (Even I am prepared to admit that there won’t be too many drinking albariño on this particular occasion). Of course we always recommend that any drinking should be in moderation, because there is always the danger that you could end up pot-shotten!

Splifficated? Pot-shotten? Sounds like I’ve had a drop too many myself….. In fact these are old English words for drunk, and believe me there are many more, and will continue to be more with every year that passes. From a list of nearly 200 words one of my personal favourites is pixilated, which is not as you might imagine, a new expression – this description actually dates back to 1848. Some of my others from the list include, tap-shackled, reeling ripe, peloothered and drunk as a wheelbarrow! Click on today’s picture to enlarge, and see the list.

Shiba SommelierIt’s not often that you come across a canine sommelier, and before you ask, no, I’m not taking any substances! This week we have our first tasting note from a Japanese Shiba Inu who lives in New York (with his wine-loving human companions). Shiba was kind enough to rate our A2O albariño as 4 bones out of 5 and commented: “Hehe, I need some food with this Albariño! Nice, gentle nose of pears, lemon, and white stone. Tiniest touch of salinity on the palate with lovely white pear, lemon, and stone notes. Nice acidity. Not the saltiest of Albariños but would pair excellently with some gambas! 

For more extraordinary dog ‘tails’, please visit Shiba’s very own website!

Posted in Press, Unbelievable

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