Several years ago there was a big scandal in Australia when it was discovered that the ‘Albariño’ that they had planted, was not in fact albariño, but was actually the savagnin blanc grape variety most commonly found in the Jura region of northeast France. The error was committed by Australia’s very own wine research organisation, and was uncovered whilst we were visiting Australia back in 2009. As a result we unwittingly found ourselves at the centre of a good deal of media attention as the Australian wine press clamoured to get the oinion of some ‘authentic’ albariño producers!
The reason I mention this now is because we actually discovered a savagnin on the wine list of a local restaurant, and so, quite naturally we jumped at the chance to try it. The Côtes du Jura Savagnin ‘Les Marnes’ 2011, from Domaine Philippe Bornard, did not disappoint. It’s perhaps an odd thing to say, but this is a wine for Manzanilla and Fino sherry drinkers who enjoy the salty, nutty flavours originating from the flor that grows over the wine in sherry casks. In the Jura they call this the ‘sous voile’ method whereby a layer of yeast covering the wine produces a very similar end result. Although this wine is not completely ‘bright’, and has a rustic, slightly oxidative character, it is still absolutely delicious. Multi-layered – smoky, salty, nutty, but with plenty of stone fruit, a fresh acidity and just a touch of spice. It’s a wine that just keeps coming, is extremely complex, and to be fair, is probably something of an acquired taste that might not appeal to every palate. Suffice to say that we enjoyed it!
The summer months are usually occupied with controlling he canopy in the vineyards. In case you don’t understand the expression ‘canopy management’, the very simplified explanation is that we trim the vines, cut back some of the leading shoots, remove leaves, and if necessary, remove some bunches (green harvesting). If allowed to grow, the leading shoot of each vine will grow unabated, producing more leaves (not bunches), and simply draining energy from the plant. By trimming them this simply re-directs more energy to the fruit, and therefore should help increase sugar levels. Removing leaves is, believe it or not, slightly more complicated – it is super important to remove the right leaves, in the right places and in the right quantities. Obviously the objective of this ‘thinning’ is to give fruit a better exposure by allowing more light to pass through the canopy. The only danger is that if too many leaves are removed, then during a hot summer, over exposure can actually ‘cook’ the fruit (even when using factor 50 – sorry, that is just my warped sense of humour). Also, if during prolonged periods of excessive heat too few leaves will only add to the stress on the plant.
The reason I mention this is that since the middle of June the weather in Rias Baixas has been very hot and almost completely dry. For more than two months our average daily temperatures have remained in the mid-to-high 20’s C (mid 70’s to mid 80’s F). During July we regularly experienced daytime temperatures of 30°C (86°F) and sometimes even higher. As far as rainfall is concerned, there has been very little. July, only a couple of cloudy days and one day of drizzle – August, one day of drizzle, and only one other wet morning.
It’s still a little early to know how this extended hot weather will effect the vintage, in all honesty, an odd day of rain at this stage, wouldn’t hurt too much.
(By the way, it’s obvious that my photo today has nothing to do with vines, or the weather for that matter, except to say that the Vuelta a España passed through Galicia today – in 31°C of heat!)
Meow meow was made in Japan, from grapes (that can actually be toxic to cats – maybe it was produced by a dog lover?!), but this new cat drink, made in Denver, has had no grape anywhere near it. Which sort of begs the question, why do they call it wine at all? It is apparently made both alcohol-free and grape-free, using organic catnip and water, coloured with organic beet juice (the “white” variety coloured with golden beets). It is apparently designed so that cats can now join there owners in a glass of “wine”.
The brand is called Apollo’s Peak and is already sold in pet stores around Colorado. It will also be available at CatCon in LA.
CatCon? Really? Catcon? (OMG).
Today we start a short break in our bodega. At this time of year we always try to take a brief holiday – there is not a lot happening and so we close our doors for a few days, to re-charge our batteries before the busiest period of the year. The harvest and wine making.
In the period leading up to our closure, quite naturally, we give our customers notice, and invite them to order any additional stock that they might require (even though we are only closed for 6 or 7 working days). This sometimes provokes a slight rush, albeit that the summer months are already quite busy – and this year was no exception. During our last week of opening we were still bottling, labelling and thankfully, loading pallets on to trucks. Maybe we should plan more closures to keep the orders piling in!
One other important reason for bottling is quite simply that we need to empty tanks for the harvest. Of course emptying tanks happens as a matter of course as the wine is sold, but then we also have to calculate the tank capacity that we will need for the harvest, and make sure that we have the space available. Imagine if we were pressing grapes and suddenly discovered that we didn’t have enough space to receive the grape must (juice)! Nothing is left to chance and this all has to be planned months in advance – even trying to anticipate the volumes that we might sell during the coming year. However, not everything can be calculated, whilst we will always have an idea of the yields that our vines might produce, it is never really an exact science, and can change dramatically until the very moment that our grapes enter the presses. Vamos a ver, as we say.
It’s already that time of year again, as we celebrate the LXIV (64th I think) Annual Albariño Festival in our local town of Cambados. If you have read my posts over recent years you will probably know that I am not a great fan of the Festival itself, most especially in the evenings, when it tends to get a little boisterous (and that is being VERY polite). Great if your in your 20’s and want to test your drinking capacity, but certainly not what you would describe as a tasting. It’s just a party, or as some might prefer, celebration.
If you’re a serious professional and want to actually taste (or even just a consumer interested in knowing more and comparing wines), then the place for you is the Tunnel of Wine. Not so much a tunnel, but actually just tables laid out with the wines where you can taste as little or as much as you want, at your own pace. Held in the Salón José Peña in Cambados, it is open for the duration of the Festival, for a couple of hours in the morning and then a couple of hours each evening.
I know I probably say this every year, but for me at least, it is the best opportunity of the year to taste the vast majority of albariños of the vintage under one roof. Yesterday I tackled the first half of the room, about 70 odd wines in two hours, and today I will go back to finish the rest. Of course, the secret (as with all serious tastings), is to make copious notes of each individual wine, and secondly to spit! You might think that spitting is an obvious thing, but I can tell you that yesterday, in a room full of people, I don’t think I actually saw one other person spitting…. Enough said.
Spitting and making notes does however, attract attention, the result being that I was interviewed by one of our local papers, asking my opinion. They quoted me perfectly in this respect, that it is simply the best albariño tasting of the year.
Castro Martin already proudly sells wine to cruise ships, including the famous Cunard ‘Queens’, and the new P&O flagship Britannia. In addition to this our wines are now sailing on board a completely unique type of ‘cruise’ ship – The World – a Residence at Sea.
To explain this format in simple terms ‘The World’, at 644ft, is the largest private residential ship on the planet, providing floating luxury accommodation for those who can afford it (and want it). Guests, or should I say residents, of this huge floating home simply spend their whole time sailing around the world, again, and again, and again! The accommodation for each resident is not so much a cabin, but is actually a self contained apartment , with pretty much all the amenities of home – except perhaps the underground parking.
As you might imagine, the ship is loaded from top to bottom with different forms of entertainment – fitness, yoga, swimming, diving, kayaks, golf (the water hazards are quite impressive), and even a full-sized tennis court. Apart from numerous bars and restaurants it also caters for a wide multitude of hobbies (including wine tasting), boasts a cinema and theatre, and also has it’s own library. I am sure that this lifestyle will appeal to some, if not many, enjoying a different view from your window every day, but I’m afraid to admit that it certainly wouldn’t work for me.
On the plus side they do stock a great albariño!
Not only do our wines appear on various cruise ships around the Mediterranean, but now they are also available on dry land, in the middle of the Med on the island of Malta. Historically one of Europe’s most strategic islands, located between Sicily and the North African coast. Over the centuries it has fallen under the rule of many a different regime and/or country including the Romans, Phoenecians. Moors, Spanish, French and the British, before finally achieving independence in 1964.
Our new customer – the Farsons Group, is not only a wine import company, but also owns a large brewery, manages some very well-known food franchises, and is an important food importer and distributor on the island. We are naturally quite delighted that such an important business has decided to represent our wines.
Of course , with it’s warm Mediterranean climate Malta is the perfect place to enjoy a chilled glass of albariño this summer (or any summer for that matter)!
As this video explains, grape producers and wine makers invest an enormous amount of time and money (not to mention the love and attention), to grow the best fruit and make the best wine, and then entrust it’s entire future to one very small, and yet vital element – the closure. They say that a chain is only as string as it’s weakest link, but in the wine business we should be saying that our wine is only as good as the closure that we chose. So why do some people try to save a few cents by using a mediocre quality cork? The future of your wine depends on it!
Here at Castro Martin we have invested an enormous amount of time and effort in studying this, by testing various types of Nomacorc closures, and then monitoring carefully the almost imperceptible amounts of oxygen that penetrate the cork (using NomaSense equipment). Each type of closure allows different levels of OTR (Oxygen Transmission Rate), and by making various tests we can actually chose the perfect closure for our wine. The wine maker is, in effect, given a further opportunity to actually have an important influence over how their wine evolves (assuming that other storage conditions are constant).
I think this video explains the story quite well.
No sooner had I written that medals and reviews can sometimes work against you, than we start to pick up new accolades. Within the space of days, a silver medal and a 92 point rating – in two entirely different markets.
In the UK we received a silver medal for our Bodega Castro Martin 2014 at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. (I should quickly mention that no Albariño achieved gold medal status, meaning that we were at the very top of our category – we will have to try harder next time to achieve gold!).
Meanwhile, over in the United States, the Wine and Spirits Magazine (August Issue) just awarded our Castro Martin Family Estate 2014 an impressive 92 points, putting us at the top of their tasting and listing us as both “Year’s Best Galicia” and “Best Buy”. Their tasting note was as follows:
92, Castro Martin, 2014 ‘Sobre Lias’ Albarino (Best Buy): From 50-year-old vines in Salnes, this wine aged for six months on its lees, developing an unusual combination of juicy pineapple flavor and stoniness. It’s nervous in acidity, tightening around the leesiness to create an intense, savage albarino. Far from the simple and creamy whites that populate Rias Baixas, this explores new territories, its full-on fruit flavors and mineral notes giving a deep and immersive complexity. You can drink it now with fried scallops, or cellar it for two or three years.
As I always say, don’t just take their word for it, buy a bottle and judge for yourself!
It’s a great British past-time to complain about the weather – too wet, too cold, too windy, too foggy (the famous myth of London weather), or sometimes even too hot! These days it is also quite apparent that there are more extremes of weather around the globe, with both severe flooding, drought, extensive forest fires etc., now becoming much more commonplace.
Until early June our local weather had been pretty miserable. We had endured a cold, wet winter (actually quite normal for Galicia), which extended throughout the spring to the point where we almost had no spring at all. And then our summer suddenly arrived ! Since more or less the middle of June temperatures have been regularly reaching the mid-to-high 20’s, sometimes touching 30°C (mid 70’s to mid 80’s °F). This coming week we will start to exceed that. Of course we are lucky that we are only a few km the Ocean which helps to keep us a bit cooler. In the city of Ourense for example, which is located only about 60km further inland, the thermometer is now touching 40°C (over 100°F).
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