Following my latest post about the cost of producing a bottle of wine, I have just read a very interesting article written by an old friend of mine – UK wine journalist Tim Atkin MW. Although he is not actually commenting directly on the production costs of wine he is, in effect, talking about the price pressures often put on producers to reduce their selling price (and certainly their profit margin). If this downward pressure is allowed to continue then, inevitably, the only thing that can and will suffer, is the quality of the liquid in the bottle.

In the final line of his article he says “More than ever, we need a strong independent sector to preserve diversity, quality and individuality.” In this case he is referring to independence in the retail sector, but allow me to say that the very same phrase could easily be applied to the wine producers themselves.

He is a link to Tim’s full article.

There used to be an advertising campaign on UK TV for bars of chocolate. The slogan was something to the effect that it took 1½ glasses of milk to make one bar of chocolate…. without actually specifying the size of the glass, or the bar of chocolate!

In the world of albariño I can tell you that it takes approximately 1½ kilos of grapes to make one 75cl bottle. Of course this seemingly simple calculation can sometimes be compounded by the price of the grape itself. Even if a bodega owns 100% of its own vineyards (which not too many do in Rias Baixas), the cost of grapes still fluctuates. Of course, yield can be controlled to a certain degree but will always vary a little, and labour cost in the vineyard can change according to the growing season, depending on how much work is required. Then there is also the cost of buying, maintaining and running tractors and other equipment that has to be factored in. On top of this, if you are then obliged to buy additional fruit on the open market, it can become a bit of a lottery. Grape contracts do exist, but some can end up being quite meaningless as market demands can often put a strain on persuading growers to honour them!

So once we have our 1½ kilos bought and paid for, safely in our tanks, then what else needs to be included in the final bottle price? Believe me, it’s a long list! Materials for making the wine, materials for bottling the wine, labour costs, and not to mention the overheads of running the bodega itself – electricity for machinery etc. Next comes the outer packaging, cartons, pallets, pallet wrapping, even before we can even consider moving the wine.

In export we are rarely involved in the cost of transport, but there will always be some element of (expensive) road haulage involved. With pallets weighing in at over 1000kg each (even using our Eco friendly lightweight bottle) the cost of moving them around, especially by road, does not come cheap. Sea container transport does work out much cheaper, but then this is usually limited to customers outside Europe, with the odd exception.

With all these elements quickly adding up the wine is finally on route, and the cheaper part of the final bottle cost has been explained. The really expensive part of the calculation I will save for another day!

In a small wine cellar like ours no two days are ever the same (thank God!). One day we might be blending or tasting wine, the next we can  be working on a marketing project – such as a new website for example. And that is exactly how it has been this week – preparing blends/samples for a VIP customer on Monday, and working on our new website the following day.

We use WordPress software for our website, and whilst I am reasonably competent in adding news and making the odd page update, setting it up and getting pages to interact correctly is just a bit beyond my capabilities (I am completely self-taught in all aspects of technology – mainly because it didn’t really exist when I was young). For this reason we have enlisted help…. from New Zealand! I don’t actually recall how this originally came about, but we have been working with Meta Digital in Christchurch for several years now.

Whilst the physical distance between Christchurch and Ribadumia is one thing, it is really the time difference that causes the biggest headache – their working day is diametrically opposed to ours. It’s almost like sending messages by Pony Express – fire off an e-mail one day, and then wait until the following day for a reply. It’s no ones fault, it’s just how it is – you either accept it or you don’t.

So the exciting news is that not only will there be a completely new website very soon, but we will also be incorporating an online shop, where our Spanish customers at least, will be able to buy our wines more easily. (We cannot ship overseas because it is prohibitively expensive, not to mention the special packaging that is required by the carriers).

At the risk of sounding too repetitive, please watch this space!

I mentioned the other day that the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, likes to spend his summers here in Galicia (being born and raised in Pontevedra). Well, that might not be the case much longer – assuming that he has good taste.

The mayor of local seaside town Sanxenxo (where Sr Rajoy has his apartment), has decided that he wants to paint the town red – together with several other colours of the rainbow. Apparently this has something to do with art, and is the “brainchild” of a local art student (who apparently wants to transform the town into some sort of circus).

Translated, the artist claims that we can “walk alongside a rainbow full of reminiscences and stimulate our senses with this chromatic circle (it will be painted on a long curved wall), filling our steps harmoniously”. Translated, I still don’t know what it means, but my own translation would be “ugly and tasteless”….. but then, that’s art!

Posted in Galicia, Local News

For quite a few years now we have noticed that more and more Rias Baixas wine cellars are being taken over by large groups, many from other wine regions of Spain (Rioja producers for example). Clearly it is easier for them to offer a range of wines from around the country, rather than just one local wine, made from a single grape variety – as in the case of our very own albariño. The obvious consequence of this is that there are now fewer and fewer family-owned businesses, and even less that are managed on a day-to-day basis by the actual owners.

It’s no co-incidence that when we created our Castro Martin label some 15 years ago, we decided to call it “Family Estate Selection” (and not simply because the wine is made from the fruit of our family-owned vineyards). The original label placed great emphasis on the grape variety, and then the fact that the wine is made ‘Sobre Lias’ (with extended ageing on the lees), but now we have decided to modify this just a little.

We have recently printed a new label that includes a subtle change – on the front we have replaced the words ‘Sobre Lias’ with the words ‘Family Estate’, the idea being to place more emphasis on being a real family business. Sobre lias is of course, still mentioned, and we have also added the sub zone of our bodega (we are located in the Val de Salnés). It’s simply that in this ever changing world, we believe that being a family producer is still very meaningful!

It’s quite a well-known fact that Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister is Galician, and spends much of his vacation time here in Galicia – or Sanxenxo to be more specific, about 12km from our Bodega. Indeed, when we are there in summer it is not uncommon to see groups of rather sinister looking security guys hanging round on the street corners adjacent to his building.

However, another more closely guarded secret is that U.S. President Donald Trump also spends some time here (although it can be quite difficult to hide the huge outline of Air Force One as it touches down on the tiny Vigo airstrip).

In today’s photo we can see Donald (clearly in some sort of hi-tech disguise) as he breaks ground on his new golf resort in our Province.

(Fake News Alert!)

Addendum: I forgot to mention that this is not a ‘shopped’ photo, but is actually a real Galician woman called Dolores Leis.

17th March will go down in our 2018 calendar as the day that spring officially started. No big deal really, except that this year the transition from winter to spring happened pretty much from one day to the next. Prior to that date (as with other parts of Europe), the weather had been quite miserable – cold and wet with daytime temperatures barely topping the mid-teens in °C (55-60°F). On 17th all that changed, the sun broke through, the temperature climbed quite dramatically, and the whole complexion of the countryside around us changed – gone were the winter jackets, time to roll up the shirt sleeves. The temperatures are now into the mid-20’s C (75-80°F).

Today’s photo is a slightly different view of our bodega vineyard. I thought that I would change the perspective a little by photographing the pergolas (and their new shoots) from below. The image is further exaggerated by using a 14mm fisheye lens, which also gives the shot a much wider angle.

Time to break out the sun screen!

A day or so ago I posted an image of a local festival on our page, depicting a crazed monk beating French soldiers over the head. And thereby lies the clue: they were French soldiers.

To cut a long story short, the celebration in Mos this month is to mark a significant Spanish victory in the liberation of Galicia, as they expelled the invading French army. March 23rd 1809 signalled the beginning of the end for Napoleon’s Iberian campaign in the Peninsular Wars fought between Napoleon, the Spanish Empire, the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Portugal.

Starting in 1807, as Napoleon sought to occupy the Iberian Peninsula, the joint forces of France and Spain invaded Portugal. However, less than a year later, the French turned on their Spanish allies, and the depleted Spanish forces were easily overcome. Eventually, in November 1808 the Spanish Junta was forced to abandon Madrid.

The fight back, lead by a Spanish resistance that continually harassed the occupying forces (considered to be the first evidence of guerrilla warfare) started in early 1809, with Vigo and Pontevedra being among the very first Spanish regions to be liberated.

In today’s image (posted originally on the Instagram of that time) there is no firm evidence that monks were guilty of assaulting any French troops. Proof, if it were needed, that fake news has existed for many years!

Posted in Fiestas, Odds & Sods

Now here’s a local poster that caught my eye, originating from the small town of Mós, near Vigo. Of course, it is just one more example of the numerous Fiestas and Celebrations that take place every week here in Galicia (and all around Spain). Today I will not explain exactly what it represents, but leave you to ponder for a day or two. I must confess that initially I had no idea what it was myself, and had to do a bit of research to find out. Suffice to say that it is some sort of historical re-enactment that apparently involves monks hitting uniformed soldiers over the head! The explanation will come later….

Posted in Fiestas, Odds & Sods

OK, I know it’s Monday, but let’s talk hydrodynamics (the type of word that can be dropped casually into a conversation about wine to impress your friends)!

When it comes to serious wine tasting one of the very first steps in the process is the so called ‘swirling’, necessary to release the bouquet of the wine. The theory behind it is that a gentle circular movement of the glass generates a wave propagating along the glass walls, enhancing oxygenation and mixing. In simple terms this action spreads the surface area of wine exposed in order to make the aromas more prominent.

Scientifically speaking this motion is not yet fully understood – it is all to do with fluid dynamics and the wave shapes generated by this simple movement. Suffice to say that it can make a real difference to the olfactory sensation that you will experience.

By the way, please don’t do what I have seen a few would-be ‘wine connoisseurs’ doing at the table – holding their glass stationery and moving their nose back and forth across the glass. Apart from making yourself giddy, this 70’s disco head movement will have no effect on the bouquet of your wine! 

Posted in Tasting, Technical

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