Over the last few days I have been talking a lot about the weather, and how changeable it has been in the some of the States that we have visited so far. Well, it appears that, not to be out-done, Galicia is now chipping in with it’s own bit of freak weather. After days of temperatures pushing the mid-20’s°C (70-80°F), Galicia has just been hit by hail, sleet and snow! Unfortunately I wasn’t at home to witness it myself, but I can say that in all my years in Galicia, I have never seen snow!
Who would want to be a weather forecaster these days?!
OK, so I’m a bit obsessed about weather, but this is just plain wrong…. New York was too cold, and now Denver is too warm! After a couple of freezing days in New York we flew into warm, almost hot sunshine in Denver on the second leg of our US tour. Talking to the locals in Denver they would tell you that the temperature is probably as much 10-15°C (20-30°F) above the seasonal norm, albeit that this will certainly change in the coming days (snow is forecast, which is more customary at this time of year).
From the point of view of our wine, it was very interesting to discover that albariño is already quite well established as a grape variety in the Denver market. It can be found in the majority of wine (liquor) stores and also on many restaurant wine lists – the the local sommeliers all know it. F, the rom our own point of view the tastings that we made were all well received, almost without exception, and we are happy to say that we have found at least a few new Castro Martin ‘recruits’ in the Denver market. Of course any success does not come easily, and so we really need to acknowledge the help and support of our team ‘on the ground’ (our importer and their distributors) for their enthusiasm, professionalism and unerring belief in our wines.
Today’s photo was chosen quite simply to show the stark contrast in the weather (and also the fact that Angela looks a lot happier in the sunshine!)
If you have been following our page you will know that our planned US tour got off to a rather shaky start – our Trans-Atlantic flight being cancelled the night before we were due to leave (thanks to winter storm ‘Stella’ blanketing New York in snow). We finally got off the ground on Wednesday night, for an overnight stay in Madrid before our re-routed journey through London and onward flight to New York. On Thursday morning we soon discovered that London was shrouded in fog, and that all flights going in were subject to delays, it really felt like the weather Gods were conspiring against us. Suffice to say that our leisurely connection was reduced to a quick sprint across the Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Luckily we just made it in time…. but unfortunately some of our luggage did not! Our last suitcase arrived several hours later and was delivered to our hotel room at 3am! Being disturbed at 3am and already suffering from a lack of sleep, it was just the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’ – the culmination of our on-off, nightmare journey.
Despite all the setbacks, our reduced time in New York (and New Jersey) was well spent, and we at least managed to achieve the most important goals of our foreshortened itinerary. Having said that, leaving the warm spring sunshine of Galicia (20+°C or 70°F) to arrive in the freezing temperatures and icy winds of New York, required quite an adjustment. As you can clearly see from today’s photo, standing on an icy street (in front of the Queensboro Bridge) was possibly not Angela’s idea of a fun time!
So, our next stop is the ‘Mile High’ City of Denver, to catch up with old (business) friends, where, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, temperatures are unseasonably warm at around 25/26°C (mid-70’s F). A dramatic change of wardrobe is required!
As I write today’s post we should really be at Madrid airport boarding a flight to New York – but we’re not. With an extensive tour of the U.S. planned for the next couple of weeks, the weather has now decided to intervene.
For the last few days I have been following the forecasts for all the States that we plan to visit – New York, Colorado, Tennessee and Florida, trying to anticipate what to throw into my suitcase. Until a day or so ago we understood that New York was going to be very cold, around freezing (with snow ‘flurries’), which is in stark contrast to the heat predicted for Florida. It was always going to be a difficult trip to plan for.
Last night, with cases packed and ready by the door, we received an e-mail from Iberia (Airlines), simply stating that our flight had been cancelled – Panic! The reason, we now discover, is that the snow flurry has evolved into a major winter storm, wreaking havoc across the whole of the north-eastern United States. With 1 to 2 feet of snow predicted in the next 24 hours a state of emergency has been declared in New York and three other States.
To cut a long story short, we are now re-booked to fly on Thursday morning, from London. We shall see….
You will probably already know that I am quite keen on cooking – a frustrated chef if you will. To be honest, cooking is an extremely common pastime in the wine trade, very obviously because of the close relationship between food and wine.
Sometimes when I am bored or just need to clear my head, I cook (and also when it’s time to eat). At home I do nearly all the cooking and most of the food shopping, quite simply because I enjoy it – to me it’s almost therapeutic. In addition to this I sometimes do ‘batch’ cooking, making several portions of a dish, vacuuming them in individual servings, and freezing them. Batch cooking is usually reserved for very early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when the house is quiet. I stream an English talk radio station over the internet, roll my sleeves up, and get stuck in!
In my kitchen I confess to owning a small draught beer machine (which can be filled with several different brands of beer sold in tiny ‘barrels’). The brands available might not be the best on the market, but the machine itself suits my needs in that it keeps the beer nicely chilled, and that you can draw off as much or as little as you want – if you need a small top-up, then no problem. It works very well.
The point is that whilst I am cooking (at meal times) I will nearly always have a glass of beer on the worktop beside me. Perhaps it’s because the cooking process stimulates my taste buds, or maybe it’s just that I developed the habit, but a nice ‘cold one’ slips down very nicely thank you. It has however, created a dilemma. What do you do when you are cooking at 9am on a Sunday morning and you suddenly fancy a beer? Is this new habit turning me into an alcoholic?!!
A week or so ago it was a mystery fish – today it is a ‘helping’ hand. So what does this all mean? What is the significance of today’s hand, who does it belong to, and how does it relate to our wines? Well, it’s just another piece of our artistic puzzle, and in a month or two all will be revealed…..
I was recently sitting in a small village restaurant, grabbing a quick ‘menu’ lunch, to the inevitable accompaniment of the television in the corner of the room. The regional news was interviewing a local winemaker, who they were reporting makes the only vegan wine in Galicia! (I should immediately point out that wine classified as vegan is not to be confused with biological, biodynamic or even ‘natural’ wine).
A couple of months ago I made my own discreet investigation into biological and biodynamic wines by speaking directly to the Technical Director of our D.O. I simply asked him how many wines or bodegas are legally certified as such?
His reply was quite unequivocal. There is only one certified biodynamic vineyard in the whole region, but the wine made from these grapes is not…. biodynamic grape growing and biodynamic wine making are two completely different things and are certified independently of one another. To summarise, biological or biodynamic wine of the D.O. Rias Baixas do not exist at the time of writing.
Vegan is however, a whole different classification, and you could easily be forgiven for assuming that all wines might potentially be suitable for vegans. The problem is that there are quite a number of fining agents (commonly used to precipitate out the haze-inducing molecules), that are prohibited in vegan products – casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). Fining, or clarification, leaves the wine clear and bright and is often enhanced by a final filtration that adds a bit of extra ‘polish’ to the finished wine.
The good news for vegans is that these days there are an increasing number of wine makers (including Castro Martin) who are using clay-based fining agents such as bentonite – particularly efficient at fining out unwanted proteins. Activated charcoal can also be used to produce vegan friendly wines.
So I am pleased to confirm that vegans can safely drink Castro Martin wines, happy in the knowledge that they will live long and prosper!
The last couple of times I have mentioned the Galician weather in recent weeks something strange has happened… Call it “Sod’s Law” or whatever you will, whenever I have mentioned how dry it has been in our area, it has almost immediately started raining! Of course this could be a very useful trick if it worked every time – for example, I constantly wrote how dry it had been last summer, but unfortunately to no avail. The other upside would be that I could control the elements from my computer keyboard rather than doing a silly rain dance in the middle of our vineyards. (Not a pleasant mental image).
The rain is forecast to be with us for the rest of the week, and so it will certainly put a bit of a ‘damper’ on all the local Carnival celebrations that we have scheduled over the coming days. For those who are celebrating I wish you a “Happy Fat Tuesday”!
(By the way, the message on the motorway gantry in today’s photo is written in Galician – but we get the gist)
Having been in the wine business for so long, and having travelled so much, it’s inevitable that I have befriended one or two wine makers around the world. Happily, I am still in contact with quite a number of them. We don’t always chat about wine, but at this time of year my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, have only one thing on their minds – the 2017 harvest.
On the other side of the world (geographically opposed to our location here in North West Spain), is Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand. Christchurch has had a pretty tough time in recent years – a series of damaging earthquakes, followed this year by drought and forest fires. Very recently hundreds of residents around the city had to be evacuated, 11 homes were destroyed and one pilot was killed when his firefighting helicopter crashed whilst dropping water.
The relevance of this story is that the summer of 2017 in New Zealand has been warm, dry and windy, and they had been anticipating a very good harvest. In the last few days however, one or two areas have suffered some rainfall, but fingers crossed, this will not be enough to do any lasting damage to the fruit – only time will tell. (Don’t forget that this weather pattern very much mirrors our own experience here in 2016).
Meanwhile, out in our own vineyards, we have just about broken the back of this winter’s pruning. Until now, our 2017 weather has been mostly dry, and apart from one short, wet period during the first two weeks of February, the sun has continued to shine. Last week our daytime temperatures were pushing 20°C (68°F), which to be honest, although very pleasant, is really just a bit too warm for this time of year.
Spoiler alert: Is there something “fishy” happening at Castro Martin? Well, perhaps fishy might not be the correct terminology, because it’s really more a question of some changes that we have in the pipeline. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about personnel (I’m not retiring just yet), but just some ‘upgrades’ to different parts of our business. If you want to keep abreast of new developments then you will simply have to watch this space!
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