It was not too many years ago that popular belief pretty much dictated that albariño needed to be enjoyed whilst it was young, in it’s infancy, almost as a ‘primeur’ wine. Since that time (and especially here at Castro Martin), we have been working non-stop to educate our customers that this idea is simply a myth. However, in order to improve and preserve the longevity of any wine there are still many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Of all the different factors that can influence ageing potential some of the most important/obvious include:
- The structure of the wine itself – that it is well balanced and vinified accordingly (for example, extended lees ageing will add longevity, whereas rapid fermentation at warmer temperature will often produce short-lived wines).
- That it is bottled correctly, and protected as far as possible against oxidation – this includes the correct levels of sulphur and most importantly the type and quality of closure used.
- That the wine is transported and stored correctly, preferably in a cool, dark cellar.
As you may already know we take the business of closures very seriously, not just from the point of view of avoiding taint, but perhaps more importantly, in order to ‘manage’ the ageing process. There are actually several types of closures on the market these days that allow contolled levels of OTR (Oxygen Transmission Rate) which enables the wine maker to maintain at least some degree of control over the speed at which their wine will evolve (assuming that at least some of the steps mentioned above have been followed). Of course, there can be no absolute guarantees attached to this idea, and then added to this equation is the experience and/or personal taste of the individual consumer. Some will prefer to drink their wine fresh and fruity, whereas other might prefer to wait for wine to mature, developing slightly more complex ‘secondary’ aromas and flavours.
I should mention that on our recent trip to the States (in Spring 2017), many customers were actually blown away by our 2013 and 2014 albariños. Not specially selected cuvées, simply wines with a bit of bottle age tasted straight ‘off the shelf’.
You may already know that, owing to adverse weather conditions, the outward leg of our recent trip to the U.S.A. was re-routed via London, and also included a change of carriers, from Iberia to British Airways. Owing to the fact that our journey was so eventful, it didn’t occur to me until after the flight that it is possible we were sharing the flight with our own wines. The difference being that we were in the cheap seats at the back, whilst our wine could have been in the pointy bit at the front….. First Class.
We are proud to say that we have been working with British Airways for several years now. although our supply to them is not continuous. The explanation is that First Class passengers are naturally quite loyal to their preferred airline, and therefore there is a high degree of ‘repeat business’ – the same passengers flying the same routes on a regular basis. To counteract this, British Airways rotate their wine lists, not only over different time periods, but also on different routes. For one listing we might be on North America and the Caribbean, on another we might be on Asian, and so on, The point is that we simply send the wine out, and usually have little idea where it might end up, or how many air miles it will clock up! Therefore, it is possible that our wine was sharing the same flight as us, but we simply didn’t know it.
In 2016 British Airways’ First Class customers consumed more than 160,000 bottles of champagne, 133,000 bottles of red wine and 150,000 bottles of white wine on board flights, and in the same year were voted the best overall cellar at the Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky Awards. We would like to believe that Castro Martin might have played a very small part in achieving that recognition.
At this this time of year there’s not usually too much happening in the bodega, which is just one of the reasons that we chose to travel (having just arrived back from our epic tour of the USA). Our main winter chore of pruning is pretty much at an end, and so many of our efforts have been focused on the wine cellar itself where we have been undertaking a huge programme of repairs, cleaning, painting and also a little construction. Much of this work was carried out during our travels, hence, upon our return, we immediately noticed some big changes. The most dramatic change was actually in one of our storage areas, where the ceiling was completely replaced.
Today’s photo must qualify as possibly one of the most boring I have ever posted, but I can tell you that it is really difficult to make a flat, grey roof, look exciting in a picture! It shows our carton storage area which has been completely transformed (albeit mostly from an aesthetic point of view). Having said that, visitors to our cellar will probably not notice any difference – after all, when was the last time you really looked up at the ceiling of any building (unless perhaps it was the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel)? Perhaps we can give Fran a tin of emulsion and ask him to paint a few frescos depicting life in our bodega!
So the latest clue in our ongoing artistic puzzle is an odd little beast – half mariposa (butterfly), half libélula (dragonfly) – hence the name we have given it, our ‘marilula’. In English I guess we might call it a butter-dragon?
By the way, just in case you didn’t already guess, the story about visiting Cuba and selling albariño in exchange for cigars was a just a bit of fun (for April Fool’s Day!!) The nearest we actually got to Cuba was ‘Little Cuba’ in Miami, which is where the photo was taken…..
Just a short boat ride (or swim perhaps) from the coast of Florida lies Cuba, and this is now the very last stop of our tour. Of course finding importers for foreign goods is one thing, but finding the dollars for payment can be even more difficult. Negotiations have been tough, but we think we might have found a solution that will work for both parties…. our new importer will pay for our wine with their finest Cohiba Cigars. We will probably make a selection from their classic line – Esplendidos, Robustos and Exquisitos.
Certainly the paperwork is going to be complicated at it will mean extra work for Luisa in our office, but we still feel that this is a good deal, and will add a completely new dimension to our range. It did occur to me that in future we might not simply be making tastings, but possibly we might have to organise ‘smokings’!!!
Finally getting towards the end of our world tour of the USA (it just feels like a world tour after so many flights), it seems that, for once at least, we have just escaped some serious weather. Just before we left Tennessee there were already warnings of severe thunder storms, hail storms and even a 25% chance of tornadoes. Even thought there is something quite fascinating, even slightly hypnotic about tornadoes, I confess that I have no real desire to witness one first hand. Anyway, it is reported that since we left Tennessee, in areas around Nashville and Chattanooga, that some of these threatened storms have actually hit, with severe thunder and hail the size of baseballs! The good news for us therefore, that we now find ourselves cosseted in the warm comfort of the Sunshine State – Florida.
For selling albariño Florida is actually a little more complicated for us – although it is a wine perfectly suited to this climate, it appears that the Floridians are possibly not quite as receptive and will take a little more convincing. Our wine really is a ‘hand-sell’ here. The cities are spread out and quite diverse in their approach to buying wine, not to mention that there are already some other brands well established in the area. Maybe we will have to come back to this sunshine paradise on several more occasions, to see if we can get the job done! The upside is that at least one customer yesterday did describe our wine as “kick-ass”…. That’s a new descriptor to add to my tasting vocabulary – it speaks for itself and does not require any explanation!
Now in Memphis and Nashville on the next stop of our American road trip, where not only has the taste of our wines gone down really well, but Angela and I have now also tasted something special for the very first time….. real Southern Hospitality. The people here are just so great, you could eat them with a spoon! But seriously, the most important thing of all is that they have really appreciated our wines and so converts to the new cult of Castro Martin albariño appear to be increasing….. we are thrilled.
So here in Memphis we find ourselves caught up in the middle of ‘March Madness’, where the elite teams of the NCAA (college basketball) compete for the National Championship. This weekend saw the start of the ‘Sweet 16’ games, where the final sixteen teams are whittled down to the final four – one from each regional tournament. The Southern games are being played at the FedEx Forum in downtown Memphis, and believe me, this is really serious stuff. National TV coverage and with a visit from the Vice President Mike Pence thrown in for good measure – he was disappointed to discover that MSU (Moscow State) had not made it through!! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one)
Just by way of information, Memphis is also the home to both FedEx and Graceland.
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!
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