For the last decade or so there has been a small mountain of granite stones idling at the back of our bodega. (These were rocks dug out of the ground when we created our one hectare vineyard that surrounds the bodega). Some were used as ballast to fill the floor space for our recent grape reception extension, whilst the rest…. Well, Angela had other plans.

There is an access road to the back of our bodega, which climbs from street level at the front of the bodega to our second floor level at the back. With the grape reception located at this second floor level it enables us (by design) to move fruit and grape must around the bodega mostly by gravity. This access road was also built by hand, by our own people, hewn out of the side of the hill and then covered with a layer of stone and concrete. Before this it was just a rough track, and the vehicles delivering fruit during harvest were always in danger of spilling a case or two as they bumped and bounced their way up the hill!

So now Angela’s dream has finally come true. The rest of the rocks have been used to create a dry-stone wall at the side of this access road. Although you can’t really see from today’s photo, the wall must be at least 50cm thick (nearly 2ft), and will eventually support some of the soil from the bank behind it. The guys in our team who built it are really multi-talented.

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

The one thing that our recent photos have in common, is that they are all taken under clear blue skies. For the first couple of days of November we experienced two or three of days of rainfall, and of course, we simply assumed that our normal Galician winter had finally taken hold….. not at all. Within a week the skies had cleared completely, and the fine, sunny weather continued. To be honest, we really need some sustained rainfall even if it will make it extremely uncomfortable for our guys who will start pruning in a few weeks time.

The combination of this dry weather and the comparatively early harvest this year have enabled us to squeeze in a few additional jobs before the start of pruning. An unsightly piece of ground (actually more of a ‘dumping ground’) adjacent to the grape reception has been cleared, and the back of the bodega completely repainted…. Considering all the building and maintenance that we have carried out this year then perhaps we should start a construction business as a sideline! Having said that it’s amazing what a bit of cleaning and a lick of paint can make, even if people rarely visit the rear of our bodega.

We have quite a few tough, and sometimes boring tasks to complete during our working year – for example, pruning is one that I often quote. After the harvest, however, we have to complete many different cleaning chores, one of which is cleaning all the plastic cases used for gathering the grapes. More than 2,000.

Until we can work out a better system, this is all done by hand, or rather with high pressure jet washers. Whilst we do wash the cases between uses, as they are constantly re-cycled during the picking, they still tend to build up a layer of dust, and always tend to look a bit grubby at the end of the campaign. The washing process occupies two or three people for a period of about two weeks, before they are stacked in the grape reception ready for next year.

These cases, like the presses, the pressing room and the grape reception itself are simply the materials and parts of the bodega that sit completely dormant for about 11½ months of the year!

Posted in Bodega, Post Harvest

OK, perhaps I am biased, but I have to admit that I am rather fond of our 2016 Family Estate wine. That’s not to say that I don’t normally like it, it’s simply that I think that the 2016 is singularly good. From their tasting notes below, I would say that our Australian friends appear to think the same. This is perhaps one of the most detailed tasting notes I have ever read, and to be honest, I haven’t even heard of half of the fruits that they mention!

Castro Martin Family Estate ‘Sobre Lias’ 2016

A fine sandy colour with a touch of green, this is a young varietal Albariño with a significant future.

A golden fruit nose carries granitic sand’s talcy-minerality. The fruit is sliced apple and nashi flesh with a hint of spicy breakfast radish and waft of paddymelon skin. To taste, the gorgeously rounded prickly pear fruit has an enlivened sweet-sour tug, thanks to a tangle of subtle green elements – tarragon, watermelon skin, mint, lime. But the mouthfeel really is the thing! At first, trademark Salnes Valley acidity is prominent, along with Atlantic saline and granitic edginess – these are textural and flavoursome, far from simply sharp, and house a wine of great fleshy depth. Below and within the acid frame, a surprisingly powerful bell of lively, spiced rich fruit pushes out, revealing the hidden, raw power of Albariño, from a very fine tank of supremely textural fruit. Astonishing already, with 2-3 years of positive development ahead of it, this delicious wine sets a new benchmark for Albariño.

A recent article from the Wine Enthusiast would also appear to support the’typicity’ of this wine:

Val do Salnés: The Birthplace of the Grape

Why?

November 1st, 2017

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Seduced by sugar?

October 31st, 2017

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Interesting…. I have read two articles in the last few days that have slightly opposing views about residual sugar in wine. A few days ago this heading appeared on the Snooth website: 

Sweet Bordeaux is the new black

“Older generations of wine drinkers are taking cues from a younger generation that see the possibilities of Sweet Bordeaux white wines to create new and unique dining experiences. Sweet Bordeaux wines can be enjoyed in a multitude of Instagram-worthy moments throughout a meal. And they are available at an accessible range of prices, from value to premium and everything in between.

Sweet Bordeaux is operating around the world to promote the consumption of fruity and aromatic Bordeaux white wines through master classes, trade tastings, and trade shows. They also organize press trips that expose wine professionals to the possibilities of Sweet Bordeaux, especially when it comes to food and wine pairing”.  Snooth – October 29, 2017

This article appears to suggest that the move toward sweet or sweeter wine is something of a new trend, whereas the history of wine drinking, especially when it comes to residual sugar, appears to reveal a slightly different viewpoint. Written by my learned friend Tim Hanni MW.

“We are all genetically pre-programmed with attractions and aversions. Changes in preferences, from about four years old to very late in life, are largely reorganising what certain sensations represent. So, with observation, culture, peer pressure, and learning we adapt to associate things we didn’t like with aspiration or attainment – something we often refer to as an ‘acquired’ taste. We also equally associate things in a negative light, ‘disposing’ of tastes as well, such as the current hysteria over sweetness in wine for those who have become more ‘sophisticated’. Disposing of sweetness is easy for some people and impossible for a huge segment of the global market, and our insistence on dry wine as ‘good’ wine is ridiculous and does not serve the wine industry or reflect the history and traditions of wine.

Dry wines are the new fad (in relative terms) not the historical standard; the 1947 Château Cheval Blanc had over 30 g/L (3%) residual sugar. Most prized white Rhône wines were vins de paille – dried on mats and made into sweet wines. Countless sweet wines, including Château d’Yquem, were thought completely appropriate with fish, beef, or oysters. Montrachet, in the greatest vintages, was very sweet, not dry. Champagnes, as consumed in France, often had 140 g/L (14%) residual sugar – a lot more than American Coca Cola which has 108 g/L (10.1%) residual sugar. The global sweet wine opportunity was, and still is, about 25% to 40% of the total available market. Things have just gotten out of control with the dry wine fashionistas. And keep in mind that as wine has gone dry, consumption in France and Italy has plummeted.” Meininger’s Wine Business International – October 2017

I must confess that the stats relating to amount of residual sugar in some of these old wines took me somewhat by surprise.

Posted in Tasting

Oxford knows best!

October 26th, 2017

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One of the questions that we are sometimes asked is – why don’t we use screwcap for sealing our our wines? There are actually a couple of answers to this question. Closures have always been a subject of great interest to me, something that I have studied very closely for many years now. The fact that we now use a synthetic closure (with zero carbon footprint) was not a choice that was made casually, perhaps driven by cost – it was a long-studied and carefully considered decision. Indeed, with our current synthetic closure we know that we can, to some extent, now control the evolution of our wines (or at the very least, influence it’s shelf life). Not forgetting, of course, that evolution will also be determined by how the wine is stored….

A recent study, by Oxford University no less, is claiming that perhaps a cork is the right choice – that wines closed with a cork actually do taste better than those under screwcap. A very bold, and perhaps somewhat contentious claim! Having said that, they do qualify this by saying that the ‘ceremony’ of extracting the cork might have something to do with this. That subliminally this process adds a little ‘romance’ to the wine drinking experience – perhaps adding to the anticipation? One of the researching professors added “Our senses are intrinsically linked – what we hear, see and feel has a huge effect on what we taste”. They also went on to say that corked bottles were more likely to induce a “celebratory mood”, and we all know that our mood, surroundings and the company that we keep can all influence our perception of a wine.

My final comment is that we are very happy with our current choice of closure, as are the majority of our customers. This is rarely an area for complaint which pretty much supports the old adage “If it ain’t broken, then don’t fix it”! 

River of fire!

October 24th, 2017

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I am by no means undermining the devastating fires that we suffered in our region last week, but it is a relief to know that, thanks to some timely rainfall, and the heroic efforts of our fire crews (also not forgetting the brave Galician people themselves), this disaster is now pretty much behind us. Of course we still mourn the loss of three people who lost their lives in such a terrible way.

This morning, when I was leaving home, I witnessed a fire of almost the very opposite kind – the sea and the sky on fire, with a wonderful sunrise over the Ria de Pontevedra. Feeling positive from this amazing view, this simply reminds us that we are lucky to live in such a beautiful corner of Spain.

Posted in Galicia, Odds & Sods

Continued from Part One….

Don’t ask me why but this second wine was actually called ‘Antika Mickey Mouse’ (I later discovered that this was simply because the owner is a fan, and was probably a better name option than his other wine which is called Antika Podfuck). This Czech wine was completely ‘natural’, hailing the South Moravia region of the Czech Republic, and when I say natural, I really mean natural. The 8 hectare vineyard of Milan Nestarec was created as recently as 2001, and the wine is made in such a way that there is pretty much no intervention, either in the vineyard, or in the wine cellar. A blend of Chardonnay, Traminer, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner with fermentation on the skins for a period of 10 days, followed by period of ageing in oak barrels. There is no filtration, no clarification, and that’s it. The resulting wine almost defies description, and to honest, I was happy that I was only offered a glass to sample, and didn’t buy the whole bottle (it would be impossible to finish). In the glass it was a murky brown opaque colour – visually not inviting. On the nose…. well, I just don’t know – not like any wine I have ever sampled before. Weeks later I am still searching for a way to describe it – Earthy? Wet straw? Some type of acetone plastic? Bizarre! The palate was a complete surprise – it had some weight to it, but with a really savoury and quite salty flavour – for me a wine that you could sip, but not drink. Natural or not natural, I didn’t really like it.

Today’s post ended up being a bit too long – so I will split it into two parts.

There is a lot of interest these days in Natural, Organic and Biodynamic wine. Without entering into the technicalities I can tell you that these wines do not exist anywhere in our denomination – there is only one certified vineyard, but no certified wine cellars. It is quite simply that our climate makes this classification almost impossible. However, that’s not to say that we are not open minded, and we certainly enjoy trying these wines when the opportunity arises, sometimes with mixed results.

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to try two such wines, one from France and the other from the Czech Republic.

As you may know, I am already a great fan of the wines of the Jura region of France, and more especially of the Savagnin grape variety. There are many small ‘artisan’ producers in this region, and they often produce varied and fascinating wines. I was offered a ‘Vin de France’, effectively a table wine without AOC, but I was soon to discover why. The wine ‘Le Zaune à Dédée’ was made from a blend of late-harvested Savagnin grapes from the Jura, and Gewürztraminer grapes from the neighbouring Savoie region. A wine macerated and then vinified ‘sous voile’ (aged under a fine ‘flor’, or film of yeast in the barrel, similar to many other wines of the Jura, and also a technique used in sherry making). The resulting oxidative style of wine is extraordinary. Not only is the wine slightly opaque, but it is pretty much orange in colour – many people would probably refuse it on sight alone! It has a nose that is so interesting and complex, that I could sit all day just smelling it (but come up with a different nuance every time). It has an overpowering aroma of honey, burnt orange, and perhaps a hint of lychee from the Gewurzt. From the honeyed smell you would be forgiven for thinking that it might be sweet on the palate – but not at all – it really misleads you in this respect. On the palate there are just so many exotic flavours, fused with hazelnuts and perhaps just a hint of salinity. But if I thought that this wine was difficult to describe, then the second left me with a blank tasting sheet!

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