Here in Galicia (and Spain) we have more than our fair share of food festivals – any excuse for celebrating food is embraced with great enthusiasm, from the more basic products, such as tomato, cheese, sausage, or chicken, through to some slightly more elaborate dishes such as our local cocido. Of course in Galicia many of the festivals are centered around fish and seafood, but generally speaking, if it can be cooked or eaten, then it will be celebrated!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, they also have festivals for the appreciation of food. For example, this month is National Burger Month, and the good news is that I will be in the States next week to sample one or two. Now, I know that this might make me sound like a heathen, so I have to qualify this by saying that I’m not talking about Burger King or McDonalds – I’m talking about real, honest to goodness, quality beef! I have to admit that I have a craving, and please allow me to explain why….. The ‘red’ meat that is most commonly found here is called ternera, and it is not beef as I know it, but actually a cross between beef and veal. When cooked it always looks slightly anemic, and not entirely appetising. Real red meat here is known as buey, but this is not always available, it is only carried by certain shops and restaurants, and believe me I have found every one of them!
Suffice to say that next week I might be on a high protein diet.
As people who read our website will know, I have mixed views about wine competitions for many different reasons that I won’t go into just now. Suffice to say that we do not actively seek to win medals, but rather leave it to our importers to select the most appropriate tastings for their market – once decided, we do of course, support any entry that they decide to make. This being the case, every bottle submitted is drawn directly from the stock held in that country, and absolutely no ‘special’ samples are mailed from Spain. If we are lucky enough to win something, then consumers will be able to enjoy exactly the same quality as the victorious bottle.
Our UK importer recently submitted our Castro Martin Family Estate wine for the Sommelier Wine Awards in London, which is a rather unique competition. It focuses upon wines aimed purely at the UK ‘On-Trade’ - hotels, pubs, bars and restaurants. Wines that are sold more widely on the high street are not permitted, and therefore the competition serves as an ideal reference point for on-trade wine buyers. It is also judged by members of the trade including Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine, who look for food-friendliness, versatility, typicity, personality – and value for money.
A day or two ago we were thrilled to learn that we had achieved Gold Medal status, especially as our focus is, and always will be, to make ‘food wines’ aimed largely at the on-trade. Mission accomplished in that respect!
Whilst reading the summary of our award I was puzzled by the comment “Generosity of flavours and a taut freshness gave Castro Martin Gold once more for the latest vintage of its Family Estate Albariño”. Gold once more? What does that mean? I asked myself…… Well, it transpires that the previous vintage of this wine also won Gold last year, and we didn’t even know it! Not only does this say something about our quality, but also, more importantly, proves our consistency.
In the vocabulary of wine and wine making a word that crops up quite frequently is ‘tradition’. Whether it be used to describe a method of vinification handed down through the generations, or perhaps the ownership of a property that passes from father to son (or daughter), it appears quite frequently, and in many cases is promoted as a guarantee of quality. Of course from a wine making point of view, it’s also very important to respect traditions, despite the fact that they are often protected by the rules of Denomination or Appellation. Having said that, innovation is perhaps, equally as important – we can never afford to sit back on our laurels and let the rest of the (wine) world pass us by.
So, what about families? How important is it that you deal with the founders of a business or their descendants? In every country there are famous names, dynasties if you like - Antinori of Italy, Vega Sicilia and Torres of Spain, Château Mouton Rothschild, Famille Perrin and Joseph Drouhin of France and Egon Muller Scharzhof of Germany. The question is, do they really make better wines?
Perhaps family ownership is a bit of a romantic notion, but these days one of the harsh realities is that an increasing number of family estates are slowly and inexorably being swallowed up by the ‘big boys’ of the wine world. Without naming names, there are now quite a few mid to large-sized bodegas here in our own denomination that are owned by Companies from outside our region (many from Rioja), leaving very few that are owned and managed by the founding families. Of course Castro Martin is one such example of this, as Angela and I run this family business in a very ‘hands on’ style – never afraid to roll our sleeves up and get our hands dirty. During the harvest, we are right in the thick of it, and by the end of each campaign we really start to feel our age! Exhausted is another description.
I suppose the difference is, that in a family business (and yes, we do have a wine that we call Family Estate Selection), we treat every wine that we make as one of our children, watching it grow and evolve quite literally from bud to bottle. It gives us immense pleasure to prepare pallets to be delivered to different corners of the world knowing that thousands of different consumers, from many different walks of life, will hopefully be enjoying the ‘fruits’ of our labour.
Family tradition? Yes, it matters!
By coincidence I have continued my recent theme of using film titles for our blog… I posted some time ago about underwater wine ageing, but now it appears that in the United States the FDA have expressed some new concerns about the practice. The Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has issued an advisory saying water pressure could cause contaminants to seep into the bottles.
“Overpressure on bottle seals increases the likelihood of seepage of sea water into the product, and biological growth on the container may contribute to the degradation of the cork which could contaminate the product when the bottle is opened”. The advisory warned that contaminants from petrol and oil to pesticides and heavy metals can sometimes be found in sea water.
For the time being the FDA will not approve labels for any underwater aged wine until more tests have been carried out. This ban will not change anything at Castro Martin, as of course, we don’t use this method for ageing any of our wines, but I do know that there are at least one or two other Galician bodegas that may be affected.
One of the problems of using the pergola system for training vines is that at certain stages of the growing cycle, the plants can be left a little exposed. As the new shoots are suspended on wires about 2 metres (6-7ft) above the ground, it leaves them completely open to the elements. As our vineyards are located only a few km from the Atlantic Ocean, one of those elements is the wind, and if you vineyard happens to be in an exposed location (which is great for maximising sunshine hours), then it can be even more vulnerable when the wind howls in off the sea.
At this point in their development the new shoots are still too short to be attached to the wires (see today’s photo), but unfortunately they are just long enough to be snapped off by gale force winds. The day before yesterday (for the first time in a while), the weather was extremely windy – I have no idea of the exact wind speed, but it was certainly strong enough to cause a small amount of damage to our vines. Of course it is very early days in the vine cycle, and as such we have no real way of calculating how many (potential) bunches may have been lost – suffice to say that it is not the end of the world, and is simply one of the harsh realities that we face as fruit farmers….
Today is May the Fourth, which, as you may know, holds a special significance for Star Wars fans – indeed one UK TV channel is running a Star Wars marathon, showing every film ever made, back-to-back. And so, if you still don’t understand the significance of today’s date, then please don’t expect me to explain it any further.
However, the real reason that I wanted to make today’s post was simply to include an image of the second of our new Denomination campaign adverts. As I said last week, I think they look great, and certainly represent an improvement as to how we might be perceived out there in the big wide world of wine. Good work boys (and girls)!
One of the great old traditions of British cooking are the puddings, or desserts as they are more commonly called these days. For me there’s something quite emotive about these old recipes, transporting me back to my school days, when pudding was one of the highlights of an otherwise bland school menu. The only positive about school food in those days, is that the diet was constructed around a culture of ‘meat and two veg’ (and/or potatoes), but without any fried food whatsoever, and not a greasy chip in sight. Perhaps unwittingly much healthier than some of the ‘fast food’ dishes offered by schools these days – this type of convenience food was simply not an option, and the only menu choice was take it or leave it!
The puddings were great (possibly because I have a ‘sweet tooth’), and included many an old favourite, such as jam roly-poly, apple crumble, baked custard tart, rice pudding, chocolate sponge and many others. Included within that list you will notice a quintessentially British and very traditional dish – crumble. Crumble can be made with any number of different fruits: apple, rhubarb, peach, pear, gooseberry, apricot or any number of different berry fruits – the possibilities are almost endless, and suffice to say that they are all delicious when made correctly.
I am not sure of the exact origin of the crumble, but I do know that they became very popular during the Second World War when there was food rationing in the UK. Cooks were obliged to economise and cut corners wherever they could, and the simple crumble topping of fat, flour and sugar was apparently easier to ‘eek out’ than the more usual pastry topping.
I think I read recently that crumbles are actually enjoying something of a renaissance, and springing up on many a fashionable restaurant menu. Having said that, I was still quite surprised to find a crumble recipe featured in a recent mailing from ICEX – Food & Wines from Spain – crumble de frambuesas y melocotones. The wine recommended by ICEX was either riesling or gewürztraminer, which could work (although they would probably require a degree of residual sugar) – I’m afraid to admit that our own albariño is far too dry for this hearty British pudding.
In recent years I have perhaps been a little outspoken, even critical, of some of the advertising campaigns of our denomination. I have always thought that they were a little bit staid and old fashioned, often not representative of our region, and certainly not attention grabbing. For me the whole point of advertising is to grab the attention of the public – of course this can be done in many, many different ways, whether it be something stunningly beautiful, something unusual, something that makes you look twice (a double-take), or as used in a few cases, something controversial or shocking. Whatever approach you chose it has be done to provoke a reaction – to get people talking, if it’s to be successful. I’m afraid that a simple picture of a vineyard with lots of greenery simply doesn’t cut it anymore, even if the view is very pretty.
I was therefore delight to spot some radically new Rias Baixas advertising a month or so ago, with some attention grabbing food shots, and a simple bold headline. I have found two examples so far, there may be more to come. Today’s photo is the Japanese sushi (and nigiri) shot, which as I type this, is actually making my mouth water….. in other words having the desired effect – provoking a reaction. Creating a craving for a glass of fresh, chilled albariño – simple but effective.
There is however one small nagging doubt that I have – is this advert politically correct? Abbreviating the word Japanese to Japo, might just be considered offensive to some. Now I am not a native Spanish speaker, but in the one Spanish dictionary that I referred to, the term “Jap” was listed as “offensive”. I guess the best answer might come from the Japanese themselves, as I’m sure that eventually this new advertising will filter over to their country. I just hope that it doesn’t cause some sort of diplomatic incident!
After a short burst of warm weather at the beginning of April, the temperature has now fallen back to a daily average of around 16/17°C (60/63°F), accompanied by a mixture of sunshine and showers. Despite these lower temperatures the vines are still evolving quite vigorously, and the grey/brown winter landscape of the vineyards is slowly being transformed into the first pale shades of summer green. Over the last few days thunder has been forecast on several different websites, although until now, nothing has transpired – rain yes, but no thunder and lightning. The forecasters however, are sticking doggedly to their predictions of stormy weather, albeit as we wake up today the sun is still shining defiantly! Let’s see who’s right over the next few days….
Yet another satisfied customer has kindly sent us their photo, enjoying a bottle of Castro Martin – this time from Barcelona. You will notice that, as in previous images, this young lady is enjoying her bottle with a rather delicious looking fish dish. Of course the fish/albariño combination is no big secret, and really does work rather well, especially with the type of dish that we can see in the picture – poached or possibly lightly pan-fried fish. A delicately flavoured fish with a delicate wine that we know will not overpower, but rather compliment the flavours.
Of course when I received this photo I was tempted to call it a selfie, when quite obviously, it isn’t. The word ‘selfie’ has very quickly become over-used and abused, and is now seemingly used to describe any type of portrait or closeup group photo, regardless of whether one of the subjects is holding the camera or not. OK, so I’m being pedantic here, but let’s face it, if you’re going to invent a new word then at least make an effort to use it correctly!
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