Just over a week ago (after consulting my new 2017 Biodynamic tasting calendar – more about that on another occasion), I made one of my regular tastings of the 2016 tanks. Obviously our 2016 wines are still sitting quietly on their lees, and so the purpose of tasting is to monitor progress, check for any potential faults, and eventually, to chose the optimum moment to rack them (remove them from their lees deposit into a clean tank). One of the possible faults that we look out for is reduction. To cut a long story short reduction is an ‘off’ smell caused by volatile sulphur compounds, which if detected, can usually be rectified by simply racking the wine. The problem is that the longer any reduction remains undetected, the more difficult it is to remove, which can result in the wine being tainted and possibly undrinkable, hence our regular tastings.
Happily, I can report that all of our wines are in good condition, and whilst they are still a long way from being the ‘finished article’, they are looking very promising. One of the characteristics of the vintage is quite simply the fruitiness. Yes, of course, we have fruit in our wines every year, but in 2016 (owing to the hot summer and very ripe fruit), the fruit flavours are very much at the forefront of the wine. We shall see….
The bad news is that, no sooner had I completed this tasting than I was stuck down with quite a virulent strain of flu. A week later, after a couple of days in bed and many days on the sofa, I am only now just starting to feel human again, which may help explain why I haven’t made any posts recently. Hopefully, by Monday, I will be back in the office, and normal service will be resumed!
If you thought that January might be a quiet time in the bodega then you would be wrong. Of course we have the usual year-end admin to take care of…. (Luisa for example, is super busy closing the accounts for 2016, and to make matters worse, is also suffering from a horrible winter cold), but there is also a lot more activity taking place both inside and outside the building.
Thankfully, many of our customers are replenishing their stocks after the holidays, and so we are now very busy making pallets (very nice for helping our cash-flow at what is traditionally a very lean time of year). Consequently we have to plan more bottling, and so we have now embarked on a programme of passing wine through the cold-stabilisation process (in order to prevent the finished wine from precipitating tartrate crystals in the bottle). Once this process is complete, in about two weeks time, we will make one final adjustment to the sulphur, and then bottle the wine ready for shipping.
In the vineyards we have pretty much perfect weather for pruning – dry and cold, but mostly sunny. In fact, if anything this winter has been far too dry. After the hot, dry summer of 2016, we really do need more rain to replenish the water table. Winters in Galicia are often cold, wet and miserable, our problem is that, so far, this winter just hasn’t been wet and miserable enough!
I think it only appropriate that my first post of the New Year should be about sparkling wine, as it is very common to associate popping corks with this time of year. Without wanting to sound too arrogant I do consider myself to be something of a Champagne aficionado, and pretty much every Christmas and New Year for as long as I can remember, have always pulled the cork on a nice bottle – except for this year!
A few months ago whilst sampling a ‘wine flight’ in a good restaurant, I was served a glass of Albariño ‘espumoso’ as an aperitif. I have tasted (and actively disliked) almost every sparkling albariño that I have tried before, but I had now, finally, discovered an exception! A wine called Gorgola made by Cabana das Bolboretas. I believe that this Galician name could be something to do with the small bubbles that break the surface of the sea creating the foam (I will have to research this more).
Gorgola is made by hand, on a very small scale using very traditional Champagne methods. The bottle I tried was a 2013 ‘vintage’, made using only base wines of this single cosecha and using exclusively albariño grapes – this being the case no blending was required. It was disgorged in Spring 2016 after some 26 months of secondary fermentation/bottle ageing. Classified as ‘Extra Brut’, it was very dry (between 3g and 6g residual sugar), and so there was no discernible sweetness.
Technically a ‘Blanc de Blancs’, it had a dry, almost flinty, mineral fruit, but then a unique characteristic that made it quite recognisable as an albariño to the discerning palate. It had the typical salty zest on the tongue, that gave it a special character, and in my opinion, certainly worth giving a try.
(By the way, the Echezeaux 1998, Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg wasn’t too shabby either!)
As we approach the end of the year it looks very much like the last few days of 2016 are going to be pretty cold – or at least cold for our part of the world. As I have explained many times before, owing to our proximity to the Ocean, we don’t often suffer too many extremes of temperature. Rain and wind yes, but temperature, usually not.
In winter we normally experience only a handful of frosty days, and so in one sense we are actually quite lucky. The downside is however, the type of cold that we have; quite damp and penetrating, and not at all like the crisp, dry cold that you might experience in places such as Madrid.
In any event, wherever you are, and whatever the weather, we wish you a vintage New Year in 2017.
For the last few years I have always cooked something slightly less traditional for Christmas lunch – often a nice piece of roast beef, which is not a very common dish here in Spain. In a butcher’s shop for example, a piece of beef for roasting is often simply described as ‘rosbif’, and that is how you would order it. There would be no mention of the cut that you might require – rib, sirloin, rump etc., simply rosbif.
This year, as a nod to the British tradition, I decided to cook Turkey, albeit that I did cheat a little – my bird was pre-stuffed with chestnut and macadamia nuts (to be honest, I was quite surprised to find this option). Preceded by seafood and a bit of smoked salmon, the turkey actually turned out quite well, even if I say so myself!
OK, so what about wine? Quite naturally we would usually promote our albariño with turkey, but I’m afraid to say that special occasions sometimes require something a bit different. I recently found a very good sparkling albariño (the first that I have really enjoyed), but I will write more about that in the New Year. Meanwhile, a dusty corner of my cellar turned up a very old bottle white Burgundy, very much in danger of being well past its best. Bâtard-Montrachet, Domaine Paul Pernot 1990 – given to me by the man himself many years ago.
After a bit of surgery with the cork (finally removed completely intact), the wine, as one might imagine, was a deep yellow/gold…. but not one bit oxidised I’m happy to say. The nose was full and fat, dominated by a slightly caramelised, toasted oak and honey. On the palate one of the most surprising factors was that despite all the rich, full, honeyed fruit flavours, there was still an underlying touch of minerality. It supported my turkey ‘gravy’ very well, and I thought was especially good with the smoked salmon.
Firstly, and most importantly, we simply want to thank all our friends and customers most sincerely for their continued support during 2016. This is without doubt, the very best gift that we receive each year.
In many ways 2016 was a quite an uneventful year, albeit that we continue to increase our business on the high seas, this year adding Royal Caribbean to our growing list of cruise ship customers. I have to say that cruising is not really my thing, but should add that if we are ever invited to organise any on-board tutored tastings, then I will be the first to pack my bag!
The summer of 2016 (as you may already know), was hot and very dry. The resulting harvest was slightly smaller than usual, but with very concentrated grape must, slightly lower acidity and a touch more alcohol than usual. All the normal traits of a hot vintage. However, the wines are very ripe, fruity and attractive, and I have no doubt that they will be well received at their launch during 2017.
Finally, we simply send you our thanks and our very best wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful holiday season and prosperous New Year.
Andrew, Angela and the team at Castro Martin
I spend quite a lot of time browsing wine subjects on the web, and on Saturday I stumbled across a site claiming that, by answering a few simple questions, they could determine the type of white wine that I should drink. I put it to the test…. but in a slightly mischievous way – by working in reverse and trying to steer the quiz toward the answer that I wanted. In other words, to force the algorithm to recommend albariño as my wine of choice.
When you already know the character traits of a particular grape variety then it’s actually not that difficult. The quiz asks a series of questions with multiple choice answers, and at my very first attempt I managed to arrive at the following answer: “The wine you should try is Pinot Grigio. You like a crisp, refreshing white wine, and Pinot Grigio is the perfect fit. But you should also try Albariño from Spain”.
Wine Apps are becoming more and more popular, in restaurants for example, offering consumers alternative advice to that of a sommelier. Also, by using a phone’s camera these Apps can recognise a wine label, and so feedback can be very quick and convenient (especially if you find yourself standing in the middle of a retail outlet struggling to make a decision). The only possible downside is that the database of many of these Apps is built up around customer recommendations in a similar way to Trip Advisor, so I guess that not all of the advice might agree with your own opinion or taste. In the end, as I always say, my best and only advice is to pull the cork and taste!
I have long maintained that the enjoyment and appreciation of food and wine is very much a matter of personal taste. Thankfully we are not all the same and have differing opinions on many things, including how we judge different flavour combinations and how well they may or may not work together. Of course, there are no definitive rules about the ‘marriage’ of food and wine, and so the final decision always comes down to the individual palate.
Even if I don’t always agree with the recommendations that I am offered, or read about, I can often understand the logic and reasoning behind many suggestions. On occasions however, there are some ideas that simply leave me scratching my head in puzzlement.
Our own Denomination for example, has been running a fabulous series of adverts highlighting the food types that can be recommended with our very own albariños. Some quite obvious, such as fish, seafood, sushi (and recently turkey). Others slightly less obvious, including meat and Mexican food. Finally, there is at least one that leaves me just a bit baffled – tartare. Initially, I had assumed that the recommendation was for a tartare of salmon and albariño combination, but on closer examination it proved that I was wrong – it is a tartare of red meat.
Only yesterday, on Facebook, I learned about a new book entitled “How to drink like a Billionaire”, in which the author Mark Oldman claims that “the weight of a richer style albariño stands up to the meaty goodness of a burger”. Well, that’s his opinion, and he’s entitled to it, but personally I don’t agree…. Perhaps he could be thinking about Californian albariño that weighs in at 13 or 14% alcohol – ripe, full bodied, with plenty of alcohol to provide extra mouth-feel? My own idea is however, that our own wines from Galicia could prove to be just a bit thin and acidic for this pairing. To be honest they simply lack the weight and intensity, but more importantly, the tannin to support a juicy red meat. It is, for example, the tannin in red wine that bonds with and softens the fat molecules in the meat helping to release the flavour. Albariño? I am not so sure.
On the other hand, I can confidently recommend Castro Martin albariño with your Christmas Turkey!
When it comes to holidays, both national and local,then Spain must enjoy one of the most generous allocations in the world. There are nearly a dozen National holidays each year, interspersed with a handful of local holidays, some regional, and others allocated at town or village level. In the context of organising our business, it’s sometimes difficult to know who’s working and who’s not…
December and January have quite a number of festivos, starting today, 6th December, with día de la Constitución, honouring the constitution of the country. On Thursday 8th December we have the Inmaculada Concepción – one of the most important Marian feast days in the calendar of the Catholic Church.
This year these two holidays fall on the most difficult days possible – Tuesdays and Thursday, meaning that, in theory at least, businesses would only be open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Bridge days (joining holidays together, or tagging them onto a weekend) are very common, but on this occasion where would you add an extra bridge day – unless you decide to close for the whole week? However, it’s a busy time of year to even contemplate this.
At Castro Martin we will close on Wednesday, meaning that we have a two day working week, on Monday and Friday only. Sounds good, but to be honest, it’s really just a bit untimely.
I know that I have written about burning our vine cuttings many times before, but when I think about it, this is pretty much inevitable….. When you consider that nearly all the work that we do is fixed to an annual cycle – pruning, harvesting, wine making etc., not surprisingly it all comes around but once a year! So, if you notice that I am repeating myself, then I do apologise, but then again, we also have to take into account that we do pick up new readers all the time. (On the other hand it could just be that I am a bit senile and don’t remember writing about certain subjects before).
However, burning the vine cuttings is not quite as straight forward as you might imagine, it’s not simply just a question of putting a match and watching them burn. We actually have to apply, in advance, for permission, and this is only granted at certain times of year. The reason for this is actually quite straight forward – the fear and/or control of forest fires. Permissions have a duration of one week, and can simply be suspended if the weather suddenly becomes too windy or excessively hot.
I should also mention that vine cuttings are very good for barbecues – so time to get the salchicas out!
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