I have recently been writing about the pruning and tying of vines in our fincas, but it occurred to me that I didn’t actually say too much about the progress of the vines themselves. After a prolonged cold, wet winter it was really a ten day period of sun and warmth in the middle of March that kick-started the 2014 growing cycle.
However, do not be misled by the intensely blue sky in today’s photo – this was taken yesterday, and the sky has now reverted back to it’s more familiar overcast, grey colour. So far this year we have not really seen any prolonged period of settled weather, and it looks like this year’s Easter break is going to be quite a damp affair. So much for the new gas barbecue that I have just bought for the summer – methinks that it will have to wait until later in the year to be inaugurated…..
By far the most time consuming process in our vineyards is the pruning, which starts in the late autumn and continues throughout the winter, almost until bud break in early spring. As I have explained many times before, pruning is a really tough, backbreaking task. The procedure itself has not really changed too much for years, but some of the materials that we use have evolved just a little to make the job just a bit easier. For example, it’s not that many years ago our guys would use willow plant cuttings to attach the canes to the wires of our overhead pergolas (see photo). Of course, it is obviously more desirable to use a natural material to tie the vines, but there is a major downside to this – the amount of time it takes. It is painfully slow to attach the canes by hand, knotting each piece of willow individually. This system has inevitably been streamlined by machinery.
In all honesty, we usually don’t get too much opportunity to use any mechanised equipment under our pergolas, but in the case of the tying, we now have battery operated machines that enable one man to do the work of four people, when compared to the old method of attaching the vines. Labour is singularly the greatest cost element of our grape production and so I’m afraid to admit that the decision to use this modern method for tying is quite simply a “no brainer”.
The Today Show has been running on the NBC network since 1952 and is one of the longest running series on U.S. television. It is also one of the most watched early morning shows and is broadcast from the famous Rockefeller Centre in New York City (30 Rock). The show also has it’s own website that apparently attracts some 12 million visitors a month. In recent days their wine contributor Edward Deitch added an article entitled “Spanish albariño makes for pleasant spring sipping” – we were delighted that our very own Castro Martin Family Estate Selection was one of the four wines that he selected to write about. Edward wrote:
“With its Atlantic, cool-climate influence, Rias Baixas produces fresh and lively wines infused with citrus and herb notes that are relatively low in alcohol and are delightful for spring and summer drinking with fish, shellfish and other lighter foods
I liked the somewhat richer style of Bodega Castro Martin’s 2012 Albariño “Sobre Lias,” a reference to aging on the lees, the solids of the grapes that give the wine a slightly creamy quality. But freshness is there as well in this $18 wine with lots of citrus, including lime, orange and pink grapefruit, as well as hints of green olive and exotic spices.”
It appears that spring might have finally arrived, so corkscrews at the ready….
Hispania is a restaurant built on the ground floor of the historical building of Lloyds Bank in the heart of London’s financial district. Indeed, to call it simply a restaurant is probably something of an understatement, with two floors dedicated to exhibiting the very best of Spain, it holds a license to operate as a restaurant, bar, shop and take-away. With a very accomplished kitchen brigade of it’s own, it recently played host to one of Spain’s top chefs, Quique Dacosta, who holds three Michelin stars for his own restaurant in Alicante. At a special 16 course dinner the guest list was not only studded with luminaries from the UK wine and food press (the BBC, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, Restaurant, Food & Travel, The Times), but also included representatives from the Spanish corporate and institutional community, including ambassadors, executives from Santander, BBVA, Ferrovial and O2. Suffice to say that it was quite well attended…..
Obviously we were completely thrilled that our very own Castro Martin Family Estate 2012 wine was selected to accompany one of the fish courses, and was subsequently described by a journalist from The Spectator as “as good an Albariño as I have ever tasted”. Quite honestly we were just happy to have our wine served to such an illustrious audience.
I exchanged a couple of e-mails with a customer yesterday, apologising for the delay in my reply, giving the explanation that Angela and I had been travelling on business during the previous week. “Somewhere nice, I hope”, came the reply. Well, in truth, the answer was yes, we had been somewhere nice – a couple of days for a presentation in Barcelona, followed quickly by a few days of tasting in Zurich. Of course, it’s quite natural to believe that travelling is a glamorous pastime, and it most certainly is when the journey is for leisure purposes, but when the aim is simply to stand behind a table (or in this case a barrel) pouring wine for two or three days, then not only do your legs start to ache, but also you don’t really get too much time to explore your surroundings anyway. The other slight downside was that these two trips also encroached upon two consecutive weekends, making our working week just that bit longer.
I know that I shouldn’t complain really – having the opportunity to travel is much better than have a regular ’9 to 5′ sitting behind a desk all week, but I am simply saying that in the end it’s still work, albeit in a slightly different location.
Finally, I should add that we did have a really good time, thanks to the warm hospitality our good friends (and importers) in Switzerland. They certainly know how to look after their visitors, even if it was mainly for business purposes. Oh, and by the way, I think we did help to sell a bit of albariño too!
On Monday Angela and I made a ‘flying visit’ to Barcelona, to make a presentation at the Alimentaria Food & Wine Fair. And the subject of our presentation?… Wine closures. Those of you who know me will know that this is a subject very dear to my heart, and our bodega invests a huge amount of time in researching the very best closure for our wines. We are constantly testing new products, making test bottlings, and then tasting samples and analysing the results. This is an ingoing process – it never stops. I think it’s fair to say that we usually end up simply making an ‘upgrade’ to the product that we already use rather than changing it completely. Suffice to say that we are very happy with what we have.
As our supplier, Nomacorc, is very aware of our commitment to this subject (retaining samples from our test bottlings and helping us with our analysis), they are also very keen that we pass on our experience to other would-be customers, and hence they invited us to Barcelona to make this presentation. The last time we did this for them I presented in English, but on this occasion it was Angela’s turn to thrill the crowds! She later appeared on Catalan television, but unfortunately the broadcast was not downloadable.
Here at Castro Martin we always enjoy ‘hanging out’ in our vineyards, and we are often asked about our credentials relating to ‘au naturel’ production methods. We have a new idea for our next harvest which I think that this takes the concept to a whole new level! Now, Galicia is not necessarily the ideal place to prance around in the open air with no clothes, some of the breezes blowing in from the Ocean can be a bit nippy (and have been know to cause shrinkage of the berries). In addition, our pergolas are quite open and do not offer to much protection from the wind, although they do at least say that the Galicians themselves are really quite a hardy bunch.
The other downside to this plan is that, as all producers know, over exposure to the sun will inevitably cause the skins to wrinkle – this picture is perhaps a good illustration of exactly what I mean.
I am usually the first to shout from the hilltops (or should that be mountain tops) when any of our wines are sold in prestige locations. In recent years we have featured in airline First Class cabins, the London Olympics, luxury cruise ships as well as many a top restaurant, but I’m afraid to say that I forgot to mention one more very good reference from the winter of 2013/14. Just a few months ago we shipped our Family Estate wine to several top ski-ing resorts in the FRENCH Alps – Val d’Isere, Courchevel, Megeve, Meribel and Val Thorens – altogether an impressive collection. I am always very proud to export our wine to any of the ‘Old World’ wine producing counties, and more especially as these resorts are also a winter playground for the rich and famous (which is why I’ve never been). I can’t help but imagine that our humble albariño might just have impressed a few wealthy and influential people during their luxury winter break!
In fairness, albariño might not be considered as much of a winter wine – skiers are probably more likely to crave ripe, full bodied reds, or perhaps glühwein, warmed through with added spices. Having said that, people still have to eat, and I have no doubt that there will still be the odd restaurant serving fish or seafood, even in the middle of the Alps.
Unfortunately my own skiing days are well behind me, and I know from painful experience that it can be a killer on the old leg muscles if attempted without any serious training or warm up beforehand. For now I think that I’ll just stick to a bit of jogging for my daily exercise…..
Before I start writing I should point out that it’s not quite April Fool’s day as yet, simply because today’s news is of a new gadget coming to the market that claims to turn water into wine! This new contraption will not come cheap with a price tag of around $499, and then of course the cost of the “ingredients” has to be added to this. By adding grape concentrate and yeast, it apparently takes three days to actually ferment the mixture into wine, at a finished cost of about $2 per bottle. The concentrates will be available as several different varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from Napa Valley, a Pinot Noir from Oregon, a Tuscan blend from Italy, Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma, plus a red and white from Burgundy.
The technology enclosed within this condiment shaped machine is actually quite impressive, comprising a fermentation chamber that uses electrical sensors, transducers, heaters and pumps to provide a controlled environment for the fermentation. So this really appears to be wine making in miniature….. In addition there is also the inevitable phone App that alerts the user when the fermentation has finished and the wine is ready to drink.
The California based makers say the finished product will be up to the standard of a $20 bottle of wine, but as I always say, the proof will be in the tasting – I prefer to reserve my judgement at least until we see some consumer reviews.
Now where did I put my loaves and fishes?
Monday 17th March is St Patrick’s Day, and no doubt will be celebrated around the world with the consumption of millions of pints of Guiness – indeed, I might even enjoy a can of the black stuff myself, as I always have one or two chilling in my fridge. Of course, it won’t be the same as drinking one in the spectacular Gravity Bar at the Storehouse overlooking Dublin, but at least, owing to the ingenious ‘floating widget’ system in the can, I will have a good ‘creamy’ head on my pint. (It’s all to do with dissolved Nitrogen that produces much smaller bubbles in the beer when opened).
Anyway, today’s post is not really about beer, but is actually about marshmallows! If you can’t sneak a beer into your office to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Monday, then as an alternative you could simply enjoy Guiness in the form of a marshmallow instead – sweetened with vanilla extract and then rolled in a coating of crushed pretzel! Sounds delicious…… I don’t think. Of course I haven’t tasted them, so I could be completely wrong, but of all the foods that you could flavour with Guiness, then marshmallow would probably not be at the top of my list. I have however, been known to open the odd can to add flavour my beef casseroles or steak pie. Indeed, the last time that I used Guiness for cooking I found myself finishing off the remnants of the can at 8 o’clock in the morning. I just don’t like to see good beer go to waste – at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
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