Apparently there is a very unique and different ‘style’ of wine now available on the market (although I’m pretty confident that it will never be made here in Galicia) – wine infused with marijuana. In California it is sometimes known as ‘weed-wine’ and in some local markets is now commercially available.

It may surprise you to know that this rather unusual blend was not originally cooked up by the fun-loving, open-minded Californians, but actually dates back centuries or even millennia. Pot-wine was sometimes consumed an integral part of ancient religious rituals, whilst in Chinese medicine it dates back as far back as the 28th century B.C. (so powerful that it could be used as an anesthetic during surgery). In any event, when this slightly bizarre cocktail was first used it was never intended simply as a way of getting high, but was used much more for its healing power and also relief of pain. In religion it was considered as an entheogen, aimed at spiritual development, literally ‘generating the divine within’ – which I think you could interpret in any number of ways!

Despite the fact that marijuana has now been legalised in several States, weed-wine is still not widely available, and in some of the places where it can be bought, it is still treated as more or less an ‘under the counter’ sale.

I have read that the most effective way to add this aromatic herb is by slow, cold maceration, and that the resulting wine has greater depth of flavour and a better structure. It is not mentioned exactly what this flavour is, but the ‘medicinal’ side-effect is ostensibly not as euphoric, but actually more mellow and long lasting. Certainly it would be a wine to be savoured with some moderation (if that’s your thing).

Finally, it is said that white wine better lends itself to these natural aromatics, a healthy marriage of marijuana and grapes, lower alcohol levels, giving a better balance to the finished wine. Who knows, Angela could become Galicia’s first “ganjapreneur”?

Logistics!

July 24th, 2017

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At this time of year planning, and more especially, forward planning is the key.

I mentioned only the other day that we had been busy racking wines, but the other very important procedure in our pre-harvest planning is bottling. Freeing up a few extra tanks to accommodate the new grape must. However, this year, there has been one major hiccup in that process.

Our bottle manufacturer was hit by a ransomware extortion attack, which pretty much closed down their entire production for a number of weeks. Obviously not having bottles during our peak bottling period is a bit of a handicap to say the least, but in the circumstances there was nothing we could do, except to wait patiently until our supplier’s systems were fully restored.

Unfortunately our first delivery of bottles last week was also a bit of a disaster! We had been promised that our truck was loaded and leaving the factory in Bourgos, arriving with us first thing the following morning (with our entire team poised waiting to unload and start work). Not only did it not arrive, but we subsequently discovered that it was in fact, never loaded. No real explanation was ever offered.

Suffice to say that I am always at a bit of a loss to understand why, at the same time every year, Spanish industry appears to be taken by surprise when the holiday season kicks in, and they find themselves short-handed. Malware apart, there are always delays and missed deadlines when it comes to supply and delivery. Probably the biggest surprise of all is that I continue to be frustrated by these problems…

For many years I have been under a slight misapprehension…. that irrigation of the vineyards was, at the very least, frowned upon, and to some extent, illegal! I think that this is probably a throw back to my early days in the wine trade, when the majority of ‘old world’ countries did not allow a single drop of water to be used in the vineyards, whilst the ‘new world’ producers (who used it extensively) were considered by Europe as charlatans, spraying water everywhere with impunity.

The interesting fact is that since around the turn of the millennium, things have been changing – but in a very quiet, almost stealth-like manner, as the traditional wine producing areas of Europe slowly adopted their wine laws to allow irrigation to be introduced. Certainly this is still done with an element of control as, for example, in some areas it is only allowed during certain summer months.

Of course, having made all the initial fuss about the ‘cheating’ new world producers, the old world soon came to accept (persuaded perhaps by the onset of global-warming), that allowing the use of water was actually quite a sensible thing. For me personally, the idea of irrigation is quite similar to the use of treatments in a vineyard – no sensible producer is going to sit back and watch his fruit rot on the vine if there is some step that he can take to prevent it. Yes, we all use products that are as ecological as possible to treat our vines, but in the end it’s all still a form of intervention. And so, logically, if your vines are wilting in the heat (and consuming all their sugars to survive), then just give them a drop of water – no so much as to inflate the berries, just just enough to keep them ‘comfortable’.

Today’s photo shows the drip irrigation that we have just added to our bodega vineyard, where the upper part can be particularly dry in hot weather. The irony is that, as I write this, it’s actually raining!

Whenever we have welcomed visitors over the last few years, we have usually taken them out for a trip around the vineyards, and to explain the geography of the Salnés Valley – where we are situated in relation to the Atlantic Ocean etc. We have discovered that best way to do this is actually quite simple – to drive them up a hill, above the valley, and admire the wonderful view of Salnés extended out in front of them. 

Dotted around Galicia, there are quite a number of ‘Miradors’ (look out points), designed almost exclusively for tourism purposes. (They are also often used by locals as picnicking places, as many include stone tables and benches, perhaps even a built-in barbecue).

Our very favourite for showing off Salnés is the mirador of San Cibran, located only a few km from our front door, which is, as you might imagine, mostly an uphill journey! However, recently, we have developed a bit of a problem….. no view! 

Very unfortunately, the surrounding hillside is planted with Eucalyptus trees (not indigenous to Galicia, but extensively planted some years ago to produce cheap timber). Now they are taking over, not only blocking the views, but also creating the perfect environment for forest fires. You may recall that at the end of May last year I wrote about how our own Ocean view, at the rear of our bodega, had been restored when some trees were felled, and it now seems that St Cibran is desperately in need of a bit of TLC as well. Regrettably, a mirador without is view, is now essentially, just a hill!

Set in stone

July 13th, 2017

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Yesterday was an important day in the work to extend our grape reception – pouring the concrete. Although this might sound like a comparatively easy task, I have to say that I was seriously impressed. Watching a pile of lumpy, wet stones and cement being transformed into a smooth, flat surface is pretty amazing, and I have to tell you that our guys did an excellent job.

Of course, this new floor is not completely flat, but has actually been laid on a very slight incline simply to accommodate better drainage, and it is this requirement that made the whole task just a shade more difficult. I soon discovered that it’s all about the preparation – having everything clearly mapped out beforehand, confirming that it’s not a job that can simply be carried out ‘on the fly’.

The other slight complication was that the truck was just a fraction too tall to enter the building, and the chute delivering the concrete was only just long enough to reach the new floor extension – another couple of feet further away and the whole chore would have been a lot more complicated. Within an hour or two the work was complete, leaving tiling as the only outstanding task before we finish.

Floor update

July 10th, 2017

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Work on extending our grape reception area continues (when we can find the time), and we now have the drains in place ready the final phase – laying the floor. The first step will be a concrete pour, probably later this week, before finally laying the tiles. 

As you may have seen from previous posts, the foundation of this floor is quite substantial, but of course, it has to be. At peak periods this floor will need to support a considerable amount of weight. Individual baskets of grapes (about 20kg each) are stacked on pallets as they arrive – usually 35 baskets per pallet, so that they can be moved around more efficiently. Although we pride ourselves on loading presses with the minimum of delay, there may be periods when we have a number of pallets waiting in the queue. At around 600/700kg per pallet the weight soon adds up, and so. quite clearly, the floor has to be strong.

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

It occurred to me that on my recent list of ongoing tasks (keeping us super busy in the bodega at the moment), I omitted to add training. Yes, once a week, Angela, Luisa and myself attend a four hour session to learn all about our new software system. At the beginning of the year we launched our revised accounts system, which from this September (at harvest time) will be partnered by an entirely new stock control system.

However, this is no ordinary stock system, as it will record every aspect of our wine production in fine detail – otherwise known as traceability – from grape to bottle. In fact, I guess that the vast majority of people would be quite surprised by the amount of detail required, actually beginning out in the vineyards whilst the fruit is still growing. Every lot number of every treatment (organic or otherwise), used by both the bodega and our grape suppliers is recorded – together with dates and amounts applied. This level of detail (including lot numbers etc.) is carried through the entire wine making process, right down to the bottle and cork used to produce every single wine. Yes, even bottles and corks are allocated lot numbers.

Of course, the simple reasoning behind this being that if any one bottle is discovered to have a technical defect, then the entire batch (usually from a specific tank) can be withdrawn from sale, and the fault traced right back to the very grape with which it was produced, if necessary. The amount of information recorded for your delicious bottle of albariño is mind-boggling!

So not only do we now have to learn how the system works, but somehow we have to find the time to input all the data. Good job that the days are longer at this time of year…

Oh dear! I am very conscious that I have not posted in a while, but don’t worry, I have lots of ready-made excuses!

Firstly, we had a few days away in Belgium (not bodega business but for the graduation of our daughter after completing her Masters in International Law). Meanwhile, back in Galicia we have simply been very, very busy – possibly taking on too many projects all at the same time: Still working on extending the grape reception, adding an irrigation system to one of our vineyards (more on that later), and racking the final tanks from their lees (after nearly nine months resting quietly).

The truth is that we could perhaps, have left some wines on their lees for a little longer, but the reality is (believe it or not) that we have to start preparing the bodega for the 2017 harvest. Between now and the end of August, we still need to bottle a few more tanks, and empty some of the tanks immediately adjacent to the presses, just make it just a tad more convenient when moving the grape must. Please note that we never ever move wine unless we really have to, and so we usually encompass any re-positioning of our wine within the racking process itself – relocating the clean wine well away from the pressing area. 

Today’s photos shows the impressive tartrate crystal formation at the bottom of our tanks when we rack the wines. They instantly reminded me of the dramatic Jurassic limestone strata of the Dentelles de Montmirail in the Vaucluse region of France, with their sharp-edged ridges and spikes.

By the way… Happy 4th July!

I should start by explaining that when we sell our wines within Spain then our sales tariff usually includes the cost of transport. However, for exporting goods to other countries then the story is the complete opposite – we never arrange transport for the orders of our export customers.

Unfortunately, this sometimes leaves us with a bit of a conundrum. When we are hit with a heatwave (as we have been for the last few days, with temperatures well into the 30’s C (90’s F)), then the question arises, who is responsible for making the decision whether to load the truck or not? Who will be liable if something goes wrong and the wine is damaged? The fact is that we have only a couple of long-haul customers who regularly take precautions when it comes to the temperature control of wine in transit, whereas the vast majority simply rely on normal road trailers or containers (and keep their fingers crossed!). However, if goods are crossing Europe on a two or three day odyssey when the temperatures are excessive, then this is clearly not the best way to keep our product fresh. (In our history there have been only a couple of occasions when pallets have been left exposed and corks have been pushed from the bottles – both beyond our control).

From our side the answer is simple – if we think that the weather’s too hot then we inform our customer, and allow them to take the decision – I think it’s called covering your ****!

(Today’s photo shows a container protected with a Vinliner – not the ultimate type of protection, which is full refrigeration, but certainly offering some degree of temperature control)

For the last couple of months I have been hinting in my posts about something new coming to Castro Martin – and finally it’s here – a new label!

A label? Is that all? So why all the fuss? I hear you ask. Well, the answer is quite simple –  the fuss is because this is something of an historic change.

The very first, and original brand of the new era (since the current bodega was built in 1981), is Casal Caeiro, created by Angela’s father some 35 years ago. (The Martin Family had been making albariño long before this, but mainly for local consumption, without labels, before labels were a legal requirement). Since it’s inception the Casal Caeiro label has slowly evolved and appeared in many different guises, but until now they have always had one thing in common – the Pazo vineyard had always appeared on the label.

In a break with tradition we decided to employ the services of local artist Elena Gomez Dahlgren to come up with something different (and original), and I think that her new design idea is both unique and spectacular. A quadriptych – a set of four labels that when displayed side-by-side join to form one larger picture.

The new 2016 vintage, using this presentation, is available from this week (albeit that our website will take a little time to catch up). New photos already appear on our webpages, and updated fiche and bottle shots are also available. In addition to this, we will eventually add more information about the inspiration behind the design, and also about our artist, but in the meantime you will simply need to buy some wine to see this work of art first hand. Oh, and by the way, you will need to buy at least four bottles to see the complete design!

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