You may have notice that there have been no posts on our sites for the last week or so, and that’s quite simply because we have been travelling. Now, the hotel where we stayed in London claimed to have free internet – and it did – provided that you didn’t mind waiting half an hour to download a simple document or e-mail…. Completely useless! That’s another story, but does explain why we have been silent.
Of all the travelling that we do and the visits that we make, by far the most productive use of our time is training. We were invited by our UK importer to hold a “Materclass” for their London sales team – an opportunity just too good to refuse. Visiting individual customers and holding small tastings is one thing, but having the opportunity to ‘educate’ a large group of sales people is something else. It’s what I call the ‘cascade effect’. By preaching our message to one small group, this can, potentially, be transmitted down to hundreds of customers at the business end of our supply chain. Of course, it goes without saying that the more knowledge that we pass on to the team, then hopefully, the more confident they will be in going out to push our wines. The long and short of it is that we love doing these presentations, and above all else, our goal is that we will be creating new ambassadors for Castro Martin and our brands.
I think our presentation was well received, but more importantly, our wines showed really well as we tasted our way through them. We can talk and educate until we are blue in the face, but our wines? Well, we let them speak for themselves….
We have just updated the ‘wine information sheets’ on our website, or at least the English versions (Spanish will follow very soon). They can be found on the DOWNLOADS page, that also includes bottle shots, labels, vintage reports and a couple of other, hopefully useful, things.
My only problem is that I never quite know what to call these particular documents. Personally, I have always called them ‘Fiche Technique’, but I guess that could because much of my wine education was made in France. Of course here in Spain that translates into ‘Ficha Técnica’, whilst I believe that in the States they are sometimes called ‘Cheat Sheets’. Whatever your language, these smart new pages are now available for download.
I installed a city map App on my phone the other day. As soon as it was up and running it started to search for any major cities close to our location – it didn’t find any! The results however, were slightly surprising. Apparently the nearest major city to Barrantes (where our bodega is located) is Lisbon! Somehow I had assumed that it would be Madrid, but actually Lisbon is some 55km nearer (Lisbon 415km, Madrid 470km). One of the facts that didn’t surprise me is that Barcelona is 950km from our door, and I assume that this is the straight line distance. Apart from flying, the journey to Barca is almost an expedition (over 1,150km by road – about 11 hours driving)!
It’s also quite interesting to know that London is only 300km further than Barcelona, which actually corroborates the fact that from Galicia to Cataluña is the widest point of Spain (east to west). Sometimes, when people come to visit us, their geography of the country can be a little confused. When I mention that we are located in northern Spain, many visitors respond by saying “so you must be near Bilbao then?”. This is not the case! Bilbao is actually just under 500km from our door (as the crow flies) and certainly used to be a full days drive – new roads have made it a bit quicker now, albeit still probably six hours.
I guess my point is that Galicia is still a very rural and remote corner of Spain. Getting in and out of our Province is still not easy – roads are improving, air routes are limited, and trains are still quite poor (taking several hours to reach Madrid). Hence the fact that I’m really looking forward to visiting London next week!
I have lived in Galicia for more than a dozen years now, and one of my big frustrations (as a would-be chef) is the continued lack of variety in the range of fruit and veg on offer. It is very basic to say the least, and is certainly not expanding to include any ‘exotics’. When I originally left the UK, one of the big food shopping trends at that time was for ‘baby’ vegetables – everything was shrinking, albeit not in price! We were told that fruit and veg picked younger and fresher was simply more flavourful, and I think that in most instances, this was very probably true.
I’m afraid to say that here in Galicia, the exact opposite would seem to be the case – the bigger the better appears to be the general rule of thumb. Huge potatoes and carrots that are either ‘woody’or have little flavour (also potatoes are almost never sold by variety, and so exactly which ones to chose can be a bit of a lottery).
This obsession with size also seems to spill over into restaurants – Galician portion sizes can be huge. Indeed, I recently read a review on Trip Advisor whereby one consumer, sampling the ‘tasting menu’ at a local Michelin starred restaurant, complained about portion sizes, and demanded that he should be able to repeat certain courses. Obviously this was refused, and consequently the guy was completely scathing in his review.
Finally hand-made chocolate. At Christmas we were lucky enough to receive a few gifts, including some had-made chocolates. One box was from a well-known producer in Catalunia, Spain, whilst a second box was from a chocolatier in Belgium. Both are shown in today’s photo – can you tell which chocolates are Spanish and which are Belgian?
Every month we receive a newsletter from our Consello Regulador, and for the second time in recent months I have opened the mail only to see the face of my wife staring back at me! Angela is a member of the official D.O. Rias Baixas tasting panel, that makes all the quality control tastings of every wine submitted for bottling (I made a detailed, 3 part post of this process back in November).
For some reason the Consello appears to have selected Angela as their ‘pin-up’ girl, as once again they have used her face of intense concentration in one of their mailings. Signed photos are available on request!
After the holidays of Christmas and then Reyes, we are finally back to work – schools have returned and people are back at their desks. Refreshed and ready for the challenges of 2016, assuming that you have managed to get out of bed! The reason I say that is because if you are one of those people who likes to lay in bed and listen to the rain on your window (tucked up warm under the duvet), then it’s possible that you might be starting to develop bed sores….. The weather in Galicia since the beginning of the year has been appalling, almost to the extent of being mildly depressing. It has been raining almost non-stop throughout the day and night. Skies have been dark, grey and leaden – on some days it has remained dark well into the morning, so much so that have been sitting at home with the lights on. For anyone that has taken an extended holiday over this period (which includes our bodega) it has been a complete washout. Even going out for the traditional Spanish ‘paseo’ (an evening walk before dinner), has been almost impossible, or at the very least, quite unpleasant.
It has also been quite mild, which unfortunately, is not great for our vineyards. All vines need an extended period of cold weather simply for them to recover from the exertions of producing fruit – in other words, winter! The rain also makes the already difficult job of pruning even more unpleasant – on sodden ground, with the rain in your face (as you reach up to work on the pergolas overhead)…..
Today is yet another National Holiday in Spain – the day of the Magic Kings (Reyes Magos), known in other countries as Epiphany – the arrival of the Three Kings in the Nativity. It is celebrated in many villages, towns and cities with spectacular parades reenacting the arrival of the three kings, symbolised by the giving of sweets and small presents.
This year, certainly here in Galicia at least, it is possible that the celebrations could be a bit muted….. by the weather. Since the turn of the year we have experienced days of non-stop rain – dark, leaden skies, it has been thoroughly miserable (albeit that temperatures have been unseasonably mild). I seem to recall that this is in complete contrast to the Reyes holiday of last year, when we enjoyed sunny, blue skies during the day, but with temperatures below freezing at night.
There is however, something very different that we could be celebrating at this time of year. In the U.S. it is National Meat Month. To be honest I’m not completely sure of the origins of this tradition, but it does afford Americans the excuse to enjoy even more meat than they usually do. With an average consumption of 270lbs (123kg) of meat per person per year, which is nearly three times more than the world average of just over 100lbs (46kg), you would be forgiven for thinking that the Americans are world leaders, whereas actually they take second place, behind…… Luxembourg (of all places)! In terms of the type of meat consumed in the U.S., beef and pork were tied throughout the 1950’s. Beef then became the dominant protein up until the turn of the millennium, until eventually chicken overtook it as the most consumed meat only a few years ago. No doubt Colonel Saunders will be quite thrilled!
So, how old is Non-Vintage? This might seem like a stupid question, but I do think that in certain circumstances, it can be quite significant. OK, so I have to admit that I am thinking specifically of Champagne when I ask this question, and this is all owing to a bit of a mix up on New Year’s Eve.
A few days ago I pulled out a bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne to chill for drinking with our meal. New Year’s dinner is, as always, quite a late event here in Spain, the idea being that the meal is finished shortly before the clock strikes midnight.
Just before the meal I popped the cork and poured…. Wow, this was seriously delicious, too delicious in fact – nutty, toasty, digestive biscuit, super complex – all the attributes of a lovely, old Champagne. Oh dear, I should have realised just by looking at the colour of the label. Closer examination revealed that it was actually a vintage 2004, which I didn’t even know that I had in my selection!
My point is that I really like old Champagne, and so when I buy a bottle of Non Vintage I rarely drink it immediately, but prefer to put it in the cellar and keep it for a year or so. Of course this is a matter of personal taste, and not all wines will improve with age. It’s just a bit of a habit that I have developed over the years.
There is, however, an interesting question that arises from this slightly odd practice. If I buy an NV Champagne from a wine shop in Spain (that might have a slow turnover), then how old is the bottle when I actually buy it? Apart from the Lot Number, which is coded, how do I know how old my bottle is? Perhaps in the case of their NV blends, Champagne houses should consider adding a bottling or disgorgement date to the label, if only to give the consumer (including me), a little more information? Just a thought.
In the age of social media there appears to be a growing trend amongst wine lovers to post a photo of the wines that they have enjoyed over the Christmas holidays. I immediately thought to myself, why should I be any different? I guess it’s the time of year that you might dig around in your ‘cellar’, and dust off a couple of exceptional bottles to quaff with your special menu – wines that you generally don’t get to savour on a regular basis.
I know that I have recently preached about the virtues of albariño with turkey, so I think it only fair to point out that our Christmas lunch actually comprised a very nice sirloin of beef (with Yorkshire puddings of course), which is why we selected quite a voluptuous red wine to go with it. Roast beef is of course, far from being traditional at Christmas, but as it is not very common at all here in Spain, it therefore automatically becomes a special treat – perhaps a bit more for me than for Angela….
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our friends and customers around the world for your continued support. We send you our warmest wishes for the holiday season, and wish you a happy, healthy and (mutually) prosperous New Year.
Andrew & Angela
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