LanguageLet me start by admitting that my Spanish is quite appalling. Considering that I been living in this country for so long it is clear that I should be speaking the language like a native (well, maybe not Galician, but certainly Castellano). The truth is that I am lazy, and I expect everyone in our office to speak perfect English like what I do! Our guys in the bodega, maybe not, but our office team certainly. My other problem is that I have satellite channels on my TV – in English, and so even when I am at home I am not learning any new vocabulary……

I’m happy to say that Paula (who is comparatively new to our office), is setting the example by attending English classes to improve her understanding. OK, so she is a good deal younger than me, and still benefits from the mental capacity to learn new things, whilst I conveniently cower behind the old adage of “old dog, new tricks”.

She explained to me that she recently had an exam of her spoken English, and so I asked her how it went. I was a bit surprised when she told me that the subjects allocated for this conversation (with no prior warning) were ‘consumerism in developed versus old economies’ and the ‘pros and cons of volutarism’. Wow! Even as a fluent English speaker (more or less!), I think that even I would struggle with these subjects, not to mention that it really requires quite a bit of specialised vocabulary in order to cope well.

To be honest I thought it slightly ridiculous, and that it would make far more sense to allocate topics more closely related to our daily lives. Of course, I can also add this example to my list of excuses for not attending Spanish classes!!

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

BiodynamicA week or so ago I wrote about tasting the tanks of our 2016 wines, and the fact that that I had decided to taste them on a day determined by my 2017 Biodynamic tasting calendar. I have mentioned this calendar on previous occasions, but just to recap quickly, it suggests that wine will taste differently on different days of the month according to the phases of the moon. The best days are known as ‘fruit’ or ‘flower’ days, the bad days are ‘leaf’ or ‘root’.

I confess that I originally stumbled upon this idea more or less by accident, when I often imagined that our wines appeared to taste better on certain days of the week, but couldn’t really pinpoint the reason why. I subsequently read about the theory of tasting cycles and the biodynamic calendar, and despite remaining sceptical, decided to buy a copy. Of course, the power of suggestion is very strong, and we can all be influenced or have our perception changed by having a certain idea being offered to us in advance. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I find that this concept works for me, and the days that I chose to taste are now more often than not decided by a quick glance at the calendar. And I am not the only one – large organisations such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer, as well as important cellars such as Pol Roger and Maison Joseph Drouhin also use this calendar as a point of reference.

The reason that I am revisiting this subject now is simply because a New Zealand scientific study into the Biodynamic calendar has just been published. “The findings reported in the present study provide no evidence in support of the notion that how a wine tastes is associated with the lunar cycle,” the researchers concluded. The methodology was simple – 19 New Zealand wine professionals making blind tastings of 12 Pinot Noirs, four times, twice on a fruit day and twice on a root day, using 20 descriptors including  aroma, taste and mouthfeel. They concluded that the lunar cycle did not influence their perceptions. (I should mention that atmospheric pressure was also taken into account as some believe that this can also influence taste).

Perhaps the surprising point is that despite these findings, some wine professionals (including MW’s) say that they still retain their faith in support of the calendar… including me!

Cold snap

January 25th, 2017

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Cold snapAfter saying that we don’t get too much frost here in Galicia the last week or two have seen early morning temperatures either at, or just below freezing. Quite naturally these cold nights are accompanied by clear skies, meaning that during the day we have enjoyed wall-to-wall sunshine, with temperatures of around 11-12°C (52-54°F).

In one way these conditions constitute the prefect conditions for pruning (and I’m sure that our team working in the vineyard are very thankful for that), but as always there is also a slight downside. The problem is that the winter so far has been very, very dry, with hardly any rainfall whatsoever since the turn of the year, perhaps just one or two odd days with a bit of drizzle, but nothing more. As I have said before, we simply need more water to replenish the water table.

The forecasters say that we will have rain tomorrow, but if I remember correctly they said that yesterday, and, as you can see from today’s photo, they were wrong!

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

Flu

January 19th, 2017

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BabesJust 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!

Posted in Odds & Sods, Tasting

January update

January 11th, 2017

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RebajasIf 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!

New Year Fizz

January 2nd, 2017

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GorgolaI 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!)

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

New Year frost

December 29th, 2016

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New YearAs 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.

Posted in Fiestas, Weather

Christmas wine

December 27th, 2016

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BatardFor 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.

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

Christmas 2016 LightsFirstly, 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

Posted in Fiestas, Other

QuizI 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!

Posted in Tasting, Technology

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