Who is Atov?

March 7th, 2008

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I like keep our blog topical if nothing else, so in deference to this Sunday’s election in Spain, I thought I should share with you a moment of my own stupidity relating to said subject.

On driving out of our village I saw this banner stretched over the road, and (for a brief second) I thought to myself – who on earth is this ATOV bloke, apparently running for office, complete with his own cyrillic logo? Doesn’t sound very Spanish to me, more like a Russian!

Then, of course, I passed under the sign and read the other side….. VOTA PP.

I will say no more.
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Robert Parker Jr – the Wine Avocado

Over the last year or two I have sometimes been quite outspoken regarding certain types of tasting, questionable competitions and even the odd wine critic. Well, now is the time to retract everything…… We have just been awarded 90 points by possibly the most famous of them all!!!

Jay Miller, the Spanish wine reviewer for the Wine Advocate, has kindly made the following comment about our Albariño:

90 Points – 2006 Albarino Rias Baixas, Galicia
This Albarino is produced by Bodegas Castro Martin. Approximately 20% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation. Medium straw-colored with a green tint, the nose offers up notes of minerality, peach, jasmine, citrus, and a hint of tropical fruits in the background. Crisp, lingering, and refreshing on the palate, this lively effort would pair well with flaky fish courses.

So, 2008 has been quite a year for reviews so far – Best value producer in Spain from Tom Stevenson, ‘Star Buy’ in The Times from Jane MacQuitty, and now 90 points in the Wine Advocate. We must be doing something right!
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The Times newspaper boasts some of the best food & wine critics around – Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumental, the wonderful restaurant critic A.A.Gill, and one of my personal favourites, Jeremy Clarkson (albeit that he writes about cars!).

In their wine section they have the highly regarded Jane MacQuitty, who is a very serious journalist to say the least. So, at a recent London tasting I jumped out from behind our table and thrust a glass of our Albariño in her direction (such is my confidence in our wine). Thankfully she agreed with my opinion, and we are now thrilled to appear in this weekends paper as one of her ‘Star Buys’.

2005 Albariño – Rias Baixas, Bodega Castro Martin.
“Albariño is an unusual Iberian white grape you have to fork out for, but in this Spanish edition, the lively, floral, lime zest and lemon blossom-charged palate is easily worth the price asked”.

There are two things that are significant to me about her comments. Firstly, she comments about our wine’s good value for money (in keeping with Tom Stevenson’s rating in his recent book). And secondly, in January 2008, she is writing about our 2005 wine – further proof, if it were needed, of my own opinion about the ageing potential of our Albariños.
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I’m wearing a lovely new tracksuit, what are you wearing?…..

Following the recent retirement of Cuba’s infamous leader, I thought it quite an appropriate moment to clear up and misunderstandings that there might be relating to our name.

Firstly, I should say that there is of course no connection whatsoever between our Bodega and the aforementioned Cuban gentleman! The name ‘Castro’ relates to a former partner of Angela’s father who left the business many years ago (for some reason, of which I am not clear, his name remained).

OK, so now the real point of my story…… In the Rias Baixas denomination there are at least three other Bodegas that carry the name ‘Castro’ in their title. Only today I passed one of the others on my way to work and remarked upon the shiny new logo attached to the front of the building – suspiciously like our own lettering, I thought to myself!

Now, I don’t wish to blow our own trumpet (well, actually I do) but we are certainly the best known of all the Castros around these parts, so I guess that it might just be possible that the others are trying to cash in on our success by using their similar name, and linking it to a similar logo? Certainly, many, many years ago I knew some consumers who used to think that anything with Mouton or Latour in the name must be a great quality wine….. as if they could somehow confuse Mouton Cadet with Mouton Rothschild for example!

So, whilst we acknowledge that imitation is really the most sincere form of flattery, there is, and only ever will be, one Bodegas Castro Martin.

We thank you for your Fidel-ity…… (sorry)!

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A good year?

February 14th, 2008

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Angela and I (in our dreams!)

The other day I had occasion to contact our local denomination office to ask them for some information about recent vintages. In reply, they sent me a sheet listing all the statistics of every vintage since the creation of the Rias Baixas D.O. (back in 1987).

The information that I actually needed was the number of kilos picked and the number of litres produced, but alongside each vintage they also listed the official D.O. quality rating, which made absolutely fascinating reading…..

In the 20 vintages since the creation of the D. O. there have been no fewer than 10 officially ‘Good’ vintages, 6 ‘Very Good’ vintages and 4 ‘Excellent’ vintages. Significantly, the last three consecutive vintages have all been categorised as ‘Excellent’.

As I have said before, such sweepingly generalised ratings serve of little use to us, and even less to the average consumer (not even taking into account that I disagree with some of their assessments). For example, the top-quality 2001 vintage has only been officially rated as good, whilst 2006 appears as excellent. OK, so our 2006 wine was pretty good, but I certainly think that in our bodega the 2001 wine was superior.

In addition, not one single vintage since the creation of the D.O. is listed as poor, or even mediocre quality – I have to question whether this is entirely truthful?

Whilst it is clearly not in the interest of our local denomination office to shoot themselves in the foot by saying that any particular vintage is poor, there is a train of thought that says it might be better to be honest with the consumer, rather than giving them a false impression.

Perhaps the answer is to introduce some new official categories? How about ‘Nice’ or ‘Interesting’?!
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For those of you who don’t know, Alimentaria is probably the biggest and best wine fair in Spain, and is held only once every two years. Certainly if you’re looking to add Spanish wines to your portfolio, then this is the place to be. As usual, Angela and I will be attending, and have a booth on the stand of our Catalan distributor, Escolà Distribution (but you will also be able to find our stand in the Alimentaria catalogue listed under our own name).

Please note our exact coordinates:


We look forward to seeing you next month

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Sleeping on the job!

February 5th, 2008

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Tastings can often be hard work – long hours on your feet pouring wine can easily put a strain on your enthusiasm. Not so last month when we attended the annual tasting of one of our biggest importers…..

Every year the venue is decorated around a highly original theme – this year based on the different rooms of a house. Producers found themselves in some fairly unfamiliar surroundings for tasting – France, for example, in the kitchen, Italy, in the bathroom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa sharing the garden etc.

Spain was located in the bedroom, complete with double bed and staff dressed in pyjamas and nightgowns! (Imagine being paid for lounging around in bed all day!).

Despite the light-hearted surroundings the tasting itself is always deadly serious, and is attended by up to three thousand customers over a period of ten hours.

We wait with bated breath to learn more about next year’s theme…..

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Green Issues

February 1st, 2008

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These days we are asked with increasing frequency whether any of our wines are either organic or biodynamic. I thought it was about time therefore, that I post some sort of statement that explains our approach to these ‘green issues’.

As I have written many times before, we live in a very green part of Spain and have more than our fair share of rainfall. We are officially categorised as having an Atlantic Maritime climate, which means quite simply that our weather is damp and humid. Despite all the precautions that we take there is not a single vintage that goes by where we do not have to intervene at some point, and therefore we cannot honestly say that our wine is completely biodynamic. I would actually go so far as to say that it would almost be impossible to produce a genuinely biodynamic wine in the Rias Baixas denomination, and any producer who claims that he does should perhaps be treated with some suspicion!

As a reference for all our customers Angela has compiled a list of the practices that we follow in order to keep our Albariño as ‘ecologically friendly’ as possible. You will see that most of the procedures that we apply in our vineyards are preventive, to avoid disease and consequently minimise the use of chemical treatments.

1). Soil management: We do not use herbicides – we use the traditional system of ploughing the soil 2 or 3 times a year, especially when the vines are dormant (doing this in summer can damage the roots of the vines)

2). We have natural grass cover between the vines that is cut manually. In this way we can also use the natural organic material (mulch) to help replenish the soil.

3). We use natural worm humus, especially when planting new vines.

4). We use sheep and horse “manure” to add nutrients to the soil when required.

5). Plagues and Diseases: Mainly preventive strategies are used, such green pruning and thinning the canopy to avoid excessive humidity under the pergolas. This of course allows a better circulation of air and thus helps to prevent fungus attacks.

Sometimes these attacks cannot be prevented and so we are obliged to use some products (all approved in ecological viticulture), such as:

a). Copper in different combinations in the case of mildew attacks.
b). Soluble and powdered sulphur for the control of excoriosis and oidium.
c). Anti-botrytis (following insect attack or hail damage) when fungus may enter and create rot.

6). To reduce the possible spread of fungus spores in the following harvest we collect and burn all the vine cuttings after pruning.

7). We use pheromone traps that cause sexual confusion to control the polilla de la uva (grape moth) or lobesia botrana. In the case of an attack we treat with bacillus thuringiensis (which is a biological treatment)

8). Harvest : manual collection of grapes to avoid damaged bunches and premature oxidation.

This is also perhaps the time to mention that our Albariño is suitable for vegetarians as we do not use any meat derived products during handling or vinification.

In addition to these vineyard practices there are also routines that we follow in the wine cellar, relating to other environmental issues that I will write about in future posts.
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January 25th, 2008

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Tom Stevenson has been writing about wine for nearly thirty years and is the author of more than 20 books. He’s been nominated on three occasions as Wine Writer of the Year and received the coveted Wine Literary Award, America’s lifetime achievement award for wine writing.

Every year he invites a team of specialised journalists to help him compile a handbook of the best wines that the world has to offer. These fall under numerous different categories, from best newcomer to the best bargain wine.

In the case of Spain, Tom handed responsibility to John Radford, author of the award winning New Spain, winner of the Livre Gormand Best European Wine Book and the Premio Especial Alimentos de España from the Spanish Government. John is also chairman of the Spanish committee of the Decanter World Wine Awards.

We are therefore delighted to reveal that Bodegas Castro Martin is now listed as one of the Top 10 ‘Best Value’ producers in the whole of Spain.

As a former buyer I am truly delighted to receive the accolade of ‘best value wine’, which for me is the most significant of all the different categories in this report – quality and value is, after all, the Holy Grail of any worthwhile wine buyer……

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After a few celebrations and a brief norovirus (don’t ask), I finally find the time to wish you all a very Happy New Year – a healthy, safe and prosperous 2008.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have just received our copy of a new guide, produced by Wines from Spain and distributed throughout the United States. Our entry is for Castro Martin 2005, and the tasting note, written by Doug Frost (Master Sommelier and MW), reads as follows:

“The aromas show both red and green apple, white peach, apple blossom, and some honey; dusty rocks and minerals are prevalent in the nose as well. The mouth is a bit fleshier, with sweet peach skin, apple, lots of ripe citrus, and a stony finish. I’m sure there are other combinations, but this wine just loves seared scallops.”

Who are we to argue?

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