Any ideas what this is?

2007 Harvest – Day 3 – Tuesday 18th September

I have mentioned before that we follow the forecasts closely at harvest time, and I have to admit that they got it spot on once again. We opened the shutters this morning to reveal a perfect blue sky, exactly as promised. The other successful prediction was a drop in temperature – about 4/5°C cooler than the first day of harvest, but still a very pleasant 22°C (72°F). The only slightly unexpected element was a cool fresh breeze (although this did actually help to ensure completely dry fruit).

After nearly three full days of picking it is quickly becoming evident that the yields this year are much lower than 2006, which I guess is only to be expected. We should not forget that the last few of years have produced some record figures, partly owing to new plantings, but also because of some very abundant yields. From a quality standpoint this is no bad thing, albeit that some of our growers would probably find this mentality a little difficult to understand. Naturally they are more motivated by weight, despite the fact that we actually pay more for quality grapes rather than merely volume.

At the very end of the night, we did experience one minor hiccup (let’s hope it will be the first and the last), when one of the presses seized up and refused to move. Thankfully this occurred when it was empty, and being cleaned, so hopefully it will be repaired before start of play tomorrow……

N.B. The above photo is taken looking directly down into one of the tanks as the first litres of grape ‘must’ arrive from the presses.

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Hold the presses!

September 17th, 2007

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Angela in the lab – testing ‘must’ samples
2007 Harvest – 17th September 2007 – (not Day 3!)

As we drove home from the Bodega late yesterday night it started to rain, exactly as the forecasts had predicted. By this morning the rain had stopped, the roads and pavements had dried up, but the atmosphere was still a little damp, and skies overcast.

We immediately examined the vine canopy to see how much water had been retained, and decided that, in the absense of any wind or sunshine (to dry the grapes thoroughly) we would suspend picking for the day.

We are confident that this will have no effect on the overall quality (as the amount of rain is so little) and the forecast for the rest of the week is for sunny skies, albeit that the temperature has dropped to the low 20’s C (around 70°F)

Looking forward to an unexpected early night tonight!
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My guess is that this guy was once a boy scout!

2007 Harvest – Day 2 – Sunday 16th September

They say that grape pickers are nomadic, but one of the guys working for us this year takes all the prizes! Take a look at his 4×4 pictured above (click on the picture to enlarge) – he appears to be prepared for all the perils of the Galician outback.

OK, so now back to the serious business of harvesting grapes. The weather forecast for today was not perfect, but we did at least start in bright sunshine. As the day wore on however, the sky did become a little overcast, mostly high cloud, and we did experience just a few spots of rain that fell in the late morning, but not even enough to dampen the pavement.

The grapes collected so far are very healthy, with good sugar levels, and perhaps just a hint more acidity than last year, although it is very difficult to judge this so early on. Our first look at the grape ‘must’ (which is in the midst of ‘settling’) reveals a nose of apricot and peach, with the same fruits appearing on the palate, together with apple and pear – very typical of the variety. It appears to have good weight and concentration, balanced by a fresh acidity, but obviously we will know more accurately after fermentation.

After a reasonably relaxed weekend, we await the onslaught of the new week.

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OK, so it’s not the Murciélago Roadster, but it has an open top!

2007 Harvest – Day 1 – Saturday 15th September

So, we finally decided to go early again – not as early as last year, but I am sure that we are the first Bodega in our zone to start picking. As I mentioned yesterday, it is never an easy decision, but after continued sampling of all the vineyards over the last few weeks, monitoring levels, we called Herminda and her team into action. (For those of you who don’t recall, Herminda does a fantastic job for us both rounding up, and managing our pickers).

Under perfect blue skies, and temperatures of about 28°C (82.4°F) the grapes started to arrive by mid-morning – looking pretty healthy considering the relatively poor, damp summer that we have experienced this year. Certainly the hot, dry conditions that we have enjoyed for the last two weeks has provided a welcome boost to the maturity, and helped to reduce the acidity, which until now, has been quite elevated.

I guess that one of the secrets to a successful harvest is organisation, and I have to say that this year we have everything planned to the last detail, so that when the grapes finally arrive, there is no big panic or fuss.

In summary, the first day has passed off pretty smoothly, but at this stage we are still only building towards the crescendo that will probably arrive on Monday, when we invite more of our grape suppliers to join the campaign.

So far, so good.

N.B. The Lamborghini is actually not ours- one of our local tractor dealers has kindly loaned it to us for the duration of the harvest to help collect grapes.
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As wine making decisions go, deciding upon the optimum moment to start the harvest is probably one of the most difficult.

In a perfect world, all grapes, from all our different vineyard sites would reach full maturity at more or less the same time, with the perfect balance of sugar, acidity and pH. The nights would be cool and the days warm with perfect blue skies.

Unfortunately the reality is a little different….. whilst the sugar (potential alcohol) increases, and the acidity falls there can also be a loss of aromas – so it the end it all becomes a bit of a gamble and a question of holding your nerve. Deciding upon the correct moment to reap the full potential of the grape is one thing, but then we also cannot afford to forget the vagaries of the local weather. Torrential rain can very quickly dilute an entire years efforts in the vineyard.

We have our fingers well and truly crossed, and our presses at the ready.
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Casal Caeiro – a wine of ‘Distinction’

As you may have gathered if you have read my blog over the last year or so, I am not a great fan of wine competitions – there are often too many inconsistencies, both in the samples submitted, and the wide range of tasting categories.

The GALLAECIA is a local competition, tasted in Santiago de Compostela by 65 sommeliers and professionals who travel from all around Spain to judge the wines. Over 400 Galician wines are submitted, and these are whittled down to a final selection, that in turn are judged by 5 top sommelieres and 5 members of the local Consello Regulador.

There are no gold or silver medals as such, just a Certificate of Distinction, which is recognised by the Xunta of Galicia, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, and the European Union.

For me at least, the most significant accolades are those bestowed by sommeliers who really understand our wines and denomination, and accredited journalists who make unsolicited tasting notes about our Albariño.

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Angela at the Lincoln Centre

September is usually the time of year when our thoughts turn to grapes rather than a ‘big apple’, but this year we made time to squeeze in the annual tasting of our new Castro Martin importer in New York City.

At the famous, and prestigious Lincoln Centre (or should it be Center) Castro Martin rubbed shoulders with many other top wine producers from around the world, and appeared to be very well received even in such illustrious company. Naturally we hope that the enthusiasm for our Albariño (and it’s packaging, which was also admired), will be converted into listings and new orders!

So, after a quick shop-a-thon in New York, and just a little jet-lag, we find ourselves back at the coal face, rushing around preparing for the harvest. The contrast between the big city and rural Galicia could not be more extreme…..
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I have written on a few previous occasions about food and wine pairing (and the snobbism often associated with this subject), but in the end there is really only one way to find the definitive answer….. make some tastings for yourself.

Now here is an idea where you can really have some fun, but more importantly, learn a huge amount about the do’s and dont’s of food and wine. If you have some friends who have even a passing interest in wine, then invite them to join you – this can make for a very entertaining evening. If you own a hotel or restaurant this can also be a great way to educate your employees….

Firstly, make a small but simple shopping list. You will need:

1). A ‘Granny Smith’ apple (or similar green apple with tart acidity)
2). Pieces of dried apple (or other dried fruit)
3). A wedge of lemon
4). An artichoke (could be tinned, so long as it is well drained)
5). Brie or similar cheese with black pepper coating
6). Blue cheese (of your own choice)

The idea is quite simple – you open a bottle of wine (or even better, a selection of two or three different wines), and then systematically taste each one with each of the different foods. You can also try some combinations – spread a bit of blue cheese on the apple, squeeze a little lemon juice on the artichoke – see if this changes your perception.

If you do decide to do this with two or three different wines, then do make sure you have some contrast. For example, I would suggest:

1). A light off-dry or medium sweet white wine
2). A richly oaked white wine
3). A fresh, dry fruity white (which must be Albariño!)
4). A fresh fruity red wine
5). A more tannic red wine

Certainly, professionals would be advised to make copious notes of the results – otherwise simply try to remember the combinations that really don’t work, so that you do not make an expensive mistake when eating out! Remember, it is often the way that food is prepared, and the sauce, that makes all the difference – Pinot Noir with beef for example, can be excellent, but then add some horseradish sauce to your meat, and the wine is destroyed. Egg is also notoriously difficult to match, and probably best avoided – I can only make one possible suggestion – a very old (almost oxidised), white Rhone wine, which might sound disgusting but can work reasonably well with scrambled egg.

We live and learn!
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Only buy wine that is formally dressed!

When I first arrived in Spain a few years ago one of the things that first struck me when eating out was the number of unlabelled bottles served to the tables – not carafe wine, but wine bottled, with a cork, simply missing any form of identification. This was not an ‘under the counter’ operation, but very open and blatant, and an offer taken up by the large majority of customers. I have no doubt that this wine even tasted a little ‘sweeter’ to these consumers as they enjoyed a cheaper price as a result of not paying any tax!

Whilst this type of ‘deal’ is probably offered all around the vineyards of Europe, I cannot imagine it happening too much in the New World. The real shock for me however, was the sheer volume and audacity of the practice (especially when I consider the stringent controls that we face as wine producers, not only to guarantee the quality of our product, but also to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ on the label). In the past, for example, we have actually been pulled up for having a typeface that is 1mm too small, let alone not having any label at all! So it would hardly seem fair, to say the least…..

Possibly out of guilt, but more likely owing to the loss of taxes, our local Government has now started an initiative to stop the practice of unlabelled wine by printing a brochure. How this will help I am not quite sure, as it always the enforcement that seems to be a bit lacking here in Spain. I can only hope that we enjoy more success than the no-smoking law which appears to have made almost no difference whatsoever!

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Our fleet of modern vehicles will speed orders to your cellar door…

We are probably just over a month away from the start of the 2007 harvest, and whilst we are still ‘open for business’ during this period, we strongly encourage all our customers to order well in advance to avoid possible delay.

Whilst the grapes are still ripening on the vines it is impossible to know the exact date that we will start picking, but my best guestimate would be around the second or third week of September – not quite as early as last year, and perhaps a bit closer to ‘norm’.

The summer so far has not been very kind to our region, as we have experienced a lot of rain and humidity – not the best weather for growing fruit. To be very honest we have been obliged to use some anti-mildew and oidium treatments, but our careful management of the vine canopy has at least helped to minimise the amount of intervention. Other growers have perhaps been a little less fortunate, as the ‘vine vigour’ (created by the additional rainfall) has only served to trap moisture and exaggerate the problem.

We are currently experiencing a hot, dry period, so we have our fingers crossed that this will now continue for the rest of the summer!

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