It is probably quite dangerous, and certainly not politically correct, to be critical of one’s own Denomination of Origin, but here goes…..

Every August in Cambados (the spiritual capital of Rias Baixas) we celebrate the Annual Albariño Festival. This year, for the first time in many years, Bodegas Castro Martin was conspicuous by its absence. The main reason for this is actually quite sad.

Originally the Fiesta was quite a “gentile” event, an opportunity to taste, to enjoy, and possibly even compare the wines of the region. It has always been accompanied by a certain amount of pomp and ceremony – the induction of Knights and Dames of Albariño, a prestigious wine competition, the attendance of local politicians, an odd celebrity, and always rounded off with a huge gala lunch and prize giving (regrettably none of the ceremonies are open to the public).

The backdrop to the official events is the Fiesta itself, which runs for a period of 4 days – lunchtimes, evenings and most of the night…… and thereby lays the problem.

One of the more unsavoury phenomenon that has emerged in Spain over recent years is that of the “Botellon” – basically organised groups of young people buying alcohol from shops and off-licences to drink in pre-arranged public locations, such as parks, squares, beaches etc. Of course this type of wild (and often under-age) drinking exists in many countries, but in Spain it is possible to find children of 12-14 years old drinking until 2 or 3 in the morning (and the older ones possibly all night).

So what does all this have to do with the Albariño Festival? Well, for me at least, it is perhaps just the realisation that the event seems to have lost its true meaning and direction, and is in danger of just becoming an excuse to legitimise heavy, all-night drinking.
Tasting? Wine appreciation? Forget it!

It is probably true to say that my view this year has been somewhat tainted by the events that unfolded on the penultimate night….. On Saturday evening a person that we know was at the Fiesta enjoying a quiet wine with friends, when suddenly, from nowhere, she was hit in the face by a flying wine glass, at this point you really do start to call into question the value and future of the Albariño Festival itself.

We prefer to encourage only responsible drinking, and implore you to enjoy our Albariño in moderation!

An installment from the McCarthy’s soap box series

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Website update

August 1st, 2006

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Our web designer, James Radford (www.cookiedude.com) has asked me to announce to the world that our revised website is now up and running.

Under normal circumstances we would update our site much earlier, but this year we wanted to wait, to include the new designs of our Avian brand……. the advantage of this is that we have been able to add the very latest up-to-date press, including the 2006 guides.

You will note that we have not done too badly!

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Our Vendimia Seleccionada Barrica 2003 has just been picked as the best Albariño in “El Mundo” (not the whole world – just the Spanish newspaper!)

In a recent tasting of 35 different Albariños from around our region, our Barrica emerged as the very top wine. Indeed, the panel actually went on to comment that they had tasted this very wine exactly 12 months ago, and they agreed that it had improved since their last tasting.

Many people believe that Albariño has to be drunk young, and does not improve with age – my view is a little different……

For me, an unoaked Albariño can still be quite “angular” immediately after the harvest (which is why we do not rush to bottle our wine). Depending on the vintage it can take up to 12 months to lose this edge, which is why I think our Albariño starts to peak in September – a year after the harvest.

Obviously, the small amount of Barrica that we make (just over 4,000 bottles) is quite different, and can continue to improve three or four years after the vintage.

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Vancouver, Canada www.1049clearfm.com

The clear fm wine bar with Mark Davidson
(Vancouver’s leading wine educator)

July 24th 2006 – SEDUCTIVE WHITES

Step outside your comfort zone this week with a wine that’s a little off the beaten path.

Wine store shelves are full of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and rightly so, but don’t you just want to get wild once in a while, and be seduced by something new?

The first wine this week is sleek, racy, and thrilling to drink – Albariño is the grape variety responsible, and I’ve been having a (not so secret) affair with it for years. The Castro Martin Albariño is from Northwest Spain, and it’s so zippy, delicious and easy to drink that it should be banned! Crisp acidity, vibrant peachy fruit, and every time I drink it, it whispers, “Mark, what are you doing? Where are the Fresh Oysters?”………
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Happy, mad or just plain angry?
Galicia is an area steeped in tradition, and still enjoys a Fiesta of one sort or another nearly every day of the year (peaking in summer and nearly always heralded by loud fireworks thoughout the day and night!)
Of the numerous local fish and seafood festivals the seaside resort of Portonovo celebrates the skate festival – and it goes without saying that this is nearly always supported by the local wine – Albariño.
During a recent summer clearout of our archives I stumbled across this jolly label, with a rather sinister looking characature of a fish. Could this be the origin of the Mad Fish label?
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It’s all about wine!

After days of deliberation, and the opinions of every conceivable language and lip reading expert (including M. Chirac himself), the truth behind the Zidane assault has finally come to light.

Apparently the Italian defender Materazzi told Zidane that, following a recent comparative tasting, he considered Italian wines to be superior to their French counterparts.

No wonder Zidane was so offended!

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Albariño is “flying” in London

According to “Wine Trends” (what’s hot and what’s not) in last week’s Daily Telegraph, Albariño is fast becoming one of the UK’s most popular white wines – and don’t forget that many wine aficionados think that London is very much a trend setter when it comes to world wine consumption. To quote the article…..

“The current hot spell seems to have helped the fortunes of Albariño too. I’ve always enjoyed this Spanish white, but have never seen it on so many lists. It seems to be everywhere at the moment: is it going to be the new Sauvignon Blanc?”

“We have seen a definite move towards lighter alcohol and more aromatic whites this year…… Albariño is flying out.”

What can I say, except perhaps, long may it continue!

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David wears the latest Zidane head protector!

Ask any decent vigneron, in any country around our great world of wine, and every single one will tell you that quality begins in the vineyard. They will also probably tell you that they don’t spray, or at the very least, they only spray when absolutely necessary. Well, I’m afraid to admit that the same applies here in Galicia, where the warmth and humidity of our ‘Atlantic Maritime’ climate obliges to intervene on occasions.

It goes without saying that when we do have to take action, we always ensure that we use the most ecologically friendly methods possible (including pheromone traps to confuse and disperse harmful insects). Having said all that, no right-minded grower is going to allow his crop to rot before his very eyes, which is why we reluctantly have no alternative but to spray.
Jokes aside for a moment, the above photograph shows our vineyard manager David, spraying in his protective gear. Do spare a thought for him – the air temperature on this day was 30°C (86°F) …….. hence David does not have a weight problem!
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Young Albariño fruit in our El Pazo vineyard

I’m afraid that some ugly rumours have been circulating relating to the gap between recent posts and the start of the World Cup football. I have to reasssure you that this is, of course, purely co-incidental!

However, I confess that between matches I have been asked by some customers about the progress of the 2006 vintage, and when I answer that everything is going well, I am always afraid that I will be tempting fate. However, despite the early summer being a little cooler than 2005, we still appear to be on track for a very healthy and generous harvest.

At this moment our team are in the vineyards thinning the canopy to optimise the amount of sun that penetrates through to the fruit. This is actually a careful balancing act, as, believe it or not, grapes can actually suffer from sunburn if they are over-exposed. Perhaps a light spraying of Ambre Solaire factor 15 might be the answer?

Seriously though, despite my recent silence, there are actually a number of new and exciting happenings in the pipeline. As soon as they come to fruition you will be the first to know…..

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Weather from the good old BBC

I often have to remind myself that we are, in fact, an agricultural business, and that like most other “farmers” we have to keep one eye fixed firmly on the weather. As we all know forecasts can be notoriously unreliable, especially in our corner of Spain (where we are often skirted by weather systems scurrying across the Atlantic on their way to soak the shores of the UK).

As previously mentioned, we have already experienced our fair quota of rain this Spring, and the month of May, until now, has been largely cool and changeable. Not the best weather for the growing vines, and indeed we have already been obliged (reluctantly) to spray against mildew.

Yesterday, on my daily visit to the BBC weather site I spotted something quite unusual – a fairly dramatic change anticipated over the coming days. Yesterday for example, the daytime temperature was a mere 17°C, today it has risen to about 25°C, tomorrow is forecast to be 33°C, Saturday 35°C and Sunday 37°C (albeit that this has since been revised down to a mere 35°C!). So, within the space of 5 days the temperature is expected to double!

To be honest a long dry spell will be more than welcome, especially in view of the flowering, anticipated during the coming weeks………

Time for a chilled Albariño and the factor 15!

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