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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The press in Venezuela appear to quite like our wine, which of course could be for several different reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that Angela was born there. Secondly it could be that we have a very good distributor, who makes sure that our wine is regularly presented to the press. And finally, it goes without saying that the most likely reason is that we make a really good Albariño!

Our Casal Caeiro 2006 (which has only recently been released in South America) is described as having “a rich, powerful, aromatic nose, displaying an array of citrus fruits and salty, mineral notes. Clean and intense in the mouth with a lively, fresh acidity and a long, persistent finish.”

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In recent weeks two or three of our wines have been mentioned in wine guides and magazines, both in Spain and around the world. These most recent articles have included tasting notes, but no particular rating as such, albeit that all the comments have been very good.

The 2007 ABC wine guide accurately described our Castro Martin with “a scent of orange blossom, and hints of melon, lemon and grapefruit” on the palate.

The July issue of Vinos y Restaurantes commented that our Casal Caeiro Barrica displayed “intensely fresh citrus aromas and varietal fruit, nicely combined with the toasted oak”

Always nice to get a mention!

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Let me start by saying that I actually like supermarkets – I belong to the minority of males who quite enjoy wheeling a trolley up and down the aisles!

The choice of goods in UK supermarkets is mind-boggling (especially when compared to the somewhat limited selection that we have here in Galicia). I also have to admit that supermarkets have been instrumental in promoting competitive pricing, albeit sometimes at the expense of local traders. Unfortunately our small local shop does not enjoy the same purchasing power, and, regrettably, it is this very power that can sometimes be abused……

We regularly hear of desperate UK dairy farmers being forced out of business as they are obliged to sell their milk to supermarkets at below their cost price – although it would now seem that this problem is slowly being addressed with the promotion of locally produced milk. Likewise with local fruit and vegetables – as the high street giants now scramble to reduce their carbon footprint they are increasingly supporting their local producers. All very positive news.

I am however puzzled by the ‘fair trade’ range of products carried by many chains, simply as this phrase appears to imply that the rest of their trade might not be as fair as it should be! Maybe I am just reading too much into this?

The bad news is that the “supermarket squeeze” on pricing has now filtered through to the wine trade too. The following text is an extract from an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, and relates the story of Southern French producers:

Mr Bourchet is just one of many small-scale “vignerons” (wine growers) in the Languedoc and Roussillon region who are prepared to grub up to avoid bankruptcy after three years of losses.
He said times were so bad that several winegrowers had committed suicide since the beginning of the year.
Local wine producers are furious that their sale prices have been slashed by around 50 per cent while wine prices in shops and supermarkets have not dipped. A litre of vin de pays is sold for as little as 0.35 euros (24p) and costs 10 times that amount in supermarkets. “Someone is pocketing the difference and we want to know who,” he said.

My message to the supermarkets….. don’t forget to support your (not so local) wine producers too!

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El Gourmet gives Casal Caeiro 95 points

OK, so it’s not Robert Parker Jnr., but 95 points must be good in anyone’s book!

The Gourmet (translated) tasting note reads as follows:

Deliciously fresh and vibrant. A pale yellow colour, as it should be, the nose bursts with mature white fruits, most noticably melon, with a floral background. Mineral acidity with a lovely carbonic touch that adds to the fresheness – delicate and persistent in the mouth.

Recommended with Pulpo a la Gallega, Fresh Langoustines, and Poached Fish

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Flaming June?

July 5th, 2007

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(Dark) blue skies over Salnes

The results are out, and it’s official – Galicia had poor weather during the month of June (as though we needed to be told). So let’s look at the stats….

The 30-year average temperature for June in our area is 18.1°C (64.6°F). Last year was well above this at 20.3°C (68.5°F), but in 2007 we have managed only a miserly 17.5°C (63.5°F) – just a little down on the average.

But then we have the rainfall figures…… Our 30-year average rainfall for the month of June should be around 65 litres per m² (please don’t ask me the imperial equivalent). Last year we had only 11 litres per m², but this year we have had a whopping 134 litres per m² – over ten times more than in 2006, and just over double the June average.

These are not ideal conditions for grape growing, but I guess that we shouldn’t really complain when we compare ourselves to the poor people of South Yorkshire in England who can only reach their homes in a rubber dinghy. Fortunately, my mother (who lives in Yorkshire), is located on top of a hill, so if she ever suffers from flooding then we really have a problem and should start building an Ark!
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