Fireworks are an integral part of every Fiesta

Today is a National ‘Festivo’ in Spain, and, as usual, the holiday was heralded by the familiar early morning explosion of fireworks (this can be from 8am – which is a bit early for this country!)

Bearing in mind the entry on our blogsite of yesterday, and the tale of the devastating forest fires around Galicia, it suddenly occurred to me…… I did not list fireworks as one of the possible causes of forest fires.

In Spain, where every type of outdoor fire is strictly controlled, but mostly banned completely during the summer months (official permission is required from your local town hall), I find it difficult to believe that the same authorities continue to allow the indiscriminate launching of fireworks simply to mark the beginning and/or end of a public holiday.

In my humble opinion this would seem to be at best, a little irresponsible, and at worst, bordering on the criminal!

Another installment from the McCarthy’s soap box series

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The image speaks for itself
Many friends and customers have asked me how we have been affected by the fires that have been raging in Galicia for more than a week now. I thought I would write a little report, and include a few dramatic pictures…….
A day or two ago there were more than 120 separate fires still burning, and more than half of these were out of control. Fortunately only four people have died so far, but of course thousands of hectares of forest and scrubland have been destroyed, and it will take years for the region to recover. Only a small number of vineyards have been burnt (luckily none of ours have been touched), and this should have no significant effect on the harvest.
An already difficult situation is being compounded further by the weather – hot and very dry (the prerequisite of forest fires as one would imagine), but made much worse by strong gusting winds, that only serve to fan the flames and help them spread even more quickly.
The puzzling factor is that the police believe that perhaps 90% of the fires have been started deliberately, and, as at today’s date, 27 people have been arrested – one woman actually carrying an oil lamp and matches. Of course some of these people are simply ill, but the vast majority are accused for wildly differing reasons. These include: land reclamation for farming or building, revenge against neighbours, drug smugglers attempting to distract the police from patrolling the coastline, and even ex-firemen who did not have their contracts renewed (the latter is a very long and complicated story). Anyway, these are a few of the theorectical reasons, but no doubt we will have to wait before we discover the real truth.

Many fires are difficult to access

A village is threatened

The aftermath

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Angela ‘on deck’ in La Coruña
Earlier this week we braved the smoke and flame (quite literally) to make our way north to the port of La Coruña, on the “Costa de la Muerte”. With motorways closed, the usual hour and a half journey took more than three and a half hours, picking our way through many small, often fire stricken villages. I am sad to say that we actually witnessed the sight of some poor folk making futile attempts to save their homes and property with only garden hoses at their disposal…….
The reason for this traumatic journey was that we had been invited to conduct a tutored tasting on board the 154ft Polish Barquentine ‘Pogoria’ – part of the Tall Ships Racing fleet. Naturally we considered this to be quite an honour, which is the reason that we did not postpone the trip (not to mention that 150 invited guests were awaiting our arrival). I should also mention that the province of Coruña has been left largely untouched by the raging fires, which appear to be confined mainly to the south of Galicia.
Eventually, fully wired up with microphone (that could probably be heard around most of the port), Angela did a fabulous job of introducting two of her most prestigeous ‘babies’ – Castro Martin and Casal Caeiro Vendimia Seleccionada Barrica.
Wonderful wines, tasted in a magical setting.
To learn more about the Tall Ships and the excellent work that they do training young people, why not visit their site http://www.sailtraininginternational.org/
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Desperate times… fighting an inferno with a garden hose.

Spanish police have arrested two suspected arsonists in the north-western Galicia region, where 64 forest fires are raging.

Three people have died in the fires, many of which are near houses. Hundreds of firefighters have been deployed, along with water-bombing aircraft.

Officials said the situation was “critical” around Rianxo.

The Spanish authorities say most of the fires, raging since last week, were deliberately lit. Many were started on wooded slopes near residential areas.

The fires have engulfed several thousand hectares of land.

News from the Bodega: We are shrouded in smoke, some local roads have been closed, we have fire fighting helicopters and planes buzzing overhead, but we do not appear to be in any immediate danger – I hope!

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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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