Is this art, or simply just an under-exposed photo?
And there was me thinking that Monday would be a quiet day – in the end we were so busy that I decided to rename the title of today’s post….
I mentioned only yesterday I think, that the weekend was our busiest period – well, I lied – today was every bit as busy, and the volume of grapes entering was pretty much on a par with Saturday and Sunday. In addition to all this we have also been ‘racking’ the clean ‘must’ after a period of ‘settling’, so in some ways our workload was actually that bit bigger.
On tasting the clean juice, the 2006 is very sweet and concentrated, and it would appear that the acidity might be just about perfect, and therefore we may not need any malolactic fermentation for this vintage. Anyway, early days, and we will not be making any definitive decisions at such an early stage.
I should also mention that today we had a sharp mid-morning shower that lasted less than an hour – barely enough to penetrate the canopy (bearing in mind that with the pergola system bunches hang mostly under the vegetation). So no damage done to our precious albariño fruit.
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Grape reception – spot the difference (no prizes)
Any weekend is always the busiest time during harvest. For the majority of our suppliers growing grapes is not a full-time occupation, and so at the weekend they take full advantage of their free time to call in family, friends and even distant acquaintances to collect grapes. Consequently we are inundated with grapes carried in all shapes and sizes of vehicle. (We do however prohibit caravans, and the entry to our grape reception is actually booby-trapped and can detect a chemical toilet from 5km).

Seriously though, we have worked around the clock, and kept grapes moving through the cellars at a rapid rate. The photo above was taken at one of our peak moments on Saturday evening – believe it or not there are actually four people working behind these pallets loading grapes that have just arrived into the presses. Pretty much every grape so far has been pressed within two hours of arriving, and many much less than this – if possible they go direct.

By the end of the weekend we should have ‘broken the back’ of this year’s campaign, and should be past the halfway point, simply because of the weekend volumes….. and who said that Sunday was a day of rest!

P.S. I lied about the caravans….. it’s actually only 4km!

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Early morning mist on day 3
As Susie Barrie reminded us in her new wine book, Galicia is still a quiet rural backwater of Spain, and in common with many other smaller European wine regions, can sometimes be a little removed from the rest of the wine world.
It is at harvest time that I am reminded of some of the ‘New World’ v ‘Old World’ differences. I will explain……
In the weeks leading up to our harvest we have been busy on “grape watch” in our vineyards, constantly monitoring all aspects of the grape maturity, trying to anticipate the optimum time for harvest, and organising the bodega accordingly. The other factor that influences the picking date is of course the weather, and again, we monitor this very closely (using at least four or five different sources and correlating all the information). To a ‘New World’ winemaker this would not seem out of the ordinary, but here in Rias Baixas I am surprised to say that I have seen little evidence of this slightly more scientific approach.
From what I have witnessed so far, it would seem that many others simply appear to select a convenient date on the calendar (often weeks in advance) with scant regard to grape maturity. In fact, I heard a “chisme” (local gossip) that one bodega had actually delayed the date of their harvest because their banqueting facility was booked for a wedding at the time they had planned to start picking! Can this be true? Maybe we will never know.
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The new toy for collecting grapes
Now don’t get worried a new mini-tractor does not mean price increases – what it actually means is that we have a friendly local tractor dealer who has loaned us this new toy for the harvest. I have no doubt that he will be trying to sell it to us at the end of the campaign (heavily discounted I hope, as it’s now second hand!)
It’s day two of the 2006 harvest, and the weather is a bit overcast and sultry, but thankfully still dry – I probably shouldn’t have said that! The grapes are flying in, as Herminda and her team swoop through our vineyards – we have more than 35 people picking for us, and for those of you who don’t know Herminda is the head honcho, and I for one, wouldn’t argue with her…..
Herminda the human road block!

The grapes are in perfect condition, and the grape must is sweet with a beautiful floral perfume – I’m sure that it will make a cracking wine, and that 2006 will be an excellent vintage for us. Actually this reminds me of a producer I once knew (but who will remain nameless) who used to claim that every vintage was the vintage of the century – all I will say is that this harvest looks like the best so far this year…..

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To let you know, our harvest is starting today – at least one or two weeks earlier than normal. I am not quite sure if this is a record for our Bodega, but I will let you know, when I have more time.

The weather here today is perfect, dry, with clear skies, and not too hot. I will do my best to update this site as we go along, and give more information about the grapes and must as it comes to hand. In fact, at 11.30 am the first grapes have just arrived…..

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Several months ago we were visited by the English author and journalist Susie Barrie. She was busy researching a new book about the wines of Northern Spain – but not just any old book, an idea specifically targeted at “finding great wines off the beaten track”. During her exploration Susie spent a few hours at our Bodega, tasting, asking questions and generally familarising herself with our region and denomination of origin.

The finished book itself is great, and higly recommended if you are visiting the Northern half of Spain – clear, informative and easy to read, and also on the plus side, we got a very nice mention:

An Englishman abroad

Galicia is still quite a rural place and if you don’t speak Spanish then getting around, using websites, arranging visits, and even ordering the right food can be challenging at best. So when the fun of it all has momentarily worn off, I’d suggest that you drop in on Bodegas Castro Martin, where you’ll find the most down to earth and friendly of English welcomes awaiting you. Andrew McCarthy’s story is the stuff of fairytales and as such it definitely merits a mention. He first visited Rias Baixas as an English wine buyer in 2001 and came to Castro Martin in search of top quality Albariño wine to sell in the U.K. As it turns out he got more than he bargained for, because he found not only the wine he was looking for but also a wife in the form of the delightful Angela Martin, winemaker and daughter of the Bodega’s founder.

In 2002 they introduced a superior wine, Castro Martin, to the range. The new wine is made entirely from grapes grown in the Bodega’s own vineyards and is wonderfully elegant with a rich lemon meringue pie nose and juicy lemon concentration on the palate.

Don’t take my word for it – buy a copy! Published by Mitchell Beazley the book is called Northern Spain by Susie Barrie, with a cover price of £12.99 (Of course this can be found quite a bit cheaper at Amazon)

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Does your wine have dandruff?

Let me start by saying that our wine does not, and should not, have a problem with tartrate crystals! I just thought that I would talk about tartrate because it’s a topical subject for us at the moment – I shall explain why…..

When a wine is chilled (in your fridge for example), it can precipitate tartrate crystals – they can look pretty nasty, like sugar or even glass crystals, but in reality they are completely harmless. They are in fact potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartare (as found in baking powder) and if you find any in your wine it is still perfectly safe to drink – just pour it with a little more care, decant it, or perhaps use a strainer!

OK, so how do we prevent this? Well, actually, we don’t – we make it happen in the bodega to ensure that it does not happen in your glass. This is done by passing the wine through a large freezing unit at a temperature of about -5°C, and then holding it at this temperature in special thermal tanks for between one and two weeks. The clean wine is then drawn off (racked) leaving the crystals at the bottom of the tank.

By the way, the reason that this is a topical subject is because the refrigeration equipment in our Bodega used for this process recently broke down, and cost us an arm and a leg to fix. So if you spot any one-legged wine makers hopping around, don’t worry – they’re quite ‘armless! (sorry)

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Too much heavy rain could cause serious soil erosion
After more than a week of smoke and fire, the whole of Galicia collectively breathed a sigh of relief as rain started to fall. Ironically, by this time most of the fires had either been extinguished or brought under control, but this was not before approximately 80,000 hectares of land had been reduced to ashes.
The only fear now is that too much heavy rain could cause heavy soil erosion, although we are assured that there is already a regeneration plan in the pipeline – we shall wait and see.
From our Bodega’s perspective we were actually quite happy to see a bit of rain. Despite our precious Albariño grapes being completely healthy at the moment, prolonged dry periods can result in very small, thick skinned and slightly shriveled fruit – concentrating the flavour, but simply lacking in juice. A day or two of rain at this point is therefore quite welcomed, provided of course, that it does not persist.
The last few weeks before picking will be focused on the cellar – testing equipment, and generally making sure that everything is clean and ship-shape. Like a good boy scout our motto has to be “be prepared“……..
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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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