So what exactly is a wine ‘influencer’ – who are they, what do they do, and where do they come from? Perhaps, before the internet, this was a simple question to answer. ‘Opinion makers’ were respected journalists (from newspapers or wine magazines) or perhaps very highly regarded authors. These days however, the picture has changed quite a lot, and the definition is no longer quite so clear.

Nowadays, by using social media, almost anyone with a little wine knowledge (sometimes little more than the average man in the street), can become an ‘authority’ on wine. With a plentiful number of web contacts these contributors can quickly build a following, eventually to the point where they can influence wine trends and buying habits.

There is a saying I believe, that too little knowledge can be a dangerous thing (in the hands of the wrong people), and that’s what worries me a bit. Whilst I do applaud many of the latest generation of bloggers and wine ‘influencers’, it’s just that sometimes when reading their posts I will come across wine ‘facts’ that are either misleading or just plain wrong. The problem is that in trying to over-simplify the subject, they are sometimes just publishing ‘fake wine news’ (or should I say fake wine facts). Simplifying the mystery of wine is of course really, really useful, and a great way to learn, but along with this goes a responsibility for making sound, accurate research and ensuring that what is being published to the world as facts, are indeed factual.

An award-winning and well-respected wine writer once told me: “Influencers is a term for those who have more readers than facts, more opinions than experience, and an audience not bright enough to know the difference”. This view might appear to be quite harsh, but I believe that the underlying message is quite simple – get your facts straight before you publish them otherwise your post might only serve to confuse your readers.

 

Posted in People, Press

Only a few days ago, during a conversation with another wine professional, I very quickly realised that there is still some confusion surrounding the difference between an ‘Albariño’ (made in Rias Baixas) and a Rias Baixas wine. (If that statement is not already confusing enough!)

In some regions of the world different grape varieties can be blended to create a wine, but then the label might only mention the predominant grape variety. A Sauvignon Blanc for example, might have a small percentage of Semillon in the blend, but then this fact might only be mentioned on the back label. These wines will most likely originate from the ‘new world’ where the strict rules of a D.O., D.O.C., or A.O.C. do not apply, and where perhaps, the mention of a very specific geographical area is not required. Rias Baixas is different.

As far as “Albariño” is concerned the rule of the Rias Baixas denomination is actually quite simple. For a wine to be called Albariño it can only be made from 100% Albarino grapes (originating from within the D.O.) Albariño grapes from within the different sub-zones can be blended together, but every single grape has to be 100% Albariño. Simple!

Our D.O. actually permits six different white grape varieties to be used, but even if only 1% of a second grape variety is added to a blend containing 99% albariño, then the wine cannot be called, or sold as Albariño. A wine of different blended grapes from our denomination can only be known as ‘Rias Baixas’.

Whether the wine is 100% albariño or not, it can still also carry the name of it’s sub-zone of origin (assuming that all the grapes are gathered from within that zone). So, for example, you can have a Rosal Rias Baixas (made from the different grape varieties of Rosal), or you can have an Albariño Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas (made from 100% Albariño grapes ALL originating from Salnes Valley).

Posted in Rias Baixas

Maybe it’s my imagination but there appears to be an increasing number of National and International days with every year that passes – some that I hear about, and others that I don’t. For example, did you know that yesterday was National Oreos Day – yes, Oreos the biscuit. So how many people did you wish ‘Happy Oreos Day’ or perhaps you simply ate a celebratory packet with friends (or by yourself!)

Clearly, some of the special days are just a bit tongue in cheek, whilst others are a good deal more serious. One of the most prominent such days is International Women’s Day when we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Here at Bodegas Castro Martin for example, we mostly celebrate the achievements of Angela Martin, our boss (my boss) and our winemaker. Back in 1993 when she assumed the day-to-day management of Castro Martin there were very few women in her position in Galicia. Indeed, she was one of the women pioneers of Rias Baixas, where today, nearly 25 years later, it is quite common to find women winemakers in many of the very top bodegas. Local recognition of her accomplishments came in the year 2000 when she was made a Dama do Albariño, in a ceremony held during our own National Albariño Day in Cambados.

Today, we have only a very small team working full time in our bodega, but even so, nearly half of our team is made up of women. On this day we celebrate them, their efforts and unerring support in helping to put Castro Martin well and truly on the world wine map. So let’s raise a glass of A2O to the ladies of BCM!

I need to quickly explain that my videos of the pruning process (with the exception of one) were filmed a week or so ago when the weather was really beautiful. What is the old saying? ‘Make hay when the sun shines’ – well, in this case it was make a video! 

Again, please remember that I am a comparative novice in the vlogging game, so please excuse all the mistakes – camera shake, rambling commentary etc. etc. It’s simply that watching a video is much more interesting and can explain the work much better than a few photos. As I have said before my plan is to use more video during 2018, and I have just ordered some new equipment to hopefully make this more convenient – more about that when it happens.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy a man getting physical with vine cuttings!

Posted in Video, Vineyards

It was only two days ago in my pruning video (made last week but posted on Monday), that I mentioned the beautiful blue skies and perfect ambient temperatures. Unfortunately, that already seems like a distant memory! When you look across Europe this morning, there are places that resemble more the Arctic Circle than they do Springtime in Paris (or Rome for that matter). The ‘Beast from the East’ (as it has been nicknamed in the UK), has brought chaos and freezing Siberian weather to huge swathes of our Continent. Whilst we don’t have any snow here on the coast of Galicia, it is certainly very much colder. Today for example, the sky is a miserable shade of grey (only one, not 50), and it is raining steadily. The air temperature is only about 4 or 5°C (around 40°F), but with high humidity, it is really quite bone chilling.

Meanwhile, our poor guys are still out in the vineyards pruning (obviously now wearing much more protection against the elements), and for the time being at least, all the small bonfires that were burning on the hillsides around the Salnés Valley, have been well and truly extinguished. I keep trying to tell myself that we need the rain, but I am muttering this through gritted teeth, or should I say, chattering teeth.

Posted in Vineyards, Weather

Pruning – Part 1

February 26th, 2018

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I promised a month or two ago that I would post a video of our pruning process. This will actually be a series of 4 videos, explaining how the job is done, and will include some nice views of both the vineyards and surrounding areas. To be honest I have been waiting for a bit of decent weather, and last week we enjoyed beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine – not too hot during the day, and just above freezing at night, so prefect weather for the time of year, and prefect for pruning.

I would just like to mention that my ramblings (commentary) are completely unscripted and made up on the spot. Trying to frame the shot, focus, zoom and speak at the same time (using a big DSLR camera) was not easy, but at least the video is Hi Res. I apologise in advance for perhaps repeating myself a bit, and using some odd vocabulary, such as making “incisions” in the vines, when I really meant that David was simply “cutting” the vines. Odd how the camera makes you behave!

I did actually make a version using sound editing, overdubbing the original soundtrack, but losing the real background noises just made the video a bit dull and flat. So this is the original cut….. (The same video also appears on our website’s YouTube page)

Posted in Video, Vineyards

Red Stripe Albariño?

February 20th, 2018

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Now there was you thinking that Red Stripe is a brand of beer founded in 1928 and originating from Jamaica. Well, it still is, but now perhaps there is a new version…. Red Stripe Albariño?

Actually not. This is simply a ‘gift’ from our printer. As you may already know, our new Casal Caeiro label is actually a quadriptych – a four part label, that joins together to form one large picture. However, when it is joined together this is not usually done using a thick red adhesive tape – this is just an anomaly of the printing process. Now I am just guessing here, but I think that when the labels are being printed, and our printer needs to change the paper roll, then they will simply stick the two rolls together using this tape. It certainly makes quite a startling contrast when these bright red stripes suddenly appear during a bottling run. (At least they are not difficult to miss!)

I should say that the four bottles in the photo did not come from one single batch, but have been collected over the several months that we have been using this new label. Maybe we should leave them in the cases and offer a prize to the people that discover them!

Albariño & Dumplings

February 16th, 2018

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Xīnnián kuàilè – New Year Happiness! Today is Chinese New Year. It is the year of the dog, the dog being  the eleventh animal of the twelve year Chinese calendar cycle.

The typical dishes served for Chinese New Year are those that we have all come to know and love – the dishes that we find on the menus of our favourite local Chinese restaurants – spring rolls, noodles, dumplings, vegetables, steamed chicken and steamed fish. In addition to this, the centre piece of a special New Year meal is often a Chinese hot-pot known as huõ guō, and there will almost certainly be rice cakes (nian gao), which can be served as either sweet or savoury.

Many of these dishes, such as the dumplings, will be either filled with, or accompanied by Chinese cabbage, onion, pork, shrimp as well as egg, bamboo, meat and vegetables. Of course, many of these items are the foods that often recommend with albariño, and so, for this important celebration, with hand on heart, we can truly recommend our Castro Martin albariños with your Chinese New Year meal.

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

Today is Fat Tuesday, probably better known by it’s original French name of Gras’. Of course it is called Mardi Gras because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent, when many Christians start their 40 days of fasting in the period before Easter Sunday. Fat Tuesday therefore, is the day when Christians fill their stomachs, perhaps eating richer, fatty foods. In the UK, for some odd reason, this gorging is traditionally done with pancakes (more like crêpe than the fluffier American style pancake), and is known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day – rarely do we mention Mardi Gras. So, whilst the Brazilians have partying, processions, wild dancing and outrageous costumes, the British simply sit at home pigging out on pancakes!

The big shock for me here in Spain, is that Carnival (despite being widely celebrated in nearly every town and village across the land), is actually NOT a public holiday, either locally or nationally. When you stop to consider some of the very flimsy excuses that the Spanish use for partying and public holidays, the fact that Carnival (Mardi Gras) is not a holiday doesn’t really make any sense.

Of course the big difference between Galicia and Brazil is the weather. February is normally the hottest month in Rio, with average temperatures of around 27°C (81°F), whereas today in Galicia, it is absolutely pouring with rain with bone chilling humidity and temperatures of only 8°C (46°F). Anyway, no matter what you decide to eat today to fill your stomach on Fat Tuesday, I would obviously recommend a chilled glass of Castro Martin albariño to wash it down with!

Re-connected

February 8th, 2018

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After one freezing day without power we are now back up and running again – normal service can be resumed. Ironically, on the day that we had no electricity we were contacted (via a remote e-mail connection) by a transport company that wanted to collect an export order. Of course, physically loading the truck would not be difficult – the wine was prepared and ready to go, but then, there was one big problem….. the paperwork!

When we are exporting goods (as an ‘intra-community’ transaction, in tax and duty suspension), they have to be accompanied by official customs paperwork. These documents are very detailed and have to include the registration number of the vehicle – this is simply because if the truck is stopped and inspected at any point by the police, then the driver can prove that the goods are being moved legally.

Because these vehicle details cannot be added to the documents until the last minute, with no power, this rendered the collection impossible. Unfortunately only one fixed PC in our office is loaded with the official customs software, and therefore we couldn’t simply use one of our laptops. Of course, the secondary problem being that we couldn’t print the documents anyway (a full set of papers have to be physically attached to the goods in transit). Unfortunately, the collection had to be postponed. 

The good news is that our office heating, computers, printers, telephone system (and teapot) have now been fully restored!

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