Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24th, 2016

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Happy Thanksgiving…. to all our American friends around the world!
I believe that one of the traditions of Thanksgiving is to tell friends and family what you have been thankful for during the preceding year. Well, I can only say that I would be thankful that I wasn’t trying to get home on 405 freeway in California yesterday.

Apparently, locals say that this freeway is known as the 405 because they say that the average journey time can often be 4 or 5 hours!

First storm of winter

November 21st, 2016

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First stormAs pruning gets underway in our vineyards, then so we are greeted by our first storms of the winter 2016/2017. After a long, dry summer, there have been some days of rain, but nothing really sustained and heavy, as we would normally expect during a typical Galician winter. That was until yesterday when we experienced a prolonged period of high winds and driving rain during the late evening. Not enough to cause any damage or flooding, but still quite a torrential downpour.

This first winter storm arrived from the Atlantic and was christened ‘Angus’ by UK weather experts (the name suggests that it should perhaps, have originated in Scotland). Indeed, the whole concept of naming storms is slightly odd in that, for the UK at least, the public were simply asked to suggest names to the Met Office. From these suggestions they compiled a list of names that will be used over the winter (but only for the more significant and potentially damaging storms). Later this year be prepared for Storms Doris and Wilbert!

Atlantic hurricanes are always give female names that are allocated by the World Meteorological Organization. The names come from six lists that are rotated on an annual basis. The idea of naming of storms was actually to make it easier for the public (especially those living on the coast) to track them. Prior to this a somewhat complicated system of latitude-longitude numbers had been used.

Posted in Weather

Tasting and the moon

November 15th, 2016

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Moon 1People who know me will also know that I can be quite conservative and traditional when it comes to certain aspects of wine making, tasting etc., but by way of contradiction there is one ‘off the wall’ hypothesis that I do actually subscribe to – the Biodynamic Calendar of wine tasting.

Wine tasting is certainly something that I have always taken very seriously, and consequently I still follow many strict rules on the days that I know I will be tasting – what I chose to eat (including the night before), not using strong mouthwash in the morning, and certainly not wearing aftershave! Of course there are also rules that apply to the tasting environment itself. OK, the inside of our tank room is hardly light and airy, but we can certainly make sure that it is odour free (some cleaning products, for example, can leave slight traces which can put you off the scent – pun intended).

With so many ‘controllable’ factors for a tasting, the Biodynamic Calendar is perhaps, therefore, something of a contradiction which on face value is not quite so logical or easy to explain….. To cut a long story short the theory is that tasting can be affected by the phases of the moon – some days are favourable and others are not, it’s as simple as that. The odd thing is that I do believe in it, but only because I have always thought that our own wines taste better on some days than others, and my experience shows that there is often a correlation with this calendar.

Only yesterday for example, I tasted the tanks of our new 2016 wines, which until now have shown great potential for the future and really excited me. At the end of an hour or so of tasting I was actually left a little deflated – perhaps I had simply overestimated the vintage? It troubled me for a while, and it was only then that I had the idea of consulting my little Biodynamic book.  It appeared that I could have simply chosen the wrong day to taste, and maybe it was yesterday’s ‘supermoon’ that had caused a bigger decline than usual? This is just my new theory, I will let you know!

Posted in Oddballs, Tasting

Carry on cruising

November 14th, 2016

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Rhapsody of the SeasA couple of months ago that I made a post about our new cruise ship customer – ‘The World – a residence at sea’, at the same time mentioning that we already sail on many a P&O/Cunard ship. It would now appear that this has become something of a trend, as we find ourselves listed with yet another new customer of the high seas – Royal Caribbean International Cruises. Quite naturally we are delighted to be pouring our wines for such prestigious customers, and in so many distant and celebrated locations around the world.

It does however, throw up an interesting question. In the annual export statistics that we supply to the office of our denomination, they require details of where our wines are being sold/distributed. If our albariños are now being poured on airlines and ships that are constantly changing location, what can we submit on the forms – how can we specify the country?…. Moving markets? World markets? I will have to think of some witty answer, but am open to suggestions!

Election free zone

November 8th, 2016

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US electionToday is a big day, and not just because we are bottling wine. After 18 months of acrimony, insults and to be frank, very little focus on political issues, the U.S. election is finally here. I can hear the vast majority of commentators heaving a collective sigh of relief, whilst at the same time holding their breath in anticipation (or perhaps trepidation), of what the future might hold for us all. I say for us all, because inevitably the outcome will have a knock-on effect for the whole world, one way or another, for better or for worse…. who knows?

So, setting that thought aside completely, I think the best thing to do today could be to kick back on your sofa, open a good bottle of albariño (Castro Martin of course), and maybe plough your way through a series or two of Aaron Sorkin’s superb series ‘The West Wing’, where I think that some of the characters perhaps have a shade more credibility than today’s two tarnished candidates. My advice? Vote for Jed Bartlet and save the world!

Christmas rushNow that both the harvest and wine making are pretty much behind us, the next significant event is almost upon us – the Christmas holiday season (am I still allowed to call it Christmas?). Anyway, whichever name you decide to use, the holiday season (including Thanksgiving), is always a busy time for us.

For the last week or two we have been busy preparing orders for shipment – many to Europe, but others for more distant shores. Part of our pre-harvest preparation is to fill the cellar with ‘floor stock’, labelled and ready to go, but much of this has already been sold, and so for the next few weeks our mission will be bottling more tanks of 2015 wine to replenish our depleted warehouse. (We bottle our wine throughout the year, as required, to keep the wine as fresh as possible – it keeps better in tank).

Posted in Bodega, Business, Fiestas

Halloween

October 31st, 2016

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Tim Hanni MWWhether you call it Halloween, All Hallows Eve or Samhain, I think it would be fair to say that the origin of Halloween has always been slightly unclear, and is probably celebrated by different people for different reasons. Celebrated by Pagans, Christians the Celts and/or the Gaels, one of the few common connections appears to be the date – on the eve of All Saints Day (or All Hallows Day).

Perhaps some of the modern traditions (or some might say the ‘Americanisation’ of Halloween), are an amalgamation of various elements derived from the different ancient traditions – dressing in costumes, trick-or-treating or even carving pumpkins can all be explained in some way (the latter probably evolving from the Gaelic tradition of carving turnips to ward off evil spirits).

In America the name Jack O’Lantern came from the folkloric story of Stingy Jack, and was probably developed by the influx of Irish immigrants in the mid-19th century who, not being able to find turnips to carve, used the more readily available pumpkin into which to carved their scary faces.

This brings me on quite conveniently to an old friend of mine, Tim Hanni MW (now a Professor at the Nappa Valley Wine Academy). I know Tim from my previous life as a buyer when he worked for Beringer, pretty much as their food and wine ambassador. I have to say that it was Tim who single-handedly opened my eyes to the concept of food and wine pairing with a series of tastings that he called quite simply, ‘Cause and Effect’. Truly amazing stuff for which I will always be indebted to Tim as my single greatest influence on this very tricky and highly subjective matter.

Tim is also a writer and has written a no-nonsense book called ‘Why you like the wines you like – changing the way the world thinks about wine’. I have had a copy of this book for some years, and it is a very entertaining read, that could maybe help clarify your own ideas about wine, and why you like it. (Available on Amazon) Tim shares many of my own views about wine and is often referred to as “The Wine Anti-Snob”!

However, Tim has recently laid down his pen and picked up his carving tool to create his very own Jack O’Lantern, which, for some inexplicable reason, he has referred to as his ‘Trumpkin’!!!

Yet another Savagnin

October 28th, 2016

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Jura - TissotSeveral weeks ago (before the harvest), I made a post about finding a Savagnin Blanc from the Jura region, here in a local Galician restaurant. It was fabulous, as regular sherry drinkers, we really enjoyed it. Imagine my surprise therefore, to find yet another restaurant in Pontevedra, selling the same wine, same vintage, but from a different producer. OK, so it was not a true comparative tasting, but I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to taste another example. (Opportunities like this can be rare and have to be seized).

2011 Arbois Savagnin, Domaine Bénédicte & Stéphan Tissot: Certainly this wine was not quite as ‘rustic’ as the first example we tasted, perhaps being a bit more pure and refined. It still had a lovely concentrated, tangy fruit, again very much in a lively sherry style, with hints of walnut, but this time a more pronounced saline, salt-lick character. This is a lovely clean and very stylish wine.

Of course, there is one interesting thought arising from this. Normally, when we encounter this salty character (such as in our very own albariño or perhaps a fresh manzanilla from Sanlúcar de Barrameda), we usually attribute this to the proximity of the sea or ocean. In the Jura region of France this couldn’t be further from the truth (or perhaps I should say, further from the sea!). Completely land-locked between Burgundy and Switzerland it is miles from any salt water or ocean influence – the nearest sea is probably the Mediterranean which is some 350km (220 miles) south of the region. I guess therefore, that this apparent saltiness can only be attributed to a combination of factors – grape, soil and climate. In modern tasting vocabulary it is probably just a slight extension to the expression ‘minerality’.

Wine & Churros 2Now that the vendimia is behind us and the fermentations are at an end, we continue with the ongoing task of deep cleaning the wine cellar. There are some areas, including the tank room, that we are pretty much unable to touch until the wines are finished and the tanks firmly closed. (During our fermentations the tanks have to be left open to allow the huge amounts to CO2 generated to escape – supported by a strong air extraction system so that we don’t all expire whilst working from a lack of oxygen!)

In the pressing room for example, the presses themselves have been thoroughly cleaned, albeit that they still need to be re-assembled and some of the internal parts fixed back inside.

Today’s photo shows some of these pieces – the long rubber ‘fingers’ extending from the steel parts that you can see, are the pieces that help to break up the grapes and bunches as the machine rotates during pressing (in a similar action to the modern washing machine, as it rotates gently back and forth during the cycle). The long brown fingers of the press are ribbed, and really, really remind me of the very famous Spanish delicacy ‘churros’, which are traditionally eaten with a thick hot chocolate drink – the churros themselves being used for ‘dunking’ in the cup!.

I’m afraid that these rubber fingers, even if they were sprinkled with sugar and dipped in chocolate, wouldn’t taste quite the same!

The last leg

October 19th, 2016

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Density watchOur fermentations have been underway for some time now, but we are very much on the home stretch. The very first tanks that we seeded are already complete, and can now be sulphured to ensure that no unwanted, secondary fermentation will start during the lees ageing period. Of course in some vintages, when the acidity is particularly high, we might actually encourage a second, malolactic fermentation in some of the tanks. This will convert the (harsh, green, metallic tasting) malic acid, into the much softer, more palatable lactic acid (found in milk products). These tanks can then be blended throughout the cellar in order to lower the average acidity in the rest of the tanks.

However, 2016 is different. We have a beautifully balanced wine in terms of fruit and acidity, and so no further adjustments will be required. It is now just a question of watching each tank closely until all the remaining sugar has been consumed…. not long now!

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