Missed it!

August 9th, 2017

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Last week was the Festa do Albariño, and this year I pretty much missed it completely! In previous years I have commented about excessive drinking, and even a naked guy in the middle of the tasting, but this year I’m not really sure what happened. Admittedly, I do usually steer well clear of the area (as large crowds of drunken people are not my thing), but then in the aftermath I do sometimes hear or read about some sort of outrageous activity that has taken place during the event. Of course it could be that nothing exceptional happened this year, and to be very honest, the only difference that I really noticed was a sharp increase in the road traffic heading in the general direction of Cambados (5km from our Bodega).

In recent years, since its inception, I have been a supporter of the tunnel of wine – up to 140 albariños under one roof, and therefore a great opportunity to taste in relative peace (the tunnel is located well away from the main festival area). Unfortunately this year, owing to ‘operational difficulties’ I was not able to attend.

So this post ends up being something of a rather boring, ‘no news’ report, but I guess this is marginally better than fake news!….

Posted in Fiestas, Wine Fairs


August 5th, 2017

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For the last four or five days Lucifer has been sweeping across Europe (but don’t worry, I don’t mean that we have been overtaken by devil worship, it’s simply the nickname given to the recent spell of excessively hot weather). You may have read in the press or seen on TV that parts of Spain and Italy have been enduring temperatures of between 40 and 45°C (105-115°F). Severe weather warnings have been issued…. but not here in Galicia. The last couple of days here have been very, very grey and overcast (see photo) with long periods of drizzle, and temperatures of the low-to-mid 20’sC (70-75°F). This is not ideal weather for growing grapes, but at least the forecast is for improvement in the next day or so.

Just a quick anecdote on this subject if I may. The BBC was interviewing a British family on holiday in Cyprus, where the temperature had reached 43°C, and people had been advised to stay indoors during the afternoon. The interviewer asked what precautions the father had taken to protect his two young daughters, and I’m not sure if his response was typical British phlegm or just plain stupid – “we have put on sunscreen and are eating lots of ice cream.” In ‘Britspeak’ this means “I’ve paid for this sunshine, and by God, I’m going to enjoy it (whatever the possible consequences)!”

Posted in Pre-harvest, Weather

It’s been a while since I mentioned our grape reception, simply because the work had been placed on a back burner for a while as we completed other, more pressing jobs. As you may already know, this space is used exclusively during the harvest period and therefore our only objective is to ensure that the construction is complete before the end of August (harvest is anticipated for early September).

The final remaining chore is to finish the floor (or is that the wall?), with some heavy duty tiling – probably only a few days work, before we can then give the area a thorough cleaning.

I have to apologise for today’s photo, I couldn’t resist. It was just the way that David was studying the floor that gave me the idea to play with the angles a little. (Hopefully people might have a double-take when they’re browsing!)

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

I know that this gets pretty boring, but please don’t forget that our harvest and wine making is a cyclical process that repeats itself over and over again (wow, I was tempted to make a comment about Angela there, but I resisted). Having said that, no two vintages are exactly alike, although the build up and preparation that we have to make is more or less the same.

Apart from all the bottling that we are doing, we also have maintenance guys working in the bodega. Not our own guys this time, but outside contractors who service all the heavy machinery that we rely on at harvest. Of course, the key pieces of kit are the presses, and so, quite naturally, these get a priority inspection and service. When the engineers work on the presses then, quite naturally, they have to test them. The noise that our presses make is very distinctive and reverberates around the whole bodega……. and for us this noise can only mean one thing – harvest is imminent! Long days and nights in the bodega are beckoning. 

It’s been a while since I mentioned the weather, so here’s a quick update. The last week or so has been very changeable, some sunny days, some cloudy days, some wet days. The rain that we have had has been light, perhaps just enough to refresh the vines, and daytime temperatures have not been excessive (usually around the mid-20’s C – about 75-80°F). After inspection today, on a clear, sunny morning, our fruit is still looking healthy and progressing nicely. 

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

Apparently there is a very unique and different ‘style’ of wine now available on the market (although I’m pretty confident that it will never be made here in Galicia) – wine infused with marijuana. In California it is sometimes known as ‘weed-wine’ and in some local markets is now commercially available.

It may surprise you to know that this rather unusual blend was not originally cooked up by the fun-loving, open-minded Californians, but actually dates back centuries or even millennia. Pot-wine was sometimes consumed an integral part of ancient religious rituals, whilst in Chinese medicine it dates back as far back as the 28th century B.C. (so powerful that it could be used as an anesthetic during surgery). In any event, when this slightly bizarre cocktail was first used it was never intended simply as a way of getting high, but was used much more for its healing power and also relief of pain. In religion it was considered as an entheogen, aimed at spiritual development, literally ‘generating the divine within’ – which I think you could interpret in any number of ways!

Despite the fact that marijuana has now been legalised in several States, weed-wine is still not widely available, and in some of the places where it can be bought, it is still treated as more or less an ‘under the counter’ sale.

I have read that the most effective way to add this aromatic herb is by slow, cold maceration, and that the resulting wine has greater depth of flavour and a better structure. It is not mentioned exactly what this flavour is, but the ‘medicinal’ side-effect is ostensibly not as euphoric, but actually more mellow and long lasting. Certainly it would be a wine to be savoured with some moderation (if that’s your thing).

Finally, it is said that white wine better lends itself to these natural aromatics, a healthy marriage of marijuana and grapes, lower alcohol levels, giving a better balance to the finished wine. Who knows, Angela could become Galicia’s first “ganjapreneur”?


July 24th, 2017

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At this time of year planning, and more especially, forward planning is the key.

I mentioned only the other day that we had been busy racking wines, but the other very important procedure in our pre-harvest planning is bottling. Freeing up a few extra tanks to accommodate the new grape must. However, this year, there has been one major hiccup in that process.

Our bottle manufacturer was hit by a ransomware extortion attack, which pretty much closed down their entire production for a number of weeks. Obviously not having bottles during our peak bottling period is a bit of a handicap to say the least, but in the circumstances there was nothing we could do, except to wait patiently until our supplier’s systems were fully restored.

Unfortunately our first delivery of bottles last week was also a bit of a disaster! We had been promised that our truck was loaded and leaving the factory in Bourgos, arriving with us first thing the following morning (with our entire team poised waiting to unload and start work). Not only did it not arrive, but we subsequently discovered that it was in fact, never loaded. No real explanation was ever offered.

Suffice to say that I am always at a bit of a loss to understand why, at the same time every year, Spanish industry appears to be taken by surprise when the holiday season kicks in, and they find themselves short-handed. Malware apart, there are always delays and missed deadlines when it comes to supply and delivery. Probably the biggest surprise of all is that I continue to be frustrated by these problems…

For many years I have been under a slight misapprehension…. that irrigation of the vineyards was, at the very least, frowned upon, and to some extent, illegal! I think that this is probably a throw back to my early days in the wine trade, when the majority of ‘old world’ countries did not allow a single drop of water to be used in the vineyards, whilst the ‘new world’ producers (who used it extensively) were considered by Europe as charlatans, spraying water everywhere with impunity.

The interesting fact is that since around the turn of the millennium, things have been changing – but in a very quiet, almost stealth-like manner, as the traditional wine producing areas of Europe slowly adopted their wine laws to allow irrigation to be introduced. Certainly this is still done with an element of control as, for example, in some areas it is only allowed during certain summer months.

Of course, having made all the initial fuss about the ‘cheating’ new world producers, the old world soon came to accept (persuaded perhaps by the onset of global-warming), that allowing the use of water was actually quite a sensible thing. For me personally, the idea of irrigation is quite similar to the use of treatments in a vineyard – no sensible producer is going to sit back and watch his fruit rot on the vine if there is some step that he can take to prevent it. Yes, we all use products that are as ecological as possible to treat our vines, but in the end it’s all still a form of intervention. And so, logically, if your vines are wilting in the heat (and consuming all their sugars to survive), then just give them a drop of water – no so much as to inflate the berries, just just enough to keep them ‘comfortable’.

Today’s photo shows the drip irrigation that we have just added to our bodega vineyard, where the upper part can be particularly dry in hot weather. The irony is that, as I write this, it’s actually raining!

Whenever we have welcomed visitors over the last few years, we have usually taken them out for a trip around the vineyards, and to explain the geography of the Salnés Valley – where we are situated in relation to the Atlantic Ocean etc. We have discovered that best way to do this is actually quite simple – to drive them up a hill, above the valley, and admire the wonderful view of Salnés extended out in front of them. 

Dotted around Galicia, there are quite a number of ‘Miradors’ (look out points), designed almost exclusively for tourism purposes. (They are also often used by locals as picnicking places, as many include stone tables and benches, perhaps even a built-in barbecue).

Our very favourite for showing off Salnés is the mirador of San Cibran, located only a few km from our front door, which is, as you might imagine, mostly an uphill journey! However, recently, we have developed a bit of a problem….. no view! 

Very unfortunately, the surrounding hillside is planted with Eucalyptus trees (not indigenous to Galicia, but extensively planted some years ago to produce cheap timber). Now they are taking over, not only blocking the views, but also creating the perfect environment for forest fires. You may recall that at the end of May last year I wrote about how our own Ocean view, at the rear of our bodega, had been restored when some trees were felled, and it now seems that St Cibran is desperately in need of a bit of TLC as well. Regrettably, a mirador without is view, is now essentially, just a hill!

Set in stone

July 13th, 2017

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Yesterday was an important day in the work to extend our grape reception – pouring the concrete. Although this might sound like a comparatively easy task, I have to say that I was seriously impressed. Watching a pile of lumpy, wet stones and cement being transformed into a smooth, flat surface is pretty amazing, and I have to tell you that our guys did an excellent job.

Of course, this new floor is not completely flat, but has actually been laid on a very slight incline simply to accommodate better drainage, and it is this requirement that made the whole task just a shade more difficult. I soon discovered that it’s all about the preparation – having everything clearly mapped out beforehand, confirming that it’s not a job that can simply be carried out ‘on the fly’.

The other slight complication was that the truck was just a fraction too tall to enter the building, and the chute delivering the concrete was only just long enough to reach the new floor extension – another couple of feet further away and the whole chore would have been a lot more complicated. Within an hour or two the work was complete, leaving tiling as the only outstanding task before we finish.

Floor update

July 10th, 2017

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Work on extending our grape reception area continues (when we can find the time), and we now have the drains in place ready the final phase – laying the floor. The first step will be a concrete pour, probably later this week, before finally laying the tiles. 

As you may have seen from previous posts, the foundation of this floor is quite substantial, but of course, it has to be. At peak periods this floor will need to support a considerable amount of weight. Individual baskets of grapes (about 20kg each) are stacked on pallets as they arrive – usually 35 baskets per pallet, so that they can be moved around more efficiently. Although we pride ourselves on loading presses with the minimum of delay, there may be periods when we have a number of pallets waiting in the queue. At around 600/700kg per pallet the weight soon adds up, and so. quite clearly, the floor has to be strong.

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

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