It occurred to me that on my recent list of ongoing tasks (keeping us super busy in the bodega at the moment), I omitted to add training. Yes, once a week, Angela, Luisa and myself attend a four hour session to learn all about our new software system. At the beginning of the year we launched our revised accounts system, which from this September (at harvest time) will be partnered by an entirely new stock control system.

However, this is no ordinary stock system, as it will record every aspect of our wine production in fine detail – otherwise known as traceability – from grape to bottle. In fact, I guess that the vast majority of people would be quite surprised by the amount of detail required, actually beginning out in the vineyards whilst the fruit is still growing. Every lot number of every treatment (organic or otherwise), used by both the bodega and our grape suppliers is recorded – together with dates and amounts applied. This level of detail (including lot numbers etc.) is carried through the entire wine making process, right down to the bottle and cork used to produce every single wine. Yes, even bottles and corks are allocated lot numbers.

Of course, the simple reasoning behind this being that if any one bottle is discovered to have a technical defect, then the entire batch (usually from a specific tank) can be withdrawn from sale, and the fault traced right back to the very grape with which it was produced, if necessary. The amount of information recorded for your delicious bottle of albariño is mind-boggling!

So not only do we now have to learn how the system works, but somehow we have to find the time to input all the data. Good job that the days are longer at this time of year…

Oh dear! I am very conscious that I have not posted in a while, but don’t worry, I have lots of ready-made excuses!

Firstly, we had a few days away in Belgium (not bodega business but for the graduation of our daughter after completing her Masters in International Law). Meanwhile, back in Galicia we have simply been very, very busy – possibly taking on too many projects all at the same time: Still working on extending the grape reception, adding an irrigation system to one of our vineyards (more on that later), and racking the final tanks from their lees (after nearly nine months resting quietly).

The truth is that we could perhaps, have left some wines on their lees for a little longer, but the reality is (believe it or not) that we have to start preparing the bodega for the 2017 harvest. Between now and the end of August, we still need to bottle a few more tanks, and empty some of the tanks immediately adjacent to the presses, just make it just a tad more convenient when moving the grape must. Please note that we never ever move wine unless we really have to, and so we usually encompass any re-positioning of our wine within the racking process itself – relocating the clean wine well away from the pressing area. 

Today’s photos shows the impressive tartrate crystal formation at the bottom of our tanks when we rack the wines. They instantly reminded me of the dramatic Jurassic limestone strata of the Dentelles de Montmirail in the Vaucluse region of France, with their sharp-edged ridges and spikes.

By the way… Happy 4th July!

I should start by explaining that when we sell our wines within Spain then our sales tariff usually includes the cost of transport. However, for exporting goods to other countries then the story is the complete opposite – we never arrange transport for the orders of our export customers.

Unfortunately, this sometimes leaves us with a bit of a conundrum. When we are hit with a heatwave (as we have been for the last few days, with temperatures well into the 30’s C (90’s F)), then the question arises, who is responsible for making the decision whether to load the truck or not? Who will be liable if something goes wrong and the wine is damaged? The fact is that we have only a couple of long-haul customers who regularly take precautions when it comes to the temperature control of wine in transit, whereas the vast majority simply rely on normal road trailers or containers (and keep their fingers crossed!). However, if goods are crossing Europe on a two or three day odyssey when the temperatures are excessive, then this is clearly not the best way to keep our product fresh. (In our history there have been only a couple of occasions when pallets have been left exposed and corks have been pushed from the bottles – both beyond our control).

From our side the answer is simple – if we think that the weather’s too hot then we inform our customer, and allow them to take the decision – I think it’s called covering your ****!

(Today’s photo shows a container protected with a Vinliner – not the ultimate type of protection, which is full refrigeration, but certainly offering some degree of temperature control)

For the last couple of months I have been hinting in my posts about something new coming to Castro Martin – and finally it’s here – a new label!

A label? Is that all? So why all the fuss? I hear you ask. Well, the answer is quite simple –  the fuss is because this is something of an historic change.

The very first, and original brand of the new era (since the current bodega was built in 1981), is Casal Caeiro, created by Angela’s father some 35 years ago. (The Martin Family had been making albariño long before this, but mainly for local consumption, without labels, before labels were a legal requirement). Since it’s inception the Casal Caeiro label has slowly evolved and appeared in many different guises, but until now they have always had one thing in common – the Pazo vineyard had always appeared on the label.

In a break with tradition we decided to employ the services of local artist Elena Gomez Dahlgren to come up with something different (and original), and I think that her new design idea is both unique and spectacular. A quadriptych – a set of four labels that when displayed side-by-side join to form one larger picture.

The new 2016 vintage, using this presentation, is available from this week (albeit that our website will take a little time to catch up). New photos already appear on our webpages, and updated fiche and bottle shots are also available. In addition to this, we will eventually add more information about the inspiration behind the design, and also about our artist, but in the meantime you will simply need to buy some wine to see this work of art first hand. Oh, and by the way, you will need to buy at least four bottles to see the complete design!

SWA Gold

June 8th, 2017

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Blimey! It’s happened again! It seems that no sooner do I make a comment suggesting that the consumer should pull the cork and make their own wine buying decisions (rather than simply following reviews, medals or points), than we receive another accolade…. In this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards in London, we have been awarded a gold medal for our 2015 A2O ‘Sobre Lias’ Albariño!

The panel of judges is made up of a cross-section of tasters, including sommeliers, buyers, consultants and a handful of MW’s. The judges were enamoured with our wine’s fresh, sprightly style, awarding it Gold, whilst also commenting: ” the acidity is quite perky, and there’s a nice spritz on the finish” – ” I am reminded of the sea shore – mineral and fresh – but the palate shows honey notes, along with lemon peel. Rich yet fresh, and long-lasting”.

The wall

June 7th, 2017

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OK, so maybe not the most exciting news, but the extension to our grape reception area continues. I should add that all the work is being carried out ‘in-house’, by our own guys – so we can just add ‘builders’ to the list of jobs that they are already able to do. Oh, and by the way, and when I say build, I mean BUILD! The way these guys construct things, they are not going to fall down in a hurry. The retaining wall they they are adding now is not only supported by steel rebar, but will then be strengthened by a pour of concrete. Barring natural disasters, it will be around long after I’m gone.

I guess the only drawback is that they do have other jobs to fit in around the construction, both in the vineyards, and in the bodega. Tomorrow for example, we will be bottling the first of our 2016 wines (I will comment about that later), so I think it would be fair to say that at least they don’t suffer from boredom!

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

This coming weekend we have a local wine fair in the village of Barrantes (the village where Castro Martin is actually located). Oddly, despite this being in the very heart of Albariño country, the festival actually celebrates the tinto wines of Salnés. The vast majority of red wines from Rias Baixas are made with the grapes of Caiño tinto, Espadeiro, Loureira tinta and even Mencia (although Mencia is perhaps more widely known from our neighbouring denominations of Bierzo, Ribera Sacra and Valdeorras).

There are other red grape varieties, which when vinified, make a low alcohol, but very intensely coloured, tooth-staining wine, perhaps the most famous of which is known as Tinto de Barrantes. The problem is, that the grape varieties used to make many of these local wines are not officially permitted, and so the wines can only be made for personal consumption (well, that’s the official line anyway). My guess is that this is why the festival is called the Tinto do Salnés Festival, and not the Tinto Barrantes Festival….

This year’s publicity poster does however, include a jolly pink pulpo (probably stained by the local tinto), and also shows the traditional white ceramic wine cups containing a liquid that looks suspiciously like our very own Barrantes red wine!

Posted in Fiestas, Local News

More points!

May 25th, 2017

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OK, I confess that I was so excited that I missed this…. Our A2O also received 91 points from the American Wine & Spirits Magazine. I missed it because they (confusingly in my opinion) refer to both of our wines as Castro Martin. True, they are both made by Bodegas Castro Martin, but in the winery we refer to them by their individual brand names. Actually, the truth is that we refer to them as A2O and BCM.

So here are their notes: A2O Sobre Lías Albariño (Best Buy) The fruit of vines between 20 and 50 years old, this spends six months on the lees to enhance the creaminess and depth of its aromas. The texture is shaped by taut acidity, full of mineral flavors and notes of citrus that leave a fresh sensation of lime and white stones.

Posted in Business, Press, Tasting

Don’t get me wrong, it’s always a good feeling to receive a positive review, or perhaps a medal for one of our wines, but to be honest I still find myself in two minds as to their real value. On the one hand it’s great to have the endorsement of a third party taster, whereas on the other hand my own philosophy has always been to simply pull the cork and decide for yourself if you like the wine or not. Of course the reason behind my thinking is that the appreciation of wine is completely subjective – personal taste. For example, I know some wines that I think are fantastic, whereas other people that I know just don’t like them at all. I have always said that it would be very boring if we all liked the same things, no matter what the product, and that’s why the world of wine is so interesting and open to everyone. Having said all that, I do appreciate that in some markets the points do still count!

When it comes to Castro Martin wines, then it goes without saying that I am more than just a little bit biased, after all, I do help to make them. However, on the occasions that we do receive a good score (or perhaps a bit of silverware) it simply serves to reinforce our own belief that we are doing a good job. After all, it’s no good making wines that only Angela and myself appreciate. 

So the news is that this week we were awarded 92 points (and wines of the month Best Buy) by the Wine and Spirits magazine in the U.S. They said of our Castro Martin Family Estate ‘Sobre Lias’ – “From 50-year-old vines in Salnés, this wine aged for six months on its lees, developing an unusual combination of juicy pineapple flavor and stoniness. It’s nervous in acidity, tightening around the leesiness to create an intense, savage albariño. Far from the simple and creamy whites that populate Rías Baixas, this explores new territories, its full-on fruit flavors and mineral notes giving a deep and immersive complexity. You can drink it now with fried scallops, or cellar it for two to three years.”

Say no more!

Posted in Business, Press

Reception floorWork in the bodega is already underway to prepare for the 2017 harvest!

At peak times during nearly every harvest our grape reception area can be stretched to the limit, and this can, potentially, cause delays in getting fruit into the presses. It’s really just a question of space – moving grapes through in a strict rotation, ensuring that different parcels are not mixed, and that presses are loaded to their optimum capacity. When the reception is completely full it’s possible to experience a bit of a log-jam, and it then becomes a huge game of chess maneuvering grapes into the correct position!

The solution however, is quite simple – expand the floor area to give us more space to work. At the same time it is our intention to install a case washing machine, meaning that we can re-cycle clean cases more quickly and make the whole reception process more efficient. The construction itself is not too difficult, simply raising the floor from ground level so that it meets the raised (vehicle unloading) level.

The first step (as you can see in today’s photo) is to fill the floor space with rocks and ballast. I will update our progress over the coming weeks.

Posted in Bodega, Harvest

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