Archive for the ‘Bodega’ Category

Just add milk…

August 11th, 2017

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Talk about cutting it fine – on the last day before our very short summer closure, we are putting the final touches to the grape reception. This work started about three months ago, and perhaps if we had been working full time on it, would have been finished two months ago. Unfortunately we didn’t have the luxury of too much spare time in order to give this one task our full attention.

So all the tiles are laid (and what a difference that makes!), and now we are just adding the milk…. to be honest I’m not sure what the colloquial expression would be in the UK building trade, but here in Galicia, apparently, the cement that fills the gaps between the tiles is called the ‘milk’ (even though it’s dark grey). Whilst it’s true to say that this cement does have a very liquid consistency, it’s looks more like the thickness of double cream to me!

So, we are almost ready, albeit there is still a bit of re-organising to do when we come back to work, in a week or so. The August weather is a bit odd too. The month started with a couple of cloudy days with drizzle, but now it’s sunny, windy, and quite cool. For the last few days there has been a stiff breeze blowing, and whilst, during the day, it’s still warm enough to sit on the beach (mid-20’s °C – mid to upper 70’s °F), the evenings and nights have been quite chilly, indeed almost cold – down as low as 12°C (53°F). Obviously this will slow things down a bit, as far as fruit maturity is concerned, so instead of a harvest at the very beginning of September, it could well be delayed by a week or so. As always we’ll just have to wait and see.

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

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

Logistics!

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…

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

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!

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!

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