Archive for the ‘Bodega’ Category

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!

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!

Cold & cut-off!!

February 6th, 2018

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It was just over a year ago that we had a small fire in an electrical box connecting us to the grid, temporarily cutting off our power supply. Well, today, after lots of planning, quotes and discussion, the temporary repair is now going to be made permanent. Our electrical contractors are now working on installing the new junction box (pictured on the floor here). Of course this means that we are without power, we assume for most of the day.

To be honest (apart from the fact that it is not raining), they really couldn’t have chosen a worse day to do it – it’s freezing! Probably the coldest day of the winter so far. The outside temperature is around 0°C (32°F), and because the power is off, we have absolutely no form of heating. So winter jackets are on, but trying to catch up on a bit of filing whilst wearing gloves is almost impossible.

It never ceases to amaze me how we take electricity for granted, and you really don’t realise how many things you can’t do with out it. Sure, our laptops are working, but without power, we have no internet connection without setting up a mobile phone network. And whilst our mobile phones might be working, our fixed lines are down, as our small phone network also relies on electrical power. But the biggest disaster of all? No tea! We can’t even boil any water…..

Looking for a leak

January 30th, 2018

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Just before Christmas I wrote about a serious leak from a water pipe in the ceiling above the tank room of the bodega. Well, the saga continues even now. As in the case of many a water leak it isn’t always easy to find the exact source, because, as we all know, water will simply permeate until it eventually finds a place to escape (in this case the ceiling of the bodega).

Nearly one month later, and after much digging and breaking of concrete, we hope that we might have finally located the origin of our mini-waterfall. So now it is simply a question of repairing all the holes and self-inflicted damage that we have caused during our search. The first steps will be sand, cement and concrete (including waterproof membranes and paints), and then finally, repairing and re-painting the ceiling of the tank room itself.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, we were able to isolate certain sections of our water network and these have been cut off during the search – the water was not been pouring through the roof for the entire month! Fortunately, we have other sources of water to work with and we were not completely dehydrated…..

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

January Blues

January 15th, 2018

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It’s January, 2018, and there’s not much happening at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, we have sent out a few orders, and our guys are busy pruning in the vineyards, but other than that our days are short, dark, and now just a little bit damp too. The Christmas holiday rain has continued into the new year, and there have been a few thunderstorms. The weather has been changing quickly – one moment we have black skies, thunder, lightning and driving rain, but then, within an hour or two, the sky is almost completely clear and the sun is bursting through!

After a protracted holiday period (a common feature of the Spanish calendar) it can be difficult to regain momentum, but there is planning to be done, bottlings to be made, and of course, we mustn’t forget that our 2017 wines still need to be tasted regularly. Later in the spring we will decide the best moment for racking – removing the wine from the lees, and finally some of these tanks will be blended before they eventually become the finished article.

Within our D.O. the length of time that an albariño needs to remain on its lees before it can be called ‘Sobre Lias’ is just a little vague, although the very minimum is usually accepted to be around 3 months. Technically, this would mean that we could rack our tanks now if we wanted, but in the case of every sobre lias wine at Castro Martin, we always leave them resting for a minimum of 6-8 months, but depending on the vintage, some can be left up to a year!

 

Posted in Bodega, Weather

OMG! It’s now probably wetter and more humid inside the wine cellar than it is outside! Yes, we have had some reasonably heavy rain and high wind in the last week or so, but now we have water pouring through the ceiling inside the cellar. As I write this we are still not 100% sure of it’s origin, but we believe that there is a broken water pipe, inside the ceiling, sealed by concrete. Not a good scenario.

It would appear that the entire ceiling cavity is full of water, and so we have temporarily drilled some holes to allow the water to escape (see photo). Before we did this, then obviously the water simply found its own escape routes, which unfortunately was mainly through our light fittings. On the plus side, these florescent fittings are designed to be water-tight, but one did leak a little, and immediately caused a short-circuit cutting all the lights throughout. Although there is some water falling directly onto our tanks, the wine itself is in absolutely no danger, as they are of course completely hermetic. 

Naturally we have turned off the water source, and will now simply leave the water to drain for the next day or two. Once reasonably dry, we will start the daunting job of finding the actual source of the leak, and carrying out repairs. I guess we only have to be thankful that this leak didn’t occur during harvest or the wine making period – that would have been a complete disaster!

It’s that time of year again, as we now find ourselves busy preparing the usual last-minute gift pack orders, which, in the coming days will be distributed to different corners of Spain. Fortunately, we are in an industry where our product (apart from simply drinking), is also appreciated as a welcome gift at this time of year. (OK, I’m not going to mention that albariño works very well with turkey, because I’m sure that you find it boring that I write this every year).

“In other news” as they say, we have rain! No sooner had I written that we had no water and that our extended weekend might be sunny and dry, than everything changed. Certainly our last weekend was very wet, indeed it was stormy, with winds of 40 to 50kph driving the rain almost horizontally. With our winter days already at their shortest as we approach the solstice, it all added up to a very miserable time. Ironically, it was the first weekend of the official Christmas shopping period, when stores are allowed to open on Sunday (this part of Spain doesn’t normally allow Sunday opening), but I guess, in these treacherous conditions, people simply opted to stay at home with a warm cup of cocoa! 

Posted in Bodega, Fiestas, Weather

Festivo in the sun

December 6th, 2017

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The 6th and 8th of December are National holidays in Spain – the 6th is Spain’s National Constitution Day, whilst the 8th is the Day of the Immaculate Conception. With these dates falling on a Wednesday and a Friday this year many businesses (including our own) are taking a ‘bridge’ day on Thursday, and closing for the latter half of the week.

I almost regret to say that as this break begins Galicia is still bathed in unbroken sunshine. This might seem like an odd statement, but it’s simply to say that we need some rain! Apart from a mere handful of damp/wet days, the entire month of November was dry and sunny, and now December has started in exactly the same way, with wall-to-wall blue skies. The only possible upside to this story is the frost. For the last week or so, under clear skies, we have woken up to freezing temperatures, providing the perfect conditions to embark on our annual pruning marathon.

The lack of water has now become so acute that the local Xunta has produced leaflets offering advice on how to save water. Obviously the cover photo illustrates that our reservoirs are falling to alarmingly low levels. Of course there are no cheetahs here in Galicia (to the best of my knowledge) but it’s the underlying message that really causes us concern.

Posted in Bodega, Fiestas

Sometimes, when people acquire or inherit money their first impulse is to open their own restaurant, or perhaps build a wine cellar. I think that this is what you might call a ‘romantic idea’ – the fact that your name might appear above a restaurant door, or on your own wine label. Proof of this could be the number of Hollywood stars who have already taken this path (except that when they did, I very much doubt if they ever stopped to consider the long hours and hard work involved behind the scenes). Their only consideration was probably the end result – a bottle of their own wine or a nice location where they could entertain and/or impress their friends.

For us, this assumption can be something of an occupational hazard. For example, when we make a new acquaintance and mention that we have a wine cellar, you can almost see their eyes light up. Not necessarily because they expect a flood of free wine, but much more that they see it as a potential day out – a visit and guided tour of a wine cellar. In many instances they actually extend themselves an ‘auto-invitation’, by saying “Oh, we must come and visit you”. When this happens I always ask myself the same question – if we told them that we owned a shoe shop, would they necessarily want to visit and see how a shoe shop is run? I very much doubt it!

The reason that I mention this now is because this happened to us only a few days ago. Upon meeting our new next-door neighbour for the first time, at the very first mention of wine cellar, the auto-invite was extended.

The amusing side to this story (which is 100% true), is that his profession is that of undertaker. Suffice to say that we did not ask for a reciprocal visit!

 

For the last decade or so there has been a small mountain of granite stones idling at the back of our bodega. (These were rocks dug out of the ground when we created our one hectare vineyard that surrounds the bodega). Some were used as ballast to fill the floor space for our recent grape reception extension, whilst the rest…. Well, Angela had other plans.

There is an access road to the back of our bodega, which climbs from street level at the front of the bodega to our second floor level at the back. With the grape reception located at this second floor level it enables us (by design) to move fruit and grape must around the bodega mostly by gravity. This access road was also built by hand, by our own people, hewn out of the side of the hill and then covered with a layer of stone and concrete. Before this it was just a rough track, and the vehicles delivering fruit during harvest were always in danger of spilling a case or two as they bumped and bounced their way up the hill!

So now Angela’s dream has finally come true. The rest of the rocks have been used to create a dry-stone wall at the side of this access road. Although you can’t really see from today’s photo, the wall must be at least 50cm thick (nearly 2ft), and will eventually support some of the soil from the bank behind it. The guys in our team who built it are really multi-talented.

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods