Archive for the ‘Fiestas’ Category

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

New Year Fizz

January 2nd, 2017

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GorgolaI think it only appropriate that my first post of the New Year should be about sparkling wine, as it is very common to associate popping corks with this time of year. Without wanting to sound too arrogant I do consider myself to be something of a Champagne aficionado, and pretty much every Christmas and New Year for as long as I can remember, have always pulled the cork on a nice bottle – except for this year!

A few months ago whilst sampling a ‘wine flight’ in a good restaurant, I was served a glass of Albariño ‘espumoso’ as an aperitif. I have tasted (and actively disliked) almost every sparkling albariño that I have tried before, but I had now, finally, discovered an exception! A wine called Gorgola made by Cabana das Bolboretas. I believe that this Galician name could be something to do with the small bubbles that break the surface of the sea creating the foam (I will have to research this more).

Gorgola is made by hand, on a very small scale using very traditional Champagne methods. The bottle I tried was a 2013 ‘vintage’, made using only base wines of this single cosecha and using exclusively albariño grapes – this being the case no blending was required. It was disgorged in Spring 2016 after some 26 months of secondary fermentation/bottle ageing. Classified as ‘Extra Brut’, it was very dry (between 3g and 6g residual sugar), and so there was no discernible sweetness.

Technically a ‘Blanc de Blancs’, it had a dry, almost flinty, mineral fruit, but then a unique characteristic that made it quite recognisable as an albariño to the discerning palate. It had the typical salty zest on the tongue, that gave it a special character, and in my opinion, certainly worth giving a try.

(By the way, the Echezeaux 1998, Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg wasn’t too shabby either!)

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

New Year frost

December 29th, 2016

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New YearAs we approach the end of the year it looks very much like the last few days of 2016 are going to be pretty cold – or at least cold for our part of the world. As I have explained many times before, owing to our proximity to the Ocean, we don’t often suffer too many extremes of temperature. Rain and wind yes, but temperature, usually not.

In winter we normally experience only a handful of frosty days, and so in one sense we are actually quite lucky. The downside is however, the type of cold that we have; quite  damp and penetrating, and not at all like the crisp, dry cold that you might experience in places such as Madrid.

In any event, wherever you are, and whatever the weather, we wish you a vintage New Year in 2017.

Posted in Fiestas, Weather

Christmas wine

December 27th, 2016

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BatardFor the last few years I have always cooked something slightly less traditional for Christmas lunch – often a nice piece of roast beef, which is not a very common dish here in Spain. In a butcher’s shop for example, a piece of beef for roasting is often simply described as ‘rosbif’, and that is how you would order it. There would be no mention of the cut that you might require – rib, sirloin, rump etc., simply rosbif.

This year, as a nod to the British tradition, I decided to cook Turkey, albeit that I did cheat a little – my bird was pre-stuffed with chestnut and macadamia nuts (to be honest, I was quite surprised to find this option). Preceded by seafood and a bit of smoked salmon, the turkey actually turned out quite well, even if I say so myself!

OK, so what about wine? Quite naturally we would usually promote our albariño with turkey, but I’m afraid to say that special occasions sometimes require something a bit different. I recently found a very good sparkling albariño (the first that I have really enjoyed), but I will write more about that in the New Year. Meanwhile, a dusty corner of my cellar turned up a very old bottle white Burgundy, very much in danger of being well past its best. Bâtard-Montrachet, Domaine Paul Pernot 1990 – given to me by the man himself many years ago.

After a bit of surgery with the cork (finally removed completely intact), the wine, as one might imagine, was a deep yellow/gold…. but not one bit oxidised I’m happy to say. The nose was full and fat, dominated by a slightly caramelised, toasted oak and honey. On the palate one of the most surprising factors was that despite all the rich, full, honeyed fruit flavours, there was still an underlying touch of minerality. It supported my turkey ‘gravy’ very well, and I thought was especially good with the smoked salmon.

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

Christmas 2016 LightsFirstly, and most importantly, we simply want to thank all our friends and customers most sincerely for their continued support during 2016. This is without doubt, the very best gift that we receive each year.

In many ways 2016 was a quite an uneventful year, albeit that we continue to increase our business on the high seas, this year adding Royal Caribbean to our growing list of cruise ship customers. I have to say that cruising is not really my thing, but should add that if we are ever invited to organise any on-board tutored tastings, then I will be the first to pack my bag!

The summer of 2016 (as you may already know), was hot and very dry. The resulting harvest was slightly smaller than usual, but with very concentrated grape must, slightly lower acidity and a touch more alcohol than usual. All the normal traits of a hot vintage. However, the wines are very ripe, fruity and attractive, and I have no doubt that they will be well received at their launch during 2017.

Finally, we simply send you our thanks and our very best wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful holiday season and prosperous New Year.

Andrew, Angela and the team at Castro Martin

Posted in Fiestas, Other

Holiday Season

December 6th, 2016

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HolidaysWhen it comes to holidays, both national and local,then Spain must enjoy one of the most generous allocations in the world. There are nearly a dozen National holidays each year, interspersed with a handful of local holidays, some regional, and others allocated at town or village level. In the context of organising our business, it’s sometimes difficult to know who’s working and who’s not…

December and January have quite a number of festivos, starting today, 6th December, with día de la Constitución, honouring the constitution of the country. On Thursday 8th December we have the Inmaculada Concepción – one of the most important Marian feast days in the calendar of the Catholic Church.

This year these two holidays fall on the most difficult days possible – Tuesdays and Thursday, meaning that, in theory at least, businesses would only be open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Bridge days (joining holidays together, or tagging them onto a weekend) are very common, but on this occasion where would you add an extra bridge day – unless you decide to close for the whole week? However, it’s a busy time of year to even contemplate this.

At Castro Martin we will close on Wednesday, meaning that we have a two day working week, on Monday and Friday only. Sounds good, but to be honest, it’s really just a bit untimely.

Posted in Bodega, Fiestas, Weather

A time for giving

November 29th, 2016

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Gift packsNo sooner have we got our International shipping orders loaded and on the road, than we start with the slightly more modest (but equally as important), gift orders for the holiday season. As you might expect much of our ‘gift’ business is in the local Galician market, as local businesses send tokens of their appreciation to customers at the end of the year.

To be very honest making three bottle gift packs (see today’s photo) can be a bit fiddly and time consuming. Over the years we have tried many different types of ‘estuches’ (as they are known in Spanish), but not based purely on how good they look or how much they cost. We also have to take into consideration how complicated, and therefore, how much time it will take to assemble each empty case. Quite frankly some of them can be like a work of origami, and subsequently have to be avoided. We always have to take into account the simple equation: Time=Money!

Posted in Bodega, Business, Fiestas

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!

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’!!!