Archive for the ‘Galicia’ Category

A few weeks ago I took a photo of a guy in the middle of a forest, close to our bodega, cutting trees and making a clearing. Little did I know at that moment that his plan was to plant a small vineyard – but it did start me thinking. Was there any logic whatsoever behind the site that he selected, or was it just a small plot of land where he fancied growing a few grapes? I rather suspect it was the latter.

I have asked myself this question many times, about the seemingly random situation of many of our Rias Baixas vineyards, and how they actually come to be selected. My guess is that, for the vast majority, it is more about convenience than making any type of detailed study to find the best site. This could explain why, in a denomination of only 4,000 hectares, there are nearly 22,000 different vineyard sites!

In the wine business we talk about ‘Terroir’, which many think is simply related to the soil on which a vine is planted, but I can tell you that it is actually much, much more complex than that. Terroir is a combination of factors, including nearly every physical aspect of a vineyard location that you can think of – soil, soil type, drainage, aspect, sun exposure, local rainfall, protection/shade, wind, sea mists etc., etc. All of the individual components that will ultimately determine why the quality of one grape varies from another (assuming that they have been properly cared for).

My photo shows this new planting, bathed in a bit of early morning sun. But what the photo doesn’t tell you is that this location is one of the coldest corners of Ribadumia. The vineyard is on a north facing slope, and apart from this brief touch of sun, it will spend the rest of the day shrouded by trees, with almost no direct sunlight and very little warmth. In a few years I will be interested to explore what it produces.

I mentioned the other day that the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, likes to spend his summers here in Galicia (being born and raised in Pontevedra). Well, that might not be the case much longer – assuming that he has good taste.

The mayor of local seaside town Sanxenxo (where Sr Rajoy has his apartment), has decided that he wants to paint the town red – together with several other colours of the rainbow. Apparently this has something to do with art, and is the “brainchild” of a local art student (who apparently wants to transform the town into some sort of circus).

Translated, the artist claims that we can “walk alongside a rainbow full of reminiscences and stimulate our senses with this chromatic circle (it will be painted on a long curved wall), filling our steps harmoniously”. Translated, I still don’t know what it means, but my own translation would be “ugly and tasteless”….. but then, that’s art!

Posted in Galicia, Local News

River of fire!

October 24th, 2017

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I am by no means undermining the devastating fires that we suffered in our region last week, but it is a relief to know that, thanks to some timely rainfall, and the heroic efforts of our fire crews (also not forgetting the brave Galician people themselves), this disaster is now pretty much behind us. Of course we still mourn the loss of three people who lost their lives in such a terrible way.

This morning, when I was leaving home, I witnessed a fire of almost the very opposite kind – the sea and the sky on fire, with a wonderful sunrise over the Ria de Pontevedra. Feeling positive from this amazing view, this simply reminds us that we are lucky to live in such a beautiful corner of Spain.

Posted in Galicia, Odds & Sods

Galicia burning…

October 16th, 2017

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Yesterday was a black day in Galicia – when forest fires suddenly sprung up in nearly every corner of our Province. It was almost as though they had been orchestrated, and indeed, Police are already saying that many had been started deliberately. 

Meteor-logically Sunday was already quite odd, in that by 8.30am on this mid-October day, the outside temperature was 23°C / 74°F (even before the sun had appeared over the horizon). The wind had picked up, blowing directly from the south, which after a summer of very little rainfall, had created the perfect environment for forest fires. (These warm winds had long been forecast, which is why I suspected that perhaps the pyromaniacs had chosen this particular moment to strike).

Three people died during the night, many homes and some businesses were destroyed, and one petrol station exploded in the inferno. Local people were rushing around with buckets, forming human chains, in a futile attempt to protect their homes. Of course, this was nothing on the scale of the catastrophe in California, but when people die, it is still a very serious event. The only positive note to this story is that it did start to rain, and I believe that this has helped to bring at least some of the fires under control. Today is still damp, so hopefully relief will come quite quickly.

Posted in Galicia, Local News

OrujoAs a former buyer I am quite used to many a serious tasting in the early part of the day…. but these were always tastings of wine. The secret was, and still is, always to start with a fresh, untainted palate (avoiding such things as fresh orange juice at breakfast, and rinsing well with water after using toothpaste etc). Yesterday however, was quite different – a tasting of aguardientes – licor and orujo of Galicia (based mainly around distillations of albariño grape skins).

You may remember seeing pictures of our pomace (grape skins) being collected in containers after pressing, ready to be sent to the distillery. Perhaps what many people don’t realise is that we actually sell small amounts of the resulting aguardiente under our Casal Caeiro label. Despite the fact that the sale of these few bottles doesn’t represent an important part of our turnover, we still continue with our quest for quality, constantly re-examining and reviewing what we do. As a consequence of this policy we are now investigating a new, super quality distillery, and in keeping with all such important decisions, the first step is always to visit and taste the product!

This gold-medal winning distillery certainly didn’t disappoint, with a very high quality of orujo and licors throughout the range. From the pure, refined and beautifully clean Orujo de Galicia, to the soft, creamy, almost buttery licor tostada, macerated with caramel (a caramel made at the distillery). Another highlight of the licors was the delicious coffee blend, which oozed the authentic flavour of freshly roasted coffee beans. Delicious.

Now we just await the tariff, before we (most probably) embark on a complete overhaul of our modest licor selection.

Posted in Galicia, Tasting

Working hours

February 18th, 2016

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CerradoThis morning I had three separate chores to do in the centre of Pontevedra – visiting three separate businesses. The problem was that I had no idea what time they opened, and so I made a quick search on Google. The result was not really what I wanted. One opened at 8am, the second at 9am, and the last one at 9.30am. Clearly I didn’t want to hang around in town waiting for the third business to open, so the only option was to wait at home until just before 9.30. This was really frustrating and I just felt like I was wasting my morning….

It occurred to me that the situation is actually much worse than this, if you examine Spanish business hours in general. Businesses can open at more or less any hour between 8am and 10/10.30am in the morning, and then close again for lunch at any time between 1.30pm and 2.30pm. And guess what? This very same scenario is repeated again in the evening! Shops and offices re-open between 3.30pm and 5.30pm, and then close again at any time up until about 10pm. I have to say that this system doesn’t strike me as being particularly efficient (or convenient). For example, unless you know the opening and closing times of every business that you want to contact or visit, then it can be quite complicated. (Without mentioning the fact that the very same businesses can, and do, vary their hours between winter and summer!)

Weekends are another story…. Many shops still close for the weekend at lunch time on Saturday, which would appear to be a bit of an archaic practice – especially in times of recession when you really need to maximise your income. Shops are closed on Sundays here in the provinces (but much less so in the big cities these days). Here in the ‘sticks’ shops are allowed to open for a limited (and controlled) number of Sundays throughout the year, normally around Christmas or ‘Sale’ periods.

At Castro Martin we only make one small adjustment to our timetable during the year, between winter and summer. In winter we start an hour later at 9am, but this is simply because of daylight hours. On winter mornings our guys cannot prune vines in the dark, hence the fact that we start a little later.

Google EarthI installed a city map App on my phone the other day. As soon as it was up and running it started to search for any major cities close to our location – it didn’t find any! The results however, were slightly surprising. Apparently the nearest major city to Barrantes (where our bodega is located) is Lisbon! Somehow I had assumed that it would be Madrid, but actually Lisbon is some 55km nearer (Lisbon 415km, Madrid 470km). One of the facts that didn’t surprise me is that Barcelona is 950km from our door, and I assume that this is the straight line distance. Apart from flying, the journey to Barca is almost an expedition (over 1,150km by road – about 11 hours driving)!

It’s also quite interesting to know that London is only 300km further than Barcelona, which actually corroborates the fact that from Galicia to Cataluña is the widest point of Spain (east to west). Sometimes, when people come to visit us, their geography of the country can be a little confused. When I mention that we are located in northern Spain, many visitors respond by saying “so you must be near Bilbao then?”. This is not the case! Bilbao is actually just under 500km from our door (as the crow flies) and certainly used to be a full days drive – new roads have made it a bit quicker now, albeit still probably six hours.

I guess my point is that Galicia is still a very rural and remote corner of Spain. Getting in and out of our Province is still not easy – roads are improving, air routes are limited, and trains are still quite poor (taking several hours to reach Madrid). Hence the fact that I’m really looking forward to visiting London next week!

Posted in Galicia, Odds & Sods

Oscar tastingYesterday, our new friend and distributor in southern Galicia, Oscar, invited us to his tasting in Vigo. It was an all day event, and, as always was pretty exhausting (apart from the break when he treated us all to a spectacular lunch). The morning session was dedicated to local local hotel schools, where our future potential customers (and consumers) had the chance to learn about different wines, and to taste, if they so wished. (Please remember that not everyone finds it fun to taste wine at 11 o’clock in the morning!)

However, it was not until early evening when the proverbial floodgates opened and the large auditorium was packed with hoteliers, restaurateurs, sommeliers and any number of different professionals. Whilst this size of distributor tasting is quite commonplace in say London or New York, I confess that I have never seen anything on this scale at a local tasting in Galicia (or perhaps Spain for that matter). You can judge the turnout for yourself from today’s pictures. The daytime picture shows our proximity Port of Vigo at this tasting, and so when people say that you can taste the sea in our albariño, on this occasion our customers could almost certainly smell it! (Vigo is the largest fishing port in Spain and also one of the biggest in the world).

Posted in Galicia, Tasting

10°C in 12km

July 16th, 2015

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Rolling mistIn the guide books of Galicia you might read that the region is more or less divided in two – the Rias Baixas (the lower rivers or estuaries) and the Rias Altas (the higher rivers or estuaries). The regulated wine producing area is located entirely in the Rias Baixas, and quite obviously, is why our denomination assumes that name. The D.O. is then sub-divided into zones, stretching from the Miño river in the south (that forms the border with Portugal), to the Ulla in the North, which is not too far from Santiago de Compostela.

Although the distances from north to south are not that great (we are in the northern zone of Salnés, and yet only about 60km north of the Portuguese border), there is still quite a lot of variation in the styles of wine produced. Generally speaking, the wines from the north are lean, vivacious with a fresh acidity, whereas the southern wines tend to be a bit fatter, softer and have a lower acidity.

The point of my story is however, probably more about microclimate. Our bodega is located close to the Ria de Arousa, near Cambados, whilst our home is just 12km further south on the Ria de Pontevedra (one ‘estuary’ lower down the coast). When I left our wine cellar yesterday at 4pm to drive home, the shade temperature in front of the building was 32°C (87°F), but as I started my journey I noticed that the thermometer in my car was dropping quite rapidly. By the time I had driven the 12km to my house the temperature had dropped to a refreshing 22°C (71°F) – a difference of 10°C (15°F). And the reason?…. A sea fog. During the day a dense curtain of mist had rolled slowly up the Ria de Pontevedra, shrouding the entire area in a veil of cooling cloud, completely preventing the sun from penetrating until the late afternoon. Not only did this fog create the dramatic difference in temperatures, but it is also the very same fog that occasionally hangs over our vineyards and is said to add a little saline character to our fruit….. You can really taste the sea!

Holiday 2015

March 6th, 2015

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ArousaWhen you look at today’s photograph, you might be forgiven for thinking that it was taken in the Caribbean, or perhaps the Greek Islands, but you would be wrong. Prepare to be shocked….. As the crow flies, this beautiful little island is actually a mere 12.43km (7.7 miles) from the front door or our bodega, in the Ría de Arousa, near Cambados. (For those who might not remember, a Ría is a river estuary, and the Ría de Arousa forms a part of Rías Baixas – the lowers estuaries, from where we get our name).

I am sure that I have mentioned before, our Rías are dotted with hundreds of small beaches and tiny islands, it really is a beautiful place….. when it’s not raining! Of course I only say that now because in winter it can be pretty grey and dismal, but in summer it is transformed by the sun, into a really beautiful corner of Spain. And, it is still quite authentic, in that it hasn’t been exploited by too much (foreign) tourism. True, many Spanish people holiday here, and have second homes on our coast, but you still wouldn’t bump into too many English speakers, for example.

So that’s today’s holiday propaganda over and done, apart from this link to this fabulous video of Salnés (also on our website’s YouTube page). Oh, and by the way, did I mention that we also have great wine and seafood!

Posted in Galicia, Rias Baixas

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