Archive for the ‘Galicia’ Category

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

Re-Baixas

January 15th, 2013

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I was walking around our local town the other day, when I was pleased to note that the windows of many shops had posters encouraging shoppers to drink more wine….. REBAIXAS, they exclaimed loudly!

Of course, I regret to say that this isn’t really an invitation for consumers to re-visit their favourite wine, but is simply the Galician word for SALE! Still, it’s a nice idea. The Spanish speakers amongst you will note that the word ‘Sale’ in Castellano is ‘Rebajas’, and that the word ‘Rebaixas’ is simply the local word with exactly the same meaning. 

Rias Baixas, as we all know, is translated as the lower rivers, or lower estuaries to be more accurate, and so we can clearly see the connection……. Baixas means lower – hence the lower or reduced prices!

And here endeth today’s lesson.

Posted in Galicia, Local News

This picture (captured by Angela on her mobile), was taken in the centre of Pontevedra, and shows Galicia’s most famous parrot looking out of the window of a pharmacy….. don’t ask, it’s a long story.

Saturday night was Carnival in Pontevedra, albeit that our local High Street does not enjoy quite the same atmosphere as Rio’s Sambadrome – especially when the temperature is barely above freezing. Having said that the locals clearly put a lot of effort into their costumes and floats, and they certainly had a good time, despite the cold.

The parrot? Well, he’s the adopted mascot of the Pontevedra Carnival (every local town has their own mascot, including Meaño with their very own sardine!) Ravachol as he is called, apparently lived his life in a chemist’s shop in Pontevedra, and for some reason was named after a French anarchist. Legend has it that he died during the 1913 Carnival, and consequently his death has been commemorated at the end of every Carnival week ever since. A huge stuffed parrot is paraded through the streets and then burned. Delicious with Albariño!!!! (Is that too cruel?)

The statue of Ravachol in Pontevedra

Posted in Fiestas, Galicia

A week or so ago Santiago de Compostela’s huge new airport terminal was finally opened to the public. It looks quite impressive from the pictures, and would not be out of place in London, Chicago or Frankfurt (some of the world’s busiest airports). Indeed, here in Galicia it has been dubbed the new Terminal 4, which is a reference to the enormous new terminal building opened in Madrid only a year or two ago.

I guess the reason that people have made this comparison, is simply because of it’s size….. it’s pretty huge for the current number of flights that it handles. The report says that the new site is handling roughly about 50 flights a day, although I must admit that I have never seen more than a handful of flights on the arrival and departure boards when ever I have visited.

To explain the full story I should also tell you that there is fierce competition between Galicia’s three local airports – not only has Santiago invested in this huge new terminal building, but Vigo and La Coruña have also spent millions on huge new multi-story car parks, where again, never more than one floor is ever actually occupied! It’s all an ego trip, precipitated by the local mayors in an attempt to prove who has the biggest….. well, airport!

There can be no doubt that the best solution for Galicia itself is really quite simple – to consolidate our efforts (not to mention our hard-earned Euros), into one large provincial airport would serve the whole region.

 

Posted in Galicia