Archive for the ‘Green Issues’ Category

Continued from Part One….

Don’t ask me why but this second wine was actually called ‘Antika Mickey Mouse’ (I later discovered that this was simply because the owner is a fan, and was probably a better name option than his other wine which is called Antika Podfuck). This Czech wine was completely ‘natural’, hailing the South Moravia region of the Czech Republic, and when I say natural, I really mean natural. The 8 hectare vineyard of Milan Nestarec was created as recently as 2001, and the wine is made in such a way that there is pretty much no intervention, either in the vineyard, or in the wine cellar. A blend of Chardonnay, Traminer, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner with fermentation on the skins for a period of 10 days, followed by period of ageing in oak barrels. There is no filtration, no clarification, and that’s it. The resulting wine almost defies description, and to honest, I was happy that I was only offered a glass to sample, and didn’t buy the whole bottle (it would be impossible to finish). In the glass it was a murky brown opaque colour – visually not inviting. On the nose…. well, I just don’t know – not like any wine I have ever sampled before. Weeks later I am still searching for a way to describe it – Earthy? Wet straw? Some type of acetone plastic? Bizarre! The palate was a complete surprise – it had some weight to it, but with a really savoury and quite salty flavour – for me a wine that you could sip, but not drink. Natural or not natural, I didn’t really like it.

Today’s post ended up being a bit too long – so I will split it into two parts.

There is a lot of interest these days in Natural, Organic and Biodynamic wine. Without entering into the technicalities I can tell you that these wines do not exist anywhere in our denomination – there is only one certified vineyard, but no certified wine cellars. It is quite simply that our climate makes this classification almost impossible. However, that’s not to say that we are not open minded, and we certainly enjoy trying these wines when the opportunity arises, sometimes with mixed results.

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to try two such wines, one from France and the other from the Czech Republic.

As you may know, I am already a great fan of the wines of the Jura region of France, and more especially of the Savagnin grape variety. There are many small ‘artisan’ producers in this region, and they often produce varied and fascinating wines. I was offered a ‘Vin de France’, effectively a table wine without AOC, but I was soon to discover why. The wine ‘Le Zaune à Dédée’ was made from a blend of late-harvested Savagnin grapes from the Jura, and Gewürztraminer grapes from the neighbouring Savoie region. A wine macerated and then vinified ‘sous voile’ (aged under a fine ‘flor’, or film of yeast in the barrel, similar to many other wines of the Jura, and also a technique used in sherry making). The resulting oxidative style of wine is extraordinary. Not only is the wine slightly opaque, but it is pretty much orange in colour – many people would probably refuse it on sight alone! It has a nose that is so interesting and complex, that I could sit all day just smelling it (but come up with a different nuance every time). It has an overpowering aroma of honey, burnt orange, and perhaps a hint of lychee from the Gewurzt. From the honeyed smell you would be forgiven for thinking that it might be sweet on the palate – but not at all – it really misleads you in this respect. On the palate there are just so many exotic flavours, fused with hazelnuts and perhaps just a hint of salinity. But if I thought that this wine was difficult to describe, then the second left me with a blank tasting sheet!

CorcsPeople who know me also know that I am passionate about wine closures. As a wine buyer I could never understand why a producer would go to so much trouble growing superb quality grapes, converting them into the best wine possible, and then cutting corners by trying to save a few cents on the price of a cork. For example, it is rare for the bottle to have a significant effect on the quality of a finished wine, but the cork? That’s a whole other story….

In addition to this, I also have a theory that certain types of closure work better with certain types of wine. Of course I could be completely wrong, but at Castro Martin it has been our mission to find the closure that provides the very best protection specific to our own albariño – preserving our wine in exactly the way that we want, whilst providing a consistency of quality to each and every bottle. The only way to do this has been by extensive testing.

After a prolonged period of testing involving a wide range of different closures, extensive tastings, carefully measuring OTR (oxygen transmission rate) and generally following the evolution of our wine from tank to bottle ageing, we were eventually able to make a decision based purely on our findings. The synthetic closure that we finally selected allows only a controlled rate of oxygen transfer and therefore behaves in a much more predictable fashion than natural cork (and that is before we even start to consider TCA – cork taint). The absence of cork taint is really just an added bonus for us when using synthetic.

These days we are using the very latest closure, made from polymers of sugar cane, boasting zero carbon footprint and probably the most Eco-friendly closure on the planet. This latest ‘Bio’ corc can be seen on the far right of today’s picture, and as you can see, is barely distinguishable from a natural cork. My photo shows how our range of closures has evolved over recent years.

Recycling revisted

January 23rd, 2015

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green-recycling-iconOf course bottles, paper and carton have a comparatively simple journey through the recycling chain, whereas plastics are a bit more complicated. If I understand it correctly it’s only the ‘hard’ plastics that can be recycled anyway (not the plastic wrappers as I am always reminding Angela). This means that most of the materials that we use in our bottling will be born again, which only really leaves the closure.

For some time now (over ten years) we have been using Nomacorc which is made from low-density polyethylene, classified as food-grade No. 4  recyclable plastic. On face value therefore, there should be no problem simply throwing all your Castro Martin closures into the plastic recycling, except for one fundamental problem – they are simply too small. Most modern recycling plants have sorting grates, where the smaller items fall through, end up on the floor, and end up being used as landfill. It’s a real waste considering they could be ground into pellets and reformed as food trays, computer hardware, phone cases, floor mats or any number of things. In some parts of the world there are collection points for these closures so that they are not wasted, but unfortunately I don’t really see that happening any time soon in our small corner of the world.

I should finally mention that our closures can also be re-used as pencil ‘erasers’ (please note that I did refrain from calling them ‘rubbers’ which could have caused some consternation amongst our American readers!)

Posted in Green Issues

NaturalSo what is your New Year’s resolution for 2015? To eat a bit less, or more healthily? Perhaps drink a bit less?…. No doubt all the usual ideas spring easily to mind. I did however read an interesting article the other day about ‘what not to publish in your 2015 wine blog’, and whilst the language was sometimes a little colourful, it did include one or two very valid, or at least thought provoking ideas that could help form the basis of your 2015 resolution.

For example there was a very interesting paragraph about natural wines, some of which I agreed with, and other parts that just made me smile. I will modify an odd word here and there, if only to clean up the language a little…. on the subject of Natural Wine. “Let it die. Your concern for the Earth and the holy temple of your body is fascinating, don’t get me wrong. But you’re boring everyone to death. Really. I’m not kidding. You’re just another middle-class white person who feels the need to instruct all of us on morality and taste.  I get enough of that in the news every day of my life. I drink wine to escape from people preaching at me. Fine, I admire you. You’re a better wine drinker than I am, with an incredibly sensitive and refined palate. You’re saving the world, if only people would listen!”

OK, perhaps it’s a bit strong, but I did like the part about drinking wine to escape….. I imagine simply kicking back, relaxing, glass in hand, not a care in the world. It’s true, you really don’t need people lecturing you about the rights and wrongs of a product created purely for your enjoyment. Let’s not over complicate matters, and get too tied up in the detail…… just enjoy!

He goes on to finish (still about Natural Wine): “You bought that Natural Wine produced in France, it was shipped in an ocean-polluting tanker to a busy harbour, loaded on an exhaust-belching truck to be delivered to a warehouse, driven in a truck getting four miles per gallon to your local wine shop, and you feel good about it because the guy who made it didn’t spray Roundup? Thanks. Now I get it. You’re a saint.” (Roundup being a brand of weedkiller)

The article was written by the Hosemaster himself, ex-award winning sommelier, Ron Washam, a contributor to the website of my friend Tim Atkin MW.

Select Bio 2Finally, the big news of 2014 (so far) – we have just started to bottle some of our 2013 wines with a completely new breed of synthetic closure – NOMACORC SELECT BIO – THE WORLD’S FIRST ZERO CARBON FOOTPRINT CLOSURE. 

We have been using the Select Series for some time now, and this new Select Bio is just the latest product in the evolution of the series. The material used to make this closure includes sugar cane, plant based polymers, meaning that it comes from 100% renewable raw materials. Of course using a plant based source also helps to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and the canes used are cultivated in a socially responsible way – having no impact on the food supply chain. Plant based polymers are also perfect for re-cycling in the normal plastic waste streams.

As if all this isn’t enough the Select Bio is also manufactured using 100% renewable energy – closures simply don’t come with ‘greener’ credentials than this one!

I should finish by saying that this new Bio product has all the usual benefits of our previous Nomacorc closure, being taint free and enabling consistent bottle ageing. Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention that we are the very first Bodega in the whole of Spain to be using this new technology!

Select Bio Bottle2Over recent weeks you may have noticed that I have been writing (with a certain amount of passion) about one of my ‘pet’ subjects….. wine closures. You may also know we spend a huge amount of time and energy researching the subject, and as I mentioned only the other day our supplier, Nomacorc, was about to make a significant addition to their product range.

The news is that they are about to start making the world’s first closure made with zero carbon footprint! Whilst we do not qualify as a bio-dynamic producer we do take a number of measures both in the vineyard and the bodega to reduce our level of  ‘intervention’ to the bare minimum. We also re-cycle as many materials as we possibly can (please see the ‘environment’ and ‘green policy’ pages on our website for more details). In the packaging of our wines we also use an ‘Eco’ bottle, and from next year this will almost certainly be supplemented by this new ‘Bio’ closure (assuming that our supplier offers us a competitive price). The new ‘Bio’ closures will also be 100 percent recyclable and will be made using renewable, plant-based materials.

Remembering that our carton already comprises a high percentage of re-cycled paper, perhaps the only thing we lack now is a wine label hand-knitted by Angela’s mother (using only the natural wool from our own sheep of course)!

Hung out to dry

August 11th, 2011

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Here at Castro Martin we like to think of ourselves as environmentally friendly people, we have a social conscious, and do our very best to re-cycle as much as we possibly can. Personally, I draw the line at re-cycling my tea bags and trying to use them twice, but I’m very afraid that Angela might have crossed the line….

As you may already know, if you have read the ‘Green Policy’ outlined on our main website, we already re-cycle some bottles and cardboard cartons (if they are not damaged in any way). I hasten to add that the re-cycled bottles are not used for customers, but only for immediate family and friends, even though they are properly sterilised.

We have however, achieved a new level of re-cycling, when I walked into Angela’s laboratory and found some capsules that had been hung out to dry! Now, I do admit that the tin capsules we use are extraordinarily expensive (up to four times the cost of the aluminium and plastic amalgamations that are available), but washing and drying them? I think I will have to speak to my wife…..

Posted in Green Issues