Archive for the ‘National News’ Category

CoursesOver recent years many businesses in Spain have been created on the back of subsidies, the vast majority being drawn from the coffers of the European Community. By far the biggest industry to benefit from this was construction…. but that was before the financial crisis kicked in, when not only did the subsidies dry up, but a huge number of construction companies went bust. The problem was that these businesses were simply building for the sake of building – houses, apartment blocks and even airports that were simply not required…. merely to take advantage of the seemingly boundless European wealth. It  has since transpired that many millions of Euros were illicitly syphoned off (probably now secreted in Swiss bank accounts), and so there are at least a few builders, local mayors and politicians who truly cashed in on this ‘European gravy train’.

Anyway, that was a while ago, and, as I mentioned, these subsidies have long since disappeared. So where is the next free money coming from? Where is the next opportunity to cream off a few Euros? The answer? Company training courses!

OK, so it’s not big business like construction, so there’s not to same opportunity to become rich overnight, but there is still the possibility of cashing in by inflating the odd invoice here and there – or so it is alleged (he added hastily, for legal reasons). Subsequently we are now being bombarded by e-mails, encouraging us to send our employees on every type of course you can possibly imagine. If we took advantage of even one or two of the several daily offers that we receive, then we could easily end up with some of the most highly trained employees in Europe.

Naturally, I have applied for the BBC English course…

DisasterWe wake up today on 25th July, a religious holiday in Galicia, to the worst possible news. Our local city of Santiago de Compostela has become the scene of Spain’s worst ever train crash. As I write today’s blog entry the death toll stands at 77 dead with more than 140 injured, many seriously.

Naturally we are all completely shocked by the horror of this accident, and the Spanish press are already reporting that the accident was probably caused by the excessive speed of the train. It is certainly true that the accident happened on a curve in the track, and this theory might well prove to be true, but we still await the results of the official investigation.

I should add that I was slight surprised to see that within less than 12 hours of the accident heavy lifting gear has already removed most of the wreckage. It would seem that  Renfe and Adif, the companies that manage the trains and the track, want to re-open the line as quickly as possible. I would have thought that investigators might require a little more time to study the scene, take their measurements and make their calculations before clearing the area.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those in our hospitals and with the families and friends of those who died…… there are no words. 

Despite being sold at many a top restaurant around the world, to be very honest I don’t think that our wines have ever appeared on the list at Spain’s famous El Bulli – and of course, now that it is closed, they never will. Our only rather tenuous connection is that their sommelier, Ferran Centelles, was a judge in last August’s Decanter tasting of Albariño, selecting Castro Martin as one of the very best, awarding us a fantastic 95/100 and classifying the wine as “outstanding”. Perhaps if the restaurant had remained open we might have been in with a chance of being added to the list….. we will never know.

El Bulli, the three star award-winning restaurant, headed for 27 years by the celebrated chef Ferran Adria, have now decided to auction the remnants of their extensive wine collection in two sales early next year. Sotherby’s will oversee the sale of some 8,800 bottles to be held in Hong Kong and New York during April of 2013.

Among the highlights of the sales will be 2,000 bottles of Spanish wine, including several vintages of Vega Sicilia ‘Unico’ (but regrettably no Castro Martin). There will also be full cases of Chateau Latour 2005 and three bottles of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Romanee Conti 1990, which have a pre-sale estimate of $32,500 to $47,500. I suspect that these might be targeted at selected wealthy Chinese businessmen who will snap them up perhaps without really appreciating the true value of what they have bought. Whatever amount they pay, and however they decided to consume the wines (not as spritzers as has been rumoured in the past), the proceeds will at least go to a good cause – the financing of Sr. Ferran’s El Bulli Foundation which will eventually replace the restaurant, opening in 2014.

Don’t get me wrong, we should never appear to be flippant about the consumption of alcohol (or perhaps I should say over-consumption), but it is becoming increasingly difficult  to comprehend exactly how we should calculate a “moderate” amount. We are constantly told “consume in moderation”, but the truth is that the so called ‘experts’ appear to disagree on exactly how we should interpret this phrase.

Yet another study (oh dear!), this time by a team of researchers at Oxford University, says that we should drink no more than half a unit of alcohol per day. This would equate to three small glasses of wine per week, and if we assume that a small glass is 125ml, then this would be exactly half a bottle of wine per week (375ml).

The confusion is caused as this new advice appears to contradict the guideline given by the UK Government itself. Officially the government says that men can safely drink 3-4 units of alcohol per day (approx 250ml), and women 2-3 units (approx 175ml) – these figures are calculated using our own albariño of 12% alcohol by volume, as an example. Certainly we need some sort of sensible, realistic guideline, but the question then becomes, who is actually giving us the correct information?

This new research then goes on to claim that up to 4,500 lives a year could be saved in the UK alone. Please forgive me for being a little cynical here, but isn’t that rather like saying that researchers tell us that if we don’t drive our cars, then several thousand lives a year could also be saved? This has to be a case of using our own common sense, doesn’t it?

There is already a good deal of doom and gloom surrounding the Spanish economy at the moment, even before the latest news that the country has lost its A credit rating, downgraded two notches to BBB+. The assessment, made by the Standard & Poor rating service, bases its evaluation on the future ability and willingness of sovereign governments to service their debt obligations.

Whilst there remains a distinct danger that things could get worse, and Spain be downgraded even further, the S&P did at least acknowledge that some of the severe measures taken by the new government, are at least a step in the right direction. They have announced reforms to the labour market, including cutting back on severance pay and restricting inflation-linked salary increases, that it hopes will ease the problem.. Unfortunately, these measures are, in the sort term at least, likely to make things worse rather than better, as Spain’s crippling unemployment continues its truly painful, inexorable rise. Indeed, only today, official figures reveal a figure of some 5.6 million people out of work, some 24.4%, compared to only 7.9% back in April 2007.

One chief economist is quoted as saying ”In Spain today, a cycle similar to Greece is starting to develop”…….we sincerely hope not.

Posted in National News

Down with the ship?

January 17th, 2012

Add a comment

Amongst our list of esteemed customers you will find Carnival Cruises – a member of the exclusive World’s Leading Cruise Lines alliance that also includes Cunard Line, Princess Cruises and the now infamous Costa Cruises.

Whilst we do know where some of our wine is served, we don’t know if we were actually listed on any of the Costa Cruise ships.

It’s actually a very sobering thought to even contemplate that some of our bottles might now be submerged in the Mediterranean Sea……