Archive for the ‘Odds & Sods’ Category

Looking for a leak

January 30th, 2018

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Just before Christmas I wrote about a serious leak from a water pipe in the ceiling above the tank room of the bodega. Well, the saga continues even now. As in the case of many a water leak it isn’t always easy to find the exact source, because, as we all know, water will simply permeate until it eventually finds a place to escape (in this case the ceiling of the bodega).

Nearly one month later, and after much digging and breaking of concrete, we hope that we might have finally located the origin of our mini-waterfall. So now it is simply a question of repairing all the holes and self-inflicted damage that we have caused during our search. The first steps will be sand, cement and concrete (including waterproof membranes and paints), and then finally, repairing and re-painting the ceiling of the tank room itself.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, we were able to isolate certain sections of our water network and these have been cut off during the search – the water was not been pouring through the roof for the entire month! Fortunately, we have other sources of water to work with and we were not completely dehydrated…..

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

Writer’s block?

January 23rd, 2018

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When I sit down to write our blog and/or Facebook page, I always try to think of something new, original and interesting to say – but it’s not always easy! Of course there is always work going on, admittedly at this time of year, it is mostly in the vineyards. The pruning continues apace, but what else is new?

My ‘new’ idea for 2018 is to start adding a few more videos to our pages during the year. For example, I talk about pruning a lot, but have never actually shown how it’s done. Pruning on pergolas is always a bit more complicated than the norm, it’s not simply a question of making the cut, and the old wood just falling to the floor. When the actual cut is made the old vine is still very much attached. The long canes are always well and truly wrapped around the supporting wires, and have to be removed rather carefully. Applying too much force and simply swinging on the wires would soon bring them down, and believe me, repairing wires is even more complicated – a highly skilled and specialised profession (‘alambrador’).

The actual task of removing this dead wood from the wires is known as ‘derramar’ or sometimes ‘sacar vides’, and as with pretty much every pruning related job, it  means working overhead. Indeed, the only work that is not done staring at the skies is removing the cuttings, piling them up and burning them.

Unfortunately today’s weather is not conducive to videos or photography for that matter, with intermittent drizzle, but I do promise that within the next week or two I will actually post a short clip of all the action!

You might think that living in an isolated corner of Spain, we might escape from the epidemic that is currently sweeping across Europe, and indeed many different parts of the world. I am of course talking flu, or ‘gripe’ as it is known in Spain. This year it seems that we have been hit by as many as three different strains, including ‘Aussie’ flu (H3N2 – probably from sub-tropical regions) and Japanese flu (‘Yamagata’ influenza B).

Of course jet travel now gives us the ability to fly half way across the planet in less than a day, and so it is hardly surprising that some of these viruses can have exotic, long-distant origins. Indeed, I have often thought that an aircraft cabin can be an extremely unhealthy environment, (especially if the person behind you is coughing and sneezing in your ear, and there is simply no means of escape). We may scoff at the Japanese who often wear surgical masks on public transport, but when you’re lying in your bed with your head throbbing and your muscles aching, then perhaps it’s not such a bad idea after all.

Here at Castro Martin we have not been immune – since the beginning of 2018 more than half of our permanent staff have been infected, including myself. Fortunately it appears that the flu vaccine I had at the beginning of the winter has helped to moderate some of the symptoms, but I am still staying away from the cold, humid atmosphere of the bodega until I am 100% again. I also encourage our people to stay at home when they have colds or flu, as working in a small, confined office, it will simply be passed on in no time at all.

A dog is for life

December 28th, 2017

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It’s at this time of year when charity is often at the forefront of our minds, and Castro Martin is no exception. We are now supporting a local animal refuge in Cambados (about 5km from the bodega), but not only at Christmas time, this is a cause that we support throughout the year.

The refuge not only provides temporary homes for lost and abandoned animals, but also has it’s own veterinary service, and a pet shop (the income from which also helps to fund the enterprise). So not only do we support the centre financially, but they also sell our albariño in the shop, any profit also going directly to the charity. Each bottle of our Casal Caeiro brand (sold widely in Spain), carries a special booklet, highlighting our backing of this deserving charity.

So, of all the charities around why would we select this one to support? The answer is quite simple – Angela’s sister Duliana is one of the people who helped to set up the refuge, and now spends her time managing the shop.

As always, the message here in Spain, is very much the same as that in the UK – “a dog (or any pet) is for life, and not just for Christmas”.

Circumnavigating Vigo

December 11th, 2017

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To be honest, when friends and visitors ask me, I’ve never really recommended Vigo as a place to visit – Santiago de Compostela always, La Coruña sometimes, and also Pontevedra on occasions, but never Vigo. It’s not exactly a ‘pretty’ place, there’s far too much faceless 1970’s architecture, and not too many tourist sites of special mention. It’s a very important industrial fishing port, but not much more than that.

I usually only visit when I have chores to do, and so last week, on our bridge day, I went there for a couple of things. The first errand was in a place that I know well, whilst the second was in a place that I really don’t know at all. Fortunately I managed to find both (without the aid of satnav), but then, when it came to the return journey, then that was another matter….

A combination of the unfamilar roads, changed priorities and a couple of diversions left me, quite literally driving in circles – stuck in a never ending loop. For nearly half an hour it was like being stuck in a maze – trying a different route each time, but then always ending up in the same place. Of course, owing to the road closures satnav wouldn’t necessarily have helped, and so it became simply a matter of trial and error. Groundhog day with traffic! I am convinced that the traffic planners in some of these places clearly never have to use these routes themselves, or perhaps they don’t even drive… that’s just my theory anyway.

Sometimes, when people acquire or inherit money their first impulse is to open their own restaurant, or perhaps build a wine cellar. I think that this is what you might call a ‘romantic idea’ – the fact that your name might appear above a restaurant door, or on your own wine label. Proof of this could be the number of Hollywood stars who have already taken this path (except that when they did, I very much doubt if they ever stopped to consider the long hours and hard work involved behind the scenes). Their only consideration was probably the end result – a bottle of their own wine or a nice location where they could entertain and/or impress their friends.

For us, this assumption can be something of an occupational hazard. For example, when we make a new acquaintance and mention that we have a wine cellar, you can almost see their eyes light up. Not necessarily because they expect a flood of free wine, but much more that they see it as a potential day out – a visit and guided tour of a wine cellar. In many instances they actually extend themselves an ‘auto-invitation’, by saying “Oh, we must come and visit you”. When this happens I always ask myself the same question – if we told them that we owned a shoe shop, would they necessarily want to visit and see how a shoe shop is run? I very much doubt it!

The reason that I mention this now is because this happened to us only a few days ago. Upon meeting our new next-door neighbour for the first time, at the very first mention of wine cellar, the auto-invite was extended.

The amusing side to this story (which is 100% true), is that his profession is that of undertaker. Suffice to say that we did not ask for a reciprocal visit!


For the last decade or so there has been a small mountain of granite stones idling at the back of our bodega. (These were rocks dug out of the ground when we created our one hectare vineyard that surrounds the bodega). Some were used as ballast to fill the floor space for our recent grape reception extension, whilst the rest…. Well, Angela had other plans.

There is an access road to the back of our bodega, which climbs from street level at the front of the bodega to our second floor level at the back. With the grape reception located at this second floor level it enables us (by design) to move fruit and grape must around the bodega mostly by gravity. This access road was also built by hand, by our own people, hewn out of the side of the hill and then covered with a layer of stone and concrete. Before this it was just a rough track, and the vehicles delivering fruit during harvest were always in danger of spilling a case or two as they bumped and bounced their way up the hill!

So now Angela’s dream has finally come true. The rest of the rocks have been used to create a dry-stone wall at the side of this access road. Although you can’t really see from today’s photo, the wall must be at least 50cm thick (nearly 2ft), and will eventually support some of the soil from the bank behind it. The guys in our team who built it are really multi-talented.

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

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

On one or two odd occasions (Sunday brunch for example), we’ve probably all indulged ourselves in an odd ‘beverage’ or two – maybe a Bloody Mary, Mimosa or something similar? For me at least, drinking wine or alcohol too early in the day has never felt quite right, but that’s probably just a person thing – each to their own I guess.

In recent years however, there are some worrying trends that have developed, all related to early morning drinking. For example, a common sight at many UK airports are groups of young men and women, enjoying their traditional full English breakfast….. with drink in hand. This sometimes extends to several drinks, eventually culminating in unruly behavior, even on early morning flights. The problem appears to be that once border control has been cleared, then normal UK licensing hours don’t apply, and so travellers are free to drink what they like. It is becoming quite a problem for the airlines – air rage fueled by alcohol.

I was a little perplexed therefore to read what I assumed to be a ‘serious’ article entitled “8 breakfast wines you should be drinking” – some restaurants are now apparently offering a wine list with breakfast. The recommendations rather depend on what you are ordering, but the majority of those offered are white, ranging from crisp, fruity white, to sweet white (intended to accompany your pancakes!). There is even one suggestion that a chilled, light red could be teamed up with your bacon dishes, albeit I find that eggs are notoriously difficult to marry, and most red wines would probably be rendered metallic, harsh and astringent by a ‘runny’ egg yolk.

Personally, I think that wine with breakfast quite a bad idea, and believe that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and round-the-clock drinking should not be encouraged. Whatever happened to ‘responsible drinking’ and ‘wine in moderation’? Has that now become an old-fashioned concept?

Tied to the stove?

August 16th, 2017

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What qualifies an individual to be known as a “celebrity” or a “star” these days? Not very much it would appear! When I was young (admittedly a long, long time ago), perhaps the only people to be considered as real stars were those who plied their trade in Hollywood, on the big screen.

It was Andy Warhol who once said “in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”…. but nowadays it doesn’t stop there. It seems that any person, talented or otherwise, who appears (even for just a few minutes on our television screens), is considered to be a celebrity, or perhaps the ‘star’ of that particular show.

I have noticed however, that the appetite for fame and notoriety can sometimes extend into other professions. Chefs for example. Obviously, the huge difference is that chefs have to work extremely hard, over many years to achieve their success, and that this is always based on their own individual talent and creativity. However, having achieved this success, then some of them chose to travel, write books, appear on TV series, almost appearing to abandon their own kitchens. So when a chef finally achieves the ultimate accolade of a Michelin star or two, then I ask myself, does the Michelin star(s) really belong to the establishment, or to the individual chef him or herself?

The truth is that I will pay almost any amount of money to experience great food and drink, but in an ideal world I would at least like to believe that the ‘celebrity’ chef might at least play some role in supervising my meal (probably not a very realistic wish in some top restaurants these days). A good analogy might be, going to a Broadway musical or play to see a major star and then discovering that his or her understudy is playing the lead role on the night you attend. The whole spectacle could probably be just as good, but the experience might not leave quite the same impression. Delegation or substitution does not always guarantee quite the same result.