Archive for the ‘Odds & Sods’ Category

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.

Set in stone

July 13th, 2017

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Yesterday was an important day in the work to extend our grape reception – pouring the concrete. Although this might sound like a comparatively easy task, I have to say that I was seriously impressed. Watching a pile of lumpy, wet stones and cement being transformed into a smooth, flat surface is pretty amazing, and I have to tell you that our guys did an excellent job.

Of course, this new floor is not completely flat, but has actually been laid on a very slight incline simply to accommodate better drainage, and it is this requirement that made the whole task just a shade more difficult. I soon discovered that it’s all about the preparation – having everything clearly mapped out beforehand, confirming that it’s not a job that can simply be carried out ‘on the fly’.

The other slight complication was that the truck was just a fraction too tall to enter the building, and the chute delivering the concrete was only just long enough to reach the new floor extension – another couple of feet further away and the whole chore would have been a lot more complicated. Within an hour or two the work was complete, leaving tiling as the only outstanding task before we finish.

I should start by explaining that when we sell our wines within Spain then our sales tariff usually includes the cost of transport. However, for exporting goods to other countries then the story is the complete opposite – we never arrange transport for the orders of our export customers.

Unfortunately, this sometimes leaves us with a bit of a conundrum. When we are hit with a heatwave (as we have been for the last few days, with temperatures well into the 30’s C (90’s F)), then the question arises, who is responsible for making the decision whether to load the truck or not? Who will be liable if something goes wrong and the wine is damaged? The fact is that we have only a couple of long-haul customers who regularly take precautions when it comes to the temperature control of wine in transit, whereas the vast majority simply rely on normal road trailers or containers (and keep their fingers crossed!). However, if goods are crossing Europe on a two or three day odyssey when the temperatures are excessive, then this is clearly not the best way to keep our product fresh. (In our history there have been only a couple of occasions when pallets have been left exposed and corks have been pushed from the bottles – both beyond our control).

From our side the answer is simple – if we think that the weather’s too hot then we inform our customer, and allow them to take the decision – I think it’s called covering your ****!

(Today’s photo shows a container protected with a Vinliner – not the ultimate type of protection, which is full refrigeration, but certainly offering some degree of temperature control)

747You may already know that, owing to adverse weather conditions, the outward leg of our recent trip to the U.S.A. was re-routed via London, and also included a change of carriers, from Iberia to British Airways. Owing to the fact that our journey was so eventful, it didn’t occur to me until after the flight that it is possible we were sharing the flight with our own wines. The difference being that we were in the cheap seats at the back, whilst our wine could have been in the pointy bit at the front….. First Class.

We are proud to say that we have been working with British Airways for several years now. although our supply to them is not continuous. The explanation is that First Class passengers are naturally quite loyal to their preferred airline, and therefore there is a high degree of ‘repeat business’ – the same passengers flying the same routes on a regular basis. To counteract this, British Airways rotate their wine lists, not only over different time periods, but also on different routes. For one listing we might be on North America and the Caribbean, on another we might be on Asian, and so on, The point is that we simply send the wine out, and usually have little idea where it might end up, or how many air miles it will clock up! Therefore, it is possible that our wine was sharing the same flight as us, but we simply didn’t know it.

In 2016 British Airways’ First Class customers consumed more than 160,000 bottles of champagne, 133,000 bottles of red wine and 150,000 bottles of white wine on board flights, and in the same year were voted the best overall cellar at the Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky Awards. We would like to believe that Castro Martin might have played a very small part in achieving that recognition.

Posted in Odds & Sods, Travel

CeilingAt this this time of year there’s not usually too much happening in the bodega, which is just one of the reasons that we chose to travel (having just arrived back from our epic tour of the USA). Our main winter chore of pruning is pretty much at an end, and so many of our efforts have been focused on the wine cellar itself where we have been undertaking a huge programme of repairs, cleaning, painting and also a little construction. Much of this work was carried out during our travels, hence, upon our return, we immediately noticed some big changes. The most dramatic change was actually in one of our storage areas, where the ceiling was completely replaced.

Today’s photo must qualify as possibly one of the most boring I have ever posted, but I can tell you that it is really difficult to make a flat, grey roof, look exciting in a picture! It shows our carton storage area which has been completely transformed (albeit mostly from an aesthetic point of view). Having said that, visitors to our cellar will probably not notice any difference – after all, when was the last time you really looked up at the ceiling of any building (unless perhaps it was the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel)? Perhaps we can give Fran a tin of emulsion and ask him to paint a few frescos depicting life in our bodega!

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

All RoadsNow in Memphis and Nashville on the next stop of our American road trip, where not only has the taste of our wines gone down really well, but Angela and I have now also tasted something special for the very first time….. real Southern Hospitality. The people here are just so great, you could eat them with a spoon! But seriously, the most important thing of all is that they have really appreciated our wines and so converts to the new cult of Castro Martin albariño appear to be increasing….. we are thrilled.

So here in Memphis we find ourselves caught up in the middle of ‘March Madness’, where the elite teams of the NCAA (college basketball) compete for the National Championship. This weekend saw the start of the ‘Sweet 16’ games, where the final sixteen teams are whittled down to the final four – one from each regional tournament. The Southern games are being played at the FedEx Forum in downtown Memphis, and believe me, this is really serious stuff. National TV coverage and with a visit from the Vice President Mike Pence thrown in for good measure – he was disappointed to discover that MSU (Moscow State) had not made it through!! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one)

Just by way of information, Memphis is also the home to both FedEx and Graceland.

Posted in Odds & Sods, Travel

Draught BeerYou will probably already know that I am quite keen on cooking – a frustrated chef if you will. To be honest, cooking is an extremely common pastime in the wine trade, very obviously because of the close relationship between food and wine.

Sometimes when I am bored or just need to clear my head, I cook (and also when it’s time to eat). At home I do nearly all the cooking and most of the food shopping, quite simply because I enjoy it – to me it’s almost therapeutic. In addition to this I sometimes do ‘batch’ cooking, making several portions of a dish, vacuuming them in individual servings, and freezing them. Batch cooking is usually reserved for very early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when the house is quiet. I stream an English talk radio station over the internet, roll my sleeves up, and get stuck in!

In my kitchen I confess to owning a small draught beer machine (which can be filled with several different brands of beer sold in tiny ‘barrels’). The brands available might not be the best on the market, but the machine itself suits my needs in that it keeps the beer nicely chilled, and that you can draw off as much or as little as you want – if you need a small top-up, then no problem. It works very well.

The point is that whilst I am cooking (at meal times) I will nearly always have a glass of beer on the worktop beside me. Perhaps it’s because the cooking process stimulates my taste buds, or maybe it’s just that I developed the habit, but a nice ‘cold one’ slips down very nicely thank you. It has however, created a dilemma. What do you do when you are cooking at 9am on a Sunday morning and you suddenly fancy a beer? Is this new habit turning me into an alcoholic?!!

Wine slurpersThis week we have bottled a couple of tanks to replenish our depleted bottle stocks. At the start of every bottling I always take a sample directly from the machine just to make one final check on the quality of the wine. Today, however, I learned something quite new about tasting!

After many years as a buyer, and even more years in the wine business in general, I’m afraid to admit that I’m a bit of a slurper…. Well, what I actually mean is that when I taste wine I always draw in air over my tongue in order to oxygenate the wine a little and hopefully increase the taste sensation in my mouth. Other people are ‘rinsers’ (washing the wine around their mouth as they taste, rather like using a mouthwash), but I am very much a member of the Ancient Confrerie of Wine Slurpers. Of course the problem is that it becomes something of an occupational habit, and I have been known to do it, quite loudly, in the middle of a busy restaurant. Naturally, this can attract some rather odd stares from neighboring tables, who probably believe that I am just some sort of wine snob who wants to show off a bit (either that or I am having serious problems with my false teeth)!

So, what was so new about my tasting after all these years? Well, when I work on a bottling I normally wear special foam earplugs to protect against the noise. Eight hours of whiring machines and rattling bottles will more than likely give you a headache, or at the very least, ringing in your ears. Anyway, the point is that I forgot to take the earplugs out when I went to taste, and I can tell you that the noise was quite an eye opener (or should that be ear opener?) To be quite honest the loud slurping noises were very, very distracting and made it quite impossible to concentrate on the real job in hand. Suffice to say that I had to remove the plugs and start again. In conclusion this is not a tasting technique that I would recommend to anyone.

Posted in Odds & Sods, Tasting

LanguageLet me start by admitting that my Spanish is quite appalling. Considering that I been living in this country for so long it is clear that I should be speaking the language like a native (well, maybe not Galician, but certainly Castellano). The truth is that I am lazy, and I expect everyone in our office to speak perfect English like what I do! Our guys in the bodega, maybe not, but our office team certainly. My other problem is that I have satellite channels on my TV – in English, and so even when I am at home I am not learning any new vocabulary……

I’m happy to say that Paula (who is comparatively new to our office), is setting the example by attending English classes to improve her understanding. OK, so she is a good deal younger than me, and still benefits from the mental capacity to learn new things, whilst I conveniently cower behind the old adage of “old dog, new tricks”.

She explained to me that she recently had an exam of her spoken English, and so I asked her how it went. I was a bit surprised when she told me that the subjects allocated for this conversation (with no prior warning) were ‘consumerism in developed versus old economies’ and the ‘pros and cons of volutarism’. Wow! Even as a fluent English speaker (more or less!), I think that even I would struggle with these subjects, not to mention that it really requires quite a bit of specialised vocabulary in order to cope well.

To be honest I thought it slightly ridiculous, and that it would make far more sense to allocate topics more closely related to our daily lives. Of course, I can also add this example to my list of excuses for not attending Spanish classes!!

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods