Archive for the ‘Odds & Sods’ Category

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

BiodynamicA week or so ago I wrote about tasting the tanks of our 2016 wines, and the fact that that I had decided to taste them on a day determined by my 2017 Biodynamic tasting calendar. I have mentioned this calendar on previous occasions, but just to recap quickly, it suggests that wine will taste differently on different days of the month according to the phases of the moon. The best days are known as ‘fruit’ or ‘flower’ days, the bad days are ‘leaf’ or ‘root’.

I confess that I originally stumbled upon this idea more or less by accident, when I often imagined that our wines appeared to taste better on certain days of the week, but couldn’t really pinpoint the reason why. I subsequently read about the theory of tasting cycles and the biodynamic calendar, and despite remaining sceptical, decided to buy a copy. Of course, the power of suggestion is very strong, and we can all be influenced or have our perception changed by having a certain idea being offered to us in advance. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I find that this concept works for me, and the days that I chose to taste are now more often than not decided by a quick glance at the calendar. And I am not the only one – large organisations such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer, as well as important cellars such as Pol Roger and Maison Joseph Drouhin also use this calendar as a point of reference.

The reason that I am revisiting this subject now is simply because a New Zealand scientific study into the Biodynamic calendar has just been published. “The findings reported in the present study provide no evidence in support of the notion that how a wine tastes is associated with the lunar cycle,” the researchers concluded. The methodology was simple – 19 New Zealand wine professionals making blind tastings of 12 Pinot Noirs, four times, twice on a fruit day and twice on a root day, using 20 descriptors including  aroma, taste and mouthfeel. They concluded that the lunar cycle did not influence their perceptions. (I should mention that atmospheric pressure was also taken into account as some believe that this can also influence taste).

Perhaps the surprising point is that despite these findings, some wine professionals (including MW’s) say that they still retain their faith in support of the calendar… including me!

Flu

January 19th, 2017

1 Comment

BabesJust over a week ago (after consulting my new 2017 Biodynamic tasting calendar – more about that on another occasion), I made one of my regular tastings of the 2016 tanks. Obviously our 2016 wines are still sitting quietly on their lees, and so the purpose of tasting is to monitor progress, check for any potential faults, and eventually, to chose the optimum moment to rack them (remove them from their lees deposit into a clean tank). One of the possible faults that we look out for is reduction. To cut a long story short reduction is an ‘off’ smell caused by volatile sulphur compounds, which if detected, can usually be rectified by simply racking the wine. The problem is that the longer any reduction remains undetected, the more difficult it is to remove, which can result in the wine being tainted and possibly undrinkable, hence our regular tastings.

Happily, I can report that all of our wines are in good condition, and whilst they are still a long way from being the ‘finished article’, they are looking very promising. One of the characteristics of the vintage is quite simply the fruitiness. Yes, of course, we have fruit in our wines every year, but in 2016 (owing to the hot summer and very ripe fruit), the fruit flavours are very much at the forefront of the wine. We shall see….

The bad news is that, no sooner had I completed this tasting than I was stuck down with quite a virulent strain of flu. A week later, after a couple of days in bed and many days on the sofa, I am only now just starting to feel human again, which may help explain why I haven’t made any posts recently. Hopefully, by Monday, I will be back in the office, and normal service will be resumed!

Posted in Odds & Sods, Tasting

Halloween

October 31st, 2016

Add a comment

Tim Hanni MWWhether you call it Halloween, All Hallows Eve or Samhain, I think it would be fair to say that the origin of Halloween has always been slightly unclear, and is probably celebrated by different people for different reasons. Celebrated by Pagans, Christians the Celts and/or the Gaels, one of the few common connections appears to be the date – on the eve of All Saints Day (or All Hallows Day).

Perhaps some of the modern traditions (or some might say the ‘Americanisation’ of Halloween), are an amalgamation of various elements derived from the different ancient traditions – dressing in costumes, trick-or-treating or even carving pumpkins can all be explained in some way (the latter probably evolving from the Gaelic tradition of carving turnips to ward off evil spirits).

In America the name Jack O’Lantern came from the folkloric story of Stingy Jack, and was probably developed by the influx of Irish immigrants in the mid-19th century who, not being able to find turnips to carve, used the more readily available pumpkin into which to carved their scary faces.

This brings me on quite conveniently to an old friend of mine, Tim Hanni MW (now a Professor at the Nappa Valley Wine Academy). I know Tim from my previous life as a buyer when he worked for Beringer, pretty much as their food and wine ambassador. I have to say that it was Tim who single-handedly opened my eyes to the concept of food and wine pairing with a series of tastings that he called quite simply, ‘Cause and Effect’. Truly amazing stuff for which I will always be indebted to Tim as my single greatest influence on this very tricky and highly subjective matter.

Tim is also a writer and has written a no-nonsense book called ‘Why you like the wines you like – changing the way the world thinks about wine’. I have had a copy of this book for some years, and it is a very entertaining read, that could maybe help clarify your own ideas about wine, and why you like it. (Available on Amazon) Tim shares many of my own views about wine and is often referred to as “The Wine Anti-Snob”!

However, Tim has recently laid down his pen and picked up his carving tool to create his very own Jack O’Lantern, which, for some inexplicable reason, he has referred to as his ‘Trumpkin’!!!