Archive for the ‘Wine Fairs’ Category

Missed it!

August 9th, 2017

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Last week was the Festa do Albariño, and this year I pretty much missed it completely! In previous years I have commented about excessive drinking, and even a naked guy in the middle of the tasting, but this year I’m not really sure what happened. Admittedly, I do usually steer well clear of the area (as large crowds of drunken people are not my thing), but then in the aftermath I do sometimes hear or read about some sort of outrageous activity that has taken place during the event. Of course it could be that nothing exceptional happened this year, and to be very honest, the only difference that I really noticed was a sharp increase in the road traffic heading in the general direction of Cambados (5km from our Bodega).

In recent years, since its inception, I have been a supporter of the tunnel of wine – up to 140 albariños under one roof, and therefore a great opportunity to taste in relative peace (the tunnel is located well away from the main festival area). Unfortunately this year, owing to ‘operational difficulties’ I was not able to attend.

So this post ends up being something of a rather boring, ‘no news’ report, but I guess this is marginally better than fake news!….

Posted in Fiestas, Wine Fairs

Catch up time

March 21st, 2015

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Prowein 2015To be honest I don’t know where to begin! Angela and I have been away for most of the last week at Prowein in Dusseldorf, to my mind certainly the best wine fair in Europe, if not in the world. It’s a very humbling place, and puts a perspective on where we are placed within the world of wine – one tiny grain of sand on a beach. The number of producers and wines on offer was truly mind-boggling, and made me ask myself, when I was a buyer, how did I cope with this? Well, there is a simple answer. Clearly you can’t taste everything, and so the very best that you can do is set out with a plan, and make sure that you stick to it (allowing perhaps a little extra time each day to make one or two random discoveries). If you simply arrived at the entrance, not knowing what you were looking for, then you would very quickly be overwhelmed. In any event, wine fairs are tiring, whether you’re buying or selling – it’s three long days on your feet, not to mention that Dusseldorf is already quite a ‘trek’ from Galicia (two flights via Madrid, taking more than half a day).

But having to play catch up with a backlog of work from the fair is only half the story – the day before we left for Germany, my computer packed up again, but this time completely…… Nothing… Nada… Rien… I couldn’t even open a programme! Of course I had already been experiencing huge problems in the last couple of weeks, but thought that it had largely been resolved, albeit not perfectly. I was wrong, this time it crashed and took my entire Prowein appointment calendar with it! Of course I had a back up, but this is only of use if you have somewhere to re-install it! At least I was able to leave it with the engineers until we returned from our trip, but I still had to wait another 24 hours before it was returned to me. I then spent an entire day re-loading programmes and changing the settings, to at least make it feel like my own computer – fortunately, I believe that all the data files have been retrieved. After this experience now might truly be the time to consider cloud computing.

So now, it is simply a question of catching up and wading through the backlog of mails in my inbox. Heaven help me.

Ali 3On Monday Angela and I made a ‘flying visit’ to Barcelona, to make a presentation at the Alimentaria Food & Wine Fair. And the subject of our presentation?… Wine closures. Those of you who know me will know that this is a subject very dear to my heart, and our bodega invests a huge amount of time in researching the very best closure for our wines. We are constantly testing new products, making test bottlings, and then tasting samples and analysing the results. This is an ingoing process – it never stops. I think it’s fair to say that we usually end up simply making an ‘upgrade’ to the product that we already use rather than changing it completely. Suffice to say that we are very happy with what we have.

As our supplier, Nomacorc, is very aware of our commitment to this subject (retaining samples from our test bottlings and helping us with our analysis), they are also very keen that we pass on our experience to other would-be customers, and hence they invited us to Barcelona to make this presentation. The last time we did this for them I presented in English, but on this occasion it was Angela’s turn to thrill the crowds! She later appeared on Catalan television, but unfortunately the broadcast was not downloadable.

Posted in Wine Fairs


August 7th, 2013

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Drunk driverI mentioned just the other day that there had been much serious drinking at the Albariño Festival, and questioned whether this was really a positive advertisement for our denomination or not. It is claimed that some 90,000 bottles of our local wine were consumed in four days, and if this figure is correct, then it is perhaps understandable why there were so many “happy” people falling about! This number represents roughly 6 full 40ft containers of wine, which in turn equates to 30 pallets a day, sold by only 44 stands….. not bad going!

On Saturday night/Sunday morning there was a very interesting and somewhat usual occurrence in the Ria of Arousa. Many of the river estuaries (Rias) of Galicia are dotted with large wooden platforms used for farming mussels – beams made from eucalyptus trees fastened on top of several floats and anchored to the sea bed by a concrete block. From each raft hang a number of ropes where the mussels grow. During the spawning season the mussel larvae float downstream until they attach themselves to the ropes of the platforms, or sometimes they are transferred there by hand by the mussel farmers themselves.

Last Sunday morning at 1.30am one of the platforms had a rather unusual visit when it was ‘mounted’ by a motor cruiser travelling at speed down the river! The boat hit with such force that it was left completely high and dry on top of the platform. There were twelve people on board at the time, and two of them were injured (we don’t know how seriously), but suffice to say that the survivors had to be evacuated by an air-sea rescue helicopter.

The occupants of the cruiser had been attending the albariño festival….. probably enough said. 

Cambados re-opens

August 5th, 2013

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Cambados closedFor the last few days our local seaside town of Cambados has been taken over by the 61st Albariño Festival, so much so that many roads in the town centre were actually closed to traffic. For four days the home of the albariño grape variety has played host to much merriment, but I’m afraid to say that the word ‘merriment’ might just be a euphemism for lots of serious drinking. 

Apart from visiting the tunnel of wine I actually made a point of avoiding the main part of the albariño festival, chosing to stay away. My worst fears were confirmed by speaking to people who did attend, not for the drinking I hasten to add, but simply to take their children to the fairground attractions. The stories that they told did not make good listening I’m afraid. Even by 8.30pm (which is very, very early evening for Spanish festivals) there were already many drunken people falling about in the street. The seafront was taken over by impromptu parties, with loud music, lots of bottles, and not just albariño.

At the tunnel tasting on the first day we had met some wine makers from Austria, who made the journey especially to familiarise themselves with our grape variety. They had been given to understand that the Festival would be an ideal opportunity to come and taste the wines (which in the case of the tunnel was no doubt true), but what they made of the rest of the celebration would be interesting to know. I’m sure that they probably didn’t expect the kind of ‘frivolities’ that they may have encountered, and I’m quite confident that the wine festivals in Austria would be somewhat more conservative!

I certainly commented last year, and possibly even the year before, that I’m really not too sure how healthy it is for the image of the albariño grape variety to be associated with heavy drinking in the streets. The original concept of the celebration is in real danger of becoming hijacked, and abused by the few who inevitably spoil it for the many….. Or it could just be that I’m becoming an old fuddy-duddy!

Posted in Wine Fairs

Tunnel tasting

August 2nd, 2013

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Tunnel tastingThis is the time of year that we celebrate the Festival of Albariño in Cambados (the spiritual home of our beloved grape variety). 2013 is the 61st time that the event has been held and it runs for four days from 1st – 4th August. For perhaps the second or third time at the festival, the D.O. have opened their doors to the ‘Tunnel of Wine’ tasting. Many of you reading this will already understand the concept of a tasting tunnel, but for those who don’t it is actually very simple. The tunnel comprises a series of tables containing rows of opened bottles, each bottle accompanied by a fiche technique (cheat sheet) giving details of how each wine is vinified. It is entirely self-service and so each taster is able to work at their own pace, but more importantly, completely unhindered, allowing the taster to concentrate completely on the task in hand. This year there are 114 wines on show and so it’s an ideal opportunity to assess the progress of many of the wines in our denomination – all under one roof.

I should mention that there is a 15 Euro entry fee, which is perhaps designed to deter some from taking advantage and simply turning the tunnel into a subsidised drinking session. This is a professional tasting and completely separate from the main fiesta which enjoys much more of an informal party atmosphere. For me at least, the tunnel is a much better option.

Today’s photo is lifted from the Facebook page of the Rias Baixas D.O. and shows Angela and myself hard at work doing what we do best – tasting wine. Please note my ‘trendy’ t-shirt “Keep calm and drink albariño” – good advice I think!

Posted in Tasting, Wine Fairs

FHC 2013I had a feeling that I had already written about today’s subject once before, but looking back through my archives I can’t find anything, so I thought that today I would have a little moan about wine fairs. Well, not so much the wine fairs themselves (although we are very selective about those that we chose to attend), but more about the time of year that they are held. The problem is to do with the size of our wine cellar…. I will explain.

Bodegas Castro Martin is a comparatively small, family run bodega – we have only a handful of employees, and the day-today management is shared pretty much between Angela and myself. This means that we have a hand in everything, from managing the vineyards (Angela’s speciality), to making the wine, and then marketing and selling it. This also includes handling any customer or press visits and attending tastings and wine fairs – and thereby lies the problem.

Any wine fair that falls around harvest time, or in the month or two immediately after, is completely impossible for us to attend. It is a direct conflict, and it goes without saying that our harvest and wine making must always come first. From September through November we are tied to Ribadumia, and at some points during that period we are almost living in the bodega (by the way, we don’t have bedrooms).

The significance of our size therefore, is quite simple. If we were a larger business or perhaps decided to be less ‘hands on’, then we would probably employ a fully suited and booted sales manager who could attend these events on our behalf, without any detriment to either the harvest or the finished wine. The truth is that we love the personalised service that we are able to offer our customers – our wines are our children and we don’t allow them to go anywhere without us!

Posted in Tasting, Wine Fairs

Do the Agriculture and Food & Beverages sectors in Iraq represent a strategic market for your organization? This is the question raised by a recent e-mail. To be brutally honest I have to say that in this instance my answer would probably have to be an emphatic “no”!

We regularly get invited to food and wine fairs around the world, some in the Middle East, others on the African continent, where they are often described as ’emerging markets’. Of course we would like to support some of these countries as they struggle to find new economic growth, but are they really ready for albariño?….. I think not.

Even in more established wine drinking markets albariño does not exactly fly off the shelves, indeed, I often describe it as a ‘hand-sale’, as would be consumers really have to be steered towards our slightly obscure grape variety. Having said that, the beauty of our humble grape is that once these new consumers are hooked, then they will usually come back for more. It’s the first sale that is always the tough one.

In the case of these emerging markets, that are just discovering wine consumption for the first time, then we find ourselves very much at the back of the queue. The charge is often led by the French, especially the more famous wine growing regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. As the demand grows these new students of wine might experiment with a few other wine regions, and might even venture outside the borders of France, into maybe Italy, Chile or Australia (depending on their budget). Perhaps only then is Spain discovered as a wine producer, and then usually with a bit of Rioja or Ribero del Duero – the key point being that new drinkers nearly always start with red wine. (Perhaps they have heard that red wine, in moderation, can be good for your health?).

The other slight problem is that Spain is not really renowned for its white wine, and so anybody searching for a new experience might well start with one of the better known noble grape varieties such as chardonnay or sauvignon blanc (albariño coming well down the list of possible alternatives). It’s really for this reason that in the first instance we chose to divert our energies toward the more mature wine drinking nations.

Iraq? I think we will leave it to the French to break the ice first.

Posted in Wine Fairs

We often receive mail shots from odd places around the world inviting us to trade fairs and exhibitions. Obviously, from the point of view of selling wine (alcohol), these would only be attractive to us in places where there might be a reasonable demand. For example, there are an increasing number of fairs springing up in the Middle East, and it sometimes strikes me as a little odd to think that you might be exhibiting your wine in a country where the general consumption of alcohol is strictly against the law. Of course, in these Middle Eastern countries, and other places such as India, there still remains a growing demand as the number of foreign visitors, and the construction of new international hotels moves on a pace. In time, these locations may well become the markets of the future and therefore could be worth serious consideration.

I was however, mildly shocked the other day when I saw an invite from a country that would not perhaps figure at the top of your potential new market list…. Libya. Obviously it is a country that needs all the help it can get with its on-going reconstruction programme, but is it really ready for albariño at this moment in time? Probably not is my guess. After all, it’s not that long ago that the old despotic regime was overthrown, and tanks rolled through the streets, quite apart from the fact that Islam is still by far the most predominant religion.

One day in the future perhaps?

Posted in Wine Fairs

Prowein might not be quite the biggest wine fair in Europe, but in terms of visitor numbers it comes a very respectable third, behind Vinitaly and VinExpo. For the serious international wine buyer however, it could possibly rate as number one on the list, quite simply owing to its level of highly efficient (German) organisation and good access – only minutes by tram, train or bus from both hotels and Dusseldorf’s International airport.

In 2012 Prowein boasted some 3,930 exhibitors from around 50 countries, but more importantly, some 40,000 trade visitors from around the world – very slightly up on 2011 despite the economic crisis. You might be forgiven for thinking that the biggest fair of all is VinExpo, but in terms of visitor numbers it is apparently dwarfed by Vinitaly. In 2011 Vinitaly claimed 156,000 visitors over a period of only four days, whilst VinExpo attracted only 48,000 (even though the latter is only a bi-annual event).

Not mentioned in all of this is the London International Wine Fair – and the reason? It appears that this event may now be in a period of slow decline. Since it’s switch to  the Excel centre in Docklands (east London) it would seem that visitor numbers have been static at best, in 2011 it attracting just under 14,000 visitors, only one third that of Prowein. The London dilemma is no doubt compounded by the high cost of meals, hotels and public transport for visitors (in Germany free public transport is included with the entry ticket).

My own conclusion is therefore, if you need to chose only one fair to visit in Europe, it should be Prowein…….. and that’s coming from a Brit!

Posted in Wine Fairs

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