NO WORDS

August 18th, 2017

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THERE ARE NO WORDS…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Just add milk…

August 11th, 2017

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Talk about cutting it fine – on the last day before our very short summer closure, we are putting the final touches to the grape reception. This work started about three months ago, and perhaps if we had been working full time on it, would have been finished two months ago. Unfortunately we didn’t have the luxury of too much spare time in order to give this one task our full attention.

So all the tiles are laid (and what a difference that makes!), and now we are just adding the milk…. to be honest I’m not sure what the colloquial expression would be in the UK building trade, but here in Galicia, apparently, the cement that fills the gaps between the tiles is called the ‘milk’ (even though it’s dark grey). Whilst it’s true to say that this cement does have a very liquid consistency, it’s looks more like the thickness of double cream to me!

So, we are almost ready, albeit there is still a bit of re-organising to do when we come back to work, in a week or so. The August weather is a bit odd too. The month started with a couple of cloudy days with drizzle, but now it’s sunny, windy, and quite cool. For the last few days there has been a stiff breeze blowing, and whilst, during the day, it’s still warm enough to sit on the beach (mid-20’s °C – mid to upper 70’s °F), the evenings and nights have been quite chilly, indeed almost cold – down as low as 12°C (53°F). Obviously this will slow things down a bit, as far as fruit maturity is concerned, so instead of a harvest at the very beginning of September, it could well be delayed by a week or so. As always we’ll just have to wait and see.

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

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

Heatwave?

August 5th, 2017

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For the last four or five days Lucifer has been sweeping across Europe (but don’t worry, I don’t mean that we have been overtaken by devil worship, it’s simply the nickname given to the recent spell of excessively hot weather). You may have read in the press or seen on TV that parts of Spain and Italy have been enduring temperatures of between 40 and 45°C (105-115°F). Severe weather warnings have been issued…. but not here in Galicia. The last couple of days here have been very, very grey and overcast (see photo) with long periods of drizzle, and temperatures of the low-to-mid 20’sC (70-75°F). This is not ideal weather for growing grapes, but at least the forecast is for improvement in the next day or so.

Just a quick anecdote on this subject if I may. The BBC was interviewing a British family on holiday in Cyprus, where the temperature had reached 43°C, and people had been advised to stay indoors during the afternoon. The interviewer asked what precautions the father had taken to protect his two young daughters, and I’m not sure if his response was typical British phlegm or just plain stupid – “we have put on sunscreen and are eating lots of ice cream.” In ‘Britspeak’ this means “I’ve paid for this sunshine, and by God, I’m going to enjoy it (whatever the possible consequences)!”

Posted in Pre-harvest, Weather

It’s been a while since I mentioned our grape reception, simply because the work had been placed on a back burner for a while as we completed other, more pressing jobs. As you may already know, this space is used exclusively during the harvest period and therefore our only objective is to ensure that the construction is complete before the end of August (harvest is anticipated for early September).

The final remaining chore is to finish the floor (or is that the wall?), with some heavy duty tiling – probably only a few days work, before we can then give the area a thorough cleaning.

I have to apologise for today’s photo, I couldn’t resist. It was just the way that David was studying the floor that gave me the idea to play with the angles a little. (Hopefully people might have a double-take when they’re browsing!)

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

I know that this gets pretty boring, but please don’t forget that our harvest and wine making is a cyclical process that repeats itself over and over again (wow, I was tempted to make a comment about Angela there, but I resisted). Having said that, no two vintages are exactly alike, although the build up and preparation that we have to make is more or less the same.

Apart from all the bottling that we are doing, we also have maintenance guys working in the bodega. Not our own guys this time, but outside contractors who service all the heavy machinery that we rely on at harvest. Of course, the key pieces of kit are the presses, and so, quite naturally, these get a priority inspection and service. When the engineers work on the presses then, quite naturally, they have to test them. The noise that our presses make is very distinctive and reverberates around the whole bodega……. and for us this noise can only mean one thing – harvest is imminent! Long days and nights in the bodega are beckoning. 

It’s been a while since I mentioned the weather, so here’s a quick update. The last week or so has been very changeable, some sunny days, some cloudy days, some wet days. The rain that we have had has been light, perhaps just enough to refresh the vines, and daytime temperatures have not been excessive (usually around the mid-20’s C – about 75-80°F). After inspection today, on a clear, sunny morning, our fruit is still looking healthy and progressing nicely. 

Posted in Bodega, Pre-harvest

Apparently there is a very unique and different ‘style’ of wine now available on the market (although I’m pretty confident that it will never be made here in Galicia) – wine infused with marijuana. In California it is sometimes known as ‘weed-wine’ and in some local markets is now commercially available.

It may surprise you to know that this rather unusual blend was not originally cooked up by the fun-loving, open-minded Californians, but actually dates back centuries or even millennia. Pot-wine was sometimes consumed an integral part of ancient religious rituals, whilst in Chinese medicine it dates back as far back as the 28th century B.C. (so powerful that it could be used as an anesthetic during surgery). In any event, when this slightly bizarre cocktail was first used it was never intended simply as a way of getting high, but was used much more for its healing power and also relief of pain. In religion it was considered as an entheogen, aimed at spiritual development, literally ‘generating the divine within’ – which I think you could interpret in any number of ways!

Despite the fact that marijuana has now been legalised in several States, weed-wine is still not widely available, and in some of the places where it can be bought, it is still treated as more or less an ‘under the counter’ sale.

I have read that the most effective way to add this aromatic herb is by slow, cold maceration, and that the resulting wine has greater depth of flavour and a better structure. It is not mentioned exactly what this flavour is, but the ‘medicinal’ side-effect is ostensibly not as euphoric, but actually more mellow and long lasting. Certainly it would be a wine to be savoured with some moderation (if that’s your thing).

Finally, it is said that white wine better lends itself to these natural aromatics, a healthy marriage of marijuana and grapes, lower alcohol levels, giving a better balance to the finished wine. Who knows, Angela could become Galicia’s first “ganjapreneur”?

Logistics!

July 24th, 2017

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At this time of year planning, and more especially, forward planning is the key.

I mentioned only the other day that we had been busy racking wines, but the other very important procedure in our pre-harvest planning is bottling. Freeing up a few extra tanks to accommodate the new grape must. However, this year, there has been one major hiccup in that process.

Our bottle manufacturer was hit by a ransomware extortion attack, which pretty much closed down their entire production for a number of weeks. Obviously not having bottles during our peak bottling period is a bit of a handicap to say the least, but in the circumstances there was nothing we could do, except to wait patiently until our supplier’s systems were fully restored.

Unfortunately our first delivery of bottles last week was also a bit of a disaster! We had been promised that our truck was loaded and leaving the factory in Bourgos, arriving with us first thing the following morning (with our entire team poised waiting to unload and start work). Not only did it not arrive, but we subsequently discovered that it was in fact, never loaded. No real explanation was ever offered.

Suffice to say that I am always at a bit of a loss to understand why, at the same time every year, Spanish industry appears to be taken by surprise when the holiday season kicks in, and they find themselves short-handed. Malware apart, there are always delays and missed deadlines when it comes to supply and delivery. Probably the biggest surprise of all is that I continue to be frustrated by these problems…

For many years I have been under a slight misapprehension…. that irrigation of the vineyards was, at the very least, frowned upon, and to some extent, illegal! I think that this is probably a throw back to my early days in the wine trade, when the majority of ‘old world’ countries did not allow a single drop of water to be used in the vineyards, whilst the ‘new world’ producers (who used it extensively) were considered by Europe as charlatans, spraying water everywhere with impunity.

The interesting fact is that since around the turn of the millennium, things have been changing – but in a very quiet, almost stealth-like manner, as the traditional wine producing areas of Europe slowly adopted their wine laws to allow irrigation to be introduced. Certainly this is still done with an element of control as, for example, in some areas it is only allowed during certain summer months.

Of course, having made all the initial fuss about the ‘cheating’ new world producers, the old world soon came to accept (persuaded perhaps by the onset of global-warming), that allowing the use of water was actually quite a sensible thing. For me personally, the idea of irrigation is quite similar to the use of treatments in a vineyard – no sensible producer is going to sit back and watch his fruit rot on the vine if there is some step that he can take to prevent it. Yes, we all use products that are as ecological as possible to treat our vines, but in the end it’s all still a form of intervention. And so, logically, if your vines are wilting in the heat (and consuming all their sugars to survive), then just give them a drop of water – no so much as to inflate the berries, just just enough to keep them ‘comfortable’.

Today’s photo shows the drip irrigation that we have just added to our bodega vineyard, where the upper part can be particularly dry in hot weather. The irony is that, as I write this, it’s actually raining!

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