Red Stripe Albariño?

February 20th, 2018

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Now there was you thinking that Red Stripe is a brand of beer founded in 1928 and originating from Jamaica. Well, it still is, but now perhaps there is a new version…. Red Stripe Albariño?

Actually not. This is simply a ‘gift’ from our printer. As you may already know, our new Casal Caeiro label is actually a quadriptych – a four part label, that joins together to form one large picture. However, when it is joined together this is not usually done using a thick red adhesive tape – this is just an anomaly of the printing process. Now I am just guessing here, but I think that when the labels are being printed, and our printer needs to change the paper roll, then they will simply stick the two rolls together using this tape. It certainly makes quite a startling contrast when these bright red stripes suddenly appear during a bottling run. (At least they are not difficult to miss!)

I should say that the four bottles in the photo did not come from one single batch, but have been collected over the several months that we have been using this new label. Maybe we should leave them in the cases and offer a prize to the people that discover them!

Albariño & Dumplings

February 16th, 2018

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Xīnnián kuàilè – New Year Happiness! Today is Chinese New Year. It is the year of the dog, the dog being  the eleventh animal of the twelve year Chinese calendar cycle.

The typical dishes served for Chinese New Year are those that we have all come to know and love – the dishes that we find on the menus of our favourite local Chinese restaurants – spring rolls, noodles, dumplings, vegetables, steamed chicken and steamed fish. In addition to this, the centre piece of a special New Year meal is often a Chinese hot-pot known as huõ guō, and there will almost certainly be rice cakes (nian gao), which can be served as either sweet or savoury.

Many of these dishes, such as the dumplings, will be either filled with, or accompanied by Chinese cabbage, onion, pork, shrimp as well as egg, bamboo, meat and vegetables. Of course, many of these items are the foods that often recommend with albariño, and so, for this important celebration, with hand on heart, we can truly recommend our Castro Martin albariños with your Chinese New Year meal.

Posted in Fiestas, Food & Wine

Today is Fat Tuesday, probably better known by it’s original French name of ‘Mardi Gras’. Of course it is called Mardi Gras because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent, when many Christians start their 40 days of fasting in the period before Easter Sunday. Fat Tuesday therefore, is the day when Christians fill their stomachs, perhaps eating richer, fatty foods. In the UK, for some odd reason, this gorging is traditionally done with pancakes (more like crêpe than the fluffier American style pancake), and is known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day – rarely do we mention Mardi Gras. So, whilst the Brazilians have partying, processions, wild dancing and outrageous costumes, the British simply sit at home pigging out on pancakes!

The big shock for me here in Spain, is that Carnival (despite being widely celebrated in nearly every town and village across the land), is actually NOT a public holiday, either locally or nationally. When you stop to consider some of the very flimsy excuses that the Spanish use for partying and public holidays, the fact that Carnival (Mardi Gras) is not a holiday doesn’t really make any sense.

Of course the big difference between Galicia and Brazil is the weather. February is normally the hottest month in Rio, with average temperatures of around 27°C (81°F), whereas today in Galicia, it is absolutely pouring with rain with bone chilling humidity and temperatures of only 8°C (46°F). Anyway, no matter what you decide to eat today to fill your stomach on Fat Tuesday, I would obviously recommend a chilled glass of Castro Martin albariño to wash it down with!

Re-connected

February 8th, 2018

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After one freezing day without power we are now back up and running again – normal service can be resumed. Ironically, on the day that we had no electricity we were contacted (via a remote e-mail connection) by a transport company that wanted to collect an export order. Of course, physically loading the truck would not be difficult – the wine was prepared and ready to go, but then, there was one big problem….. the paperwork!

When we are exporting goods (as an ‘intra-community’ transaction, in tax and duty suspension), they have to be accompanied by official customs paperwork. These documents are very detailed and have to include the registration number of the vehicle – this is simply because if the truck is stopped and inspected at any point by the police, then the driver can prove that the goods are being moved legally.

Because these vehicle details cannot be added to the documents until the last minute, with no power, this rendered the collection impossible. Unfortunately only one fixed PC in our office is loaded with the official customs software, and therefore we couldn’t simply use one of our laptops. Of course, the secondary problem being that we couldn’t print the documents anyway (a full set of papers have to be physically attached to the goods in transit). Unfortunately, the collection had to be postponed. 

The good news is that our office heating, computers, printers, telephone system (and teapot) have now been fully restored!

Cold & cut-off!!

February 6th, 2018

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It was just over a year ago that we had a small fire in an electrical box connecting us to the grid, temporarily cutting off our power supply. Well, today, after lots of planning, quotes and discussion, the temporary repair is now going to be made permanent. Our electrical contractors are now working on installing the new junction box (pictured on the floor here). Of course this means that we are without power, we assume for most of the day.

To be honest (apart from the fact that it is not raining), they really couldn’t have chosen a worse day to do it – it’s freezing! Probably the coldest day of the winter so far. The outside temperature is around 0°C (32°F), and because the power is off, we have absolutely no form of heating. So winter jackets are on, but trying to catch up on a bit of filing whilst wearing gloves is almost impossible.

It never ceases to amaze me how we take electricity for granted, and you really don’t realise how many things you can’t do with out it. Sure, our laptops are working, but without power, we have no internet connection without setting up a mobile phone network. And whilst our mobile phones might be working, our fixed lines are down, as our small phone network also relies on electrical power. But the biggest disaster of all? No tea! We can’t even boil any water…..

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.

January Blues

January 15th, 2018

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It’s January, 2018, and there’s not much happening at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, we have sent out a few orders, and our guys are busy pruning in the vineyards, but other than that our days are short, dark, and now just a little bit damp too. The Christmas holiday rain has continued into the new year, and there have been a few thunderstorms. The weather has been changing quickly – one moment we have black skies, thunder, lightning and driving rain, but then, within an hour or two, the sky is almost completely clear and the sun is bursting through!

After a protracted holiday period (a common feature of the Spanish calendar) it can be difficult to regain momentum, but there is planning to be done, bottlings to be made, and of course, we mustn’t forget that our 2017 wines still need to be tasted regularly. Later in the spring we will decide the best moment for racking – removing the wine from the lees, and finally some of these tanks will be blended before they eventually become the finished article.

Within our D.O. the length of time that an albariño needs to remain on its lees before it can be called ‘Sobre Lias’ is just a little vague, although the very minimum is usually accepted to be around 3 months. Technically, this would mean that we could rack our tanks now if we wanted, but in the case of every sobre lias wine at Castro Martin, we always leave them resting for a minimum of 6-8 months, but depending on the vintage, some can be left up to a year!

Posted in Bodega, Weather

‘Hunch’ weather? Well, apparently this is a real word dating back to the 18th century. For example, when you have drizzle, rain or wind that makes you hunch up when you walk, then this can be described as hunch weather – at that is exactly what we have at the moment.

After months of dry weather (interspersed with just a few odd days of rain), we finally have a reasonably sustained period of wet weather. By coincidence, these recent periods of rain have coincided almost perfectly with the Spanish holidays! The holiday weekend of 8th/9th/10th December was wet and stormy, but then the sun and dry weather returned more or less until 25th December (and it has been raining ever since). Don’t get me wrong, Galicia is desperate for this rainfall, but clearly it would just be a bit fairer if it happened when we are all working… Of course these might be my ‘famous last words’ as it will probably now rain for the rest of 2018!

Posted in Weather

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