Festivo in the sun

December 6th, 2017

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The 6th and 8th of December are National holidays in Spain – the 6th is Spain’s National Constitution Day, whilst the 8th is the Day of the Immaculate Conception. With these dates falling on a Wednesday and a Friday this year many businesses (including our own) are taking a ‘bridge’ day on Thursday, and closing for the latter half of the week.

I almost regret to say that as this break begins Galicia is still bathed in unbroken sunshine. This might seem like an odd statement, but it’s simply to say that we need some rain! Apart from a mere handful of damp/wet days, the entire month of November was dry and sunny, and now December has started in exactly the same way, with wall-to-wall blue skies. The only possible upside to this story is the frost. For the last week or so, under clear skies, we have woken up to freezing temperatures, providing the perfect conditions to embark on our annual pruning marathon.

The lack of water has now become so acute that the local Xunta has produced leaflets offering advice on how to save water. Obviously the cover photo illustrates that our reservoirs are falling to alarmingly low levels. Of course there are no cheetahs here in Galicia (to the best of my knowledge) but it’s the underlying message that really causes us concern.

Posted in Bodega, Fiestas

You say kabob, we say kebab (and the Spanish say kebap)!

OK, so this has absolutely nothing to do with wine, and would be a bit of a push to classify as ‘gastronomy’, but like any food, a well-made kebab and fresh salad can still sometimes hit the spot. It’s not that I am a particular fan of kebabs, but more that I am simply confused about the name. Depending on where you live, your shish, doner or whatever can be written kebab, kabob, kebap, cabob, kebob, albeit the true origin of the word (coming via Urdu, through the Arabic, meaning roast meat) is actually none of the above – it’s kabāb!!

Around the world there are many different types of kabab, but the single element that most have in common, is the skewer on which they are cooked. This is said to originate from Eastern Europe when the Turkic tribes cooked meat on their swords over open fires.

Many of us who enjoy the occasional doner kabab, might not know that this is also known as shawarma or gyro – a rotisserie or spit often placed vertically (Arab – shawarma, Greek – gyros). How we actually enjoy eating our shawarma, is yet another story! The ‘doner’ is claimed to be quite a recent invention – sliced, served in pita flatbread, with fresh salad, vegetables and/or pickles squished on top. Said to have been created in the 70’s by a Berliner, Kadir Nurman, albeit the Lebanese will tell you that the kabab, meat sandwich, has been around for centuries. It is the this new ‘doner’ which is currently under threat and could be made illegal across Europe, because of the phosphates that some variations contain and their links to cardiovascular disease.

Despite this latest scandal, I have to confess that in the early 80’s I would enjoy the occasional shawarma from my local Kebab Kid in Fulham, made with fresh lamb meat (not minced and reconstituted). It was so good that the shop is still there today, and still highly rated.

Sometimes, when people acquire or inherit money their first impulse is to open their own restaurant, or perhaps build a wine cellar. I think that this is what you might call a ‘romantic idea’ – the fact that your name might appear above a restaurant door, or on your own wine label. Proof of this could be the number of Hollywood stars who have already taken this path (except that when they did, I very much doubt if they ever stopped to consider the long hours and hard work involved behind the scenes). Their only consideration was probably the end result – a bottle of their own wine or a nice location where they could entertain and/or impress their friends.

For us, this assumption can be something of an occupational hazard. For example, when we make a new acquaintance and mention that we have a wine cellar, you can almost see their eyes light up. Not necessarily because they expect a flood of free wine, but much more that they see it as a potential day out – a visit and guided tour of a wine cellar. In many instances they actually extend themselves an ‘auto-invitation’, by saying “Oh, we must come and visit you”. When this happens I always ask myself the same question – if we told them that we owned a shoe shop, would they necessarily want to visit and see how a shoe shop is run? I very much doubt it!

The reason that I mention this now is because this happened to us only a few days ago. Upon meeting our new next-door neighbour for the first time, at the very first mention of wine cellar, the auto-invite was extended.

The amusing side to this story (which is 100% true), is that his profession is that of undertaker. Suffice to say that we did not ask for a reciprocal visit!

 

Eagle eyes!

November 27th, 2017

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Browsing on the web the other day I noticed that a delicious new dish that had been added to the menu of a restaurant here in Pontevedra. (A restaurant that we sometimes frequent and owned by one of our very favourite chefs, Xosé Cannas). Thai prawns served, I believe, with a peanut sauce, although the photo on the net didn’t actually specify this. Perhaps not the most traditional Galician dish, but mouth-watering just the same.

On much closer examination I said to myself “hang on a minute, the cork in this photo looks exactly like ours”, and by simply zooming in a bit, I confirmed that it was. Maybe a bit of subliminal advertising, but only if you have very good eyesight. Castro Martin Family Estate – great with Thai prawns served at the Ultramar in Pontevedra!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23rd, 2017

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From everyone at Bodegas Castro Martin we would like to wish all our friends in the U.S. (and anyone else who might be celebrating), a very Happy Thanksgiving!

And don’t forget, I still insist that albariño is not too bad with turkey…. Enjoy!

For the last decade or so there has been a small mountain of granite stones idling at the back of our bodega. (These were rocks dug out of the ground when we created our one hectare vineyard that surrounds the bodega). Some were used as ballast to fill the floor space for our recent grape reception extension, whilst the rest…. Well, Angela had other plans.

There is an access road to the back of our bodega, which climbs from street level at the front of the bodega to our second floor level at the back. With the grape reception located at this second floor level it enables us (by design) to move fruit and grape must around the bodega mostly by gravity. This access road was also built by hand, by our own people, hewn out of the side of the hill and then covered with a layer of stone and concrete. Before this it was just a rough track, and the vehicles delivering fruit during harvest were always in danger of spilling a case or two as they bumped and bounced their way up the hill!

So now Angela’s dream has finally come true. The rest of the rocks have been used to create a dry-stone wall at the side of this access road. Although you can’t really see from today’s photo, the wall must be at least 50cm thick (nearly 2ft), and will eventually support some of the soil from the bank behind it. The guys in our team who built it are really multi-talented.

Posted in Bodega, Odds & Sods

The one thing that our recent photos have in common, is that they are all taken under clear blue skies. For the first couple of days of November we experienced two or three of days of rainfall, and of course, we simply assumed that our normal Galician winter had finally taken hold….. not at all. Within a week the skies had cleared completely, and the fine, sunny weather continued. To be honest, we really need some sustained rainfall even if it will make it extremely uncomfortable for our guys who will start pruning in a few weeks time.

The combination of this dry weather and the comparatively early harvest this year have enabled us to squeeze in a few additional jobs before the start of pruning. An unsightly piece of ground (actually more of a ‘dumping ground’) adjacent to the grape reception has been cleared, and the back of the bodega completely repainted…. Considering all the building and maintenance that we have carried out this year then perhaps we should start a construction business as a sideline! Having said that it’s amazing what a bit of cleaning and a lick of paint can make, even if people rarely visit the rear of our bodega.

We have quite a few tough, and sometimes boring tasks to complete during our working year – for example, pruning is one that I often quote. After the harvest, however, we have to complete many different cleaning chores, one of which is cleaning all the plastic cases used for gathering the grapes. More than 2,000.

Until we can work out a better system, this is all done by hand, or rather with high pressure jet washers. Whilst we do wash the cases between uses, as they are constantly re-cycled during the picking, they still tend to build up a layer of dust, and always tend to look a bit grubby at the end of the campaign. The washing process occupies two or three people for a period of about two weeks, before they are stacked in the grape reception ready for next year.

These cases, like the presses, the pressing room and the grape reception itself are simply the materials and parts of the bodega that sit completely dormant for about 11½ months of the year!

Posted in Bodega, Post Harvest

OK, perhaps I am biased, but I have to admit that I am rather fond of our 2016 Family Estate wine. That’s not to say that I don’t normally like it, it’s simply that I think that the 2016 is singularly good. From their tasting notes below, I would say that our Australian friends appear to think the same. This is perhaps one of the most detailed tasting notes I have ever read, and to be honest, I haven’t even heard of half of the fruits that they mention!

Castro Martin Family Estate ‘Sobre Lias’ 2016

A fine sandy colour with a touch of green, this is a young varietal Albariño with a significant future.

A golden fruit nose carries granitic sand’s talcy-minerality. The fruit is sliced apple and nashi flesh with a hint of spicy breakfast radish and waft of paddymelon skin. To taste, the gorgeously rounded prickly pear fruit has an enlivened sweet-sour tug, thanks to a tangle of subtle green elements – tarragon, watermelon skin, mint, lime. But the mouthfeel really is the thing! At first, trademark Salnes Valley acidity is prominent, along with Atlantic saline and granitic edginess – these are textural and flavoursome, far from simply sharp, and house a wine of great fleshy depth. Below and within the acid frame, a surprisingly powerful bell of lively, spiced rich fruit pushes out, revealing the hidden, raw power of Albariño, from a very fine tank of supremely textural fruit. Astonishing already, with 2-3 years of positive development ahead of it, this delicious wine sets a new benchmark for Albariño.

A recent article from the Wine Enthusiast would also appear to support the’typicity’ of this wine:

Val do Salnés: The Birthplace of the Grape

Why?

November 1st, 2017

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