Baby berries

June 17th, 2021 | Business

Since the last week of May, and up until today, the weather has at least remained dry. Temperatures, however, were still struggling at around the 20°C mark (68°F), and it wasn’t until the second week of June that the thermometer finally hit the mid-to-high 20’s C (75-85°F). The good news is that these conditions proved to be almost perfect for flowering, and by the time that today’s rain arrived, the bunches had already started to take shape, with the small berries starting to grow almost to the size of peas (actually more like ‘petit pois’ at this stage!). Of course, this recent combination of rain and sun has meant that the vine plants themselves are extremely vigorous and the canopies are thick with vegetation. There will clearly need to be some thinning of leaves over the coming month or two.

On the business front things are also looking much brighter, as a few important markets slowly emerge from this disastrous pandemic. New orders have been arriving thick and fast, and to be honest we have almost been struggling to keep up. No sooner do we bottle a new tank, than the whole lot is out of the door! I think it’s pretty fair to say that we are not complaining….

Health update!

June 10th, 2021 | Bodega

As of today, everyone at Castro Martin has had at least one Covid vaccination – not because the rollout in Spain has suddenly become super-efficient, but mostly because our team are a bunch of geriatrics!! Actually, that’s a little unkind, the last in our group to be vaccinated are still mere babies, in their 40’s.

Angela (who had a Pfizer jab) has already had her second dose, and the rest of our team (who also had Pfizer), will have their second injection within the next week or two. I am the only exception! I had Astra Zeneca, and therefore my second dose will not be for another month or so.

Despite all this, life goes on pretty much as before – masks are still compulsory, and we still have social distancing regulations in public places. Moreover, my hands are also chaffed from washing!

On the bright side (literally) the weather has picked up. The last week of May and the first couple of weeks of June have been warm and sunny. In the last day or so we have actually reached 28°C (82°F) on the thermometer, although this brief heatwave is forecast to end after the coming weekend. Well, at least we enjoyed good weather for our flowering period.

Tooth-staining Tinto!

June 5th, 2021 | Fiestas

Yesterday was a Bank Holiday in our local municipality of Ribadumia The reason? Not an albariño festival, but the annual fiesta of the Tinto de Barrantes which continues throughout the weekend.

Tinto de Barrantes does not have a denomination because the grape variety used, Folla Redondo (round leaf), is a hybrid and therefore not officially recognised. Local authorities are trying to register it as a wine making grape – a four year process, but even that is no guarantee that it will be accepted. The fundamental problem is that the EU does not currently allow any hybrid grapes to be used in wine making.

The tinto itself is a deep violet colour, and whilst it is very fruity and vibrant on the tongue, it also has a noticeably high level of (volatile) acidity, making it a bit of an acquired taste. Traditionally it is consumed from a white porcelain bowl or cunca (see photo), but is also well known for its tooth and mouth staining quality, earning it the nickname of manchamorros or pintalabios (lipstick).

Autumn mist?

May 31st, 2021 | Vineyards

Over the weekend, and almost for the first time this year, the temperatures in Galicia hit the mid-20’s °C (73-77°F). And not before time! This sudden increase in temperature has the effect of warming the land, but as the temperature of the sea is much slower to warm up, so we end up with sea mist, also known as advection fog. Of course, sea fogs and mists are a very normal and regular part of our Atlantic Maritime climate during the spring and summer (obviously dictated by temperature). This morning we woke up to a dense sea fog.

These conditions are just one of the factors that give us our ‘cool climate’ status in the wine making world, albeit that on this occasion, the accompanying heat is what we really needed. Until about a week or so ago (as I have previously mentioned), our spring weather has been mostly cool and damp. We are really lucky therefore, that this dryer and slightly warmer weather has arrived just in time for our flowering, and should result in a good fruit set. (Fruit set is the time when the flowers are transformed into peppercorn-sized berries).

 

Coup de grass….

May 24th, 2021 | Equipment

 

We are always working hard, not only to retain our status as sustainable producers, but also to move as close as we can to being classed as organic. Of course, our humid, unstable climate prevents us (and every other Rias Baixas producer) from being officially certified as organic, but nevertheless, it doesn’t stop us from trying.

Obviously we do not use herbicides in our vineyards to control the grass, but have always opted for the more laborious task of simply cutting. Between the rows of vines this is not too difficult, but then, between the vines themselves, that has always been a bit more complicated…. until now.

We have invested in a new attachment for our tractors, which has a special, spring loaded arm that extends out to cut between the vines. This is best demonstrated by the video (please bear in mind that this was only our first test run, and that we still had to make quite a few adjustments to make it more efficient and effective).

Time to flower

May 19th, 2021 | Vineyards

So far, the month of May has continued with pretty much the same weather as April, cool, damp and unsettled. The most notable feature of our Spring this year being the temperature. By this time of year we would normally expect to have seen at least a few hot, sunny days, and, whilst we have enjoyed some sun, the temperatures have remained stubbornly low (mainly due to wind direction). The dominant airflow has originated mainly from the north, with some slight variations from the northeast and northwest, but only rarely from any southerly direction.

Of course, this damp, cooler whether does not make for ideal flowering conditions, although there are one or two small areas (in our more protected sites) where flowering is now already underway. The forecast for the coming days is still quite variable, and so we will just have to keep our fingers crossed that this important transition period, from flower to grape, will not be too impaired.

Catching up

May 10th, 2021 | Bodega

Over the last few months our efforts have been focused almost exclusively on the vineyards, simply because the task of pruning needed to be complete before our vines spring back into life. Thankfully this job is now behind us, or at least until next year!

In the meantime our poor bodega has been largely abandoned, not only because of the pruning, but mostly owing to the pandemic. To be honest there hasn’t been a lot of activity (in the form of orders) over the last few months, and so now, we can finally turn our attention back to our ‘home’ – we have a lot to catch up on.

At the end of last week we hired a platform to carry out a few jobs that needed a bit of elevation – cleaning gutters, pruning a couple of big trees, changing some exterior floodlights, and so on. Fairly mundane stuff, but still jobs that needed doing.

Today we will do a bit of pressure washing on a few pathways, followed by some painting around our car parking areas…. all riveting stuff!

German Gold!

May 5th, 2021 | Competitions

Regular readers might already know that I am not a great fan/supporter of wine competitions. This is simply down to the fact that there are so many variables (beyond our control), that can determine how our wine may or may not be judged, therefore meaning that the whole exercise can be a bit of a lottery.

Of course, should we decide to participate then we have to rely on the organisers, in the hope that they can level the playing field, and make the tasting as fair and as equitable as possible. For example, simply lining samples up in the correct order can have a huge influence on the outcome.

This year (probably owing to the lack of activity in the Bodega) I decided to send off a few samples. Just a couple of bottles of our Castro Martin Family Estate and our A2O brand. The first result, coming back from the Frankfurt International Trophy Competition – TWO GOLDS, one for each wine. Not a bad start!

By the way, did I mention how much I love wine competitions?!

Smoke gets in your eyes.

April 27th, 2021 | Vineyards

April is certainly living up to it’s reputation, sun one minute, showers the next. Our location on the Atlantic coast inevitably makes for changes to the weather that can be both sudden and unpredictable. Weather forecasts are modified sometimes on an hourly basis, but can still be inaccurate, or at the very best, misleading. This time of year is especially bad, sheltering from heavy rain one minute, and bathing in warm sunshine the next!

Between the showers we are now almost completing the job of burning the vine cuttings from pruning – it’s a shame really because these cuttings do actually make excellent material for firing up the barbecue. Perhaps we could start up a side business just for selling firewood?!

The new shoots on the vines are developing well, we already have the tiny bunches starting to emerge and it shouldn’t be too many more weeks before we move into the flowering period.

 

Spring forward!

April 20th, 2021 | Covid 19

After all the trials and tribulations of the last year or so (including the indignity of having cotton buds rammed up our nostrils), life is finally showing a few signs of the ‘new’ normality. Of course, the rollout of the vaccine programme here is Spain is hardly breaking any records, as Europe in general continues to suffer problems with the procurement of supply. In terms of population already vaccinated, Spain is still working on the 70-80 year-old age group, well behind the UK and USA for example.

With Spain lagging behind in vaccination, the knock-on effect is that until now, our restaurant sector has only seen limited, tentative re-openings. The better news is that the prospects for some of our export markets looks just a little more promising. In anticipation (and hope), of some increased business we have dusted down our bottling line and have already converted a few tanks of wine into bottle. All that is left now is to wait for the new orders to come piling in (he said, with fingers tightly crossed!).

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