Cellar door sales

March 23rd, 2021 | Odds & Sods

Since the start of the Covid crisis our online sales have increased, but not so much our ‘cellar door’ sales, as numerous lockdowns have simply prevented would be shoppers from visiting us.

Today, however, we had a most unusual customer – a guy in a 40ft trailer! At first we thought it was a delivery (an export order had already been collected earlier in the day), but no, the driver simply wanted to buy wine. With a 40ft trailer at his disposal we wondered how many pallets he would want…. but alas, is was just a single case.

Still, better than nothing I suppose!

We have life!

March 18th, 2021 | Customers

Just over a week ago I posted a photo of the vines in our small vineyard here at the wine cellar – there was almost no sign of life at all. A few days of warmer weather has suddenly made all the difference. After a long, cool and largely wet winter we have finally enjoyed about a week of almost spring-like weather. Pleasant sunshine and temperatures touching the 20°C (68°F) mark, which has come as great relief to our guys working outside!

I am pleased to say that there are signs of life in the market too. With vaccination underway, not only here in Spain, but also in our export markets, there is, at last, a little more optimism in the air. A few pallets have been ordered and sent out (including for a new export customer in Belgium), perhaps in anticipation of the Easter break. All I can say is, long may this trend continue!

Food points?

March 11th, 2021 | Food & Wine

A few days ago I was thinking about the day when restaurants finally re-open and we can all sit down to enjoy a nice meal (that is not home-cooked). But how do we actually go about selecting the restaurant that we chose (assuming that it’s not a place that we already frequent)?

Whilst a wine cellar will have their range of individual wines rated on a points system, a restaurant will usually have just one classification for the overall dining experience, based on Michelin stars or perhaps a Trip Advisor rating. Although, to be honest I take most Trip Advisor ratings with a pinch of salt! (Deliberate food pun).

I then asked myself, what if each individual restaurant dish could be rated in the same way that wines are? Of course, I am aware that such a system would be completely impractical to set up and monitor, but it would certainly give the consumer a more detailed guideline of what to select, or perhaps just what to expect.

In this reflective mood I also wondered why restaurants (especially those without a wine waiter), don’t simply print two or three different wine suggestions next to each dish on their menu? Maybe some already do, but I don’t recall seeing any. It’s really just about giving your customer/consumer a bit more guidance in making their selections.

Full circle

March 4th, 2021 | Tasting

Since I started in the wine trade, more years ago than I care to remember, it would appear that at least some aspects of our taste in wine have now gone more or less full circle. By this I mean in the styles of wine that are being produced.

Many years ago wines that were made by old-fashioned traditional methods, might well have been classified as ‘rustic’ by today’s standards. Whilst they certainly had a lot of character, they were perhaps, not always squeaky clean.

It was really in the 1980’s when consumer tastes first started to change, almost certainly influenced by the more modern wine making techniques used in New World’ wines. Countries such as Australia, not bound by centuries of tradition and rules of appellation, used the latest, technical methods of wine making. Whilst the resulting wines may have lacked a little in nuance and character, they certainly had power and concentration in abundance. Big, full-bodied, up front wines, brimming with ripe fruits (and often high alcohol). The significant difference of these wines was that, by comparison to some Old World wines, they were nearly always, bright, polished and squeaky clean. Quite literally ‘text book’ wine making some might say.

Far from being subtle, they swept the board in wine competitions as the first mouthful of their unctuous, juicy fruit would often simply overpower and dominate their more elegant, sophisticated European competitors. On the downside, they were very much ‘one sip’ wines – drinking two or three glasses could be more than enough to exhaust the palate, or simply overshadow some dishes from a restaurant menu.

However, after this era of technical wine making it could be that we have now started to retrace our steps a little. Modern taste is now leaning much more toward more natural, organic wines once again. Traditional techniques have resurfaced, and modern cultivation methods are being withdrawn. Perhaps now, a small deposit or a few crystals at the bottom of your glass is not quite the issue as it was just a couple of years ago and is simply a sign that we have indeed gone full circle.

Stormy weather

February 20th, 2021 | Vineyards

February continues to be extremely wet, the result being that parts of our vineyards are now very soggy underfoot (to say the least). Certainly, we will not have to worry about the water table being replenished this winter! In the month to date we have  been limited to just one or two dry days, once again making pruning conditions most uncomfortable for our hard working team.

This weekend is proving to be particularly stormy, even by Galician standards. High winds, driving rain and, of course, our lockdown means that it is really a moment to batten down the hatches and simply remain indoors.

As a brief aside, I was just a bit puzzled to see a couple of street sweepers working at the height of the storm. Armed with just a couple of brushes they were doing their level best to sweep up the fallen leaves, and despite their valiant efforts, I have to admit that they were simply fighting a losing battle!

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

February 12th, 2021 | International News

新年快乐 / 新年快樂 (Xīnnián kuàilè) – Happy New Year! Today is the start of the Year of the Ox, and of course, we all hope that it will be an improvement on the Year of the Rat that preceded it. I guess that like all other celebrations at the moment, the 2021 party will be somewhat subdued.

In the meantime I am happy to report that after our first Covid victim, that the Castro Martin team is now back to full strength, and work continues on the pruning (albeit now just a little delayed). Of course, we are simply happy that this was a fairly mild case of the virus and there don’t appear to be any long term side-effects.

Out in the vineyards the weather has been quite miserable – grey, cold and with intermittent rain, some quite torrential. Not a great start to February.

Rest in Peace

February 2nd, 2021 | International News

Rest in Peace – Captain Sir Tom Moore

Covid closes in?

February 2nd, 2021 | International News

At Castro Martin we have only a small staff of full-time employees – a few in the offices (including ourselves) and a few in the vineyards. Apart from during the harvest, we can normally cope with just these few people to keep things ticking over.

At the end of last week our small team suffered its first confirmed case of Covid-19, apparently confined to our vineyards and with no clear channel of transmission to the bodega itself. (Our vineyard team works independently of the bodega during pruning). It since appears, however, that we might now have a second victim, albeit at this time we are not quite sure if this is Covid or simply a case of flu (symptoms, we think, point to the latter). Of course, symptoms do vary from person to person and so our second potential victim, also from our vineyard team, is being tested today. We have our fingers crossed for a negative result.

For such a small enterprise we think that we have been quite unlucky with the virus to date. The only upside is that those affected are apparently not too serious, and so we wish them both a speedy recovery. As a direct result work on this year’s pruning has all but stopped, and so, like everyone on the planet, we simply can’t wait to get this crisis behind us.




Close to home

January 27th, 2021 | Bodega

Depending upon your personal politics the brightest point of 2021 so far might be the inauguration of a new President in the United States. Meanwhile, here in Spain, things are not quite so good…

For the last couple of weeks the weather has been completely miserable – a combination of heavy rain and days of low cloud, mist and yet more rain. Fortunately, temperatures have risen just a little since the frost at the beginning of the month.

At Castro Martin, not only is it very quiet on the business front (which is quite normal for early January), but also we have had our first Covid victim! The wife of one of our vineyard guys has tested positive. Fortunately, our man has been working outside pruning for the last few weeks, and has hardly set foot inside the main building of the bodega (quite apart from the fact that he himself has not shown any signs of the virus, as yet). Of course, he will now stay at home, in isolation, and be tested before he is allowed to return.

Meanwhile, our local lockdown rules are getting tighter, and once again, we are only allowed out for essential shopping, work or exercise. The wearing of masks in public is obligatory, and failure to comply is an immediate €600 non-negotiable fine!

(My picture today is intended to offset the doom and gloom just a little).

FOOTNOTE: Since posting we have been informed that David, our vineyard guy, has now been tested positive.

By the River of Umia

January 14th, 2021 | Denomination

People who drink albariño may already know that our denomination gets its name from the ‘Rias’ (River Estuaries) of Galicia. The Rias Altas (Upper Estuaries) in the North, between La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela, and the Rias Baixas (Lower Estuaries), between Santiago and the Portuguese border in the south.

Within the denomination there are five sub-zones and Castro Martin can be found in the Salnés Valley. Salnés is often described as the heart, the birthplace, or the cradle of albariño. It’s true to say that the wine region evolved with Salnés at it’s very core and even today our zone still accounts for more than 65% of all albariño production in the demonination.

Salnés itself is bordered in the south by the Ría of Pontevedra, and in the north by the Ría de Arousa. Naturally, you would be forgiven for asking, “so what about the Salnés river?”. If Castro Martin is located in the Salnés Valley, then surely there should be a river of that name? But no…. the name is actually a ‘comarca’, which is simply a group of municipalities lying within the province of Pontevedra. Pontevedra itself being one of the provinces that makes up the autonomy of Galicia. To make this even more complicated our own village of Barrantes is in the municipality of Ribadumia (which is in the province of Pontevedra, in the autonomy of Galicia… in Spain!) Simple!

I am happy to say that Ribadumia actually does get it’s name from a small river – the River Umia, which runs through the valley of Salnés, and flows into the Ría de Arousa near the town of Cambados. Geography lesson now over, I leave you with a beautiful picture of the Umia.

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