Albariño week all but cancelled…

July 26th, 2021 | Covid 19

 

Our local town of Cambados would normally be a hive of activity this week, as preparations get under way for the annual Albaiño Festival. The main event usually comprises about 20 booths set up around the town square where visitors can buy and sample albariño by the glass (and enjoy the summer sun?). This ‘tasting’ always attracts huge, thronging crowds, and so, owing to our ongoing Covid restrictions, was the first 2021 event to be cancelled.

Unfortunately, as the Delta variant has now started to spread locally, other events, such as the tunnel of wine tasting (my favourite tasting of the year), have also fallen by the wayside, and there is now little left.

The real pity is that after a few miserable, cool, grey days, we finally have a better forecast for this week – perfect for our annual celebrations.

Certainly this weather, from a vineyard point of view, is far from perfect, and despite the sun, it is still not going to be very hot (for the time of year).

Babies! Don’t drive!..

July 20th, 2021 | Odds & Sods

I speak English, French and Spanish, albeit that my French is getting a bit rusty now, as I haven’t used it for some time. When I do occasionally try to use it I often throw the odd Spanish word into the middle of a sentence – completely unwittingly.

This morning on my way to work I glanced up at the motorway gantry (see photo), which, for a split second, my brain translated as “If babies don’t drive, have a happy (safe) journey!” What? Babies driving? Of course, I quickly realised and re-adjusted my translation to the real meaning “If you drink, don’t drive – Happy journey!” Beber is the Spanish verb to drive – nothing to do with bébé, the French word for babies!

Actually, in this photo you may also notice the dreadful weather. Not raining, but heavy grey skies with low cloud, and damp hanging in the air. Last week we had a few very hot days at a little over 30°C (86°F), but on Sunday the cloud moved in at it has remained cool and damp ever since, at just under 20°C (68°F).

Of course, this type of weather is far from ideal, the only positive being that it is not the type of warm humidity that would create an even more prefect breeding ground for vine disease. However, we still have to remain very vigilant.

Steam powered weather forecasts….

July 14th, 2021 | Covid 19

Weather is a Great British obsession, but to be honest, is also the obsession of everyone that works in the agricultural industry. No matter what the crop, the quantity and quality will be determined by the weather. Of course, there are many other factors that determine quality, but if the elements are not working in favour of the producer, then the job becomes doubly difficult.

So far in 2021, we have had sun, but without excessive temperatures – days have been pleasant and nights have been cool. One simple way that I can judge the early morning temperature is in my bathroom! When I have my daily shower with the window open, if the outside air temperature is warm (perhaps high teens °C) then my bathroom remains steam free, but obviously, when there is a chill in the air, I have steam – simple! I have discovered that this small indicator actually works very well, and also helps me decide if I need to wear a sweater or not.

So what about the masks (in today’s photo)? About a week or so ago the Spanish President announced that masks would no longer be compulsory when walking outside (until now this was compulsory, everywhere). A week or so later, I was quite surprised to see that probably about 98% of people are still wearing them – it is rare to see someone without. Of course, I can’t speak for the whole of Spain, but from what I have witnessed locally, the Spanish are remaining very circumspect.

The madness continues!

July 7th, 2021 | Bodega

There are still a couple of puzzling things arising from the Covid-19 story. For example, I believe that, at least some of Spain’s comparative success in containing the virus over recent months has been down to the rigid enforcement of the use of masks everywhere in public (including out on the street). It is very odd, therefore, that the Spanish government has recently decided to relax this a little, just at the exact moment that the virulent new Delta variant has hit the Spanish peninsula! This is a little like the UK Government allowing flights from India to continue for weeks after this new ‘Indian’ variant was discovered. These things are complete mystery to me….

On a more positive note, our warehouse is full (of orders), albeit that since taking my photos a couple of days ago, most of these pallets have actually been collected. We have gone from full to empty in 48 hours! Our mission now is to restock, and we have been busy preparing tanks and trying hard to procure all the ‘dry goods’ that we need. (Dry goods are the bottles, corks, capsules, labels and cases). I used the word ‘trying’, because many of our suppliers have been hit by the same tsunami of business as we have, and like us, they are desperately trying to fulfil orders as quickly as they can. I have heard first hand that even some of the biggest spirit brands have been hit by the same delays, leading to stock shortages on shop shelves.

However, I guess that we shouldn’t be complaining about having too many orders….

Strange shed….

June 23rd, 2021 | Oddballs

This has nothing to do with wine…. On my way to work every day I pass this strange new building, which has been under construction for several months now. The thing that I found most odd was that, located at the very heart of the building is a 40ft shipping container (I posted a photo some time ago). Around this was built a metal skeleton, followed by layers of odd building materials, galvanised metal, wood, aluminium, then more wood as its outer shell. As they added the roof the structure actually started to take on a more ‘normal’ outward appearance, although I still can’t forget that there’s a shipping container right at its core.

So as the construction slowly took shape my favourite past-time became trying to guess its final function. My thinking was, originally, along the lines of some sort of storage shed – until they added some large windows at the front and then finally put a sign on the fence. Apparently it is going to be a café/bar!

On face value it’s in a bit of an odd location (near a motorway exit, albeit not intended for motorists). The reality is however, that it’s actually quite near to ‘La Ruta da Pedra e da Auga‘ (the route of stone and water). The Ruta is an 8km hiking path that runs alongside the Armenteira river through the municipalities of Ribadumia and Meis. It is extremely picturesque and comes highly recommended, but please note that it is, in fact, a well-known tourist attraction, and that the calm and tranquility can be a bit spoilt at peak times of year simply by the large number of visitors.

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).

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