More prizes!

December 11th, 2019 | Competitions

I keep repeating in my posts that we are not great supporters of wine competitions, and it seems that no sooner have I said this that we win another medal! In fairness I should say to say that we do sometimes submit wines to tastings and publications that we really believe in, or in some instances the tastings that a particular importer might believe is important to their market (or sector of their market). For example, many of of importers work in the hotel/restaurant sector, and so it would make perfect sense to enter our wines into tastings or competitions organised, or perhaps judged by sommeliers from their locality.

In the last week or so we have picked up a further two gold medals (one for each of the two wines that we entered), awarded to us by the Guia Paadín 2020. Whilst many people will not know this particular guide, it is a local entity that focuses entirely on local wines, and is therefore highly respected in our region, and around Spain.

I guess that, in the end, we must be doing something right!

First Frost

December 4th, 2019 | Vineyards

I think that it would be fair to say that November was the wettest month that we have had for some time – probably even wetter than any single month of last winter. There was hardly a day that passed when it didn’t rain. It was grey, damp and cold; all the characteristics of a typical Galician winter. However, after two very dry summers, it was really what we needed, in order to at least begin the job of replenishing our somewhat depleted water table. Having said that I rather suspect that we will need even more rain over the coming months to complete the task.

The beginning of December has at least provided at least a little respite. For the last couple of days the sky has been blue and the late autumn landscape has taken on a whole new complexion. (It’s amazing how just a little sun can change the whole atmosphere of a place – especially after such a prolonged dull and damp period).

Inevitably, with the bright skies come the cold temperatures, and today we witnessed our first ground frost of the year. With our pruning already underway I am sure that our guys working in the vineyard will prefer cold and sunny to grey and wet!

 

What colour is your day?

December 2nd, 2019 | Odds & Sods

Today is, of course, Cyber Monday, an opportunity for retailers to offer even more discounts supposedly on ‘tech’ goods, albeit the reality is that this now includes any other product or service under the sun. My two favourite reductions to date have been seen in a local car park offering discounted parking, and a hairdresser with a 2 for 1 offer (although I’m not quite sure how that would work – two haircuts on the same day, or maybe bring a friend?).

Anyway, it seems that more and more observers (including the press), are now viewing these ‘Black’ days and ‘Cyber’ days as just a cynical exploitation of consumers, and that many of the bargains on offer are simply not bargains at all. In addition to this, the larger retailers are not simply restricting it to a one day, one-off sale, but they are extending their Black days into a week or sometimes even more.

The latest development I have noticed is that a few traders are already trying to re-invent this slightly over exploited concept by changing the name. For example, last week I received discounted offers for Black Friday, Yellow Friday, Blue Friday and Green Friday!

I guess that normal business might not resume until January, after all the holidays are done for the year….

Happy Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2019 | Festivo

We wish all our friends and customers in the United States a very Happy Thanksgiving!

So what are we in Europe thankful for? Perhaps for Donald J. Trump for keeping us all entertained? (I was very tempted to post the photo of his latest incarnation as Rock Balboa, but decided that I should add a serious picture instead!)

Today’s picture features the latest marketing campaign from our D.O. office, claiming that the albariño of Rias Baixas “Goes with everything”…. Whilst I might not personally agree 100% with that claim, it would certainly not go too badly with your Thanksgiving turkey!

Elves at work!

November 25th, 2019 | Festivo

Our Christmas/Holiday orders here at Castro Martin can usually be split into more or less two main categories – palletised orders that are shipped overseas, and the domestic gift market.

Our overseas orders are already long-gone, indeed, the planning and preparation of these orders started some months ago. Of course transit times vary according to where the importer is located, but obviously they have to make sure that their stock is already in place long before the holiday rush begins. (Bear in mind that for our restaurant customers the office Christmas party season starts long before 25th December).

On the other hand our Christmas gift market here in Spain is quite another story. Whilst we are very grateful for every order that we get, we actually receive quite a number of them at the last minute. In these circumstances all we can do is to make sure that we have all the materials (and people) available to set up our mini ‘production line’ for making gift packs. Today’s photo shows a large, recent order, thankfully received in plenty of time and already with our customer.

Humble Pie

November 18th, 2019 | Competitions

Only a few days ago I said that points and medals were not our ‘raison d’être’ here at Castro Martin. Of course, as luck would have it, just a few days later, we win accolades for two or our wines!

Back in the summer I submitted a couple of bottles to the Wines from Spain Awards, organised by ICEX in London. These awards were quite different in that they were judging all the wines of Spain and not only albariños. Of course, the wines were categorised and tasted in organised flights, but the objective was to simply identify the best wines of Spain, regardless of whether their origin was Catalonia, La Mancha or Galicia.

In the end, there were no Gold, Silver of Bronze medals, just the top 100 Wine from Spain (judged by a few notable MW’s) Result?……

The two wines that we submitted were BOTH voted into the top 100, and we were the only Bodega in Galicia to achieve this distinction!

Disillusioned?

November 11th, 2019 | Competitions

In recent times I have noticed that a few reputable journalists have started to question our popular, and sometimes long-held beliefs about wine. Some of the doubts being raised are, for example, the use of points to rate wines, and more recently, the development and definition of ‘natural’ wines.

As you may already know I have never been a big fan of wines being rated or categorised by points – there are just too many possible anomalies. Some fear that the worldwide influence of the points system will eventually mean that certain styles will dominate (and possibly all taste that same), and that lighter wines could lose out, simply because they are less likely to get a attract good scores. Wine shop managers sometimes dismiss ratings as overly simplistic — numbers devoid of context, such as a wine merchant’s sense and knowledge of individual customer tastes. Finally, I have to add that over the years, points and medals have occasionally (in a few proven cases) been abused in order to mislead consumers. Conclusion? That the points system just might not be as effective as we have all come to expect.

It is the lack of official regulation or certification for using the phrase “natural wine” that has now created something of an existential crisis. It’s up to winemakers and those who sell, promote and drink their wines to decide whether a bottle fits the ‘natural’ bill. In an effort to distance themselves from this watered-down, misused and sometimes abused term, some producers who truly work with minimal intervention are now turning their backs on this new movement as a whole. For consumers, that only results in further muddying of a term and ideology that’s already steeped in confusion.

In our business we already have organic, biodynamic and sustainable wine making – the first two of these can be certified, and the third simply relies on producers to use common-sense and mindful wine making practices. However, this should not mean that we abandon or ignore the advances in wine making technology that has been made over the last decades – certainly we all want wines with character, but we also want wines that are reasonably stable and will not fall-apart too quickly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Brexit or not to Brexit…..

October 31st, 2019 | International News

The UK Prime Minister has aged noticeably during his short term in office!

…….that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, face down in a ditch…..

Sorry! I studied Shakespeare many years ago at school, and could not resist taking this well-known soliloquy and giving my own twist at the end. If you have been following Brexit then you might just understand my ditch reference.

My point is that Brexit was scheduled for today, and in the end it simply did not happen. It all now hinges on a UK General Election, the result of which is also in the balance. To say that it is a period of uncertainty would be something of an understatement. The only thing that I can say for sure is that both Castro Martin and our UK importers are prepared (or at least as best we can be)!

2019 – First taste

October 29th, 2019 | Post Harvest

A week or two ago I mentioned that our 2019 wines have finished fermenting, and so this week we have attempted our first serious tasting. It’s still very early days, but using our experience of past vintages we should be able to glean at least some idea of the overall quality of the vintage.

The first thing that I should say is that every tank is still a little saturated with CO2 (which is perfectly normal and no bad thing at this point). The wines are therefore just a bit gassy and also completely opaque. There are fine particles of yeast, bentonite etc., still ‘suspended’ in the liquid, and they will need more time to settle before the wine becomes completely limpid.

Our first sensory impressions are often those of residues of sulphur and/or yeast, but as with the opaque colour, these will dissipate over time. Our challenge at this moment is to try to ‘see through’ these minor diversions and explore the underlying wine.

The first characteristic of 2019 is the fresh, ripe, floral nose – perhaps not as full and ripe as 2018, but actually more in keeping with a typical albariño vintage. At this time there is also a noticeable saline ‘lick’ on the palate (a characteristic that I love), and more importantly the wines are well structured and balanced by a zesty, citric, green apple acidity. This green apple component is typical when the wines are very young, but this will evolve over time, more especially after our extended period of lees ageing. I always say that a good albariño can but a little ‘angular’ when it is youthful, but will always soften and that these harsh edges will round off with age.

In summary, the 2019 is actually much better than I thought it would be, in the sense that I thought it could be slightly a-typical and more like our 2018. This is not the case, and I have a feeling that we could be sitting on something very good – the only pity being that lower yields means that we have less wine that we would have liked.

We have wine!

October 17th, 2019 | Bodega

There is a moment during the fermentation when the grape juice (or must) becomes wine – obviously when the degree of alcohol in the must passes a certain point. This week we have finally reached the end of our fermentation period, and so, without hesitation, we can say that we have wine. Our 2019 albariño “est arrivé”  (as they might say in Beaujolais)! Naturally, we are quite anxious to taste the new wine to see what the harvest has given us, but to be honest, this is probably the most difficult time of their entire evolution to try to pass any definitive judgement. The wine are still cloudy, extremely raw, and full of carbon dioxide (which at this point, is no bad thing, as it helps to preserve the wine and keep it fresh). It will be at least another few weeks before we have our tasting glasses poised, ready to draw any serious conclusions.

In the meantime, our renovation and repair work continues, but as the weather has now taken a turn for the worse (some periods of heavy, wintery rain), we have now moved indoors. In our stock storage cellar, we had a bit of a problem with the penetration of damp, and so, rather than just giving the area a quick lick of paint and hoping for the best, we decided to rip the cement rendering off completely and start again. In today’s photo you can see our guys hard at work doing the preparation work – we are just so lucky to have such flexible and versatile people!

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