Brexit fatigue…

August 22nd, 2019 | Business

Without any doubt, for the people of the UK, Brexit has become the biggest political debate of all time. It has divided friends, families, regions of the country, businesses and most significantly, the politicians of the UK Parliament. Never have opinions been so polarised, and never has one subject dominated the headlines for such a long time. I think it’s probably fair to say that the majority of British (and some EU) citizens have had enough, and are simply tried of hearing about it every waking moment of the day (despite the fact that it will ultimately determine the future of their country).

Without mentioning the pro’s and con’s of Brexit, my intention is simply to write briefly about how this might effect the way in which we trade with the UK.

Firstly, if the UK does not remain a part of the Customs Union, then the export process itself will be come slightly more complicated. Whilst, in theory at least, there is currently free trade between member states and goods can circulate freely within EU borders, there is still a significant paper trail that needs to be completed. However, once this is done our wines can move quite easily from ‘tax warehouse’ to ‘tax warehouse’ (warehouses using the system need to be inspected and approved). If the UK drops out of the union, then not only will the paperwork change, but potentially there could be huge queues of trucks waiting to have their loads (not just wine) checked and cleared at the port of entry. Motorways approaching the ports could quickly become huge lorry parks…..

The final complication is currency. Whilst the UK has never entered the monetary system, and still retains the GB Pound, money markets are now more volatile than ever. Uncertainty has resulted in a significant drop in the value of Sterling against the Euro, meaning that all goods purchased abroad have now suddenly become more expensive for UK importers. This increase will have to be paid by someone, and I’m very afraid to say that this will most probably be the poor end consumer!

Harvest Prep

August 13th, 2019 | Bodega

Work in the vineyard is now complete – between now and the harvest (in about four or five weeks time) there is almost nothing more that we can do. Nature will run its course until the time that we pick. In this way our attention now turns to the preparation of the bodega, not only scrubbing the tanks inside and out, but making sure that every wall, every floor and every piece of equipment is as clean as it can be.

In a way, preparation in our tank room has been underway for months. The movement of every wine is calculated and choreographed to ensure that, not only is the wine moved as little as possible (to avoid potential oxidation), but also that it ends up in the right place, as we systematically vacate tanks in the areas designated for the arrival of this year’s new grape must.

Over the last few days, the deep cleaning process has begun, albeit that later this week we will be closing the bodega for a short 10 day break. This will be the last opportunity for our team to rest their bones, and weather permitting, take a bit of sun, before our 2019 campaign gets underway. Of course, there will still be a huge amount of preparation work to undertake when we re-open but at least we have made a start.

In today’s picture you can see our tanks gleaming, almost ‘Van Gogh stylie’…… (thanks PhotoShop!)


Cambados tasting 2019

August 5th, 2019 | Denomination

Every year, as part of the Annual albariño festival, there is a ‘Tunnel of Wine’ tasting. There are usually between 150 and 200 wine to taste, the majority being albariño and mostly from the current vintage – this year the 2018’s. In addition there are a number of blended wines (many that include albariño in the mix), a table of red Rias Baixas wines, a table of sparkling wines, and three tables of older vintages (often presented as the ‘prestige’, limited edition wines).

If you refer to my recent notes about the 2018 vintage, you may have read that I consider 2018 to be a-typical, and this theory was largely supported by the tasting. For example, there were very few albariños in the room with less than 13% alcohol, some with 13.5% and even one or two with 14%. In circumstances such as this then it is really down to the winemaker, and how they are able to ‘handle’ the alcohol and ensure that it is well-integrated into the finished wine. For example, there can be nothing worse than an albariño with alcoholic ‘afterburn’ (a slight burning sensation in the throat), in a wine that is normally considered to be light, clean and refreshing.

Of course, many of the top bodegas have still made very good wines (albeit there were also one or two slight disappointments). On the other hand, there were also a few wines that provided a pleasant surprise too – always an opportunity to discover something new or perhaps a label that you didn’t really know before.

Having said that, the best wine in the entire tasting was a 2015 wine on the prestige table. Although I must also say, trying to be completely objective for a moment, that our very own 2018 Castro Martin fared rather well too – certainly in my own top 10!

2018 Vintage

July 29th, 2019 | Tasting

Now that the 2018 vintage has been fully launched into the market, I thought that it might be a good time to write a few follow up notes about the finished wines that we are now selling. Of course, it’s true that we’re not too far away from picking the 2019, but obviously, owing to our extended lees contact, the 2018 wines are only just out there.

I especially wanted to write about our 2018 albariño because it is, in many ways, an a-typical wine – not a bad wine, just a bit different from the ‘norm’. In this case the difference stems entirely from the weather in the period leading up to picking. After a comparatively poor early summer, the months of August and September turned a potentially average vintage into something quite different (and unexpected). The hot weather accelerated ripening of the fruit, so much so that the finally maturation was super-quick and the window for optimum harvesting was actually quite short. Indeed, it was every man (and his dog), out picking as quickly as humanly possible. Despite these super-human efforts, the harvested fruit was still extremely ripe, with a slightly higher potential alcohol and marginally lower acidity than normal.

In my own textbook, the ideal range of alcohol for an albariño would be between 11.5% and 12.5%. In 2018 we have around 13%. The first impression when tasting our 2018 wine is ripe, concentrated fruit, with perhaps a bit more weight and body than we have come to expect. From this ripeness comes a sensation of sweetness, but this is simply an illusion. Analysis reveals that our finished 2018 wines have between 2 and 5g/l of residual sugar (normally considered to be dry). The albariño grape naturally has a very intense fruit, which in more typical vintages would be very ‘focused’ and is not usually described as being as rich. In this vintage the apparent richness comes, of course, from the elevated alcohol, giving the wine a touch more viscosity and greater ‘mouthfeel’. Despite these slightly a-typical characteristics the wine still has a good, fresh acidity on the finish, albeit slightly shrouded by the ripeness of the fruit.

In summary, our 2018 wines are very good, easy drinking and quite approachable from the very beginning of their life-cycle. In some vintages, when the wines are a less ripe (and more typical), they can have a slightly ‘angular’ edge to them, which can sometimes take a little time in bottle to ’round off’ and soften. In 2018 this is not the case.


The cracks are appearing….

July 23rd, 2019 | Bodega

It’s not only wine making that we do here at Castro Martin, occasionally we have to catch up on a bit of maintenance as well. At times our guys are spread pretty thinly as we move from one chore to the next. One day they could be in the vineyard, the next could be bottling, or a bit of building work, or a bit pf painting – and so on. I think it would be fair to say that no two days are ever quite the same.

Over the last months, possibly year or so, cracks have appeared in one of our walls, that could, in some way, be attributed to the extreme temperatures that are ‘captured’ by the front of our building. I say captured simply because it’s a real sun trap. Facing directly south, with no shade at all, and with our white walls focusing the heat, the outside temperature can easily hit 40°C (104°F) on some summer days. And don’t even mention the temperature of our cars. The door handles and steering wheel can almost be too hot to touch! So this heat could certainly be one of the contributory factors in creating our cracks…

Yesterday we started on a few repairs, as this wall needed repainting anyway. Cutting channels (that looked a little like Frankenstein’s monster), and ‘stapling’ it to stop the cracks from spreading further….. simple! Once complete, we will paint with a special, weather resistant paint. Job complete, and on to the next.

If it’s good enough for the Pope…

July 18th, 2019 | International News

The relationship between the church and wine making is, of course, common knowledge. When the Popes themselves were installed in Avignon in the 14th Century they had a great fondness for the wines of Burgundy, and it wasn’t too long before the they established their own, slightly more local vineyards, around the newly constructed castle of Châteauneuf, mid-way between Avignon and Orange. By 1936 Châteauneuf-du-Pape became the first official wine-making Appellation (AOC) of France. This was done not only to improve quality, but also to protect the name and the reputation of their wines from fraudulent copies.

Today there is still a wine made in the region (by Château Sixtine) called Cuvée du Vatican. and it is no secret that the current Pope, Pope Francis, is quite fond of an odd glass of wine (also sustainable coffee), although we can’t confirm any personal leanings toward the wines of Rias Baxias. He recently said “Water is needed to live, but wine expresses the abundance of the banquet and joy of the celebration,” and later concluding, “Wine is necessary for the celebration.”

It is a sentiment that certainly has my blessing!

So WHY did the chicken cross the road?

July 11th, 2019 | Oddballs

…..To buy a really good Castro Martin albariño of course!

A few days ago we welcomed a rather unexpected visitor to our door, actually quite ready to step inside if we hadn’t stopped him (or was it her?) It was the proverbial chicken, quite literally crossing the road in front of our bodega – perhaps just to get to the other side, or maybe in an attempt to escape the oven? (Sorry, that’s a very cruel thing to say, even if possibly true). Subsistence farming is still very common practice in many rural parts of Galicia. The good news is that we simply returned this poor lost soul to the coop.

Meanwhile, it seems that summer could be here! As I have mentioned before, we managed to escape completely from the recent freak heatwave that gripped the rest of Europe for a while. Indeed, we actually experienced a few cool cloudy days over this period. However, we now have sun and temperatures approaching 30°C (86°F), or at least we do for the rest of this week. Who knows what next week might bring?

In the vineyards our fruit is actually quite healthy, despite the changeable conditions, and is well into it’s growing cycle. The next month or two will therefore, be focused on ‘canopy management’ – thinning the leaves where necessary to give the bunches the correct amount of sunlight.

France is frying!

July 4th, 2019 | International News

Last weekend we braced ourselves for a blast of super-hot weather, swept up from Africa. Whilst many parts of Europe were experiencing record temperatures for the month of June, Galicia escaped almost completely unscathed with temperatures only reaching the mid-20’s C. In some parts of the South of France however, the thermometer hit an incredible 45.9°C (114.6°F), not only posing a threat to human life, but also quite devastating for farmers, including the local grape/wine producers.

When tasting wine we sometimes refer to it having a ‘cooked’ or overripe flavour, which can often originate from exposure to excessive sunshine. It is irreversible – once the fruit is burnt, it’s burnt, and if these grapes are used in making a wine, they can and will produce a marked flavour (which is usually quite unpleasant). For example, cooked or burnt Syrah grapes will produce a smoky, black, rubbery taste.

So whilst grapes require heat and sunshine to reach the correct maturity, these periods of excessive temperature will only serve to damage the vineyards.

End of an era

July 1st, 2019 | Bodega

We’ve been working on updating our ‘salon’ (meeting room, tasting area) for some time now. As two or three of our own team are already highly-skilled builders we made a decision to keep the work in-house. The only downside to this is that these same guys have to simultaneously continue with their normal chores, both in the vineyards and the bodega. This means, of course, that the work has not progressed as quickly as if we had used outside contractors. However, on the plus side, we know that they are doing a good job (quite unlike some of the shoddy workmanship that we have uncovered during these alterations)!

Take our tasting bar for example. It seems that we have dismantled it just in time – before it actually fell down of it’s own accord! The tiled surface on the front and sides was actually glued to very poor quality chipboard, that we now know was completely rotten and crumbling. Indeed, when we removed the tiles, they were already more or less falling off by themselves!

So, after more than 30 years of tastings and probably thousands of opened bottles, the old bar is no more, and we are currently working on several design options for it’s eventual replacement. Watch this space….


June 26th, 2019 | Business

The aviation research firm Skytrax announced its 2019 ranking of the best airlines in the world on Tuesday.

In first place was our newest customer – Qatar Airways, where our Castro Martin wine will very soon be served in their First Class cabins. We send them our warmest congratulations!

It goes without saying that we have offered our own services at any time to conduct free in-flight tutored tastings!

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