Put the batteries!

February 11th, 2020 | Bodega

In Spanish, if you want to encourage someone to ‘get a move on’, one of the expressions that is used is “ponte las pilas”, which translated means ‘put the batteries’. Today at Castro Martin, we were, quite literally, putting the batteries!

We have a small, electric pallet truck that we use for stacking our stock in the bodega. Technically, I think it is known as a pedestrian operated pallet truck, simply as it is not a model that you can actually sit on. Like all re-chargeable electric vehicles, it’s battery has a limited ‘shelf-life’ which, not unlike your mobile phone, will eventually stop holding a charge (or at least charge for such a short time that it becomes almost redundant). Our pallet truck has now reached that point.

The replacement battery was sent in advance, so that it would be ready, in situ, for the technician to simply come and install. Although, as often happens, things are never quite that simple…. Firstly, we had to use a second forklift just to hmanoeuvre the super-heavy battery in and out of our small machine. Then, having taken out the old one, we lowered the new one into position, only to discover that the manufacturer had sent the wrong size (and capacity) for the model we have!

At the end of all this time and effort, we eventually ended up exactly where we started – with a battery that doesn’t hold its charge.

It’s over!

February 7th, 2020 | Business

After year’s of discussion, debate, argument (and perhaps just a little coercion), Brexit is finally done… on paper at least. Of course, there are still a further 11 months of negotiation to complete before we finally know how the UK economy will emerge from this, the biggest political upheaval in modern history.

At midnight last Friday (11pm UK time) it was all over, with perhaps just 52% of the UK population in celebration whilst the other 48% were possibly still reeling in shock and disbelief. To say that the UK was polarised by this event is something of an understatement. Crowds gathered, corks were popped – some for joy, others in consolation. Some wanted bells to ring out around the nation, whilst others held candlelit vigils. It was a moment of great division.

In reality, after all the brouhaha, the ‘celebrations’ ended up being a bit of a non-event. For me, there was one person in particular who summed up the moment beautifully by offering us the best possible solution – “we’ll just have a cup of tea and go to bed”!

For now at least, we have no real option but to sit back and see what the future brings for our trade with the UK.

Unpredictable as always

January 31st, 2020 | Weather

What a difference a week makes! I just thought I would post a couple of very recent photos – on the left, from last week, and on the right from yesterday, simply to illustrate what it can be like to live near the Ocean. This is by no means to show how beautiful it can be, but really to demonstrate how it can change from day-to-day, often without warning, and sometimes within hours.

Of course this is Galicia, and so these changes are quite normal (especially in winter). In summer, however, it is not always easy to work with these sudden variations, when alternating heat and humidity can wreak havoc in the vineyards, providing perfect conditions for disease.

As pruning continues, our guys in the vineyards soldier on, come rain or shine!

Scam e-mails

January 23rd, 2020 | Competitions

Of course, like every other business we get a lot of spam e-mail (despite all sorts of protection and filters!). Some of these mails are simply annoying, others malicious, requesting that we click onto some spurious link, and then finally, there are the scams. These arrive in many different guises, some quite sophisticated whilst others are downright stupid and obvious. For example, the classic – winning $10 million for a lottery that you never entered!

One of the latest scams, that I receive quite regularly now, is for wine competitions….. Someone has finally twigged that wine competitions are big business, and that there is a lot of money to be made. The problem is the way that it has been done. Quite unconvincing invitations with scant detail, requesting that we pay only 1 Euro deposit to enter, and then pay a full fee after we receive the result. My belief is, of course, that anyone stupid enough to enter, will almost certainly be guaranteed to win an award!

The format is just a simple text e-mail, and thereby lies the second mistake. These invitations arrive in groups, and within a period of 24 hours we will receive invitations for China, Singapore and Japan, all using an identical mail, with only the names and addresses changed in each one. The sponsoring publications for these competitions are quite obvious false – “Shanghai Paper, Singapore Newspaper and Business News Japan”. They don’t even bother to create convincing names!

In a second group of mails, we will receive invites for the UK and USA. This time for the “London Newspaper and America Wines Paper”. Not at all convincing.

Oh, and by the way, the wine samples for EVERY competition, regardless of the country, are apparently gathered in one place…. in Paris. Seems like someone in Paris could be enjoying a big party with free wine!

Impromptu tasting….

January 13th, 2020 | Oddballs

The other day, completely out of the blue, I was invited to a tasting. That, in itself, would not seem odd, except that this was a tasting of the Aglianico grape, on this occasion made in the Puglia region of south-east Italy! An old and very well-known variety in Italy, Aglianico is characterised by its deep crimson colour, together with an unexpectedly high level of tannin and acidity (making wines with excellent ageing potential, and explaining why it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Barolo of the South’). This tasting however, was not of mature wine, but young, raw wines exclusively of the 2019 vintage – a bit ‘mouth-puckering’ to say the least!

Please don’t ask me why there would be a tasting of young Italian wines in a fairly remote part of Galicia, but suffice to say that it was held at the oenological research centre here in Ribadumia. Not, I should add, anything to do with the possibility of planting Aglianico here in our region, but rather as part of a private research project – I was simply a guest taster. Of course, as a former wine buyer, I had actually bought wines of this grape/region for my former Company, and, I suspect, that I may have been the only taster in the room with previous knowledge of this grape!

It’s been a while!

January 8th, 2020 | Festivo

It seems that the Christmas holidays get longer and longer each year, and that pretty soon we will need re-training when we eventually arrive back at work.

The evening of 24th December is an important celebration here in Spain, and is always accompanied by a huge family meal. Throughout Spain (not only in Galicia), the tradition is to eat an enormous amount of seafood as a starter, when we obviously hope that this will be washed down with an odd glass of albariño or two – the perfect accompaniment.

The second part of the ‘festivos’ is New Year’s Eve, where, like everyone else, the Spanish greet the start of the New Year. Unlike other countries, however, the celebration usually kicks off with yet another big family meal, and yet more seafood.

As if that wasn’t enough the Spanish holiday period is extended into January by Reyes – the day of Epiphany when the Three Wise Men arrive at the Nativity bearing gifts. Of course, this give rise to yet another big family meal, and in some households is the time when Christmas gifts are actually exchanged.

All in all, it is a very drawn out holiday period, and to be honest it is almost a relief to be back at work!

Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

December 23rd, 2019 | Festivo

In these days of political correctness I am never quite sure exactly what greeting we should use over the winter holidays. These days it appears that whatever we say that we run the risk of offending someone, and so the only possible solution is to find something transgression-neutral!

A few days ago I was in a shop when I saw a sign that said “Merry Everything and a Happy Always!”. OK, it sounds like something straight out of a Disney movie (and perhaps it could be?), but then I thought that not only was it appropriate, but that it also appeared to cover all the bases too. So I requisitioned this phraseology for my own purposes!

In the hope that you are not offended in any way, I would now invite you to read this article that I think reflects perfectly what I am attempting to say about our attitudes to religion and how that relates to political correctness.

Happy holidays!





December 16th, 2019 | Vineyards

For the last couple of weeks our team have been out in the vineyards starting the long, labourious task of pruning our vines. As I say nearly every year, this really is a neck/back breaking, thankless job, especially as we appear to have returned to our more traditional Galician autumn/winter weather – cold and wet!

I mentioned a few days ago that during the first days of December we finally welcomed a little sunshine (after a month or more of continuous rain). Well, this respite was short-lived. The rain has now returned, and once again our guys will be working with the rain in their faces!

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!


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