90’s all ’round

June 24th, 2019 | Press

For once, when I say that we are “in the 90’s”, I don’t mean our weather, but rather our wines!

As you must know by now, I have never been a great fan of wine awards and the Parker point system. Indeed, it would appear that I am not alone in this new way of thinking. Only this week the well-known and respected food and wine critic of the New York Times, Eric Asimov wrote (and I quote verbatim): “Dreary scores and tasting notes are of little long-term use to consumers. What they need most are inspiration and liberation”. On my part, when people ask me what wines they should drink, my advice has always been the same. Drink what you enjoy; and I say that simply because I know that everyone’s palate is different. And of course, that’s just one of the joys of wine – don’t be afraid to pull a few corks and judge for yourself! (Don’t let someone else judge for you).

Meantime, back at the tastings, we actually submitted three wines to this year’s Guia Peñin 2020. It’s not so much that we are desperate for points or publicity, but it’s merely a yardstick for us, to see where we stand. We didn’t do too badly either. All three wines, Castro Martin Family Estate, A2O and Casal Caeiro emerged with 90 points – consistent if nothing else! The interesting point is, that when comparing the price points of the other wines at 90 points or above, our wines were by far the best value for money. And that’s what it’s all about…. great quality at a fair price.

 

Savagnin (No, not a spelling mistake!)

June 18th, 2019 | Uncategorized

Savagnin is actually the grape that was confused by the Australians for a number of years as being Albariño. I should add that it was not their fault – the vine cuttings were supplied to growers by their own Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation back in the 1980’s, and were actually mistakenly identified as Albariño. It wasn’t until 2009 that the mistake was discovered and confirmed by DNA testing.

Following this discovery, subsequent wines produced from these vines could only be labelled as Savagnin or Traminer… not quite the same.

Of course, Savagnin is better known for some of the wonderful wine of the Jura region of France.

Please read this very interesting Decanter article to learn more.

Goodbye Miguel

June 10th, 2019 | Weather

I am not sure which changes faster – the weather forecast, or the weather itself, but I do know that the forecasters for Galicia often have problems keeping up. The weather here can change in a heartbeat, the problem being that it is not always predicted.

At the beginning of last week our forecast was for clear skies and sunshine, but then, almost within hours, this prediction had changed to include the possibility of some rain. By the time it finally arrived it had transformed itself into a full-blown (named), storm, with driving rain and high winds. Storm ‘Miguel’, blew in during Thursday afternoon, a little earlier than predicted, with high winds and torrential downpours, but then blew out, almost as quickly as it had appeared. Within hours ‘Miguel’ had vanished, leaving behind our current period of unsettled weather, as it tracked off towards the UK. (Today’s image is a screenshot showing precipitation over Galicia at the peak of the storm).

Thankfully, our flowering period was already behind us, and so this Spanish storm has caused no lasting damage to our vineyards.

Sulphur top-up

June 3rd, 2019 | Technical

These days, a number of people have strong views about the use of sulphur in wine making, indeed, some people have a very low tolerance to it and can suffer side-effects as a consequence. Of course, used at the correct dosage, it is a very effective way to protect wine, preventing oxidation, which is why it has been widely accepted for so long in our industry. The key is using the correct amount. Too little and it won’t really be effective, whilst too much can more or less ‘kill’ a wine completely, so much so that it may never recover.

The presence is always most noticeable when it has just been added. I have no doubt that many a consumer will have received a quick waft of sulphur immediately after pulling the cork. However, given a little time this will dissipate (assuming that the wine hasn’t been over-sulphured)!

A week or two ago we ‘racked’ a few wines from their lees, and transferred them to clean tanks. Any time a wine is moved around the cellar, not only can it lose aroma, but it will also lose a few grams of sulphur too – thereby losing protection at the time it most needs it (during a period of tank storage).

Sulphur is available in a few different forms – one is pure sulphur, which is delivered in tanks and is extremely dangerous. Another is a diluted liquid solution. Usually when a wine requires a significant dose (at the end of fermentation for example) we will use the pure gas form. Whereas when the wine has just been moved and only requires a very small top-up, in this case we prefer the solution form, when we can really be more accurate (the unit of measurement is ppm – parts per million). To put this into perspective, sometimes we may only be adding a few millilitres of sulphur solution to a tank containing 9 or 10,000 litres of wine to move the level by one or two ppm!

Champions of Europe!!

June 2nd, 2019 | International News

MY TEAM – NO WORDS!!!

Destination Middle East!

May 27th, 2019 | Bodega

At the very end of last week we loaded a full container bound for the Middle East! Of course, it was a refrigerated container, as it will almost certainly cross the Mediterranean before navigating the Suez Canal on it’s route. Who knows what exterior temperatures it might encounter, but at least we know the wine will be quite safe inside, preserved at a cool 10°C (50°F).

The other really ‘cool’ part of the journey (pun intended) is that we will be able to track it’s progress online. We have the name of the ship, and by visiting marinetraffic.com we will be able to follow our container mile by mile along it’s route. The technology is amazing as always!

It has taken some time to get this order co-ordinated and ready to go, especially as we have learned that they have strict rules about the documentation – every ‘i’ has to be dotted and every ‘t’ crossed (and also certified officially by the local Chamber of Commerce). Having said that, it was a very good order and so all the effort has been well worth it!

2018 Alcohol

May 21st, 2019 | Harvest

Galician weather is always difficult to predict at the best of times – for example, at this very moment we are experiencing some significant shifts of temperature, sometimes within the very same day. Our vines are certainly quite advanced for the time of year, and in some small pockets we are already seeing the onset of flowering. This could equate to a harvest at the very beginning of September if the weather behaves as it should. Vamos a ver (we will see).

However, the reason I am writing about alcohol is actually because of what happened during the summer of 2018. After poor spring and cool early summer the 2018 vintage was largely saved by a late burst of sun and warmth in August and early September. So much so that the final, very rapid maturation of the fruit actually took many by surprise, and at least some of the resulting albariño grapes were picked with between 13° and 14° potential alcohol!

Of course, here at Castro Martin we always to our very best to retain the typicity of our grape and our denomination, but even we struggled to pick all of our fruit before it ‘overcooked’!

Last week we racked a number of our 2018 tanks, removing them from the lees. The first step following this is to have every wine analysed, running tests for every parameter including stability. The results were all very good, with the key elements exactly at the correct levels in relation to one another, meaning that the wines are well balanced. The only slightly a-typical aspect was the alcohol, with a couple of wines just touching the 13% mark (not perhaps for the very first time, but certainly not within the last 17 years that I have been in Galicia).

We will need to adjust some of our 2018 labels accordingly.

Another planet…

May 14th, 2019 | Press

There are some days when I read something that someone writes about albariño, that well, just leaves me scratching my head in puzzlement. For the purposes of this post there is absolutely no need to name name’s or to point accusing fingers, but simply read this and see if you agree.

“If you like Sauvignon blanc, you will love Albarino. It is like a red in white’s clothing. This is the most widely planted white grape variety in Spain. It is rich and full-bodied like a red wine but tart and crisp on the finish like a white.”

In all my year’s in the wine trade I have never heard of any white wine being described as a red in white’s clothing, let alone an albariño. Rich and full-bodied like a red? I really have no idea what this means, because in my opinion it’s certainly not accurate and possibly even misleading. Perhaps I am just living in the wrong universe, or maybe just speak a different (wine) language!

But thereby lies the problem. Sometimes a little knowledge in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing, especially in the age of the internet where any individual can potentially have easy access to a large audience. Having said that, I am sure that this type of commentary is not unique to the wine business.

The Road to Madrid – what a night!

May 8th, 2019 | Odds & Sods

Another amazing European night at Anfield!! OK, so I am sure that maybe a few people don’t even know what Anfield is (nothing to do with wine, by the way)… it is the home of my beloved Liverpool FC.

A few weeks ago I drove down to Porto to watch them in their last Champions League game, which they won 4-1. Last night, in the semi-final, it was a completely different story. After playing the first game of a two game tie in Barcelona, they were 3-0 down, and so in the return game at Anfield they had to win at least 4-0 to qualify for the final. Which is exactly what they did!

Few experts gave them much chance, and certainly none of the Barcelona team or supporters expected it, but in a breathtaking, pulsating game, they were blown away by a brilliant Liverpool team, and an atmosphere that was so electric I could feel it in Pontevedra!

It could take me a few days to recover….

Ageing is at an end….

May 7th, 2019 | Bodega

As though we could ever forget, wine making is an annual cycle, and often, when I am writing our posts, I feel as though I am repeating myself (which is clearly the case, and not simply down to my old age!).

For example, we have today started to rack the first of our 2018 wines. After around 8 months resting quietly on their lees, we have finally started to transfer the first few tanks – leaving the lees at the bottom, and effectively skimming the clean wine off the top and moving it to clean tanks. Once this process has been completed, then these clean tanks will not be touched or moved again until we prepare them for bottling. The objective being, as always, to restrict the movement and  handling to the absolute minimum, which is of course, fundamental in a white wine cellar (reducing the risk of oxidation as much as humanly possible).

Today’s photo (just in case you had not seen this before), shows the lees left at the bottom of the tank – not pretty and not particularly drinkable either! Despite the fact that it takes the form of a brown/grey sludge with quite a thick consistency, it’s usefulness is still not at an end. This sludge will be collected in containers and sent to our local distillery to be used for making aguardiente. As you may gather, almost nothing is wasted, and everything is re-cycled or re-used wherever possible.

By the way, that is not dirt or rust on the inner walls of the tank, these are simply the tartrate crystals (potassium bitartrate) formed by the cold temperatures used during fermentation and ageing.

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