Harvest 2023 – Day 3

September 5th, 2023 | Bodega

After last night’s rainfall, we opened our shutters to discover a bright, sunny morning, and so we headed out to the vineyards with our fingers well and truly crossed that it would remain unchanged.

We are still rushing to gather our very best grapes before they get damaged or diluted by either rain or mildew – it is still a very dangerous time for the fruit, and if mildew does take hold then there is nothing that we can do to stop it. It simply means that we lose good, healthy grapes. If this happens then it is obviously a very big blow for our vineyard teams who have spent the last 9 or 10 months, pruning, treating, taking care of the canopy etc. Seeing all the ‘fruits’ of their labour being consumed by rot it clearly something that we are working hard to avoid (as much as we can).

In the end our third day was very uneventful, with no unusual incidents, until, say perhaps, around 5.30pm, when the rain forecast for 6pm actually started. Certainly the amount of rainfall was too significant to ignore, picking stopped, grapes were hastily covered and a truck was loaded to deliver them quickly to the bodega. In reality, perhaps only one or two hours of picking were lost.

Today’s picture is actually from our first day, when a pallet that was being unloaded, unfortunately collapsed. I posted the picture on Instagram and made a very bad joke, saying that spilling fruit on the floor has no influence at all on “terroir”. (Maybe some would argue that it does!!!)

Harvest 2023 – Day 2

September 4th, 2023 | Bodega

In the end, it took nearly all night to clear the backlog of grapes, so it was actually quite stressful on day one.

We move into day two with a slightly overcast sky, and of course the threat on rain looming on the horizon. Most of the weather websites agree that rain will come, but the big questions are, when and in what areas (rainfall can be very localised and unpredictable being so close to the Ocean).

The thing that is perhaps puzzling me the most is that the majority of bodegas have not even started picking yet, and plan to start next week. It can’t be a question of maturity, because the grapes that we have gathered so far and quite healthy and ripe. I simply don’t understand why other producers would delay?

This year, for some reason, Sunday turned out to be quite quiet and uneventful, whereas normally weekends are our busiest days. This is the time when our grape suppliers have family and friends available to help with their harvest, but apparently not so much in 2023.

The good news is that, apart from a very short sprinkling in the afternoon, we managed to dodge the rain, until that is (once all of our fruit was safely inside), it did start raining steadily as we prepared to leave for the day.

2023 Harvest – Day 1

September 3rd, 2023 | Bodega

After all the trials and tribulations of this year’s growing season, we anxiously watched all the local forecasts (albeit they were changing with every passing minute). With rain surrounding us on all sides the first suitable window appeared on Saturday 2nd September, and with deteriorating conditions threatening, we simply had to jump at the chance.

On a fairly bright and sunny morning we sent our team out into the vineyards to pick as fast as humanly possible. As we now use trucks for moving grapes the first pallets didn’t arrive until around lunchtime. We loaded the first press and the machine whirred into action…. for about a minute…. and then it stopped! Despite having both or our presses fully serviced only a week ago, it transpired that one of the circuits blew, and to cut a long story short, it took about an hour and a half to get it fixed. So then we loaded the second press…. same result… but this time a different piece. What a start!

The problem is that when the presses stop working, for whatever reason, we start to accumulate a backlog of grapes in the reception. Once this backlog occurs we never really catch up, and end up playing Tetris with pallets of grapes to fit them all in.

The good news is that after the first pressings the grape must looks very good, surprisingly viscous and sweet, after all the problems of our summer weather. Clearly, it is only the first day and we will have to wait to see if we can dodge the rain before we can make any definitive judgement on our 2023 vintage.

Harvest 2023

September 2nd, 2023 | Bodega

So today, we are finally ready to start our 2023 harvest. This year’s growing season has been complicated to say the least, and even in the run up to today, it still is!

Pretty much since the moment our vines sprang into life in March it has been one of the most difficult and unpredictable years, meteorologically, that we have ever had. Temperatures have been up and down, rainfall has been on and off, and weather forecasts have been largely useless, changing on almost an hourly basis. Of course, these are largely the worst possible conditions for grape growing. Indeed, very recently I heard one of my favourite quotes ever (made by another producer). He said that it was like “a jacuzzi for mildew”!! (If it wasn’t so serious, and so true, I would be having a good laugh). Suffice to say that, very much against our natural instincts, we have been obliged to give treatments, if only to preserve our crop.

The last few weeks have been largely dry, but with some wild fluctuations of temperature. Two weeks ago we had a couple of days at around 38°C (100°F), and then just a few days later it was down to 21°C (38°F). As the fruit started to reach full maturity we started to take samples (by this time we already knew that the harvest would be early), with a view to planning the actual picking. We decided that the very start of September seemed most likely, but then we looked at the forecasts! At more or less the exact time that we had projected, days of rain were forecast.

The solution we decided, would be to wait until the last possible moment, and then throw every resource possible at getting our fruit in as quickly as possible. So that is our mission for today – fingers crossed.

5 Top albariño wines that should be on your radar…..

August 23rd, 2023 | International News


5 Top albariño wines that should be on your radar…..

Bodegas Castro Martin, Family Estate 2020, Cambados, Val Do Salnés

One of the 30 founding wineries of the DO, this producer celebrated its first vintage in 1982. This was a time where it was widely accepted that wines from Rías Baixas needed to be drunk within 6 to 12 months. Bodegas Castro Martin went against tradition, ageing their wines on the lees for 6-8 months and not releasing them to the market until May the following year. Their mantra that Albariño does have ageing potential has finally been accepted by some producers across the region, and they remain one of the champions of this style. On the nose you’re still getting fresh apples, pears, peaches, lemons, but this time with a touch of smoke. Regardless of ageing, there is saltiness and this fabulous acidity and minerality from the soil. Apparently an utter joy with a plate of oysters.

Túnel vision!

August 9th, 2023 | Denomination

Well, last weekend we celebrated the annual Albariño Festival here in Galicia, or in Cambados to be more precise. The programme of events included one of my very favourite tastings of the year, when it is possible to taste more than 150 wines (mostly albariño) under one roof. It is known as the Tunnel of Wine, and has grown in popularity over the last 12 years, since the idea was originally conceived. Entry is now controlled to a maximum number of tasters during each session, but for me the solution is, and always has been, to arrive early and start at 11am prompt when the doors open. In this way I can normally taste in relative peace and quite for the first hour or so, and by that time I usually completed a few tables and so am well away from the entrance door.

I think that I have always said, since my very first taste of the tanks, that I consider the 2022 vintage to be pretty good, and this was indeed reflected in my notes. Overall the standard of 2022 wines is quite a bit higher than 2021 (which, after all, had proved to be quite a difficult vintage), and I believe that there were quite a few potential stars in the making – including our own Castro Martin wines, of course!

As more and more consumers are coming to realise, albariño wines from the Rias Baixas denomination can, and do improve with age, albeit some much better than others (it really depends on the producer and the style of wine they make). I fully believe however, that our own Family Estate wine could evolve into something really exceptional over the next year or two. Only time will tell.

The tools are out!

July 31st, 2023 | Bodega

After a few weeks of good weather the last week or so has been very unsettled…. again. The rain we have had has not been particularly heavy, but certainly enough to penetrate the canopy, thereby creating the conditions that we dread the most – humidity!

The well-known British journalist Tim Atkin MW was visiting our region last week (we shared a very nice dinner with him), and so he was able to witness first hand the weather conditions that I had described to him over our meal. It certainly has not been easy for us so far this year, and at this point we probably only have about one month left to run before harvest.

It is a little strange, considering the conditions, that the harvest will be so early (probably the first week of September), as the sunshine has not been particularly hot, rarely exceeding 25°C (77°F). Nights have also been quite cool.

As we move into the final month, preparations are now under way in the bodega too. As always, we have to ensure that all our equipment is clean, serviced and working properly. Of course, much of this equipment such as the presses (pictured) are only used once a year, and so we clearly can’t risk leaving it until the last moment to uncover any potential problems.

Misleading packaging?

July 12th, 2023 | Food & Wine

I now have reached a ‘certain age’ whereby an annual check-up with my local doctor is strongly advised. After a recent blood test came the almost inevitable speech, cut down on fats, cut down on sugar, cut down on salt etc., etc…. This was accompanied by a diet sheet – three columns of food types from ‘healthy’ to ‘don’t even think about it’!

Don’t get me wrong, my results were marginal and in most cases my blood didn’t actually exceed any dangerous levels, it was more a case of take care with what you eat (which I do, more or less, as a matter of course). Indeed I follow the same mantra for food as we recommend for our wines…. eat/drink in moderation.

On a subsequent visit to my local supermarket I actually did shop with a bit more caution than usual, trying to read some of the (very) small print on the packaging highlighting the nutritional values. One of my weaknesses is a sweet tooth, and I do like an occasional biscuit with my mug of tea. (Usually only one or two a day). On the shelf my eye was drawn to a packet of oat biscuits strategically placed very near to the vegetarian/health food section. With a green packet and a small medallion highlighting the use of sunflower oil (instead of palm oil), I picked up a pack and dropped them in my basket – assuming that I had done the right thing. It seems that I was wrong.

At home, under closer inspection, I realised that these ‘pseudo health biscuits’ actually had an identical sugar content to my normal brand, and so, apart from the sunflower oil, there was almost no health benefit at all. What’s the phrase? “Caveat emptor” (buyer beware).

Our 2022 vintage is officially “Veryoday”

July 3rd, 2023 | Denomination

I think that I have probably commented before about the vagaries of Google translate. Sometimes the translations are accurate, sometimes they are vague, sometimes they are funny and other times they are just plain jibberish.
Today our D.O. posted the official rating of our 2022 vintage. The most frequently used rating would seem to be “Very Good”, and 2022 was no exception. The 2022 wines of our region have been classified as very good. The odd thing is that on many occasions when they use this rating I don’t agree with it, often because I feel that they are being a bit too generous. However, in 2022 I believe that the opposite is probably true, as I think that our wines are excellent. Apparently, it would seem that Google Translate don’t agree with this rating either. Translating from the original (according to them), our 2022 wines are officially “Veroday” (whatever that means).
By coincidence, in the same D.O. posting, there is a photo of one of our wines (circled in red). OK it might not be too clear, but it shows our Castro Martin Family Estate being offered at a tasting at the Ritz Mandarin Oriental in Madrid.

Far from ideal

June 22nd, 2023 | Diseases

At the end of May I wrote that our weather conditions so far this year have not exactly been ideal for growing fruit. We always try to explain that in our location, immediately adjacent to the Ocean, conditions are often unpredictable, to say the least, and can change very quickly. Until today, I’m afraid to say that the month of June has been pretty much the same – on some days alternating from rain to warm sunshine perhaps three or four times within a 24 hour period. As illustrated last month, every bodega now have their tractors working overtime (giving treatments). Indeed, only this morning I was following a couple along the road as I entered our village of Barrantes. The other downside of having to treat our vines so much is quite simply the cost. For example, we have already used our entire quota for this summer within the space of a couple of months (some six or seven weeks before our normal cut-off point, after which time we are obliged to stop, regardless of the weather). We are now hoping that the summer solstice might have introduced a change in our fortunes, at least in the short-term, as the forecast is now set fair for the coming days. We shall see!

With the ‘vine vigour’ that this weather brings our people are now hard at work thinning the canopy (stripping all the unwanted, thick foliage in order that the small bunches get the sun exposure that they will require to eventually ripen. At the same time this work opens up the canopy allowing it to ‘breath’ so that humidity does not get trapped underneath. Today’s picture shows the result of that work which is both slow and painstaking.


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