Abandoned!

April 15th, 2020 | Bodega

After more than a month of complete lockdown, life in Spain is a very long way from anything that resembles normality. Although we are, technically, allowed to continue working, there is really not too much happening in the bodega – with the exception of the vineyards, where work continues as normal. With the hotel and restaurant industry at a complete standstill, not only in Spain, but around the world, there is almost no turnover of stock. I guess the fortunate part is that, in the short term, our wine will not deteriorate and will still be available to sell once the markets recover. Perhaps the only significant consequence could be that, depending on how long our sales are curtailed, that we might need to adjust the volume of wine that we make in 2020. This is more to do with tank space than anything else.

In the wine cellar itself we are constantly reminded about how quickly the lockdown took effect. Shortly before it all started we had just embarked on a programme of upgrades to our equipment and infrastructure. For example, replacing all windows in the bodega was put on hold, as was work on an upgrade to our temperature control system. In the tank cooling system were are adding digital sensors and touch screen controls (with remote access), to give us greater control and the potential to monitor temperatures from home during fermentation. (I should quickly add that we do not work from home during the harvest, but we do occasionally go home to sleep!) Suffice to say that tools were quite literally ‘downed’ as we more or less abandoned the cellar, and we can only hope that work will be resumed, and completed in time for the next harvest!

(Vine) Life goes on…

April 2nd, 2020 | Green Issues

Despite business grinding to a halt, there are some elements of what we do that carry on as normal. Our vines, for example, continue to grow, pandemic or no pandemic.

With the pruning and attaching to the wires now complete, we start on general vineyard maintenance – small, but yet, significant chores. These include removing any unwanted growth (for example, small shoots that start to grow out of the main trunk of the vine), removing snails (that climb and devour the new shoots), and attaching new pheromone traps (this eco-friendly trap uses synthetic pheromones to cause confusion and diverting mating insects away from the vines). In addition to this, and largely depending on what the weather does over the next week or two, will also determine if any treatments are needed, but clearly we still have to monitor the vineyards closely to assess what is needed.

(Today’s photo not only shows the current vine development, but also shows one of our pheromone traps)

Treating the streets

March 26th, 2020 | Bodega

Whilst Spain is almost at the end of its second week of lock down, the news is still very grim – in the last 48 hours we have seen the death toll increase to nearly 700 per day. Obviously it is the most populous areas, such as Madrid, that have been hit the worst, and locals were very worried when, shortly prior to the lock down, hundreds of Madridlenos decided to flee the city to seek refuge out in their Galician summer homes. Apart from the obvious health risk, the infrastructure (now in winter mode), was, and is, simply not geared up for this sudden influx of visitors. Supermarkets were stripped bare (in a country where panic buying hasn’t really been an issue at all).

Our streets are completely deserted, but today they were frequented by a rather unusual type of vehicle; a farm tractor with treatment tank being used for spraying the streets – presumably with disinfectant, and not a treatment for protecting grapes! Probably just as well there were no pedestrians….

Lockdown!

March 18th, 2020 | Bodega

Since last weekend Spain has been on total lockdown, everything is closed and the streets are deserted. It’s actually very eerie! Supermarkets are still operating, but as you will see from today’s photo, the public are carefully observing the rules of ‘social distancing’ as shops allow only a few people at a time to enter.

As a comparatively small business, we are already beginning to feel the impact, but all we can do in these difficult circumstances, is to continue monitoring government advice and react accordingly.

In the meantime, our primary thoughts are with our customers, staff, family and friends.

Corona closes in!

March 11th, 2020 | International News

It seems that we now have our first cases of coronavirus within a few km of our bodega! A young man, recently returned from Madrid, has been admitted to a local hospital.

Of course, we will take every precaution that we can to stop it entering our business, but the reality is that there is a limit to what we can do. We can thoroughly wash our hands, and disinfect some surfaces, but there are just so many ways that the virus can be transmitted. Short of a complete lock-down, all we can really do is to minimise the risk.

As restaurants and hotels empty, as consumers stay at home, it is inevitable that consumption of our wines will be reduced. We can only hope, for everyone’s sake, that the whole episode will be behind us sooner rather than later.

International Women’s Day

March 8th, 2020 | International News

Happy Women’s Day! There are an increasing number of women winemakers here in our Rias Baixas denomination, including our very own boss and winemaker, Angela Martin!

Adios Jorge!

March 2nd, 2020 | Vineyards

Parts of Europe (focused mainly around the UK), have been battered by a series of winter storms in recent weeks. The equivalent of months of torrential rain falling within hours (as seems to be a recurring story around the world these days). The most significant of these storms are given names by the countries that first detect them, based solely on the idea that they will be easier to track by everyone if they can be more easily identified. The latest of these three storms was named Jorge, as it was first tracked by the Spanish Met office, albeit that it arrived on UK shores long before it reached Spain.

Last night we braced ourselves for a stormy time here in Galicia, but whilst it was certainly wet and windy, it was not nearly as destructive as it had been in the UK. A bit of a non-event to say the least.

Today is actually quite sunny, and not anything like the conditions that our team expected to face as they finish the final days of pruning. It all goes to prove that our weather predictions here on the Atlantic Coast are, well, sometimes quite unpredictable!

Carton day

February 25th, 2020 | Bodega

I guess that our guys are quite grateful that today we have a day inside the bodega making cartons. After 4 or 5 days of warm sunshine, today is quite grey and miserable, and so we are preparing the materials required for bottling a tank of wine tomorrow.

Our albariño is always stored in tank, and only bottled as and when it is required. We follow quite a simple rule (especially relevant for white wine), that the larger the storage vessel, the longer the wine will stay fresh. So obviously, storing wine in a air-tight tank, topped up with nitrogen, will preserve its freshness better than it would by bottling the whole vintage as soon as the wine making is complete. In the same way, a magnum generally keeps better than a bottle, and a bottle better than a half bottle, but of course all this will depend on how any sized bottle is stored.

Anyway, it occurred to me, that in all the posts I have ever made, I have never really mentioned our cartons. They arrive flat-packed and therefore have to be assembled. We normally do this the day before in order that they don’t absorb too much humidity from our damp, Galician climate. I should also mention that whilst some of our cases might not be the prettiest, they are actually selected for their strength, and how well they can protect our wine in transit…. after all, it’s a long journey from our bottling hall to say, a restaurant table in Melbourne!

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.

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