Covid closes in?

February 2nd, 2021 | International News

At Castro Martin we have only a small staff of full-time employees – a few in the offices (including ourselves) and a few in the vineyards. Apart from during the harvest, we can normally cope with just these few people to keep things ticking over.

At the end of last week our small team suffered its first confirmed case of Covid-19, apparently confined to our vineyards and with no clear channel of transmission to the bodega itself. (Our vineyard team works independently of the bodega during pruning). It since appears, however, that we might now have a second victim, albeit at this time we are not quite sure if this is Covid or simply a case of flu (symptoms, we think, point to the latter). Of course, symptoms do vary from person to person and so our second potential victim, also from our vineyard team, is being tested today. We have our fingers crossed for a negative result.

For such a small enterprise we think that we have been quite unlucky with the virus to date. The only upside is that those affected are apparently not too serious, and so we wish them both a speedy recovery. As a direct result work on this year’s pruning has all but stopped, and so, like everyone on the planet, we simply can’t wait to get this crisis behind us.

 

 

 

Close to home

January 27th, 2021 | Bodega

Depending upon your personal politics the brightest point of 2021 so far might be the inauguration of a new President in the United States. Meanwhile, here in Spain, things are not quite so good…

For the last couple of weeks the weather has been completely miserable – a combination of heavy rain and days of low cloud, mist and yet more rain. Fortunately, temperatures have risen just a little since the frost at the beginning of the month.

At Castro Martin, not only is it very quiet on the business front (which is quite normal for early January), but also we have had our first Covid victim! The wife of one of our vineyard guys has tested positive. Fortunately, our man has been working outside pruning for the last few weeks, and has hardly set foot inside the main building of the bodega (quite apart from the fact that he himself has not shown any signs of the virus, as yet). Of course, he will now stay at home, in isolation, and be tested before he is allowed to return.

Meanwhile, our local lockdown rules are getting tighter, and once again, we are only allowed out for essential shopping, work or exercise. The wearing of masks in public is obligatory, and failure to comply is an immediate €600 non-negotiable fine!

(My picture today is intended to offset the doom and gloom just a little).

FOOTNOTE: Since posting we have been informed that David, our vineyard guy, has now been tested positive.

By the River of Umia

January 14th, 2021 | Denomination

People who drink albariño may already know that our denomination gets its name from the ‘Rias’ (River Estuaries) of Galicia. The Rias Altas (Upper Estuaries) in the North, between La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela, and the Rias Baixas (Lower Estuaries), between Santiago and the Portuguese border in the south.

Within the denomination there are five sub-zones and Castro Martin can be found in the Salnés Valley. Salnés is often described as the heart, the birthplace, or the cradle of albariño. It’s true to say that the wine region evolved with Salnés at it’s very core and even today our zone still accounts for more than 65% of all albariño production in the demonination.

Salnés itself is bordered in the south by the Ría of Pontevedra, and in the north by the Ría de Arousa. Naturally, you would be forgiven for asking, “so what about the Salnés river?”. If Castro Martin is located in the Salnés Valley, then surely there should be a river of that name? But no…. the name is actually a ‘comarca’, which is simply a group of municipalities lying within the province of Pontevedra. Pontevedra itself being one of the provinces that makes up the autonomy of Galicia. To make this even more complicated our own village of Barrantes is in the municipality of Ribadumia (which is in the province of Pontevedra, in the autonomy of Galicia… in Spain!) Simple!

I am happy to say that Ribadumia actually does get it’s name from a small river – the River Umia, which runs through the valley of Salnés, and flows into the Ría de Arousa near the town of Cambados. Geography lesson now over, I leave you with a beautiful picture of the Umia.

A cold start!

January 11th, 2021 | Bodega

Well, 2021 is here, and of course, we all have our fingers crossed that things can only get better (as they say in the song)!

There is not too much activity inside the bodega at the start of the New Year, but pruning still continues apace. Whilst the first week of January has been sunny, it has also been bitterly cold. Temperatures not much above freezing, and in the last couple of days, a biting wind from the north. Having said that, cold and sunshine, is of course, much better than cold and rain.

Whilst it has been cold in Galicia, many other regions of Spain (including Madrid) are under a blanket of thick snow. In some areas it was so extreme that the army was mobilised to help distribute vital supplies, including the Covid vaccines.

Stay safe!

December 22nd, 2020 | Fiestas

With just a day to go before we start our Christmas break we are now just mopping up the final few gift pack orders, in the hope that they might still arrive in time for the holidays. Certainly it has been a year for buying online, even in Spain, where until recently it seems that many people were reluctant to trust in internet shopping (or perhaps it’s more the fear of losing their money?). Of course we live in a country where the vast majority of people still feel more at ease with face-to-face transactions, and to be honest, I don’t blame them, especially when we witness what is happening to our high streets. No doubt the 2020 pandemic has only helped to hugely accelerate the shift towards both online communications, and shopping (to the detriment of a great many, more traditional businesses).

As always at this time of year, our efforts are still very much focused on pruning, and the very changeable, largely wet weather is not making the chore any easier. They do however, say that there will be sun on Christmas Day.

With that in mind, we raise a glass to you all…. Stay safe, stay well and drink (Castro Martin) albariño!

Covid Christmas….

December 15th, 2020 | Bodega

Incredibly we are already half way through December and the Christmas break is almost upon us. Traditionally this is one of our busiest times of year, but perhaps not so much in 2020. With restaurant sales at more a less a standstill (for fairly obvious reasons), we have to rely on our internet and gift pack business. Whilst we are very lucky that at least a few of our business customers still have the wherewithal to afford gift packs, regrettably non of this business is overseas and is focused purely on our own domestic market. Still, better than no business at all.

So with the gift packing business continuing inside, the rest of our team battles against the elements out in the vineyards. The recent cold and wet weather has simply made the job of pruning just that bit more unpleasant. Not a job for the faint hearted!

Cyber Monday, cyber shed!

November 30th, 2020 | Oddballs

Over the last few months (when lockdown allows) there has been a building taking shape just a couple of km from our cellar door. Nothing too unusual you might think, but it is the nature of the construction itself that has left me more than a bit puzzled.

When building work started foundations were laid, very much in the normal manner, but then the next step was not altogether traditional. No sooner than the concrete dried than a 40ft shipping container was delivered and placed in the centre of the structure. Floor and walls were then built around the container, all welded together out of solid metal.

As you can see, the design is not exactly state of the art, indeed, it looks more like someone had a few pieces of slightly rusty scrap metal laying around and didn’t know what to do with them!

Anyway, if anyone has any ideas why someone might build a metal shed (with a shipping container in the middle of it), then please send your answers on a postcard!….

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26th, 2020 | Festivo

2020 must go down as one of the most difficult on record, for a multitude of different reasons. However, I’m sure that many of our American friends will still find at least one thing to be very thankful for this year…. (no names).

We simply want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Kick back, enjoy the turkey, enjoy the football, and enjoy a refreshing glass of Castro Martin albariño!

Autumn in Galicia

November 23rd, 2020 | Vineyards

At this time of year our team have just started work in the vineyards. Now that the leaves have fallen from the vines, the wood is exposed, and the sap recedes from the branches (owing to the cooler autumn nights), we can finally get to work on the pruning. Ironically, whilst there is little activity in the bodega as Covid takes its toll on our order books, the vines now demand our full-time, undivided attention, through until the end of winter. Pruning, is a slow, labourious task, and can be very unpleasant in inclement winter weather.

On the subject of weather, since the end of our harvest it has been quite changeable. More or less as we would expect for this time of year. Some rain, quite a few days of ‘mizzle’ (a cross between mist and drizzle), and a few odd sunny days just thrown in for good measure. Indeed, the weekend just gone, was good… too good in fact. The mid-November temperature hit 24°C (75°F), provoking a few people to take to the local beaches. Of course, even local travel is quite heavily restricted during our current, partial lockdown, and so I guess that it was only the lucky few (that live close to the coast) who could take full advantage.

My picture today shows the Ria of Pontevedra, and on the adjacent hillsides you can just make out the small fires, as people burn their cuttings. The small finishing boats in the foreground are, of course, a very common feature.

Adapting to Covid

November 13th, 2020 | Covid 19

A few weeks ago we were perhaps beginning to believe that the worst of the pandemic was behind us. Of course, we were wrong as parts of Galicia are once again facing varying degrees of lockdown. One of the affected areas is the city of Pontevedra where the headquarters of our Denomination is based.

This week we joined one of the first virtual Denomination meetings (via Zoom) to review the export business of our region and to discuss the marketing plans for 2021. Of course, the possibility of staging many of the planned events will still, almost entirely, be determined by virus. For example, the vast majority of events, and nearly all of the biggest wine exhibitions were cancelled this year. It goes without saying that tasting and selecting wine is really something that has to be done in person, and simply does not work in a virtual world!

Of course, contracting Covid could be devastating for a wine buyer (with the loss of smell and taste), and so until the technology exists to replace them, we must still rely on these senses.

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