Queen Elizabeth II – 1926-2022

September 9th, 2022 | Uncategorized

The staff and management of Bodegas Castro Martin would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the Royal Family and people of the UK. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this immensely sad time.

2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 1

September 9th, 2022 | Bodega

Today we start the 40th harvest in our current wine cellar. The bodega, completed by the visionary entrepreneur Domingo Martin in October 1981, collected its first harvest in 1982. (The Regulatory Council of the D.O. Rias Baixas was not established until 1988). Bodegas Castro Martin is one of the founding members of the D.O.

My first comment regarding this year’s harvest is, inevitably, about the weather. After two months of dry, arid conditions, we now find ourselves dodging the showers. Over the last few days there have been some fairly hefty downpours, which in the first instance (as I explained in my last post), were quite welcome, and no bad thing. The problem is that the wet weather now seems to be hanging around, and so for picking purposes, this can be quite tricky.

At first light today we were quite optimistic as there was plenty of blue sky in evidence. However, as the morning progressed, so the clouds started to gather, and at times, almost looked a bit threatening.

With one eye on the weather, the first grapes arrived mid-afternoon (by which time the sun had returned). As in previous years the 20kg baskets of grapes from our own vineyards arrived by truck, already palletised in the vineyard. This is very much the modern trend for delivery to wine cellars, which admittedly does save quite a lot of physical work in the bodega – offloading individual cases by hand.

Well, we needed rain….

September 6th, 2022 | Bodega

Finally back to work after my brush with Covid, catching up and making final preparations for our harvest. The bodega is pretty much set up, all equipment cleaned and tested, so now all we really need is a few grapes!

After a couple of months of completely dry, mostly hot, sunny weather, we now have rain! So far, this is not such a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t persist for too long.

Under normal circumstances rain around harvest time would be considered a bit of a disaster, but this year that is slightly different. Firstly, and most importantly, the grapes themselves are in a good sanitary state, meaning that because of the hot, dry summer the risk of disease has been low (to date). Having said that, the downside of such a long dry period is that whilst the grapes are healthy, they are all ‘skin and bone’ (well, skin and pips actually), there is not a lot of pulp/juice. In a year when grapes are already selling at a record high this would mean that we are paying a huge amount of money for fruit with only very low yields. Economically, a disaster. At least now, given a little more time, the grapes will absorb a little of this rainfall, and return to something approaching a reasonable level of grape must (juice) without too much dilution.

Another small side benefit of the rain is that the fruit will be rinsed and clean. The lack of rain has resulted in the ground under the canopy being very parched and dry. If the wind blows then the dust from this arid ground blows into the canopy and leaves the fruit coated with a fine powder. If this fruit is pressed without being washed by rain, then the must will contain an amount of dust/soil particles that would require more time for settling after pressing.

Bad timing

September 1st, 2022 | Bodega

My plan for this week was to start reporting on the build up to our 2022 harvest…. until I caught Covid! Not an ideal time, as preparations are now in full swing setting up the bodega for receiving grapes.

I have no idea where I may have contracted it, but the good news is that, I was able to isolate myself quite quickly, and, consequently, I don’t believe that I have passed it on to anyone else. Fingers crossed.

Of course, the latest variations of Covid strike people different ways, albeit that many of the symptoms resemble a good dose of flu – headache, fever, aching muscles and in my case, a bad cough. For me, the difference has been that it comes and goes in waves, one minute I think that I’m feeling better, and the next, I am lying prostrate on my sofa. The other common side effect is exhaustion – feeling completely drained, with no energy, and, unfortunately, that is exactly how I feel now.

Hopefully, I will be recovered in time for the harvest that we anticipate will start in about one week from now.

Botellas Castro Martin

August 25th, 2022 | Bodega

Over the last few months there have been some fairly serious supply chain issues – shortages of bottles, slow deliveries and not to mention some really significant price increases.

At one point the supply of bottles was a serious concern to us, as we were accumulating orders that we couldn’t fulfil, simply because we didn’t have the necessary materials in stock. The problem of bottle supply was complicated by the co-operatives and other larger bodegas who were virtually ‘cornering’ the bottle market, as they filled their yards and warehouses with bottles. As a slightly smaller bodega we were left scratching around, doing our best to acquire some stock (almost to the point of begging). It was a huge concern.

Eventually, the problem started to ease a little (as I guess, the big players had all the stock that they could handle) and we were finally able to procure a few pallets….. well, I say a few, but in reality we bought rather a lot!

Although it is possible to leave pallets of bottles in the open air, we prefer to keep them under cover to eliminate the risk of contamination by dust and humidity. Suffice to say that our already limited storage space came under severe pressure with pallets piled high, approaching every square millimetre of our warehouse.

At one point we were almost inclined to answer our phones as “Botellas Castro Martin” rather than Bodegas!!

Summer heat

August 17th, 2022 | International News

I wrote just a few days ago about our changing weather, and how we had transitioned from damp, changeable conditions to dry, arid conditions, all within the space of a few weeks. As you will have no doubt seen on the news, these dry, scorched conditions have resulted in some very serious forest fires across almost the whole of Europe. Galicia has not escaped, and whilst the outbreaks have not been as catastrophic as the fires in the southwest of France, they have still been quite significant. Fortunately, many were brought under control quite quickly.

Apart from the fires, the lack of water in our vineyards is now starting to hit home, and although the developing fruit is very healthy, it could turn out to be yet another year of high alcohol, low yields, and (as I mentioned before) high prices. After an extremely dry and hot month in July, August has started slightly differently. Close to the Ocean there have been some very thick sea fogs (much thicker and more persistent than the usual sea mists that roll up our ‘Rias’ from time to time). Clearly, this not only reduces the amount of sun, but also reduces the temperature quite dramatically. It does not, however, provide us any much needed rain. Having said that, in the last two days it has been somewhat grey and overcast, and we have finally experienced just a few rain showers – unfortunately barely enough to penetrate the canopy, let alone add any significant moisture to the soil. Indeed, after such long dry periods, the first rainfall does not really penetrate and tends to simply run off the surface. An now, the latest forecast predicts that the dry, sunny weather will return…

Today’s photos show an outbreak of fire in the hills not far from the City of Pontevedra. The first taken at about 9.30 pm, the second and hour or two later, and the third the following morning when the fire has moved down the hillside, albeit that the air is still filled with smoke.

From vigour to stress

August 9th, 2022 | Vineyards

As little as four or five weeks ago I was writing about vine vigour, when a combination of alternating periods of warm, sunny weather followed by heavy rain had precipitated quite intensive growth in our vines. Today that picture has changed somewhat.

This all changed at the beginning of July when we experienced some quite extreme temperatures (around 40°C or 104°F) – fortunately this intense heat only lasted for a day or two. Having said that the high temperatures continued, mostly in the upper 20’s °C, but with many days actually over 30°C (around 90°F). Apart from one short, sharp downpour, July was almost entirely hot and sunny.

Over the last few days much of the coastal area in the Salnés Valley has been shrouded in a heavy sea mist/fog. In some areas (perhaps a few kilometres inland), this mist ‘burns off’ during the day, and sunny, but marginally cooler temperatures are restored (when I say cooler, I really mean the mid-20’s°C or around 75°F). Despite this mist and slightly reduced temperatures, there is still no sign of rain, and so our vineyards remain just a little parched at the moment.

Black holes

July 26th, 2022 | Bodega

OK, so I should start by saying that today’s post about ‘Black Holes’ has nothing to do with the James Webb Space Telescope and the plethora of discoveries that have started to unfold since its launch. Believe it or not this is to do with Spanish banking!

Some years ago, when an importer purchased wine from a bodega payment would be made quite simply by sending a cheque through the post (hence the often abused expression “the cheque is in the post”!).

These days, thanks to advances in technology, this old system has almost completely disappeared, and invoices are now mostly settled by electronic transfer. Using this system money can be moved almost instantaneously, although transfers between businesses usually take up to 24 hours within the same country, whilst overseas transfers should normally be completed within two working days (depending on the countries involved). Well, that’s the theory at least….

My experience in Spain, however, is not quite so straightforward, and perhaps could best be described as erratic. When a customer pays us by transfer we usually receive confirmation (a copy of the transaction), providing us with the exact time and date that it was completed. Unfortunately, this is where, on some occasions, our money vanishes into a ‘banking black hole’ and then magically re-appears up to a week later in our account. This normally only happens when we start to follow up the missing transfer. Personally I think that this is a scandal, and certainly should not happen in this day and age. Do you sometimes get the feeling that your money is being manipulated?….

Exploiting every centimeter!

July 20th, 2022 | Business

In the last week or two, despite the baking temperatures, we have been clearing the corner of one of our vineyards. Yes, this did involve cutting a few trees, but I should emphasise that we did seek the appropriate permissions, and that the trees that we cut were mostly eucalyptus, not indigenous to Galicia, considered by many to be invasive, and the cause of many a forest fire in our region. There were two, or perhaps three reasons for doing this work….

Firstly, because we are obliged by law to clear forest areas and scrub land, precisely to reduce the risk of fires. Secondly, because this small piece of land is actually registered as a vineyard, and has never been exploited as such. And thirdly, because of the price of grapes at the moment!

This third reason is actually a major concern for Rias Baixas this year, and all because of one single bodega! I shall not name the property concerned (perhaps for liable reasons), but every bodega locally knows exactly who they are, and that they are owned by a much larger Company from outside Galicia. The simple fact is that they are desperate for grapes, and as such have been making ridiculous, unsustainable offers to local growers, often going door-to-door and poaching thousands of kilos of grapes from their neighbouring wine cellars. I should mention they the size of the bodegas that they are plundering from are not small, and have been left very, very angry indeed (something of an understatement).

Suffice to say that these tactics (apart from being completely unethical), have caused an artificial surge in the demand for grapes, and will no doubt result in highly inflated prices, just at a time when consumers are reducing their spending, and perhaps seeking opportunities to trade-down a little. Enough said, I will stop before my blood boils!

 

Topsy-turvy!

July 12th, 2022 | Galicia

A few days ago I was a guest on a ‘digital tasting’ organised by Tim Atkin MW. Tim had visited our bodega a couple of weeks earlier, and during our conversation I had described our recent weather as a bit topsy-turvy (upside down, or in a state of confusion). Little did I know that Tim would quote me on this during his introduction.

In the last couple of days, since this Zoom tasting (all the participants were sent sample bottles), there has been yet another example of the extremes of our recent, crazy weather. On Saturday temperatures hit about 36°C (97°F) and our local beaches were packed (for those who could stand the heat). On Sunday the cloud rolled in, and by Sunday afternoon, through until Monday, the thermometer never hit much more that 16°C (61°F) – less than half of the previous days temperature. This was accompanied  by a very fine ‘mizzle’ hanging in the air (a cross between a light drizzle and mist from the Ocean).

Today, Tuesday, we are bracing ourselves, with a forecast high of more that 40°C (104°F). This temperature is expected to continue at least until the weekend. Having said that, a week of two ago most of Spain was affected by these high temperatures, but luckily, our small, isolated corner of northwest Spain had pretty much escaped. This week it appears that we are not quite so lucky.

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