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.

Doom & Gloom?

November 4th, 2020 | Covid 19

With the holidays fast approaching I think it would be fair to say that we were all hoping that the pandemic would largely be behind us by now, and that we might be returning to some sort of slightly revised normality. Of course, it is now beginning to dawn on us that this hope is quickly fading into the distance. Very regrettably, in an increasing number of countries, the term ‘lock down’ is once again rearing its ugly head, whereby slowly but surely our freedom of movement is being eroded on more or less a daily basis.

As I have mentioned before, our business is, to a large degree, dependent on the restaurant trade, and with increasing restrictions some of our customers are now reluctantly closing their doors (albeit temporarily we hope). Consequently, in 2020, our two peak selling seasons, summer and the winter holidays, have been somewhat curtailed.

Inside our bodega our 2020 wine is completely finished, now resting quietly on its lees, and with another month to go before we can start the pruning, there is something of a lull in activity. Fortunately, a couple of our people have decided to take a short holiday (perhaps in fear that new restrictions might confine them to their homes).

As I write the US Presidential election hangs on a knife’s edge. It feels like some sort of wacky soap opera playing out in front of our eyes…. until we realise that no script writer could ever have come up with a story line as twisted as this one! I’m sure that this will play out for much longer than we had all hoped, with many more twists and turns before it reaches a final conclusion!

Covid & Wine

October 26th, 2020 | Covid 19

One of the first, and most common signs that you might have Covid is, apparently, the sudden loss of taste and smell. The actual cause of this is not yet fully understood (although scientists do have their theories), but it is a symptom that can last for varying amounts of time – from weeks to months. The virus attacks the olfactory neurons and in some cases can destroy them completely, resulting in total loss of smell and taste. The only good news is that these neurons can regenerate, albeit this can be a long, slow process.

As a former wine buyer myself, I know that I was always a bit obsessive about avoiding colds and flu in winter. Effectively this would render me almost completely useless and unable to do my job (which obviously involved a lot of travelling and tasting). This was my nightmare scenario.

I can’t imagine therefore, what it might be like to lose these senses completely, especially when they can take years to train. My biggest concern would always be that if you did lose these senses completely, would they be as sensitive as they were before when they return? I do know, for example, that (because of my life in wine), I have a highly developed sense of smell and taste and can pick up on things in daily life that other people just don’t notice. Of course, this can be both a blessing and a curse, especially if it is a smell that is not too pleasant!

Perhaps a simple and effective Covid test for me might just be to smell and taste wine as often as I can? On this basis, at the moment, I am probably averaging about 45 Covid tests per day….

Catch up

October 8th, 2020 | Bottles and bottling

Every tank of wine that we sell has to be tasted, and hopefully approved, by the official Rias Baixas tasting panel, before it can receive the official D.O. sticker allowing it to go on public sale. Before a tank can be bottled a number of samples are collected by the D.O. and taken to the Pontevedra office for tasting. The samples are also analysed and compared with our own analysis that we are obliged to send with the bottles. After everything is completed, we finally receive the stickers – known here as ‘tirillas’. This whole process can take a week or more.

Once a year these official tastings are suspended for a period of about six weeks. The reason?… Harvest time! (When the  members of the D.O. team are simply too busy to organise tastings). Of course, sales and shipments don’t stop during the harvest period, and so if a bodega experiences an unexpected surge in sales and hasn’t pre-prepared enough stock, then it’s just too bad, they simply have to wait for tastings to re-start!

In our own cellar the fermentations are almost at an end, and so we now have to re-focus our efforts into getting some wine out onto the streets! Thankfully, we do have a slight backlog of orders (even during a crisis), and so this week we have been busy restocking our warehouse in time for the holiday orders to be fulfilled.

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