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.

 

Press visit

June 7th, 2023 | People

Yesterday we welcomed a small, but important group of UK journalists to our bodega (as part of their two day tour of our denomination). Arriving at 9.30am, we were the very first bodega on their itinerary and at that time in the morning there can be nothing better to rinse the coffee and toothpaste from your palate than a refreshing glass of albariño! As I think I may have mentioned before, the first sample of any tasting can often be a tough one, as it often takes the palate a little time to adjust. Having said that, after an hour and a half of chatting and tasting I would like to think that our wines were well received and that they left Castro Martin with a favourable impression of what we do.

When they eventually left our bodega the weather was not only sunny, but it was also quite warm and humid, and so it remained for much of the day. This morning, however, as we opened our shutters, it was raining, and the temperature had dropped by nearly 10°C from the previous day’s high. As our UK friends started their second day I was thinking that perhaps this experience will give them a greater understanding of the vagaries of our climate, albeit that from our point of view, this is really not the way that we would want people to learn. As a result, I have no doubt we will be obliged to treat our vineyards (yet again) within the coming days.

A difficult month

May 30th, 2023 | Vineyards

We are almost at the end of May, and what a month it has been (for weather)! OK, we have not suffered any of the extremes so frequently faced in other parts of the world these days, but from a fruit growing perspective it has not been ideal. Not a total disaster, but simply not ideal.

Our problem has been the erratic conditions, with some days of sun, interspersed with days of rain. Despite enjoying a comparatively dry, sunny spell in the middle of the month the temperatures were tempered somewhat by a cold and very persistent wind from the north. The only upshot of this dry spell was that the flowering did at least pass of relatively smoothly.

The weather today is only 15°C (about 60°F), which for this time of year is cold, and the grey sky is filled with low hanging cloud, almost in the form of a mist. It is very unseasonal to say the least.

The consequence of these conditions is the return of disease – mildew to be precise, which is a simple illustration of why it is (or would be), so difficult for us to produce completely organic wines in our region. Our climate makes it difficult, if not impossible. Over the last few days the local spacemen have been scrambling around on their tractors with their spraying equipment in tow, as the pressure to protect our vines in never ending. (I say spacemen simply as the protective suits and helmets frequently worn these days can resemble NASA spacesuits!)

Wine labelling – Nutritional information

May 19th, 2023 | Responsible Drinking

 

As from December 2023 we will be obliged to add nutritional information to our labels. Of course, with the amount of information already appearing on labels (including government health warnings etc.), there is a danger that the label might eventually cover most of the bottle! This leaves us with two options, either produce bigger bottles, or add a QR code to the label linking consumers directly to the information. (The first option of bigger bottles was very much tongue-in-cheek and we have used option two).

Suffice to say that in the very near future we will start to print labels with this new QR code included. (We do already include QR codes that links to the product page of the wine being consumed). The new QR will replace this, but this new link will still include information about the wine itself, so not all will be technical information.

In the meantime, we have already posted nutritional information on our website. On each product page (English and Spanish) there is a link under the downloads (descargas) section. The same link also appears under the general ‘downloads’ header on our homepage. All of these links are clearly marked ‘Nutritional Information’.

April attack!

April 26th, 2023 | Diseases

As if tempting fate I mentioned the possibility of disease in our vineyards in my very last post…. little did I know! Since the extended of sunny, warm weather over the Easter break, April has certainly lived up to its reputation – stop, start showers over the majority of days, interspersed with sporadic sunshine and reasonably mild temperatures.

At this time of year we would normally be giving our first treatments in the vineyards anyway, but this year it has been very tricky to say the least. No sooner have we administered a treatment, than the showers have started and washed off the ‘contact’ treatments that we now use. I use the term ‘contact’, because there are two types of treatments normally available:

‘Contact’ means exactly as it says, it is sprayed onto the vine and dries on the surface, it does not actually penetrate the plant, making it more widely acceptable for use in sustainable vineyards. The downside of contact treatments is that they are simply washed off by rain, especially if not given time to dry completely.

The second type of treatment is ‘systemic’, which works rather like an injection given to human beings, it actually penetrates the plant and gives protection to prevent disease from even appearing. This sounds almost to good to be true, but the downside of this is that over time the immunity of the plant can diminish as it eventually builds up a resistance to the treatment. Apart from this many systemic products are not considered eco-friendly, and certainly are no longer used by sustainable producers, such as Castro Martin.

The long and short of the story, is that, despite our careful vigilance, we have, regrettably suffered an attack of powdery mildew (one of the most common problems faced by vineyards). The only thing we can do now is to remove the diseased vegetation and continue to treat where we can, all the time hoping that our loses will not be too great.

Spring has sprung!

April 12th, 2023 | Festivo

After the outrageously wet weather of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Easter provided us with quite a contrast. Warm, sunny weather for the duration of the extended weekend. After a long, quiet winter, almost bereft of visitors, our coastal towns were bursting at the seams with people flocking from Madrid, Spain and many others from Portugal. Our local bars and restaurants were pretty much overwhelmed after months of relative inactivity.

On Easter Monday, just as our visitors were packing their bags, the clouds returned, as did the rain – ‘April Showers’ I think we call them in English (‘Abril aguas mil’ in Spanish).

The pruning is now behind us, which is just as well, as today’s photo shows the vigorous new growth in our vineyards. Of course, the combination of sun and showers is always a big stimulant, whilst on the other hand, alternate periods of warmth and humidity can also help to promote disease. At this time we always have to remain vigilant, as damage sustained now can sometimes be irretrievable.

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