2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 4

September 12th, 2022 | Bodega

Well, the day started bright and sunny as we would always wish, but there is now rain looming just over the horizon. We really need to gather as much fruit as we can, despite the shortage of people.

For our own picking team it was a day of movement, finishing in one location and then moving on to the next, ending the day in our vineyard surrounding the bodega. Of course the advantage of working on ‘home turf’ is that no sooner are the grapes picked that they are delivered and transferred straight into the presses. It’s a very fast process. (Unfortunately not all grape deliveries are so quick).

Today, we also started work inside the cellar, racking the first tanks after a period of cold settling (when all the dust and other deposits sink to the bottom of the tank). After this process the cold grape must, now in clean tanks, will be allowed to recover a slightly higher temperature before we can start the fermentation. Although we prefer to use a slow, cool fermentation, the wine still has to reach 13 or 14°C before it can be seeded with yeast, otherwise the yeast simply will not survive.

Today’s machinery saga was actually not inside the bodega itself, but rather one of our tractors working in the vineyard. We have a forklift attachment on the back of the tractor that we use for collecting pallets to load onto the truck. Until today, when the clutch started to slip! For the time being we will have to use a different tractor until the other can be repaired.

2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 3

September 11th, 2022 | Bodega

I’m sure that I have mentioned the increase in grape prices in Rias Baixas. We are now seeing one kilo of grapes having double the value that it did only two years ago. In the end it comes down to two things, firstly, supply and demand and secondly those who can afford (or are willing) to pay these wildly exaggerated price. As if this isn’t enough, the other market that is under a huge amount of pressure this year is the labour market. There is an acute shortage of people to gather the fruit. Yet again, the larger, richer bodegas can afford to pay higher rates than the smaller, family bodegas – it seems that when it comes to paying grapes and attracting pickers, then money is no object for these big companies. I have no doubt, that once the money is paid, and they have the wine that they need, then the bottle price itself will probably be heavily and artificially subsidised too!

I wrote back in July I wrote about one particularly unscrupulous bodega that was at the epicentre of the surge in grape prices. Well, it appears that the very same cellar might have been employing some rather creative ways of producing more wine, such as bringing in grapes from other wine regions. I should add that this is, as yet, unproved, but that the Xunta of Galicia, the office of Fraudes (fraud) and our own D.O. are taking this very seriously, so much so that extensive investigations have been taking place. The result of this is that our D.O. office have released new, stricter guidelines for the 2022 harvest. Not only that, but there has been a much greater and more visible police presence on the streets, stopping trucks and tractors to check the origins of their loads. Only yesterday we had a group of police at the front of our very own bodega (although we have absolutely nothing to hide)!

Saturday is always one of our busiest days (a popular day for picking), and so the grapes flowed thick, fast but thankfully at quite an even pace. As mentioned before the grapes this year are ripe and healthy albeit that the alcohol is probably slightly higher than we would have liked.

Today’s drama with machinery was our case washing machine, which decided to work only intermittently. Absolutely not a problem on a busy day when cases have to be washed and re-cycled quickly!

2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 2

September 10th, 2022 | Bodega

Day two started as we would have hoped, with bright sunshine and reasonably warm temperatures – very good conditions for picking (for now). Our weather watch still shows that rain is on the way, if not on Sunday, then certainly on Monday, with the anticipated arrival of Tropical Rainstorm Danielle. Of course forecasts can change and sometimes be wrong, (owing to our proximity to the Ocean), but unfortunately this can work in both positive and negative ways.

One of our concerns leading up to this year’s harvest was the fruit itself. After such a long, dry summer our grapes were very healthy, but also just a little dehydrated. Fortunately, the heavy showers that we have had have changed this, and our first pressings revealed that there is at least a reasonable amount of juice. Potential alcohol seems quite high, possibly around 13.0%, and the level of acidity is also good. We will need more time (and more fruit) to give a more accurate assessment, but early indications are not too bad.

On a more practical note, no harvest would be complete without some sort of technical problems! 2022 is no exception. Apart from a very small issue trying to connect a printer in the grape reception, the main issue of the day was losing one of our two presses for more than 3 hours in the evening. Firstly, we had to wait for the on-call engineers to arrive, and then it took them some time to discover and fix the actual issue. As a result, Fran and some of our other guys were working more or less all night!

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.

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