Close to the holidays

December 16th, 2021 | Bodega

As we move closer to the Holiday Season there is still plenty to do, both inside and outside the bodega. Our overseas shipping orders were mostly sent some time ago, and many of our Christmas gift packing orders have also been completed. Having said all that, we have still be obliged to make a couple of late bottlings, which is quite unusual for December. Of course, as we sell wine to the other side of the world, we have to remember that it is now summer in these places, and albariño season is in full swing (or so we hope). New orders waiting to be collected include Australia and Brazil.

On the subject of summer, the sun is streaming in through my office window as I write this, albeit the temperatures mean that it is not quite beach weather! Indeed, only yesterday, we had our first ground frost of the winter, but the clear blue skies still make this ideal pruning weather (already well under way). December itself started wet, cold and miserable, but fortunately this last week has seen a considerable improvement. The other good news is that Angela and I are both fully vaccinated and ready for the winter!

Well into Autumn

December 1st, 2021 | Bodega

The 2021 harvest is now well and truly behind us, and, as always at this time of year, our wine is sitting quietly on its lees. In our vineyards the pruning is under way, and the first of the Christmas gift pack orders are being prepared. Christmas orders for our export markets left the cellar some weeks ago. Indeed, with the global shipping problems that exist (and not to mention the post-Brexit delays on goods entering the UK), our overseas importers started to ship quite a bit earlier than they normally would.

Having said all that, preparing orders this year has been much more of a challenge than normal as there have been delays on nearly every product that we have ordered. Not only have prices increased on cartons, bottles, capsules and corks, but currently our label supplier can’t even get the paper that they require for printing! It’s fair to say that I have never taken the supply chain for granted (we normally hold buffer stocks), but at the moment trying to plan for wine bottling can be something of a logistical nightmare.

Meanwhile, on the weather front November was largely dry, until the final few days of the month. Skies were bright and clear, albeit that temperatures were distinctly chilly and autumnal. The first day of December is wet, and so our vineyard team have moved inside to catch up on a bit of labelling (and yes, we do have a bit of label stock left!)

Happy Thanksgiving 2021

November 25th, 2021 | Fiestas

We wish all of our friends and customers in the United States a very Happy Thanksgiving – we will raise a glass of Castro Martin albariño to you (also great with turkey!).

Whilst we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here in Europe, we have at least, inherited one of your other customs…. Black Friday. For us no turkey, no sweet potatoes, no pumpkin pie, just a bit of serious retail therapy!

Wine cellar visitor…

November 22nd, 2021 | Bodega

Imagine arriving in the office on a Monday morning, and you immediately notice a strange scratching noise. Working in a bodega you might easily believe that this could be a mouse (even though we do have controls to prevent this). Wrong…. and you would never guess what it actually turned out to be…… An owl, or rather a baby owl!

The first question that arises is, how on earth could an owl get into the bodega? The windows and doors are all well secured, as you might imagine, and so perhaps the only entry point that we could think of was an old, unused chimney in our salon – we will never know.

Luckily, one of our team, Fran, is an amateur bird enthusiast and knew exactly what to do (that is his hand inside the protective glove!) Once carefully removed and released outside we did have a little cleaning to do, as amongst other things, the bird had knocked a few pots off our office shelves. The owl didn’t seem to be at all bothered by this damage, indeed, you could say that he didn’t give a hoot!!

THE 2021 STORY – PART 3

October 27th, 2021 | Bodega

In my previous 2021 posts I have mentioned the quality of the wine itself, the low yield per kilo, and the crazy grape prices. As if these complications alone are not enough, they has been further compounded by the knock-on effect of the Covid crisis. Energy, transport and dry goods prices are all suffering badly as a result.

As the recovery from the pandemic got under way, then so the demand for energy increased rapidly. Gas reserves were already depleted by a cold winter, the generation of power from wind turbines was down (simply owing to a lack of wind), immediately followed a baking summer in many countries placing a huge demand on electricity grids for systems such as air conditioning. Almost the perfect storm.

Increased production costs caused by new energy tariffs, together with unprecedented demand on raw materials, such as paper (for packaging), had also led to sharp increases in tariffs for dry goods. Bottle production for example, depends heavily on gas supply, for their ovens – it’s a very frightening trend.

International supply chains are also under huge pressure. The infrastructure simply cannot meet demand caused by the hangover from Covid and the sudden upsurge in business. Ports are overloaded, ships are queuing, containers are out of position and there is a shortage of drivers and road transport to help clear the backlogs. The price of a container can now be as much as 300/400% more than last year!

The long and short of it all is that the cost of living for all of us will increase, and very unfortunately for us (and our region), our business and wines will simply get carried along by this tsunami.

THE 2021 STORY – Part 2

October 20th, 2021 | Bodega

The story of the 2021 vintage really starts with the 2019 and 2020 vintages. In my last post I mentioned the style of these wines, but the other significant factor was the volume produced – they were not big vintages at all.

A few months after the onset of Covid-19 albariño producers really started to feel the effects. Hotels and restaurants closed, and with it the on-trade business dried up completely. The only sector that appeared to benefit was the supermarket sector (small wine shops and liquor stores were also locked down). As consumers were not able to eat or drink outside their homes, so the supermarket business took off…. but regrettably, at a cost. Whilst trading with supermarkets proved lucrative, it was much more to do with volume than profit. Cellars were simply happy to see wine going out, not knowing how long the Covid crisis would last.

By May/June 2021 the on-trade tentatively started to re-open, but once it did start up, then what followed was something of a cascade. It appeared that restaurant customers were making up for lost time, and consequently orders were flying out of our door almost as quickly as we could prepare them! Having resisted the temptation to flirt with supermarkets, we still had stock, whilst those that had succumbed to the temptation suddenly had a crisis on their hands. By August 2021, many cellars (including many big players) were simply running out of wine – a month or two before the new vintage was even ready to be picked.

A mad scramble ensued. Cellars were desperate to buy tanks of wine at almost any price, and, as a result, the vintage 2021 problem started to emerge. In a small wine region that still relies heavily on buying grapes from producers, Pandora’s Box had well and truly been opened. 2021 was destined to become the year of grape ‘ransom’ (regardless of quality)!

The 2021 story – Part 1

October 14th, 2021 | Bodega

For reasons that one day might become clear, this vintage has been particularly demanding, and as a result, today’s post is long overdue. The last couple of weeks have been fully occupied by the small matter of the wine making. To do things well demands quite a lot of thought and attention, especially when the vintage has not been altogether straight forward.

Following on from a largely unpredictable summer, the 2021 harvest itself has produced a few just a few twists and turns that we might not normally expect. For example, as I have already mentioned during the picking, the amount of grape must extracted from the fruit was lower that it would normally be, perhaps by as much as 2% or 3%. That may not sound like much, but when multiplied by many thousands of kilos, it soon adds up.

So, despite the bosses of our D.O. loudly (and apparently proudly) proclaiming that this was the biggest vintage ever, the numbers alone do not begin to tell the story of how the year 2021 has unfolded. In the end, there is one simple adage that I believe to be true, more often than not – that bigger does not always necessarily mean better.

Over the last couple of vintages I has used the term a-typical to describe the wines that we have produced, largely because they have been very ripe and perhaps just a touch too alcoholic. It was not uncommon to see wines of 13%, 13.5% (or even higher) in both the 2019 and 2020 vintages, whereas this year we are very likely to be somewhere closer to 12%, or perhaps 12.5% – in other words, much more in the style of a typical albariño.

To be honest, I think that is so much more to tell about 2021, that I will really need at least a few more posts to explain everything that has transpired this year (and as a result I will probably have to completely re-write my vintage report)!

Harvest 2021 – Day 8 (final day)

September 25th, 2021 | Bodega

Yet another day dawned with clear blue skies (apparently the last before a few days of rain). The ‘final’ day of picking (we hope), which was planned to be a simple mopping up operation, but has since turned into, what could be, a full day of harvest. The grapes just keep on coming!

The complication that we have, as I have explained in previous years is that we have to wait until every last grape is in before we can start the last presses. The reason being that we have to spread the loads in each press evenly, because if they run with less than the minimum load, then we will cause serious damage.

Inside the bodega, with the first tanks racked a few days ago, we are now preparing for fermentation. This simply means that we allow the tanks to recover temperature sufficiently for the yeast not to be rendered ineffective. We chill the tanks for settling, and then release the temperature control to allow them to slowly increase again. Once they reach about 14°C then we can usually get started (dependent upon the type of yeast that we decide to use).

Finally, at about 8.30pm, the final grapes arrived, kilos calculated, and presses loaded for the last time in 2021. Once the final count was made the quantity of grapes processed was actually more than anticipated, although the volume of juice yielded was almost exactly on target.

Harvest 2021 – Day 7

September 23rd, 2021 | Bodega

Today is yet another sunny day, although from Friday onwards, three days of rain is forecast… we shall see. The good news is that this will almost certainly be our last full day of harvest, unless our picking crew can pull off some miracle. (On the very first day the team established a new bodega record for collecting grapes from pergolas by hand – 24,500 kilos in 8 hours – not bad going!). By the time the rain arrives (assuming that the forecast is correct), we will have everything safely collected, and we will continue with the wine making process, as well as a full programme of deep cleaning.

As the day progressed, we were making some headway, but it very soon became apparent that there might be more picking left for tomorrow, or at least more than we thought. Of course we are quite happy that we have more kilos, which will help to compensate a little for the low yield of grape must at pressing.

Harvest 2021 – Day 6

September 22nd, 2021 | Bodega

Yet another day of wall to wall sunshine, but marked by a very chilly night and early morning. I am not exactly sure what the overnight temperature was, but it must have been close to single figures (in °C, which would be close to 50°F).

Yesterday I mentioned that the yield of grapes per hectare was more than anticipated (but that the yield of grape must per kilo of grapes was lower). With at least another full day to go, a quick bit of mathematics was applied, based on kilos already collected. It transpires, that even with the lower amount of juice per kilo, that the net result will be that we will still probably fill more tanks than we originally anticipated. In terms of physical tank space this does not present a problem, however, the products and materials that we use for fermentation might be stretched to far. A quick bit of top-up ordering was required. Indeed, many of the products could be sourced locally, which I guess is not unusual for a wine producing area at harvest time. By tomorrow we should have everything that we need.

The work day itself was relatively quiet, by recent standards, and once again without any incident worth mention. Maybe one more full day for our harvesting team (who have been picking grapes like locusts!), and then it’s possible that there might just be a few remnants left to gather on Thursday morning. We will see.

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