2022 – Wine is on the way

September 28th, 2022 | Bodega

With tanks now well into their fermentations, all work is now fully focused inside the bodega. After every harvest our second highest priority, after winemaking, is deep cleaning. Every floor and surface has to be cleaned and scrubbed, to eliminate the stubborn, sticky grape juice, and every piece of equipment has to be stripped and completely serviced ready for next year. The sooner that this can be done the better, because once dry, the grape must can set hard like varnish!

The warehouse space shown in today’s photo is the very same that, some weeks ago, appeared in my posts full of pallets (or sometimes bottle stock). Today it is not. There are many areas that have to be emptied completely during harvest to allow free access, and also to ensure that stock does not get stained or damaged in any way. Suffice to say that space is always at a premium at this time of year.

In the meantime, samples of this year’s must have now been analysed by an official laboratory, rather than just our own small facility in the bodega. The results are slightly different to ours, but in a favourable way. According to this lab the acidity of this year’s wines should be at a normal level for our region (higher than we thought initially), and also the alcohol should be slightly lower, probably a bit nearer 12.5%. Of course, these results are still not definitive, until the wine is completely finished, but they do indicate that we should be producing a very typical, Salnés Valley, Atlantic albariño in 2022.


2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 10

September 20th, 2022 | Bodega

For our final day the sun was beating down (as it has been for the last couple of days, with a temperature of around 29°C / 84°F). With one final vineyard left to finish we hoped that this would be a short day. As I have mentioned in previous years we have to wait until the final grapes are collected before we can load the presses. The weight of fruit has to be distributed evenly as our presses cannot function if they are only half full. Again, this would mean another waiting game.

At about 5.30pm the last grapes were in, calculations were made, and presses were loaded. All was going well until about 8.30pm when there was a very loud bang and one of the presses stopped in the middle of its cycle. Clearly, from the sound alone, we could deduce that this was probably a mechanical failure rather than an electronic issue. We were not wrong.

The press had only just started it’s 75 minute cycle, and was stuck, leaving us unable to rotate the cylindrical tank of the press in any direction. This left us with a dilemma. If the press could not be repaired then how could we remove the partially crushed fruit and move it to the other press? We were considering all options, including taking our shoes and socks off and using ancient methods!

In short, after more than two hours, the engineers were able to make at least a temporary repair, this meant that at least the cycle could be completed and we could keep our feet dry (at least for this harvest)!

Apart from this final drama, the 2022 vintage has probably been slightly better than we anticipated, and after a very dry summer, our yields (litres/kilo) were more or less normal. Now we move on to the winemaking (albeit this is already well under way).

2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 9

September 19th, 2022 | Bodega

On Sunday, as we moved into the last few vineyards the sun was beating down on us, with the temperature hovering around 30°C (86°F). To be honest it was quite a slow day, with just a little racking in the morning, and then waiting for pallets of grapes to arrive in the afternoon. In the cellar there is a lot of waiting involved, but regrettably we don’t have too much choice. Our objective is simply to get all the grapes in so that we can do a final count, and know exactly how many kilos we will have in order that we can calculate the final number of tanks that we will need, and how best the must can be distributed between them. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds.

Lunch at harvest time is a very serious business. Our picking team usually stop for between an hour or an hour and a half for lunch, during which time (on very hot days) they try to find somewhere cool to eat – in the case of today’s photo, under a tree. As you can see they are also very resourceful, building a makeshift table out of harvest cases and a couple of plastic pallets. Unfortunately, the sommelier was just out of shot when I took the picture!


2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 8

September 18th, 2022 | Bodega

We are now getting near to the end of our 2022 harvest, which has not been without it’s difficulties. Apart from the weather (when we missed two days of picking), there has also been an acute shortage of people for picking. Some of our team work two jobs during the harvest. Quite a number are ‘mariscadoras’, who work on our local beaches collecting our famous local shellfish from the sand (difficult and back breaking work). They always collect this seafood early in the morning, and only when the tide permits, meaning that some days they are available, and other days they are not. The hardy few do actually pick for us after they have finished working in the sea. The best attribute of these mariscadoras is that they are always very hard working and can be trusted without supervision required (except to point them in the right direction).

In our final days we are moving between some of our own, smaller vineyard locations, but also picking the grapes of some of our grape suppliers. These days, picking the grapes of our suppliers is becoming more and more common, as not only do they have a problem finding pickers, but also some of the growers themselves are getting a bit older. The upside of this is that these older growers really take great care of their vines, and also, the vines themselves are nearly always very mature and produce great fruit.

We finished the day in our bodega vineyard, which as the name suggests, surrounds our building. This means that the grapes are delivered from vine to press in record time. As we did not collect fruit from any other location it meant that we enjoyed a relatively early finish, especially for a Saturday. Hopefully, in another day or so, we should be completely finished – probably our longest evert harvest!

2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 7

September 17th, 2022 | Bodega

When we study the weather forecast for the coming days it appears that the rain is now behind us, and that we will have good conditions to complete our harvest over the next two or three days. We shall see…

Seeding the tanks started today, whilst the harvest continued in the vineyards. Our cellar hand Fran who normally helps us starting the fermentations was fully occupied working on the presses, and so the task was left to Angela and myself – not really a big deal, as we have a few years of experience between us!

The must that we are working with this year is actual a slightly darker than usual, a pale gold colour, probably owing the the extreme heat this summer. The other significant factor being that the level of acidity is slightly lower this year. Being located in the Salnés Valley, in the north of the denomination, we are usually associated with a bright acidity, which, when the wine is very young, can be a little ‘edgy’ – sharp, as some people describe it. This year we might arrive with a wine ready to drink straight out of the press!

Seeding was also a little slower than normal as many pumps and hoses are being used on the harvest. The pumps and hoses used for seeding cannot be shared as the other musts can be contaminated by yeast before it is actually intended. This is very dangerous in the wine making process. Consequently the seeding process for the day was not completed until 10pm, at a time when the grape reception is working at full tilt.

Today’s photo shows a large 300 litre container used for preparing the yeast – when grape must is added the reaction is quite impressive. Starbucks would be envious of this foam!

2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 6

September 16th, 2022 | Bodega

As you may have gathered from my missing posts, our harvest was suspended for two days owing to “bad” weather. As I think I mentioned a couple of days ago, weather forecasts (here on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean), can be especially inaccurate – and so it proved to be. The forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday was for a storm (the tail of a Hurricane), or at the very least, a lot of rain and wind. OK, so it rained during the night on Monday, and was still a little damp on Tuesday morning, but by about midday the sun was shining, and no doubt the fresh breeze had dried any rain on our fruit. In the end, we could have picked, albeit with a slightly delayed start, losing only a couple of hours. It was the same on Wednesday, except with almost no rain at all – dark grey sky in the morning, but with sun by lunchtime…. so much for this famous storm, and so much for the weather forecasts! Of course, the only positive from the inaccurate forecasts is that there was not too much damage to our fruit (water from heavy rain will be sucked up by the plant, and have the effect of diluting the pulp/juice within the grape).

Thursday was much brighter, and with a better forecast (fingers crossed!), and so picking started at the normal hour of 9.30am. Meanwhile inside the bodega, we have been working – indeed, all the musts collected so far have been racked into clean tanks and we will start seeding tomorrow. 2022 is going to be a slightly more complicated year in that we will be starting fermentations and continuing our harvest at the same time. Normally they are more or less concurrent, with one following on from the other.

In the end Thursday’s forecast was largely correct….until about 7pm! Just as our picking was drawing to a close for the day, the heavens opened, and it rained heavily for about 15 minutes. Our picking team were left dashing for cover, as the only thing that was protected from the rain were our grapes (with plastic covers over the pallets). Fortunately, apart from a few damp shirts no lasting damage was done and within an hour and a half we were enjoying a spectacular sunset….

2022 – 40th Harvest at Castro Martin – Day 5

September 13th, 2022 | Bodega

More or less as predicted the day started under grey skies, and just a little light rain. Fortunately this was barely enough to penetrate the canopy, and stopped completely after about half an hour. With a very slight delay our picking team swung into action (although we made a decision to only harvest from our own vineyards) meaning that other grape suppliers would not be asked to pick today. In this way we can maintain complete control, in terms of the actual volume that we pick. The reason for this is simple mathematics, we need to calculate the weights required to ensure that our presses can accommodate every kilo collected.

The good news is that, so far, we have some very high quality grape must to work with – fresh, fruity, with good body and our usual bright acidity. A number of tanks have been racked and so fermentations can be started in a day or two.

Meanwhile in the vineyard, the anticipated rain finally arrived at 5.30pm. Picking was halted for the day, all grapes were covered and delivered by truck to the cellar. By 9.30 pm the final press had been loaded, and we were thankful to enjoy a comparatively short working day.

(By the way, todays photo shows the final part of the racking process – the clean must on top, and the organic residues at the bottom).

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!

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