Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Christmas 2007

Tomorrow we will be heading off to colder climes (the North of England, not Aspen) to celebrate Christmas.

May I take this opportunity to wish all our friends and customers around the world, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Drinking at Christmas

The UK government is having a bit of a crackdown on excessive alcohol consumption - and probably not before time. It's a little depressing to see some UK town centres regularly filled with hoards of young drinkers sprawled about the place in a drunken stupor (unfortunately a sight not exclusively reserved to Christmas time).

However, when it comes to excessive drinking I am not sure that the wine industry is entirely to blame, as I rather suspect that many offenders who stagger the streets on a Saturday night are more likely to be filled with beer and spirits, rather than bottles of Albariño!

At Castro Martin we always try to promote wine consumption in moderation, and I am sure that it will not be too long before we will include a message on our labels to that effect.

One of the other trends that we have also noticed recently are the increased levels of alcohol in wine. It is now quite common to see some new world wines reaching nearly 15% alcohol (the level of fortified wine). This is not intended as a criticism of the new world, as this higher alcohol simply results from the natural process:

Warm climate = more sugar = more alcohol

Until now, this has never been a concern in Rias Baixas - the anticipated alcohol range for Albariño would normally be between 11,5% and 12,5%. Having said that, for the last two years at least, we have seen wines at the upper end of this band, and we are left wondering if this is the effect of global warming on our verdant little corner of Spain.

As a positive selling point I always mention to our customers that Albariño is a 'drinking' (food and/or aperitif) wine, where two people can sit down, share, and easily finish the bottle, without feeling too many adverse side effects..... in other words, enjoyable, easy drinking.

So, enjoy your Christmas holidays, and try not to overdo it on the turkey either!

(For more information about the UK drink awareness campaign click here.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Autumn in Galicia

After weeks of sunshine, the cool, damp mists of Autumn that we would normally expect, have finally arrived here in Galicia. As vines start to shed their leaves and we experience a real chill in the air, this is natures way of telling us that it's time to reach for the secateurs.

I have to say that I am never really sure whether the act of pruning signals the end of the 2007 cycle, or actually represents the first step in preparation for 2008. Whichever way, it is a long, tough job, and often in very unpleasant conditions.

By complete coincidence the 'Word of the Day' on my Google homepage yesterday was Pergola! The definition was as follows:

Pergola: (noun) An arbor or a passageway of columns supporting a roof of trellis work on which climbing plants are trained to grow.
Synonyms: arbor, bower
Usage: The thick vegetation met overhead, interlacing into a natural pergola

There are actually two theories why the Pergola system is used extensively in Rias Baixas. The first, and more popular theory is that it allows better circulation of air around the canopy, suspending the fruit high above the cool, damp Galician soils.

The second theory is that Galicia was (and to an extent still is) a poor, rural part of Spain where many people exist on subsistence farming. It is still quite common for Galicians to raise pigs, poultry, sheep and even cattle for home consumption, and growing your own vegetables is taken for granted outside the towns and cities. Land for farming is therefore a precious commodity that has to be exploited to the full, and for this reason using the overhead Pergola system allows people to grow a second crop, or even graze animals at 'ground level'.

I am sorry to confess that as a 'City Boy' I opt for the local supermarket (where much of the fresh produce originates from our region anyway)!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish all our American customers a very Happy Thanksgiving.

(And don't forget - Albariño is great with turkey!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

2007 - A bad year for vintage snobs

"It is enough to make wine connoisseurs choke on their Pétrus. Hugh Johnson, the doyen of wine critics, has decreed that vintages hardly matter any more.

Johnson, 68, says that wine growers have developed so many clever techniques to compensate for bad weather or disease ruining their crops that almost any year is a perfectly good one for drinkers."
The Times, London, 11th November 2007

It was almost a year ago now since I wrote about vintage guides, and how it is difficult to generalise about the quality of an entire harvest, by simply allocating a number of stars against the name of a particular region. In a round about way I guess that this is what Hugh Johnson is also implying - there will always be exceptions to the rule, and good wines will still be made even in what is deemed to be a 'bad vintage'. We have the technology both in the vineyard and the cellar to make something good even when nature conspires against us.

He comments that the gap in quality between good vintages and bad is narrowing, and also hits out at some of the ridiculous prices being paid at auction for the top 'names', perhaps even questioning whether they are really worth the money being paid.

Of course we should not forget that the average wine consumer is sheltered from too many bad experiences. Inevitably the wine that he or she buys from the shop shelf will have been filtered through a series of extensive tastings by teams of highly competent wine buyers, all but eliminating unwelcome surprises.

By contrast Stephen Williams, managing director of the Antique Wine Company in London, disagreed: “Winemakers may have all this technology, but great vintages are made in the deckchair when mother nature shines and they don’t have to do anything.”

Clearly Mr Williams has never run a wine cellar!

Monday, November 19, 2007

So, where is the driest place in Spain?

Normal autumnal weather is finally restored!

I'm sure that by now you have probably guessed the answer to this question.

As difficult to believe as it may seem, the driest place in Spain between 1st September and 15th November 2007 was southern Galicia! If memory serves me correctly we have had perhaps only two days with rainfall during this period, the rest of the time we have enjoyed pretty much 'wall-to-wall' sunshine. This is in complete contrast to last year when it started to rain in mid-September and did not stop all winter.

Of course we have conflicting feelings about this type of 'Indian Summer', as whilst it is nice to enjoy a bit of warming winter sunshine, it is also the time of year when our reserves of water need to be replenished.

In any event it started to rain yesterday evening and has not stopped since then - normal service is resumed.....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hot Stuff!

The question of the month?

The Spanish are not very big on hot, spicy food, hence it is virtually impossible to find a curry restaurant in my local area. It is therefore quite interesting that a Spanish food and wine magazine should ask the question "which wines go with curry?"

I wrote a month or two ago about matching food with wine, but this is a particularly difficult question to answer, and, as they point out in the article, it rather depends on the way in which the curry is prepared. There is no doubt in my mind that if we are talking about something extremely hot such as Madras or Vindaloo, then my advice is - stick with a cold beer!

The article suggests that with hotter curries you can drink white wines with a softer acidity and perhaps even a little residual sugar, such as a Viognier, or a ripe Chenin Blanc from South Africa. (Before I receive complaints from my wine making friends around the world, I am not suggesting for a moment that all these wines contain residual sugar!)

They go on to recommend that with milder curries you should turn to wines with a little more acidity, such as a dry Riesling, Chablis or even Champagne. Of course, amongst this selection they include our very own Albariño.

A few years ago when I worked in London I once participated in an extensive tasting in a well-known Indian restaurant. Armed with a wide selection of both red and white wines we tasted them with various spicy dishes. As with any type of cuisine there were some good matches, and some violent clashes, depending on the combination of fruit, tannin, acidity and spice. I have to say that in my opinion, there was no simple magic formula for finding a match.

In conclusion, I still have some reservations about wine with curry, although I would not wish to discourage you from drinking Albariño at any time of day. Perhaps I will just test the theory of this publication the next time I cook a curry at home.....

Monday, November 05, 2007

The value of having an Advocate....

Love him or hate him Robert Parker Jr has been influencing the latest fashion in wine for nearly 30 years now. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I am not a great fan. Not because of what he originally set out to do, but more because of what he has since become.

His original idea way back in 1978, when he produced the first issue of his Wine Advocate, was simply to unlock some of the mystery of wine for the average man in the street. Using a concise rating system out of 100 points, his readers would know if (according to Parker's taste), the wine worth buying or not. No harm in that - indeed a very good idea.

Unfortunately, over time, his publication became absurdly over-influential, not only in determining the success or failure of a particular property, but also, more importantly, influencing the style and taste of wine itself.

In Bordeaux for example, he latched on to the distinctive style of winemaker Michel Rolland as being a benchmark for the modern taste of that region. Dark, ripe, over-extracted wines were to become the order of the day, albeit that they simply did not age in the same way, or perhaps even as well as wines that were made using the more traditional 'old fashioned' methods. His palate was perhaps influenced by the North American style of up-front, forward, fruit driven wines. Fine if you like that sort of thing, but not so fine when, as a result, every wine maker on the planet becomes desperate to clone this modern, 'Parker style'. Their goal of course, to glean a few more precious Parker points.

From my own experience as a buyer back in the 80's, I also heard one or two stories about his work in Burgundy (before he farmed out tasting for that region to Michel Bettane). I was told first hand, by growers themselves, that he had rated their wine when it was actually not possible that he had even tasted it! Heaven only knows why he would chose to do that.

So, my advice in buying wine is the same now as it has always been: Sure, use a wine guide (or even better, cross-reference several) to give you some ideas, but in the end, drink what you enjoy drinking, and not what someone tells you that you should drink!

Friday, October 26, 2007



On 27th October 2007 we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the inauguration of the current Bodegas Castro Martin wine cellar. Constructed during 1981, but officially inaugurated in 1982 with the '82 vintage - exactly 25 years ago.

This may not seen like very long, but you should bear in mind that the denomination of Rias Baixas was not actually created until 1987, and so it was Domingo Martin Morales (Angela's father) who had the foresight to build, what was then, one of the largest cellars in the area.

Built on three levels (thereby using mostly gravity to move the grapes, grape must and wine around) Domingo was also the first in Galicia to install stainless steel tanks for wine making - and with a total capacity of just over 200,000 litres (since increased to over 300,000) the locals considered him to be complete madman! Little did they know....

To clear up any possible confusion I should mention that Angela's family had actually been making and selling Albariño in the local area for generations before this time, but this was really the beginning of the 'industrial age' of wine making for the family.

So please raise a glass (of Albariño of course). Here's to Domingo Martin Morales, and the next 25 years!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Following the density

Measuring the density

In my previous reports I have mentioned that the natural yeasts of the Albariño in our denomination are not vigorous enough on their own to sustain the alcoholic fermentation. For this reason we are obliged to seed the tanks with selected yeasts to help convert the natural grape sugars into wine.

One of the key factors during this process is temperature control - the higher the temperature, the faster, and therefore shorter, the fermentation. Extremes of temperature, either too hot, or too cold can make the fermentation stick, and will ultimately have a detrimental effect on the finished wine. In white wine making temperature is especially critical, and we therefore analyse the grape must at least twice a day to monitor the speed of the reaction.

The method we use is quite simple, measuring the density of the must - in effect looking at the rate at which the sugar is being consumed. Examining the results gives us the information that we need for temperature control - if the sugar is being consumed too quickly we lower the temperature a little.

Depending on the temperature used, fermentation can take anything from one, to three or four weeks.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Responsible drinking?

Spain can be a country of contradictions - sometimes between Local and National Governments. I do not comment on many of these simply because they have no connection to the wine trade, but on this occasion, as it relates to alcohol, I feel compelled to comment.....

Last year, whilst explaining why we chose to opt out of the annual Albariño Festival (see August 2006), I mentioned a worrying phenomena that continues to grow here in Spain - The Botellón. Basically these are organised street-drinking parties that take place every weekend in nearly every city, town and village throughout Spain.

Young people take to the off-licences and supermarkets to stock up on spirits and mixers, on the pretext that they cannot afford to drink in bars and discos. The result being that public areas in cities, towns and villages throng with drunken young people well into the early hours of the morning as they openly swig from their bottles. (And when I say young, they start as young as 11, 12 and 13, simply asking their elders to buy the alcohol for them). The areas that they frequent are left littered with debris and empty bottles, and I will not detail some of the other sights and smells! I guess that the only saving grace might be that they do not appear to resort to any violence (as yet).

The Spanish Government has acted by printing the brochure above, stating that one in every three children between the ages of 14 and 18 gets drunk at least once a month, and then it goes on to warn parents that excessive alcohol can cause irreversable brain damage. Bravo! I may hear you say, there is at least one initiative..... but wait, how does Local government chose to back this National scheme?

Reported, quite incredibly, in the local Galician press, is a meeting between a member of the local Xunta and representatives of the young people. Their agenda? To discuss ways to prevent this under age street-drinking? Well, no, but actually to find alternative locations around the city of Pontevedra where they might re-locate their Botellón to create a little less disturbance!!!

Apparently the local Government believes that it is easier to accomodate the young people and find them a nice location, rather than to confront them and address the underlying problem.....

Is this a tale of 'political correctness' gone mad?

N.B. At the meeting, the young people turned down the alternative locations as unsuitable, so they will continue to party in the historic old town centre of Pontevedra. Heaven help the local residents....

Harvest 2007 - the full story

David shows off the 'fruit of his labour'

You may recall that immediately after our 2006 harvest (in the middle of September), it started to rain. Well, I can tell you now that it almost didn’t stop raining until the end of July 2007! Hardly a complete week passed without some form of precipitation, and this included many days of torrential rain, at times reminiscent of the tropics. Indeed the month of October 2006 recorded the equivalent of six months of the annual rainfall in just three weeks! Suffice to say that I guess we had what you could honestly describe as a wet winter, spring and early summer….

Of course, such humidity levels are not ideal for grape cultivation, and it is only fair to admit that we were obliged to spray against mildew and oidium a little more than usual. Having said that, the many hours that we spent in our vineyards during the early part of the summer certainly paid dividends. By using radical ‘canopy management’ techniques imported from the ‘new world’ (yet rarely seen here in Galicia), we were able to give our fruit the best possible exposure, effectively minimising the levels of treatment needed.

This year, we should certainly make special mention of David (our vineyard manager) who worked tirelessly under Angela’s supervision, to keep our vineyards in tip-top condition – even sacrificing weekends and days of his annual leave to ensure that essential work was carried out at the optimum moment.

The month of August, as we would anticipate, provided a much-needed break from the wet conditions, although temperatures remained fairly modest. However, the character of the 2007 vintage was probably defined during the final two weeks before the grapes were actually collected. The beginning of September witnessed a welcome increase in daytime temperatures, pushing towards 30°C (86°F). Under these conditions the grape sugars received a final boost, but perhaps more significantly, the acidity was reduced to a more manageable level.

Inevitably the actual harvest date was decided by a combination of the physiology of the fruit, and the Galician weather. And so, by Saturday 15th September, with all the boxes ticked, the 2007 harvest kicked off in perfect conditions.

I always believe that the secret of any successful ‘event’ is in the forward planning, and with each passing vintage, we implement the lessons learned from previous years. In this way we hope that each campaign might be a little easier than the last! In 2007 it would appear that this philosophy paid some dividends as our well drilled team went about their business. David and Juan in charge of grape collection, Luisa in charge of grape reception, Fran in charge of the presses, and Angela and I, swanning around trying to look important…..

Actually, I lied about the last part – During the harvest my task is to stay on top of the logistics and planning, making sure that that we have people in the right places when they are needed, and also ensuring that the grapes flow through the cellar in a timely fashion. Angela, meanwhile, can be found in her lab coat, recording the quality of every single grape that enters the Bodega.

The first weekend passed off without major incident, although it soon became clear that the yields of 2007 would be well down on those of 2006. It should be remembered however, that 2006 was a record year, and so this shortfall was only to be expected, and could perhaps equate to a better concentration, and therefore superior quality. We shall see…..

In the early hours of Monday morning as we left the Bodega to grab a few hours sleep, it started to rain (exactly as had been forecast). When we woke up it had stopped, the pavements had dried, but the sky was pretty dull and overcast, with not a breath of wind. In these conditions, having looked at the water retention in the canopy, we decided to suspend picking for the day.

By Tuesday morning the sun had returned, together with a fresh breeze, so naturally we returned to the fray. Fortunately, such a small amount of water had made no difference whatsoever to the quality of the fruit, and this proved to be the only small weather hiccup of the whole vintage.

And so, after one week of picking, all the grapes had been safely gathered in, and we moved into the cellar for the more complex process of the winemaking. The next few weeks will see virtually non-stop activity as we first allow the must to settle, before racking it into clean tanks to begin fermentation. Unfortunately the natural yeasts on the Albariño grape cannot sustain fermentation by themselves, so we stimulate the process by seeding with carefully selected yeasts. After trials with several different yeast strains conducted over the last few years, we have deliberately selected a very neutral variety that allows the delicate flavour of the grape itself to dominate on the palate.

Before fermentation our first view of this year’s ‘must’ reveals a greater concentration than last year – unctuous and with a thicker consistency. The nose and palate both share aromas of peach, pear and apricot (and not as floral as we sometimes see). This rich, generous mouthfeel that originates from the high level of grape sugar, will probably produce an Albariño of around 12.5% alcohol - the same as our 2006 wine. So, despite the reduced quantity that we have produced, we have high hopes for the quality of our 2007 wine.

Friday, September 21, 2007

On the home stretch

'Behind the scenes' - Luisa records the incoming crop

2007 Harvest - Day 6 - Friday 21st September

At the same moment that many Bodegas in our area are springing into action, our 2007 campaign is about to draw to a close. In some ways this can be one of the most complicated parts of the whole harvest.....

We have two presses, each with a different maximum and minimum capacity. Incredibly the minimum capacity is probably more important than the maximum - exceeding the maximum is practically impossible anyway, as the grapes will not physically enter into the press. However, leaving the press with too few grapes can cause the pneumatic membrane to rupture, as it is forced to over-expand and presses against the rubber 'fingers' on the inner walls of the drum. (Does that make any sense to you?)

Meanwhile, back to the original story. Taking into account these weight restrictions we have to ensure that we are not left with an odd few hundred kilos of grapes at the end, as obviously we would not be able to fill even our small press to the minimum level. This might sound like a relatively simple problem that is easy to work out, but believe me, it can be quite tricky when your brain is seizing up at the end of a long week!

And so, apart from the one night of rain, and missing one day to accomodate the drying process, we have enjoyed pretty much a perfect week. I will post a resume of proceedings in the next day or so.

With thanks to my small, but beautifully formed team for 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The 'Big Boys' join in

Who me? 150kph in the vineyard? Impossible!

2007 Harvest - Day 5 - Thursday 20th September

Speaking to our electrician yesterday I am reliably informed that some of the larger players (the two main Co-operatives) in our denomination are entering the game today. I have always been puzzled as to how such a small denomination (less than 3,000 hectares in total), can support two such large Co-operatives, so you can imagine my complete astonishment when I tell you that a third Co-operative opens it's doors for this harvest. This is assuming of course that the doors have actually been fitted yet....

I am sorry to tell you that this new co-operative was possibly born out of a lack of trust between the bodegas and the growers. The absence of contracts or the complete abuse of such, mean that the growers form co-operatives in an attempt to achieve some sort of security and continuity - you cannot blame them really. The downside of this is, of course, that there is more pressure put on grape supply, and rumours already abound of increased prices - the last thing that any denomination needs.

However, setting up a new co-operative is one thing, selling the wine that they produce from a standing start, is quite another. Time will tell.

So, meanwhile back to our Bodega, the grapes continue to roll in and all is well here in a warm, sunny Barrantes - I only wish I could get my ADSL connection to work properly - we have recently upgraded the connection to 3Mb, but quite frankly I don't think the lady on the local switchboard can handle it......

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blowing hot and cold......

Fran shows great determination when loading the presses!

Harvest 2007 - Day 4 - Thursday 19th September

Today is yet another sunny day, but without the breeze, and consequently warmer than yesterday. One of the big problems that we face in these conditions is the risk of catching colds and flu - perhaps I should explain......

It's quite simple really - one minute you find yourself working in a warm sunny reception area checking in grapes as they arrive, and the next you are down in the bowels of the cellar racking 'musts', where the ambient temperature is usually between 12°C and 14°C. Alternating between a sweatshirt and a t-shirt there is naturally the risk of catching a chill - a sore throat is pretty much an occupational hazard (although this could be caused by the presence of suphur that is used to protect the fresh juice).

Today's only real problem is a shortage of electricity! It would seem that the recent upgrade of our cooling system (which obviously works overtime during the harvest), has overloaded the circuit a little. You would think that the electricians might have thought of this before now! But no matter, a few adjustments and a bit of sticky tape appears to have done the trick and everything is working again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Normal service is restored

Any ideas what this is?

2007 Harvest - Day 3 - Tuesday 18th September

I have mentioned before that we follow the forecasts closely at harvest time, and I have to admit that they got it spot on once again. We opened the shutters this morning to reveal a perfect blue sky, exactly as promised. The other successful prediction was a drop in temperature - about 4/5°C cooler than the first day of harvest, but still a very pleasant 22°C (72°F). The only slightly unexpected element was a cool fresh breeze (although this did actually help to ensure completely dry fruit).

After nearly three full days of picking it is quickly becoming evident that the yields this year are much lower than 2006, which I guess is only to be expected. We should not forget that the last few of years have produced some record figures, partly owing to new plantings, but also because of some very abundant yields. From a quality standpoint this is no bad thing, albeit that some of our growers would probably find this mentality a little difficult to understand. Naturally they are more motivated by weight, despite the fact that we actually pay more for quality grapes rather than merely volume.

At the very end of the night, we did experience one minor hiccup (let's hope it will be the first and the last), when one of the presses seized up and refused to move. Thankfully this occurred when it was empty, and being cleaned, so hopefully it will be repaired before start of play tomorrow......

N.B. The above photo is taken looking directly down into one of the tanks as the first litres of grape 'must' arrive from the presses.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hold the presses!

Angela in the lab - testing 'must' samples

2007 Harvest - 17th September 2007 - (not Day 3!)

As we drove home from the Bodega late yesterday night it started to rain, exactly as the forecasts had predicted. By this morning the rain had stopped, the roads and pavements had dried up, but the atmosphere was still a little damp, and skies overcast.

We immediately examined the vine canopy to see how much water had been retained, and decided that, in the absense of any wind or sunshine (to dry the grapes thoroughly) we would suspend picking for the day.

We are confident that this will have no effect on the overall quality (as the amount of rain is so little) and the forecast for the rest of the week is for sunny skies, albeit that the temperature has dropped to the low 20's C (around 70°F)

Looking forward to an unexpected early night tonight!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

There's nothing like being prepared

My guess is that this guy was once a boy scout!

2007 Harvest - Day 2 - Sunday 16th September

They say that grape pickers are nomadic, but one of the guys working for us this year takes all the prizes! Take a look at his 4x4 pictured above (click on the picture to enlarge) - he appears to be prepared for all the perils of the Galician outback.

OK, so now back to the serious business of harvesting grapes. The weather forecast for today was not perfect, but we did at least start in bright sunshine. As the day wore on however, the sky did become a little overcast, mostly high cloud, and we did experience just a few spots of rain that fell in the late morning, but not even enough to dampen the pavement.

The grapes collected so far are very healthy, with good sugar levels, and perhaps just a hint more acidity than last year, although it is very difficult to judge this so early on. Our first look at the grape 'must' (which is in the midst of 'settling') reveals a nose of apricot and peach, with the same fruits appearing on the palate, together with apple and pear - very typical of the variety. It appears to have good weight and concentration, balanced by a fresh acidity, but obviously we will know more accurately after fermentation.

After a reasonably relaxed weekend, we await the onslaught of the new week.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I've always wanted a Lamborghini

OK, so it's not the Murciélago Roadster, but it has an open top!

2007 Harvest - Day 1 - Saturday 15th September

So, we finally decided to go early again - not as early as last year, but I am sure that we are the first Bodega in our zone to start picking. As I mentioned yesterday, it is never an easy decision, but after continued sampling of all the vineyards over the last few weeks, monitoring levels, we called Herminda and her team into action. (For those of you who don't recall, Herminda does a fantastic job for us both rounding up, and managing our pickers).

Under perfect blue skies, and temperatures of about 28°C (82.4°F) the grapes started to arrive by mid-morning - looking pretty healthy considering the relatively poor, damp summer that we have experienced this year. Certainly the hot, dry conditions that we have enjoyed for the last two weeks has provided a welcome boost to the maturity, and helped to reduce the acidity, which until now, has been quite elevated.

I guess that one of the secrets to a successful harvest is organisation, and I have to say that this year we have everything planned to the last detail, so that when the grapes finally arrive, there is no big panic or fuss.

In summary, the first day has passed off pretty smoothly, but at this stage we are still only building towards the crescendo that will probably arrive on Monday, when we invite more of our grape suppliers to join the campaign.

So far, so good.

N.B. The Lamborghini is actually not ours- one of our local tractor dealers has kindly loaned it to us for the duration of the harvest to help collect grapes.

Friday, September 14, 2007

To pick or not to pick.... that is the question

As wine making decisions go, deciding upon the optimum moment to start the harvest is probably one of the most difficult.

In a perfect world, all grapes, from all our different vineyard sites would reach full maturity at more or less the same time, with the perfect balance of sugar, acidity and pH. The nights would be cool and the days warm with perfect blue skies.

Unfortunately the reality is a little different..... whilst the sugar (potential alcohol) increases, and the acidity falls there can also be a loss of aromas - so it the end it all becomes a bit of a gamble and a question of holding your nerve. Deciding upon the correct moment to reap the full potential of the grape is one thing, but then we also cannot afford to forget the vagaries of the local weather. Torrential rain can very quickly dilute an entire years efforts in the vineyard.

We have our fingers well and truly crossed, and our presses at the ready.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Top Spanish prize for Casal Caeiro

Casal Caeiro - a wine of 'Distinction'

As you may have gathered if you have read my blog over the last year or so, I am not a great fan of wine competitions - there are often too many inconsistencies, both in the samples submitted, and the wide range of tasting categories.

The GALLAECIA is a local competition, tasted in Santiago de Compostela by 65 sommeliers and professionals who travel from all around Spain to judge the wines. Over 400 Galician wines are submitted, and these are whittled down to a final selection, that in turn are judged by 5 top sommelieres and 5 members of the local Consello Regulador.

There are no gold or silver medals as such, just a Certificate of Distinction, which is recognised by the Xunta of Galicia, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, and the European Union.

For me at least, the most significant accolades are those bestowed by sommeliers who really understand our wines and denomination, and accredited journalists who make unsolicited tasting notes about our Albariño.

Castro Martin in New York

Angela at the Lincoln Centre

September is usually the time of year when our thoughts turn to grapes rather than a 'big apple', but this year we made time to squeeze in the annual tasting of our new Castro Martin importer in New York City.

At the famous, and prestigious Lincoln Centre (or should it be Center) Castro Martin rubbed shoulders with many other top wine producers from around the world, and appeared to be very well received even in such illustrious company. Naturally we hope that the enthusiasm for our Albariño (and it's packaging, which was also admired), will be converted into listings and new orders!

So, after a quick shop-a-thon in New York, and just a little jet-lag, we find ourselves back at the coal face, rushing around preparing for the harvest. The contrast between the big city and rural Galicia could not be more extreme.....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Serious about food & wine pairing?

I have written on a few previous occasions about food and wine pairing (and the snobbism often associated with this subject), but in the end there is really only one way to find the definitive answer..... make some tastings for yourself.

Now here is an idea where you can really have some fun, but more importantly, learn a huge amount about the do's and dont's of food and wine. If you have some friends who have even a passing interest in wine, then invite them to join you - this can make for a very entertaining evening. If you own a hotel or restaurant this can also be a great way to educate your employees....

Firstly, make a small but simple shopping list. You will need:

1). A 'Granny Smith' apple (or similar green apple with tart acidity)
2). Pieces of dried apple (or other dried fruit)
3). A wedge of lemon
4). An artichoke (could be tinned, so long as it is well drained)
5). Brie or similar cheese with black pepper coating
6). Blue cheese (of your own choice)

The idea is quite simple - you open a bottle of wine (or even better, a selection of two or three different wines), and then systematically taste each one with each of the different foods. You can also try some combinations - spread a bit of blue cheese on the apple, squeeze a little lemon juice on the artichoke - see if this changes your perception.

If you do decide to do this with two or three different wines, then do make sure you have some contrast. For example, I would suggest:

1). A light off-dry or medium sweet white wine
2). A richly oaked white wine
3). A fresh, dry fruity white (which must be Albariño!)
4). A fresh fruity red wine
5). A more tannic red wine

Certainly, professionals would be advised to make copious notes of the results - otherwise simply try to remember the combinations that really don't work, so that you do not make an expensive mistake when eating out! Remember, it is often the way that food is prepared, and the sauce, that makes all the difference - Pinot Noir with beef for example, can be excellent, but then add some horseradish sauce to your meat, and the wine is destroyed. Egg is also notoriously difficult to match, and probably best avoided - I can only make one possible suggestion - a very old (almost oxidised), white Rhone wine, which might sound disgusting but can work reasonably well with scrambled egg.

We live and learn!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Would you buy a wine with no label?

Only buy wine that is formally dressed!

When I first arrived in Spain a few years ago one of the things that first struck me when eating out was the number of unlabelled bottles served to the tables - not carafe wine, but wine bottled, with a cork, simply missing any form of identification. This was not an 'under the counter' operation, but very open and blatant, and an offer taken up by the large majority of customers. I have no doubt that this wine even tasted a little 'sweeter' to these consumers as they enjoyed a cheaper price as a result of not paying any tax!

Whilst this type of 'deal' is probably offered all around the vineyards of Europe, I cannot imagine it happening too much in the New World. The real shock for me however, was the sheer volume and audacity of the practice (especially when I consider the stringent controls that we face as wine producers, not only to guarantee the quality of our product, but also to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' on the label). In the past, for example, we have actually been pulled up for having a typeface that is 1mm too small, let alone not having any label at all! So it would hardly seem fair, to say the least.....

Possibly out of guilt, but more likely owing to the loss of taxes, our local Government has now started an initiative to stop the practice of unlabelled wine by printing a brochure. How this will help I am not quite sure, as it always the enforcement that seems to be a bit lacking here in Spain. I can only hope that we enjoy more success than the no-smoking law which appears to have made almost no difference whatsoever!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Order now before the rush!

Our fleet of modern vehicles will speed orders to your cellar door...

We are probably just over a month away from the start of the 2007 harvest, and whilst we are still 'open for business' during this period, we strongly encourage all our customers to order well in advance to avoid possible delay.

Whilst the grapes are still ripening on the vines it is impossible to know the exact date that we will start picking, but my best guestimate would be around the second or third week of September - not quite as early as last year, and perhaps a bit closer to 'norm'.

The summer so far has not been very kind to our region, as we have experienced a lot of rain and humidity - not the best weather for growing fruit. To be very honest we have been obliged to use some anti-mildew and oidium treatments, but our careful management of the vine canopy has at least helped to minimise the amount of intervention. Other growers have perhaps been a little less fortunate, as the 'vine vigour' (created by the additional rainfall) has only served to trap moisture and exaggerate the problem.

We are currently experiencing a hot, dry period, so we have our fingers crossed that this will now continue for the rest of the summer!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yet more press for Casal Caeiro

The press in Venezuela appear to quite like our wine, which of course could be for several different reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that Angela was born there. Secondly it could be that we have a very good distributor, who makes sure that our wine is regularly presented to the press. And finally, it goes without saying that the most likely reason is that we make a really good Albariño!

Our Casal Caeiro 2006 (which has only recently been released in South America) is described as having "a rich, powerful, aromatic nose, displaying an array of citrus fruits and salty, mineral notes. Clean and intense in the mouth with a lively, fresh acidity and a long, persistent finish."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More recent press.....

In recent weeks two or three of our wines have been mentioned in wine guides and magazines, both in Spain and around the world. These most recent articles have included tasting notes, but no particular rating as such, albeit that all the comments have been very good.
The 2007 ABC wine guide accurately described our Castro Martin with "a scent of orange blossom, and hints of melon, lemon and grapefruit" on the palate.

The July issue of Vinos y Restaurantes commented that our Casal Caeiro Barrica displayed "intensely fresh citrus aromas and varietal fruit, nicely combined with the toasted oak"

Always nice to get a mention!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The cost of supermarket shopping

Let me start by saying that I actually like supermarkets - I belong to the minority of males who quite enjoy wheeling a trolley up and down the aisles!

The choice of goods in UK supermarkets is mind-boggling (especially when compared to the somewhat limited selection that we have here in Galicia). I also have to admit that supermarkets have been instrumental in promoting competitive pricing, albeit sometimes at the expense of local traders. Unfortunately our small local shop does not enjoy the same purchasing power, and, regrettably, it is this very power that can sometimes be abused......

We regularly hear of desperate UK dairy farmers being forced out of business as they are obliged to sell their milk to supermarkets at below their cost price - although it would now seem that this problem is slowly being addressed with the promotion of locally produced milk. Likewise with local fruit and vegetables - as the high street giants now scramble to reduce their carbon footprint they are increasingly supporting their local producers. All very positive news.

I am however puzzled by the 'fair trade' range of products carried by many chains, simply as this phrase appears to imply that the rest of their trade might not be as fair as it should be! Maybe I am just reading too much into this?

The bad news is that the "supermarket squeeze" on pricing has now filtered through to the wine trade too. The following text is an extract from an article in the UK's Daily Telegraph, and relates the story of Southern French producers:

Mr Bourchet is just one of many small-scale "vignerons" (wine growers) in the Languedoc and Roussillon region who are prepared to grub up to avoid bankruptcy after three years of losses.
He said times were so bad that several winegrowers had committed suicide since the beginning of the year.
Local wine producers are furious that their sale prices have been slashed by around 50 per cent while wine prices in shops and supermarkets have not dipped. A litre of vin de pays is sold for as little as 0.35 euros (24p) and costs 10 times that amount in supermarkets. "Someone is pocketing the difference and we want to know who," he said.

My message to the supermarkets..... don't forget to support your (not so local) wine producers too!

Monday, July 09, 2007

95 points for Casal Caeiro!

El Gourmet gives Casal Caeiro 95 points

OK, so it's not Robert Parker Jnr., but 95 points must be good in anyone's book!

The Gourmet (translated) tasting note reads as follows:

Deliciously fresh and vibrant. A pale yellow colour, as it should be, the nose bursts with mature white fruits, most noticably melon, with a floral background. Mineral acidity with a lovely carbonic touch that adds to the fresheness - delicate and persistent in the mouth.

Recommended with Pulpo a la Gallega, Fresh Langoustines, and Poached Fish

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Flaming June?

(Dark) blue skies over Salnes

The results are out, and it's official - Galicia had poor weather during the month of June (as though we needed to be told). So let's look at the stats....

The 30-year average temperature for June in our area is 18.1°C (64.6°F). Last year was well above this at 20.3°C (68.5°F), but in 2007 we have managed only a miserly 17.5°C (63.5°F) - just a little down on the average.

But then we have the rainfall figures...... Our 30-year average rainfall for the month of June should be around 65 litres per m² (please don't ask me the imperial equivalent). Last year we had only 11 litres per m², but this year we have had a whopping 134 litres per m² - over ten times more than in 2006, and just over double the June average.

These are not ideal conditions for grape growing, but I guess that we shouldn't really complain when we compare ourselves to the poor people of South Yorkshire in England who can only reach their homes in a rubber dinghy. Fortunately, my mother (who lives in Yorkshire), is located on top of a hill, so if she ever suffers from flooding then we really have a problem and should start building an Ark!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In search of a good bottle

Bottles come in every shape, size, design and colour.....
except the one that we want!

You may find this difficult to believe but we have an ongoing struggle to buy the exact bottle that we really want for our wines, there always seems to be a problem....

Obviously the first consideration that we make is what is best for our wine - we opt for a dark colour to give the wine some protection against ultraviolet light, which over time will cause damage. We have been asked on occasions if we can produce our wine in a clear (white) bottle, but there are a couple of good reasons why we don't. Firstly, there is the light problem mentioned above, then there is the aesthetic appearance - Albariño can either look bland and anaemic, or in some vintages, because of it's golden hue, a little maderised and 'over the hill'. And then finally, clear glass is simply more expensive as it is very difficult to make out of re-cycled glass (most re-cycled glass is coloured because of impurities).

The second criteria when chosing a bottle is that of appearance - it is of paramount importance to have a good presentation befitting the quality of your product. Today there is an overwhelming selection of shapes and colours to chose from, but for numerous reasons we have opted to follow the classic route, chosing a 'prestige' Bordeaux shape. In Rias Baixas the bottle traditionally used was the old Rhine shape, but unfortunately this was not always the most practical for storing in a wine cooling cabinet. Some people also consider this to be a little old fashioned.

So, having selected the shape, we then have to select the shade that we want. Our preference would be a very dark green (4th from the left in the photo above). However, actually obtaining a quality bottle of this colour in our part of Spain has proven to be a real nightmare.

We have surfed the catalogues of Spanish, Portuguese and even French producers, but finding the right quality at a reasonable price has proved to be almost impossible. In Portugal we did actually locate a supplier who produced what appeared to be the perfect bottle, so naturally we rushed to place our order. On first sight they looked perfect, but then we tried to bottle with them..... I should tell you at this point that in bottle production temperature is a critical factor, and if they are not cooled correctly, or to quickly, then this makes the glass very brittle, no matter what the weight of the bottle. And yes, you've guessed it.... a great looking bottle, but one which had a tendency to explode on our bottling line. (Broken glass on your bottling line is one of your biggest nightmares for obvious reasons).

So, I apologise unreservedly to all our customers who live with the subtle changes in the colour of our bottle as we search (so far in vain) for the perfect supplier. If anyone reading this blog can recommend a good bottle producer - preferably in Spain - then we would be delighted to hear from you.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Caeiro vineyard 3 years on

Caeiro vineyard - May 2004

Caerio vineyard today - June 2007

Vineyards in Galicia are like gold dust, and very difficult to come by. This is not because of a shortage of land, or even suitable sites, but it is simply that you need to have permission to plant, and this is the problem.

With the EU actively discouraging the planting of new vineyards in order to control the overall volume of production in Europe, the only way that new planting is allowed is by buying permission - effectively buying the right to plant from another area where a vineyard has been grubbed up. This may not necessarily be from within Galicia, but could be just as easily from La Mancha or Navarra. Strange as this may seem, these are the rules....

The photographs above show the progress of our vineyard here at the Bodega (approx one hectare). The first shot taken in 2004, about a year after the vines were planted, and then the same view from 2007. The vines are now more or less in production, and at harvest time we will carefully sift through the grapes to perhaps include a few of the best.

At the moment the pergolas in Caeiro are not fully completed, and during this winter we will add the tubes that are suspended between the posts in order to train the vines overhead.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Food & Albariño

Albariño - great with octopus (but perhaps not the blue-ringed variety!)

Before I start I should mention that there is a page covering gastronomy on our main website, but I thought that with the summer looming, and foreign holidays booked, now would be a good time to write a little about food and wine.

The first thing to remember about matching food and wine is to forget any hard and fast rules. Forget about complicated systems for selecting the right wine to enhance the food on the table. This is not rocket science. It's common sense.

Some of today's food-and-wine advisers might suggest that mediocre wines can be improved by serving them with the right food - not true (albeit that drinking a poor wine with a chicken vindaloo might prove me wrong!) So, the first rule is to pick a good wine - and this is where common sense part comes in..... The old rule about white wine with fish and red wine with meat made perfect sense in the days when white wines were nearly always light and fruity and red wines were heavy and tannic, but today this does not always apply. And furthermore, you have to take into account the way in which your meal is prepared - for example, is it served with a cream sauce, does it have citrus flavours or is it heavily spiced?

In the case of Albariño the most obvious matches, for this clean, refreshing white grape are the local specialities of Galicia - fresh fish and seafood (best served with the minimum culinary intervention). Surprisingly, it may also be recommended with less obvious foods such as goat's cheese, and it works well with most white meats, again depending on how they are prepared. Oriental food is also worth exploring with Albariño, especially Japanese and many Dim-Sum Chinese dishes - but do take care with Thai food as many dishes might prove to be a little too spicy.

I think that perhaps in the future I may include some specific recipes, all of which will be tried and tested at home. So, as they say, watch this space....

Friday, June 08, 2007

Coup de grass

Flowering has passed safely

After yet more travelling we have just returned to review the results of this years flowering (which had already started just before we left). The weather this spring has been changeable to say the least, and a good deal cooler than the last couple of years. We have also witnessed more rainfall during the winter, continuing on and off, more or less until now - indeed, the forecast for the coming week is for more of the same, and we are nearly half way through June!

Having said all that, the flowering seems to have passed relatively unscathed, and we will eagerly wait to see what the summer brings....

Apart from the obvious risk of disease there is another downside to this type of weather - the grass in the vineyards grows quite vigorously, and this means more time on the tractor cutting. You may recall that we do not use herbicides in our vineyards, which might mean that they are not as 'manicured' as some, but which in the long term is better for the soil and for the vines themselves.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's all in the soil....

Just a few of the huge granite boulders

I recently wrote about "terroir", and that one of the factors influencing the Albariño of the Salnes Valley was the soil - giving our wine a distinct minerality and steely backbone.

Risking life and limb to illustrate the point I pulled on to the hard shoulder of the local Via Rapida (which is undergoing a major upgrade to give it full motorway status) and quickly snapped a few photos of the soil and rocks.

Above you can see some of the huge number of granite boulders that have been excavated, and which no doubt have slowed the digging work considerably. Below you have a clear cross section that illustrates not only the sand soils, but also the layers of rock below the surface. The Albariño vine clearly thrives on this, and as witnessed in many wine regions of the world, has to dig deep to find nutrients.

The sand and rock typical of the Salnes Valley

Monday, May 21, 2007

Irish tastings

Angela discovers Guinness in one of Dublin's oldest bars

You may have noticed a lack of posts recently, and this is simply because we have been living out of a suitcase in Ireland. Our importer recently held a series of tastings, both north and south of the border, in Belfast, Dublin and Cork - and it was a real voyage of discovery.

Not only was it an opportunity for the Irish people to learn about our Albariño, but as it turned out, it was also a chance for my wife to discover one of Ireland's national treasures..... Guinness! I have to say that I too enjoyed the odd pint, and I can truthfully say that it tastes much better drinking it in it's country of origin. Of course your memory of a wine (or stout) can easily be influenced, and it reminds me of the tourist who enjoys his first sip of Provence Rosé whilst sitting on a sun-soaked beach in St Tropez, eating his delicious Niçose salad. When he tastes the very same wine for a second time on a grey, wet day in Brighton it doesn't taste quite the same.

I was also tempted to introduce Angela to another Guinness based drink - Black Velvet (a very potent cocktail of Guinness and Champagne) but I will maybe I will leave that for another ocassion. Hmmm.... I wonder if Guinness and Albariño would work? Perhaps not!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Three Glorietas & One Hail Mary......

Seems like an orderly arrangement.... taken from the UK highway code

Firstly allow me to apologise for the title of this post, it is not intended to offend - it is simply that roundabouts are known as 'Glorietas' here in Spain, and it might be worth saying a quick prayer before trying to negociate one!

My post today clearly has nothing to do with wine, but is intended as more of a public service to those who might be planning a road trip to Spain (and not only those who wish to visit our Bodega).

The first thing you must know is that roundabouts are only a fairly recent addition to the Spanish road system, and appear to be springing up at nearly every junction where two roads meet. (I have to assume that the traffic ministers deem them to be safer than crossroads or traffic lights, but I regret to say, this is simply not the case!) The problem appears to be that the older generation of drivers were simply not educated as to how to deal with them, and the younger generation are being educated in what seems to be a fairly bizzare fashion. Take for example the illustrations below, taken from a brochure designed specifically to help negociate roundabouts.

What exactly does this mean - are you confused?

The next picture shows how to turn right when approaching from the wrong lane...... make a full circuit and only exit when you start to feel dizzy!

Not the simplest way to turn right!

OK, so what's the point of this message? Simply that you should forget what you have learned in your own country and approach roundabouts with extreme caution - do not expect other drivers to stop even when you think they should, and beware of drivers crossing in front of you from the wrong lane.

Do take care when driving in Spain, and remember my motto - Expect the unexpected.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Rias Baixas - Wine styles

It's true that there is a lot of snobbery in wine drinking, and we are probably all guilty of a bit of name dropping, or using the odd oenological phrase to demonstrate our knowledge. One such phrase that is sometimes used, and often abused within the wine world is the French expression
'Terrior' - and this does not simply mean soil or region as our dictionary might suggest.

In the world of wine 'terroir' can refer to any number of elements - not simply region and soil, but it can also include aspect, climate, grape variety and even the wine making technique itself. In addition to 'terroir' we then have the term 'microclimate', which can be used to narrow a vine growing region down to tiny areas or even individual vinyeards.

There is no doubt that these varying physical conditions will have an influence on the fruit (even if the same varietal), and will therefore modify the resulting wine. And after all, most wine makers worth their salt will explain that at least 90% of quality is created in the vineyard.

Within the Rias Baixas denomination, there are literally hundreds of different microclimates (which is really as a result of the way in which our tiny vineyards are distributed). However, at the risk of making sweeping generalisations, there are actually two main criteria that tend to produce distinctly different styles of Albariño. These are climate and soil.....

Although our denomination stretches barely 100km (60 miles) from North to South there can be quite significant differences in the weather, with the South being up to 1° or 2°C warmer. The South is also considerably drier - especially the inland areas of Rosal that do not enjoy quite the same refreshing maritime influences. Away from the sea summer temperatures can actually be several degrees warmer.

Rias Baixas North (sub regions - Valle de Salnés & Ribeira del Ulla)
As one would imagine the wines from the cooler Northern zones are usually not as heavy, and have marginally lower alcohol than those from the South. They have the steely, zesty, almost salt like qualities, tight structure and 'nervosity' often found in cool climate wines - in other words many of the attributes normally associated with the Albariño grape variety. This style is also influenced by the high concentration of granite in the sub-soil of the area that can provide an extra touch of minerality to the quality of the wine.

Rias Baixas South (sub regions - Soutomaior, Condado de Tea & El Rosal)
The additional heat of the South also provides extra sugar, and therefore alcohol - the resulting wines tend to be a little more full bodied and slightly heavier. It could be said that this fuller style is in some ways a little atypical of Albariño, and might not be the choice of the purist (I sometimes compare this to the differing styles of Chablis available from France). The sandy soils and alluvial deposits from the Miño river on the Portuguese border do not give the same mineral structure as the Northern wines, and they can sometimes be softer with lower acidity.

Of course, the wine making technique of each individual cellar will have a huge influence on the quality and style of the finished wine. And in addition, there are also cellars that buy a 'mix' of Albariño grapes from different sub zones in order to balance their wine, and perhaps add acidity where it may be lacking.

As I have said many times before, tasting is purely subjective and in the end it is your own tastebuds that will help you decide the style of Albariño that you prefer.

Friday, April 13, 2007

How much filtration is best for your wine?

Our traditional 'Kieselguhr' filter

One of the great conundrums of wine making is deciding precisely how much filtration your wine requires before bottling. Too little can leave the wine cloudy and possibly unstable, too much and you have a highly polished wine with little or no flavour. Purists may even argue that wines should be bottled without any filtration at all - commercially however, this would be a dangerous decision to make, or at the very least, something of a calculated risk.

In our Bodega we have two types of filter - a Kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) filter, which uses a fine powder of siliceous earth to absorb particles in the wine. In more traditional cellars this is probably the most widely used system - it is not overly agressive and still leaves the wine clean enough to bottle with a reasonable degree of safety.

Our more modern, 'membrane' filter

The second type that we have is a 'membrane' filter, which as the name implies, uses a physical barrier through which the wine passes, rather like a very fine strainer. The level of filtration is determined by the density of the filter (or filters) used, and this is measured in microns. The finer the filter, the cleaner the wine - but also, possibly, the more bland the wine....

So, deciding the level of filtration is a fine balance - producing a wine that retains character and some body; but a wine that will remain bright and stable in the bottle.

Making a fine wine is not as easy as you might think!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Time to come clean......

Well, did you wash your hands on April 1st?

I recently recommended a virtual visit to the Bodega using Google Earth, and as I think I mentioned at the time, this is really quite impressive.

Slightly less impressive was the Prolafiol 'virtual tasting' that I recommended a couple of days later..... on April 1st! So, for those of you who did not understand the concept, then please allow me to explain:

Prolafiol is actually an anagram of April Fool, which I'm afraid means that this was just another example of my strange English sense of humour. I therefore apologise to any of my readers who may have spent hours scrubbing their hands and frantically rubbing the screen trying to extract wine odours. (Well, maybe there were just one or two people, you never know).

Actually, here is Spain, they do not 'celebrate' April fool's day on April 1st, but they do have a similar day of practical jokes on December 28th that is known as the Día de los inocentes.

To be truthful, I can't see my wife Angela planning any dastardly jokes, but don't say that you haven't been warned!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Time = Money!

Juan (Señor Gadget) demonstrates the new equipment

Much of the investment that we make in the Bodega is to do with improving the quality of our wine, but not always..... As I have said in previous blogs, the pruning and tying of vines is a back-breaking job, made even more so by our 'Pergola' system of training. Anything that we can do to make the job a little easier is therefore welcomed by our staff.
This year we have made a modest investment in a new gadget for the vineyard which carefully ties the shoot of the vine plant to the training wires (it leaves a precise space around each shoot so that it does not become constricted during growth). The chore of tying vines to the wires is now infinitely quicker than before, and so we are able to save time, and perhaps a few pesetas, for other important jobs in and around the Bodega.

Cold stabilisation (note the 'frosted' metal tube)

In earlier blogs I have discussed the process of cold stabilisation (chilling the wine rapidly to approximately -5°C to precipitate the tartrates), and over the last months we have invested here too.

The machine that we use is a little old but very high quality, and far too expensive to discard completely, so we have given it a thorough overhaul - a completely new and much more efficient compressor that allows us to pass the wine more quickly than before - saving time and energy, but more importantly, reducing the time that the wine is exposed to possible oxidation. Our local contractors have been working on this overhaul for nearly six months now, and so hopefully, after so much time (and a substantial financial investment), we will finally start to benefit from the results.