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.