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)!