Friday, February 22, 2008

Don't get your Castros in a twist....

I'm wearing a lovely new tracksuit, what are you wearing?.....

Following the recent retirement of Cuba's infamous leader, I thought it quite an appropriate moment to clear up and misunderstandings that there might be relating to our name.

Firstly, I should say that there is of course no connection whatsoever between our Bodega and the aforementioned Cuban gentleman! The name 'Castro' relates to a former partner of Angela's father who left the business many years ago (for some reason, of which I am not clear, his name remained).

OK, so now the real point of my story...... In the Rias Baixas denomination there are at least three other Bodegas that carry the name 'Castro' in their title. Only today I passed one of the others on my way to work and remarked upon the shiny new logo attached to the front of the building - suspiciously like our own lettering, I thought to myself!

Now, I don't wish to blow our own trumpet (well, actually I do) but we are certainly the best known of all the Castros around these parts, so I guess that it might just be possible that the others are trying to cash in on our success by using their similar name, and linking it to a similar logo? Certainly, many, many years ago I knew some consumers who used to think that anything with Mouton or Latour in the name must be a great quality wine..... as if they could somehow confuse Mouton Cadet with Mouton Rothschild for example!

So, whilst we acknowledge that imitation is really the most sincere form of flattery, there is, and only ever will be, one Bodegas Castro Martin.

We thank you for your Fidel-ity...... (sorry)!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A good year?

Angela and I (in our dreams!)

The other day I had occasion to contact our local denomination office to ask them for some information about recent vintages. In reply, they sent me a sheet listing all the statistics of every vintage since the creation of the Rias Baixas D.O. (back in 1987).

The information that I actually needed was the number of kilos picked and the number of litres produced, but alongside each vintage they also listed the official D.O. quality rating, which made absolutely fascinating reading.....

In the 20 vintages since the creation of the D. O. there have been no fewer than 10 officially 'Good' vintages, 6 'Very Good' vintages and 4 'Excellent' vintages. Significantly, the last three consecutive vintages have all been categorised as 'Excellent'.

As I have said before, such sweepingly generalised ratings serve of little use to us, and even less to the average consumer (not even taking into account that I disagree with some of their assessments). For example, the top-quality 2001 vintage has only been officially rated as good, whilst 2006 appears as excellent. OK, so our 2006 wine was pretty good, but I certainly think that in our bodega the 2001 wine was superior.

In addition, not one single vintage since the creation of the D.O. is listed as poor, or even mediocre quality - I have to question whether this is entirely truthful?

Whilst it is clearly not in the interest of our local denomination office to shoot themselves in the foot by saying that any particular vintage is poor, there is a train of thought that says it might be better to be honest with the consumer, rather than giving them a false impression.

Perhaps the answer is to introduce some new official categories? How about 'Nice' or 'Interesting'?!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Castro Martin @ Alimentaria 2008


For those of you who don’t know, Alimentaria is probably the biggest and best wine fair in Spain, and is held only once every two years. Certainly if you’re looking to add Spanish wines to your portfolio, then this is the place to be. As usual, Angela and I will be attending, and have a booth on the stand of our Catalan distributor, Escolà Distribution (but you will also be able to find our stand in the Alimentaria catalogue listed under our own name).

Please note our exact coordinates:

We look forward to seeing you next month

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sleeping on the job!

Tastings can often be hard work - long hours on your feet pouring wine can easily put a strain on your enthusiasm. Not so last month when we attended the annual tasting of one of our biggest importers.....

Every year the venue is decorated around a highly original theme - this year based on the different rooms of a house. Producers found themselves in some fairly unfamiliar surroundings for tasting - France, for example, in the kitchen, Italy, in the bathroom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa sharing the garden etc.

Spain was located in the bedroom, complete with double bed and staff dressed in pyjamas and nightgowns! (Imagine being paid for lounging around in bed all day!).

Despite the light-hearted surroundings the tasting itself is always deadly serious, and is attended by up to three thousand customers over a period of ten hours.

We wait with bated breath to learn more about next year's theme.....

Friday, February 01, 2008

Green Issues

These days we are asked with increasing frequency whether any of our wines are either organic or biodynamic. I thought it was about time therefore, that I post some sort of statement that explains our approach to these 'green issues'.
As I have written many times before, we live in a very green part of Spain and have more than our fair share of rainfall. We are officially categorised as having an Atlantic Maritime climate, which means quite simply that our weather is damp and humid. Despite all the precautions that we take there is not a single vintage that goes by where we do not have to intervene at some point, and therefore we cannot honestly say that our wine is completely biodynamic. I would actually go so far as to say that it would almost be impossible to produce a genuinely biodynamic wine in the Rias Baixas denomination, and any producer who claims that he does should perhaps be treated with some suspicion!

As a reference for all our customers Angela has compiled a list of the practices that we follow in order to keep our Albariño as 'ecologically friendly' as possible. You will see that most of the procedures that we apply in our vineyards are preventive, to avoid disease and consequently minimise the use of chemical treatments.

1). Soil management: We do not use herbicides - we use the traditional system of ploughing the soil 2 or 3 times a year, especially when the vines are dormant (doing this in summer can damage the roots of the vines)

2). We have natural grass cover between the vines that is cut manually. In this way we can also use the natural organic material (mulch) to help replenish the soil.

3). We use natural worm humus, especially when planting new vines.

4). We use sheep and horse “manure” to add nutrients to the soil when required.

5). Plagues and Diseases: Mainly preventive strategies are used, such green pruning and thinning the canopy to avoid excessive humidity under the pergolas. This of course allows a better circulation of air and thus helps to prevent fungus attacks.

Sometimes these attacks cannot be prevented and so we are obliged to use some products (all approved in ecological viticulture), such as:
a). Copper in different combinations in the case of mildew attacks.
b). Soluble and powdered sulphur for the control of excoriosis and oidium.
c). Anti-botrytis (following insect attack or hail damage) when fungus may enter and create rot.

6). To reduce the possible spread of fungus spores in the following harvest we collect and burn all the vine cuttings after pruning.

7). We use pheromone traps that cause sexual confusion to control the polilla de la uva (grape moth) or lobesia botrana. In the case of an attack we treat with bacillus thuringiensis (which is a biological treatment)

8). Harvest : manual collection of grapes to avoid damaged bunches and premature oxidation.

This is also perhaps the time to mention that our Albariño is suitable for vegetarians as we do not use any meat derived products during handling or vinification.

In addition to these vineyard practices there are also routines that we follow in the wine cellar, relating to other environmental issues that I will write about in future posts.