Monday, March 30, 2009

Bodegas Castro Manga

Angela and I practice our Japanese over a bottle of Castro Manga!

In the last couple of weeks Angela and I have attended two different export seminars organised by our local D.O. office, in conjunction with ICEX (Wines from Spain) and IGAPE (the local Galician export office).

The first was giving advice on how to export to the U.S. market, including information on forthcoming Rias Baixas promotions. Today it was the turn of Japan, which for me at least was the more interesting of the two - not necessarily because it was a better presentation, but simply because I know much less about the Japanese market. For example, I didn't realise that the Japanese are very much into wine education, and spend possibly more time studying about wine than they do actually drinking it. Although wine is something that is not necessarily considered to be a particularly 'cool' drink by young men (who prefer beer and whisky), it is perhaps surprisingly drunk more by young women. However, of even greater surprise is the fact that wine has now even penetrated the highly fashionable world of Manga comics, as part of a series called 'The drops of the Gods'.

Aside from all this, I should also tell you that there were two other things that struck me about both of these half-day presentations:

Firstly, it was the actual number of participating speakers (which for at least one presentation possibly outnumbered the audience)! Secondly, and most surprising to me, was the importance attached to the meetings by our local press. Now, I am not sure if it was a quiet news day, but today I counted no less than three local television cameramen and six press photographers who entered the room at different points during the proceedings. I think at one point we even had the strange senario of one cameraman filming another!

So stay glued to a TV screen near you (assuming that you live in Galicia), and you might see us adding a few seconds to our '15 minutes of fame'. Alternatively, watch out for us in your next Manga comic!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A 'Cowboy' Summer?

OK, so you're all scratching your heads thinking "what on earth is a Cowboy Summer"? Well, it's simple (but possibly stupid) logic....

Whenever we have fine summer weather that extends into the autumn we call it an Indian Summer - and so, by the same token, if we have fine summer weather that starts early in spring, what should we call it? Have I just coined a new phrase, or is it just too obtuse (and ridiculous) to catch on? The truth is that I just wanted to avoid jumping onto the bandwagon by using everyones favourite phrase these days - global warming.

Anyway, the purpose of my post is to tell you that the weather in our area has gone a little haywire in the last month or two. At the end of January and beginning of February our area experienced some ferocious storms (the same storms that closed Paris airports for the first time in 34 years), with winds gusting at 100+ km per hour. These high winds were accompanied by periods of torrential rain, that led to some local flooding.

However, since the middle of February, with the exception of just a couple of cooler, cloudy days, we have experienced a period of continuous unbroken sunshine - not a cloud in the sky and regular daytime temperatures of between 20 and 23°C (68-73°F).

Of course the problem is that we now have new buds and shoots in the vineyards, almost two or three weeks earlier than usual, and whilst the twin threats of spring frost and hail are still very much a reality.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tank story - a picture gallery

Firstly, we had to warn our neighbours of the ongoing work!

Before we started to carve up the wine cellar, we did in fact attempt to repair the tanks by quite literally beating them back into shape. Not only was this extraordinarily loud, but as you can see, it yielded a far from satisfactory result - this photo was taken from inside one of the tanks after the experiment.

Once the top of the first tank had been removed the full extent of the damage was revealed, and it became abundantly clear that no amount of hammering would restore it's shape.

To start with the tanks had to be manoeuvered out of position

Cut into manageable pieces (albeit that we had to widen at least one door to accomodate their removal).

Rolled out of the cellar piece by piece.

Loaded on to a truck to be taken to the workshop in Vigo.

Leaving the cellar in a state of complete devastation!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Their first holiday in years

Now, everybody loves a good day out from time to time, but imagine if it was your first day out in over 25 years! I guess that's how the tanks atop this truck must feel, as they see daylight for the first time since the wine cellar was built by Angela's father back in the 80's.

Quite frankly our cellar looks like a bomb has hit it, albeit a bomb that has destroyed the tanks in rather neat sections. There are pieces everywhere, and it's probably going to be a month or two before we see some semblance of order restored.

Meanwhile, over in Australia (sorry, I couldn't think of a witty link) there is a big debate raging at the moment about the authenticity of the AlbariƱo clones that they are using to make their wine. Indeed, doubts have even been cast by some as to whether they are actually AlbariƱo, saying that they could possibly be something similar, such as Savagnin from the Jura region of France.

In a recent Decanter article written by one of Australia's top journalists Max Allen, you will note that Angela's opinion has also been included.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not wine news!

By way of a change, I thought that today I would ignore the work that continues in the bowels of the bodega, and instead celebrate a famous (and historic) victory.

For those of you who have no interest in football (soccer to some of you), you may not know, or even care, that my beloved Liverpool FC last night thrashed one of the world's most famous teams in their Champions League encounter. There is a sort of irony that the Liverpool team not only have a Spanish manager, but actually fielded more Spanish players than Real Madrid in both the home and away matches of this tie (much to the chagrin of a certain Mr Blatter).

I make no apology to the anonymous person who complained about me featuring a non-wine subject in our blog the other day, but inflicting Real Madrid's worst defeat in any European football competition certainly merits a mention in my book.

I just hope that Angela will forgive me for painting the result on the bodega wall!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Castro Martin goes 'topless'

For those of you who clicked on this entry anticipating a photo of Angela working in the laboratory without her white coat, well, I'm sorry to disappoint you. (Actually, by using the word 'topless' in our blog, it will be interesting to see how many extra hits we generate for our site!)

So, the truth is that our tanks are being well and truly carved up, as the whole top section of each tank (where the cooling jackets are located), is being removed. You may remember that it was the pressure inside the cooling system that caused the tanks to implode in the first place, and this is the area where the actual repair is required.

The temperature control process is effected by circulating a mixture of ice cold water and glycol around the cellar, through a series of narrow tubes that envelope each tank. As you can see from the left hand tank in the photo, this is the ribbed section at the top.

As the tanks caved in under intense pressure, the metal simply folded and many of the tubes (or jackets as we call them) were crushed or badly distorted. Of course any blockage to this system will prevent the iced water from circulating around the cellar and render the jackets useless - hence the urgent need for repair.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A new opening for Castro Martin

No, we're not selling wine to China.....yet. This is an entirely different type of opening - a new door!

Owing to an important customer visit at the end of last week, we actually delayed the start of the mammoth repair job in our tank room until today. As I think I may have mentioned before, the first step was to cut a new door (or rather to double the size of an existing door) so that sections of the disected tanks could quite literally, be rolled out onto the truck.

The 9,000 litre tanks will then be taken one-by-one to a specialist tank making company in Vigo (about 30km from the cellar) to be repaired. Overall, about 50% of our total tank capacity has been affected, so this really is a major undertaking and will probably take a couple of months to complete.

Whilst the tanks are away, we will take advantage by having a couple of small modifications done, so that by the time they return, they might even be in better condition than when they left!

I know that I shouldn't say this, but it really is a good job that 2008 was only a small vintage, otherwise heaven only knows what we would have done - it would have been much more of a disaster than it already is....

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

(Photo) Shopped Out

I am totally aware that our blog has dried up almost completely in the last month or two, firstly for the reason that I explained in my previous post, and secondly because of Photoshop!

I didn't mention in my last entry that during our time away Angela and I managed to fire off more than 3,200 digital photos between us (even more than your average Japanese tourist takes on a good day).

So, at the moment, when I am not working, every spare moment is spent in front of the computer editing photographs, rather than writing blogs. Heaven only knows what we will do with them all when I have finished - perhaps we could wallpaper the entire interior of the wine cellar, and perhaps every wine cellar in the denomination for that matter!

Meanwhile back in the real world, the 2008 wine is still on it's lees, and as we would have hoped, appears to be improving each time we taste - it won't be too long now before we start the racking process.

The other interesting event in the pipeline will be the repair of all the tanks that you may recall were damaged just before the harvest. We finally have approval from the insurance company, and so work will start next week when we first have to cut a new door big enough to remove entire sections of the tanks. No doubt this work will provide an excellent photo opportunity, and the chance for me to once more practice my photoshop skills....... arghhhh!