Thursday, December 30, 2010

More cheese Gromit?

I 'stumbled' across an entertaining new website the other day, strangely named Wisconsin cheese cupid - the name alone is enough to make you curious, or perhaps that's the idea.

Obviously you can take a look yourself, but the site is all about matching cheese and wine. Unfortunately they don't list albariño, but they do have riesling, which is similar when it comes to paring with cheese. They recommend a dozen cheeses to go with that particular wine, including many with very strong flavours which sounds about right, but interestingly they do not include the strong goat's cheese that many people think goes perfectly.

This actually reminds me of an amusing story from my wine buying days. I was once visiting the famous village of Chavignol in the Loire Valley of France, looking for some decent Sancerre to buy for my company - it was lunch time. Crottin de Chavignol is a well known goat's cheese with its very own AOC, and as the name implies, can only be made in that very place. It was therefore not difficult to find a restaurant with cheese on the menu, and indeed, I actually selected one which had a special Crottin menu....

To cut a long story short, I think the only thing that didn't include cheese were the salt and pepper pots on the table (although they may have been tainted). To be very frank it was a slight case of 'overkill', and in the end I was actually glad to leave and get back to some normal, non-cheese food! If it's possible to have a goat's cheese nightmare, then that was probably it.

Having said all that, try it with your albariño some time!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ashes to ashes

Very few people that do not play, understand the rules of cricket, and even fewer will understand why England and Australia get so excited every couple of years when they compete for a trophy no bigger than an egg cup.

The 'Ashes' series dates back to 1882 and is named after a satirical obituary published in the Sporting Times newspaper after a match in which Australia beat England on English soil for the very first time. The obituary suggested that English cricket had died, the body cremated, and the ashes would be taken to Australia. The English media dubbed the next English tour to Australia as 'the quest to regain the ashes'.

On that following tour a small terracotta urn was presented to the England captain by a group of Melbourne women. The contents of the urn are reputed to be the ashes of an item of cricket equipment, a bail (the top part of the stumps).

Of course no one outside the two participating countries could possibly be expected to understand the intense rivalry of this series, especially when we consider that cricket is usually regarded as a game for gentlemen.

The reason that I write about this now is that England have today retained the ashes in Australia (the first time they have won over there for some 24 years), and it is making headline news in the UK.

In view of its perceived importance perhaps we should call it 'the ashes world series', despite the matches being played between only two countries (but still one more than participates in the baseball world series in the USA)!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Time off in lieu

I often comment about the number of public holidays that Spain enjoys during the course of a year. Indeed, it was only a week or two ago that we had a working week of only two days owing to local and national breaks.

Today is, however, pretty much the contrary....... as Christmas day fell on a Saturday this year, many Spanish businesses were already closed and enjoying their normal weekend break - meaning that the national holiday was simply lost. In many other countries (such as the UK for example), when a public holiday falls during the weekend, a lieu day is added to the calendar by way of compensation.

And so today we find ourselves at our desks whilst many of our European neighbours enjoy additonal time off to recover from their Christmas excesses.

P.S. My apologies for the very feeble joke about loos, obviously too much brandy in my Christmas pudding!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where did December go?

Well, another year has flown by and we find ourselves already preparing for the 2011 campaign. For me at least it doesn't seem so long ago that we were all panicking about the 'millenium bug' as we moved into the year 2000 - more than a decade has passed since then!

Anyway, enough of my reminiscences (put it down to old age), the real purpose of today's post is simply to send all our friends, customers and blog readers around the world our very best wishes for the holiday season. We hope that 2011 will bring you everything that you wish for - peace, happiness and prosperity in whatever you do.....

As ever, we encourage you to partake in the wine of your choice over the holidays, as long as it's Castro Martin albariño!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Got cold feet?

Now here's a very curious phenomenon, or should I say, question. (This can be my Christmas quiz question for 2010)....... Do birds get cold feet??

The reason I mention this is that in the cold weather I have noticed huge numbers of birds congregating on the electricity cables, and always seemingly adjacent to the pylons. Now, I am not 100% certain but I think I am correct in saying that these high tension cables do actually generate some heat as the current passes through them - so the question remains, is it just a coincidence that our feathered friends appear to use them when the temperature falls?

More riveting conundrums tomorrow!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Under the microscope

Now here's a picture with a bit more 'Christmas sparkle' to it, and there should be a prize for guessing what it is. There is no real explanation behind the idea except to say that someone has decided to view different alcoholic drinks under a microscope, the results of which form an impressive and highly colourful piece of art.

Each image is created by taking a pipette of the selected drink and squeezing a single drop of it onto a slide. The alcohol droplets are then allowed to dry out completely, which can take up to four weeks in an airtight container (the whole process can take up to three months). Simply using a standard microscope with a camera attached, the light source is polarized and passed through the crystal, and the photo is taken.

All I need now is a microscope for Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now I really am depressed.....

It seems like only yesterday that I was commenting about the lack of festive spirit in this year's Christmas advertising campaign for our D.O. (Oh, just a minute, it was yesterday!) Little did I imagine when I was writing that post, that it could be superceded the very same day by something even less seasonal!

Each year we receive a greetings card from our local community office - very kind of them to take the time and trouble (not to mention the money in these times of austerity). Well, all I can say is that this year's card left me cold, and I don't mean in the weather sense of the word - judge for yourself from the picture above. Can someone please explain to me how a tinted photograph of a granite staircase and balustrade should remind us of the birth of Christ.... I feel almost compelled to go and ask them.

Now I don't want to appear ungrateful as we really do appreciate the gesture of their card, but the picture did leave me asking the question, is this some sort of political correctness gone mad? Certainly in the UK it would appear that we are slowly starting to erase the 'Christ' from Christmas for fear of offending somebody. Could Spain be heading down the same road? I sincerely hope not.....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not very Christmassy.....

We recently received an e-mail from our local D.O. office highlighting the marketing campaign for our denomination this Christmas. The only comment that I can make is that it isn't very Christmassy!

Now, I'm not saying that we should have pictures of Santa Claus sliding down a chimney clutching a bottle of Albariño, but the posters that they are using (see above) don't appear to carry any Christmas message whatsoever. Indeed, the only message that they carry is written in Galician "Pídeo polo seu nome", which I believe translates as "Order only by name". I have to say that this slogan has a very familiar ring to it, and is not particularly original - it somehow feels like it must have been used in at least 1001 other advertising campaigns in the past, but then that's only my personal opinion.

I am 100% certain (although this is not actually clarified in the message), that they are really trying to encourage consumers to use the name Rias Baixas, rather than the name of the grape variety - Albariño. I get the feeling that the D.O. office are unfortunately losing an uphill battle in this respect. I think it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to establish the Rias Baixas name in favour of Albariño. Sad but true.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's in a name?

We are sometimes asked about 'own label' or 'white label' brands - in other words creating a new brand for one specific customer or market. We have done it before, but only very reluctantly, for one or two very good reasons. Firstly, it does not benefit your own brand, and indeed might even detract from your sales, as you are effectively competing against yourself. Then even if you are lucky enough to pick up one or two accolades for the own label wine, it does nothing to enhance the reputation of your own bodega if your name is not mentioned.

On the other hand it is of course an alternative way to sell wine, and in tough times we all need to look at different options. However, in the long term it might not be the best solution for every business and really depends on your overall marketing plan.

Anyway, this leads me on to the real reason for writing today - brand names. It always amuses me to see products with funny names. What I really mean by this is a name that gets lost in translation. In your own language it can be something pretty innocuous and inoffensive, but then translated it can take on a whole different meaning - take the photo above for example, snapped on my cell phone at a local airport.

Indeed there are entire websites dedicated to these unwitting marketing gaffs, but it still makes me wonder why the producers simply don't do a bit more careful research before they launch their brand? It's a small world after all......

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Spain's On-Off working week

No, this is not a reference to the Spanish air traffic controllers who have wreaked havoc in and around the country this weekend, but actually relates to the forthcoming working week - or should I say, non-working week to be a bit more accurate.

The first week in December is riddled with public holidays - two National, on 6th and 8th December, and one local on 10th December. Translated this means that we work only Tuesday and Thursday and have the rest of the week at leisure! Hardly the most appropriate respite for an already ailing economy....

Whilst on the subject of the highly unpopular air traffic controllers, here are a few facts to help you understand why they do not garner much public sympathy over here. Out of the total 2,300 Spanish controllers, ten were paid between €810,000 (£725,000) and €900,000 last year. A further 226 were paid between €450,000 and €540,000 and 701 were paid between €270,000 and €360,000.

Their average basic salary is €200,000 but most double or triple this amount by working overtime, that contrasts quite dramatically with the average salary in Spain, which is a miserly €18,087, according to government figures.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Our new "up to" 75cl bottle

Always trying to remain at the forefront of fashion and innovation Castro Martin have now decided to follow the example set by our Spanish broadband provider - in future all bottles will be "up to" 75cl in capacity.

Working at the 'current acceptable averages' this will mean that in future your bottle will probably contain somewhere between 25cl and 50cl of albariño, whilst the price you pay will remain completely unaltered!

Imagine what might happen if other industries were able to escape by giving such vague assurances to their customers..... For example, you might pay €120,000 for a new Aston Martin car which the manufacturer claims has a top speed of "up to" 240 km per hour, whereas in reality its best speed might only be around 100 km per hour. What they have failed to tell you is that the maximum speed can only be achieved in exceptional circumstances, going down a steep hill with a hurricane blowing directly behind you - in other words, in conditions that you are hardly ever likely to encounter.

I am sure that no Aston Martin driver would ever accept this, so why do we accept it with our broadband? I pay for 6MB, so why do I only get an average of around 1.6MB?

I understand that this worldwide phenomena now appears to be the accepted standard, and so I have to ask myself why other industries don't simply follow suit (apart from the fact that they would never get away with it)!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Caught by the Paparazzi

Angela recently attended a tasting in La Coruña showcasing the wines of Galicia. It was just as well she told me that she was going because the following day her picture appeared in a local newspaper.

There is no escaping 'big brother' these days - if it's not getting caught at a tasting, it could be walking in your local town centre, or perhaps even on a traffic speed camera......

I will make no comment about Angela's police record!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately Thanksgiving is not a holiday that is shared around the world, but only within the borders of the USA (for obvious reasons).

Here in Europe there is no Thanksgiving turkey, nor pumpkin pie, and life carries on pretty much as normal. Perhaps the only noticeable difference is to be found in the TV schedule where we can enjoy the traditional NFL games played on this holiday (assuming that you follow American football).

And so, all that remains is to wish all our American friends and customers a very Happy Thanksgiving 2010!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Normal service is resumed

Ironically the sun is shining today..... I say ironically because for the last few days it hasn't been shining at all, and on the day that I chose to write about all the rain we've had, the sun has come out!

You may recall that we had a very dry summer, from the month of June until well after the harvest we hardly saw a cloud, and you could count the number of rainy days that we had on one hand. Finally it would appear that normality has been restored, the rainfall simply demonstrating why Galicia is the most verdant corner of Spain.

I really just wanted to write so that I could post this picture of our new pool at the front of the Bodega - for a few moments it seemed like a monsoon was sweeping over our area leaving our roads momentarily more like rivers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New uniforms

As you may have seen over the summer the uniforms of our guys have taken a bit of a pounding, not only with all the vineyard and bodega work that they do, but also with the building work that we have completed this year. Poor old David started the year with his improvised ¾ length trousers, which by mid-summer had shrunk to a pair of Bermuda shorts. Our fear was that by the autumn he would be working in a tanga!

Joking aside, we are in the process of buying some new uniforms, and believe it or not the big discussion has been about the colour. There are of course some traditional colours here in Spain, whereby specific professions can be identified by the colour of the uniform that they wear. For example, professions such as electricians and plumbers tend to wear blue, people who work on the land (including Bodegas) tend to prefer green, and so on.

The most practical colour for our guys might, for example, be black (which I think would also look quite smart), but then again this would not be very practical. Imagine working out in the vineyards in the heat of summer wearing a nice black, heat absorbing uniform - I doubt if they would thank me for this, no matter how smart it may or may not look.

In the meantime I have been browsing a couple of old catalogues from the 60's, 70's and 80's to get some ideas, and as you can see the possibilities are endless....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our Bodega Stegosaurus

Are your sitting comfortably? Today I have a rather convoluted tale to tell.....

OK, so all of our wines are now classified as 'sobre lias', which means that we usually allow them between 5 and 6 months ageing on the lees. Under normal circumstances this would mean that they are not racked (clean wine drawn off ), until around April or May. That is of course, except for the tanks that we have to rack now - a contradiction perhaps, but please allow me to explain.

During the alcoholic fermentation the tanks are never filled to the top, simply because we need to allow space in each tank with which to work. When making additions to the fermenting wine, such as the bentonite that we use for fining, they have to be 'pumped over' in order to mix the product thoroughly with the juice. I can tell you from experience that when some of these additions combine with the carbon dioxide suspended in the new wine, the reaction can be quite violent and generate a huge amount of foam. If we do not allow the extra 'head space' at the top of the tank then a lot of new wine will quite simply end up on the floor!

When the fermentation finally finishes we seal the tanks and allow them to settle, but at this point they are still not filled to capacity. They do not oxidise because of the trapped carbon dioxide, and indeed we have to release the trapped gas every couple of days to more or less stop the tanks from exploding under the additional pressure.

Eventually the partially filled tanks have to be topped up - hence the reason that we have to rack some of the tanks now.

My picture today (apologies for the poor quality) shows the racking pipe at the bottom of one of the tanks, where the lees have come to settle. As you can see it looks like a row of mini stalagmites, or perhaps on the extreme left of the picture, the spine of a stegosaurus.....

Clearly I have been watching to many Jurassic Park movies!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let's do business

Forget the phishing e-mails from Nigerian philanthropists anxious to share their millions, there is one e-mail that I enjoy receiving above all others..... from the anonymous wine buyer.

All too often we are approached by individuals posing as prospective buyers, claiming impressive international customer base, extensive sales team and all the trappings of an established business. Of course they are looking for exclusive representation of our wine, no doubt in return for a healthy commission.

Closer examination however reveals something a little closer to the truth - no fixed contact address, no website, a mobile phone number and a hotmail address - in complete contradiction to their claimed business credentials.

Suffice to say that I do not send samples!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Royal wine for a Royal wedding

Less than 24 hours after the anouncement the UK is already being swept by Royal Wedding fever! Within hours the television channels were filled with royal engagement specials, and this morning every newspaper is crammed with details (not to mention a good deal of speculation), about the wedding itself - the date, the venue, what the dress will be like, what they will eat etc., etc. In addition, there is also the complete story of the latest branch to be added to the royal family tree, which to be honest, sounds rather like a TV mini-series in the making...."Meet the Middletons".

I could go on, but suffice to say that the coverage is already breathtaking, so heaven only know what it will be like by next year when the wedding actually takes place.

Of course, the announcement of the engagement came as no real surprise, and had been expected for some time, so much so that a few commemorative plates and tea towels are already on the market - but this did get me thinking.....

Who will be the official supplier of wine to the wedding banquet, and will they select an albariño to go with their food? There are already labels on the market such as "Great with Meat" and "Great with Fish", but what about "Great with Swan" - my guess is that it has never been done before!

We also know that the Queen is partial to a glass of German riesling (no mention of the Saxe-Coburg connection please), and let's be honest, albariño is quite a similar wine style. I have to admit that being awarded a Royal Warrant would make a nice addition to our label.

Just as a quick footnote, I did a bit of research this morning, and you would be astonished to note how many albariño producers have claimed to be suppliers to the last Spanish Royal Wedding back in 2004. Apart from the fact that all the official suppliers were sworn to secrecy (they produced a special wedding label), if the number of bodegas making claims were true then it must have been one hell of a party - perhaps even a Royal Botellon!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wonder Wall

The front of our Bodega is south facing, and during the peak summer months is not only one of the hottest places on earth, but is also one of the brightest. I think that to call it a 'sun trap' would be something of an understatement, and I'm surprised that my car tyres have not melted before now..... you get the general idea - it's hot and very sunny.

One of the downsides of this used to be that the minute you stepped in through our front door, you were immediately faced with a very stark contrast (and not only in temperature). I think it would be fair to say that our entrance hall was a little bit dull, with not too much much natural light, and also a style of decor was just a little bit dated and on the drab side. Entering from the very bright sunlight it did not exactly lift your spirits!

Of course, all that has changed. A lick of fresh white paint, some drastically improved lighting, and a huge montage of brightly coloured photos on our wall, now add a bit of sunshine to our interior too.

This new selection of photos actually serves two purposes; not only does it add to the colour, but it also includes various pictures of the cellar and vineyards at work. So if you happen to be visting on a dark day in the middle of November, you can still get an impression of how Castro Martin looks at brighter and busier times of year.

Just as a footnote for any budding photographers amongst our readers - my pictures were actually printed and mounted in Germany, using a company called Whitewall. They offer a very wide selection of frames and mountings using only top quality materials. For example, we opted for original photo prints with aluminium backing (Lambda print on Fujicolor crystal archive paper with UV foil protection). Whitewall also provide their customers with a very efficient professional colour management service, and all at a very reasonable cost.

And no, before you ask, they are not paying me any commission!

Monday, November 08, 2010

From shed to warehouse

We live a very dull and sheltered life here in Galicia, where simple things (such as renovating an old outbuilding),  become just a little more exciting and important than they probably should. To give you an example, the highlight of our weekend could be a visit the town centre of Barrantes to watch the traffic lights change or perhaps a visit to the local supermarket...... as you may surmise, not much happens here in this quiet corner of Spain, and more especially in winter!

What I guess I am trying to say is that you're probably all quite bored with my story of rebuilding our 'garden shed', but I did at least felt compelled to bring this tale to some sort of logical conclusion.

Above, you can see the rather dramatic transformation - from a pretty run down, delapidated storage area, with old wooden beams, exposed brick walls and a leaky roof, into something altogether a bit more modern, weatherproof and presentable.

It all goes to show that our work here is not always as glamourous as you might think!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Castro Martin - the mother of all bodegas

A few years ago Bodegas Castro Martin celebrated 25 years in it's current location (built in 1981, first vintage in 1982), although Angela's family had been vinifying albariño for generations before that.

In 2010 Galicia's largest and best known co-operative Martin Codax also celebrated 25 years since their foundation, back in the year 1985. To celebrate this special anniversary they published a magazine which included a lengthy article written by the co-op's first President - Manuel Noya Figueroa.

Imagine our delight to read in this article an acknowledgement of the help given by Castro Martin in the birth of Martin Codax, and therefore in the development of the denomination as a whole.

We have always been very proud of the foresight shown by Angela's father Domingo Martin Morales in building one of the first 'industrial' sized bodegas in the area - also the first to incorporate stainless steel tanks for wine storage in Rias Baixas. Very few people will realise however, that these futuristic facilities were also utilized by what was to become, the regions biggest co-operative.

Before the building of Martin Codax was completed, their first vintage was bottled by hand and then transported to Castro Martin in cars and small trucks to be corked (obviously the prevention of oxidation was less of a priority at that time)!

I should also mention that in 1985 Castro Martin was already an established name in the area, and Angela believes that it was not a co-incidence that this new co-operative decided to incorporate the name Martin in their brand......

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Construcciones Castro Martin S.L.

Yet more building work..... if it isn't laying concrete or adding a new roof, then it might be putting up a new cattle shed - you can't say that our work is not varied!

Yes, this week our guys are busy building yet another shed, but this time in the corner of our Pazo vineyard. It's not for keeping our tractor, but it is for housing our new grass cutting equipment - a small flock of sheep.

I often make mention of the fact that we do not use herbicides, preferring instead to let the grass grow between the vines and cutting it manually (keeping our practices as eco-friendly as possible). Now we are taking this a step further, by introducing a handful of sheep to graze under the pergolas during the winter months. Not only will this help to keep the grass down, but it may also add a little natural fertilizer to the soil!

There are other bodegas that already do this, but then one of the fundamental pre-requisites is that you need a fully enclosed vineyard. Naturally our 'Pazo' vineyard qualifies admirably and is completely 'walled' as its name implies (similar to 'Clos' in French), making a perfect pasture. There is another bodega, local to us, that uses geese instead of sheep, and this seems to work pretty well, so we shall see....

No doubt I will keep you informed as to how this experiment works out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The view from my roof

Click to enlarge

It occured to me the other day that although I had written about our "Sobre Lias" wines I hadn't taken too many pictures of the subtly amended labels. With this in mind I rushed home yesterday afternoon to take a few snaps before the sun disappeared - the forecast had correctly predicted that it would be raining today (which in reality turned our to be something of an understatement).

Whilst the pictures were not actually taken on a roof per say, they were taken on a roof  terrace overlooking the local town, and if you look carefully you can see a reflection of this on the shoulder of each bottle.

On the subject of roofs (or should that be rooves?), our outbuilding that has been undergoing renovation is now nearing completion, and thank goodness the new roof was fully in place before today's torrential rain. Next week I will post a couple of before and after photos..... the transformation is quite dramatic.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And the roof goes on....

Last week we removed the roof from one of our outbuildings, and replaced all the lintels with something a bit more substantial, as you can see from my photo. The concrete looks a bit more secure than the old tree trunks that we took down!

Being on the Atlantic coast as we are, there can be some pretty fierce storms during the winter, not to mention the high winds that accompany them. The previous roof was very much on its last legs, and was already supported by a couple of jacks, and so its replacement was pretty much imperative before the onset of winter.

And speaking of weather (as I always do), the sky over Galicia is still blue and the amount of rain since June remains as truly minimal. Not that I'm wishing it upon us, but it really does have to change soon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Great with Turkey!

With only 30 days left until Thanksgiving it just gives you enough time to place your order for some Albariño (and a bit longer if you want to drink it with your Christmas turkey)!

OK, so it may be a bit of a ploy to boost our sales a little, but I am really not joking when I say that our wine is particularly good with poultry. Obviously it depends on the type of trimmings that you are planning to serve with your bird, whether you decide to make a traditional turkey gravy using the giblets and the neck, or whether you decide to 'spice it up' a little, as I often do. Now when I say spice it up, I don't mean spice in the sense of pepper, chillis or anything hot, I mean spice it up by perhaps introducing a few less traditional flavours. For example, one that I use quite a lot with chicken or turkey is a lemon and tarragon gravy - simply adding a sprig or two of tarragon and the juice of half a lemon to my sauce. This just gives the gravy a nice tangy 'lift', and adds a bit of an unconventional twist to the traditional recipe.

It goes without saying that your tender, juicy turkey meat with just a hint of tarragon and lemon makes an ideal partner for our albariño..... don't just take my word for it, try it and see for yourself!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Albariño très, très nouveau est arrivé!

Well, yes, technically our new albariño has arrived, but not really in a state that you would want to drink it. (My picture shows a glass drawn from the tank earlier today)

After a long, slow alcoholic fermentation the wine is finally "made", in the sense that all the sugar has now been converted to alcohol, and as there will be no malolactic fermentation this year (owing to the must having perfect acidity), there is not really much left to do, except wait.....

The wine has now been sulphured to protect it from oxidation, and the only thing that remains is an extended period of lees contact, and lots of tasting along the way. The moment that we chose to remove the wine from the lees is almost like knowing the optimum time to start picking the grapes - it is a question of experience and professional judgement and not to mention, personal taste. The length of time on the lees will ultimately determine the character of the finished wine, and we assess this by trying to replicate our 'house style'. In other words, we look for the individual personality to which our customers have become accustomed - rather like they do in Champagne. Each Champagne house has it's own distinctive style, which is not only a part of their tradition, but is also a tribute to the skill of the winemaker, who produces the taste that their regular followers will recognise, and appreciate. In our case you may call it the 'personalised signature' of Angela Martin.

As I have said many times before every wine is different, not just within our denomination, but in every wine region of the world. For example, I have mentioned that our 2010 wine will not be ready for release for several months, whereas, at the other extreme, some other bodegas are already about to start bottling their new vintage. Hence the title of today's blog - some albariños will actually be beating Beaujolais into the nouveau market of 2010!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Roofless, but not toothless....

I was going to try to attract some additional attention to our blog by putting in a title such as 'Castro Martin goes topless', but then I discovered that I had already used it (a couple of years ago when we had our tanks repaired, and the workmen had to cut all the tops off ). Believe it or not, it does, temporarily at least, increase the traffic to our site as web surfers use their search engines to look for more interesting pictures. Imagine their disappointment when all they get is a wide angle shot of one of our old storage sheds with no roof!

Now, speaking of old sheds (or perhaps I should call it an out-building) the one that we are currently re-building looks like it could easily date from biblical times. It is in such a poor state of repair, which is why we decided to work on it before it fell down. Joking apart, the roof beams (made from bare tree trunks), have been supported by jacks for some time now, and although the building is only used for storage, it had actually become a little dangerous. It is doubtful that it would have survived another stormy Galician winter.

As you will see from the photo, we decided to take advantage of the continued good weather, by ripping the old roof off before some new concrete beams are delivered later this week. Once the roof is back on, we can then make the interior a bit more presentable by slapping a bit of plaster on the inside walls. Of course, this old building is tucked away at the back of the bodega, and will never receive visitors, but even so, it will give us an excuse to keep the place a bit more tidy in the future.....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Albariño going global?

New plantings are springing up around the world

Having said a couple of days ago that Albariño is in decline, the press are now dramatically declaring that it is "on the brinkof International Stardom"!

It would seem that plantings have been made in a couple of new areas, in different countries, which whilst being quite exciting, hardly constitutes an explosion of new plantings as implied in the article.

We already know that albariño is being grown in California, Oregon and Australia to name but a few, but it is now apparently taking root in Corbières and the Languedoc of south-west France. In Corbières these new plantings will not produce until around 2015, and the growers in question have suggested that their new wine could possibly be blended with other varietals such as viognier, grenache gris and grenache blanc. Hmmm, very interesting.

Perhaps another, even more interesting new area is to be found in the Lebanon - not the Bekaa Valley, but in a different area, unfortunately not specified in the article.

To be honest I do not consider this as competition to albariño from Rias Baixas, mainly owing to the fact that the different soils and climates will inevitably give these new wines their own distinctive character. On the contrary, I will actually be very keen to taste some of these new examples when they eventually come to market.

Finally, the article included one very interesting comment that I would like to quote as follows: "We are seeing a trend with consumers at the moment towards lighter, fresh and aromatic styles - albariño clearly fits this profile".

I couldn't agree more.....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

National Holiday for CC

Most of you will be thinking that today is a National holiday in Spain, the United States and many South American countries to celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of the Americas - and that, of course, is quite true.

However, here at Castro Martin we don't normally associate the abbreviation CC with Christopher Columbus, but more with Casal Caeiro, our original, and still our biggest selling albariño here in Spain. Unfortunately it has not as yet acheived such cult status that it is commemorated with its own public holiday, but we can live in hope......

So for now, just sit back, enjoy the holiday, and drink a toast to CC with a glass of CC!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn is here

After such a warm, dry summer, Autumn 2010 has come as a bit of a shock to the system - cloud, rain and much cooler temperatures. Time to pack away the swimming trunks until next year (not that I ever venture into the Atlantic Ocean which is freezing at any time of year).

Immediately after the harvest we find ourselves in a state of limbo - most of the hard physical work of the harvest is completed, but it is still far too early to start pruning in the vineyards. This gives us time to catch up on a few outstanding jobs, that will quite simply be dictated by the weather. If it stays dry we will replace the roof on one of our outbuildings, but if it continues to rain, we will probably renovate the entry hall of the bodega.

I should add that when I say that the harvest is completed, this of course does not mean that the fermentation is finished. It is still ticking over in the background. All we can do now is monitor the density (measuring the amount of residual sugar still to be converted to alcohol), and adjust the temperature of each tank accordingly. If we did not use strict temperature control the fermentation process would race out of control, perhaps finishing within a week, and the resulting wine would be pretty dreadful - fat, flabby and lacking in any real varietal character. Not at all what we want.....

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The demise of Albariño?

Does climate change spell the end for Albariño? Apparently so, according to recent research carried out by famous winemakers from other regions of Spain. They sensationally predict that our beloved grape variety will fall into deep decline as the planet warms up......"The temperature increase caused by climate change will affect Albariño in the coming years as  it will tend to lose flavor and acidity. Alternative solutions will be needed to maintain the character of the wine, such as farming in cooler mountain areas".

Now, anyone who knows anything about wine will tell you that the warmer the climate, the lower the acidity, and that in extreme conditions the end result will be a very bland wine as the grapes lose their aromatics. This is a fundamental rule in grape cultivation that has been known and understood for many centuries, so why this should come as a startling new revelation is anybody's guess.

Having said that, it is very interesting to learn that one of the main protagonists behind this new theory is the famous house of Miguel Torres from Catalunya, and you will never guess how they conclude their report. " In the Mediterranean we have high mountain areas where Albariño could be grown with good results, benefiting from cooler nights and slower maturation". Enough said.....

By the way, does this now mean that Bodeaux Chateaux will have to re-locate to the foothills of the Alps and Burgundy Domaines to the Massif Central in order to remain viable?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Busy, busy

I am very aware that I have not made any posts for several days. After all the activity and numerous posts during the harvest, our blog has fallen silent. There is only one reason for this, and that is quite simply that we have been mega-busy in the bodega with the wine making process.

I am fairly sure that I have already mentioned we have more grapes this year, and this leads us to one simple equation. More grapes = more grape must, more grape must = more tanks, more tanks = more work. Every single tank has to undergo exactly the same number of processes - settling, racking, seeding, tank additions etc., etc., and this is all very time consuming. Of course I should also mention that wine making is no respecter of weekends either, and we often find ourselves here for several hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Now, I just want to make it clear that I am not looking for sympathy here, but simply want to emphasise to our friends and customers that when I say that Angela and I are very "hands-on", we mean quite literally that - we always seem to have our hands in the must - after all, these are our babies.......

The work itself is often very physical, and nearly always messy - going home each day, clothes splashed with grape juice and other wine-making related materials (most of which are usually quite sticky too). Our washing machine also works overtime during the harvest!

So when we talk about "hand-made" and "family estate", you need to know that our wine is exactly what is says on the label - made with lots of TLC.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, the picture shows a very unusual pattern created on the top of one of our tanks during fermentation. Whilst I am sure that there must be some reason why the foam has formed such a pattern, I have to confess that I don't know what it is - perhaps I will ask Angela if she has an explanation........... maybe they are the wine equivalent of crop circles?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Case mountain

Not so much Disney's famous Space Mountain, but actually Castro Martin's Case Mountain!

Once the bodega has had its first post-harvest clean we turn our attention to the cases that we use for collecting grapes. Like everything else in the cellar they are coated with a layer of sticky grape juice, which if allowed to dry, ends up like a coat of solid lacquer.

We subsequently spend about 4 days, with two pressure washers, cleaning each case individually (about 2,000 cases in total). Once dried they remain untouched for the next 51 weeks in our grape reception, awaiting the following harvest. Actually, when I stop and think about it, we actually have a lot of equipment that is only used once a year at harvest time. Not forgetting that there are also huge sections of the bodega itself that are used only once a year  - the grape reception and pressing room, for example. Not exactly the most efficient use of our resources.

If only we could work out a way to share these facilities with our counterparts in the southern hemisphere, or perhaps have two harvests a year as I believe they do in some parts of India......

On second thoughts, no thanks, one harvest a year is more than enough!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our small tribute to Arthur Guiness

Did you know that today, 23rd September, is offically Arthur Guiness day? No? Well, neither did I.... To be honest I am still not quite sure what it celebrates but I believe that it is a 'follow-on' from last year's 250th anniversary.

Purely by co-incidence we were seeding some tanks this morning when I looked at the foam being generated by the re-hydrating yeast. It reminded me of a pint of Guiness (actually 200 litres of Guiness to be more accurate).

Now that's what I call a head!

As you may have gathered from these comments we are now busy in the cellar transforming our wonderful grape must into even more wonderful albariño. This year we have already calculated that no malolactic fermentation will be necessary as the acidity level of our grapes at harvest was pretty much perfect.

Nearly one week after we finished picking at Castro Martin, there is still much activity in many of the vineyards of our denomination. I would be very interested to see the analysis of the grapes being gathered today and to find out whether the cellars concerned will feel the need to artificially acidify at a later date....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A minor gong

In all the excitement of the harvest I forgot to mention that one of our wines picked up first prize in a local Galician competition for Albariño. As you may know if you read my blog regularly, we do not actively enter too many wine concourses, but now and again an odd bottle slips in, and this is usually the result! In this particular case one of the plus points of winning the competition is this rather attractive trophy, which I think is actually quite tasteful - much better than any cheap-looking silver cup that we sometimes receive......

Meanwhile, back in the bodega, the post-harvest deep cleaning programme is well under way, and we have pressure washers working everywhere to remove the sticky, dried grape juice. As you enter certain parts of the bodega you have to be careful when you open the door that you don't get a blast of water in your face, as nearly happened to me this morning (or perhaps it was on purpose?).

All the musts have now been racked, and we are about to start seeding the tanks, but before we do, I made one last, comprehensive taste of the juice. 2010 has produced a light, fragrant must, with a slightly lower acidity than last year (probably a slightly better balance). In the mouth there are floral overtones with hints of lime blossom, fresh apple, stone pears and as always, a very piercing fruit - very typical of the Albariño grape variety.

Of course we are a very long way off the finished article, but I am pretty confident that our customers will not be disappointed with the resulting wine. Now over to Angela to work her magic.....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Harvest 2010 Day 7½ - The sun sets on yet another harvest

Sunset at the rear of the bodega

In one way the 2010 harvest was similar to last year - mopping up the last few grapes on the morning of an eigth day, but that is where the similarity ends..... This year we have more fruit than last year; not necessarily because of higher yields, but simply that we have found some great new grape suppliers. As our sales grow, so we need to keep pace.

As always, the final day is a bit of an anti-climax, especially when there are so few grapes coming in. The adrenaline that has been supporting the whole team throughout the last week has finally stopped pumping, and the tiredness has started to hit home - we are finally on our knees (or perhaps I am just speaking for myself, and the younger members of our team will be out on the town tonight).

I have to make a special mention this year to Angela's sister Elizabeth (or Bebe to her friends). For the first time this year Bebe took over responsibility for organising our picking team of  around 50 people. I have to say that everything went like clockwork - grapes arriving faster than ever from our vineyards, all the pickers happy and smiling, and most importantly the vineyards left clean and tidy - not a plastic water bottle, nor one coke tin in sight.

So, a big thank you to Bebe and her team, and also to our Bodega team - Fran working as hard as ever on the presses, Luisa on her computer (recording every single basket of grapes), and not forgetting David & Juan charged with transporting all the grapes from our own vineyards. A great vintage for many different reasons.

Thank you and good night!

Harvest 2010 Day 7 - Wrong again!

There are more than 40 people picking under this canopy - can you spot any of them? 

Suffice to say that the weather forecasters were wrong again, with nearly every website forecasting rain for today. For once I am really happy that they miscalculated as it opened the way for us to make one last charge at the vineyards.

Strangely, the climate within the bodega itself is probably more changeable than outside at the moment - the grape reception and pressing room can certainly get quite warm, not just because of the ambient temperature, but also because of the nature of the work itself.... enough to make a gentleman perspire. In stark contrast to this we have the tank room, where the temperature control system is working flat out to keep the tanks well and truly chilled. My guess is that there must be a variation of up to 15°C (I have to measure this). This is why we always keep a warm jacket handy just inside the tank room door!

By about 7pm our own vineyards were finished for this year, but as always there are still one or two stragglers to come. Indeed, we already know that there is still one small vinyeard to be picked tomorrow morning - hopefully just enough to fill one last press.

2010 has certainly yielded a big harvest of good quality fruit, and as always, we are very thankful for this. I am also given to believe that the denomination of Rias Baixas itself is anticipating a record year, with more than 30 million kilos predicted for the whole area. If this figure is correct, it will beat the previous record of 29 million kilos in 2006.

The other official news is that our Consello (Rias Baixas) have increased the maximum permitted yield per hectare by 8.33%. Personally I think that is probably because of pressure from the 'big boys' (co-operatives)to squeeze every last drop out of the vineyards. To be extremely honest I have always been vehemently against this approach to wine making. It is quite clear that the best wines are always produced by the lowest yields, so for me this is very much a step in the wrong direction. Having said that, our customers should rest assured that we will not be changing our policy at Castro Martin..... Low yield = Better wine

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Harvest 2010 Day 5 - Groundhog Day

Our pickers take a break after lunch (I know how they feel)

Of course the truth is that it is really Day 6, but it just seems like we are repeating the same day, over and over again.... it's never ending!

So, just after I pushed the button on my computer to post my blog last night, claiming that we had harvested the same amount each day, it appears that I might have been a little premature. In fact we have created another new record. Now, I'm not quite sure if it's an all-time record, but it's certainly the most grapes that we have pressed in a single day since I arrived here 8 years ago - a  great team effort all-round.

The last few days have been fairly manic for those working in the bodega (including me!), not only have we been handling record amounts of grapes, but also, as I mentioned yesterday, we are busy racking wines too. The greatest motivating factor for all our hard work is the excellent quality of the fruit coming in through our door, which is yielding an intensely sweet, clean must. It would appear that we might have some good raw materials to work with in the cellar this year. Only time will tell on this score.

As the afternoon wore on, so the cloud cover started to increase, and we even felt a few drops of rain on the wind, but nothing more than that - for now.

By 6.30pm, just as the pace was picking up for the evening, we suddenly lost one phase of our three phase electricity supply, together with our presses and the temperature control system..... Disaster!

After one frantic phonecall, and a delay of only 20 minutes, help arrived in the shape of the local electricians that do all our work, and remain on 24 hour standby (for all bodegas) during the harvest period. As quickly as they had arrived, they assesed the situation, changed one rather large fuse, and within one hour we were back up and running! An impressive result that averted complete meltdown in the bodega.

Who ya gonna call?....

With only one day left to go (weather permitting) and tank space in the cellar diminishing rapidly, we headed home to try and grab a decent nights sleep.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harvest 2010 Day 5 - Alone again

Today's picture is not quite so glamorous - it shows the 'fangos' left at the bottom of the tank after settling. Following a gentle pressing, the grape juice (or 'must') flows by gravity into our tank room and is then left for a period of time to allow it to settle. During this time all the debris, that may include pips, skins, stems and even a little soil (or dust from the grape skins) will slowly fall to the bottom of the tank, after which we do our first racking. We simply draw the clean liquid off the top of the fangos using the rather odd-looking bent pipe that you can see in the picture. What's left on the tank floor is not necessarily very pretty, but it's better than allowing it to reach your glass!

I mention the fact that we are alone, simply because I have noticed that there are many bodegas in our area that have still not started to pick. Of course what other people decide to do is not really of concern to us, and I guess that the decision of when to pick is one of the elements that helps create variation in the style of wine between different bodegas (and long may that difference continue). For example, the grapes coming in today from our largest 'El Pazo' vineyard are perfectly balanced (sugar, pH and acidity) for our own style of albariño, and that's all we need to know. To make a very crude analogy, it's possibly a bit like roasting a chicken.... you leave your grapes on the vine until you consider them 'done', in the same way that you would leave your chicken in the oven. The only thing that I can say is that I prefer my roast chicken juicy and not dried out!

I should also comment that the pace of this year's harvest has been relentless - from the moment we started the flow has been non-stop (pretty much the way we planned it). Obviously the more we do, the quicker we finish, and then we can breath that sigh of relief when all the grapes are safely gathered in. In fact, in the last four days the amount of grapes that we have processed has only varied very slightly, by as little as 3,000 or 4,000 kilos, and so you could say that the flow has been unwavering.

Until now, weather has not been an issue, but there is a possibility that the dry spell could break before the end of this week - we shall see.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Harvest 2010 Day 4 - Little boxes

I made a very casual comment on Saturday about the fact that it had been a busy day, without realising that it had been our busiest day since the huge 2006 harvest. It is a real tribute to our team, both in the vineyards and the bodega, that the day passed so smoothly - processing a huge amount of grapes in a well-ordered and timely fashion.

So, after one day of inactivity on Sunday (we decided that certain vineyards might actually benefit from one further day of sun), we re-launched the campaign on a bright, sunny Monday morning.

Picking normally starts at around 9.30am in our vineyards, despite the sun coming up at 8am - and the reason? Well, at this time of year there can be a bit of dew in the early morning, so we simply allow a little time for the grapes to dry off. Apart from this our people pick until 7.30pm, so even with a leisurely lunch break, it is still a very long day out in the sun.

Of course the secret of a successful harvest is logistics, and today we got off to a great start. By mid-morning we were loading the first press, and managed to get a couple done even before our short lunch break (the break in the bodega is usually much shorter, and I'm not quite sure why). This makes an enormous difference to our whole day, especially if we can keep this early momentum going. There is never a queue of grapes waiting to be loaded, and they pretty much go straight from the delivery vehicle into the presses. Of course this can make a huge difference to a fresh, fruity white wine like ours as any possible fruit oxidation is our enemy!

Ah! Now I remember, the subject of today's post, my little boxes..... The boxes that you see neatly lined up outside the bodega are full of 'bagazo' (grape skins and stems from the presses). These are collected on a daily basis, not by the refuse men, but by the distillery who covert it into aguardiente for us (grappa or eau-de-vie, depending on where you live). Until a few years ago we used to do this on site, but a change in the law now prohibits us from doing this under the same roof as our wine making - again, don't ask me why!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Harvest 2010 Day 3 - 9/11

Today, just a short moment of reflection as we remember the terrible events of 9/11 in New York City, back in 2001 - one of my favourite cities of the world.......

As you may recall from my long history of posts concerning the weather, like all Brits, I am a little obsessed with the subject (it must be something in the English DNA). Anyway, to cut a long story short, today's picture shows a photo of my computer screen taken yesterday - and the reason? Well, a very localised forecast taken from Spain's National Weather Service AEMET, indicated that yesterday and today would be completely cloudy, but as you can clearly see, the sun is streaming in through my office window. Hardly a cloud yesterday, and hardly a cloud today - perhaps AEMET would be better served by employing someone to simply look out of the window! At this time of year, when we rely heavily on weather predictions, this hardly inspires any confidence.

Our first Saturday appears to be passing with peaks and troughs of activity - one minute hands in pockets, the next like headless chickens, as trucks of grapes seem to arrive in unison. There is an old adage in England - that you can wait an hour for a bus, and then suddenly three buses arrive at the same time. This is certainly the pattern that we are experiencing today....

Any Saturday, during any harvest is always the most frantic day of the week. Many of our grape suppliers are only part-time, in other words they hold down full-time jobs and only grow grapes in their spare time. (Of course many of the vineyards in Galicia are so small that this income alone could not support a family). The result being that Saturday is always the most popular day for harvesting, as the family and friends of our growers provide abundant cheap labour.

After a busy day, with presses working flat out throughout the night, it's time to catch up on a little sleep.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Harvest 2010 Day 2 - Working at home

Our car park runneth over

Often the lack of sleep that we endure during the harvest is not necessarily to do with the number of hours that we physically spend in the bodega, but can, more often, be attributed to the dreaded nocturnal 'to do' list. That horrible feeling that you get in the middle of an (already truncated) night's sleep when you either think that you have forgotten to do something important, or that you must remember to do something important the following day. The body might be desperate to rest, but the brain is still clocking up the overtime - hence the 'to do' list..... a piece of paper strategically placed at your bedside on which you can make notes in the faint glow of your digital alarm clock. I have to admit that this is a phonomena that seems to get worse with age, and boy, do I feel old this morning!

Anyway, back at the harvest, we have another bright sunny day as you can see from my photo. You can also see that our car park is full, which can only mean one thing; today we are playing at home - picking our one hectare vineyard that surrounds the bodega. With a team of around 50 experienced pickers this year, we expect to have this done within a few hours, when the whole team will then relocate to our much bigger Castrelo vineyard. It goes without saying that the order in which we decide to pick is 100% determined by the ripeness of the fruit in each site. Indeed, in our larger sites ripeness even determines the route in which we work our way around the vineyard.

Of course one of the great advantages of working on home soil is that the cases of grapes are removed from the vineyard immediately - they are in the grape reception within minutes, and pressed within the hour. You can't get fresher than that!

As the day progressed, so the momentum started to build and by the middle of the evening we experienced the usual 'sunset rush'. The sunset rush is simply caused by the sun dropping in the sky - as the gloom gathers, people stop picking, load up their truck or tractors, and make a beeline for the bodega.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Harvest 2010 Day 1 - A misty start

One of the first grape suppliers to collect cases on day one

When I opened the shutters at home this morning I doubt if I could see more than 100 metres as a heavy sea fog rolled in from the Atlantic, but by the time I had shaved and showered the sun was already beginning to penetrate. By around 10.30am the sun had done its job, and was now dominating the sky over Galicia.

By mid-afternoon the first grapes arrived and the temperature had risen considerably, both inside and outside the bodega - the first signs of stress.... Despite our the careful plans and preparation we always find some small detail left undone. This year, for example, we have altered the concentration of sulphur that we add to the unfermented grape must, and the exact amount that we use is calculated automatically by a computer spreadsheet. As the first grapes entered the press we were still re-calibrating the whole sheet, and finished just in the nick of time. So much for being prepared!

As the first grape must emerged from the press, we were obviously anxious to taste the juice, and we were not disappointed. Fresh, clean, zesty, and as always, an intense, piercing fruit, everything we have come to expect from our vineyards. Of course the first real tasting of our finished product is still some months away.

We ended the first day on a high by creating a new record in the bodega - receiving more than 6,000 kilos on one truck from one single vineyard - as you can guess, it was a pretty big truck, full of really good quality fruit. A good first day all 'round.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Follow the yellow brick road

Well, maybe not so much yellow brick, more a bit of brown cardboard really, but 'follow the brown carton road' doesn't have quite the same ring to it. (At least we do have yellow walls!)

When I was writing about my old harvest shoes the other day I mentioned that when any spilt grape juice starts to dry it becomes really sticky and gets everywhere, well, we do at least take a few precautions in an attempt to minimise the effect. One such effort is to simply stick a bit of carton to the floor and make a walkway between the cellar and the offices.... it may not look very pretty, but it does save a bit of scrubbing when it comes to the big clean-up after the harvest.

Meanwhile, in the outside world, the early part of this week has been wet (as predicted), but a return to warmer weather looks like it's on the way. We only need a couple more weeks of dry weather and we should enjoy quite a good vintage. The grapes that we have tasted so far are quite sweet, and already have good potential alcohol. As always we are just waiting for the acidity to drop a little more in a few of our vineyard sites. For those that already have a good balance, we will start picking tomorrow, so watch this space.....

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Preparing for the big 'Kick Off'

This will almost certainly be the last quiet weekend at home before the 2010 campaign gets under way, but even so our thoughts never stray too far from the enormous task to come. Ensuring that everything, and everybody is organised, knows their place, and knows exactly what to do - it's all a question of detail.

For me it was time to dig around in the back of my wardrobe and drag out my old faithful 'harvest shoes', (complete with go-faster stripes).The shoes in question were originally purchased many years ago as football boots made especially for all-weather surfaces - as you may see they have a number of small rubber studs, designed to give a good grip on slippery surfaces.

At harvest time, the grape juice that inevitably ends up on the floor is thick and viscose, that makes it extremely slippery. By contrast, when it starts to dry, its properties change completely and it becomes more like glue, horribly sticky and finding its way into every small corner of the bodega on the bottom of your feet.

Quite naturally, strong and appropriate footwear is essential at all times in the cellar (as the health and safety guys would tell you), but my experience in recent years always leads me back to the same old harvest shoes. Heaven only knows what I will do when they are eventually forced to retire!

Friday, September 03, 2010

First cases of 2010

My photo, taken only this morning, shows the first cases being delivered to a vineyard site, in anticipation of the 2010 vintage.

For the last week or so Angela has been busy in her hovel  laboratory analysing grape samples from different locations - it would appear from her analysis that some of the southern most vineyards might be picked as early as next week. Time and weather will determine exactly when....

After a long, dry summer our focus on the weather forecast becomes more intense - some weather sites are predicting rain at the beginning of next week, but with a return to fine weather by the end of the week. If this is correct, and the rain is not too heavy, then this will serve to clean the fruit, which may actually be a little dusty after the prolonged dry spell.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

No ifs, no butts..... please

A pretty disgusting picture, which to be honest, turns my stomach - I have never smoked in my life, nor do I ever wish to. Thankfully I have never understood the need.

So why have I turned to cigarettes today? Well, actually, I haven't, but our local government and police have, and believe it or not it is related to the weather. Having experienced virtually zero rainfall for the last two or three months, it is not only our vineyards that are dry, but it is also our local forests and vegetation that are suffering too. This of course equates to an acute fire risk, such as those we experienced in 2006. Indeed, only about 60 or 70 kilometers south of here, just across the Miño river in Northern Portugal, severe forest fires have now been raging for some time.

Therefore, one of the precautions taken by the authorities is to remind motorists, using the matrix signs on our motorways, that disgarding cigarette butts (or is it cigarette ends?) from your car window can lead to a penalty of four points on your driving licence if you are caught - and in this case points do not lead to prizes!

Following on with my drought theme, if you look carefully at this photo you might think that the lady in the white uniform is watering some plants..... not so, she is washing the ground. This is a daily ritual, come rain or shine, whereby two ladies with hosepipes spend about half an hour washing the entrance and pavement area outside a local hotel (which I will not name simply because this is not the point of my story). There does not appear to be any such thing as a 'hosepipe ban' over here in Spain, and in this way the Spanish appear to be neither considerate nor concerned when it comes to the waste of water.

It was only a day or two ago that Angela's uncle Fernando (a local plumber), was telling us that his most frequent call-out at the moment is from consumers who rely on underground wells to draw their water..... the wells are starting to dry up, and so we have to assume that the situation must be pretty serious in some places.

Just as a footnote, I have always rather suspected that the Spanish may suffer a little from what I call "escobaphobia" - a morbid fear of brushes or brushing. The reason I say this is that if they see a few leaves or a bit of dirt on the ground, their automatic reaction is to reach for the hosepipe rather than simply taking out a brush - as I mentioned before , a serious mis-use of water in my opinion.