Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the lees, on the beach

In my previous post you can see a guy clambering over a hotel roof for the sake of his art, whereas my photographic effort today is much more modest, with feet very much on terra firma (or sand to be more precise).

Having said that, crawling across our local beach on my hands and knees at dawn this morning must have looked a bit odd to passers-by. Perhaps they thought I was a drunk, and that I had been hitting the Albariño bottle for breakfast!

Anyway, I do like to keep a current library of different bottle shots, and of course, our association with the sea makes such a setting an obvious choice for a picture. The useful thing is that the Spanish are not really what you would call 'early morning people' (especially after celebrating their World Cup success of the night before), and so the beach was very much deserted when the sun came up today. You can take my word for it!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Man on a hot tile roof

Now, I consider myself to be a reasonably enthusiastic photographer, and as you have probably guessed, I also love messing about in Photoshop. Having said that, even I would draw the line at scaling a hotel roof for the sake of my art like the guy in this photo. I was pretty taken-a-back to watch him climbing like a cat across a steeply sloping tiled roof just for the sake of getting a better panorama - he must have been 30 or 40 metres above street level and appeared to be wearing just a pair of normal street shoes!

Quite how he got out onto the roof in the first place is another story, but let's just hope that the picture he got was worth the effort.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mist or fog?

It's not so complicated really - the difference between mist and fog is about 1km..... Fog reduces visibility to less than 1 km, whereas mist reduces visibility to no less than 1 km but less than 2 km. For aviation purposes, a visibility of less than 2 km but greater than 999 m is considered to be mist if the relative humidity is 95% or greater - below 95% haze is reported. Are we all clear on that, or is it still all a bit foggy?

Fog usually forms when the difference between temperature and dew point is less than 2.5°C (4°F), and relative humidity is approaching 100%. The water vapour in the air condenses and the result is fog or mist.

The reason that I mention all this is because for the last few days our coastal region has been shrouded in sea fog - also known as sea fret or haar. Believe it or not coastal fog has a little more to do with the amount of salt in the air. All types of fog and/or mist need minute hydroscopic particles upon which the water vapour can condense, and the presence of sea salt in the air makes this much easier, allowing it to form where humidity is as low as 70%.

Of course all this sea mist hanging around is not good for grape growing - the sun cannot penetrate, the temperature stays lower, and the humidity remains high - ideal conditions for fungus in the form of oidium or mildew. Naturally we have to take precautionary measures to combat this..... 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vive L'Albariño!

I guess that you must be thinking that I have not posted for a few days because I've been glued to my TV screen watching the World Cup football. Well, that is only half true. In fact I have been in England for almost a week, where I noticed that the country appears to be consumed by World Cup fever - every other car has an England flag, and even some staff in banks and post offices are wearing England football shirts..... but then, football is not really the theme of today's post.

Just before I left, I read an interesting article in the local press mentioning that the French have now started to plant Albariño in the Herault region, near Montpellier. It does not surprise me to learn that the Galicians were very quick to dismiss this latest development, in effect saying that they do not consider it to be a serious threat, and that the Albariño from our region will always be superior to anything that the French can produce. Quite a natural reaction I guess.

Far more worrying to me was the almost casual remark at the end of the article, which more or less said "Oh, and by the way, they are planting Albariño in New Zealand too". New Zealand is the home of many a fantastic Riesling, and the Kiwis certainly know how to handle cool-climate white varietals down there. I expect that in the future we will face much stiffer competition from New Zealand than we will from the South of France - but then this is just my opinion.

Now here's an interesting footnote to this story - if I take out my favourite shovel in Pontevedra, and start to dig straight down through the centre of the earth, I will eventually emerge near Greymouth on the south island of New Zealand - not too far from the heart of wine making country. Just for a bit of fun try visiting this website, and see where on the earth you would emerge. Happy digging!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guide time

Well, it's that time of year again! Over the last few days my writing hand has been aching as I have been busy completing forms to submit our wines for the 2011 wine guides. Even is this electronic age many of these forms are still sent either by fax or by regular mail and so have to be filled out by hand - many of the same details, year-in, year-out.

Indeed the only thing that usually changes are the wine descriptions, and of course the wine samples themselves, but this year we at least have something new to say...... our 'Sobre Lias' labelled wines are introduced with the 2009 vintage.

The closing date to submit to many of the guides is the end of June 2010 (for publication in 2011), which means that with the additional ageing that we make 'on the lees', the wines are only just ready in time to be considered, and the bottles are sent very last minute.

Yesterday, I prepared no less than four sets of samples (and paperwork), but thankfully this annual chore is now pretty much behind me. As far as I am aware there is only one more publication that needs samples before the end of July - I will wait a little longer before I do this as our 2009 wines are still very young and 'edgy' at this stage in their development.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ambush Marketing?

My original idea of an ambush

The modern interpretation of an ambush (with much nicer uniforms)

Ambush marketing? Flash mobs? What comes next?...... Dirty dancing??

One of the latest scandals to hit the current World Cup competition arrived in the shape of 36 young girls dressed in bright orange mini-dresses, mingling with Dutch supporters. Their dark secret was that they were actually 'placed' there as part of a marketing stunt and were advertising a beer, but unfortnately not the official beer of the tournament - hence the problem.

They were promoting that well known Dutch beer 'Bavaria', named after one of Holland's lesser known ski resorts! (Like you, I would have assumed that this was a German brand). Strangely, from the pictures I have seen, their dresses carried no branding, so how they were actually identified perhaps only Sepp Blatter will be able to explain.

Anyway, having forked out millions of dollars, the marketing people at Budweiser were more than a little upset about this unauthorised advertising attempt, and consequently this group of rather attractive 'supporters' were ejected from the stadium.

Apparently this 'ambush marketing' as it is known, is being used with increasing frequency, whereby one company will gatecrash a large event in order to promote their product without the usual financial outlay. If only I had known this before I could have gatecrashed a couple of local fiestas myself, brandishing a bottle of Castro Martin Albariño!

It  also makes me wonder - didn't the real ambush start when the this Dutch beer was named Bavaria?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Slashin' da grass

The grass cutting season is upon us, or should I say the grass slashing season. It was only yesterday when I discovered that the piece of machinery that we use to 'cut' grass in the vineyards, technically, is known as a grass slasher. It's fairly logical really....

The piece of kit (similar to the photo above) that we attach to the back of our tractors does not actually have blades, and therefore does not cut. In reality it uses some fairly heavy duty steel chains that rotate at high speed horizontal to the ground, like a giant strimmer that removes pretty much anything in its path. Of course this includes any small stones or rocks laying on the ground which are ejected like rifle bullets, so you really don't want to be standing near this machine when it's working!

Obviously grass 'slashing' is a time consuming chore, but for our vineyards we think that it is a much better option than herbicide.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The woes of being English

I have been trying hard not to mention football too much (especially after the season that my beloved Liverpool FC have had), but now my heartache and despair is prolonged by the pain of watching my national team perform in the 2010 World Cup.

Our problem appears to be that we over-rate ourselves. Yes, true, we have a great Premier League, with some of the best club sides in the world, but at national level, well, that's quite a different story.....

On paper at least, we should do well, and if the competition was decided by how much our players earn, then we would certainly be the world champions. The problem is that for some reason when our players pull on an England shirt they perform like a bunch of Sunday League pub footballers. Well, OK, that might appear to be a bit of an exaggeration, but then did you see the goal that the USA scored against us on Saturday?

In recent years this is the third embarrassing goalkeeping gaff that we have been made to endure in serious competition. The first, a keepers 'fresh-air kick' in Croatia, allowing the ball to roll over his foot into his own net. The next, another 'Teflon® Glove' incident at Wembley, very similar to last night's debacle. And now this third error in Rustenberg, which may well go down in history for all the wrong reasons. (Neutrals please note that all three blunders were made by three different England 'International' goalkeepers)!

Oh, the joys of being an England supporter.....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Too much information?

In the past I have made mention of the labelling requirements on wine bottles, and the fact that the number of warnings is on the increase. I have no complaints about this development.

My friends over at Sandihurst Wines in New Zealand also wrote about labelling on their blog - talking about the need to include wine 'ingredients' - the technical breakdown.

Of course the need for technical information is compounded when you add the language requirements of each country to the mix. For example, at the moment we are obliged to include the expression 'Contains Sulphites' on our labels, and as the majority of our labels are already printed with text in two languages (English & Spanish), so we have to include this warning in two languages. For the German market we then have to add an additional sticker with this warning in German, to each bottle. And so, as you see, it can potentially become rather complicated.

There is another way around this problem, as demonstrated by the German beer in my photo. Include the information in 14 languages!

This may be an efficient way of dealing with the issue, but I have to say that it is probably a bit over the top, bordering on the slightly ridiculous. The frightening thought is that it demonstrates where we all might end up one day...... I hope not.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Fiesta on a budget

I have written a few times recently about hard times that have befallen the Spanish government - it would appear that these may now have filtered down to grass roots level....

A few weeks ago I mentioned the fiesta of kiwi fruit held in Galicia - highly organised, with an action packed agenda of imaginative kiwi activities spread across the weekend. Printed colour brochures, banners across the streets - top publicity and marketing.

By way of contrast, a local village not a million miles from here, held it's own fiesta of chorizo and wine last weekend (albeit their spelling is a little different in Galician). As you can see from my photo, it could well be that their budget had been reduced - or perhaps it was simply just a much more humble affair.

Yesterday we had the tinto wine festival in Barrantes - apparently a good time was had by all, despite the local red wine, which I personally don't really care for.

As you may have gathered I did not actually attend as I was on airport duty, delivering some friends to the tiny airfield at La Coruña International. This idea of airport grandiosity reminds me of arriving at Luton Airport many years ago, when looking out of the aircraft window a huge airport sign boldly declared "Welcome to LA" - after all Luton is so similar to Los Angeles!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Local airport construction and development

Galicia has three "International" airports, which in my opinion is probably two too many. The reason I say this is that all three are only separated by a distance of 160km (100 miles), and are all competing for exactly the same business.

The three different autonomies within our Province that manage these airports never see eye-to-eye, and as a result simply compete on all levels, apparently obsessed with outdoing their neighbour by building the biggest. All three airports are undergoing extensive (and expensive) development and reconstruction, even at a time when the economy, both locally and nationally, is falling apart.

In a way this mirrors the construction boom that has bought Spain to its knees - if you ask yourself the question, is this redevelopment actually needed, then the answer must be a simple, and yet emphatic, no!

To put this into some sort of perspective, take a look at the airports themselves..... At least two of the three airports have no more than around a dozen flights a day - so, on average, probably less than one an hour. Even for this small number they all still require air traffic control, police, fire, security, check-in, baggage handling, catering, maintenance, etc, etc, etc.

La Coruña airport in the north is built on top of a small plateau, and has a very short runway. It can just about handle an Airbus A320, although at 1,900 metres the runway cannot handle an A320 at full take-off weight (2,000 metres is required). With the stong winds and heavy rain often experienced in Coruña, it can be a bit 'hairy' to say the least - I swear that Angela and I once landed sideways there! Access to the airport skirts the city and is not easy, and the present car park is a 10 minute walk from the terminal.

Vigo airport is also carved into the side of a hill, and often finds itself shrouded in mist or low cloud, especially during the winter months. This problem has been solved recently by the upgrade to Category III landing equipment (more expense!), and with a runway of 2,400 metres it can comfortably handle the traffic that lands there.

Centrally located, almost equidistant between the two, is Santiago de Compostela - the jewel in the crown of Galician tourism. It boasts a runway of 3,200 metres (which I believe is even long enough to handle jumbo jets), and has a direct motorway link road. The surrounding land is comparatively flat, so there are no real weather issues with this location.

So, why doesn't Galicia pool its resources and develop one major airport in Santiago? I know quite a number of people who are asking the same question.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

We have grapes!

Well, grapes might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but we have the makings of some grapes in our vineyards. I would like to tell you that the flowering passed off perfectly, but not quite..... Despite the weather improving hugely from the cool, damp conditions that we had been experiencing, we still had one day of rain in the middle of the flowering - not the most ideal day for pollination.

The one thing that I can say with some degree of certainty is that there are less bunches than last year, so we should expect a smaller harvest. Obviously it would be difficult to predict exactly how much smaller, as there are still so many unknown factors to take into account that will help complete the picture over the coming months - as usual we will just have to sit back and pray.

In addition to the potential size of the havest, we can also work out the approximate date - using the calculation of 100 days from flowering, we should now anticipate a start date towards the end of September. No doubt this will be upon us before we know it, and I will be sitting here writing another vintage report.

Doesn't time fly when your having fun?