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?