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.