Will Sandy, Manager Banbury.
Working on my WSET diploma, I was very interested to work on a harvest, and so when the opportunity to work at the Martin Codax winery, in the Rias Baxas DO area of North West Spain, came up, I was thrilled to be chosen to represent Majestic.
Day 1, Monday:
Having met up with Tiffany, George and India for the very first time at Stansted airport, I knew I was going to have a great trip. We were met at Santiago airport by Pablo, the head of marketing for Codax. After checking us in to the Hotel Casa Rosita, we made our way to the winery, where we were given a tour by Maria and shown the modern technology, mixed with the traditional practices. After lunch we were driven to the first vineyard that we would be working on. A beautiful large vineyard, where the vines were trellised, so picking the grapes meant stretching and craning your neck. All the grapes were being hand picked, and placed in 20kg containers (we’d be seeing a lot of these containers over the next few days). We filled a lot of these crates over about 3 hours. We were then taken back to our hotel for a good Galician dinner of fresh shellfish; delicious with the Albariño.
Day 2, Tuesday:
Following a good breakfast we were driven back to the winery to change into our dungarees. We were then taken to a vineyard owned by Juan, the CEO at Codax. During the day we would be picking the grapes with Ivan and Pilar, (Juan’s son and wife), and a family friend. Between the seven of us we picked forty of the 20kg crates before lunch. After lunch, the vineyard was filled with more local workers, who were all very friendly and obviously worked really hard. India was the only one of us who spoke Spanish, so she spent most of the trip translating for us. Interestingly, most locals were speaking Galician, rather than Spanish, which reflected the pride the locals took in the area. We finished the day at our own leisure, and had a look round the local town, tasting some of the local wines with tapas.
Day 3, Wednesday:
Today we were given a more in-depth view of the winery by one of the winemakers, Catya. What became clear was the high standard demanded throughout production. There are two “Reception of Grape areas” where all grapes are sorted, de-stemmed, and made ready for pressing. We were then shown the vast stainless steel vats where the wine is kept to settle before bottling, and also the lab, where work was being carried out with local and national Spanish universities experimenting with many different aspects of the wine.
We then went on to the “Experimental Vineyard”, which has a number of different trellising systems, from wood, to the local and readily available, yet still fairly expensive granite. The idea here was to find out which system worked best. Again, all grapes here are hand picked. Though hard work, the weather was warm and sunny, so the four of us were happy to get stuck in with the local pickers, filling 5 crates from each of the different experimental systems, which would then be taken to the ‘micro winery’. Here, grapes from the different plots were being experimented on, and different kinds of yeast were added and the results monitored.
Day 4, Thursday:
Today began in the micro winery, collating the results from the wines we had worked on the day before. We then went for a tasting session with Mariola and Luciano, a 9th generation winemaker who really knew his stuff! We started with a vertical tasting of three Martin Codax wines, then some other local albariños, followed by the rest of the Codax wines, some of which are not available in the UK. We finished with three spirits also made by Codax. In all we tasted nearly twenty different wines. Luciano was very keen to hear our feedback, and we all certainly learned a lot. After our goodbyes at the winery we were driven back to Santiago, by another Maria. We spent the evening at leisure, having tapas and tasting different Albariños, Riojas and beers. The highlight of the night was a restaurant that stocked over 4000 Spanish wines. Pepe, the retired owner of the restaurant was very keen to see if we agreed that one of the Codax wines was better after being decanted. He was truly a larger than life character, typical of the people we met in the area. Relaxed, friendly, and very proud of their local wines, with good reason.
Looking back this was much more than a visit just to pick grapes, although there was plenty of that. Seeing a winery in full working order during the busy harvest is an awesome experience, one I heartily recommend.