Friday, 22 June 2018

Brandy Solera Gran Reserva 38% Marqués del Real Tesoro

Mid depth antique polished chestnut to amber with a trace of green at the rim and amber highlights.
Refined and elegant with beautifully assimilated aromas, or rather nuances, of toasted almond, Sherry, oak, vanilla, cinnamon and orange peel. All these have melded seamlessly over 20 years into a complex and beautiful bouquet which is still very much Jerez in character.
Clean and dry with  a fair impact up front, then it opens out and mellows into that delicious complexity above and there are also traces of dried fruit, nuts and fine Sherry. It has terrific length and is so good that it should be enjoyed on its own, slowly, with a good book.

Lieutenant-general of the Spanish navy, Joaquín Manuel de Villena Guadalfajara was ennobled as Marqués del Real Tesoro by King Carlos III in 1760 for using his own silver for making cannonballs to fight off pirates at sea and defend the King's treasure. His grandson founded the bodega in 1897 having bought the soleras of the Conde de Villacreces and it has long had a fine reputation for its Sherries and Brandies. The firm was bought by Jose Estevez in the 1980s. This excellent Solera Gran Reserva comes from a solera established in 1897 and it is a blend of carefully selected holandas distilled in pot stills and aged for at least 20 years in butts seasoned with Amontillado.
32,50, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Harveys Signature Cream 12 Years Old 19%, Bodegas Fundador

Very deep amber to brown with coppery gold highlights.
Sweetened Oloroso really, but quite stylish. An attractive Oloroso character shines through with hints of toasted nuts, faint orange peel, cinder toffee and caramel while the fruity PX notes more restrained. All seems to be in perfect harmony, and I find myself preferring this to HBC (as Bristol Cream used to be known).
Not quite as sweet as expected but quite full bodied and you can taste the Oloroso which is not tangled up with other things. Yes, it is sweet, but not excessively so and the PX rounds off the wine nicely giving a smooth and elegant style with good length. This is a very decent Cream Sherry.
Made from a blend of Oloroso (80%) and PX (20%), this is a much simpler blend than its illustrious cousin Bristol Cream, the first ever Cream Sherry, but frankly none the worse for it. It is also older. Sugar content is 120 g/l, and the overall result is quite a serious wine.
15 euros approx per 50cl bottle not often seen here, it all goes to Britain...

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

La Riva Fino 15%, M Antonio de la Riva

Bright full light amber-straw with brassy-golden glints, it looks serious right from the very start.
Forthcoming, intense and complex, it is very serious. There are all sorts of nuances like straw, esparto grass, butter, toasted almonds and dried herbs, distinct oxidative notes and cabezuela. There is some bitter flor but it is balanced beautifully by those oxidative notes which give the wine its seriousness and body. While it is still very much a Fino it is heading towards Fino-Amontillado with all the extra complexity that implies. It is old fashioned, but how could that style have been lost? It is wonderful.
Full, generous and bursting with mouth-coating flavour, low acidity (no added tartaric acid probably) and all the better for it - it shouldn't be necessary. This is real Sherry, of the classic Jerez style, fuller bodied, more oxidative, textured and expressive. Sadly there are very few like this nowadays. It is totally natural, made by letting nature do what it does best. It has amazing length, just going on and on, lovely!
This outstanding Fino was bottled en rama in October 2017 but released more recently once the Consejo paperwork was in order. It is one of just 1,500 bottles. The grapes came from the 3.5 hectare Viña Campanilla on brownish-grey soil over tosca cerrada albariza in the pago Balbaina Alta around 10 kilometres from the sea at 65 metres above sea level. The solera is tiny, consisting of just 5 butts; one criadera and one solera. Here the wine ages under flor for a good 10 years and there is one annual saca. Very much the Jerez style of the past, 50 years ago and more. The wine scored 92 Parker points, but I am very surprised it didn't score more, it is quite superb. De La Riva is the joint project of Willy Pérez and Ramiro Ibáñez who bought the prestigious brand name from Beam Global and set out to find and produce wines of at least that standard. I am old enough to remember one or two of the originals, and these are better. Anyway, presentation is of a high standard and is virtually identical to the original and it is sealed with a proper 2 inch driven cork of fine quality, which would help it age well for a good few years in bottle...
26,50 Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Manzanilla Pasada en rama Los Caireles 15%, Bodegas Portales Pérez

Amber-tinged gold with brassy-gold highlights.
Fresh and clean with attractive notes of iodine, minerals, salinity, straw and camomile, along with background hints of cabezuela, toasted bread and sourdough which work really well with the wine's very yeasty maritime character. There is even a trace of oxidation in there. This is a true Sanluqueño.
Very dry and fairly full with lots of herbal flor bitterness and those wonderful slightly buttery, not quite rancio and slightly tangy flavours from the bottom of the barrel balancing with it. This is a serious wine with a slightly chalky texture and considerable depth of character, just enough acidity, and good length. Very good.
Bottled on 31 May 2018 this is the bodega's first Manzanilla pasada to be released in bottle and it is very goodIt is made by carefully selecting wine from a few butts with over 10 years under flor. The Manzanilla solera in Calle Carmen Viejo is quite small with just 300 butts, but some of the best wine was kept aside and aged statically, and so only 700 bottles have been released and they will be much sought after. This small, charming family-owned bodega in Sanlucar, which goes back five generations, punches well above its weight and all their products are of high quality.
18,50 Licores Corredera

Monday, 18 June 2018

Fino Ecologico Añada 2015 en rama 15%, Williams &Humbert

Deep gold with a faint brassy tinge and bright golden reflections.
Quite full with marked notes of flor, salinity and minerals and hints of esparto, fresh and dried herbs and a slight brininess. Añada wines are a little fuller as they have been aged statically without being refreshed, so they're a little more concentrated, and this is textbook Fino with more depth than many, especially at not quite 3 years old, and that youth gives it  a certain freshness and elegance.
Full, with all the above, and there is still just a trace of some appley fruit less noticeable on the nose. It is nice and dry with good texture and a slightly chalky feel, a certain structure and a gentle tang and nicely balanced with good length. This is a delicious wine with some real individual character.
The 2015 vintage was more or less normal with perhaps a shade less rain than usual. The organically grown grapes came from the pago Burujena, north east of Jerez, near Trebujena. After fermentation the must was fortified to 15.5% with organic fortification spirit and filled into butts for static ageing. Soon the veil of flor appeared and remained healthy till the wine was bottled en rama in March 2018, at around 2.5 years old. By now the yeast had consumed half a percent of alcohol, so the wine had to be bottled. I wonder how it would have turned out if it had been fortified to 16% and left longer... It is not only fascinating and delicious, but it is the first vintage organic Fino from a single vineyard and bottled en rama. Wow!
15,50 per 50cl Licores Corredera

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Vinoble Tastings 2018: A Tour round the Albarizas of the Marco de Jerez

This phenomenal tasting was given by Willy Pérez and Ramiro Ibáñez, whose intimate knowledge of almost every grain of albariza in the area they so obviously love with a passion  is quite incredible. On arrival everyone received a beautiful glass-fronted wooden box containing samples of the soils the wines came from along with detailed notes of vineyard locations and conditions and the wines themselves. It had all been beautifully thought out, and just as well, as they had so much to talk about that there was not enough time so they had to rush the tasting, which consisted of 9 wines, slightly to cram it all in. First they took a look at the climate and how the landscape was formed, explaining why all the different pagos, and indeed vineyards within them, are different, and thus why the wines taste different from different places. Then we tasted the wines which were all the more fascinating knowing their background, but there was little time for tasting notes.

Ube Carrascal 2014 Ramiro Ibáñez Cota 45
There are two pagos in the Marco de Jerez with the name Carrascal, one is north of Jerez and one of the farthest inland, while the other is the closest to the Atlantic of the Sanlúcar pagos, a little south of the city, so the results are very different. The pago covers 230 hectares and its long flank parallel to the sea and its gently sloping disposition eastwards leave it exposed to the humid west winds which moderate temperatures. Soils are more mixed towards the west with more lustrillos and lentejuelas towards the east. This wine comes from the 0.7 hectare Las Vegas del Carrascal vineyard in the north east of the pago at its highest point. The vines are over 100 years old and different clones of Palomino: Fino, Jerez and Pelusón. Ube is made from a field blend of these vines and fermented in butt where it is aged for 2 years, full to avoid flor. It has amazing depth and balance with hints of caramel and apple and a lovely texture.

Ube Miraflores Alta 2016
From the neighbouring 150 hectare pago Miraflores Alta just to the east of Carrascal. This pago is probably the "grand cru" of Sanlúcar and roughly two thirds of it faces west and one third east. Elevation can reach over 60 metres and soils are mixed with lots of white marl, various qualities of lustrillo and some brown albariza, while further west lentejuelas, tosca cerrada and occasional barajuela can be found. This wine is made from a small west facing parcel of 1.45 hectares which once belonged to Rodríguez Lacave. The wine was made exactly the same way as the Ube Carrascal, the only difference being the vineyard (and the vintage). Lovely wine: texture, apples, brine...

Amontillado El Armijo
Viña El Armijo belongs to the Florido family and is at one of the most elevated points of the pago Miraflores Alta. The vineyard extends to 33.5 hectares with slopes facing both west, with tosca cerrada and a little lustrillo, and east, where the buildings stand, where the soil contains more marl. The west facing slope gives more wine with more zip while the other gives more depth and structure. This Amontillado is produced here from the soleras of Gaspar Florido. It spends 10 years under flor before spending another 12 ageing oxidatively, and being a natural Amontillado no refortification is done. It is simply beautiful; fragrant and expressive, intense yet elegant, but limited in availability.

Manzanilla La Charanga
La Charanga is a famous old finca in the northern part of the pago Maina (or Mahina) dating back to 1794. Here the Atlantic has much less of a role to play as the finca is 15 kilometres away, east of Sanlúcar, however it is surrounded by the Guadalquivir marshes. The pago has 170 hectares divided into 153 vineyards and the soil is extremely fine with a high clay and fossil content. This single vineyard Manzanilla comes from the 1.7 hectare vineyard of La Charanga and the mosto is fermented in butts and the wine has an average age of 5 years. It is super tasty and zippy yet serious, lovely.

Dos Palmas 2009, Bodega Forlong
The 1825 hectare pago Balbaina Baja is just outside El Puerto de Santa María, around 6 km from the Atlantic and has a long history. The vineyard altitudes lie between 50 and 60 metres and soils here are mixed with various albarizas, lustrillos and bujeos. Bodega Forlong is located in an old organic vineyard of that name and run by Rocío Áspera and Alejandro Narváez who have made a great reputation for interesting and high quality table wines. This one is as close as they have come so far to Sherry. It is 100% Palomino Fino fermented in butt with three years crianza under flor. It is delicious, quite full with enormous depth of flavour with ageing potential even now.

Amontillado Las 40
This wine is from the pago Añina, around 6 km north west of Jerez, which dates back at least to Roman times. It is a large pago about 13 km from the coast extending to some 800 hectares and thus soils vary between mostly lustrillos and bujeos. Wines from here are considered as being between Balbaina and Macharnudo in style. The Viña Las 40 lies at the heart of the Marihernández sub-pago on about 18 hectares (or 40 aranzadas, hence the name) of high quality white marl. The wine is a natural Amontillado - not refortified - made on site in a completely artisan way with the solera only being refreshed occasionally to replace transpiration losses. It is 20 years old and absolutely lovely, nutty, fresh and elegant with amazing length.

Vino Blanco 2016, La Riva
This cracking wine comes from the famous Viña El Notario vineyard in the northern part of the Viña Majuelo (owned by Fundador) part of the 800 hectare pago Macharnudo. This "grand cru" of Jerez lies north and slightly west of the city, some 18 km from the coast, with a maximum elevation of around 135 metres. Most if it  slopes south and has probably the purest and deepest albariza in the area. Many famous Sherries were born here. The De La Riva Vino Blanco was made by hand picking the grapes comparatively late, sunning them for 8 hours before pressing them gently for a low yield and fermenting the mosto in butts and ageing it under flor for 10 months.

Oloroso Barajuela 2013, Willy Pérez
This superb wine is from Willy Pérez and comes from the El Corregidor vineyard in the pago Carrascal, north of Jerez and to the east of neighbouring Macharnudo. Located  around 20 km from the sea at an altitude of some 113 metres, the vineyard has 60 hectares of which 29 are Palomino at 45 years of age and planted in the traditional vara y pulgar. The soil is barajuela. The vineyard is harvested in various passes to make various products, and the grapes destined for Oloroso are picked in late September and sunned for 24-48 hours before fermentation and static oxidative ageing. The result is a delicious super smooth classic old fashioned un-fortified Oloroso.

Amontillado Fino Carta Blanca, Agustín Blázquez 
Carta Blanca was a famous wine in its day and was made from grapes grown in the Viña Blázquez vineyard in the pago Macharnudo Bajo. After a day or more of sunning the grapes the wine was fermented in butts where they reached an alcohol level of around 13.5 - 14%. No further alcohol was added and the wine slowly became a natural Amontillado. Carta Blanca was drawn from the 1st and second criaderas of this solera. This bottle dates from the 1940s and was in perfect condition. In fact it was absolutely superb, representing a style that has been lost: the ultimate expression of Fino, a much fuller wine than we are used to now, allowed to develop towards Amontillado, and completely naturally. Luckily I managed to obtain a bottle and will post notes anon.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Bodegas: M Antonio De la Riva SL

M Antonio De la Riva SA is a highly respected but long disappeared Sherry Brand which has been given a new lease of life, revived by local superstar oenologists Willy Pérez and Ramiro Ibáñez, who have bought the rights from Beam Global who had acquired them in 2017 along with the purchase of Domecq from Pernod Ricard. Domecq had acquired De La Riva in the early 1970s, and also Agustín Blázquez, quite possibly to boost the firm’s value in an effort to avoid takeover by Rumasa.

This new incarnation of the company was registered in 2017 as Bodegas De La Riva SL. Willy and Ramiro are making wines from grapes grown in the historic pagos like Macharnudo and Balbaina which supplied the original La Riva brands like Fino Tres Palmas, Viña Sabel and Fino La Riva. Their new Fino is sourced from the Balbaína Alta. Wines will be made in the old fashioned way and sold under this famous brand name, with labels similar to the originals. 

In the meantime they are selling a stunning white table wine from the El Notario plot in the Majuelo vineyard in the pago Macharnudo and tiny quantities of fabulous old wines they have come across: Moscatel Viejísimo Loma Baja (98 RP) the original Moscatel Pico Plata Añejo made by Domecq for then brand owners Florido Hermanos, and is extremely old and amazingly concentrated and thus only available in half bottles. Francisco Yuste now owns and markets the brand but not the original wine. Oloroso Viejísimo Balbaina Baja (96 RP), a quite outstandingly fragrant and concentrated old wine, again available only in half bottles, and a quite outstanding Fino Balbaina Alta  (92 RP). These are all stupendous wines, but available in limited quantities.

For information on the original firm, see the post M Antonio de la Riva SA