Friday, 24 April 2015

The Mirador de la Alameda

If you have ever visited the impressive Alcázar or the bodegas of González Byass in Jerez, you will almost certainly have noticed the Mirador which sits between them. A mirador is a place from which one can enjoy the view, and from the upper floor, accessed by a spiral stairway, there are excellent vistas in all directions, and can get a really good understanding of the lie of the land.

It was commissioned in 1903 by Antonio Paz Partida and stood at his small finca close to the González Hontoria Park. He donated it to Padre Damián of the Casa de Ejercicios Esprituales of the Cartuja in the parish of Las Nieves where it remained until 2009, when it was given to the Council who restored it and moved it to its present position in June that year. It was inaugurated by the mayor and three members of the original owner’s family.

(foto:gente y habitantes de jerez)
This type of cast iron construction was common in the late XIX and early XX centuries as the rising bourgeoisie wanted to display their wealth, but few such buildings survive.  The Mirador is of classic turn of the century design: Art Nouveau and Modernism, and all sorts of quiosks and bandstands were once abundant. These related in a way to other notable buildings featuring cast iron in Jerez: Bodega La Concha at González Byass (1869), the Mercado de Abastos (1885) and the Railway Station (1908). Cast Iron went out of fashion with the arrival of reinforced concrete in the 1920s (Teatro Villamarta 1927).

Thursday, 23 April 2015

23.4.15 Tio Pepe en Rama 2015 is Launched

The 6th edition of this outstanding Fino is now available.  The presentation was made by González Byass chief winemaker, Antonio Flores and the firm’s vice president Pedro Rebuelta, on Monday at the Casa Palacio Guardiola in the historic centre of Sevilla, and timed to coincide with Sevilla’s most important event: the Feria de Abril. He pronounced the wine “pura vida” (pure life).

Like last year, the selection was made from the two oldest Tio Pepe soleras. The Rebollo solera is in the cellar originally built to store wine for Tio Pepe (the founder’s uncle Joe) 150 years ago, and has a dark and humid atmosphere perfect for flor, giving an intense wine bursting with the acetaldehyde aromas of almonds and yeast. This was the original Tio Pepe. The La Constancia solera in the firm’s earliest bodega, dating from the mid XIX century, offers a more elegant style with texture and finesse. The two make the perfect blend.

From an initial selection of 600 butts, 100 were selected for the short list back in October. After constant monitoring over the winter months, Antonio Flores selected the 60 butts with the healthiest flor at the beginning of April. The winter was reasonably mild and so the flor was remarkably stable, making Antonio’s selection all the harder. This is the third year running when the bottling was carried out – en rama - in April instead of May, as there is still the freshness of spring. This year’s label comes, as usual, from the archives of the Fundación González Byass.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Oloroso Añada 1970 20%, Bodegas Tradición

Copper and mahogany tinted amber fading to a touch of green at the rim, slow legs.
Fresh, tight and clean with generous Oloroso character. Lots of dried fruits, cinnamon, orange peel and even hints of hand rolling tobacco and milk chocolate followed by very nutty aromas of walnut and toasted almond, traces of vanilla and resin from the American oak and a fairly penetrating tang. Complex and delightful.
Quite powerful and tangy with an attractive acidity which freshens things up, notes of marmalade raisin, nuts, sweet spices and oak - which is a bit more apparent but there is enough glycerol to keep it in check. This is quite a mouthfilling wine as the gentle tannin gives it grip and the glycerol and acidity give it a certain raciness. Lively and delicious, it would be amazing with old hard cheese or well hung game. Terrific length and constantly evolving open at least an hour before serving.
Effortless deliciousness! It shows how well and how long Sherry ages outside a solera with no refreshment, in this case 42 years. The wine was bought from Croft and has been sealed up since 1970, having been released in 2012. This was from butt no. 5 of 7 and one of 250 bottles, so either there was a considerable merma or there is more than one release from the same butt (possibly for sale in other countries). The image on the label is reproduced from "La Costurera" (the seamstress) by Domingo García Díaz, one of the works in the Joaquín Rivero collection housed at the bodega.
£125.00 from Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh who are UK agents.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

19.4.15 Potential EU Funding Cut Worries Jerez

Fedejerez flatly rejects the amendment to the funding of wine promotion abroad which will be put to the vote on the 27th of this month at the European Parliament. The amendment involves the strategy concerning EU alcohol, questioning the use of public funds to promote the consumption of alcohol in third countries. The beer and spirits industries also face this problem, and have joined the wine industry to present a common front.

The possibility of these European funds being spent elsewhere poses a major risk to Jerez, where many bodegas have enjoyed this important source of income to promote their wines outside Europe, mainly in strategic markets such as the USA or Japan. Despite the funding plan officially being in place till 2020, it could now disappear in 2018.

Fedejerez admits that the trade is nervous about the forthcoming vote and they are allying with the Federación Española de Vino (FEV). The latter is warning that this amendment puts at risk funding not only for the campaign for moderate consumption of wine but also for its promotion in third countries and the support plan for the wine producing sector. Further, the FEV says it will marginalise and demonise wine as a product which is so important as an EU export.

“Quien sabe beber, sabe vivir” was the slogan for the prominent campaign set up in 2012 for moderate wine drinking, to which the Consejo, Jerez Council and Fedejerez were all subscribed. Now it might disappear and there might be considerable harm to the wine producing culture and the agricultural industry and jobs which lie behind it.

But there is yet more to the amendment. It also proposes to revise the rules on labelling to include nutritional advice and a warning as to the poisonous nature of alcohol. The FEV is asking the Euro deputies to vote against this measure which directly attacks the specificity of wine. The Spanish delegation in Brussels is drumming up support for a “no” vote, insisting that products like wine form a part of the much admired Mediterranean diet, and if consumed moderately are beneficial to the health.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

18.4.15 27 More Sherry Educators; Giant Tio Pepe Bottles; Feria de la Manzanilla 2015

The XIII Sherry Educators course has come to a successful conclusion. Over the15th, 16th and 17th April, 27 people participated: restaurateurs, wine educators, sommeliers and wine journalists from all over Spain.

The title “Formador Homologado del Vino de Jerez” requires professional candidates who have a high level of wine knowledge, as in practice they are an extension of the Aula de Formación del Vino de Jerez, the education side of the Consejo Regulador in destination markets, and thus ambassadors for Sherry.

Some of the Educators doing the right thing (foto:+jerez)
An intense programme on winemaking with seminars, tastings and vineyard and bodega visits was undertaken to obtain this prestigious title. The course which takes place twice annually, is regarded as one of the best of its kind.

Two Tio Pepe bottles 2.58 metres high have arrived to greet travellers at the duty-free in Madrid airport terminal 4 and 4 satellite. The bottles are made from expanded polystyrene, wood and polyurethane resin and are unmissable.

Tio Pepe in action (foto:lavozdigital)

The poster for this year’s Feria has been presented by the mayor of Sanlúcar, Víctor Mora alongside the artist who created it, Mikel Urmeneta. The Feria will be celebrated from the 2nd till the 7th of June.

The mayor (l) with the artist and his poster (

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Oloroso Añada 1968 22%, González Byass

Light, bright copper tinted amber topaz fading through yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Fresh crisp Oloroso aromas, generous and quite "pretty" for an Oloroso, lots of toasted almonds and wine-soaked American oak with traces of cinnamon, polvoron, earth, marmalade orange peel and a little raisin sweetness rounding things off. Although the alcohol is noticeable, it is a slightly lighter more reserved nose than some, perhaps because it was a more rainy year albeit saved by later sunshine.
Quite assertively tangy, a definite note of acidity followed by an oaky texture though not especially tannic, lightish on mid palate, still that sweet cinnamon spice and trace of orange, dries a little at the end, but is very long leaving lingering spicy-orangey-almondey memories. This needs food, probably beef, mushrooms, blue cheese. Seriously interesting wine.
From 100% Jerez Superior Palomino grapes harvested in 1968. This wine was sealed in a butt and effectively left to its own devices until 1999 when it was pronounced to be an Oloroso with some 31 years of age. It was filled by hand into dark "Jerezana" style bottles of a style used in the mid XIX century and sealed with red wax over a driven cork. This was bottle number 117 of 432. By my calculations the merma (loss through transpiration) is about 35%. Interestingly, this wine has not only had 31 years in wood, but also 15 years more ageing in bottle, something which was allowed for by using a driven cork and wax seal, and something which has certainly improved an already superb wine. (See post on Añada Sherries)
A very reasonable £85 from Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Oloroso Añada 1975 20%, Bodegas Tradición

Deep, slightly red-tinted amber-mahogany fading through yellow to a touch of green at the rim, legs.
Harmonious, generous and fairly sweet aromas of dried orange peel, some dried fruits: sultana, apricot, and the slightest trace of cinnamon, then there is a nutty woody side: marzipan, walnuts and oak. Quite high-toned with a tangy, zesty, varnishy feel with some richness behind but not as fat as some Oloroso, complex and interesting.
Dry, tangy and sinewy with a fair acidity and a hint of bitterness mainly from the wood tannins, this is brilliant with food - I tried it. Medium to full bodied with a tension between that acidity and the round, apparently quite sweet Oloroso walnutty generosity giving a tangy balance and leaving the palate clean. Really long too. Racy and delicious.
This is bottle No. 104 from a saca of 200 (or only 150 litres) lot 1/10. As always, it was filled and labelled by hand with a driven cork and wax seal, along with a spare stopper cork and wooden gift box. This wine came from a number of butts of vintage wine bought from the old Croft bodegas. (What a pity Croft will always be remembered for Croft Original!) The grapes were harvested in August-September 1975 and the wine remained in a butt sealed by the Consejo until January 2010 (I'm guessing) making it over 34 years old. In that time the merma (loss by transpiration) was 70%, so you can easily see why these wines are expensive.

In the photo (below) of the butt it might have come from, you can see the Consejo seal over the bunghole; crossed red ribbons and four seals. This can only be removed by the Consejo.

The picture on the label is a reproduction of an incredibly realistic oil painting called "Guardacantón" (a sort of neighbourhood watch) from the collection of Joaquín Rivero housed at the bodega, and was painted by the Sevillano artist José Jiménez Aranda (1837-1903).
£125.00 from Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh, who are UK agents.