Monday, 15 September 2014

15.9.14 First Organic Sherry in 2015

The first organic Sherry will be released in 2015. The cooperative AECOVI buys all the organically produced grapes in the region, and in a few months will release a late harvested wine from the 2014 harvest. AECOVI is a group of cooperatives: COVISAN in Sanlucar, Nuestra Señora de las Angustias in Jerez, Catolico Agricola in Chipiona and Union de Viticultores Chiclaneros in Chiclana.  Most of the AECOVI vineyards belong to over a thousand smallholders who pick manually and deliver the grapes to four big lagares (presshouses).

The harvest of organic Palomino was some 140,000 kilos, which were pressed and fermented separately. Some of this must will also be used to feed the organic vinegar soleras which were established five years ago and whose produce is already available on the market.

Turning the bunches of PX during sunning (foto Diario Jerez)

All this is the culmination of at least two years of strictly organic production in order to receive the necessary certification, and now under official control, the vineyards must be free of any chemical products, fertilisers or herbicides. The cooperatives’ technical people are keeping an eye on things in order to achieve the maximum quality with the maximum respect to the environment.

AECOVI has also successfully completed the sunning of the Pedro Ximenez grapes, largely thanks to very good weather with the absence of rain. A total of 60,000 kilos of PX were picked, all in the Jerez area. Fine, dry weather is vital as once picked, the bunches must be exposed to the sun for 8-10 days, and any humidity such as rain can cause big losses to rot. The vintage has been of exceptional quality, but while the fine weather has reduced the crop somewhat, the alcohol levels are good. In nearly all the vineyards levels of 12, even 13 have been achieved, much higher than usual.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Study into the Differences Between Fino and Manzanilla

AECOVI, a large cooperative in Jerez, has completed a two year study which shows that the differences, particularly in salinity, between Fino and Manzanilla are not simply due to the crianza (ageing) of the wines being in different places. They have found a close relationship between salinity and proximity of the vineyard to the sea in wines aged biologically (under Flor).

In the mid XIX century the ageing of the wines was changed from a system of anadas (or vintage wines) to the now well-known solera system, largely to suit the English importers who wanted more consistent styles. This served to reinforce the “myth” that Sherry is made in the bodega and that the differences in style of Finos and Manzanillas were due to the place of crianza, rather than the grapes themselves.

Under current regulations (the Reglamento) the “myth” is continued as regards definitions of Fino and Manzanilla. The only real difference according to the Consejo is that Manzanilla must be aged in Sanlucar. The grapes themselves can come from anywhere in the Sherry zone, although in practice most do come from the Sanlucar area. Equally, the grapes for the Finos of Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria may come from anywhere in the zone. Custom has become law and has been accepted.

This fantastic aerial photo gives an idea of the humid atmosphere in Sanlucar (vinoybrandydelpuerto)

The study found that the grapes grown near the sea contain more sodium and that the salinity is more concentrated in the summer months – particularly around harvest time – in areas which are exposed to prevailing westerly winds and nightly dewfall. This compares with the drier vineyards of Jerez where the winds alternate more, east and west. Aecovi studied various parcels of vineyard, 22 in Sanlucar, 4 in Jerez and one in Chipiona which link the location of the vineyard to the salinity in the grapes for the first time.

Temperatures, rainfall and solar radiation were found to be very similar in Jerez and Sanlucar, but the latter has more humidity due to the west wind – which brings more salt. Soils and leaves were analysed in all 27 parcels, showing more salt in the Sanlucar area especially towards harvest time.

As well as field studies, the investigators analysed the wines themselves – 30 bottles of Manzanilla and 24 bottles of Fino from both Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria, all available commercially, with concurrent results. The Manzanillas contained an average of 70 mg/l salt compared to an average of 40 in the Finos, thus reinforcing the Aecovi theory that wines are born in the vineyard, not the bodega, but due to the homogeneity required by export markets this has been lost.

The aim of the study is to put value back into the vineyard, says Carmen Romero, manager of Aecovi, and perhaps help save it from housing development because of its seaside position. Also up for consideration now is the notion of redefining the Denominacion de Origen Manzanilla, restricting its production to only coastal vineyards. For sure we haven’t heard the end of this one!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Oloroso Abocado Cristina 17.5%, Gonzalez Byass

Deepish amber/mahogany through to yellow, legs.
Light and soft, young and fresh, less intense than Cream and less sweet, traces of toasted nuts, caramel, toffee, fig and some slightly spicy cinnamon and wood notes. The wine comes out through the sweetness, which can mask the aromas.
Medium-sweet lightish nutty Oloroso with nicely balanced sweetness, hints of dried fruit and traces of spice, quite light, of no great age, but certainly has some charm and character, an elegant wine for everyday.
Very pleasant when slightly chilled for sipping while watching Wimbledon for example. Oloroso and PX are vinified separately and later blended after which the blend runs through the Cristina solera for 7 years, so the wine will be just short of 10 years old. It consists of 87% Palomino (oloroso) and 13% PX, with 50g/l sugars.
This wine doesn't seem to be available in the UK - GB UK don't list it. Sorry.

13.9.14 Harvest Figures 2014

Latest harvest figures from the Consejo Regulador show that the total yield was 66,122,375 kilos of grapes, 65% of which came from vineyards around Jerez. The next most important total was Sanlucar, with 11 milion kilos, then Trebujena with 8.4 million, Chipiona with 2.3 million, Chiclana with 1.2 million and El Puerto with 0.28 million.


Twenty-eight press houses crushed the grapes, half of these in the Jerez area. Chipiona had the highest sugar readings of 12.31 Beaume, but this is down to the fact that they leave the grapes on the vines a bit longer for the Moscatel. The lowest readings were in Rota with 10.73 and Chiclana with 10.88, but all comfortably above the Consejo’s required 10.5. The average was 11.77 Beaume.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

10.9.14 Harvest Estimate Revised Upward; Watch Grape Treading

The Consejo Regulador has revised upwards its estimation of the yield from this year’s harvest to 68 million kilos. Barely a week ago it was estimating 62 million, but the absence of the hot, drying Levante winds and generally very favourable milder weather means a bigger crop. The harvest is now all but finished, except for a few coastal parcels at Chiclana and Chipiona, mostly Moscatel, and all should be over by the 23rd. The quality is very good, and the sugar levels quite high with an average of 11.7 Beaume.

The new "Mosto" 2014 (foto Diario Jerez)

To watch the treading of the grapes which opened the Fiesta de la Vendimia yesterday, the Jerez Council has put a short video on you tube. Just search for “pisa de la uva”.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Manzanilla La Macarena 15%, Lustau

Pale, almost lemony gold, light legs.
Big, soft and gentle, very yeasty, bread dough, no obvious autolysis, hints of salt, lots of fresh sea air, beach, characterful but very polished and refined.
Very dry, quite salty, lots of flor yet not over bitter, very gentle in fact, but it grows on the palate. An interesting wine in that it has a real feisty character restrained by very good manners. Soft, gentle, classy, tasty with a long clean yeasty finish. A well brought up Sanluqueño.
La Macarena is an old Luis Caballero brand which has been dressed up the same as the Domecq brands Lustau bought in 2008. The label used to feature a flamenco singer. Lustau produce two Manzanillas (excepting the Almacenistas), the other being Papirusa, which unlike Macarena is available in the UK.

La Macarena is a church in Sevilla dedicated to the Virgin Mary in which one can see the Virgin of Hope, venerated by bullfighters. (It is also the name of various flamenco singers, a dance and of an irritating 90's song by Los del Rio, voted the world's no.1 one hit wonder).
About 7 euros in Spain, but not available in the UK.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bodegas: Hijos de Jimenez Varela

This firm, now lost, was established in 1850 in El Puerto de Santa Maria. In 1863, Ramon Jimenez Varela, who was 33 years old, bought various small vineyards in the Pago Balbaina between El Puerto and Jerez, and a bodega “La Rosa” on the corner of Calle Victoria (now Alboreda) and Calle Espiritu Santo. This bodega was created from various buildings, some older bodegas, others offices, in what became a bodega district close to the river where previously other industries had operated such as olive oil mills or tanneries. The site of the bodega is now occupied by the 4* Hotel Bodega Real which has preserved the yard in which the coopers worked.

Coopers' yard at Jimenez Varela (foto: Gente del Puerto)
This fine old family firm produced excellent Sherries and went on to produce sparkling wine at purpose built cellars in their Finca Caracol. The wine was good and well received, selling well for a while till it was dropped from the range as sales declined. The sparkling wine had been produced in an attempt to increase sales at a time (the 1880s) when Sherry was facing accusations of disrepute in its biggest market, Britain, due to alleged fraudulent practices by speculative companies, such as fortifying cheap wines with potato spirit. Jimenez Varela were never guilty of such malpractice.

Andanas at Jimenez Varela (foto: Gente del Puerto)
Other new products to bolster sales appeared as well, such as Anis, Rum, Cacao, Gin, Tonic Wine (Quina) etc., but nobody else made sparkling wine at the time. It continued well into the XX century.

(Antonio Garcia's collection of HJV products, and his photo)
They also bought a famous stud, the Hierro de la Palma which had been established at the beginning of the XIX century, and whose brand appeared on their Sherry labels.

The firm's logo and also that of the stud (foto CMPH gente del Puerto)

Interestingly, one of the family was the confidant of Isaac Peral, a naval engineer who built one of the very first workable submarines, much research work on which took place in the River Guadalete at El Puerto. Apparently his submarine was as good as the First World War U Boats, but was never commissioned by the Spanish Navy.

Jimenez Varela finally sold up to Rumasa in the 1960’s during the latter’s period of rapid expansion, and was subsequently and unfortunately never heard of again. Rumasa needed stock.

The firm’s principal brands were Fino Jardin, Oloroso 1875, Amontillado Presidente, Manzanilla Carola, Oloroso Los 46, Amontillado-Fino Jardin, Fino Coquin, and sparkling wine:  “Gran Champagne Continental”, as well as spirits: Brandy Viejisimo Varela, Cacao Varela, and many more.