Friday, 24 October 2014

Amontillado 12 Years Old 17.5%, Bodegas Maestro Sierra

Bright, very golden amber, legs.
Lots of Fino character still, in the form of hints of bitterness from the flor and the very slightest trace of Marmite, yet clear oxidative notes of nuts - toasted hazelnuts and almonds, even a honey-nut note, and a vague trace of apple. This is a fresh, smooth, really good Fino-Amontillado, but that term is no longer permitted unfortunately.
Similar to the nose really, quite light, softly nutty, dry, round, tangy and long with beautiful balance. This is a very elegant wine and very versatile with food. It could be served at room temperature or lightly chilled. Either way it is delicious.The bodega suggests drinking it with smoked meat/fish salad or mushrooms.... Some Finos are older than this, but it is not about age - it is about style and quality.
This is the new label. The bodega's Fino ages for 6 years before either being bottled (en rama) or   fortified to 17% before going into the Amontillado criaderas, emerging at about 12 years old as a young, but fine and complex Amontillado. Some of this feeds the old Amontillado criaderas. I love to see the variations in Amontillados, watching them develop from Finos: everything from old Finos to old VORS. Some of these would make an amazing tasting, watching the Amontillado develop. What are you waiting for?!
According to Wine Searcher, this wine is available at Bottle Apostle in London at £14.40 per half bottle. UK importers Indigo Wine.

(foto Migue Zayas/Maestro Sierra)

24.10.14 European Wine Tourism Day in Jerez

Jerez will be celebrating European Wine Tourism Day over three days: 6th – 9th November. It will be a great offer to tourists in the low season, especially as it will include the International Flamenco Day (which lasts for a week). They don’t do things by halves in Jerez!

The organisers of European Wine Tourism Day in Jerez
The Rutas del Vino y del Brandy will be involved as will the City Sightseeing Worldwide bus service. A total experience of Jerez is on offer here, including open doors to bodegas such as Díez Mérito, Cortijo La Jara, Fundador Pedro Domecq, Diós Baco, Garvey, Álvaro Domecq, Miguel Domecq – Vinos Entrechuelos, Sandeman, Williams & Humbert and Luis Pérez.

The councillor for tourism, culture and fairs, Antonio Real also pointed out the contribution of the tabancos, the Ruta de los Guisos (“stew route”), trips round vineyards in all-terrain vehicles and a sketching competition. Also there will be bus routes connecting the three Sherry towns. A walking tour is available too, round the city of Jerez with tasting at Domecq, Harveys and Terry. There will also be theatrical events. In short, every reason to be in Jerez NOW!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Fino 15%, Bodegas Tradicion

Quite deep for a Fino, golden with the very slightest trace of amber, legs.
Huge, full, complex, assertive. Hints of straw, lots of flor and autolysis, salt and dry scrub, traces of nuts- bitter and even toasted almond, even a passing trace of glace fruit, not so far off Fino-Amontillado, yet there is not a great deal of oxidation here, just an appley almost cidery hint, but overall this reeks of flor, still very much a Fino, and one that could age further as such. No wonder the Amontillado is so good!
Serious, very dry at first but softens a little, very full with tons of bitter flor notes, nutshells, traces only of early oxidation in that cidery hint, bitterness replaces acidity giving great balance and a fair bit of body, that roundness gives way to a very clean bitter dryness and serious depth and length. This is one for aficionados, too extreme for novices, so let's keep it to ourselves!
Fino is a fairly recent departure for Tradicion, (the first release was spring 2013), who set out to deal exclusively in old wines, VOS and VORS. Not that this is particularly young: it is over ten years old, nearer twelve. As the bodega owns no vineyards, the wine is bought in. There are two releases (sacas) annually, in spring and autumn. This example was bottled en rama in spring 2014, bottle number 1254 of 3,000. That is two annual sacas of 1500 bottles each, so bottle no 1501 onwards would be from the autumn saca, not yet bottled. Fino not bottled as such feeds the Amontillado solera. It is bottled, labelled and wax-sealed by hand and has a driven agglomerate cork with a spare stopper cork attached.
92 points from Parker's man in Spain, Luis Gutierrez. 90 from the Wine Spectator. If I believed in points, I would give it 98, it is quite magnificent.
£25.99 from Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh who are also UK agents.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

21.10.14 Ruta del Mosto; Sherry Lecture Cadiz; Consejo Budget

The tourism department of El Puerto de Santa María Council has organised the II Ruta del Mosto as part of the wine tourism programme. The event will take place from the 3rd till the 30th November. Participating bars will offer a glass of mosto (newly made wine) and a tapa for 1.50 euros. The timing of this event is designed to avoid the seasonality of the local tourism.

 On Wenesday 29th October the Atheneum in Cádiz city will play host to a conference hosted by Jose Luis Jimenez entitled “El Jerez, un Vino con Etiqueta”. It will begin at 7.00pm and is in the Calle Ancha, 20.

Jose Luis is a Jerezano whose heart lies in Sherry and film, and the connection between the two. He is president of the Jerez Club de Cine and has been involved in all manner of related projects including the new film “El Misterio del Palo Cortado”. He is also a regular contributor to Más Jerez.

The Consejo Regulador is sharing its promotional plans with the growers. Consejo executives held an informative meeting on Friday with them to explain the generic promotion plans for the key export markets. Aa a result of the agreement on the small levy per kilo of grapes or litre of must for this campaign, the Consejo expects to raise 250,000-300,000 euros for promotional use. The levy is calculated against the annual harvest declaration.

The bulk of the promotional budget will come from the bodegas, whose contribution has increased 25% to 1.25 euros per litre of wine sold, which translates into about 500,000 euros based on current sales. However the main objective is to somehow double the budget by obtaining public funding. This appears to be complicated by the lateness of the stage in the campaign, by cuts and the finance still available from public administrations especially the autonomous regions, which have reduced their budgets in this area considerably.

At Friday’s meeting, which was also attended by representatives of Fedejerez (the bodegas’ association), the president of the growers’ association explained that the purpose of the meeting was to get growers more involved in the use of their contribution and in how it is spent. He noted that it is much better used now than in the past when many growers were complaining.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Bodegas: Primitivo Collantes

The history of this bodega in Chiclana goes back to the end of the XIX century, 1889 in fact,  when the brothers Primitivo and Tomás Collantes Lloredo arrived there from the Valle de Iguña near Santander. Their first harvest was in 1903, and before long they bought from Don Manuel Lloredo, presumably a relative, part of a bodega in the Calle Ancha, 51, which remains to this day their headquarters. This bodega is known popularly as the “Bodega El Gallo” (The Cockerel) and is still run by the 4th generation of the family.

Over the years the brothers worked hard and the business grew. They went on to acquire a site in the Calle Arroyuelo, now the site of their bodega de crianza. In 1946 the company was registered, becoming a limited company in 1973 under the name Primitivo Collantes SA. The firm makes wine and vinegar from the produce of its own vineyards which are in the registry of the Consejo Regulador for Sherry, along with the bodega de elaboración and the bodega de crianza.

The bodegas over the years
The vineyards consist of Pozo Galván (17.3 ha.), Matlián (19.53 ha.) and El Inglés (18.31 ha.) totalling just over 55 hectares of long established albariza soils, very similar to those of Jerez Superior but with a more coastal climate. Wines are fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks before being transferred to butts for ageing in criaderas and soleras. The firm is associated with the well-known oenologist Ramiro Ibañez Espinar.

Seven Sherries are produced and a table wine:

Fino Ceballos (3years old), Fino Arroyuelo (5 years old from solera with 5 criaderas)
Moscatel Viejo Los Cuartillos, Moscatel Oro Los Cuartillos
Amontillado-Fino  Fossi (5 years old)
Oloroso Los Dos (7 years old and slightly sweet)
Cream El Trovador (Oloroso + Moscatel)
Viña Matlián (Table wine made from Palomino launched in March 2014, but only 4,000 bottles)
They also make very good vinegar aged in solera

Address: J. Canalejas, 51, 11130 Chiclana de la Frontera, Cádiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 400 150 and 956 400 767
Visits: Mon- Fri  07.00 – 15.00 by appointment

Friday, 17 October 2014

This is a Unique Time to ‘Take a Risk’ in the Sherry Business

Juan P Simó of Diario de Jerez interviews Jose Luis Torres Rodriguez de Torres, ex Osborne executive, now vine grower, about the Sherry district and its situation.

Jose Luis has been cultivating vines for the last five years in the vineyard “Las Conchas” in the Las Tablas area of albariza in Jerez Superior. His vineyard house, once owned by Rumasa, is called “El Paraiso” (paradise) and is surrounded by luxuriant garden and orchard.

JPS: How did you get into wine?

JLT: My grandfather had some bodegas in La Algaba, which my mother inherited. My father was a doctor who used to think – and I do too – that natural alcohol in moderate doses is healthy.

JPS: That’s been proved…

JLT: There’s a tradition that Sherry is a most agreeable wine which promotes conviviality, does not produce aggressiveness, forges friendship, and which seems to exercise us when talking about such an extraordinary and unique product. It hurts me deeply to see people linked to the Sherry trade drinking products from other regions.

Jose Luis Torres (foto:Diario jerez)
JPS: And do our politicians know this and spread the word?

JLT: Well, what do we need to do to get them to promote our product? I would tell them to stop taxing a healthy product, to stop considering it as a drug, and not to remove it from the Health Ministry’s list of alimentary products. They should be explaining how to drink it since we are talking about a healthy product, and promote Spanish produce, including wine.

JPS: Tell me, is trade healthy?

JLT: Better than ever in terms of product quality, thanks to technological advances in the production of grapes and in the ageing process. In commercial terms, however, things have been difficult, perhaps there has been a lack of confidence in the product from the commercial perspective, but I believe that this is a time of opportunity.

JPS: Is this a good time to invest in wine?

JLT: A great time, but not many have this faith. We need to take a risk – like a bullfighter!

JPS: Where have we gone wrong?

JLT: I think that historically, we arrived somewhat later than other areas with respect to professionalization. It is also true that we have lacked innovation. Those bodegas who have succeeded have done so by perseverance, good management and suitable strategic planning for the long term.

JPS: Tell me something about those euphoric nineteen-sixties, before the great crash.

JLT: That was somewhat illusory. In those days credit facilities were very important, there was a different financial culture, and we worked by imitation and improvisation. There was also that fraudulent demand: the “wine lake” in England, and production was in a few hands who allowed prices to collapse. That did great harm to the image of Sherry, and those same bodegas began producing non-traditional alcoholic drinks. Furthermore, strategic plans, if there were any, were managed rather than led, two different but complementary concepts. Management meant keeping history going where leadership looked towards the future. We were always looking to the past, not the future.

JPS: Go on.

JLT: There was money… so we planted. We had some 23,000 hectares of vineyard. Later distribution channels changed so they were in fewer hands distributing much larger quantities. Now only a few firms distribute some 80%. Sales teams were dismantled as buyers’ own brands (BOB) appeared. It saved us money, but we found ourselves in the hands of the distributors.

JPS: Later Rumasa burst onto the scene, one which was traditionally calm and friendly.

JLT: There were positive sides to Rumasa because they forced us to professionalise, but they brought down prices, bottled a lot of BOB, made well thought out strategic plans but implemented them in an improvised way in a difficult economic climate and employed people who did not understand the Sherry trade. This trade needs understanding, it is difficult and complicated.

Jose Luis Torres at his vineyard (foto:diario jerez)
JPS: What was Sercovisa?

JLT: Servicios Comerciales Vitivinicolas. It was a company born of the professional union of bodegas with the idea of rationalising the sector. It was established in the nineteen-eighties in a period of success and prosperity. This was Evaristo Babe’s (now president of CRDO Brandy de Jerez and Fedejerez) first contact with Jerez. Its president was Luis Ortiz, ex UCD minister, and its purpose was to unite professionals and facilitate intercommunication between managers and buyers, stock balancing, commercialisation, the protection of Sherry etc. Sercovisa organised the establishment of the Consejo Regulador for Brandy.

JPS: Later on, the big drinks groups enter the picture, de-localising the trade.

JLT: That’s what did it. We lost everything; multinationals are more interested in conquering the Spanish consumer than the expansion of their products. This did a lot of damage, but luckily there were bodegas who were prepared to diversify.

JPS: Where did that leave the producer?

JLT: In a difficult position the trade had everything to lose. Speculative manoeuvres left the growers in the hands of the bodegas. Growers had to invest 55-60 pesetas per kilo of grapes, but the bodegas were only paying 25 pesetas. Many were ruined. There was much indiscriminate grubbing-up of vineyard with little consideration of the consequences. I believe the bodegas and growers should stop speculating, get production and demand into balance, and that the bodegas should stop squeezing the growers, who should in turn stop trying to speculate with their principal customer. With these factors in balance, the trade could recover, and there should be inter-professional agreement between growers, bodegas - and why not distribution as well? Let’s not see ourselves as enemies, but as a continuity.

In a further interview, they discuss how to promote Sherry:

JPS: Tell me about the Consejo Regulador.

JLT: Well, the Sherry Consejo is the oldest in Spain, though I think that it is not really suitable for the actual circumstances because it is still an organ of control, which it does perfectly, and which watches over quality, but not so well. Just one example: In its organisational chart there is a section on the growers’ production, integrated in the Consejo itself, which is managed by the exporters. But where are the producers of the raw material, those who must guarantee quality? And where are the marketing professionals, those who should be dealing with these matters? I for one wouldn’t dare to be in charge of production quality. Do they have people in the trade who are truly specialised, with the capacity for this activity? In my judgement, not enough.

JPS: Where else are there failings?

JLT: I think there is a lack of communication. Jerez is important enough to have a media presence. I was following a leading radio programme in the mornings about the countryside which every year analyses every detail of the harvests throughout Spain, but Jerez wasn’t included, and was never even mentioned!

JPS: So they don’t do adequate promotion?

JLT: There has been promotion and it is still done, but I think it is very limited. It is fine at local level, much more than at the level of the Junta de Andalucia.

JPS: Then there is advertising.

JLT: When talking about this matter, many say: “It’s because there is no money”. But we must look after the media. If not, will they look after us? Look, the corporate promotional budget represents between a third and a quarter of that spent by a single bodega on its brands only a few years ago… There’s money here for lots of things! But when money is tight, the first thing they cut back is communication. Communication is as important as the voice itself! If I let the media understand the economic problems which I am experiencing, but I make an effort to invest, I’ll surely get a response.

JPS: What is needed?

JLT: I think that the organ of promotional structure needs further development along with vigilance and the regulation of quality. Grapes are still paid for by weight and not for quality. I’ve never seen this in any other product. Nowadays we need to love our product and not be mean with its production.

16.10.14 New Book on Sherry Published Today

That Sherry is back in fashion has been demonstrated once more by American journalist Talia Baiocchi. She has just released “A Modern guide to Sherry” (the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes), published by Ten Speed Press, New York.

The author moved to Jerez in spring to visit bodegas and do intense research, the result of which will highlight once again the fashion for and fascination with Sherry in the USA. Talia was born in Brooklyn and soon became fascinated with wine. For the last ten years, she has worked for specialist publications such as The Punch, and Wine Spectator. Time Out magazine referred to her as New York’s new wine prophet. The book is illustrated with the photographs of Ed Anderson.

(from an article by Jose Luis Jimenez in + Jerez)