Monday, 25 May 2015

25.5.15 Tio Pepe Festival 2015

The second edition of this music festival will take place in the gardens of the González Byass bodegas on the 13th and 14th of August. It promises to be a real treat for the senses with wonderful food, Sherry and music in a beautiful place. If you can be in Jerez, don’t miss this! Tickets are limited though, so book early.

On the 13th mezzosoprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera will appear, a fine opera singer known for her Carmen, she will perform a special programme titled "Carmen y Yo" with the choir of Jerez’ Villamarta theatre, the pianist Rubén Fernández Aguirre and the fantastic dancer Mercedes Ruiz.

The following evening will see a performance by Estrella Morente with her group which includes guitarist José Carbonell “Montoyita”. Estrella is a leading flamenco singer, daughter of the late great Enrique Morente from Granada, and offers a wonderful lyrical take on flamenco.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

24.5.15 International Wine Challenge Results 2015

IWC Gold Medal and Trophy:

Harveys: VORS Palo Cortado, VORS Pedro Ximénez, VORS Amontillado
Lustau: VORS Oloroso, Fino de Jerez 3 en Rama
Williams & Humbert: Dos Cortados VOS
González Byass: Tres Palmas, Cuatro Palmas

IWC Gold Medal:

Lustau: Amontillado Botaina, Amontillado VORS, Palo Cortado VORS, Very Rare Dry Oloroso (for Marks & Spencer), Dry Old Palo Cortado (for Marks & Spencer), Oloroso Emperatriz Eugenia, Pedro Ximénez San Emilio, Pedro Ximénez Viña 25,
Cayetano del Pino: Palo Cortado Solera
Williams & Humbert: Colección Amontillado 12 Años
González Byass: Palo Cortado VORS Apóstoles, Pedro Ximénez VORS Noé,
Fernando de Castilla: Don Fernando Oloroso (for Marks & Spencer), Palo Cortado Antique
Hidalgo La Gitana: Manzanilla La Gitana
Viniberia: Marks & Spencer Manzanilla, Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Palo Cortado (for Majestic)
Delgado Zuleta: Manzanilla La Goya en Rama Magnum
Luis Caballero: Amontillado Medium (for Morrisons)

IWC Silver Medal:

Harveys: Harveys Fino. Very Rich Old Oloroso VORS, Signature 12 Years Cream,
Lustau: Amontillado Los Arcos, East India Solera, Fino Jarana, Almacenista Oloroso Obregón, Rare Cream, Almacenista Fino Obregón, Pedro Ximénez Murillo, Fino del Puerto 3 en Rama, Very Rare Amontillado (for Marks & Spencer), Very Rare Pedro Ximénez (for Marks & Spencer), Signature Manzanilla (for Morrisons), Signature Pedro Ximénez (for Morrisons), Signature Oloroso (for Morrisons), Signature Palo Cortado (for Morrisons), Moscatel Emilín, Oloroso Don Nuño, Palo Cortado Península, Puerto Fino, Oloroso Río Viejo, Fino (for Waitrose), Solera Jerezana Rich Cream (for Waitrose), Taste the Difference Fino (for Sainsburys)
Hidalgo La Gitana: Amontillado Napoleon, Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, Pedro Ximénez Triana
Cayetano del Pino: Palo Cortado Viejísimo 1/5
Williams & Humbert: Colección Oloroso 12 Años, Manzanilla Alegría
Barbadillo: Manzanilla Solear
González Byass: Amontillado del Duque VORS, Oloroso Dulce Matusalem VORS
Fernando de Castilla: Oloroso Classic
Luis Caballero: Pale Cream (for Morrisons)
Delgado Zuleta: Palo Cortado Monteagudo
Valdespino: Pedro Ximénez El Candado
Viniberia: Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Amontillado, Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Oloroso (both for Majestic)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

23.5.15 Medals for Sherry; Palo Cortado Film

Here are the Sommelier Wine Awards Results for Sherry:

Hidalgo La Gitana: Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana won a Gold and  La Gitana a Commended

Grupo Estévez: Manzanilla La Guita won Gold and Leyenda PX won Silver

Fernando de Castilla: Antique Palo Cortado Gold, Silver for Antique PX Antique Fino and Classic Oloroso, and a Commended for Classic Fino

Sánchez Romate: Bella Luna PX won Gold and the Amontillado and Fino won Silver

Rodriguez La-Cave (Delgado Zuleta): Commended for Manzanilla Barbiana

Lustau: Commended for Fino La Ina

The documentary film El Misterio del Palo Cortado is to be shown at last in Jerez. After great success at the film festivals of Berlin, Sofia, Buenos Aires, Málaga, Barcelona and Madrid, the film will be shown at the Sala Compañia on the 28th and 30th of this month. Afterwards, the film will continue on its journey to film festivals at Seattle, Edinburgh and Montreal. The producer, Antonio Saura, said that it will help awaken the world to Sherry and that many more film festivals are interested, not only for the quality of the film, but that of Sherry itself.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Bodegas: José Medina & Cia.

This firm no longer exists and as such is a lost bodega, but it developed into another so maybe it is not lost. Anyway, it was established as late as the early 1970s by José Medina. He and his three brothers, Nicolás, Ángel and Jesús, were working at different bodegas and dreamed of establishing their own. José led the way and his brothers joined him a couple of years later. Using clever strategy and collaboration agreements with purchasing companies, they exported a great deal of bought-in Sherry to Holland. Other export markets were not ignored however, and a standard range of José Medina Sherries was available in the UK in the 1970s.

They bought the old family business of Luís Páez of Jerez in 1979 jointly with the Dutch company, Royal Ahold BV, owner of the chain of Albert Heijn stores, giving them great sales and distribution. In the mid-1980s the Medinas, by now one of the leading exporters, bought the old Sanlúcar firm of Pérez Megía and formed Grupo Medina.

The Medina brothers: Nicolas, Jesus, Jose, Angel

The next target was Williams & Humbert. This great firm had been taken over by Rumasa and like all the other firms in the group, had been expropriated by the government in 1983, but its sale back to the private sector was delayed by José María Ruiz Mateos claiming to personally own the Brand Dry Sack. The courts saw it differently, and it eventually re-joined W&H.

In 1988 Antonio Barbadillo bought the firm but in 1991 the Dutch Gin and Liqueur firm Bols bought 60%. The Medinas bought 10% via Luís Páez which was still 50% owned by Royal Ahold, and the Bols holding in 1995. In 2005 they were able to buy out the Royal Ahold interest in Luís Páez with help from a risk capital fund and consolidate all their interests under one roof as 100% owners of the business. The deal included a 25 year trading contract with Ahold.

From very small beginnings the brothers’ sales are now around 25 million bottles across all brands and they are currently exporting about 75% to 80 countries. There are other interests too: Medina del Encinar ham and cheese, for example, as well as all sorts of spirits and wines, and they own their own Spanish distributor, Sovisur. A true success story, but built on very hard - and clever - work.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

What Would William Shakespeare and Antonio Flores Talk About?

This is a translation of an interesting article by Javier Estrada in the Vida Vid Vino magazine kindly sent to me by academic and Sherry aficionado, José Luís Jiménez. Read on:

Without doubt it is a fantasy, an unrealisable dream, but one can nonetheless imagine the legendary English writer and the famous González Byass oenologist meeting here to talk about Sherry. It is well known that Shakespeare and his friend and fellow dramatist, Ben Johnson, used to go out to drink Sack (the old word for Sherry) in the London taverns back in 1590 where they fell into eternal discussions. Antonio Flores is not only a winemaker, but also a keen student of the wines he makes. 

Joining Antonio and William is José Luís Jiménez, from the San Mateo district of Jerez and leading world expert in references to Sherry in the life and work of the English poet and dramatist. The journey begins almost 200 years before Shakespeare arrives in London, when Sir John Falstaff, a character in Henry IV, ends a glorious monologue saying “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them is to forswear thin potations and addict themselves to Sack."

Falstaff with a jug of sack (
William Shakespeare was the greatest publicist for Sherry of the era. He mentioned it over 40 times in 8 of his works as well as drinking it enthusiastically in the London taverns. “Shakespeare would have to adapt his palate to the Sherry of today which has little to do with the wines he drank”, explains Antonio, “In the Jerez of today the Palomino Fino is the predominant variety, but in Shakespeare’s time many other varieties were drunk, mainly reds but also white wines and darker wines. We suppose that the whites would have been the equivalent of today’s Finos and that the darker ones would have been Olorosos. When Shakespeare refers to a Sherrish Sack, he probably meant Oloroso. At that time the solera system didn’t exist, so there would have been Oloroso and Fino style vintages.

Jose Luis Jimenez, Antonio Flores at the bodega(foto: vida vid vino)
José Luís Jiménez, a member of the Real Academia de San Dionisio de Ciencias, Artes y Letras is currently working in the municipal archive of the Jerez Council. “William Shakespeare moved from his native Stratford upon Avon to London in about 1590. Two years beforehand, the pirate Sir Francis Drake had raided ships in the port of Cádiz which had recently been loaded with food and wine and were ready to set sail to deliver it to the Invincible Armada which was waiting in Lisbon for the order to invade England. Drake stole no fewer than 3,000 butts of wine, so by the time Shakespeare arrived in London the taverns were awash with Sherry.”

In fact, he mentioned Sherry in his first work of 1589 – and titled it “Sherrish Sack”. There are documents, however, which show that were already English merchants based in Jerez who were selling the wine in the XV century. Indeed in the IX century the Vikings sacked Sevilla and got as far as Córdoba, so the route was known, and possibly the wine too.

Antonio & Jose Luis still at it! (foto:vida vid vino)
Antonio mentions the book written about Sherry by González Byass founder, Manuel María González Ángel, which explains the importance of the effect on wine of a sea journey, “since there are references to these almost from the discovery of America, and of course these characterful wines would have been drunk in London. They were very expensive and much appreciated.” They were loaded onto ships, crossed the equator, and returned untouched. They travelled as ballast in the lowest part of the hold where there was a suitable average temperature and came back worth more than if they had stayed in Jerez.

In the whites (Finos) biological ageing or submerged biological ageing took place. When the flor is submerged it accelerates the process, so this would happen naturally with the movement of the ship. With the dark wines (Olorosos), the ship’s movement would accelerate the oxidation.

Looking through the vast range of wines which Antonio makes at González Byass, he seeks out butts which he thinks might most resemble the wine Shakespeare would have drunk in London’s taverns. “I think they would have been similar to Pata de Gallina (super fine Oloroso), Palo Cortado, Amontillado or the Vintage wines, but if I had to choose one, it would be the very old Palo Cortado Apóstoles, or I might share with Shakespeare the Finos Palmas.”

It is certain that not only did Shakespeare like to drink Sherry but that he studied it. In order to write Henry IV he would have had to research what it had been like and its availability in England more than a century before he began to drink it. Shakespearian gastronomy went perfectly with wines which were strong in alcohol, powerful and structured. Antonio comments: “The playwright came from the country to a sophisticated London and encountered game dishes, Scottish salmon - perhaps breaded, food which was prepared for journeys, and which was perfect with Sherry.

Image of bas relief at Boar's Head, Eastcheap London (
Shakespeare found lots of ideas for his writings through meeting the literati of the day in the London taverns of the Boar's Head and the Mermaid - among others. Antonio closes his eyes and takes a draught from his glass to think on this impossible meeting. After a pause he says in a low voice “It would be very emotional.” Falstaff, played in the film by Orson Welles, who visited the bodega in 1961 and signed a butt of Fino, rallied prince Hal’s troops alluding to the power of Sherry. In much the same way, Antonio Flores finishes many of his tastings saying “Sherry cures the soul and delights the heart.”

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Oloroso Anada 1982 21.2%, Bodegas Tradicion

Bright amber to mahogany fading through yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Forthcoming and beautiful, stunningly fragrant with a real texture, archetypal Oloroso. Lots of nuts: toasted almonds, traces of turron yema tostada and walnuts, walnut shells too with a trace of bitterness, old polished furniture then walnuts in syrup, lots of implied sweetness for a dry wine, rich and appetising and quite concentrated. What a start!
Huge flavour explodes on the palate, big, dry and old yet in perfect shape, starts intensely then gets drier with hints of austerity from the American oak and those walnut husks, even hints of tannin, but that leanness is balanced out by glycerol giving not only texture but a certain implied sweetness that helps carry the flavour through. Everything is in balance and it has terrific length, this is a wine in its moment. Utterly delicious!
There are a lot of superlatives here, but they are more than deserved. Aged statically - no solera - and from a single butt, this is a vintage wine which has a precise age: 32 years. Every drop is 32 years old, not an average age. Bodegas Tradicion produce a few vintage wines, but they are made in very limited quantities and are really hard to find. Vintage Sherries are rare generally and there are rules and regulations. They tend to come from the best vintages and the best butts thereof. They can only be be topped-up with other wines of the same type and of the same vintage and must be sealed with wax and ribbon and can only be broached under the supervision of a representative of the Consejo Regulador. Without the normal topping-up offered by a solera, the losses in liquid quantity are quite something (around 4% per annum), and this barrel could have lost about 30% of its volume, luckily mostly water thus concentrating the wine. The 1970 and 1975, bought from Croft, are already gone, and this one, also Croft is all but gone too. These wines are very rare and expensive, and are absolute treasures. So not available in your corner shop then.
Not even Wine Searcher can find a price as it has probably all gone. It was a single cask. I got to taste it at Vinoble. I reckon it would have cost a bit over £100

Anadas stored at Tradicion

Monday, 18 May 2015

La Romería del Rocío

Every year this famous romeria (pilgrimage) to the Hermitage of El Rocío at Almonte, Huelva, takes place on the second day of Pentecost. It dates back to 1653 and nowadays attracts up to a million pilgrims. On Whitsunday a papal mass is said before the Virgen del Rocio is carried through the streets.

Typical Romeria scene (foto:lavozdigital)
The pilgrims come from all directions, but the most picturesque is the crossing by boat from the Bajo de Guia on the riverfront at Sanlúcar. From the 19th May onwards, brotherhoods of pilgrims will cross with their horses and caravans and even 4x4 cars into the Coto Doñana and on for over 40 kilometres towards Almonte, many spending the night in the open. The whole operation has to be supervised by the authorities as the Coto is protected national parkland.

The Ermita del Rocio (

Many years ago the Sanlúcar bodega Viuda Manjón sold a brand of Manzanilla called El Rocío which was sold to González Byass. Unfortunately in the last few years they too have ceased production of this very good wine.

The Gonzalez Byass label (foto:libreriaraimundo)

The original Manzanilla label (foto:+jerez)