Tuesday, 24 March 2015

24.3.15 Manuel María González Gordon’s Memoirs to be Published

The González Byass Foundation is to publish the memoirs of Manuel María González Gordon tomorrow under the title “Lo que diga Mimi…” (Whatever Mimi says…).  There will be a presentation by Beltrán Domecq and various family members as well as Antonio Flores at the firm’s bodega, Los Gigantes at 8.00pm.  A collection of hundreds of thousands of letters in brown ink becomes a treasure when it relates the story of a life, and it is hoped that this work will be the first of many on members of the firm or related matters.

The great man: Manuel Maria (foto: Gente y Habitantes de Jerez)

Manuel María González Gordon, Marqués de Bonanza, KBE (1886-1980) was the grandson of the founder, Manuel María González Ángel, and like him he wanted to dedicate his life to Sherry. He studied engineering in Germany as he understood that the future was mechanisation. He worked on the railway which runs the length of Chile and worked in London before returning to his beloved bodega. He played an important role in the “British Sherry” case, was active in the creation of the Consejo Regulador and many other things, such as the Jerez water supply and saving the Coto Doñana. Not only that but he wrote the classic book “Sherry” (known as the “Sherry Bible”).

He was a man who had time for everyone and everything. He had a long conversation with William Fifield (author of “Sherry Royalty”) and would visit employees who were ill. He had a wealth of anecdotes which he referred to as his “discos” (records) as he never tired of relating them. He knew all the latest dances, and the Queen, Victoria Eugenia loved to dance with him. His world had no frontiers.

Antonio Flores with members of the family (foto:Diario Jerez)

The book is illustrated with many pictures from the Foundation Archive, but since many of Manuel María’s adventures were not photographed, drawings were commissioned from the Madrid authoress, Ximena Maier. The bodega’s Capataz, Antonio Flores, said that the presentation will look at the professional and human sides to his life. “I knew him when I was a child, and I was 25 when he passed away. My father, Miguel Flores, worked at the bodega from the age of 14 and had a house there, so I was born in the bodega and have always worked here. I have always been made to feel like a member of the family. Manuel María was never distant, a delightful man who could talk with anyone. He always considered others and would try never to upset people, he was very diplomatic”. In fact he was nicknamed “Vaselina” for that reason.

The invitation (foto: tubal.blogspot)

A very well brought-up and educated man, he loved women and knew many. He would talk about the 32 who said “no” and the one who said “yes”. She was “Mimi”, Emilia Díez Gutiérrez, his beloved wife. The title of the book is taken from a sentence in his “discos”: “Whatever Mimi says..”. Manuel’s eyesight was not good so he compensated by working hard to develop his senses of smell, hearing and taste, not to mention studying. He wanted to get the most out of life, and spoke various languages, though sometimes, at meetings, he would employ the tactic of using an interpreter to give him more time to think of an answer. He did this, for example at the “British Sherry” hearing.

The presentation tomorrow is a fantastic excuse to talk about a man who was brilliant in every sense, and although there are few younger people who can remember him, he is still fondly remembered by the oldergeneration. He was an adventurer who revelled in life, with a frenetic youth and a pace which lasted throughout his life. He wouldn’t have thought twice about jumping onto Concorde, flying to New York, having a glass of Tio Pepe and flying back again, but it was just as well that Mimi kept him under some sort of control. He was from a family unified by Sherry, the wine which unifies Jerez, a city which is also plays a part in the memoirs in this book.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Bag-in-Box Debate

From an interesting article by Juan P Simó in yesterday's Diario de Jerez

The bag-in-box (BIB) is causing headaches for Fedejerez who defend glass as the only option.

How strange. Señor Fino's little sister Manzanilla is getting above herself. First, many years ago now, she outsold the all-powerful Fino San Patricio at the most profitable of all the Spanish ferias, the Feria de Abril in Sevilla. Now she is causing a stir over packaging and what is in that packaging. One is accustomed to opening the little tap on a BIB and seeing Manzanilla flowing out, but two days ago we came across a BIB whose contents were not Manzanilla, but mosto.

Manzanilla BIBs (foto: Diario de Jerez)

It doesn't stop there. Use of the new packaging also upsets the Consejo's annual sales figures by artificially reducing Denominación de Origen (DO) sales. In 2001 some enthusiastic Manzanilleros (Manzanilla producers) became interested in the new packaging. They de-classified part of their production which was therefore not DO Manzanilla and sold the wine in this package which is not permitted by the Consejo. Over the years, this initiative matured, like the wine and has now been very successful, really taking off in 2012 with a jump of some 500% to a million litres of de-classified "Manzanilla Type" wine. And all this because of the BIB, which other DO's had adopted without blinking for the increased sales against bottles. The Manzanilleros' gamble had been successful as the BIB is ideal for ferias and very popular in Scandinavia.

So what are the advantages of the BIB? They are many: they are more economical, more hygenic, conserve the wine better, keep costs down, are easier for distribution, are lighter and have a lower impact on the environment. Wine producers in Montilla and Huelva have adopted the BIB and now represent a potential threat to our little blonde Manzanilla. All this comes from a report to the Consejo itself which extolled the virtues of the BIB, but proposed its acceptance be restricted to the catering trade. A plenary meeting of the Consejo however knocked it back. Nowadays, BIBs of 3litres, 5 litres or more are to be found on sale in bodega shops, wine shops, cooperatives and even petrol stations at very accessible prices. They cannot, however use the word "Manzanilla" on the label even though it might be, and suggestive terms are used instead, such as "Hidalgo Fina", "Fina en Rama" or "Finísima".

Sanlucar Coop BIB (foto: solostocks.com)
Fedejerez president, Evaristo Babé, is sick of repeating the mantra that "Manzanilla is only Manzanilla if it is in a bottle which bears the seal of the Consejo. Anything else could deceive the consumer." And although BIB is in widespread demand, Babé maintains that its use poses a threat to the image of Manzanilla and represents the spear that could kill all the good promotional work. He has therefore asked for a change of mentality and for the abandonment of anything which lowers the image of Sherry, and to instead opt for quality: the glass bottle. Fedejerez sees the BIB as a factor which could unbalance the market, which is currently in good shape, with concurrent risks to employment and feels that all Sherry should be sold in bottle rather than bulk.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

22.3.15 Williams & Humbert Completes its Sound Track

In the 1970s the famous Jerez flamenco singer Fernando de la Morena created a signature song for the bodega's Fino Pando accompanied by Moraito Chico on the guitar. Forty years later Williams & Humbert has made this piece more complete with the voices and accompaniment of of a younger generation of singers from Jerez. Juan de la Morena, son of the original singer, along with various other artists of today participated in the new production, which is a kind of brand sound track.

The musicians and brands in action at the bodega (foto: + jerez)

Not only that, but the bodega has gone a step further putting music to some of their other brands: Gran Duque de Alba brandy, Crema de Alba, Gin Botanic, Dos Maderas rum, Manzanilla Alegria and Canasta Cream. Eduardo Medina Garcia de Polavieja, the bodega's national marketing director commented: "These artists really knew how to transmit the essence of our brands in each of the songs, from the elegance of Crema de Alba to the carribean/jerezano character of our rum. We believe that a good way to enjoy a drink is with good music, and that is what we wanted to offer our consumers." All the songs have been recorded onto a CD which will enhance to perfection the enjoyment of each one of the Williams & Humbert brands.

Palo Cortado Wellington VOS 17.5%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Quite old-looking transparent amber to yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Very delicate but full with lots of Amontillado character, plenty of toasted hazelnut and almond, traces of vanilla and oak, still vestiges of its Manzanilla background in the form of saline and bitter hints from the flor, not a great deal of implied sweetness but some, in all complex and interesting.
Broadly similar; light and elegant with a good zingy tang to it, very Sanlúcar, hints of flor bitterness, walnut and still those almonds and hazelnuts, oak, all balancing out with a hint of apparent sweetness. A wine with great charm, dry with terrific zip and length, wonderful with food. Delicious.
This wine is made from  grapes grown in the firm's own vineyards in the pagos Miraflores and Balbaina and fermented using the natural yeasts. Fortified to 15% the wine ages for a while as a Manzanilla until its Palo Cortado properties are recognised, when it is fortified to 17% and made ready for the late XVIII century Palo Cortado solera. Just to confuse things, there is also a Palo Cortado Wellington VORS 30 years old, but at least they now have different labels. They also produce an Amontillado Napoleon VORS. Back in the early XIX century during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, there was doubt about which side would win, and in order to at least appear loyal or even stay safe, some firms labelled wines with the names of each of the two opposing leaders. Either way, hopefully, they could sell some wine.
31.75 Euros ex bodega per 50cl. bottle, around £25 in the UK, fairly widely available, UK importers: Mentzendorff.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Palo Cortado Reliquia 22%, Barbadillo

Black-tinged amber fading through yellow with reddy coppery tints to a pale green note at the rim, legs. Looks very old.
Intensely beautiful with an air of sweetness consisting of hints of toasted almonds and hazelnuts, garrapiñadas (almonds cooked in caramel), crema catalana (creme brulée), traces of linseed oil and honey. There is also a drier side with notes of oak and walnut shell, even some flor-related salinity, but everything is incredibly well balanced with a complexity that leaves you happy just to smell it for hours on end. What a fabulous nose!
Now it is drier, more concentrated - intense - with slightly more obvious bitterness from the wood, after all this is very old wine, hints of nuts and nut oil, more walnutty, much more about structure than aroma, there are still saline notes from the wines's Manzanilla past (believe it or not), but there are also lingering aromas from the nose which help balance things and which provide almost unbelievable length. This is wonderful!
Robert Parker's man in Spain, Luis Gutierrez awarded this wine 100 points and rightly so: it is as close to perfection as you will get. The wine's age makes a mockery of the VORS system so much older is it than 30 years, so it does not bear that label.

In the mid XIX century Barbadillo acquired some already very old wines from Manuel Argüeso, for which he paid way over the odds at 14,000 pesos per butt at a time when a butt of Manzanilla cost about 1,200 pesos. This gives us an idea of the age and quality of the wines. To these he added more old wines bought from the "sacristies" of other prestigious bodegas of the day and formed a Palo Cortado solera consisting of 120 butts in eight scales in his bodega La Cilla.

The firm markets three Palos Cortados, all from the same solera: Obispo Gascón, from the 5th clase or criadera, The VORS from the third, and Reliquia from the solera itself .The real reliquias, however, are the wines in a couple of butts kept aside and marked "NO" meaning for exclusive family use. They are only occasionally refreshed to cover losses and only with wines of a similar age, meaning that they are roughly 150 years old, and thus amongst the very oldest wines in Jerez.

220.00 euros about 4 or 5 years ago in Spain, but now almost unobtainable and will probably set you back over £600 (Farr Vintners). Bottled (very occasionally) in hand-blown decanters and packed in an individual wooden box.

Monday, 16 March 2015

16.3.15 Terry Pratchett & Sherry; Problems for Joaquin Rivero

Another interesting snippet from Jose Luis Jimenez is the news that Terry Pratchett was a bit of a fan of Sherry. The highly successful fantasy and science fiction author of over 70 books, who died last week after a long battle with Alzheimer, mentioned Sherry many times in his books. His humour and fine sense of irony helped to link his characters with Sherry, and hopefully promote it to a wider audience. He sold over 85 million copies, and will probably sell even more now.

(foto: wikipedia)

Joaquín Rivero, billionaire owner of Bodegas Tradición, is facing a possible jail sentence and fine by a Paris court. The worst case scenario is at least 3 years in jail and a €200m fine, however a further appeal hearing is expected to take place in 12 – 18 months, and his lawyer says that various matters were not properly taken into account. The case relates to alleged misappropriation of funds during the take-over of a French property company, Gecina, by his company, Metrovacesa.

Joaquin Rivero (foto: lavozdigital)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Old Sherry Labels

My friend Jose Luis Jimenez sent me these lovely pictures which show how art and Flamenco artists served as models for late XIX and early XX century Sherry labels. It is interesting how closely Romate's Dulce de Gloria label resembles the photo of Pepa Ruiz, a gypsy dancer. Romate still use such labels for Manzanilla Viva La Pepa and Fino Perdido. Fino Buleria was a brand from Palomino y Vergara, but the name (if not the soleras) now belongs to Dios Baco.