Friday, 5 February 2016

Manzanilla Gabriela Oro 15%, Sánchez Ayala

Brassy, strawy gold with bright reflections, legs.
Full attractive and complex, amazingly fresh with lots of salty olive-briney flor, slightest hints of esparto, cinnamon and umami, verging on pasada with a trace of autolysis, an almost cider note. Generous yet controlled and finely balanced, very Manzanilla.
Lovely. Bitter flor gives way to the fresh briney not quite fruity vinous character with beautifully balanced acidity keeping it fresh and very clean, then it mellows a little before it starts to build up to the flor-filled finale with a long dry slightly bitter and very satisfying finish.
Made with grapes from the firm's own vineyard Las Cañas in the Pago Balbaina and fermented with natural yeast at the vineyard. The mosto is transported to the bodega where it enters a solera with 9 criaderas and is aged for at least 6 years.
12.50 Euros

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Tabancos of Jerez

The word “tabanco” is thought to derive from tabaco/estanco meaning a wine and olive oil shop also selling tobacco, usually state run with profits going to the crown. The term is peculiar to Jerez and not used elsewhere, although similar establishments certainly exist all over the Marco de Jerez. Their history dates back over four centuries, with the word “tabanco” first appearing in municipal archives in 1592.
Tabanco el Pasaje as it was in the 1920s, Also known as La Fortuna
They began more as wine shops often related to a particular bodega, and some workers would meet here for a bracer before they began their daily toil, and many would meet there afterwards as well. Various types of wine were served straight from the rows of barrels. The floors were earthen and there were bullfight posters everywhere along with notices saying “Hoy no se fía, mañana si” meaning no credit today, only tomorrow (and tomorrow never comes), or “Prohibido el cante” meaning no singing. Women were not allowed except to get the family wine bottle filled, but had to use a side door or a window. Most were happy enough with this as the tabancos could be quite rough.

Tabanco La Pandilla
After decades of decline, the last fifteen years or so have seen these wonderfully old fashioned bars enjoying a well-deserved renaissance. No longer “spit and sawdust”, they not only allow singing but actively promote flamenco, Sherry tastings and the culture of Jerez. High quality food is available and while each tabanco has its own specialities, most also serve the traditional dishes such as berza (vegetable stew with meat), chicharrones (small marinated and spiced strips of pork) and papas aliñás (potato with spring onion, parsley, oil and vinegar). Luckily this has attracted some of the younger generation who see this as cool, and it will hopefully preserve the Sherry drinking tradition as well as the historic character and atmosphere of Jerez itself.

Tabanco San Pablo Really good chicharrones...
You will notice from the lists below how recently many were established, which is an encouraging sign, and while some are a bit more modern in appearance, many look as if they have been there for a century. In 2012 five tabancos got together and formed the association “Tabancora” to promote both themselves and Sherry traditions, and drew up a leaflet with a route map so people could follow it and try them out. They are all in the city centre, so one can enjoy a “tabanco crawl” on foot! Tabancora has the support of both the City Council and the Consejo Regulador, and the leaflet is available from the latter and the tourist office in Plaza Arenal.

The following are members of Tabancora:

La Pandilla C/Los Valientes, 14 (long established but closed for 20 years, reopened 2013)
El Pasaje C/Santa María, 8 (est. 1925)
El Guitarrón de San Pedro C/Bizcocheros, 16 (est. 2012)
Plateros Plaza Plateros C/Francos, 1 (est. 2011)
San Pablo C/San Pablo, 12 (est. 1934)
La Banderillas C/Caballeros, 12 (est. 2012)

The following are not currently in Tabancora but well worth a visit:

La Vinoteca Jerezana C/Arcos, 4 (est.1947 - no kitchen but good range of bottled Sherry)
Taberna La Sureña C/Puerto, 7 (est. 1993)
Mariñíguez C/Mariñíguez, 20 (est. 2013)
El Tabankino C/Idolos, 15 (est. 2014)
Cruz Vieja C/Barja, 16 (est. 2014)
El Telescopio C/Ávila, 16 (est. 2013)
Tabanco Romate C/Francos, 18 (originally est. 1997, converted 2012 by Romate)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

3.2.16 Graham Hines Retires

A delightful man, Graham was director of the Sherry Institute in the UK for 21 years and a past director of Wines from Spain in London. He is a member of the Gran Orden de los Caballeros del Vino and a Sherry Educator. Consejo president Beltrán Domecq sent his best wishes while recognising and thanking him for his significant contribution to the promotion of Sherry in Britain, one of its principal markets. He said “The last 8 years have been decisive in the recovery of Sherry in Britain and it has been an honour to count on Graham to preside over such an important period in our history. Under his direction we have achieved a more solid position in the market with a record number of importers and bodegas represented as well as a growing number of styles of Sherry hitherto not so well known there.”

Beltran Domecq and Graham Hines with proper Sherry glasses

For his part Graham said that “With mixed feelings I decided to retire after a challenging, but at the same time gratifying, period in which I dedicated myself entirely to Sherry. I shall continue to follow its from close by and wish it great success in the future.” Angeline Bayly, who will take over Graham’s role, said “It has been a privilege to work with him for the last 7 years during which we have done much promotional activity, and I am grateful to him for all I have learned. We will miss his extraordinary knowledge but I am convinced that we can count on a fascinating and innovative campaign during 2016 based on the projects on which Graham worked so hard.” Angeline, who is the director of Bespoke Drinks Media, will take over Graham’s role as of now.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Bodegas: Manuel Aragón SL “Bodega Sanatorio”

The origins of this family bodega in Chiclana go back to 1815 when it was founded by Pedro Aragón Morales, born in 1795. He began with a small shop on the Jerez road selling wines from his bodega to local bars and to the public. His son Juan Aragón Ramos continued the business and expanded the shop and the vineyards. Juan was succeeded by his son Juan Aragón Saucedo, whose own son Diego Aragón Periñán, born in 1896, in turn succeeded him. Diego and his sons set about expanding the firm buying a house in Calle del Olivo and more vineyards. One of his sons, Manuel Aragón Baizan (b.1916) took over the business, expanding further and giving it the name we know today. The Sanatorio (or clinic) is an affectionate name for the shop.

Currently the firm, run by Chano Aragón, owns 320 hectares of vines in the Campano district, an area which was established by the 2nd Marqués de Bertemati towards the end of the XIX century. He contributed much to the modernisation of the industry, even being the first to bring in American vines even before phylloxera arrived in Chiclana. The vineyard area was much bigger then than now, and there are many fewer bodegas. The distance between the Aragón vineyards and bodegas means that looking after them is more difficult. They used to have a problem with birds eating the grapes – until they discovered falconry! The vineyards are farmed as organically as possible and roses are planted at the ends of the vine rows to warn of any potential problems.

The vineyards are not only planted with Moscatel, but also with Palomino, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for the table wines. While Chiclana is in the Sherry production zone, Palomino and Moscatel wine must be aged  in El Puerto, Sanlúcar or Jerez to be called “Sherry”, so the Fino, Oloroso and Cream they age in their own bodegas can only be called Chiclana wine – of which they are deservedly very proud.

The wines are:
Moscatel Gloria, Moscatel Los Cuatro, Moscatel Naranja, Fino Granero, Oloroso Tio Alejandro, Cream Arrumbaó, as well as the red white and rosé table wines. Moscatel Gloria is one of the top Moscateles.

Address: Calle del Olivo, 1, 11130 Chiclana de la Frontera, Cádiz
Telephone: 956 400 756
Visits? Yes, by appointment

Monday, 1 February 2016

Types of Sherry: Amontillado

Amontillado is the most complex and elegant of Sherries and the favourite of many connoisseurs and experts. The name most likely originates from “like Montilla” and has been in use since the XVIII century, but unlike Montilla where they use Pedro Ximénez grapes, the product of Jerez is made exclusively from Palomino, at least since after phylloxera. The Consejo Regulador defines this chameleon of a wine simply as "a wine containing a maximum of 5 grams per litre sugars and alcohol between 16ᴼ and 22ᴼ which has a “more or less intense amber colour with an aroma and flavour characteristic of its particular ageing process with a biological phase followed by an oxidative one”.

Unfortunately in export markets Amontillado is still often understood as medium due to the sweetening in the past of mass market wines, many of which contained very little genuine Amontillado, often being blends of sweetened Olorosos. Luckily the Reglamento was amended in 2012 and bodegas are only permitted to use the word Amontillado for genuine dry Amontillado wines. Medium wines must use expressions like “Medium” or “a bIend of Amontillado and..” Natural Amontillado is a dry wine with 0-5 g/l sugars, where a Medium contains from 5-115 g/l.

The complexity of Amontillado stems from the fact that it is aged twice. It starts life as a Fino or Manzanilla ageing under flor, and it is the effect of this flor which provides a good deal of the character in the finished wine, which will have much less glycerine than an Oloroso and much more acetaldehyde, giving it its crispness and elegance. Traditionally an Amontillado evolved from a Fino or Manzanilla in which the flor had begun to wane and oxidation had begun in a slow but inexorable process which could easily last for decades. Because of these Fino or Manzanilla origins, a young Amontillado in its natural state is completely dry with no more than 1 g/l of sugars.

Once the wine is ageing oxidatively, slow transpiration will bring about the loss of a little water in the wine and with it a gentle increase in glycerine and alcohol content, which gives the wine its roundness. It is this phase which also provides the delightful hazelnut aroma which so characterises an Amontillado. Further complexity derives from interaction with the wood and the air during sometimes very long periods. There is a wide variation in style, much depending on the ratio of how long the wine spent under flor versus how long it spent ageing oxidatively. The longer under flor and the shorter under air the lighter and vice-versa. Much obviously depends on the final age of the wine.

Tradition is one thing, but commercial expediency is another. Amontillados can no longer be allowed to just happen naturally taking all the time they want. For centuries butts of Sherry took their time and developed as they saw fit, meaning that a multitude of different wines evolved. The only way to exercise any control was the use of fortification and the solera system, and once fortified to the right level and in a solera a wine’s character could be fixed.

The method generally employed now is that a Fino or Manzanilla will be aged under flor for anything between three to eight, years before being fortified to around 17ᴼ which kills the flor and allows the wine to begin the oxidative phase of its ageing which will be developed in a Fino-Amontillado solera and/or an Amontillado solera. Fino-Amontillado will normally be sold anywhere from 6 to 12 years old, while Amontillado will rarely be sold younger than 12 years old. A highly debatable and fascinating topic is at what precise point the wine ceases to be Fino or Manzanilla and become Fino-Amontillado or Manzanilla Pasada/Amontillada, and at what precise point does that become Amontillado. There are as many opinions as wines, and one of the joys of this ever-evolving style of Sherry is the sheer variety available.

Because of this variety, each wine used to be labelled with the most accurate description of its precise character, but it was deemed too complicated for consumers, so now a Fino-Amontillado or a Manzanilla Amontillada must be called one thing or the other - which could actually make the consumer’s choice more difficult. For example NPU and Viña AB are very different but both labelled Amontillado. It is therefore extremely important that more detail is printed on the back label, as understanding is the key to the enjoyment of Sherry.

Sanlúcar and Jerez offer styles of Amontillado which can be discernibly different. The Sanluqueño style is more profoundly affected by flor which grows on the wine’s surface more profusely than in Jerez because of the moister climate and the greater number of solera scales and rocíos. This can give the wine a more salty, savoury character from autolysis and also the marine atmosphere in which the wines age for many years. Interestingly, a couple of magnificent Jerez Amontillado soleras are refreshed with Manzanilla: Fino Imperial VORS from Diez Mérito and Valdespino’s Coliseo VORS.

Meanwhile the Jerez style tends to be nuttier and perhaps slightly fuller with more glycerine, which is probably the result of a warmer, drier climate and the fact that because of this the flor all but disappears in winter and summer. This leaves the wine open to oxidation for short periods which accounts for the slightly fuller style of Fino in Jerez, some of which of course becomes Amontillado. These regional differences are quite subtle, especially in extremely old wines with more oxidation and wood extractives, and much depends on the hand of the capataz.

So here’s to Amontillado: a fascinating wine which is so varied that it is as close as one can get to a Sherry for all seasons and most dishes. Put a glass to your nose and it immediately inspires reflection on all it has been through and the skill of those who made it, and if you can tear yourself away from these thoughts, put the glass to your lips and savour a real oenological treasure.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Oloroso Saca 2015 21%, Sacristía AB

Old natural mahogany with an antique patina, fading through amber to a hint of green on the rim with copper highlights and slow legs.
Intense and utterly charming with notes of wax, bitter orange marmalade, cinnamon, almost incense, and a trace of toasted almond and walnut. There is a rich glyceric quality: a certain unctuousness implying sweetness and a slight vanilla note from the oak, but that is balanced by a slightly more bitter woodiness inevitable in a wine of this age but still controlled. Charming but serious.
That touch of sweetness carries the wine through. It is a big full bodied wine and there is plenty of wood tannin and volatile acidity yet everything is balanced. Spices, dried orange peel and a very slightly burnt note only add to the complexity of a very old, noble and concentrated wine.
This beautiful wine was selected by Antonio Barbadillo Mateos from Bodegas Urium in Jerez and released at the end of last September. Urium has some wonderful old wines and this is an absolute charmer. It is the first wine Antonio has selected which does not come from Sanlúcar, and it is very old, at least 50 years and is bottled directly from the butt without any kind of filtration. Probably it belonged to the almacenista Josefa Pérez Rosado from whom Alonso Ruiz bought the bodega in 2006. It is sealed with a high quality driven cork and red wax.
60 Euros for a 50cl bottle.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

30.1.16 Williams & Humbert Hosts Debate on Tartessos; Mauricio González Gordon Wins Award

Williams & Humbert's bodegas were the spectacular scene of the presentation of a new book on Thursday evening. “Legends of Tartessos” by Manuel Pimentel attracted over 250 people to hear about this fascinating subject, and he was introduced by the director of the bodega, Jesús Medina García de Polavieja. The audience, which included Beltrán Domecq, Evaristo Babé and many academics, enjoyed a glass of W&H Sherry at the end of the presentation.

Tartessos was a semi-mythical city-civilisation at the mouth of the Guadalquivir somewhere near modern Sanlúcar, and some believe it could be Atlantis. Various archaeological remains from the late Bronze Age have been found in the area and it seems Tartessos had its own language, making its living from metal and trading with the Phoenicians. There are various references to it in classical literature, especially Herodotus. It is perfectly possible, indeed probable, that the city disappeared under sand or marshes as a result of a tsunami, as did Atlantis.

Mauricio receives award from Rami Aboukhair of Santander

President of González Byass, Mauricio González Gordon, yesterday received the II Prize for Agroalimentary Innovation, awarded by publishing group Grupo Joly and sponsored by Banco Santander. The prize was awarded in recognition of the firm’s values of respect for family tradition, quality and innovation which have characterised it for 180 years, as well as for its inspiring example to other firms in Andalucía. Some 300 people from the worlds of business, banking, politics and agriculture attended the event.