Friday, 25 July 2014

Amontillado La Garrocha 18%, Bodegas Grant

Gold tinted amber, looks fairly young, legs.
Light nose, very slightly floral with definite traces of fino and hints of autolysis and oxidation. It has some weight, considerable charm and lots of all kinds of nuts, even turron yema tostada and some glyceric sweetness. Very attractive young Amontillado.
Quite full, nicely textured with  a trace of sweetness balanced by hints of oak. There are early oxidative notes, those which appear before the full nuttiness of older Amontillado, so this is quite a young wine and at an interesting stage, more of a Fino Amontillado, but that term can no longer be used.
La Garrocha (which is a dance performed on horseback with a stick) is only about nine years old, and thus has spent most of its life under flor, which certainly shows. They produce another older Amontillado as well, but this one is fun.
Not available in the UK, but half bottles sell at $14 in the USA.

25.7.14 Another Prize for Lustau Oenologist; Vuelta de Espana Starts at Jerez

Lustau chief oenologist Manuel Lozano has been awarded the Premio Ciudad de Jerez (City of Jerez Prize) by the council. These are annual awards, and are given to citizens or local institutions for outstanding contributions to public life that year. Manuel Lozano has been awarded “Best Fortified Winemaker” for the last 6 consecutive years.

The Vuelta Ciclista a España (“Tour de Spain”) starts at Jerez in this year’s 69th race. The cycles will leave from the Plaza del Mamelon, where wine, horses, flamenco and cycles will emphasise the city’s year as European City of Wine. This is one of the big three European cycle races.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Health Benefits of Moderate Sherry Consumption

(From an article by Juan P Simo in the Diario de Jerez)

The Spanish Government’s minister of health, Ana Mato, is drafting a new “Ley de alcohol” (Alcohol Law) which contemplates the restriction of alcohol to minors even with permission from parents or guardians, the restriction of alcohol consumed by adults in the streets, and its promotion. If it proceeds through negotiations without dilution it will be pioneering legislation in Europe by integrating under the same legal umbrella all the laws concerning consumption, labelling and advertising. There will be serious fines for any infringement. The implications are very worrying as the similar “Loi Evin” in France has had profound detrimental effects.

The intention of the law is to curb under-age drinking and the annoying "botellones" or street drinking parties the young so love. As usual with politicians, they can see no difference between people drunk on beer and spirits and civilised wine drinking, so there will be no exceptions in the law for wine.

The Spanish bodegas will fight this tooth and nail as it ignores the positive benefits of drinking moderate amounts of wine and demonises its consumption, a part of the culture, as mere alcohol. Besides, alcohol consumption in Spain is steadily falling anyway. So now would be a good time to show the positive side of alcohol. The wines of Jerez have a long anecdotal - and almost certainly genuine - history of health-giving properties, and perhaps the following will convince any sceptic.

There was the miracle of Manuel Maria Gonzalez Gordon (1886-1980), author of the book known as the “Sherry Bible” ("Sherry" in the English edition) and director of Gonzalez Byass. As a child he was sick and the doctors gave him little chance of survival, but regular doses of Sherry saw him through and he lived a long, productive and healthy life to the ripe old age of 94. 

Another miracle was that of the King Alfonso XIII, who at only four years of age proved to be a sickly child with weakness and fever. Various things were administered to him at all hours: soups, milk and even Sherry, but the latter ensured his health and survival. Yet another was a soldier of the second squadron of the cavalry of Santiago who was in 1854 a wreck of a man, suffering from pneumonia. They tried everything till his doctor prescribed a biscuit steeped in dry Sherry to be taken every three hours. In three months he was fit enough to leave the clinic.

So, what are the benefits of drinking Sherry which are not already well known? Well, for example, does our minister know of the home remedy of “candie” (from the English “candy eggs”), a glass of sweet Sherry with an egg yolk which is infallible against the flu or a cold? Or “chiribitas” (from the English Sherry and Bitters)? Or a small glass of Sherry with two eggs to ward off anaemia? Or that Oloroso Rio Viejo kills flu bugs?

If all the foregoing were not enough, there are millions of reasons confirmed by educated people such as historians, doctors, researchers and health organisations, who over many centuries have come to the simple conclusion that moderate drinking of wine is beneficial to the health.  From the long-lived Noah onwards, everyone praised the virtues of wine. Saint Matthew advised his disciple Timothy to drink a little wine instead of water for the sake of his stomach ailments. Hipocrates recommended wine as the ideal remedy for “the fever of the combatant”, while Homer reckoned it gave one strength.

In the classical pharmacopoeia Sherry was known as “Vinum Xericum”, recognising its tonic and therapeutic properties. One of the great surgeons and politicians, Fermin Aranda, from Jerez, who performed the first open heart surgery in the world, and whose daughter Pilar ran an outstanding almacenista business, was quite right when he said that Sherry is life-giving wine as it contains iron, nitrogen and vitamins, and sufficient alcohol to cool any fever.

Louis Pasteur called wine the most healthy and hygienic drink, while Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of Penicillin reckoned that while his discovery could cure the sick, Sherry could resuscitate the dead. Another doctor, Jose Luis Ruiz Badanelli, put to bed the notion that Sherry, drunk even moderately, could cause cirrhosis of the liver. He was quite clear: “Sherry has surprising qualities: it doesn’t irritate the stomach with acidic compounds like tannins and tartrates as happens in other wines. It is a nourishing and powerful remedy which, when administered at the right time to the patient, strengthens the cardiac muscle and speeds up the metabolism.” Sherry was regarded as wholesome enough by the bodega workers that it occasionally made up for the lack of lunch. Columbus drank more Sherry than he ate food on his journey to the Americas.

The great bibliophile Jose de Soto Molina described Sherry as a “vivifying tonic par excellence”, while the great XIX century novelist Benito Perez Galdos also described it as “vivifying”, and many of his works are impregnated with his preoccupation for exalting the medicinal virtues of Sherry. In the more recent past, the Nobel prizewinning author Martin Rodall came to Jerez to support the work of the Estevez family in reducing the histamine content in Sherry, and praised the wine as a “healthy drink”. Severo Ochoa, another Nobel Laureate and one of Spain’s most distinguished scientists, never stopped praising the health-giving virtues of Sherry.

Another great protagonist of Sherry was Gregorio Marañon, a famous doctor and scientist from Madrid, who in his lecture to the Fiesta de la Vendimia in 1955, defended moderate consumption of Sherry. “Let us reject the supposed dangers of wine to health. My colleagues and I have seen some hundred thousand patients with all sorts of complaints, and very few of them were caused by excess of wine.” He maintained that wine- in moderation - is inoffensive and often useful, as long as we stay within our limits.

Sherry is a powerful anti-oxidant which combats cancer and ageing. The anti-oxidant properties of Sherry are 100 times more effective than vitamin C, and 25 times more effective than vitamin E. These anti-oxidants are known as polyphenols, and attack free radicals and the effects of ageing.

Longevity is a well-established trait in Jerez. Remember Manuel Maria Gonzalez Gordon who lived to 94 after the doctors had given up hope. His father Pedro Nolasco reached 97, and his father, GB founder Manuel Maria, recognised the role of Sherry in his recovery from childhood tuberculosis, dying at 75, an advanced age for his time. His great grandson, Mauricio died quite recently at the age of 90.

As a final point, let’s remember Manuel Salido de la Cal from Jaen, a businessman in the graphic arts, father of Antonio Salido Paz, founder of the Jerez football team, Jerez Industrial, who, in various interviews explained how he reached his centenary. “Every day I had a glass of wine before lunch: a glass of Oloroso to set myself up, and maybe one or two glasses of Fino. I feel terrific.”

So there we are; in Jerez someone who doesn’t recommend Sherry either doesn’t like it – or they are mad. You are probably convinced by now – or always were – but just in case, there follow some even more convincing footnotes:

*30-50% reduction of risk of death by heart attack with moderate consumption as against abstention.
*Reduces arterial pressure and thereby arterial sclerosis.
*Stimulates concentration, reduces stress and is helpful against Alzheimers.
*Moderate consumption has no effect on the digestive and nervous systems.
*Facilitates digestion and stimulates appetite without causing weight increase.
*Fights osteoporosis.
*Delays ageing.
*Lowers cholesterol.
*Acts as a mineral supplement.
*Reduces allergic reactions.

(Legal disclaimer: Please remember that while moderate consumption of wine/Sherry does have positive physical effects, not all doctors see things that way. This is not intended to persuade you to drink anything other than moderate quantities of Sherry.)

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

22.7.14 Harvest Festival Poster; Good Results at Williams & Humbert

The poster for the 2014 Fiesta de la Vendimia by Luis Gonzalo has been unveiled by the mayoress of Jerez along with the festival programme. The fiesta is dedicated this year to the venenciador, and will start with the traditional treading of the grapes at the main door of the cathedral at 20.00 on the 9th September. To include the kids, there will be a junior venencia competition, and for the adults there will be lots of tastings, food matching and grand tastings at the Alcazar.

(Foto: + Jerez)

Williams& Humbert has achieved double digit growth thanks to export markets. Sales have grown especially in Asian markets allowing the firm, controlled by the Medina family, to look at new projects. 75% of the firm’s 40 million euro turnover comes from exports to over 80 countries. The firm has always tried to offer a diverse range of products, from gin, brandy, rum, table wines to Iberian pork and, of course Sherry.

Jesus Medina (foto + Jerez)

Amontillado VOS Baco Imperial 19.5%, Dios Baco

Amber, polished old mahogany fading through yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs
Refined, tight nose with toasted almonds and hazelnuts mingling with the aromas of old barrels in a bodega. Not as apparently sweet as many, though there are gentle hints of sweetness, dried fruit and wood. It is a more serious nose than some, but with a most attractive deep old nutty core.
Quite intense flavour, dry with lots of nuts and wood, fairly tangy acidity and just enough glycerol to balance the wood tannins and give a really natural style. Some Amontillados seem really quite sweet but this one is drier than many so you can see exactly what is there, and it is a fairly lean, clean absolutely natural wine with great length and would be brilliant with food.
The solera is from the 1870's, and was bought along with others by Paez Morilla when they established Dios Baco in 1992, in some of the remaining old Palomino & Vergara bodegas. The VOS wines are a minimum of 20 years old, and this one tastes just so.
35 Euros in Spain. Not available in the UK, unfortunately.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Bodegas: Richard Davies

Richard Davies (London 1809 – Cadiz 1870) began by shipping Madeira. He did well enough to become the owner of the famous vineyard there called Ribeiro Seco, adjacent to which he also owned the villa and gardens of La Vigia, where the Empress of Austria once stayed.

He married Mary Ann Hobson (1814-?) with whom he had 9 children, many of whom died young. One son, however, continued in Madeira under the name Oliveira Davies, while another, Richard Henry Davies (1840-1891) worked with his father at the bodega they established in Jerez in 1863, situated close to the bullring. Being involved with Madeira and Sherry was not uncommon in those days. He rented the fine Torre Breba vineyard at Sanlucar from the Duc de Monpensier.

In 1870, Richard Henry Davies, who lived at Calle Porvera, 3, took over the business on his father’s death. He married Clara Penfold (1840 – 1928). When Vizetelly visited at vintage time in 1875, R Davies was one of the bigger shippers. At that time, Torre Breba had 84 hectares in production, which required 200 men to pick, for which they received 8 reales per day. The vineyard yield was some 700 butts – or in modern terms, about 42 hectolitres per hectare. The firm also owned the finca El Olivar de Buena Vista.

Like many of the British community in Jerez, he was a bit of a sportsman and was involved with the founding of the Jerez Polo Club and Jerez Jockey Club along with Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez Soto (member of the Gonzalez Byass family and later Marques de Torresoto). Davies, along with William Garvey had excellent studs which provided fine thoroughbred racehorses. He was also the British Vice Consul till his death in 1891.

(Pictures Jerez Siempre)
Richard Henry and Clara had five children, of whom the elder, Ethel (1861-1941), married Robert William Byass, grandson of Robert Blake Byass, and a member of the firm of Gonzalez Byass. Their son, Reginald Cyril Byass (1887 – 1960) went on to run the London offices of GB. Clara (Penfold) Davies transferred to their other son, DH Seymour Davies the family firm in 1897. He was British Vice Consul in Jerez from 1892-1900 and director of the Jerez Lawn Tennis Club.

The firm ceased trading in 1904, after a short but successful career.

Some of their brands were:
Amontillado La Novia, Finos and Manzanillas from Torre Breba and some very old wine from the Don Miguel Viton solera

(I am grateful for much of this information to historian and researcher Jose Luis Jimenez, a true Jerezano)

Friday, 18 July 2014

Palo Cortado Cardenal VORS 22%, Valdespino

Deep burnt umber hued amber through to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Stunning. Intense, concentrated almond, hazelnut and wood, a little implied sweetness and a trace of salinity all beautifully integrated. It gives a strong sense of being in a bodega surrounded by barrels of Sherry, and there are woody, almost cigar box spice notes, balsamic hints and it evolves slowly and surely in the glass. Despite the age and concentration it is supremely elegant and refined.
A huge, powerful wine with a fair bit of wood tannin astringency just balanced by sufficient glycerol. Lots of nuts including walnut and a fantastic texture - you feel it as well as taste it and there are slight chocolate notes along with hints of wood spice. If anything, slightly more Amontillado than Oloroso. The length is almost interminable.
Scoring 99 Parker points, this exquisite wine is around 50 years old. It started life in the Macharnudo Alto vineyards, and the must was fermented in butt. It then went through the Inocente solera, followed by the Palo Cortado CP solera, followed by the tiny Cardenal Solera, so it has been well aged!
Expensive! A half bottle is 85 Euros in Spain, but it will be hard to find in the UK as agents Liberty Wines appear not to ship it.