Saturday, 20 December 2014

Amontillado Reliquia 19%, Antonio Barbadillo

Quite pale amber fading through yellow to a touch of green at the rim, looks old, legs.
Starts fairly light but builds, hazelnut, wafers, oak, trace dried fruits, nutshells, traces of its Sanlucar origins such as nuances of salt, bitter almond and sheer pungency. Even after all these years you can still smell the last saline vestiges of Manzanilla, now far more complex.
Tangy, dry and concentrated, there is some astringency here, but it stops just short of excess and there has been no sweetening, a certain lightness in weight is compensated by sheer depth and complexity and grip. Again the nuts, some bitterness and astringency now balanced by glycerol alone, so well integrated over time it is hard to pick out individual notes. It is clearly a very old wine, still with its traces of Sanlucar bitterness, and I would have thought it would have been more like 20-22%. It is a wine to sip rather than drink: quite apart from the price, it is pretty concentrated and has almost interminable length. At such an age these are not easy wines, they require understanding and respect, but repay it handsomely.
This is one of the very limited Reliquia range of four wines (Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and PX) which are bottled in hand-blown decanters. They are among the oldest wines in the Marco de Jerez, this one with an age of over 100 years, some say more, and complexity to match.

When Don Benigno Barbadillo died in 1837, his wife Dolores married Pedro Rodriguez, who ran the firm till the latter part of the XIX century under the name Pedro Rodriguez e Hijos, until Antonio Barbadillo Ambrossy inherited the firm, which is now run by the 7th generation.

This wine has its origins in the Pedro Rodriguez e Hijos days. A very old Amontillado solera called Soberana which aged in the bodega del Toro was fed by another called Hindenburg. This latter came from the bodegas of the Conde de Aldama. The Conde had been buying up as many old wines as he could to sell for a great profit, but ended up with difficulty finding a market for them despite their quality. Antonio Barbadillo Ambrossy exchanged 10 butts of Manzanilla for every one of the Amontillado, so it must have been outstanding even then.

Price paid when tasted nearly four years ago: 260.00 Euros (per bottle), but now around £625 !! according to Wine Searcher. It is almost unobtainable (try John Fells, Farr Vintners in UK) but oh so worth the effort.

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