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.

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