Thursday, 31 December 2015

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Happy New Year!

Wishing everybody a wonderful, fulfilling and happy New Year.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this humble blog. I hope the increasing number of page views means you are enjoying it, but more importantly that the word about Sherry is spreading. It is customary to make wise New Year resolutions, so here are my recommendations, ones you will find easy not to break:

Drink good Sherry not “thin potations” (as Falstaff would put it)
Recommend Sherry spread the good word to your friends and family
Visit the Marco de Jerez more often there’s so much to see and do, and bodegas too!
Buy “El Misterio del Palo Cortado” now available on DVD (with English subtitles)

In Spain the custom is to eat 12 “uvas de la suerte” (lucky grapes), one to each peal of the midnight bells, and I thought this cartoon by Peri from the Diario de Jerez was quite apt:

"Look what a lovely bunch of grapes I've bought for New Year's eve."
"Lovely. But you know I prefer the ones already bottled by the bodega."



Amontillado Viejo 19%, Argüeso

Appearance
Lively pure amber with coppery tints and a hint of green at the rim, noticeable legs.
Nose
Quite intense, aromatic and very Amontillado. High-toned and tight but very fragrant: noticeable acetaldehyde, toasted almond, American oak, trace vanilla, a slightly astringent note from age and possibly flor is balanced by a slightly glyceric almond essence note giving a lovely tension between the phenolics of age and the glyceric fragrance.
Palate
Intense, crisp, tangy, not lacking in (mainly volatile) acidity. The hints of sweetness on the nose turn drier giving a touch of leanness with a hint of tannin. This is a very old wine without any adjustment and thanks to the acidity and bitterness it has great length and leaves a lovely old Amontillado flavour on the palate, for ages.
Comments
According to the Argüeso website this very fine wine is a VORS i.e. over 30 years old but there is no mention of this on the label. There is of course no requirement to go through the procedure of getting a wine certified VORS by the Consejo. It does say that when the firm was founded in 1822 they bought soleras which were already old, and so it is impossible to say how old they are. For a VORS you just need to prove the wine took over 30 years to go through the solera, the age of the solera itself is less important. This wine is sealed with a 5cm driven cork which will help it age further in bottle.
Price
38 Euros in Spain. Not available in UK


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

30.12.15 Barbadillo Launch Solear en Rama Winter 2015; Agujetas

The Solear en rama Saca de Invierno 2015 completes the four seasonal sacas for for the year. The oenologist, Montse Molina, says “This saca is splendid, radiant and luminous. On the nose it has a great variety of nuances of yeast, biological ageing, bodega, nuts, finesse and elegance. On the palate it is powerful yet charming with a long and persistent finish. It is one of the most expressive of all the sacas of this historic series.” The butts from which the selection is made are in the bodega El Potro and form part of the intermediate soleras between Solear and Amontillado Príncipe in other words the oldest butts of Manzanilla.


On Christmas Day Flamenco lost one of its greats: the “cantaor” or singer Manuel de los Santos Pastor “Agujetas”. Born in Rota in 1939, into a great Flamenco dynasty, he epitomised the “cante jondo” or deep song in the Jerez style, and was regarded as the “last Mohican” of it. His style was raw and unrestrained yet pure and left nobody unmoved. He will be sadly missed. DEP Agujetas.

Agujetas with guitarist Manuel Fernandez "Parrilla" and Sherry - of course

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Moscatel Esnobista 16%, Bodegas Dios Baco

Appearance
Deep browny mahogany fading to yellow, pronounced legs.
Nose
Attractive with hints of american oak then deeply fruity well-sunned pasas, you can smell the dried grapes as they go to the press, lots of Moscatel raisin and a touch of caramel. Full and quite concentrated yet it has a luscious grapey freshness. There is a slight burnt toasty note from the oak and a hint of turrón de yema tostada, all balancing out.
Palate
Full, ripe and mature with a gentle tang and that burnt toasty note keeping the lusciousness under control. Lovely texture and not over sweet with good length. A very good Moscatel.
Comments
This is a "Moscatel de Pasas" meaning it is made from sunned grapes - as opposed to just overripe grapes - and they grew in Chipiona, Sherry's moscatel country. The solera is over 35 years old and the wine is over 12. The word "Esnobista" means "snobbish" or a person who thinks they are better than they really are. This wine is excellent, however. Interestingly the word "snob" comes from the Latin. In Rome when they registered people as living in the locality they added their status or nobility. If the person had none, they would write "sine nobilitas" or s.nob. for short. Now you know!
Price
10.70 Euros. Not available in UK, but online deli delicioso.co.uk has some of the range, and might be persuaded?


Monday, 28 December 2015

Vine Grafting in Sherry Vineyards

The European species of vine, known as Vitis Vinifera or “the wine bearing vine”, has many enemies. The two most deadly are Oïdium, a fungus, and Phylloxera Vastatrix “the destroyer”, a tiny aphid which kills Vinifera vines by sucking the sap from their roots. Both of these plagues originated in the United States where various species of native vines had grown for millennia but had, over time, developed resistance to Phylloxera. Sulphur is effective against Oïdium.

Pure white chalky Albariza
During the 1860s attempts to deal with Oïdium in the vineyards saw the import to Europe of large numbers of resistant American vines, however nobody realised they were also importing Phylloxera, which was all but invisible to the human eye. Its effects were first observed in Europe in 1863 as vines mysteriously died, and by the turn of the century it had ravaged most of the vineyards causing economic chaos. Jerez was visited by Phylloxera in 1894, but by then the answer had been found: grafting Vinifera scions onto resistant American rootstocks.

Injerto en yema or bud graft
This was not as easy as it sounds. First of all every Vinifera vine had to be uprooted, burned and replaced with American vines which had to be selected carefully for their ability to grow happily in alkaline albariza soil and to accept the graft. Many old Vinifera grape varieties were lost for their inability to do this, but gradually the vineyards were restored with the Palomino coming out most successfully. While grafting cured the vines it could not get rid of Phylloxera however, and therefore this process must still be undertaken every time a new vine is planted.

Injerto en espiga or stem graft
Young “portainjertos” or rootstocks are planted in wintertime so they can take advantage of the rainfall which will help develop their roots. The rootstocks in current use are usually crossings of the American vines Vitis Berlandieri for its root structure and tolerance of albariza, and Vitis Riparia to help with the graft. This takes place in August and September when a small piece of the stem of the rootstock is cut out and a Palomino bud is inserted tightly. This is called “injerto en yema” or a bud graft. Then the graft is wrapped with raffia leaving the bud peeping through and covered with soil for protection. By next spring the graft should have taken and the raffia will be removed. If it hasn’t taken another graft called “injerto en espiga” or a stem graft will be carried out. Successful grafting is later followed by pruning to organise the vine for full production in its fourth year. It is amazing how much work – or “graft” - goes into a bottle of Sherry!


Sunday, 27 December 2015

Palo Cortado VORS Mons Urium 19%, Bodegas Urium

Appearance
Attractive bright chestnut amber with gold and copper tints and a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Nose
Intensely fragrant with lots of hazelnut and traces of garrapiñada, orange zest, cinnamon, polished antique furniture and bodega barrels. It needs time to show its endless aromatic nuances which are not made more difficult by the higher alcohol levels in some wines of this age.
Palate
Fresh and nutty on entry, almost tight even, but it slowly reveals a more open texture, traces of warm spice and a bit of body. Many Palos Cortados are slightly fuller, more Oloroso in style but I feel this still retains more the Amontillado style thanks to its precision, yet as the palate develops some of those generous Oloroso characteristics do develop, particularly traces of raisin and cinnamon. Long and endlessly fascinating with a hint of tannic dryness which one can easily forgive.
Comments
This exquisite old wine is actually over 40 years old (nearer 45) and yet its alcoholic strength is not excessive, allowing its great elegance and balance to shine through. This solera feeds another which takes the wine to well in excess of 100 years (Gran Señor) and even at that age it still has this amazing drinkability without over-concentration. 
Price
€ 33 in Spain. Available in UK from Sherry Boutique


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Pale Cream Croft Original 17.5%, González Byass

Appearance
Fino-like bright pale strawy gold, more legs though.
Nose
Light and fresh though restrained a bit by the sweetness, a bit like Fino blended with mosto which is pretty well what it is, hints of lemon cake icing, sweeties.
Palate
Reasonably well balanced with a very gentle tang and the sweetness is not too excessive. Inevitably it has less flavour than the traditional dark Cream, but the point is it's lightness, and it does match different foods, even if it is not very exciting on its own.
Comments
This was the first ever Pale Cream, (hence "Original") launched in the 1970s by International Distillers and Vintners (IDV) who used the name of their Port subsidiary Croft to also sell a range of Sherry, much from the old Gilbey soleras. A huge bodega complex was built, Rancho Croft, and Original challenged Bristol Cream for the top selling position. As a result of various corporate changes Rancho Croft eventually closed and the brand and its soleras were sold to GB. The wine is basically a sweetened Fino and is made from mosto yema (first pressing), fermented in stainless steel and fortified to 15.5%. The wine is aged in solera for about four years as a blend with concentrated sweet Palomino musts. Sugar content is 110 g/l which is a bit lower than most dark Cream Sherry, and Croft is a decent accompaniment to pâtés and soft fruit salads among other delights.
Price
€6.95 in Spain. Widely available.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

¡Feliz Navidad! Happy Christmas!

I would like to wish you all the happiest possible Christmas!

I hope you have a really good bottle of Sherry at the ready (I have more than one) to share with friends and family. It is the perfect wine to sip when families get together, and hopefully someone gave you a bottle as a present. 


Let’s make it 100% Jerezana and have a Very Sherry Christmas!



Vinos de Jerez Sherry Wines Palo Cortado

Great Decanter Article on Sherry and Chocolate Pairing

Decanter Magazine has posted an article on its website by Tina Gellie on this most Christmassy and most interesting of topics. It makes some great suggestions, and here is the link:

http://www.decanter.com/learn/food/recipes-2/food-and-wine/sherry-wine-and-chocolate-pairing-ideas-

Just make sure you have plenty of Sherry and plenty of Chocolate!!




La Bota de Amontillado 58 "Navazos" 18.5%, Equipo Navazos

Appearance
Bright light amber with honeyed gold highlights and light legs.
Nose
Delightful and interesting. Exciting and young for its age. Hints of salted caramel and oak combine with the slightest traces of flor and iodine savouriness, nuts and rope from a fishing boat and a racy tang. Even after 22 years the Manzanilla shines through, it is only just Amontillado. This is lovely.
Palate
Super fresh and tangy, quite light with light and gentle Amontillado oxidative notes rounding off the pronounced crispness of the Manzanilla. Clean, intense flavour which just goes on and on. Lively, vibrant and zippy it just begs for some jamon de bellota and another Sherry fan to rave about it with.
Comments
Despite La Guita only selling one wine, they have older wines in the bodega. Some are in Calle Misericordia but others are in their other bodega on the Carretera de Jerez, marked according to the number of butts they consist of. In Sanlucar, they refer to the wine as Manzanilla or Manzanilla pasada until it is really old before calling it Amontillado. So La Guita has a solera of Manzanilla Pasada, Manzanilla Pasada Vieja (1/10) and Manzanilla Pasada Viejisima (1/3). This wine comes from the solera 1/10 which is refreshed with unfortified Manzanilla and is about 22 years old, reflected in the comparatively modest alcohol strength. The wine was selected from the butts which showed the most balance and elegance considering its age. 95 Penin Points
Price
37 Euros in Spain. In UK try Alliance


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

23.12.15 Many Prizes for Harveys

Harveys has had an amazing year. The bodega has won 26 awards including the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) Trophy for Best Sherry Producer of the Year. They also won prizes from the International Wine Challenge (IWC) and Decanter Magazine. Here are some of them:

IWSC Trophy Best Sherry: Harveys Very Old Palo Cortado VORS
IWC Champion Fortified Wine: Harveys Very Old Palo Cortado VORS
IWC Chamion of Champions: Harveys Very Old Amontillado VORS


More trophies and gold medals were won by these VORS wines as well as the PX VORS. Silver was won for Harveys Fino, Harveys Signature, Harveys Very Rich Old Oloroso Medium, and Bronze for Bristol Cream. Decanter also awarded them six silver medals.


Andrew Tan will be delighted, and let us hope he doesn’t concentrate solely on the brandy.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Manzanilla Papirusa 15% Lustau

Appearance
Bright pale strawy gold with noticeable legs.
Nose
Salty and almost cheese-like savouriness to the bitter flor edge and damp bread dough then some olive brine. All that and there is a background trace of tangy quince fruit. This is an interesting and forthcoming nose, but overall it is the savoury flor character which predominates.
Palate
Dry, saline soft - low acidity - fresh and still savoury. I wonder if there is an element of autolysis here as it is too complex for a standard Manzanilla Fina so it might be an older Manzanilla Pasada and the filtration has made it look younger. It is certainly a very polished and lovely wine with great length.
Comments
Delicious Manzanilla bottled in Sanlúcar at the Caballero bodegas there as part of the Solera Familiar range. In the picture the wine has a screwcap but in Spain it usually has a stopper cork, presumably because the Spanish are not keen on screwcaps. It received 92 from Parker and 94 from Peñín.
Price
About 10 Euros

Monday, 21 December 2015

Bodegas: Arfe SL

Like any good Jerezano, Luís Arroyo Felices dreamed of his own bodega to occupy himself during retirement. After a 35 year career as an oenologist for Bobadilla, Osborne and the last 20 of them with Garvey, his opportunity arose in the year 2000 when the firm went into liquidation and he had to retire earlier than expected. He had bought a very old bodega in the Calle Molino del Viento in the heart of the old bodega district in the highest part of the Barrio San Miguel. The very old bodega had been restored in 1767 by its then owners, the Orbaneja family, and a stone plaque on the first pillar recounts this. It had once belonged to Cabeza y Zarco. The bodega name is an acronym of Luís’ surnames.

The plaque on the pillar with the Cruz (photo:bodega)
The small 300 square metre bodega consists of a row of semi-circular arches down the length of the centre which support a pitched roof. The central andana (row of butts) is fitted under the arches while the other two are against the walls. Some butts are stacked under arches at the end of the building.

Bodega interior (foto:bodega)
He decided not to buy old soleras, of which there was no shortage at the time, and instead bought sobretablas from the 2000 vintage, already fortified to 17%, from a cooperative in Chipiona as he does not own vineyards. He bought enough to fill the 216 butts he had bought, all of which were over 40 years old and seasoned with Fino. He prefers to buy musts from coastal areas like Sanlucar and Chipiona to feed the soleras. The plan had originally been to make VOS and VORS wines for which there would have been a long time to wait, but in the end his wine was already so good at 15 years old that he decided to put it onto the market in October 2015.

During this time much of the wine, which he had intended to be Oloroso had begun showing distinct signs of the finesse associated with Palo Cortado,  and he was able to concentrate on that, earning the reputation of being the only bodega in the Marco de Jerez to produce only Palo Cortado. He does, in fact also produce small amounts of Fino Amontillado and Oloroso, all under the name Club Arfe. The star wine is his Sacristia Especial De La Cruz de 1767 Palo Cortado, launched in October 2015, but available only in limited quantities. The total output is some 6,000 unfiltered bottles annually.

Visits? Possibly but by appointment
Address: Calle Molino del Viento, 12, 11401 Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz
Telephone: 956 348 191
Website: facebook.com/bodegas arfe

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Palo Cortado Without the Mystery

Luís Arroyo knows what he is holding in his hand. It is a natural wine, frank, rounded and balanced; a wine that speaks of the greatness of Jerez, for meditation and pleasure. And this is a star Palo Cortado from a little over 200 butts at Bodegas Arfe, an acronym for the owner's surnames: Arroyo Felices. It was by chance that the bodega has become the only one in the Marco de Jerez dedicated exclusively to this most fashionable style of Sherry, the wine of the world’s connoisseurs.

“De La Cruz de 1767” is the brand name of this oenological treasure which is aged for over 15 years in a small bodega complex at 12, Calle Molino del Viento, an old bodega stronghold where once the famous firm of Rivero CZ (established in 1650)was located. This street in the Barrio San Miguel just by the little square, achieved fame in the past for the production of great Finos thanks to its location in the highest part of old Jerez and its orientation toward what were then known as the Marshes of San Telmo.

Luis Arroyo with his nectar in the bodega (foto:diariodejerez)

Bearing testament to the bodega’s antiquity are the wall, floor and double-sloped roof as well as it’s layout in the form of two naves separated by semi-circular arches supported on old stone pillars. Here can be found an old Jerez coat of arms with a cross on a background of waves, which has been chosen as the logo, and a stone plaque which states the bodega was rebuilt in 1767 under the direction of Orbaneja, another Jerez bodega family of that era.

The bodega was bought by Luís Arroyo in the year 2000, with the idea that when he retired he would have a place where he could remain active by producing VOS and VORS Sherry. He had been an oenologist at Garvey for the last 20 years of his 35 year career, but his retirement plans were brought forward by the firm entering voluntary receivership.

Luis with a bottle of De La Cruz 1767 (foto:diariodejerez)

With an old building with old fashioned wine, Luís is delighted that his bodega has become his principal activity sooner than expected. He saw the possibilities as soon as he had closed the purchase of the property which was ideal for the accommodation of some 200 butts. He decided to start from scratch, and instead of buying wonderful old soleras he bought musts from the cooperative in Chiclana which he would age oxidatively as Olorosos. As time went by he noticed a particular finesse in the wine which had the elegance and complexity of Palo Cortado so he decided to concentrate on that.

The debate about this style of wine centres on whether it is made or just happens, as the purists would have us believe. “Quite possibly it just happened in the past”, says Arroyo, “but nowadays there is much more knowledge and skill which allow it to be made. Although the wines make themselves, having a bodega with suitable conditions and the right wood, helps you make a Palo Cortado.” He believes that this duality is the only mystery in Palo Cortado, “a wine which though not all bodegas have, all of them sell.” The controversial practice of blending Amontillado and Oloroso will soon be ruled out by the decision of the Consejo to exercise stricter control of stocks according to type.

Palo Cortado has the nose of an Amontillado and the body of an Oloroso, it combines elements of crianza biológica with the weight of Oloroso. All the Arfe wines are made in the strictly legal way. The first saca is now on the market and is bottled virtually en rama, with a very light filtration to eliminate any sediment. The 216 butts of this wine should provide an annual output of about 6,000 bottles. The Consejo only allows one twentieth of the wine to be bottled annually if it is to be a VOS, so Luís is thinking of not bothering with that as he has a superb product with innovative presentation: a tall black bottle with a black label and orange lettering and a Palo Cortado cask marking. The back label gives a brief history of the bodega and bears the coat of arms. The wine is available ex bodega and also at the great new wine merchant Licores Corredera in Calle Corredera, Jerez.


Saturday, 19 December 2015

19.12.15 Consejo Publishes Best Tapa & Sherry Bar Guide

The Consejo Regulador has published a guide to the best establishments in Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlúcar for the enjoyment of a good glass of Sherry and tapas chosen by 20,000 members of the the public. Over 80 bars participated in June 2014 in a Sherry and tapas route and the public voted via the website www.tapayjerez.com  30 bars made it into the guide and this 60 page publication can be obtained free from the Consejo offices in Jerez.

Beltran Domecq at the launch (foto:cosasdecome)

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Most Expensive Wine in Spain

It is Sherry, naturally. Alonso Ruíz bought the old bodega of the almacenista Josefa Pérez Rosado in Calle Muro, Jerez, in 2006 and founded Bodegas Urium. Here he found a single butt of magnificent old Palo Cortado lost among other butts of old wine. This treasure turned out to be over 140 years old and with a strength of 19ᴼ. It was so good Alonso felt people should be able to try it. There is so little however, that only 15 bottles can be filled each year and there is a waiting list for them.



It is called Gran Señor de Urium and is presented in a Czech royal crystal decanter from the famous Moser factory with 24 carat gold plating on the neck and stopper. This comes in a pure silver box weighing 4 kilos handmade by a Spanish artisan silversmith. If you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it, so I asked on your behalf:  €36,750.00 and no, you can’t afford it!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Amphora Cemetry

Monte Testaccio on the Banks of the river Tiber in Rome is famous for being an artificial hill built from the shards (testae) of an estimated 53 million broken terracotta amphorae between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. It gives us a graphic picture of the scale of Roman imports from the empire, especially of olive oil and wine – and of course amphorae - a great deal of which came from Spain.

The amphora cemetry at Puerto Real as left by the road builders (foto:blogdruta.com)
Not so well known is that Puerto Real, not far from Jerez, has its own “amphora cemetery” stretching from the town to the banks of the river San Pedro. Unfortunately it has suffered damage from road works. During the Roman era there was quite a sophisticated pottery industry here producing amphorae from the high quality local clay in which to export wine and oil to the known world. 

A first century wine amphora (foto:EFE)
Many shards found in Rome and elsewhere bear the mark “Vinum Gaditanum” or wine from Cádiz – Sherry. There are even records of the price: the equivalent of €0.02 per arroba (16.66 litres)! The wine must have been good for Julius Caesar is thought to have had a house in Jerez where he drank the local wine with his friend Balbus and even gave it to his soldiers.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Manzanilla Barbiana en rama 15%, Delgado Zuleta

Appearance
Bright mid brassy gold, light legs.
Nose
Lightish and quite elegantly balanced between the damp and dry flor aromas, dough and brine with traces of bitter almond behind. It doesn't jump out of the glass, it's more reined-in but slowly grows saltier and more maritime.
Palate
Plenty of flor at the start and a reasonable acidity to carry it through, then it rounds off with a doughy salted almondy character and a long clean finish.
Comments
This is the minimally filtered version of Manzanilla Barbiana, a brand of Bodegas Rodriguez La Cave until they merged with Delgado Zuleta. The grapes come from the Pagos of Miraflores and Balbaina and the soleras are those of Rodriguez La Cave. It is presented in a clear glass bottle and sealed with a 4cm Diam cork.
Price
14,50 Euros

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Ponche: the Liqueur of Jerez

The origins of Ponche (or punch) go back to ancient Persia where they made a drink called “panj.” The word means five and it contained five ingredients: spirit, sugar, lemon, water and tea. In the XVII century The British East India Company introduced the drink to the western colonies where the recipe would be adjusted to local tastes. Seamen would often mix it with rum.  It was a likely forebear of what we now call the cocktail.

Ponche has been made in the Marco de Jerez since the early XIX century and nearly every bodega had an example. It is the classic Jerez liqueur and is basically a blend of Jerez brandy, a little sweet Sherry and various spices with an alcoholic strength varying between about 23-35ᴼ. It is often used as a digestif and makes a wonderful additive in desserts. Some bodegas felt this was a spirit with more appeal to women as it was sweeter and less fiery than brandy.

An old bottle with the certification
Old labels often claim health-giving properties such as “tónico reconstituyente” or “tónico sin igual.” The Ponche Soto label even used to have a certification from the municipal chemical laboratory of Jerez. This sort of claim is no longer legal, but after a hard day’s work an evening glass of Ponche on the rocks is just what the doctor ordered. It is a gentle quite sweet liqueur, amber in colour with complex aromas and flavours of fresh orange, almond and vanilla. It is lovely!


The leading brands, which are all made from secret recipes but much the same ingredients, are often in silver bottles.

Ponche Caballero: First produced in 1830, this is the oldest brand and has been the brand leader since 1969. Its secret formula is based on 5 main botanicals: Oranges from Andalucía, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, vanilla from México, clove from Madagascar and nutmeg from Indonesia. The firm also produces Ponche Caballero 10, a more luxurious version in a gold bottle, based on 10 botanicals: almond, raisins, prunes, mandarin peel, coriander from Morocco, nutmeg from Grenada, vanilla from México and cinnamon and clove from Sri Lanka. There is even Crema Caballero, a version made with fresh cream at 17%.

Ponche Soto: (Garvey) This important brand (number two) dates from the late XIX century. Ponche Garvey was dropped when the firm took over José de Soto)

Ponche Ataola: (Diez Mérito) (not in silver bottle)

Ponche Santa María: Osborne (silver bottle)

Ponche Real Tesoro (Marqués de Real Tesoro, not in silver bottle)

Monday, 14 December 2015

Manzanilla en rama Elías 15%, Elías González Guzmán

Appearance
Pale to mid strawy gold with some legs.
Nose
Lots of fresh crisp flor with briny, beach-like salinity and a touch of bread dough and a slight note of dampness. All the correct Manzanilla characteristics with reasonable intensity and a certain depth.
Palate
Nice and bitter with a decent acidity, both of which give it some length. Bright and very fresh  with some intensity, the bitterness then rounds out leaving a clean briny finish. Good.
Comments
This is Manzanilla Elías bottled en rama. I am presuming the strength is 15% as there is no mention of it on the label - which is therefore, er, illegal... Still, the wine is above board even if the presentation lacks some sparkle - and sorry about the photo...
Price
8.50 Euros

14.12.15 Sherry Website Change

www.sherry.org has changed to www.sherry.wine. Sherry has become the first DO or brand to use the new domain " .wine" as from today. 2015 has been a year of much innovation and hard work from the Consejo Regulador in this its 80th year, which has greatly improved its web presence. The Consejo website is bursting with interesting articles on every aspect of  this great wine, so take a look now and immerse yourself in this wonderful world.



Official addresses:
Website: www.sherry.wine
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sherrywinesjerez
Twitter:@sherrywines


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Christmas Lunch/Dinner

I don’t know about you, but I’m bored to death with turkey. It is not the ideal match for Sherry and it seems to last forever, but luckily there are lots of other more interesting foods, and Sherry is so versatile it will match any of them to perfection. Here are my suggested Christmas pairings:

To start:

Torta del Casar with piquitos: with good Manzanilla en rama or pasada or:
Cured lomo ibérico:  good Fino or Manzanilla or:
Asparagus wrapped in serrano ham and fried:  light Amontillado

*Torta del Casar is a soft cheese from Extremadura. You can briefly microwave it, cut off the lid and then dip the piquitos (mini breadsticks) into it's tangy semi-liquid depths.  The lomo (cured pork loin) should be thinly sliced and drizzled with new season extra virgin olive oil. The asparagus should be green and cooked carefully, it's all about texture.

Torta del Casar (fotodirectoalpaladar.com)
Main course:

Roast wood pigeon: Good mid-weight Amontillado or Palo Cortado or:
Ibérico pork fillet: The wines above would be ideal but a lighter Oloroso would also be good

*Pigeon, grouse and pheasant are sublime with quality Amontillado or Palo Cortado and the pork fillet, ideally cooked on a barbecue and in medallions, matches them too, as does Oloroso.

Iberico fillet in pepper sauce(foto:afuegolento.com)
Cheese:

Manchego curado or Payoyo curado con Romero: Palo Cortado and Oloroso VOS or VORS.

*For stronger cheeses, go for concentrated old Sherries like Palo Cortado and Oloroso VOS or VORS. It’s Christmas –forget the expense! Manchego is ewes’ milk from La Mancha and Payoyo is made from Payoyo goats’ milk in Cádiz – and quite delicious with rosemary. Surprisingly blue cheeses are interesting with PX. At this stage of the meal (Sp: sobremesa) you can now philosophise, deliberate and pontificate to your heart’s content, lingering on various combinations of cheese and Sherry till:

Payoyo (foto:quesosdeespana.blog)
Dessert:

Real vanilla ice cream: Pedro Ximénez or:
Flán or Crema Catalana: Cream Sherry

*Really good vanilla ice cream served with chopped dried figs slowly sweated in PX and topped with chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts is quite delicious. Flán (crème caramel) and Crema Catalana (baked egg custard with sugar glazed on top) work really well with Cream Sherry which has the sweetness and still a little bite.

PX & ice cream (foto:womanandhome.com)
Leftovers:

Huevos a la Flamenca: The Sherry really depends on what is in the dish, but not a sweet one

*This is a super useful andaluz dish. Simply put any leftovers in individual oven dishes with a little olive oil and a little pimentón (paprika), crack an egg on top and bake till the egg is as you like it. Yum! Bueno pues, os deseo buen apetito - well, enjoy your meal!

Huevos Flamenca (foto:pintxos.paratorp.es)





Sylvia Plath was a Sherry Fan

The great American poet Sylvia Plath loved Sherry. Born in Massachusetts in 1932, she died at her own hand in 1963 after suffering from depression and a difficult marriage to the famous English poet Ted Hughes. She is best known for her collections The Colossus and Ariel, though she also wrote short stories and a novel.

Sylvia Plath (foto:biography.com) Thanks also to JL Jimenez


There are many references to Sherry in her work and journals. At a New Year party she enjoyed an “immense amount of sweet Sherry” and on another occasion she said “I drink Sherry by myself because I like it and I get the sensuous feeling of indulgence… luxury, bliss, erotic-tinged.” Sherry was also enjoyed with literary guests: “We drink Sherry in the garden and read poems”.

13.12.15 Jerez Takes in Emperador Takeover

275 million euros is a lot to spend on a mere whim. The Philippine magnate Andrew L Tan has become the focus of attention since he burst onto the Jerez scene with the purchase of the old Domecq business. Outwardly the bodegas are pleased, but inwardly they are worried as nobody knows what he has in mind and all indications are that he is here to stay.

Many feel that his arrival could be the spur needed to re-inject vitality to the brandy business. Some of the bigger firms were thinking of removing their principal brands from the DO – which gives the brandy its nobility - so they could be sold cheaply as “spirt drinks”. The two bodegas which opened Pandora’s Box: Osborne with Veterano and González Byass with Soberano, have the most to lose.

Tan’s interest in Jerez brandy and in particular Fundador stems from way back. It is the national drink in the Philippines and Fundador is the brand leader. Tan visited Jerez 30 years ago to study how it was made. Later on the self-made millionaire established a commercial relationship with González Byass which he recently strengthened with a strategic alliance for brandy production. Those who know the workings of GB are convinced that the firm would have had serious difficulties staying at the top without Mr Tan and not without reason. He is their biggest customer and even before their joint venture was spending 100 million euros, equivalent to half their turnover.

The González family, who were aware of the progress of the negotiations to buy Domecq, had a meeting days earlier with Mr Tan, who assured them that their joint venture was not at risk, at least for the moment. Nevertheless the family is convinced that the magnate will, sooner or later, break the agreement to concentrate his efforts on Domecq.

Osborne is also on the alert. The firm has represented both the good and the bad in the brandy sector over recent years and has changed from being primarily a Sherry producer to a spirits producer with a large number of brands, some previously bought from Domecq. Osborne was the first to remove Veterano from the DO and at the same time reinforced their faith in Jerez brandy by buying up any well-known brand they could get their hands on. They felt that they had everything under control until the sudden appearance of Andrew Tan which might completely disrupt their plans. For now the Osborne brandies are dominant in the domestic and German markets, a position which Tan would be in a position to compete with if his objective, as the brandy sector believes, were to invest in Fundador and recover its prestige.


Those who have followed Tan’s career say that he is a patient man, one who believes in the longer term. The test will be when the apprentice became the master. Thirty years after his first visit to Jerez his Emperador brandy is the second best-selling alcoholic drink in the world with annual sales of 40 million 9 litre cases – almost 30 times the total annual sales of Brandy de Jerez and 10 times the combined sales of Jerez brandy and Sherry. Only time will tell whether Tan will be the spur so badly needed for Jerez brandy. If so the old Fundador slogan could be revived: “El coñac – ahora brandy – que está como nunca.” (The Cognac – now called brandy – is as good as ever.) This refers to the fact that for a long time Jerez brandy was known as Cognac - or "coñac" , until the term was outlawed.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

12.12.15 Some News Shorts

Owner of the top quality Jerez bodega El Maestro Sierra, Pilar Plá, has been named an honorary member of the Atheneum of wine of El Puerto de Santa María. This honour is in recognition of the achievements of one of the few women running a bodega in the province.

Pilar Pla (centre) with Beltran Domecq (right) (foto:cosasdecome)
Luís Pérez, owner of the bodega of that name has been awarded the honour “Gaditano del Año” (person from Cádiz of the year) by the Atheneum of Cádiz for his achievements in producing quality red wines. His son Guillermo “Willy” Pérez is experimenting with unfortified Fino.

Luis Perez receiving his award (foto:bodega)
Cortijo de Jara, another table wine producer in Jerez, has won the silver medal in the Tempranillos al Mundo Competition with their Cortijo de Jara 12 months. Considering Rioja and Ribera del Duero have vastly more tempranillo grapes than Jerez, this is a real achievement. In fact it was the only bodega from Andalucía in the competition.

Wine ageing in the beautiful old cortijo (foto:bodega)
A major Osborne shareholder seems to have disappeared. Guo Guanchang, multi-millionaire boss of China’s biggest corporation Fosun, and owner of 20% of Osborne, was alleged to have last been seen being escorted by police at Shanghai airport. It is possible he is involved in a corruption investigation.
Ignacio Osborne and Guo Guanchang (foto:ABC)

12.12.15 Babé Re-elected Fedejerez President

At the final general assembly of Fedejerez this year Evaristo Babé has been re-elected president. In his speech to the organisation, which represents the vast majority of the bodegas, at a Christmas banquet held at the bodegas of Sánchez Romate, Evaristo thanked everyone for their support, despite having suggested he step down. He said that Fedejerez had developed in a spirit of optimism towards the future despite, with the exception of vinegar, sales being disappointing. He explained that there is great confidence in the future and that there are many ideas coming to the boil in the regeneration plan which Fedejerez is working on.

Evaristo babe (R) with Beltran Domecq

He mentioned the BIB rebels, saying that he had always been clear on the matter but they seemed to be losing direction, and he appealed for common sense to prevail and for them to reflect that this was not the way forward. He referred to the helplessness and frustration felt by the bodegas at the lack of diligence from the Junta to expedite sanctions on the rebels to avoid any further escalation of the matter. It is important that the rule of law is respected; agreements can be revised or not, but we cannot go forward if some follow the rules of the jungle without respecting the will of the majority.


On the subject of the arrival of Emperador, Babé who is also president of the Consejo Regulador for Brandy de Jerez, said that he had congratulated and welcomed Mr Tan because we recognise that this is good for Jerez, for the brands which, despite the crisis still maintain value to the companies. It is time to build the Brandy de Jerez brand so it will last and provide value to the bodegas which have been through such a crisis. The brand is an asset created by many people, and it is very satisfying to see that someone values it.

Friday, 11 December 2015

11.12.15 Luis Caballero Restructures; Mosto Competition Results

The Caballero group which includes Emilio Lustau has decided to reorganise to increase competitivity and profitability. Caballero consists of 40 companies, and to simplify things there will be three holding companies all owned by the family: Luis Caballero SA which will be the industrial firm; Caballero El Puerto SLU which will be the spirits firm and Emilio Lustau will be the wine firm. At a press conference the managing director, Luis Luengo assured the workforce that their jobs were safe and that he hoped there would be more work, not less.

The 185th anniversary of Ponche Caballero (foto:diariodejerez)

The results of the II Mosto Competition organised by the Consejo have been announced. The competition took place to the sound of zambombas at the Atalaya. There were 32 samples in two categories, all tasted blind by the Consejo tasting panel:

Mosto from DO bodegas: 1st González Byass; 2nd Barbadillo; 3rd Hidalgo La Gitana
Mosto from DO growers: 1st and 2nd Emmanuel Pemán Domecq; 3rd Juan Núñez Moreno

Beltrán Domecq said that with the competition it was hoped to give value back to the origin of the wine: the vineyard, and demonstrate the excellence of the young wines. This competition has become a fixture in the activities of Jerez thanks to keen participation of the producers and the public which also took part in the tastings.

Tassting mostos (foto:diariodejerez)





Thursday, 10 December 2015

10.12.15 AECOVI Asset Sale; Feliz Cumpleaños El Pasaje!

A period has begun in which offers can be made for the assets of Aecovi, known as “the cooperative of cooperatives” and which sadly went bust in March. Aecovi was a combination of four cooperatives which did not feel disposed to finance its growing lack of liquidity any longer. The stocks of wine and vinegar have already been sold by the administrators and they are now looking to sell off machinery, vehicles and wine and vinegar making equipment, all in very good condition. Buildings will pass to the banks which hold mortgages on them. There seems to be considerable interest in the assets and any offers will need to be submitted by January.


Tabanco El Pasaje is celebrating its 90th birthday on the 15th. This legendary bar, the oldest tabanco in Jerez and famous for its Sherry, tapas and flamenco, is in a XVII building which has seen visitors from all over the world, many of them famous. The original site was in Calle Lancería, established in 1862 and the current site was once a grocer then a waiters’ club and a tabanco since 1925. The owner is Antonio Ramirez, known locally as “Antonio el del Pasaje”. He gets through around 7,000 litres of Sherry a year, all supplied by El Maestro Sierra, and over recent years he has increased the food and flamenco offering. El Pasaje is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Jerez. Feliz cumpleaños!




Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Give Them Sherry for Christmas!

Once again the figures make disappointing reading, but the slide is showing signs of slowing and there is the odd bright spot. What worries and surprises me is the poor sale of the classics Oloroso, Amontillado and Palo Cortado, some of the most interesting and complex wines on the planet. Wines which accompany perfectly all sorts of dishes. Stocks are high and the wines have never been better, but prices will be forced to rise, so now is a good time to buy these wines. Christmas time.

So if you're searching for presents that won't bankrupt you and which will offer someone something really unique and special, it's easy: give them Sherry for Christmas!


9.12.15 Consejo Figures Jan-Oct 2015 - Styles

The BIB affair has made a dent in sales of Manzanilla on the home market where it is dominant –and Fino is growing. However much the bodegueros of Sanlúcar insist that the wine in BIB is the same as that in bottle, the statistics only show sales of wine in glass, and January to October sales of 5.4 million litres of Manzanilla are down 2%. Manzanilla is losing a little steam while Fino is growing. For the same period sales of Fino were a mere 2.3 million litres but showing growth of 18%. Looked at over the last twelve months, Manzanilla is down 1.6% and Fino is up 11.6%.

Total sales for the last twelve months show Fino as the best seller with sales of over 8 million litres and Manzanilla at under 7 million. In fact Manzanilla is in fourth place after Fino, Medium (8 million litres) and Cream (7.6 million). In fifth place is Pale Cream (2.5m litres) and sixth is PX at 1 million.

Oloroso stayed above 500,000 litres showing a very slight drop but Amontillado dropped from a similar figure to only 395,000 litres. Palo Cortado saw a modest rise to 72,273 litres.

9.12.15 Consejo Figures Jan-Oct 2015 - Markets

Sherry is gaining slightly in value but losing in sales volume. The figures from the Consejo for the end of October show the continuation of the prolonged downward tendency in wine leaving the bodegas, some 2.4% for the first ten months of the year, or over 3% for the last twelvemonths. Sales volume for January to October was 28.2 million litres, 700,000 litres less than the same period last year and 1 million less than the same period in 2013. Total sales for the last twelve months were 36 million litres as against 37 million for the equivalent period in 2014 and much less than the 39.2 million in 2013.

The strong drop in exports of 7.5% to October with a volume of 18.1 million litres is in stark contrast with the Spanish market which has grown by 8.2% to 10.1 million litres in the same period, the best figure for the last three years. For the last twelve months sales on the domestic market show 12.2 million litres or 5.5% growth while exports are down 7% to just under 23.7 million litres. The Consejo points out that there is a factor which rather distorts these figures which is a bottling contract between two of the big bodegas which makes it look as though more is sold on the home market and less on the export market. This will be allowed for in the year-end figures.

Tabancos are selling more Sherry to younger people (foto:diariodejerez)
The figures show the decline of the traditional markets which are associated with sweeter styles of wine, consumers of a certain age, low prices and BOB (buyer’s own brand). Meanwhile there is growth in other markets, particularly Spain, where the traditional dry styles predominate and which are increasingly being drunk by younger people. For the foreseeable future it is difficult to guess when the lines on the graph representing the different consumers might cross showing a change of tendency, but increasing prices which the bodegas openly admit to, compensate in part for the drops in sales volumes.

Of the traditional markets Sherry has suffered a real squeeze from Germany, the third biggest export market, which showed a drop of 22% to October with sales of 2.1 million litres – less than half that of Holland which took 5 million litres, down 1.3%. Britain remains the largest export market with 7.1 million litres, down 2.14%.

The picture for the last twelve months is quite similar with Britain taking 10 million litres, down 0.52%; the Low Countries taking 6.2 million litres, down 2%; Germany 2.7 million litres, down 22%. Exports to America for January to October are also losing steam with sales of 1.6 million litres showing a drop of 7%. The United States, the main market in America, took 1.15 million litres, a drop of over 5%. Over the twelve month period exports to America dropped to 1.9 million litres or down 5.5%, of which 1.4 million litres correspond to the USA, a drop of 4.12%.


The Asian market with a volume of barely 215,115 litres grew around 6% thanks to Japan which took 126,000 litres, up 8.25%. Over the twelve months though, Asia as a whole took 263,706 litres, down 2.7%, while Japan took 146,866 litres after a drop of 4%.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Manzanilla Fina 15%, Orleans Borbón

Appearance
Bright, fairly pale strawy gold, light legs.
Nose
Briny like a wind-swept beach, notes of olive (manzanilla presumably!) and salinity with a slight rancio/savoury hint and traces of leafiness and membrillo before the flor bitterness comes through in a very slightly buttery form. It is constantly opening out with the various aromas coming together.
Palate
Clean, fresh and briny on entry then the leafy olive notes come through giving way to the bitterness of the flor, very dry with decent acidity but balanced. It needs time to open out but it is worth it. Decent length too.
Comments
Made from grapes from 40 year old vines grown in the Pago Balbaina. The solera has only three criaderas and the wine is about 5 years old. Only 2 sacas per year: spring and autumn, this one bottled in June 2015. I am presuming that this label is for the American market as it  has all the US labelling requirements and anyway the wine is sold as Torrebreva in Spain.
Price
4,50 Euros per half bottle

Monday, 7 December 2015

7.12.15 Jerez Christmas Lights Switched On

1,204,816 Christmas lights were switched on yesterday by the mayor, Mamén Sánchez accompanied by the people chosen to be the Three Kings, one of whom is the Consejo’s own César Saldaña (Melchor). Given the poor state of the city’s finances, cheaper lighting had been installed at a saving of 36% on last year, while the use of LED bulbs means a 7 fold saving in energy costs, yet despite many misgivings it looks fantastic. A 20 metre Christmas tree stands in the Plaza del Arenal and a 5 metre tree in the Plaza de Abastos. The atmosphere is wonderful with strains of Flamenco and zambombas, seasonal sweetmeats and the aroma of Sherry on the breeze. Jerez is where to be at Christmas, taking it all in with a glass of Oloroso.

Looking down the Calle Larga from the Gallo Azul (foto:reporterosjerez)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Types of Sherry: Manzanilla, The Wine of Sanlúcar

Of all the different styles of Sherry, Manzanilla is the only wine with its own separate Denominación de Origen within the overall Sherry DO of Jerez-Xeres-Sherry: Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda, granted in 1964. The reason is that it is different despite being made from the same grapes and by the same process. Oddly, according to the regulations Fino can be produced in Sanlúcar but Manzanilla can’t be produced anywhere else, though the grapes for Manzanilla can come from anywhere in the Sherry production zone. But as someone once said, "Manzanilla is born of a romance between the sea and the west wind."

This delightful style of Sherry could be defined as a wine always aged biologically under a film of flor yeast and bottled at various stages of ageing from very young to very old. It is fresh, bone dry and has pungent saline almondy yeasty notes like sea breezes with a hint of dried flowers in its youth, up to tangier, savoury, nutty autolysed yeast notes when older. Manzanilla is the style of Sherry most profoundly affected by the flor yeast since the moist coastal atmosphere promotes its growth.


Sanlucar at the mouth of the Guadalquivir looking roughly north
Once the powerful climatic effect was understood, bodegas were built in the best possible locations and oriented to get the most from the humid Atlantic breezes. Furthermore, esparto grass “curtains” on the windows and the earth floors are often sprayed with water to accentuate the coolness and humidity, anything to keep the flor happy.

Because of this, Manzanillas can age for long periods without losing their freshness, as long as the butts are refreshed regularly. In Sanlúcar therefore, soleras have many more criaderas (or “clases” as they are called locally) than in Jerez, and the butts are refreshed more frequently. In Sanlúcar it is not uncommon for this to happen monthly, while it would be more likely quarterly in Jerez.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda is in a unique situation at the mouth of the river Guadalquivir with direct access to the Atlantic. The town lies on the south bank opposite the extensive UNESCO protected marshlands of the Coto Doñana. This geographical position provides a unique fresh, humid microclimate for the production of Manzanilla, as well as providing plenty of the chalky white “albariza” soil which is ideal for the growing of the Palomino grape. The main local vineyard areas or pagos are  Miraflores and El Hornillo.

There is ample evidence that wine has been produced here for some 3,000 years, pre-dating the arrival of the Greeks and the Phoenicians. Successive colonists realised the quality of the wines and production and export grew. But it was not until the XIII century, after the re-conquest from the Moors in 1264, when wine became the principal source of wealth to the town. The lord of Sanlúcar, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán “El Bueno” was awarded privileges by the grateful Catholic Monarchs, one of which was to hold open fairs each year, and these began to attract foreign traders such as the Bretons, English and Flemish. He was also granted the right to load and unload cargo in port, and Sanlúcar grew to be one of the most important ports of the late middle ages.

In 1492 the Americas were discovered, and soon a new seafaring route was opened to “Las Indias”, with Sevilla, further upstream, granted the commercial monopoly of the American trade. This made Sanlúcar an important port for the provisioning of shipping, as some ships were too big to reach Seville, and there were many “Cargadores a Indias” (“provisioners for the Indies”) loading ships with both export goods and provisions for the journey (including the local wine naturally) or transferring arriving goods onto smaller vessels for delivery in Sevilla.


Sanlucar from the river XVI century
With foreign trade increasing, especially in wine, traders were given further privileges as an encouragement. Many, especially the English settled in the area and founded the trading company Compañía de Andalucía in 1530, based at the Church of St. George which was built on land given to them by the Duke. By now the vineyard area had increased massively and many traders were vineyard owners and wine producers, but life soon deteriorated due to the unstable political situation between England and Spain.

With a protestant Queen Elizabeth reigning in England and the great wealth being brought back to Spain by sea, English raiders such as Hawkins and Drake posed a constant threat, leading to the Spanish Armada of 1588. The Spanish Inquisition made life difficult for English traders in Sanlúcar, but though wine exports slowed, they by no means stopped.

The wines of Sanlúcar really took off in the second half of the XVIII century. By the time of the census of 1777 the town had a population of 15,000 of whom 116 were foreign. At this time agriculture and viticulture were the most important activities, followed closely by maritime trade with 26 cargadores a Indias. The main exports were wines, spirits and salt, while the most important imports were sugar and cacao. By the end of the century some cargadores had moved their business to Cádiz yet still lived in Sanlúcar, where many diversified into the wine trade, looking north rather than west for business.

Towards the end of the XVIII century much had been invested in the vineyards, and a wine they called Manzanilla first appeared. The first recorded reference to it is in 1781 at a Cádiz council meeting. It won great popularity especially in Cádiz being lighter than the usual oxidised more Oloroso styles of a single year which had been the norm. There is no written evidence, but it is thought that the idea of the solera came from the taverns, often run by “montañeses” or people from the north of Spain. They noticed that when a barrel of Manzanilla was not regularly topped up the flor yeast which developed on the surface made the wine more interesting, and producers experimented with ways to do this on a bigger scale. The development of Manzanilla and the solera went hand in hand.

With the XIX century came war with Napoleon and French occupation during which 1,700 butts of wine disappeared and in the 1830s the loss of the American colonies. Yet Sanlúcar was on the verge of its golden age as wealthy expats returned in the second half of the century. The bourgeois class was emerging and the wine business was growing with increased investment in vineyards and the construction of bigger bodegas. The railway arrived in 1877 facilitating sales further afield within Spain. Phylloxera in France helped increase exports. Manzanilla became the most popular wine in Spain and beyond. Bodegas in Jerez and El Puerto all listed Manzanilla. But it all crashed to a halt when Phylloxera arrived in Sanlúcar in 1894 wiping out many vineyards and smaller bodegas.

The XX century saw gradual recuperation but was very quiet until after the 1940s when sales began to increase again through till the end of the 1970s when sales of Sherry in general began to plummet. Currently Manzanilla is extremely popular especially at the ferias, but Fino sales are currently ahead.

Etymologically speaking the word Manzanilla is tricky. If you order it outside Andalucía you will get a cup of camomile (Sp. Manzanilla) tea. Both will do you good but one is much more fun than the other. It could be named after a town called Manzanilla in the province of Huelva. Academics have argued about the word’s origin for years as there is no historical documentation. In the days before accurate records and Denominaciónes de Origen it was quite common for wines to go from one area to another either for blending or for export from a suitable port – such as Sanlúcar. The wine from Sanlúcar could have been named for its similarity to the other (ie “like Manzanilla wine”). After all, Amontillado is named as being “like Montilla wine”. Certainly many wines are named after the place they come from. Other possibilities are that it is named after the occasional floral camomile-like aroma found in some Manzanillas or after the slight apple (Sp. manzana) aroma. Then there are Manzanilla Olives, the briny aroma of which can often be detected in the wine. Whatever the case, the word Manzanilla has meant Fino-style wine from Sanlúcar for well over 200 years. Another curiosity is the fact that while wine is a masculine word in Spanish (el vino), Manzanilla is feminine, and many labels reflect that eg: Gabriela, La Guita, Aurora, La Goya, La Gitana etc. There have certainly been a few prominent women producing Manzanilla over the years.


Javier Hidalgo of La Gitana with typical Sanlucar cane venencia
This wonderful liquid is bottled in various forms. Manzanilla Fina is a young wine heavily filtered for the everyday market, the bread and butter of the bodegas. Wine labelled simply Manzanilla can vary from Fina to some quite old wine, say 3 – 9 years old. Then comes Manzanilla Pasada, a wine which has spent longer in solera and is usually sold at well over 8 years old. This has much more complexity thanks to longer flor contact and some autolytic flavours from the dead yeast cells at the bottom of the butt. It is similar to a Jerez Fino-Amontillado, but in Sanlúcar a wine can be very old before they want to use the word Amontillado. For instance La Guita has a “Manzanilla Pasada Vieja” which is about 22 years old and an even older Viejísima. They used to use terms like Manzanilla Amontillada and Manzanilla Olorosa (fragrant rather than an Oloroso) but they were deemed too confusing. Now labels must have one descriptor of the wine so an old Manzanilla Pasada will probably have to say Amontillado. La Guita’s Manzanilla Pasada Vieja mentioned above is labelled by Equipo Navazos as Amontillado yet it still has strong zippy Manzanilla characteristics.

Finally there are the En Rama wines, a style pioneered in Sanlúcar, which are usually selected for their good character and bottled with minimal “stabilisation” (or excessive filtration). They have lost much less of their colour and solera flavour and are quite delicious. We are told to drink them as fresh as possible, but they will happily age in bottle – some are even bottled in magnum for that specific purpose.