Fran Asencio made a lot of money as a construction engineer, investing some of it in an excellent bodega in Asturias: Dominio del Uragallo. Since they came from Sevilla, he and his brother Fernando were keen to invest in a project in the south and came across the tortuous demise of the great bodega Pedro Romero in Sanlúcar. Francisco Yuste bought the Manzanilla Aurora soleras, and Fran and Fernando bought one of the bodegas in Calle Rubiños known as Bodegas Méndez, an almacenista bought by Pedro Romero, the name being used as a sous-marque. Many of the 10,000 or so butts which were owned by Pedro Romero are now stored in other bodegas round the town.
The brothers want to retain the brand names of Pedro Romero and Gaspar Florido and intend to bottle a limited quantity of the GF wines to show the world that they still exist. However they have been inundated with retailer requests to bottle large – even ridiculous – quantities, like 3,000 bottles of solera GF25.
|Fran Asencio posing with a rather good wine|
They have already bought Manzanilla and are buying grapes and making wine to feed their solera which will hopefully be profitable enough to pay for the upkeep of the old wines, but they are not in a hurry. And everything will be done the artisan way. Other ideas are also being considered, such as unfortified Sherry. Meanwhile they intend to launch their Manzanilla in spring 2016 under the brand name Velo de Flor.
The bodega, which is in a pretty poor state, is actually just below sea level in the Barrio Bajo with virtually perfect exposition to the west wind, and is thus perfect for Manzanilla. Luckily the sacristia is in better condition which is just as well as it stores the legendary soleras GF 25, GF 30 which consists of only 5 butts and Ánsar Real (2 butts dating from 1840) soleras, all kept under lock and key – wisely, as Carbon 14 tests show its age to be 126 years.
Since the bodega is only large enough for ageing wine, they have had to vinify in rented premises and want to build their own winery, which will raise the question of whether to ferment in steel tanks or in butts, but not being in a hurry, they have allowed themselves 3 years to get this sorted. According to the capataz, José Antonio Palacios, who has worked at the bodega for the last 15 years, some of the soleras have not been properly run in 4 or 5 years except for tiny sacas and rocíos to maintain some sort of freshness, but he says that the bodega needs to be reorganised and some proper running of the soleras is necessary.
The Asencio brothers are acutely aware of the enormous scale of the work needed, and that they are now responsible for a part of the history of Sanlúcar but are dedicated to the task of keeping these wine jewels alive.
Address: Calle Rubiños, 1 Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 360 266
Website: www.bodegasalonso.com (under construction)
Visits? Not for a while