Last night I had the pleasure of attending the latest lecture in the excellent series organised by W&H. Entitled "The Curious History of Fino" the lecture was imparted by Javier Maldonado Rosso, a local academic and historian of all things Jerez who has written or contributed to important books on the subject. Widely respected, he was introduced by Jesús Medina, managing director of the bodega.
The well attended lecture took place in the section of this vast bodega devoted to the famous Añada wines, and I am sure a butt from my birth year (which shall remain a secret) was smiling at me. Among the bodegueros and members of the public present were Beltrán Domecq and Evaristo Babé. Javier began by saying that Fino has a surprising history "as there is no other wine which has gone from being described as feeble and sick to being considered a jewel of worldwide viniculture."
|Evaristo Babe, Javier Maldonado, Jesus Medina, Beltran Domecq|
He then delved into the origins of a wine which apparently took as its name the highest quality description a wine can have: "Fine (Sp: Fino) Wine" but one which had a difficult time earning general respect. In Jerez the term Fino means light, elegant and sophisticated. From the earliest times until comparatively recently the appearance of flor yeast on the wine's surface was considered a defect and it took a long time to realise the beneficial effect it had on the wine.
In the 1820s tastes in the British market, the most important at the time, were changing in favour of lighter wines, and there was an impetus to do more with Fino. The paler wines sold at that time were however closer to young Amontillado than the Finos of today. Therefore how long Fino as we know it has been on the market is hard to say as it depends on its definition. In conclusion Javier said "Fino is the work of growers, bodegueros, oenologists, arrumbadores (the men who positioned the butts and climbed up to get samples) and scientists, and the result of collective empirical and scientific knowledge.
The evening, which was very much enjoyed by all, closed with questions and answers which were followed by general conversation with a glass of Fino Pando or Canasta Cream dispensed by a very efficient young venenciador. Williams & Humbert did us all proud.