Quite a local legend in Sanlúcar, Ramiro Ibáñez Espinar, is a restless and talented winemaker who, with experience in Bordeaux and Australia as well as his native Sanlúcar, runs a winemakeing consultancy under the name GL Cero used by various bodegas in the Marco de Jerez. He is s hugely enthusiastic about the potential of albariza soil and the recovery of traditional local grape varieties, many of which are all but lost, and which are no longer permitted in the Consejo regulations. He makes all sorts of interesting wines to demonstrate the terroir and personality of each vineyard and grape variety without letting too much flor obscure it.
|Ramiro with his Encruzijado (foto:verema)|
Ramiro was a founder member of Manifiesto 119, a group of like-minded local wine producers who want to experiment with the old varieties and winemaking techniques, make unfortified Sherry and give more importance to the grapes and the vineyard, not to mention restoring casas de viña. They chose this name after the 119 grape varieties (40 of them in Cádiz) catalogued in Andalucía in 1807 by the first Spanish ampelographer (one who studies grape varieties), Simón de Rojas Clemente. Like Ramiro the group makes table wines as well as Sherry, and while few of them carry the DO they are still sought after and hard to obtain due to the small quantities made.
|A typical experimental wine at Cota 45 (foto:verema)|
As a consultant winemaker he made two vintages of Exceptional Harvest for Ximénez Spínola, worked with Primitivo Collantes on their Fino Arroyuelo, Viña la Callejuela with their 2012 vintage Manzanilla, and Juan Piñero with his Camborio and Maruja. He also made a Tintilla for Hacienda La Parrilla Alta. In his own right, and occasionally with others like Armando Guerra, he is busy making experimental wines, always grown in and expressing as far as possible his beloved albariza soil. Along with another maverick winemaker, Willy Perez, he wrote a book "Las Añadas en el Marco de Jerez". Here are some of the projects:
Pitijopos Volume I is a set of 6 wines all barrel fermented Palomino from 2014 but from 6 different vineyards. Forthcoming sets will show similar differences from different vineyards. Another project is Ube, old vine Palomino from different clones fermented in an old Manzanilla butt without flor. Then there is Pandorga, a PX from Carrascal made the old way, sunned and fermented but not fortified, and sold at a year old. Precede is a lovely Palomino fermented and aged in Sherry butts for 36 months without flor. Encrucijado is a Palo Cortado made from about 50% Palomino and 5 other traditional varieties fermented in butt where it ages for 10 months under flor and 10 oxidatively, depending on the vintage. It is bottled at a natural strength of 15.5%. The first release of Zerej consists of 120 sets of 4 magnums showing the effect of flor from mosto fermented in butts to 2 year old Manzanilla to 11 year old Manzanilla Pasada to an 18 year old Amontillado. Nearly all of these are already sold out, and there are waiting lists.
His consultancy work provided him with sufficient resources to establish his own bodega in 2015. It is tiny at barely 60 square metres, but beautifully situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir in the Bajo de Guía, looking out over the river towards the Coto Doñana, open to all the breezes. He converted an old boat repair workshop into a bodega with the usual albero floor, room to press grapes and store 25 butts propped up on the traditional local limestone (roca ostionera) which is full of fossilised oyster shells. He calls it his “Albarizatorio” (albariza laboratory). Cota 45 refers to the 45 metre altitude above sea level of some of the best albariza.