A blog and review on all things Sherry. It is about tasting, enjoyment and learning more about the World’s Finest Wine. "Sherry is a thoroughbred" as Javier Hidalgo rightly puts it. Included are the amazing local Brandies and the remarkably good table wines also produced in the province of Cádiz.
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.