Sunday, 21 October 2018

Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc 2017 13.5%, Cortijo de Jara

Appearance
Very pale bright clean silvery gold with pale gold highlights.
Nose
There is plenty of clean fresh fruit here with mostly Sauvignon notes up front with their green kiwi and gooseberry fruit with a softer, fuller more floral Chardonnay following through. There are traces of confectionery and orchard aromas and the whole needs a little more time to harmonise, but it will.
Palate
Quite assertive with lots of zippy vibrant fruit, decent acidity and a gentle texture. A slight worry was that the grapes would need to be picked early to retain acidity and thus possibly lose out on full maturity, but they seem to have got it right. It could do with a little more bottle (and vine) age though just to harmonise everything, but for the first release it is impressive, long clean and fresh.
Comments
The wine from the highly commendable firm of Cortijo de Jara, which grows chickpeas, sunflowers, olives and wheat as well as wine in the countryside between Jerez and Medina, just seems to keep getting better. They have already won two prizes this year for red wines. This is the first release of the new Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc blend which amounts to only 2,500 bottles. The bunches were selected in the vineyard before hand picking. After pressing the must was fermented at a controlled temperature in a stainless steel tank to optimise primary aromas and flavours. I confess that I had some doubts about this blend, mixing the Loire with Burgundy one could say, but it is interesting and works really well.
Price
6.30 euros, Licores Corredera




Saturday, 20 October 2018

20.10.18 Beltrán Domecq Joins Calls for Increase in Grape Price


The independent growers of the Marco de Jerez have long been calling for a fair price for their grapes, as the current 0.36€/kg, the cheapest in Spain, is completely unsustainable. Since no grower is making a profit there can be no investment in updating or maintaining machinery or replanting vineyards, save for replacing sick or dead vines. Furthermore the next generation sees no future in growing vines other than those for the table wine sector which is taking off, and at profitable prices but reducing the amount of grapes available for Sherry. According to the grower´s association Asevi-Asaja 0.45/kg (a 125% increase) is the mínimum price required or vineyards will simply be abandoned. Thankfully, the president of the Consejo Regulador, Beltrán Domecq shares this view saying that the grape price must increase and has called on growers, bodegas and cooperatives to work out a deal to establish reasonable prices and guarantee the future of the Marco de Jerez. Let us hope his words have the desired effect.


Friday, 19 October 2018

Vermouth La Copa Blanco 15%, González Byass

Appearance
Pale to mid bright golden straw with golden highlights.
Nose
Pronounced sweetish citric notes up front, mainly lemon and perhaps a hint of tangerine followed by the classic bitter herbal notes one expects in vermouth with suggestions of rosemary and thyme, and possibly gentian. The overall aroma is reasonably complex, lively, and inviting, and very fresh.
Palate
The story is much the same on the palate, starting fresh and citrussy then getting more bitter with the wormwood and green herbs, but that is balanced by a certain sweetness, (perhaps just a little too much if compared with French vermouth like Noilly Prat or Chambery) and a certain viscosity. Nonetheless, this mixes well with a good dry gin and is lovely on its own with ice and a slice of lime.
Comments
This vermouth is the comparatively recently (re) released white partner for the red La Copa. It is, of course, based on selected Fino in which is steeped a range of  secret botanicals which include wormwood,  savoury, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and lemon and bitter orange peel. GB first made red and white vermouth back in 1896, and in those days vermouths were often called "Italian" ("I´ll have a gin and it") for sweet red, also used for example in a Manhattan, or "French" for fairly dry white vermouth used in cocktails like the Dry Martini or Gibson. This will be welcomed by the growing number of barmen making cocktails using Sherry as a base.
Price
8.65, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Fino en rama Arroyuelo saca 2018 15%, Bodegas Primitivo Collantes

Appearance
Bright, strawy gold lightly tinged with brass and old gold highlights.
Nose
Beautiful nose, quite full with yeasty flor on the surface and serious Fino behind. There are all sorts of nuances like wax, straw, sourdough, hints of minerality, briny salinity and traces of cabezuela coming together to make it remarkably complex for its age.
Palate
Again quite full, and very tasty. Acidity is fairly low but there is enough flor bitterness, mineral and salinity to compensate, and with the body and roundness provided by that slightly buttery touch of cabezuela, balance is perfect. It also has terrific length.
Comments
This excellent Fino is made from a careful selection of just three of the best butts (numbers 3, 5 and 11 to be exact) in the Arroyuelo solera which it leaves with an average age of 5 years. It was bottled on the 9th July 2018, the annual saca, without any treatment whatsoever. The firm, established over 100 years ago is still in family hands and has two bodegas and over 50 hectares of land all located in Chiclana, which is, of course, in the production zone. It seems so unfair that wines of this quality can´t call themselves Sherry; they are every bit as good.
Price
12.85, Licores Corredera



 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Oloroso El Corregidor 19%, Sandeman

Appearance
Beautiful light patinated mahogany fading through amber to trace of green at rim, copper gold glints.
Nose
Forthcoming, fragrant and super elegant. Some Oloroso can be a little hefty yet this is lighter and intensely aromatic, the result of a good many years of careful ageing. Notes of walnut and toasted almond, fine old oak - almost exotic woods, and a slightly balsamic volatile acidity are balanced by a suggestion of sweetness. Innumerable nuances have combined into a sumptuous bouquet.
Palate
Light, supremely elegant and bursting with flavour. It is super smooth with just enough glycerine to round it off and barely a hint of tannin yet it has grip. There are lots of nuts and the oxidation is elegant and not excessive, while the acidity is not at all aggressive. This wine is absolutely delicious, intense, refined and charming with terrific length, superb!
Comments
El Corregidor is the name of a 60 hectare vineyard in the Carrascal which dates back to at least 1414, though the large cortijo building is from the early XIX century. Sandeman used to own it having acquired it when they took over Pemartin in 1879. Thus all the Sandeman wine was originally Pemartin until they bought 800 butts of already old Oloroso from Antonio Bernaldo de Quiros in 1894. This consists of a solera of 14 scales, most unusual for Oloroso but full of possibilities, and this particular wine, El Corregidor, a dry Oloroso comes from the seventh criadera. Royal Corregidor VOS is a slightly sweetened version (using 10% PX from the Royal Ambrosante solera) while Imperial Corregidor is an older sweetened version, and very rarely bottled. El Corregidor dry Oloroso is no longer offered, and this bottle probably dates from the 1950's or 60s. Bodegas Luis Pérez bought the vineyard in 2013, from the sell-off of Nueva Rumasa which had owned it since 2004, and they are using it to produce grapes from its low yielding old vines for his Barajuela Sherries, having changed the vine training back to vara y pulgar. There are currently some 30 hectares of Palomino and the other 30 comprise a mix of Tintilla, Vijiriega, PX and Cañocazo.They are using the almijar for sunning the grapes to avoid the need to fortify. The bodega has 10 lagares or pressing troughs and they are considering building an underground bodega to press, ferment and store the Sherry wines. There is so much interesting stuff going on here.
Price
100 euros, Licores Corredera


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Vino Blanco Viñalquivir 2017 12%, Coop Virgen Palomares

Appearance
Bright pale silvery gold with the faintest trace of green.
Nose
Young, fresh and moderately exuberant in its youth with lots of orchard aromas like apple, pear and a suggestion of herbs and flowers. There are also faint traces of confectionery and a gently appealing rawness of youth: faint notes of apple or pear skin.
Palate
Again that confectionery note, it is very soft, fruity and light with low acidity and a little bit of residual sugar. It is dry but not 100% dry, and just a little more acidity would have helped by giving it extra zip. Still, while the fruit lasts it is very attractive. It is a year old already and holding up well.
Comments
This is one of the two white table wines produced by the coop (the other is the annual mosto which is sold as soon as it is made, from November, mostly in the bars and tabancos of the area. There is a prize for the best, and Palomares has won it). Viñalquivir is the more serious of the two. It is made from members´ grapes, grown on albariza, which are mostly Palomino (over 90%) but not all, the rest being "vidueño" or a mix of usually older varieties still grown in the area. It is cold fermented using selected yeasts in stainless steel tanks, and after malo-lactic and a period of setttling it is filtered and bottled, young, fresh and perfect for vegetable and seafood dishes. It is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz.
Price
3.95 euros, De Albariza

Monday, 15 October 2018

La Cartuja of Jerez, its Bodega and Horses


La Cartuja, or to give it its full name, El Monasterio Cartujano de Santa María de la Defensión, was founded in 1476 at the behest of the pious knight Álvaro Obertos de Valeto, (who was distantly related to Innocent IV, the Pope who authorised the torture of heretics by the Holy Inquisition). Don Álvaro, a bachelor, gave all his wealth to the Cartuja of Sevilla so that they might create one in Jerez. The story goes that on looking for a site, Don Álvaro and priors from the Cartuja de Sevilla were on the spot where the Jerez Cartuja now stands when they met an old man who told them this was the place. They believed he was none other than St. Peter, and since there had been an old hermitage on the site, this would be the place. It is thought that somewhere near here the Battle of Guadalete was fought in which the Moors defeated the Gothic King Rodrigo in 711 or 712, gaining a decisive foothold in Spain and changing its history.


The Carthusian monks bought, for what was regarded as a hefty sum of 90 Maravedís (the currency at the time), land which included vineyard, woods, an olive grove and a dovecot, and they lived in humble dwellings on their land until construction, which began in 1478, was complete. Various extensions and revisions were carried out up till the XVIII century and the architecture, while mixed, is magnificent. It was declared a Historic and Artistic Monument in 1856. The building is located about 4 km outside Jerez at the side of the southeast approach to the city, overlooking the flood plain of the river Guadalete and the lovely old bridge, the Puente de la Cartuja, construction of which was completed in 1541. 

An old tinted engraving of the Cartuja

By now the Monastery owned some 55 aranzadas (@ 20 hectares) of vineyard, including two plots of 15 aranzadas (7 hectares) and 25 aranzadas (11 hectares) in the pago Macharnudo. By 1620 the monks also owned vineyard in the pago Montealegre not to mention various orchards, olive groves, houses which were rented out, and cortijos where they grew wheat and other crops. These properties and vineyard holdings were largely gifted to the monks, and the Cartuja became very rich. It had its own stone-built low-roofed bodega, typical of the time but large enough to accommodate 1,000 butts of wine; more than enough for their production. 

The bodega in disrepair, from Vizetelly, 1876

Being well educated, monks did much over the centuries to develop viticulture and founded many of the world’s famous vineyards. Naturally they did not confine themselves only to prayer and winemaking, and another activity was the breeding of horses, for which they established the stud La Yeguada de la Cartuja which survives to this day. The horse has existed in Spain for millennia and the Moors recognised the qualities of the Andalusian breed which has been improved ever since into a versatile and beautiful creature. One of the most respected breeds is the Cartujano.

A list of the monks´possessions dated 1620

The monks in Jerez prospered until 1835 when their Monastery was expropriated by the State in what was known as the Desamortización de Godoy, by which the State confiscated land and property, much belonging to the Church and the Monastic Orders, and resold it to boost its coffers after the loss of most of the Colonies. The Cartuja was consequently abandoned by the monks, who would not occupy it again till a brief period between 1948 and 2001. They are only occasionally there now, but there are regular masses. There are regular visiting times if you want to visit.



Sunday, 14 October 2018

Fino 15%, Coop Virgen de Palomares

Appearance
Clean pale strawy gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Fairly intense flor notes, slightly saline and herbal with lots of bread dough and faint almond hints. There is just a faint trace of appley fruit to add to the mix which is really quite attractive.
Palate
Apple and flor are the two dominating flavours here as it fades through the other aforementioned characteristics. It is very fresh and clean with traces of salt, straw and almond, gently bitter in place of acidity, and is lightly textured as only wines from albariza can be: chalky, and has a very gentle grip and decent length.
Comments
The coop Virgen de Palomares was founded in 1957 and now has 580 members controlling 560 hectares of vineyard which produce 5 million litres of must. Interestingly the bodega was constructed in 1963 by a company belonging to Rumasa. They sell a modest range of "Sherry" - being in the production zone means they can´t sell it with a DO - vinegar and a couple of white table wines. This Fino is fermented at 24C in 63,000 litre temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged about 3 and a half years through two criaderas and a solera, and is very drinkable for the money. Despite being from vineyards reasonably close to the Guadalquivir estuary, the wine has a more Fino than Manzanilla style.
Price
3 euros ex bodega

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Brandy Solera Reserva 40%, Barbadillo

Appearance
Bright mahogany fading to amber with bright copper highlights.
Nose
Full, round and soft, there is a hint of caramel or maybe brown sugar sweetness and the characteristic oxidative notes of Oloroso along with dried figs and dates and faint traces of rum and cacao. Very little wood is noticeable, but there is an almost turrón - like nuttiness; almond and walnut as well as a slight caramel note.
Palate
Quite full and quite sweet at the start, quite voluptuous in fact, then it opens out with a nice fruitiness - mainly dried fruits and then caramel followed by that slight nuttiness. It has an attractive texture and is fresh and not short of flavour; it is delicious actually, but just slightly too sweet. It would be perfect with an espresso after dinner though. But goodness, it is so easy to drink.
Comments
Barbadillo started producing brandy in the mid XIX century when they decided to age some of the holandas used to fortify the wine in old barrels. The result was good and was thus organised for larger scale production, so that now wine is made specifically for distillation and the holandas are aged in well-used Oloroso butts in the special microclimate of Sanlúcar, so different from that of Jerez. This brandy has over two years of solera age and a residual sugar level of around 15 g/l yet it appears much older if not drier. A very good drop all the same.
Price
16.25 per 50cl, Licores Corredera


Friday, 12 October 2018

Fantastic Vertical Tasting of Fino Imperial VORS


One of the outstanding events during International Sherry Week in Jerez was a “vertical” tasting of the magnificent Fino Imperial VORS at Bodegas Diez-Mérito. A vertical tasting usually involves various vintages of the same wine, something rarely posible in Jerez because of the solera system, but this tasting looked at how the wine develops through the five criaderas into the finished product, which is in fact an Amontillado, but a super elegant one. The firm´s oenologist, José Antonio Portales, helped by María José de la Torre who organises visits, led the tasting which took place in DM´s beautiful old Bodega Bertemati built in 1790. Amidst the occasional bat flying around and the presence of a local TV crew the tasting was a friendly and fascinating affair.




Diez Hermanos was founded in 1876 but this wine´s origins are older still, the solera having been established in 1793, possibly by Ysasi, and bought by Diez Hermanos in 1900. Traditionally the fifth criadera was refreshed with Manzanilla but that practice ceased some time ago and it is now refreshed with mature Fino. The writer Federico Oldenburg neatly describes the wine as “El Fino más allá del Fino” (The Fino well beyond Fino). The reason it can legally be called Fino is because the Brand name was well established long before the Consejo Regulador. In 1979 Diez Hermanos merged with Marqués del Mérito forming the successful Diez-Mérito, but it was taken over by Rumasa in 1981 and later by Paternina, creating a rather gloomy period. Luckily, in 2016 the local Espinosa family bought the firm and restored it to its former glory.




One of Fino Imperial´s great attributes is that it is one of the incredibly few natural Amontillados. This means a number of things: no second fortification takes place to kill off the flor, the wine develops at a slower pace, the final alcoholic strength will be slightly lower than in wines which did undergo a second fortification, and the result will be very elegant. The number of butts in the criaderas might look odd, but one should remember that butts containing Fino are filled to a lower level to give the flor airspace, so more butts are needed. Once the flor is no longer present, they can be filled to the top but there is of course evaporation loss, estimated at 5% per annum, so fewer butts are needed.

The solera works like this:

5th criadera: 54 butts of mature Fino at 15° with fairly weak flor
Deepish colour for Fino, brassy gold, quite appley, flor, ripe, hint salt, full, textured,
4th criadera: 54 butts of older Fino at 15.5° to 16° still with traces of flor
Brassy, trace amber, fuller, traces of apple, oxidation, nuts, almost no flor yet still (just) Fino
3rd criadera: 54 butts of young Amontillado, virtually no trace of Fino now
Pure golden amber, young Amo., crisp, nutty, oxidised, hint volatile acidity, deeper
2nd criadera: 42 butts of Amontillado
Amber, crisper, more focused, stronger, super elegant and smooth, taking shape
1st criadera: 27 butts of mature Amontillado
Deepish amber, tighter, more intense, aromatic, traces exotic woods, more volatile acidity,
Solera: 27 butts of very old Amontillado
Amber to mahogany, beautifully defined, terrific intensity yet extremely refined, low tannin, super complex balance between aromatic woods and nuts, beautiful, almost ethereal.

Each sample was a delicious wine in its own right, opening out beautifully in the glass, but it was enlightening to watch how they develop into such a great wine. There were considerable differences between each, but then this solera is run slowly, after all it takes the wine over 30 years to work its way through. Sacas are few and small, something like 100 litres at a time, and the wine is filled into 50cl bottles with just a very light filtration as no fancy stabilisation is required.  This tasting really demonstrated the enormous amount of work and skill that goes into a top quality Sherry, and what amazing value for money it is.