Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Mahara Sparsus Aurata 2017 11.9%, Bodega Vinifícate

Appearance
Quite deep, amber tinged strawy yellow with old gold highlights.
Nose
In many ways similar to the Mahara Liza Ramada having been made using a similar - but not the same - method, and it is from Sanlúcar so it is different. All the  intense Palomino apples are there but there is more grape and it is a shade lighter, less full-on and more elegant.  There is more maritime salinity and in place of the ginger there is a hint of herbs. Bursting with character and super interesting.
Palate
Full and fresh with a zippy tang, lots of apple, a trace of  cider and a gentle texture with just a little grip with a chalky albariza dryness, and a little more salinity than Liza Ramada. It is very natural tasting with a very long clean finish. You can really see the difference between two different vineyards, which show how important they are, and it is wonderful to see people treasuring them.
Comments
This wine comes from a small 1 hectare west facing vineyard, Viña el Vicario, in the Pago Mahina near Sanlúcar. It is made from 100%  Palomino grapes from vines of over 80 years of age which means a miniscule yield of less than 20 hl/ha - fine quality but uneconomic for most people. In fact , if it were not for people like the Gómez Lucas brothers, vineyards like this would have long since disappeared, and many have. The hand picked grapes are de-stemmed and fermented with their skins for a week before pressing and the wine completes the fermentation in amphorae where it ages on the lees for nine months before bottling. 1846 bottles produced. Sparsus Aurata is the Latin name for the gilt head sea bream (or "dorada" in Spanish).
Price
17.15 euros, Licores Corredera


Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Amontillado en rama 17.5%, Carvajal Wines SA

Appearance
Bright amber fading through straw with old gold highlights to a trace of green at the rim.
Nose
Well rounded oxidative notes balance with the crisper slightly saline character you´d expect from Sanlúcar and faintly sweet soft toasted almond and hazelnut praline and sourdough bread crust notes. There is notable complexity here with traces of tobacco and dry autumn leaves and a sort of robust elegance making for a very attractive wine.
Palate
There are still faint traces of its Manzanilla past with hints of minerality, salinity and a slightly higher acidity giving a certain crispness, but all that is offset by a trace of glycerine and those tight nutty flavours. This is a serious wine which manages to combine the raw wild maritime character of Manzanilla with the elegance of a well aged Amontillado, and it has terrific length.
Comments
Jaime de Carvajal worked for many years with González Byass, and certainly knows his wines. In recent years he has been working on his own projects, starting with the excellent red wine Cobijado, the result of a joint project with Barbadillo, and now he is working with Delgado Zuleta with a range of Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso and a Medium of fine quality as well as representing the wines of Cayetano del Pino in Jerez. This wine has real character and is very good value for money.
Price
17.25 euros, Licores Corredera


Sunday, 16 June 2019

Fino 15% 3a saca, Bodega Lorente y Barba

Appearance
Quite deep for a Fino, pale amber with golden highlights.
Nose
Full, complex and very interesting. From the darker colour one would expect it to have some oxidation, and while there is a little in the background it harmonises perfectly with the wine, and the aroma is super fresh with notes of almond, sourdough, a faint salinity and a gentle bitterness from the flor. Ageing has been taken close to the limit of the flor giving superb depth of character.
Palate
On the full side, and the fairly intense flavour at the start develops great elegance and the complexity builds as that light oxidative note comes through combining perfectly with the nuts. It is good and dry and fresh with comparatively low acidity yet perfectly balanced and has a long clean finish with a hint of dry albariza texture. Delicious.
Comments
This is a textbook example of Fino from Jerez where the flor gets pretty thin or even disappears temporarily during summer and winter allowing a little more oxidation than in Sanlúcar where the flor is constant all year round. It is the third commercial saca of this very fine Fino and comes from butt no 16 of the solera. Only just over a third of the wine (or about 225 litres) is withdrawn at any one time however, so the rest of the wine in the butt can retain its individual character. Each saca is therefore the produce of a single butt and accordingly very small, but the exciting bit is that each butt is very slightly different.
Price
14 euros, Licores Corredera



Mahara Espumoso Espátula 2017 11.9%, Bodega Vinifícate

Appearance
Light amber with golden highlights and good mousse with occasional bead.
Nose
Quite full with pronounced aromas of apple and apple skin, even a hint of cider, traces of apricot and ripe grapes, and while it is quite zippy with a stoney minerality, there is also a faint creamy quince jelly note in the background. It is most unusual but very attractive and completely natural.
Palate
There is some real character here and a degree of intensity with almost crunchy apples, a refreshing tangy acidity and a touch of apple skin texture giving just a hint of tannin thanks to fermenting on the skins. It is very dry with a slightly saline mineral tang with a long, very clean finish.
Comments
Bodega Vinifícate, or Mahara Viticultores as they are also knowm, really seem to be taking off. The Gómez Lucas brothers based in San Fernando are producing all sorts of interesting wines using interesting methods and the new wines are labelled with illustrations of local birds and fish. This is one only 420 bottles of this lovely sparkling wine made by the ancestral method by which the fermentation is completed in bottle. The Palomino grapes, which were hand picked, came from 70 year old vines in a small vineyard in the pago Mahina near Sanlúcar, the Viña del Vicario. They were de-stemmed and macerated in a fibre-glass tank for a week (hence the deeper colour) before pressing in a vertical press and left to ferment. The progress of the fermentation needs to be carefully observed so as to be able to bottle at the right moment. No sulphites were added and no filtration was done. The wine was aged in bottle for 16 months before sale. Espátula is a bird called a spoonbill in English.
Price
17.15 euros, Licores Corredera




Saturday, 15 June 2019

Fino en rama 15%, Fernando de Castilla

Appearance
Brassy mid gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Forthcoming and quite full with plenty of slightly almondy and fairly bitter flor along with traces of straw and olive, sourdough bread crust and a certain minerality as well as a faint trace of oxidation; a very Jerez style of Fino.
Palate
This is quite a serious wine which has less of that "fluffy" yeastiness than some and has more depth and, despite its modest age, feels more mature. That faint trace of oxidation is very attractive and makes it more complex while is very dry with just a trace of salinity on a very clean finish.
Comments
This is the latest release, bottled in March 2019. They also bottle the en rama in autumn. After  fermentation in stainless steel tanks the wine is fortified to 15%, then a short period in sobretablas it goes to the solera. It is bottled with an average age of 4 - 4½ years by which time there is virtually no residual sugar and very low acidity allowing the flor flavours and texture to shine through.
Price
10.75 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera


Friday, 14 June 2019

Carvajal Wines SL


Jaime Carlos de Carvajal Castrillón spent 25 years working for González Byass, as export director and later as director of GB´s successful Tintilla de Rota Project at the Finca Moncloa near Arcos. With many years of experience in the wine trade under his belt, he decided to set up on his own to produce an excellent red wine from Cádiz and he arrived at a deal with Bodegas Barbadillo whereby he was allowed to select and purchase wine from their large stocks to make his own individual blend. The result was 7,000 bottles of the excellent Cobijado 2013, with production doubling in 2015. In 2014 he registered his company Carvajal Wines SL. and the initial 5 year contract with Barbadillo has been renewed.




Sherry is irresistible of course, and so he then signed a deal with Delgado Zuleta in Sanlúcar by which he selected wines from their soleras to sell under his own label and which they bottle for him en rama. He is currently offering Manzanilla, Oloroso and Amontillado, all of very high quality. Recently he has taken on the distribution of the wines of Cayetano del Pino in Jerez  which include a
30 year old Palo Cortado 1/10, a 20 year old Palo Cortado Solera and a 20 year old Amontillado. With the exception of these, which are already bottled for Del Pino by Romate, all the Carvajal Sherries have circus-related imagery on the labels such as a trapeze, a strongman etc., but this in no way implies that the wines are not of serious quality, which they are. He also offers a Rosado called Son de Rosa, produced in Somontano.


Thursday, 13 June 2019

Flor Was Once Regarded as a Defect


Yeast has been around for ever and the genus Saccharomyces Cerevisiae has always been responsible for the fermentation of grape juice into wine. It is also responsible for beer (hence "cerevisiae") and bread. Normally after fermentation the alcoholic strength of wine is too much for the yeast and it dies, falling to the bottom of the vessel forming the lees. In the Marco de Jerez however, certain strains of Cerevisiae have discovered the nutritional qualities of the fermented wine (ethyl alcohol, volatile acidity and glycerine, as opposed to sugar) and have evolved the capacity to make the most of it by developing a protective film which allows them to float to the surface forming the veil known as the "velo de flor" responsible for biological ageing.

Among the by-products of yeast metabolisation of components in the wine are those aromas and flavours caused by aldehydes and esters which are so prized today, but this was not the case until well into the XIX century. Until then winemaking was not very scientific and results were unpredictable so flor was seen as an undesirable scum, usually mistaken for Mycoderma Vini, an undesirable (non Cerevisiae) yeast which makes the wine turbid and smelly. If a butt of Fino with flor appeared in a parcel of wine at a bodega, it was duly sent back and the money refunded without question. In fact in ancient times dried flowers were added to the fermentation to improve the wine´s aroma.


Flor through the bunghole, not always pristine white

Gradually, experience showed winemakers that flor, which is not always the pristine white seen in photographs since its appearance varies according to the predominant yeast subspecies and the age of the wine, was not harmful and they came to recognise its beneficial effects on the wine, but it was kept as a trade secret as there was no scientific explanation for it and the scientific community of the day regarded it in a negative light. Undesired flor could of course be got rid of in a variety of ways: topping up the fill level of the butts to leave no headspace, turning the wine to vinegar, distilling, or fortifying it.

Both the solera system and the tradition of ageing under flor (biological ageing) originated in Sanlúcar in the XVIII century with the Vinos Blancos and Manzanillas, while the earliest records of Fino as we know it date back to the beginning of the 1820s. At about this time Sandeman, who at the time were UK agents for Pemartín, wrote to tell them that tastes were now for lighter, paler wines. It is worth noting however that not all such wines were actually Fino, and some were blends of mosto and Fino, with small additions of alcohol and sweet wine for the British taste.


The more public image of flor

But biologically aged wines had their proponents who saw them as a potentially profitable line, especially as the large British market was looking for a lighter style of wine. After all, if the wine tasted good there can´t have been much wrong with it and the flor protected it from oxidation, keeping it pale and fresh. William Garvey had faith in Fino but at first had to work with it at night for fear of being laughed at by other bodegueros. He began exporting it in a very small way in the 1820s and Fino San Patricio in a serious way from the 1850s, while González Dubosq (later González Byass) began exporting Tio Pepe in quantity in 1844 and Wisdom & Warter in the 1850s. Bodegas began to be constructed on a larger scale which would give flor the ideal environmental conditions and Fino was thus recognised as a style of Sherry in its own right, long before science had figured out what it actually was.

It was only in the 1930s that microbiological researchers managed to identify flor as consisting of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae as distinct from Mycoderma Vini, and from that point on it was seen in a much more positive light than the mere “organisms” of before. And it was as recently as the 1970s that the sub-species of Cerevisiae (S Beticus, S Cherensiensis, S Montuliensis and S Rouxii) and their effects on the veil of flor were identified. So biologically aged wine has gone from being “weak”, “sick” and “defective” to a unique oenological treasure in a fairly short period of time, with combined global sales now amounting to almost half of all Sherry sales.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Amontillado Solera 1891 18%, Bodegas Velez

Appearance
Medium depth mahogany fading to amber with copper highlights.
Nose
Forthcoming and attractive with lots of toasted almonds and hazelnuts along with hints of that wonderful smell that bodegas have and traces of pipe tobacco and autumn leaves. There is also that fleeting background note of sweetness which gives Amontillados their charm.
Palate
Nicely rounded with hints of garrapiñadas (almonds tossed in caramel), tobacco, toasted almond and hazelnut praline, all of which are on the sweet side, yet it is not sweet, though there is enough glycerine to make it very smooth which balances nicely with some volatile acidity and a faint salty tang. Tasty, long and characterful, and amazing value for money.
Comments
Established in 1857 in Chiclana, this bodega is little known outside its home turf which is a real shame as the wines are very good. Being in the Production Zone, they can´t sell the wine as Sherry, but they can to sell it bodegas in the "triangle" who can, and they are doing good business with cask seasoning, and of course local sales. Things could change for the better however if the Production and Ageing zones are merged, which is under consideration. This wine ages in the unusually low bodega Don Alfredo, named in honour of a long serving capataz, Alfredo Cieza Ruiz.
Price
6.30 euros, Licores Corredera


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

11.6.19 Sherry for the New Poet Laureate


Simon Armitage has been appointed the new English Poet Laureate and will visit Jerez soon to choose his Sherry and sign a butt which will be kept at the Consejo Regulador´s Bodega San Ginés. In a tradition dating back to 1668 the title of Poet Laureate was awarded by the monarch for poetic excellence and for life. The reward was a butt of Sack and occasionally a pension. Since 1999 it has been a 10 year appointment with a fixed payment of 5,750 and 600 bottles of Sherry of the poet´s choice.  Armitage, a 55 year old Yorkshireman who is professor of poetry at Leeds University, takes over the role from the first ever female Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. Once a label has been designed and the Sherry has been bottled, he plans to keep some and auction most of it to raise money for charity.