Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Vino Blanco La Gitana 2017 12.5%, Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana

Pale bright gold with brassy golden highlights.
Attractive and interesting, very fresh and bright with lots of tangy fruit. There are some hints of very slightly grassy greenness with notes of crisp green apple and a trace of kiwi from the Sauvignon Blanc along with the more familiar appley style of Palomino and the blend works very well.
Fresh and fairly crisp with a slightly livelier acidity than Palomino on its own yet balance is good.  All that is enhanced by a gentle salinity in the background and the hallmark dry chalky texture of albariza. The Sauvignon is a little less lean and green when grown so far south but still makes its presence felt while the Palomino is by no means lost in the blend.
While the back label says that this is a new wine, it has in fact been available for some time. Nonetheless, it is very good and has a fairly unique character as it contains a proportion of Sauvignon Blanc grapes blended into the Palomino and they are harvested a little later than the Manzanilla grapes giving a little more body and roundness. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged on lees for about 6 months in ex Manzanilla butts before bottling. Great value.
3.90 ex bodega

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Brandy Solera Gran Reserva 38%, Coleccion Roberto Amillo

Old polished chestnut with a hint of mahogany, fading to amber with copper glints and a trace of green at the rim.
Very aromatic, sophisticated, balanced and beautifully rounded, it has super subtle aromas of exotic woods with hints of spice, polished antique furniture, toasted nuts and dried fruits which are all beautifully integrated. You can just tell this is a proper old brandy with no need for the added sweetening which younger ones are subject to; it is open, clean and totally natural.
Intensely flavoured and complex with only faint notes of tannin which are nicely balanced out by the sweetness of maturity. It is very subtle and elegant with traces of nuts, woods and fine Sherry which merge together to form a delicious whole which lingers for ages on the palate.
Despite coming from the Rioja, the famous collector of wine and wine related objects (over 17,000 of them!), Roberto Amillo, has a notable penchant for the products of Jerez and offers a range of top quality Sherries, vermouth and brandy through his Jerez project Espiritus de Jerez and Bodegas Altanza in Rioja. He selects one butt at a time of something rare and special from the best bodegas which he sells in his beautiful bottles, and has achieved very high scores from the Guia Peñín and Robert Parker. This superb brandy was sourced from Bodegas Fernando de Castilla which were originally established to make the finest possible brandy and which only use 100% holandas or pot still spirit. They bought up brandy soleras including the old Palomino & Vergara solera from which this brandy comes, at an average age of well over 30 years.
41 euros per 50cl, Licores Corredera

Monday, 14 January 2019

14.1.19 Guia Peñín Rates Sherry Best Wine in Spain

For the 2019 edition of Spain´s leading wine guide, 250 Sherries were tasted and 200 - or 80% of them - scored 90 points or more putting Sherry ahead of all other DOs in Spain - again. In fact the average score was an impressive 92.08 points. Carlos González, director of the guide, said that it is not only the oldest DO in the country but it is also considered the most complete since it involves wines of greater diversity, greater uniqueness and better quality. And it is not just its complexity with so many types of wine but that they are unique in the world and all are of extremely high quality. No other region in the world has these three variables.

It is maintaining its international recognition over the years thanks to a continuing and carefully crafted evolution allowing it to offer innovative styles as well as the classic ones creating a Sherry revival. Sommeliers are matching Sherry with Spanish gastronomy and achieving authentic and award winning flavours. This week the team from Guia Peñín will visit the Consejo Regulador to taste the next round of Sherries for the 2020 guide. Jerez is always the first stop on their journey round the country´s wines and, apparently, one of their favourites.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Manzanilla La Cigarrera 15%, Bodegas La Cigarrera

Bright, pale gold with golden highlights.
Super fresh and light with traces of fresh herbs and camomile flower in a wild meadow with a trace of esparto. There is a notable saline brininess along with a lovely bready yeastiness which is not overly bitter giving it an overall charm and subtle complexity, most attractive and opens out for ages.
Very dry and fresh, and quite light, it is a comparatively young wine and thus has few if any cabezuela notes, but what it does have is  that fresh tangy grip which makes it perfect for the classic food of Sanlúcar, indeed it makes one salivate. Delicious and dangerously drinkable.
Founded in 1758 in buildings formerly belonging to the Mercedarian monks and still in family hands this charming, slightly hidden bodega, formerly almacenistas, produces classic Manzanilla which represents 90% of its production. It also has a very good restaurant in the patio. A cigarrera is a woman who works in a tobacco factory like Bizet´s Carmen or sells cigarettes and cigars. The firm has no vineyard of its own and buys in local mosto which runs through 7 criaderas and a solera before emerging at somewhere over 4 years old. It was once sold as a Manzanilla Pasada, as were many, and occasionally one can obtain some, but rarely. This wine was bottled in Autumn 2018.
6.75 De Albariza

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Amontillado Botaina en rama 19%, Lustau

Old mahogany to chestnut fading through amber to a faint trace of green at the rim, coppery glints.
Elegant and fairly intense and crisp with toasted almond and hazelnut, traces of oak and very faint but attractive notes of slightly overdone toast and salty, nutty bitterness. There is a slight glyceric hint as well with traces of dried fruits which rounds it off but doesn´t completely diguise a certain leanness showing the bare bones of the wine, which is no bad thing.
It starts off quite full then goes through a hint of sweetness before drying out and getting a little lighter as it opens out showing notes of oak and traces of tannin and that salty bitter nuttiness and less dried fruit than on the nose. It is still nutty though and lean and elegant with a long dry finish.
This is one of the Domecq brands bought by Lustau in 2008 along with their soleras, some 4,000 butts in total. Botaina was always a highly regarded Amontillado in Jerez and had an approximate average age of over 12 years. Now it is perhaps closer to 15, but Lustau do not want to change the style of this iconic wine which is arguably better than Los Arcos and Escuadrilla. While most oxidatively aged wines are bottled in the autumn and traditionally - and even now - more or less en rama, Lustau have begun to make a feature of this and apply slip labels to draw attention to the different sacas, not that they really vary that much. Anyway this is the autumn edition 2018 and 4,272 bottles were drawn from the 54 butt solera.
31.90 De Albariza

Friday, 11 January 2019

11.1.19 Consejo Best Mostos Competition; New Distillery in Sanlúcar

For the fifth year running the Consejo Regulador has held the competition for the best mosto. Since nearly all of this will go on to become Sherry, its quality is extremely important and the Consejo is incentivising producers by giving awards to the best. This year 40 different mostos were entered for the two categories: mosto produced by growers and that produced by bodegas and they were judged in a blind tasting by the Consejos´tasting panel. There are three trophies and corresponding diplomas in each category and they were awarded yesterday with the winner being Viña La Zorrilla from José Manuel Hernández Ávila in the grower category and Gonzalez Byass in that of the bodegas. A public tasting took place afterwards at the Consejo´s bodega San Ginés.

The winners´cups at the Consejo. Note Poets Laureate butts on the left.

40 years ago most bodegas in Sanlúcar had a distillery but they gradually disappeared. Now the town has a new distillery. The Destilería Weisshorn is located in the Barrio Alto and was set up by Roberto Payá and his wife María Eugenia Rodríguez who own the well known Weisshorn restaurant. The name refers to a ship carring a cargo of rice which ran aground at Sanlúcar in 1994 and the remains of it can still be seen on the horizon. The distillery´s first product was Luciferi Doñana Gin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Coto Doñana being declared a National Park. It contains botanicals foraged in the Coto Doñana like rosemary, myrtle and mastic along with juniper and citrus and is based on spirit distilled from rice.

They have also produced a special version, 1522 Spanish Gin, aged in old Manzanilla butts, this time in celebration of Magellan´s voyage. This week they launched Sandblast Ocean Vodka, named after the US navy´s Operation Sandblast, the first circumnavigation of the globe by submarine in 1960 using the same route as Magellan. The vodka is distilled from organic grapes and contains just a little sea water. They used to have the spirit distilled for them to their specifications but now have their own distillery and are already planning the production of other artisan spirits like rum, brandy and whisky.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

PX Cosecha 2017 13%, Bodegas Ximénez Spínola

Clean bright almost pure amber with brassy golden highlights and some visible viscosity.
Bursting with aromas of sun dried PX though lighter than the normal version as the grapes, while very ripe, are not so intensely sun dried and there are few if any fig and date aromas making it very grapey with hints of overripe apple, peach and apricot and gently tangy with traces of esparto and some grapeskin texture. It smells fantastic and is virtually unique.
Sweet, yes, but nowhere near as sweet as normal PX and much lighter too, both in wight and alcohol. The acidity level is perfect to carry through the flavour, mitigate the sweetness and give a real freshness to the wine. The aforementioned dried fruit flavours give off some of their texture creating a gentle chewiness and there is the faintest honeyed note yet the wine is clean, fresh complex and uncloying with great length, and quite possibly a long life ahead in bottle. Delicious.
So devoted to the Pedro Ximénez grape is this bodega that it is the only grape they grow. Founded in 1729 and still in family hands - the ninth generation -  they produce a totally unique  range of naturally sweet wines of supreme quality. The idea with this wine was to conserve the freshness and fruitiness by avoiding oxidation. The grapes are hand picked but at normal harvest time and laid out on esparto mats between the vine rows. This provides some shade so the sun dehydrates them very gently, concentrating their fructose. In the shade or during the night they gain a little in tartaric acid providing freshness. Sun drying reduces the yield from 1 tonne of fresh grapes to 300 kg of pasas and from that, only 200 litres of wine. The must is fermented to 13% in French oak toneles and after fermentation they are filled to the brim and tightly sealed to prevent any oxidation and conserve freshness and fruit. They remain there until bottling. 2017 yielded 8993 x 50cl bottles sealed with a Diam cork.
22.95 per 50cl, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

An Interview with José Manuel Aladro on the Bodega Heritage of Jerez

For architect and researcher Dr José Manuel Aladro Prieto the urban transformation Jerez experienced in the XIX century was so great and so intense as to be unprecedented. To study this phenomenon, which he researched in his doctoral thesis “the Construction of the Bodega City: the Architecture of Wine and Urban Transformation of Jerez de la Frontera in the XIX Century”, it is necessary to understand the complex process which took place in the city which encompassed all sorts of factors. José Manuel, who is a professor at the University of Sevilla, defines Jerez as a “bodega city”: an urban, economic and social entity where there took place “an extraordinary process of in the context of Spain itself”. Extraordinary for being atypical and unique. 

A series of transformations brought about by the wine industry radically changed traditional urban models obscuring or even substituting them.Two centuries after this urban transformation the city finds itself wondering what to do with these old buildings, many with big structural problems. With pressure from tourism and so much abandonment and neglect of the patrimony in the city centre, Jerez is at a key moment in deciding its future. A future which like the past and the present is directly related to urban planning and its bodega heritage.

Jose Manuel at a huge old Garvey bodega now a Mercadona supermarket in Jerez (foto:manugarcia)

 According to Manuel Romero Bejarano, who has made a detailed study of the city´s religious patrimony, Jerez used to be called the “convent city”. In your thesis and research you refer to it as a “bodega city”. What should Jerez be in the XXI century?
Fundamentallywhat Jerez needs to do is define precisely what it wants to be. It is still in the process of dismantling the bodega city so there are still parts of it where it is not known what to do but like other historic cities it will probably end up focused on tourism and leisure. 

In Jerez there are bodegas dating back to Moorish times…
One thing which has become clear in recent times is that there still exist bodegas dating practically from the foundation of Jerez. There are bodegas from Moorish times, from the middle ages and from modern times since the XVI century, and some are big. In the XVIII century what had hitherto been an artisan trade became an industry and artisan models were transformed into industrial ones as happened in other sectors in other places at that time but architecturally they are fundamentally similar.

As you mention in one of your works the hispanist Richard Ford compared them to the huge sheds in the English naval shipyards while others compared them to cathedrals…
On one occasion Ford said that they resemble the huge shipbuilding sheds and at another that they resemble great temples so it is possible that this is the origin of their comparison to cathedrals. You understand this perfectly when you are in a bodega and contemplate the height, the light, the solidity, the silence… all reminding you of a religious space.

Is this type of bodega construction unique to the Marco de Jerez?
It is unique to the Marco but at the same time it forms a part of the tradition of rural architecture in Andalucía. In the Andalusian countryside you can see many granaries or cowsheds which resemble bodegas and thus form a part of this great architectural family of Andalucía. As a bodega this design is virtually exclusive to us but has spread elsewhere.

There are numerous cases in the city where bodegas have been conserved, but for other uses. Neverthess, recently an annexe to the Consejo Regulador was demolished despite the opposition of various conservation organisations with the Junta saying it was powerless to intervene and a block of flats was built in Calle Paul.
Yes. In that case the bodega was not protected under the PGOU (General Urban Plan). The owner had the right to do as he pleased whether we liked it or not, that is how the plan was drawn up and approved. Why was this bodega demolished and others not? Because it was located outwith the historic city centre so it could be demolished and I think it was a terrible shame.

Not all the bodegas have been able to be protected…
One has to be aware that Jerez had a real problem squaring bodegas with urban development. From the industrial point of view many were obsolete and abandoned. They couldn´t be maintained and there had to be a process of selection and we may or may not agree on how this was done. Could they all have been protected? I don´t know. The city had to do something about an unsustainable situation, though personally I wouldn´t have demolished any.

The ruinous state of some old bodegas worries neighbours (foto:pascual,diariojerez)

It is always posible to convert them to other uses…
Transforming the bodega heritage is a great opportunity not only for the regeneration of the historic centre but also for the regeneration of the city´s identity. Jerez should be backing the bodega heritage as an element of its singularity. We have destroyed a great deal, above all some unique things, but that time has gone now and we should be able to exploit it - in the best sense of the word. All cities have churches, palaces and squares, and while Jerez too has these features, it also has bodegas. We need to take on this potential and use it without fear of using them for other purposes. After all if the convents hadn´t been re-used we wouldn´t have them now.

An example of conversion into a home (foto:pxqarquitectos)

In the 1960s during the administration of the mayor Miguel Primo de Rivera, who died recently, a series of very relevant urban transformations was undertaken in the city. At a conference he outlined the creation of a space for a concentration of all the bodegas in a zone to the west of Jerez.
The General Plan which was approved at the end of the 1960s was drawn up at a time of tremendous growth in the bodegas, both with Sherry and with Brandy, which we sometimes forget. It was a time when firms were undergoing profound transformations in both technology and scale and changing from small family bodegas to big businesses. The general Plan took into account the spectacular growth of the bodegas and that as a result there would be a serious lack of space for them.

Things were very different in those days…
That was when it was decided that the entire western side of the old ring road (N-IV) from Hipercor down to the road to El Puerto de Santa María would be reserved as an industrial park for bodegas. Interestingly the plan contemplated that the area should have sufficient aesthetic appeal to become a tourist attraction. This General Plan of 1969 was already talking about wine tourism which is so fashionable today.

Yet they still talk about promoting it half a century later…
That Plan even mentions horsedrawn coaches and things like that. It is very interesting.

But what they didn´t consider then was that the bodegas in the city centre would be abandoned just a few years later.
That was certainly one of the consequences. If the business were to collapse there would be too much space as companies closed down. So they had to choose. Some bodegas were very big and more effective but driving lorries in the city centre was not easy.

The city has suffered terrible consequences since the wine crisis and the reconversion of vineyards in the 1980s, and tourism is seen as the only salvation. Is Jerez reinventing itself? Does the bodega heritage add extra value?
I believe it is. It needs to stop being a problem so we can use it as an opportunity. We have bodega architecture all over the city which is useful for all sorts of things; it has sufficient flexibility for use as museums, car parks like in the Plaza San Andrés, nurseries and homes. Isn´t it much more interesting to have a supermarket in an old bodega? It is much nicer. We are even talking about converting them into tourist apartments with the appeal of staying in a bodega. New York style loft apartments are very trendy.

There are already some in the city.
Yes, Air B´n´B is offering lofts in bodegas and there are homes in bodegas for sale and some are surprisingly cool. We should consider this as an opportunity for the city, not as a problem. Can you imagine a flamenco club not being in a bodega? They are concepts and images which are closely associated. And a zambomba in a bodega is more of a zambomba.

Not even 5,000 people live within the walled precinct of the city. The Residents Association of the Historic City Centre has organised demonstrations to Save the Historic Centre and other initiatives because they believe the only way to revitalise the area is by repopulation. However it is tourist apartments which are gaining importance. How do you see the situation?
I live in the centre and the walled precinct is in a worrying situation, however in recent years there have been signs of hope. The decision to put part of the Christmas festivities in the Plaza Belén was a success, but it was amusing to see Jerezanos using Google Maps to find it!

Or the Plaza de la Bola…
But that was a success too. That the Jerezanos are coming back to the centre and getting to know it again is linked to incentivising in some way the public and private promotion of homes within the city, and in this the tourist apartments, demonised in other areas, are actually helping. Jerez is at the point of seeing how to ensure that tourist apartments remain an asset and don´t become a problem. My street already has three and if they weren´t used by tourists they would be empty.

This interview was conducted by Sebastián Chilla and published in