Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Agostado Cortado 2016 15%, Bodegas Cota 45

Appearance
Light amber brassy gold with old gold highlights.
Nose
Quite light and relaxed, and not totally unlike a slightly and gently oxidised Fino and with aromas of the asoleo: traces of riper fruit, rounder and less punzante.There are hints of straw, apple sauce and faint traces of flor, and it is at a crossroads between biological and oxidative ageing - the encrucijado of previous vintages. It is charming, complex and interesting.
Palate
Light to medium bodied with that faintly toffee apple flavour of early oxidation, that trace of overripeness and a faint bitter flor note and the dry chalky texture associated with albariza soil and it finishes dry though there is a very faint suggestion of residual sugar which is balanced by a judicious level of acidity making it very elegant, long and delicious.
Comments
This lovely wine is the new vintage of the much admired Encrucijado from Ramiro Ibáñez, but he has had to change the name for some sort of rights reasons. It is effectively the same outstanding wine however; a young vintage Palo Cortado made from grapes from the pago Miraflores. The grapes were hand picked and selected from the inner bunches for more malic acid then trodden before fermentation and ageing in butt. It was bottled without filtration. In the old days, when the fermentation was over the wines were left as añadas in sobretablas and their development was carefully monitored before later being classified as Palmas, Cortados and Rayas. The Cortados would lose the flor and begin oxidative ageing and that is what has happened here. It has spent about half its life under flor and the rest ageing oxidatively. It has not been fortified, the grapes having been briefly sunned to give higher sugar levels and thus more alcohol. Then the wine is sold at not much more than two years old which distinguishes it from what one is accustomed to with standard Palos Cortados, and makes it all the more interesting being an old fashioned style. Agostado is a vineyard job involving the preparation of the soil for the planting of vines and takes place in August.
Price
37.95, De Albariza



Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Pandorga PX 2017, 8%, Bodegas Cota 45

Appearance
Mahogany tinged amber fading to amber with copper/old gold highlights, viscous.
Nose
Delightful! Intensely aromatic, rich, super complex and charming with totally natural aromas of overripe grapes and the texture of their pulp with notes of raisin, quince jelly, tarte tatin, dried apricots, orange blossom honey, esparto and lots more, it really gives so much.
Palate
Despite the sweetness it is very fresh and clean, helped by the perfect level of acidity, in fact it is mouthwatering! The texture is such that you can almost chew those raisins and apricots and as you let it lie on the palate loads of subtle flavours keep pouring out and it just goes on and on.
Comments
This exquisite PX is made by Ramiro Ibáñez from grapes grown in the Viña La Panesa in the pago Carrascal which, with its barajuela and tosca cerrada forms of albariza, allows perfect sugar concentration in the grapes. Picking was later than for the normal harvest giving a degree of overripeness and the hand picked bunches were laid out to dry in the sun for 10 days, less than for normal PX, and reducing their weight to a half. Again unlike normal PX, the must was fermented in butt rather than being fortified, reaching a natural strength of 8%. It then aged for about a year in the same American oak butt before bottling. So this is a 100% naturally sweet wine which reflects the characteristics of the vineyard, grape variety and vintage. The word Pandorga is sanluqueño for kite.
Price
31.15 per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera



Monday, 18 February 2019

The Classic Pagos of the Marco de Jerez: Balbaina


Sometimes spelled “Barbaina” this important pago is situated between Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María. The origin of the name is not known for sure, but some believe it has something to do with its ownership by the Balbo family in Roman times. The family of the important 1st century Roman writer on agriculture Columela had an estate here and his works “De Re Rústica” and “De Arboribus”, which include tracts on viticulture, survive.


This large pago, which lies southwest of Jerez bordering those of Añina, Marihernández and San Julián to the north, can be seen shortly after leaving Jerez on the road to Sanlúcar. It divides into two parts: Balbaina Alta, the larger area closer to and in the municipality of Jerez and Balbaina Baja, closer to and in the municipality of El Puerto. Despite its great size of 1,825 hectares, not even half the total area is planted with vines, in fact many have been replaced by unsightly wind turbines and solar panels since some of the vineyards were grubbed up to equalise supply and demand.


This 1907 map shows only the Jerez part of Balbaina, the El Puerto part extends from bottom left

Lying some 6km from the coast, towards which it is oriented, the pago – especially the Baja area benefits greatly from the Poniente wind. Soils in Balbaina are generally quite heterogeneous with plenty of albariza with lustrillos and bujeos while elevation is moderate between some 50-60 metres in the Baja and reaching a maximum of 92 metres in the Alta. These conditions are very suitable for the production of Fino or indeed Manzanilla – Hidalgo La Gitana own vineyard here – and by extension, Amontillado, and many fine examples have their origin here such as Fino Pando, Amontillado Jalifa and Fino M Ant. De la Riva.


During the XVII century many cargadores a Indias owned vineyard here but as trade grew with Britain in the following century many vineyards were bought by bodegueros in El Puerto from where huge quantities of wine were exported. Famous bodegas which owned vineyard here include: Cuvillo, Matthiesen Furlong (now Forlong), Hijos de Jiménez Varela, Osborne, Campbell & Co and the Jerezanos José de Soto (Viña La Esperanza) and Agustín Blázquez.

Entrance to Viña Santa Cruz belonging to Huerta de Albala (foto:entornoajerez)
Famous plots include Viña Cuco, Viña del Calderín (Alta), Viña La Tula (Baja), Viña La Esperanza (Alta), Viña La Guita (Alta), Forlong (Baja), Viña Campbell (or María Luisa, Baja), Las Cañas (Alta - belongs to Sánchez Ayala), La Blanquita (50 ha, Barba family supplies mosto for Tio Pepe) and La Rabia. Huerta de Albalá owns 160 hectares in Balbaina Baja at Viña Laffitte and Viña Pineda and Santa Cruz (ex Osborne). Peter Sisseck (Pingus) owns 8 hectares and Bodegas Alonso own a few as well.

Wonderful tile at Viña Santa Cruz (foto:entornoajerez)
The city council of El Puerto de Santa María offers a walking route round some of the historic casas de viña of the Balbaina which can be found at: www.turismoelpuerto.com

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Brut de Mar NV 13%, Cala y Arrobas España SL

Appearance
Pale strawy gold with bright golden glints. Lively mousse, at least at first.
Nose
The light elegant fruity aroma of the Zalema is apparent with faintly floral notes and traces of apricot, mango and papaya along with very slight hints of apple. The nose is gentle, very slightly exotic and most attractive yet it still has something which takes you to the Marco de Jerez.
Palate
Quite fruity up front, mostly from the Zalema one would imagine, with a trace of fruity sweetness (brut can contain up to 12 g/l sugar) but that soon fades away leaving a lovely chalky texture and a clean dry slightly saline finish which is quite long and which gives away its origins. Good.
Comments
Cala y Arrobas España SL is a joint project formed by the fusion of Artesanos Jerezanos SL, run by Genaro Cala and Arrobas y Cia., run by Luis Benjumeda Arrobas in El Puerto de Santa Maria. They have already had some success with Francisco de Cala Sparkling Vermouth and this is the latest project. Sparkling wine is not totally new to El Puerto; Ramón Jiménez Varela made "Champagne Continental" in the late XIX century. Luis has been working on this since 2006 and it was finally launched, though only 540 bottles, after consumer testing in August 2014. He uses Palomino harvested a little earlier than usual to preserve good acidity along with Viura and Zalema. The latter is a grape native to and nearly only produced in nearby Huelva. The wine is made by the Traditional method of bottle fermentation as used in Cava and Champagne. Like the latter he uses more than one vintage of Palomino and the proportions of the blend vary slightly from year to year depending on what works best, but they are roughly equal. They are trying to increase production while still retaining the artisan and local character of the wine. The bottle is in blue glass to emphasise the maritime roots of the wine.
Price
10.50 Licores Corredera


Friday, 15 February 2019

Brandy Fundador Triple Madera Solera Gran Reserva 38%, Fundador

Appearance
Antique chestnut fading to amber with coppery gold reflections.
Nose
Crisp light Oloroso and very slightly spirity with notable oak aromas like hints of a carpenter´s workshop, vanilla and hints of dried fruits and caramel and it all comes together nicely with the notes of Sherry, wood and spirit predominating, particularly the latter.
Palate
Fairly tangy and crisp with a slight fruity note with only a gentle caramel and dried fruit sweetness and the spirit seems a little on the young side. Solera Gran Reserva must have a minimum of 3 years average age and this probably doesn´t have a great deal more, but it is certainly quite a pleasant brandy.
Comments
Since Andrew Tan´s firm Emperador bought the old Domecq business  it has been busy launching new brands. The Triple Madera has already won an IWSC Silver medal (80-85.9 points) and a double gold at the CWSA 2018 having only been launched in 2018 alongside Fundador Doble Madera (Solera Reserva).The brandy is "cask finished" in butts which have been seasoned in three selected types of Sherry to give more complexity of flavour.
Price
19.15 Licores Corredera

Thursday, 14 February 2019

PX Carrascal 2014 14.5%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Appearance
Bright almost pure amber with old gold highlights and a little viscosity.
Nose
Most attractive and super fresh with lots of gently dried fruit but less of the overripe intensity of raisins and dates of standard PX. There are aromas of well integrated super ripe apple, quince jelly, traces of honey, sugar syrup, a very faint hint of oxidation and apricot along with a gentle strawy asoleo note and a smooth tangy creaminess.
Palate
A perfect level of acidity gives the wine just the right tanginess and liveliness to balance the sweetness and carry through the intensity of the flavours. Lots of super ripe apple and apricot harmonise with just a hint of oxidation  The alcohol level is low enough that you barely notice it and all that lusciousness comes through along with a trace of dry chalky albariza texture. Very long.
Comments
This beautiful naturally sweet wine is made from super ripe PX grapes grown in Luis Pérez´own vineyard the Finca Panesa on barajuela and tosca cerrada types of albariza in the pago Carrascal. Harvesting was done at night and by hand to keep the grapes in the best possible condition. They were then selected according to ripeness and laid out on the soil for 12 days to concentrate in the sun and the bunches were turned every three days. The must was expressed in a vertical press giving a very low yield of just 25% which was transferred to a butt without racking and allowed to ferment for three months with no temperature control. The following spring it refermented a little bringing the alcohol content to 14.5% and then it was allowed to age for nearly 4 years, so while it has a delightful residual sweetness it is not nearly as sweet as the standard PX, and of course is not fortified. Only 1,000 bottles produced.
Price
42 euros per 50cl, De Albariza


Wednesday, 13 February 2019

13.2.19 Manzanilla Promotion Centre for Sanlúcar


A meeting has taken place in Sanlúcar between the mayor, Víctor Mora, provincial member of parliament Jaime Armario and members of the Mesa de la Manzanilla, which represents the town´s bodegas, to discuss the progress of work to convert the town´s XV century Las Covachas vaults into an information and promotion centre for Manzanilla. The plan, the agreement for which was signed last June, and which has funding to the tune of 250,000 euros, is to make this space behind the old gothic arches into a central base for the Manzanilla Foundation where tastings and exhibitions can take place and which can be used by the various bodegas to promote this outstanding wine as well as highlight its intimate relationship with the town and become an essential visit for locals and visitors alike. The Covachas are located centrally adjacent to the newly refurbished market in the Barrio Bajo beneath the palace of Medina Sidonia which is on the edge of the Barrio Alto and constitute a listed monument. The mayor feels it is important to carry out the works in consultation with the bodegas as it is they who know about the wine and how to protect and promote it. 


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Fino El Aljibe Saca 1/18 15%, Bodegas Poniente

Appearance
Slightly brass tinged gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Very Jerez, fairly full, ripe and round, and complex with nicely homogenised mature yet fresh and relaxed notes of almond, straw or perhaps esparto, traces of dry herbs, and sour bread dough while the flor is fairly muted and there is the very faintest note of oxidation. Very attractive.
Palate
Fresh, clean and quite serious with some almondy acetaldehyde and a hint of flor bitterness up front and full bodied then it opens and rounds out. It has a classic chalky albariza texture making it feel good and dry while the flavour lingers on and on. Beautiful balance and very sophisticated.
Comments
This lovely Fino comes from the first release (also Amontillado VORS and Oloroso VORS), bottled in May, from a new bodega: Bodegas Poniente. It is the brainchild of oenologist Alberto Orte who is a partner in Compañia de Vinos del Atlantico which makes wine all over Spain, including Cádiz, and the US importer Olé Imports. He began by buying carefully selected old wines to establish small soleras and feeds the Fino solera with mosto from his three small parcels of vines in the pago Añina: El Aljibe, San Cristobal and San José. The wine has an average age of eight years and comes in a heavy Jerezana bottle embossed with the bodega name. In case you are wondering, an aljibe is a form of well.
Price
37.15, Licores Corredera

Monday, 11 February 2019

Palomino Añina 2016 15%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Appearance
Bright, slightly brass tinged gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Full, with slight oxidative and ripe apple notes up front and the faintest trace of a sort of strawy sweetness from the asoleo and the heat of the vintage. It is rounder, richer, riper and less crisp than standard Fino, but it could be defined as a Fino nevertheless. The oxidative character seems to slowly disappear replaced by notes of dried apricot and wax though and there is little or no flor.
Palate
Again full, like a slightly oxidised Fino only rounder and fruitier with pronounced apple/quince notes and with the slightest trace of sweetness. That is balanced by a refreshing and nicely balanced acidity and the drying effect of the chalky minerally character from the albariza. It certainly has body and is quite imposing but irresistably interesting as you can taste every facet of its production.
Comments
Yet another super interesting and top quality wine from Luis Pérez.The grapes came from the famous Viña El Caribe in the Pago Añina which once belonged to the lost firm of Sancho Hermanos in El Puerto. The albariza soil here is tosca cerrada and very pure. The vines are old and trained in the classic vara y pulgar system giving low yields and more flavour. Harvesting began in mid August and the bunches were picked by hand. After careful selection they were then laid out on the ground for sunning which lasted two days. They were then pressed in a small vertical press giving a yield of only 40% (70% is max permitted) and the must was filled into a couple of butts without racking and allowed to ferment without temperature control for two and a half months. No fortification was carried out. 2016 was  a rather hot year with plenty of Levante wind during summer giving the wine a more oxidative character. 2,000 bottles produced.
Price
42 euros per 50cl, De Albariza

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Oloroso Encontrado 1/5 20%, Sanchez Romate

Appearance
Bright, clean, open, chestnut to pale patinated mahogany fading to amber with copper/amber highlights and a trace of green at the rim.
Nose
Super fragrant with the elegance and finesse only age can bring. It is very complex and homogenised but there are all sorts of nuances like dried fruit, cinnamon, old oak, polished antique furniture, dried orange peel, walnut and toasted nuts. There is also a slight impression of sweetness, as if the wine were not quite bone dry, while the alcohol level is unaggressive.
Palate
Intensely flavoured with all the nuances mentioned above and a delightful open texture with a certain crispness and more than a hint of salinity which remove any impression of sweetness. After the initial intensity it opens out forming a delicious mellowness with very little of the tannin one might expect in such an old wine but all of the flavour, which lingers seemingly forever.
Comments
The story of this superb wine is that five butts of old Oloroso were recently discovered (encontrado) hidden away in the bodega and they were too good not to be released for connoisseurs. A very small quantity was therefore bottled with the absolute minimum of filtration. As the wine had been forgotten it is not known how old it is exactly, but it is certainly old and well over 30 years old what with its intensity and high glycerine content. It is not labelled VORS as Romate don´t believe in that system, there is so little of it and the age is not known, however it is certainly up there with the best old wines. The Wine Society in the UK among many others are raving about it.
Price
23 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera