Sunday 29 April 2012

News from Gonzalez Byass!

First released in 2010 to great acclaim, the 2012  Tio Pepe En Rama release is now on the market. It is limited to (I think) 300 cases, so get your skates on. It will set you back a bit under £20, but it's well worth it!
En Rama wines are those that are bottled straight from the solera with no filtration or clarification of any kind, and so you might find some wisps of flor in your bottle. (It's completely harmless) The increase in flavour over the normal Tio Pepe is amazing, and it is a lovely wine! (The classic old label is lovely too).

Another interesting item from GB is the release of another ultra hard-to-get wine, a 1978 Palo Cortado bottled (only 200 bottles!) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the 1812 liberal Spanish Constitution of Cadiz (known affectionately in Spain as La Pepa). 1978 is, of course, the year the current democratic constitution was promulgated. Another connection is that the founder of GB, Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel, was born in 1812.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana

This famous old bodega, named after its famous Manzanilla La Gitana (The Gypsy) and formerly known as Vinicola Hidalgo (to avoid confusion with Emilio Hidalgo in Jerez), was established in 1792 at Sanlucar de la Barrameda. Land was bought where the bodega now stands, and in 1808 a small bodega was bought. Throughout the XIX C the company grew into one of the most important in the area, winning awards for its exports.

Javier Hidalgo with a venencia
The firm is still family owned, and currently run by Javier Hidalgo of the 6th generation, which makes it one of very few remaining independents. The wines are made in the old fashioned way from grapes supplied by the firm's own 200 hectares of vineyards in the prestigious areas of Miraflores and Balbaina including the charming Vina El Cuadrado with its Caserio (vineyard house/bodega). The family has always been exceptionally concerned with the environment and wildlife - Sanlucar is right beside the Coto Donana, a wonderful wildlife reserve.

Caserio el Cuadrado (foto:juntadeandalucia)
In recent years they have diversified into La Gitana Restaurants and bars, as well as purchasing a bodega in the Rioja (formerly Montecillo - The wine is now called Marques de Arviza).A wide range of products is available from Hidalgo. Apart from Sherry, they make Brandy, Vinegar, Ponche and table wine. Their most important Sherries are:

La Gitana and the new but very hard to obtain (only 300 cases made) Manzanilla En Rama (more about En Rama anon); there is also a fabulous Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana.
The Premium Range:
Oloroso Faraon; Amontillado Napoleon; Cream Alameda; PX Triana.
The Vinos Viejos:
Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso Viejo; Palo Cortado Wellington (a donation is made to the Spanish Ornithological Society for the protection of the Iberian Imperial Eagle with the sale of every bottle).

Visitors welcome, just phone the bodega to arrange.
Banda de Playa, 42
11540 Sanlucar de la Barrameda, Cadiz, Spain
Tel: (0034) 956 385 304

Oloroso Abocado Alameda, Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana

Deepish amber fading to yellow at the rim, coppery tints.
Old Oloroso predominantly, with touches of "bodega", oxidation, walnut, wood and a trace of pasas (raisins) from the PX used to sweeten the wine. Well balanced between dry Oloroso and sweet PX.
Mellow with gentle texture, not over sweetened, medium bodied, the Oloroso provides most of the flavour, the good length and quality of the wine, while the PX softens it.
An attractive after dinner wine, ideal with nuts, softer cheeses or caramelly desserts. Also sold as "Alameda Cream", which is what it is, but a good one.

Fino Especial La Panesa, Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo

Deep strawy gold, quite deeply coloured for a Fino (It is an amazing 15 years old)
Quite intense and seriously complex, autolysed yeast undertones, saline hints and a fullness which only age can confer. It really shows how yeast and time affect the Finos. Beautiful.
Full with attractive hint of bitterness from the Flor, almost powerful, concentrated Fino towards Amontillado - but not quite, traces of toast, quince jelly (crema de membrillo), low acidity yet tangy and with great length.
Quite simply a wonderful wine. It is named after a vineyard they once owned and comes from a solera laid down in 1961 to celebrate the birth of Alfonso Rodriguez Hidalgo. 15 years would have turned most wines to Amontillado, but this still has just a little flor left, and is definitely still more Fino than Amontillado. The wine is made from a selection of the best wines in the fino solera and is then fed through 7 criaderas using very small sacas and rocios. The solera itself is in the most humid part of the bodega to preserve the flor. Only about 8,000 bottles are available annually. An absolute masterpiece.
Around £35 but worth it!

Sunday 15 April 2012

Bodegas: Delgado Zuleta

One of the oldest Sherry firms, Delgado Zuleta was officially established in 1744 - though there is evidence of trading going back to 1719 -  by Don Francisco Gil Ledesma y Sotomayor to supply wines to the American colonies. In 1870 his descendant Don Jose Delgado y Zuleta, once a marine arrived at Sanlucar de la Barrameda, married Dolores Nudi y Diaz de la Concha and took over the reins of the firm. In 1876 the company was appointed as a supplier to the royal household.

In 1918 their famous Manzanilla La Goya became the house's first and principal brand. It was named after the stage name of a well known singer and dancer of the era, Aurora Jauffre "La Goya".

In 1978 they merged with the firm of Benito Rodriguez La-Cave SA, retaining the title Delgado Zuleta. Manzanilla La Goya was served at the wedding of the Principes de Asturias - Don Felipe and Dona Letizia in May 2004. They are now King and Queen after the abdication of Don Juan Carlos I.

For a long time the firm owned no fewer than 24 bodegas in Sanlucar: Monte de Piedad, Gitanos, Cuestecilla, Carmen Viejo, Pastora, Luis Equilaz and Trillo, to name a few, but with urban development they became less practical, scattered as they were around the city. Furthermore, their microclimate had been affected and extra precautions to protect the flor had to be implemented. In 1998 the firm consolidated them all into one purpose built complex ideally suited by way of atmosphere to the ageing of Manzanilla. The chosen site is on the Avenida Rocio Jurado, on the Chipiona road. Orientated south-west with good exposure to the west winds and suitable soil humidity (it is built on albariza), the new bodega was designed by  Carlos Delgado Hidalgo.

Moving soleras is a nightmare as many butts are very old and might not stand the disturbance. The oenologist, Manolo Barba, worked with five expert coopers to check the condition of every butt and make any repairs necessary, always using old staves already "known" to the wine. The younger wines - the criaderas - were moved first to acclimatise in their new surroundings, so that when the soleras arrived, they would be fed by wine which was in good shape. The solera casks were arranged extremely carefully, as over centuries bearing the weight of the criaderas, they can be a little distorted. This process took 16 years. It was not till 2012 that Manolo decided that they could make a special approximately annual saca, the outstanding Goya XL which is bottled en rama.

At one time the firm owned top quality vineyards in the Pago Miraflores, such as Viña Las Treinta, but has since sold them and buys in musts from growers and cooperatives.

Export Director Pelayo Garcia with a bottle of La Goya
90% of production (of some 60,000 cases) is Manzanilla. Exports are still fairly small, but growing.

The bodega markets various brands:
From the soleras of Rodriguez de Lacave:  Manzanilla Pasada Barbiana
                                                                     Amontillado Viejo Quo Vadis
                                                                     Amontillado Goyesco
From DZ soleras :                                        Manzanilla La Goya
                                                                     Manzanilla La Goya XL
                                                                     Amontillado Viejo Zuleta
From joint soleras or blending:                    Monteagudo premium range
                                                                     Las Sierras Oloroso/PX/Moscatel
                                                                     Las Señoras Oloroso Abocado
                                                                     Abuelamaria Oloroso Abocado
                                                                     Zuleta range
New solera:                                                  Manzanilla Entusiastica, organic Manzanilla

This organic Manzanilla is made from mosto from the Trebujena vineyard of Pepe Cabral, a local pioneer in organic viticulture, and is getting better with every annual saca.

The firm also produces vinegar and the table wine Viña Galvana blended from Moscatel and Palomino grapes.

Visits can be arranged by prior appointment -

Avda. Rocio Jurado (Carretera Chipiona), km 1.5
11540 Sanlucar de la Barrameda, Cadiz
Tel: (+34) 956 360 543

Amontillado Viejo Quo Vadis? 18.5%, Delgado Zuleta

Attractive bright amber with reddy copper tints.
Classic amontillado; intensely aromatic, fresh and complex, all the usual hazelnuts but with less usual spicy traces of clove hazelnut and nutmeg. Well-honed saline flor notes still persist, and only this complexity gives away its age.
Dry, tangy and quite full yet supremely elegant despite phenolic traces from the wood, very fresh and incredibly long and complex.
For a wine of well over 40 years solera age (Carbon 14 tests show it is 48), Quo Vadis is amazingly fresh and youthful but at the same time very complex. Quite delicious and a "must try". The label gives the name Rodriguez- Lacave, a bodega which merged with Delgado Zuleta in 1978, and whose very traditional labels were still used until recently. This wine has an interesting story. It started out with Miraflores grapes which were fermented into Manzanilla in barrel, which was not unusual, but the barrels were new, which was unusual. As a result, the bodega could not sell the wine and it was stored at the Rodriguez house for many years, naturally becoming an Amontillado. It is now one of the best wines in Sanlucar.

Around £48

News from Jerez

President of the Jerez Consejo Regulador (CRDO) Antonio Fernandez said in a recent press conference that the CRDO has suffered "collateral damage" from the bankruptcy of Nueva Rumasa (more about Rumasa anon) owing the Consejo 62,000 euros which is unlikely ever to be paid.

He also said that sales were falling, particularly in the domestic market, although there were signs of optimism in the UK and Holland, where the drop in sales has levelled off, and in Asia where there is growth.

Nonetheless, the picture is pretty gloomy, and it is up to us aficionados to spread the word and convince everyone - even Spain! - how good the wines are.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Bodegas: Rey Fernando de Castilla

Lorenzo Cosme Andrada-Vanderwilde came to Spain in the XVI century as one of the Flemish knights accompanying Carlos V as he took possession of Spanish territories. For the last couple of centuries the family has been involved with the Sherry trade, establishing a small bodega in 1837.

In the 1960s the family bought an old Domecq bodega dating from 1794 (and which had housed the Fino La Ina solera) in the Calle Jardinillo and Fernando Andrade Vanderwilde, who had worked in the Public Relations department of Gonzalez Byass, bought the Marques del Real Tesoro Gran Reserva brandy solera in order to produce the "most select brandy in Spain". He launched it in 1972 and chose to call it "Rey Fernando de Castilla" after king Fernando the "Saint" of Castilla, who re-conquered a good deal of Andalucia from the Moors in the XIII century, and who observed that the local soils and climate were suitable for exceptional wines.

He was also involved with Sherry, top quality PX and vinegar. In 1999 he sold out to a group of investors which included Jan Pettersen, a Norwegian who had been working for Osborne for the previous 14 years. In 2000 they expanded the firm by buying the neighbouring bodegas of almacenista Jose Bustamante along with stocks. Pettersen is now the majority shareholder.

The firm has been very successful due to the quality of the wines, especially the Antique range. The Fino is unusual as it averages 8 years and is fortified to 17%. The rest of the range could be classified VOS or VORS but Pettersen does not believe in this system.

As well as fine Brandy which is always the product of pot stills, and certainly among the best available, they offer superb Vinegar and 3 ranges of Sherries (bottled for them by Sanchez Romate):

Classic: Amontillado Medium, Manzanilla, Fino, Cream, Moscatel, PX
Antique: Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and PX
Hechizo: Young Moscatel, Young Pedro Ximenez
Fino en Rama

Visits? Yes, by previous arrangement
               C./Jardinillo, 7 al 11
               11404 Jerez de la Frontera
               Cadiz, Spain

Monday 9 April 2012

Oloroso Antique, Rey Fernando de Castilla

50cl bottle, 20% alc/vol, £23.75
Mid amber, old gold/copper highlights and vague yellowy green rim, legs.
Big, complex, fragrant, old, touches of toasted hazelnuts, walnuts and walnut shells, old oak barrels, dried fruit notes and a trace of almost burnt sugar sweetness to balance. Evolves nicely in the glass developing into a tight and extremely elegant Oloroso.
Full bodied, completely dry, quite tangy, intense and complex flavours of nuts, especially walnuts, finely controlled oxidation and traces of dried fruits and wood. There is lovely texture and length here, and all is balanced and controlled.
A wonderful, clearly very old wine which lingers on the palate for ages. In fact it is from an 80 year old solera bought from Jose Bustamante by Jan Petterson. and the wine itself is over 20 years old,

Sherry and the Poets Laureate

Only the finest practitioners of verse will be rewarded with Sherry!

Carol Ann Duffy is the current Poet Laureate (as of 2009 and the first woman) and her reward for the post is a butt of Sherry. I met her after a reading in Aberdeen the night before she left for Jerez to select her wine.

Obviously, a butt (500/600 litres) is a wonderful thing, but not the easiest to deal with, so she was getting the equivalent in bottles. Unfortunately for the whisky trade, Sherry hasn't been exported in bulk since the 1970's. The seasoned barrels were used to age whisky, but the Consejo Regulador de la Denominacion de Origen (the body which controls Sherry production) ruled that Sherry be bottled at source.

The notion of Poets Laureate dates back to ancient Greece where Bards and Heroes were garlanded with a laurel wreath. Since then the meaning has moved on to cover people who are masters of their art (eg Nobel Laureates). For centuries Kings of England, and later Britain, appointed more or less official Poets Laureate, whose job was to write verse celebrating subjects like royal events or victories. Their salary was meagre, being a part-time post. The first to receive wine (as opposed to a few shillings) was Geoffrey Chaucer, who received a butt of Canary Sack in 1389.

The office became more official with the appointment of John Dryden in 1670, and the butt of Sherry (or Scheris Sack) tradition continued for a long time before falling into disuse when money was given. The tradition was revived by Sir John Betjeman in 1972 and has prevailed again to the present day. If only I were a poet!

Soon we'll discuss the Sack Trade.

Sunday 8 April 2012

Why is Sherry so special?

No other wine has the infinity of aromatic nuances that Sherry has. From hints of salinity, yeast, camomile and green almonds in the Finos, to roasted hazelnuts and aldehydes in Amontillados and Olorosos, to raisins, figs and coffee in the Pedro Ximenez, these aromas last and last, offering an incredible and unbeatable complexity.

All these - and many more - are to be found naturally in the wines anyway, and then there are the extra layers of extended ageing and blending which add further complexity. With such an enormous range of flavours and aromas, the Sherry wines inevitably marry well with just about any type of food. Imagine the pleasure, for example, of enjoying freshly cooked fish in a Spanish Chiringuito (beach restaurant) with a perfectly chilled Fino or Manzanilla. Or a fine old Oloroso accompanying an equally fine old Manchego cheese. Heaven!

Of course Sherry also makes the perfect aperitif. All you need to achieve aperitif perfection is a glass of chilled Fino or Manzanilla and some lightly salted toasted almonds, and/or some thinly sliced Chorizo, Salchichon, Lomo or that most heavenly of meats, Jamon Iberico (well cured ham from Iberico pigs).

It refreshes you in summer, stimulates the appetite and revives you in winter, and all at a more than reasonable price. Sherry, it would seem therefore, is essential to the enjoyment of life's pleasures, and indeed IS one of life's pleasures.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Welcome to Paula's Sherry blog!

This Blog is dedicated to all current - and future - lovers of the World's greatest wine, and to those magicians who have created it. The idea is to convert you to a really good wine.

Sherry is quite unique, unbelievably versatile, and absolutely NOT that horrid sweet brown stuff Granny used for improving trifles. It is a Fine Wine, and quite the best value for money among the stars of that firmament.

No wine better accompanies seafood, soups, game; as an aperitif it is peerless; after dinner it is the equal of a fine Malt Whisky or a Cognac; and its qualities as a dessert wine are well known.

For all its splendour, Sherry has been grossly misunderstood for far too long, and in  this Blog I hope to put that right. We all want value for money and continue ignoring the best. So let's raise a copita to Sherry!

And remember, "Quien sabe beber sabe vivir!"