Sunday, 29 July 2012

Amontillado Vina AB 16.5%, Gonzalez Byass

Old gold, faintest trace amber, legs.
Quite young, still saline traces of flor, touches of hazelnuts and almonds, well rounded with an attractive hint of bitterness, traces linseed oil and the slightest hint of honey.
Dry but not austere, tangy, quite light and young but has some complexity, a sort of bitter hazelnut praline along with the salinity from the flor and a slight memory of yeast autolysis, quite gentle and very elegant.
Somewhere between 10 and 12 years old when tasted but now stated as being 12 on the label, this is really a Fino-Amontillado, using Tio Pepe as the base wine  which is transferred to a specific 700 butt solera. The term Fino-Amontillado is no longer permitted. The name of the wine originates in the name of a vineyard which was one of the first bought by Manuel Maria Gonzalez from an almacenista called Andres Botaina (AB). Manuel Maria and Pedro Domecq jointly bought this XIX century solera and Gonzalez Byass eventually bottled all of theirs in the 1960s and sold it as part of a "Soleras Exclusivas" range at auction in London in the 1970s. That, obviously, was the end of the solera, and what we have now is not related to it, except by name. It is a very useful style which is dry but not aggressively so, perfect for a multitude of palates and for those new to Sherry. Best served slightly chilled, but warmer than a Fino, it goes beautifully with all sorts of tapas.

About £12.50 from Oddbins

News from Jerez 29.7.12

The demand for labourers to pick the 2012 harvest has plummeted by 25% due to the invasion of mechanical harvesters which halve the cost of bringing in the grapes.

In these hard times, a lot of people are looking for work: many are unemployed or students looking to finance their studies. The invasion of the machines has dramatically reduced the demand for labour, down by 20-30% on last year according to union calculations, or about 6-7,000 workers - half the number of only a few years ago.

Over the years the pickers have become more professional, but with few exceptions not even qualified workers have a guarantee of work hand picking vineyards which have decreased in area in barely three years from over 10,000 hectares to around 6,500 in production this year.

Mechanisation of the harvest now counts for more than half of the vineyards. It costs about half the wages of pickers, and does the job twice as quickly, which helps the strained finances of the producers, one of whom is rumoured to be intending to harvest entirely by machine.

Other wine producing areas both in Spain and abroad are also offering less work, and there are more people looking for it. Wage increases in Jerez can only be tiny even though outside the Jerez DO they can be higher, and the unions are planning possible action to protest the lack of negotiation.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

News from Jerez 27.7.12

The judicial net is tightening round  the Ruiz Mateos family.

Following preventive measures adopted by the Granada Mercantile Court to prohibit any attempt by the family to transfer the brands of Dhul (a desserts producer) to third companies via companies they own, the Trades Unions are seeking an injunction on the Garvey brands to avoid their possible transfer. "Without the brands there is nothing". The Ruiz Mateos family still owns the registered title of the Garvey brands, the exclusive rights of use of which are assigned to Complejo Bodeguero Bellavista (the Garvey bodega) until 2015. The bodega's administrators consider the potential loss of the brand names is an added risk to the running of the business, as do the firm's actual owners, Back in Business, in their viability plan.

It seems that the Ruiz Mateos family have tried to register the Dhul brand names to spurious third companies they also own under a spurious holding company in Belize so that they can be kept out of  insolvency or expropriation proceedings. The unions are worried the same could happen at Garvey after 2015.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Moscatel de Chipiona 15%, Emilio Lustau

Very pale, bright silvery gold with the slightest trace of green, legs.
Made from super ripe grapes, but not pasificada, very fresh with that lovely grapey Moscatel aroma, trace tartaric, light and sweet but not over sweet, very attractive.
Sweet but very fresh, with the weight of its 15%, a mistela style wine, not much acidity, but certainly tangy, with a trace of tannin which along with the tanginess balances the sweetness, not aged.
A really good example of Moscatel must fortified to retain the sweetness and the exquisite Moscatel freshness and flavour. Grown on sandy soils at Chipiona near the coast. Delicious, and good value.

£5.99 (50cl) from Waitrose

News from Jerez 26.7.12

A new Spain-based online wine and spirits retailer has started up. They are specialists in Sherry with a huge range of all styles from the inexpensive (@ 3 euros) to the slightly dearer (nearly 200 euros). This looks like an enterprise that we Sherry lovers should be supporting!

Bodegas: Harveys

The name Harveys is synonymous with Sherry, and their Bristol Cream was once the biggest selling brand. Times and tastes have changed and now Tio Pepe is the biggest selling brand. Bristol Cream is still a big seller however and a high quality wine, though most of their other brands are long forgotten. Does anyone remember Merienda, Isabelita, Club Amontillado, Bristol Dry, Reina Victoria, Shooting Sherry, Bank, Gran Solera, Tico, Luncheon Dry, Copper Beech, Bristol Fino, Bristol Milk (of which there used to be a fantastic driven-cork version for laying down like Port)?

The firm was established at 12, Denmark Street, Bristol in 1796 by one William Perry in cellars on the site of what was once a XIII century monastery and later a medieval wine cellar known as Gaunt House. From the beginning, Perry specialised in the shipping of Sherry and Port, but also dealt in Madeira and wines from the Rhine and the Canaries. Naturally he sold Bristol Milk, a sweetened oloroso which was very popular in Bristol, the earliest written record (in the British Museum) of which goes back to 1634.

John Harvey (1806-78) whose father and grandfather were celebrated seafarers, joined the firm in 1822 at only 16 years of age. William Perry died about this time. In 1829, John joined an associated firm in Kidderminster, ten miles or so distant. He moved there, married and lived above the shop, while his younger brother Charles took over his post in Bristol. The cellars were extended to reach Bristol docks from where butts of Sherry and Port were trundled along tunnels to their cellars. The mainly oloroso and PX Sherry was imported in butts and aged in Bristol till deemed ready for sale or blending.

The early 1860's were important years for the company. John, with his other brother Edward had been perfecting a new blend which included an even older oloroso than that in Bristol Milk. No name had been decided for it, however. One day in 1882, an aristocratic lady who was visiting the cellars, tasted their Bristol milk and comparing it to the latest blend declared that "If the first is Bristol Milk, then this must be the Cream!" Bristol Cream was born, and went on to phenomenal success throughout the "sweet Sherry era".

John Harvey, having taken over the firm, decided to re-name it John Harvey & Sons in 1871, and his two sons, John and Edward worked with him, taking over after his death in 1878. The firm remained in family hands through their sons till 1966. Bristol Cream was registered as a trademark in 1882, and in 1895 they received the Royal Warrant. The XX century saw a younger generation join the firm and much needed modernisation was undertaken. Their first publicity campaign took place.

The original cellars in Denmark Street 1916

The Second World War hit Harveys hard. Not only were the (by now more extensive) premises at Denmark Street bombed in 1940 destroying all but the cellars, but their London offices were hit as well - twice. In the 1950s they moved to new premises in the outskirts of Bristol at Whitchurch. The last of the Harveys retired in 1956. Up till 1960, all Harveys Sherries were still matured and blended in Bristol, but it was decided to start investing in vineyards to secure supplies. In the meantime the old Denmark Street cellars were converted into a successful restaurant (by Sir Terence Conran) with a wine museum attached. The cellars have been completely refurbished and are now an upmarket Sherry bar and restaurant, still with a little museum, supported but no longer owned by Harveys. The firm's collection of glass bottles was largely auctioned off but some are still to be seen here and much was transported to exhibition space in Spain.

Part of the restored Harveys Cellars wine bar

Bristol Cream had reached the number 1 sales spot by the early 1950's, it had launched with great success in America, and Harveys were doing well. Then in 1956 they began to receive letters, written with the aid of a dictionary,which were short and to-the-point. Thirty-three letters were received in all, each with a proposal that someone they had never heard of enter into an exclusive wine supply contract with them. (Harveys needed 96,000 butts per year!) Naturally Harveys refused. But the letters kept coming, and eventually Harveys sent two executives - chairman George Edward McWatters and his right-hand-man, a Mr Cox - to Jerez to silence the writer. They returned having signed a 99 year supply contract with Jose Maria Ruiz Mateos! This contract effectively launched the Rumasa empire.

The wave of mergers and acquisitions which was the 1960s did not leave Harveys unscathed. Showerings, who had made a fortune with Babycham bought the firm at the end of 1965. Aware of a need to be based in Jerez, they went on to buy MacKenzie, whose bodegas Harveys then occupied, and 50% of Barbadillo. The Rumasa contract was terminated giving Rumasa three years' grace.

Showerings were in turn taken over by Allied Breweries in 1968. In 1973, Harveys founded two jointly owned businesses; one, Vinarvey, with Garvey and the other, Gibalbin, with Barbadillo, giving Harveys access to large areas of vineyard. 1978 saw the merger of Allied Breweries with Lyons forming Allied Lyons. In 1979 Harveys bought Misa from Rumasa, and after the expropriation of Rumasa in 1983, they bought Terry and Palomino & Vergara. During this period Harveys lost the way a bit with some odd brand launches (eg Tico) and suffered a lack of investment from their parent companies, but during the 1990s they did relaunch Bristol Cream in the Bristol Blue bottle, which remains today. 

Allied Lyons then merged with Pedro Domecq in 1994, and Allied Domecq was taken over by Pernod Ricard in 2005. They went on to dismember Domecq, selling bits to different companies, and Harveys went to Fortune Brands' drinks division Beam Global, along with Terry and Domecq's Fundador brandy. Beam went on to merge with Japanese distiller Suntory, and in 2015 Harveys, along with Fundador was sold to the Philippine distiller Emperador.

Since 1970, Harveys have operated entirely in Jerez from various bodegas:  El Brigadier which contains 6,000 butts destined for Bristol Cream, La Mezquita, La Molina 1730, and La Luz (Fundador Brandy) the latter 3 all ex Domecq.

The current range consists of:

Extra Dry Fino                                                        Harveys Palo Cortado VORS (solera 1906)
Pale Cream                                                             Amontillado VORS (solera 1914)
Amontillado Medium                                               Rich Old Oloroso VORS (solera 1909)
Bristol Cream                                                          PX VORS (solera 1919)

The VORS wines were launched as recently as 2008 and in 2016 a new Premium range was launched.

Visits can be arranged by appointment:
C/ San Ildefonso, 3
11403 Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Tel: (+34) 956 151 500

Bodega La Mezquita

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Extra Dry Fino 15%, Harveys

Bright, pale strawy gold, legs.
Forthcoming, light and fresh, tight, subtle hints of flor, straw, almond and Palomino fruit, dry.
Very dry, slightly saline flor flavour, traces bitter almond and olive, low acid but tangy and very long.
This is really dry but well flavoured and characterful with that aperitif effect of making you hungry. The grapes were grown in the Macharnudo area and the wine produced at the Mezquita bodega in Jerez.
£7.49 from Morrisons

Bodegas: Equipo Navazos

Equipo Navazos is not really a bodega at all. It was founded in 2005 by Jesus Barquin and Eduardo Ojeda, friends and fellow aficionados of the great fortified wines of Andalucia, and the prime movers of a group of about 30 like minded connoisseurs and professionals, with the intention of obtaining and bottling these wines for their personal pleasure.

They were aware that many wine treasures lay hidden away in Andalucia's bodegas and in December 2005 they visited an almacenista in Sanlucar, Miguel Sanchez Ayala, where they discovered a few dozen butts of old and very fine amontillado. The scales of the solera hadn't been run in 20 years, and the wine was ageing and improving statically. They chose and bought the equivalent of 1 butt which they had bottled with the name "La Bota de Amontillado No.1"  Coincidentally (?) this is also the name of an Edgar Allan Poe story. The wine was eventually chosen after an exhaustive tasting from 65 butts.

These 600 or so bottles marked the beginning of the selection and bottling process, then they chose a name: Equipo (Sp. "team") Navazos (an ancient Sanlucar - probably arab - viticultural system whereby the coastal vineyards were dug down to below sea level, the soil heaped up at the edge to protect the vines from the wind, and provide more humidity.) The following year saw two more selections. The members of the group loved them thus encouraging more, and in 2007 small quantities of wine were put directly onto the market thanks to the professional members who were important national and international distributors.

The wines are bottled in one-off limited editions in numerical order so that each bottling can be compared to another from the same solera, and any development compared. As time has gone by, the team has bottled other interesting wines; Montilla, Sparkling wine from Jerez, and even Brandy. They work with talented and go-ahead winemakers to bring new ideas to fruition. For the Sparkling wine: Sergi Colet, expert in Cava with interesting ideas for spakling wine Jerez style. They also work with Dirk Niepoort (of Niepoort Port) to produce a wine which is what they think Sherry was like in the 18th century before the solera system became widespread: a Palomino from top vineyards, barrel fermented with wild yeast and aged briefly under flor. At 13% vol it is more of a table wine to our modern tastes, but still delicious - and very interesting.

The list of bodegas who provide these wonderful wines includes some top names, needless to say:
Rey Fernando de Castilla; La Guita (Grupo Estevez); Valdespino (Grupo Estevez); M Sanchez Ayala; Perez Barquero and Bodegas Gracia (from DO Montilla). There are many other bodegas with treasures, but some are committed to supply other companies such as Lustau, who have the wonderful "Almacenista" range. The Equipo Navazos wines have not surprisingly scored very high points from the critics. 99/100 is not unusual. Search them out. They are not cheap, but then no treasure is.

News from Jerez 25.7.12

At the first full meeting of the Consejo Regulador with Beltran Domecq as president, the harvest took up a lot of discussion. At the end of the meeting he underlined the consensus in matters on the agenda, in particular confirming harvest forecasts of a drop of 15-20% which in terms of grapes qualifying for DO Sherry represent a drop of 7-15% to about 52-62,000 butts. This was also confirmed by Cesar Saldana, director general of the Consejo.

Owing to the predicted deficit versus annual sales for which 85,000 butts are needed (23,000 more than the harvest will provide), messrs. Domecq and Saldana pointed out that the bodegas already have stocks of about 360,000 butts, enough to last for four and a half years. Given the balance achieved between planted vineyard and the bodegas' requirements, the Consejo is content with a modest rise in grape prices, although  it is really up to the growers and bodegas to decide between themselves.

As Beltran Domecq said, "The grapes are very important for Sherry, and a decent price should be paid in order to produce the level of quality needed for Sherry. The price has increased over last year's which was too low, and contracts for three years have been made with prices rising in each campaign." They will rise from about 27 centimos to 33 centimos, the price which the growers say is their break-even price, but the Consejo is hoping they will do their bit for stability.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Manzanilla en rama "I Think" 15%, Equipo Navazos Saca Octubre 2010

Old, unpolished gold, quite deep for Manzanilla, legs, not completely bright.
Full, character-laden, plenty of Flor, a trace of oxidation, dry, saline and pungent, traces of sultana, hazelnut, almond, sourdough, hints of bitterness and acetaldehyde. Complex.
Dry, tangy and tasty, full yet relaxed, traces of quince and dried fruit, slight nuttiness, very fresh and clean, very long complex and intense. Quite delicious.
Saca (withdrawal from cask) October 2010 and put into 5196 half bottles. Guia Penin 92 points
Unbelievably good for its four and a half years. A whole new window on Manzanilla. None of the polished-up over-filtered commercial stuff here; it shows how much is lost by doing that. The slight sediment in this bottle is mostly Flor, and most welcome, it has hardly been filtered at all. Furthermore, it might age longer in bottle, exchanging its pungent fresh character for something softer and a little richer. I think it is from the bodegas of La Guita. The wine's name and the label illustration come from Charles Darwin's notebook on the theory of evolution. The first words were "I think.." and the diagram is his "tree of life".

About £10.95 (half bottle) and very good value at Drinkmonger. UK importer Rhone to Rioja

News from Jerez 23.7.12

The latest predictions for the 2012 Sherry harvest are that it will be smaller by 15% to 20% on last year - a smaller than average harvest in itself. Furthermore, it will be a couple of weeks later. The budding was late on the vines and the grapes are still very small. The absence of rain coupled with high temperatures - daytime as well as night-time - are the causes. Trebujena has suffered the most and is facing a possible 30% drop in production.

Everyone is nervous; the growers because of the delay and the low quantities, and the bodegas about the price of grapes. It will be a seller's market for grapes, and the bodegas are offering incentives to try and guarantee supplies to meet foreign demand. The cooperatives have no wine to sell to the bodegas.

With only 6,400 hectares in production, it looks unlikely that there will be enough wine to cover sales. In a situation of such uneasy balance there is no room for manoeuvre, so with a 20% reduction in the harvest, and for sales of 84,000 butts (42 million litres) against stocks of 370,000 butts, a potential shortage is calculated of some 20,000 butts. Price rises are looking likely, especially since Sherry has been so cheap for so long.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

News from Jerez 21.7.12

The international and influential travel website Trip Advisor has awarded a certificate of excellence to Bodegas Tio Pepe based on marks awarded by visitors. This represents important recognition for the bodega which has invested much in "Enoturismo" (wine tourism), and comes in the 200th anniversary year of the birth of the bodega's founder.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Jerez and Flamenco

Jerez is considered the "Cradle of the Art of Flamenco", and over the last century or more the city has produced many fine singers, dancers and guitarists. There are two "barrios" (neighbourhoods) of the city which could be described as the home of Flamenco in Jerez; the Barrio de Santiago and the Barrio de San Miguel, the latter being the birthplace of the Buleria. In Santiago the XVIIIC  Pemartin palace houses the Andalucian Flamenco Centre which contains a wealth of resources with audiovisual technology, a specialist library and a library of recordings.

Flamenco is a daily occurrence in Jerez' famous and numerous "Tablaos" (places where it is performed), Penas (Flamenco clubs) and of course the traditional annual Fiesta de la Buleria in September. There is also the Jerez International Festival of Flamenco held in February/March at the beautiful Teatro Villamarta. Even everyday it is hard to avoid (as if you'd want to!) the strains of Flamenco emanating from somewhere.

In 1922 the great poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca from Granada and the Cadiz-born composer Manuel de Falla felt Flamenco was in danger of dying out and needed to be recorded for posterity, and they held a Concurso de Cante Jondo in Granada. Two of the great Jerezano singers of the day performed there: Antonio Chacon and Manuel Torre. The Cante Jondo (Deep Song) about which Lorca wrote so much, is the very fundament of Flamenco, ancient, raw and deeply moving. Often it is unaccompanied by a guitar. Listen out for styles like Solea, Seguidilla and of course Buleria to get close to the Cante Jondo.

Above: Flamenco in the streets during the Feria; two views of the Palacio Pemartin; La Paquera de Jerez.

Famous names like singers La Macanita, La Paquera, Lola Flores, Jose Merce and El Terremoto and the guitarist Gerardo Nunez are all from Jerez, to name a few. Look out for their recordings, but please never imagine Flamenco is some trivial tourist gimmick. It can be on occasion, but it is the very soul of Andalucia, deep in the hearts of the people, and - thank the Duende (Spirit/Muse) -alive and well.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Sherry Towns: Jerez de la Frontera

The Jerez area has experienced human habitation since Neolithic times, though little is known of the people. The first settlement is thought to have been the Greek Tartessians somewhere about 3,000 BC. The Phonecians, marine traders from the Eastern Mediterranean settled here around 1,000 BC, bringing with them, it is thought, the grape vine. Later the area was colonised by the Romans who did much for viti-viniculture, popularising Jerez wine as far as Rome itself. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Vandals arrived in the 5th century, followed shortly by the Visigoths. In AD 711 the Moors swept over from North Africa, remaining in the Jerez area till their defeat at the battle of Jerez in 1231. Alfonso X claimed the area for Castilla in 1264.

The Arab influence, lasting over 500 years was profound. It was a period of learning, science and the arts. They introduced pasas (raisins) and distillation as well as improving viticulture despite their Koranic beliefs. With the discovery of the Americas in 1492, Jerez prospered developing a considerable export trade and establishing Sherry as one of the world's best-known wines. During the XVIII and XIX centuries many now famous bodegas were established, laying the foundations of today's Sherry industry.

Today Jerez is a sizeable city of over 205,000 souls, making it bigger than the provincial capital, Cadiz. Apart from Sherry and its related industries, the economy relies on farming, cattle and horse breeding and tourism. The Rutas del Vino have been very successful, but there are many other attractions. The city boasts an international airport (La Parra); a world class motor racing circuit; a zoo; golf courses. The Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art is here as well as the Andalucian Centre of Flamenco. There is an excellent Archaeological Museum, and one of Clocks at the Atalaya.

The delightful timeworn atmosphere of the city centre is steeped in history and commerce. There are Moorish city walls and gates, the Alcazaba (Fortress), San Salvador Cathedral, the Renaissance Town Hall, various bourgeois palaces, and just outside town is the XVI C Cartuja. The medieval old quarter is full of tabancos (Sherry bars), old shops, and many of the older bodegas. There is a fascinating 1880s market, el Mercado Central de Abastos (known locally as la Plaza) and lots of lovely squares, such as the Plaza del Arenal with its statue of Miguel Primo de Rivera, and you must see the Teatro Villamarta, Spains first concrete building, almost Art Deco in Style.

Some famous people have come from Jerez:

Miguel Primo de Rivera, Spain's first Dictator
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, an early explorer in the Americas
Manuel Alejandro, a well-known songwriter
And various flamencos: Guitarist Gerardo Nunez, and the singers El Terremoto, Jose Merce, La Paquera
                                                                                                  Lola Flores, Rocio Jurado (actually from
                                                                                                  nearby Chipiona)

For good information: or the local council:

That includes the many Fiestas, some of which are listed below:

Carnaval - February
Pasarela Flamenca - February
Festival de Jerez - Feb-March
Semana Santa - Easter
Feria del Caballo - May
Fiesta de la Vendimia - September
Dia Europeo de Enoturismo - November

Classic Fino 15%, Rey Fernando de Castilla

Pale to mid strawy gold, legs.
Dry, quite serious, saline flor elements with very slight background traces of autolysis and oxidation, fruity background note of Palomino, quite big.
Serious, full, dry, complex, certainly older than the usual 4 or 5 years, some bitterness from the flor and quite intense with hints of straw and bitter almond, very long.
Fine quality. It is  about 4 1/2 years old and comes from a 3 criadera solera. Some of the wine is bottled as Classic Fino while the rest of it goes to feed the Antique Fino solera.

£ 10.00 from Woodwinters, Edinburgh

An Interview with Jose Ramon Estevez, president of Grupo Estevez

I have translated this interview from yesterday's Diario de Jerez, to whom I am much indebted.

"Sherry is no longer in crisis and our priority is to create employment once more." 
The relationship with Mercadona created a "before and after" at Estevez, who are expanding after the purchase of 400 ha of vineyard. The bodega's president talks of resurrection but says "let's not go mad."

Grupo Estevez has just bought from Beam Global (former owners of Domecq) 400 ha of vineyard in the biggest deal in the area for many years. While others are slimming down, this family business is pursuing expansion together with Mercadona (a Spanish supermarket chain based in Valencia) with whom they started working in 1998. This created the "before and after" at Estevez, home of Tio Mateo, by the sales volume of the 50 or so lines they produce for the chain, which has over 1,000 branches throughout Spain. Jose Ramon Estevez, president of the bodega, believes Jerez has overcome the crisis and now is the time to build, to forget the hard times and to get back to creating employment - without sacrificing quality.

The vineyard purchase is good news in an area with ever decreasing vineyard, you see a lot of bald patches in the countryside.

It's awful. Whenever you go into the countryside you say this was a vineyard, that was a vineyard, and you think of all the hope and work which went into it. It is a shame, a lost patrimony, but we have a responsibility for our inheritance which we cannot afford to lose. I am now creating employment and this purchase is part of the plan, because with so little vineyard left and demand from abroad, there could be supply problems.

It's odd that only a few years ago Fedejerez (bodega association) estimated that there was a third too much vineyard in Jerez and now there isn't enough.

I never said there was too much, and if we'd had enough sense we wouldn't have uprooted so many vines, neither would we have lost so much labour, and we wouldn't have had so much unemployment in Jerez. I do what I have to do and I've always said what I believed to be right, and I've never believed in grubbing up vineyards in Jerez. That's what I said to the local agriculture minister, and to the national one, and to everybody, because Sherry is a treasure we can't afford to lose.

Is there an expansion plan behind the purchase?

In the short term we're going to need as many people as Beam had for the vineyard we bought which needs some attention. To put it into full production, to graft, prune etc. needs a lot of specialised workers. So long as our customers are ordering we are happy to grow. Beam is a fantastic multinational, very successful, but they can make more profit from the money they invested in Jerez elsewhere. I think we could do it here.

In an investment such as this, Mercadona will be involved, what is it worth to Estevez?

It is worth about 50% of our business nowadays.

Is there any guarantee of continuity?

Mercadona isn't going to go away. It's for life, I'm sure of that.

Can you explain that?

In the first place I won't let them go and in the second case it's not their philosophy. And if Mercadona makes a mistake with me they make a mistake with their own project, but that won't happen. They have put a "before and after" at Estevez, they've made us see how to do business, create wealth and distribute it. They took the opportunity no-one else saw, and here are the rewards.

Are we talking about just volume?

No. Mercadona never questions volume; they question quality and the wellbeing of all involved: 1st the customer, then the workforce, then the suppliers, then society, then capital. When one puts this model - this philosophy - to work, the results are spectacular. We now have a motivated workforce working with impressive dedication; we have suppliers who are delighted because we can guarantee to pay them, so they earn money. Last year in the vineyards we paid growers 10% more than the market rate and this year we'll pay another 10% and next year too, because we want suppliers to earn money. We pay more, but we expect more because quality is fundamental. The price is a function of your perception. Not always selling at a higher price shows you are less competitive. You can sell at a higher price and be more competitive because you are giving greater quality, you are giving something the others aren't. But you have to remember that there is no business without a supplier, and Sherry has stopped being a commodity, it is a unique wine in the world with no barriers.

Jerez itself has some sort of barrier - or frontier (!)

That is part of the Jerez culture which should be got rid of. It upsets me that the Jerezanos seem to lack affection for their land. When we're away we are proud of the place, but here we are always running things down. We have to change because there is so much unemployment, so many people to feed and a tremendous cultural and historic patrimony in Sherry. We've reached the limit - of many things, now we are going to do things properly.

In the trade there are those who are beginning to see signs of recovery, do you agree?

The situation in Jerez today is much better than last year and the previous one. It's better because everything has been adjusted, the balance between supply and demand has been restored - but that doesn't mean to say  that everything has been done, you have to reinvent yourself every day. One thing we lack is plain speaking and taking on leadership, we mustn't wonder every day what they are going to do for us, but do things ourselves. Jerez has a product we must make the most of.

How can we make the most of it?

All we need is for businessmen to put their batteries in, that we all work in the same direction, and that we all - including Jerezanos - drink Sherry every day. Why do we drink Rueda or whatever, and not Sherry?

Perhaps the reason is that Sherry has been thought of more as an export wine than local.

So what do we do for the Feria in Jerez? What more important event is there in Jerez than the Feria? It's our culture, our way of life...

And what do we do for the rest of the year?

The rest of the year we throw it away, we give it away. At Christmas time toys are more expensive than in the sales, but we do it in reverse - when the season of demand comes we just give it away. We've done things backwards for a long time, but never mind, but now we must be realistic, it's time to grow. Everything it could be said we had done badly everybody knows; the cooperatives know, the growers know, the bodegas know, we all know. We'll have to start from the beginning and build all over again.

You seem optimistic.

I'm not optimistic but realistic. Jerez is not in crisis now, it's been resuscitated now that balance has been restored, and I'm positive that the first thing we have to do is to make sure the growers, without whom there would be no Sherry business, make some money. We can't keep going from boom to bust because the bodegas couldn't cope. That's where we need agreement - for a start. And if we could guarantee supplies we could grow - but that's in doubt with so much grubbing up.

Many have fallen by the wayside because of this rebalancing.

Yes. We now have 6,000 hectares and we used to have 22,000. Last year we had 1,800 growers and loads have gone, just like so many employees of the business and those of auxiliary industries. But it has stopped now, we're no longer in crisis, we are balanced and need to put in the batteries. But we shouldn't go mad now that we have balance and say tomorrow that grapes should cost 200 pesetas (@ 1,30 euros), no. I aspire  for Jerez to be like Champagne or Cognac. Do you know how much 1 hectare costs in Champagne?

If Jerez is less than 9,000 euros, say 15,000?

One million euros!

How much?!

You heard that right, one million euros, and a kilo of grapes costs 5 or 6 euros.

The bodegas must have a share of the blame for all this.

The bodegas had the problem that sales were falling and it was thus impossible to maintain a cost structure. But there was no vision for the future, no business vision, and the loss of labour this implied hadn't been taken into account. The situation has changed, and I am for creating employment because we have a responsibility.

That responsibility also belongs to the Consejo Regulador and for providing funds for promoting Sherry.

Firstly we must be grateful to Beltran Domecq for having taken on the presidency of the Consejo. He is a person who will give great value to Sherry because he is well known internationally and understands the business. If we don't provide the resources and don't support him, his work will be very difficult. To be able to have resources you have to have a margin, profitability, profit, because nowadays you can't just ask for money from a bank. I would ask for investment in Jerez because I believe in Jerez and I believe that by reinventing ourselves day by day we'll have much more to say than other products, other DOs and other types of business. But we have to regain profitability and the winegrower must make money. If he doesn't make money we will be left with no grapes, and no grapes means no wine, nothing. And if we're not selling anything I don't know what we'll do here.

What would your father, Jose Estevez, have thought of all that's happened in Jerez?

My father saw the situation coming through the circumstances, society, the politics. We have been living in a very wasteful world in which everything was bad. Everyone in the business has to agree, the bodegas, the growers, the cooperatives... and stop lecturing the institutions. We have to forget the mistakes of the past and the bad things we have done. We have a great asset, we have lots of good workers in Jerez, we have an obligation to move forward and do something with our inheritance. And it can be done because the main things are balanced. Before, there was a lot of distortion: excess production, excess stocks, excess credit, people who shouldn't have been there - a veiled reference to Jose Maria Ruiz Mateos. But that has disappeared, we have a name known the world over for the wine, the motorcycle racing, the horses, the Feria, the people, the personalities... and that's what we must capitalise on.

After so much hardship, do you think the lessons have been learned?

Whoever hasn't learned the lesson won't be able to do anything now. I think things are much clearer now.

Friday, 13 July 2012

News from Jerez 12.7.12

Wonderful news from Gonzalez Byass! They are launching - or relaunching - for the first time in over a century the almost completely forgotten wine Tintilla de Rota. The company has a 45 hectare estate called Finca Moncloa near Arcos de la Frontera where they grow red grapes including 3 hectares of Tintilla.

Tintilla is the name of the red grape and Rota is the name of the place where it was grown in sandy soils, though it was a little more widespread. Rota is close to Puerto de Santa Maria at the north of the bay of Cadiz. Unfortunately the growth of plantations of the more profitable Palomino and the arrival of a huge military base shared with the Americans in the 1950s pretty well did for the poor Tintilla. It was once very popular, especially in Victorian times, known in Britain as Rota Tent, yet can still be found in Rota in tiny quantities - and the Canary Islands (also once famed for sack production).

The wine was traditionally made by sunning the grapes just like PX or Moscatel, after which the biggest stalks were removed and the grapes put into tubs which were covered with esparto grass mats for fermentation. The mats restricted the air flow and impeded the fermentation. The must was stirred occasionally for about a month and the wine turned out dark and bitter-sweet and quite low strength - around10% vol. The pulp was then pressed and the press wine added in and it all went into butts along with 50 litres of wine alcohol per butt. Some arrope (boiled down grape juice) might be added to reduce bitterness and the effects of the alcohol. The end result was a full bodied, very deeply coloured red, about 15% vol, still with that slightly bitter sweetness, the bitterness being mainly tannin. When the Denominacion de Origen was established in the 1930s, Tintilla was already almost forgotten and not included.

Using more modern methods, Gonzalez Byass have reproduced the wine at Moncloa, but in tine quantities - the 2009, aged in barricas for 18 months, produced 690 50cl bottles, and only 240 are destined for export. Next March the 2011 will be released, aged for 12 months, but more - around 1350 bottles. The wines reportedly have aromas of figs, raisins and minerals with good acidity on the palate.

I for one can't wait!!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Amontillado/"Medium Sherry"

Here's something the Consejo and its new President could think about if they are serious about improving Sherry's image.Sherry is not the only wine with this problem, but it is the one we're concerned with here. 

There is a world of difference between an Amontillado and a supermarket Medium/Medium-dry Sherry. Most of the latter are nothing of the sort, being blends of all sorts - olorosos, finos fuertes, PX and even rectified must - but not Amontillado - to produce something brown, full bodied and quite sweet with which the frozen northerners can warm themselves up.

Amontillado is a naturally dry wine produced by the oxidation of a fino after the flor has died off. It can be a fino-amontillado, still with some flor characteristics; an amontillado which with further ageing develops a deeper colour and a more profound hazelnutty aroma; or aged even longer into quite a concentrated wine. But it will always be dry - unless sweetened, obviously.

Now any Sherry aficionado can tell by the price that it is never going to be the real thing, but when these wines appear on shop shelves with the names of well known bodegas, what is the average consumer going to think? To them Amontillado MEANS medium. There is obviously a place for these blends, but why destroy the reputation of what is arguably the most complex of Sherries in this way. If consumers want medium, give them medium, but labelled as such.

One could mention the Tres Cortados available in litre bottles and made by the oldest bodega in Jerez, but I feel the point is already made. The only way forward for Sherry is to stick to being a fine wine and be promoted accurately as such. And promotion it needs - desperately - but let us please have wines labelled correctly.

PS I notice Gonzalez Byass have dropped the word "Amontillado" from the label of their La Concha.

Without this seal, it is not Sherry

"Amontillado" 17%, Jose de Soto

Deep amber - ruddy brown, pronounced legs.
Full, rather commercial sweetened  blend, much more oloroso than amontillado, very savoury - hints Marmite and young PX, no evidence of or delicacy of once being under flor, in fact rather fat.
Full, quite sweet, quite nutty and mellow but totally unsubtle "British blend", savoury sweetened oloroso.
This used to be dry and had some elegance, but has been cheapened to make a commercial supermarket "medium" Sherry. Thank you, Nueva Rumasa.

£6,95  Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh

News from Jerez 8.7.12

Grupo Estevez has just completed the purchase of 400 hectares of vineyard, which used to belong to Pedro Domecq, from Beam Global. Estevez, which owns important brands such as Tio Mateo, La Guita, Real Tesoro and Valdespino has thus doubled its vineyard holding, making it the biggest vineyard owner of all Sherry companies with over 10% of plantations. Because of the recent uprooting and abandonment of vineyard bringing the total down to about 6,500 hectares, Estevez has been intensifying its search for more vineyard to guarantee a bit over half its grape requirements to fulfil contracts.

The firm, which supplies the Mercadona supermarket chain with over 50 brands (not all Sherry) has increased sales to supermarkets such as Tesco, and others whose suppliers had been hit by the Sherry Crisis. Estevez had toyed with the idea of buying vineyard from Zoilo Ruiz Mateos, a subsidiary of Nueva Rumasa-owned Garvey who are in receivership, before opting for the Beam Global deal, and is satisfied with that, as they are not intending to be 100% self sufficient.

The loss of nearly a third of Jerez vineyards and the adjustment between supply and demand coupled with growing demand for table wines presaging a tension in grape and must prices decided Estevez to make the purchase to guarantee future competitiveness. They are hoping vineyards can be made profitable after a decade of grave problems for growers and bodegas alike. They have already made 3-year price agreements with their contracted growers in the hope of preventing further loss of vineyard and employment.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

News from Sanlucar 7.7.12

A new way for tourists to see the sights of Sanlucar called "Cicloenobar" is being tried out using a vehicle called a "Bicibar". It consists of a bar on wheels powered by its customers who sit on bicycle seats and pedal. The initiative is being "peddled" by one Jorge Diaz of and has aroused interest from Sanlucar... Descubretela (the local tourist agency) and Bodegas Argueso. Apparently it has already been successful in many other European cities after its initial development in Germany.

In Sanlucar there will be two ticket options; the "Standard" which comprises two-and-a-half to three hours touring,  driver/guide, bar, snacks, music, fairy lights and karaoke, not to mention insurance. The other option, the "Jamon" includes all the above plus a leg of serrano ham.

I just hope there is a third option: to enjoy proper Pata Negra ham and Manzanilla in a tabanco and then just walk to all the bodegas without karaoke and fairy lights!

Moscatel Soleado 16.5%, Gutierrez Colosia

Deep amber with ruddy tints fading to yellow at the rim, viscous with pronounced legs.
Pure super-ripe aromatic grapey Moscatel, very raisiny with touches of caramel honey and toffee. Smells exactly as the bunches of grapes do as they dry out in the sun. Not at all woody but well aged.
Very sweet but a trace of acidity there, some grip too from small amounts of tannin, but overall unctuously sweet and joyfully flavoursome. Less sweet than most PX. Has a lovely open raisiny.texture, which lingers on the long grapey caramelly finish. Lovely.
Moscatel tends to be grown on the sandy coastal soils being less fussy than Palomino and PX. This wine is probably bought in by GC from Chipiona which specialises in Moscatel. The grape bunches are laid out in the sun for a couple of weeks or so to raisin ("Asoleo") in an ancient method still also used in Malaga and Montilla. Here the method is called "Pasil" and the only real difference is that the sandy soils on which the bunches are laid out (on finely meshed sheets of plastic) absorb more heat than the Albariza soils, radiating that heat so the grapes raisin a little  more completely and quickly.

£ 11.75 (half bottle) from Bon Vivant's Companion, Edinburgh

Friday, 6 July 2012

News from Jerez 6.7.12

The Consejo Regulador yesterday held a reception for the honorary Spanish Consul in El Paso (Texas) Maria Angeles Alvarez de Gallardo. Jerez and El Paso have been twinned since 1998. The host, Evaristo Babe, head of the brandy division of the Consejo and also of Fedejerez held a tasting of typical wines and tapas from Jerez.

The Consul declared that "Jerez is a marvellous and charming city, from its buildings to its people. It's very noble. I love the horses and, of course the Sherry". Evaristo Babe replied that the reception demonstrated the good relations which exist between the two cities. "It's more friendly than institutional".

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Sherry Towns : Puerto de Santa Maria

Port Saint Mary as the British used to call it is situated at the mouth of the river Guadalete, 10 km north of Cadiz across the bay. A little steamer still runs this route. At one time there was a service up to Jerez but the river silted up and it was suspended in the 1950s. The town has a population of about 88,000 and a considerable area of vineyard, as well as being surrounded by important conservation areas forming part of the Parque Nacional Bahia de Cadiz. There are some lovely beaches too.

The foundation of the town is attributed to a Greek general, Menesteo, who coming from the Trojan wars set up camp and called the place after himself. Certainly Greek artefacts have been found by archaeologists. The Phonecians and Romans were also here, and the Moors who arrived in the early VIII century called the place Alcante or Alcanatif - port of salt - in reference to previous industries. Here, the last Visigoth king Rodrigo was killed defending his kingdom against the Moors. When it was recaptured from the Moors by Alfonso X in the XIII century he renamed it Puerto de Santa Maria, then conceded it a charter allowing it the privilege of being "El" Puerto de Santa Maria. Later the Castillo San Marcos was built. It is a sort of fortified Church built on the demolished remains of a mosque, borrowing stone from a nearby Roman building.

Throughout the middle ages the town made its living from fishing, salt and wine. Local lords the Medinacelis financed the first voyage of Columbus, and later voyages sailed from El Puerto. Juan de la Cosa, a local cartographer who was a pilot for the Columbus ships made the first Mapa Mundi here in 1500. The discovery of the Americas brought much wealth what with all the traffic to and fro Las Indias. In the XIX century the town played unwilling host to Joseph Bonaparte and his army between 1801 and 1812. 

Famous citizens  - apart from Juan de la Cosa - have been mainly bullfighters, bodegueros and flamenco singers, but Rafael Alberti the poet was born here. The most interesting local festival is the Virgen del Carmen, patron saint of the town and of fishermen on 16th July. The fishermen carry an effigy of the virgen on a boat out to sea then parade her through the town. There is also the Feria de la Primavera, the spring festival in early May, during the four days of which staggering amounts of Sherry are drunk. Then there are bodegas, the most important of which are laid out below:

          Osborne                                  Gutierrez Colosia                         501 del Puerto
      Luis Caballero                          Fernando A de Terry                       Juan C Grant
         Obregon                                        J Ferris

Bodegas Osborne

                                                                Castillo de San Marcos

Bodegas: Gutierrez Colosia

This is one of the few remaining family bodegas and is beautifully positioned on the riverbank at the mouth of the river Guadalete at el Puerto de Santa Maria. It was built in 1837 and was previously used by Sancho Hermanos (Amontillado Quijote), Pedro Domecq and the 2nd Marques de Camillas (Vina del Pollero Alto), from whom it was bought in the early XX century by the current owner's grandfather Jose Gutierrez Dosal. He had founded a firm of almacenistas in the late XIX century.

He and his son supplied wine to the big bodegas while his grandson Juan Carlos Gutierrez Colosia studied, however Juan Carlos dropped out and ended up helping his father in the bodega where he learned and did everything. His father died in 1966 when Juan Carlos was only 20 and was forced to take on the considerable responsibility.

During the seemingly endless crisis that is Sherry, some of their main customers, Williams & Humbert, Osborne and Gonzalez Byass, no longer needed their wines, leaving Juan Carlos with two choices: close or bottle and sell on the open market. This meant buying expensive bottling equipment and going out selling. Luckily he believed strongly in what he was doing and in hard work, and despite many vicissitudes he slowly made headway. In 1969 he bought the ruin of the neighbouring palace of the Conde de Cumbrehermosa, a Cargador de Indias which had a small bodega to which he added 2 more, though the firm no longer owns this. In 1982 he bought a 300 cask solera of oloroso known as Sangre y Trabajadero from the now defunct bodega Cuvillo. This wine had been traditionally used at the shipyards of Puerto Real de Navantia for launching ships. It is still available. He bought another old oloroso solera from the now also defunct bodega Merello Gomez from which he produces the Cream Mari Pepa.

In 1995 the top Spanish buyers' guides Penin and Gourmets gave his wines high marks, and in 1998 he got his first order from Britain, and slowly other countries began buying. The wines are probably better known abroad now than at home.

Fino, Dry Amontillado, Dry Oloroso, Cream, PX, Moscatel Soleado and a 50 year old Palo Cortado
Mari Pepa Cream, Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso, Fino Campo de Guia

Brandy Juan Sebastian Elcano (nearly 100 year old solera) Named after Spanish Navy training ship.

Visits yes
Address: Avenida Bajamar, 40, 11500 Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz
Tel: (+34) 956 852 852

Colosia Fino 15%, Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia

Very pale strawy gold, legs.
Soft, aromas of the seaside, salty sea breezes, light trace of  flor and a hint of palomino and quince fruit, with just a hint of camomile.
Soft and well rounded, very dry with a trace of apply acidity (though quite low in acid), touch of almond-like bitterness from the flor, hint salt. Fresh, clean reasonably long finish.

A very sound fino from el Puerto de Santa Maria, quite maritime. This bodega is right on the waterfront at the mouth of the river Guadalete, and benefits from any sea breezes going - probably the best sited in the whole town. It is also one which deserves support after the tireless work the family has done to put it on the map.
£ 6,25 Bon Vivant's Companion, Edinburgh

Oloroso Coleccion 12 years old, 19%, Williams & Humbert

Mid amber, slight orange tints towards yellow rim, legs.
Light but quite expressive, a delicate style of oloroso with well integrated aromas of subtle oxidation, toasted almond, buttery oak, dried fruits and linseed oil.
Fuller, well rounded, some glycerol but no sweetness, certain tang, well flavoured lingering oily nutty character with remarkably clean finish.

This would make a great aperitif oloroso being less intense than many.
Price @£12 - half bottle

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Manzanilla La Gitana 15%, Vinicola Hidalgo

Very pale strawy silvery gold, legs.
Light, fresh, delicate, touch briny with gentle flor salinity, slight traces of flowers and slightest hint of autolysis.
Fresh very dry and tangy with decent acidity and a touch of white and yellow fruit and almond, very light yet has a certain presence and a good long clean finish .

The biggest selling Manzanilla. Huge amounts are drunk at the Feria in Sevilla. 70% of the bodega's production is Manzanilla from Hidalgo's own Balbaina and Miraflores vineyards and La Gitana runs through no less than 14 scales, being bottled at about 5 years old. La Gitana was once sold as a Manzanilla Pasada, but is now more popular as a younger wine.The brand was named at the turn of the century by the great grandfather of Javier Hidalgo,the current owner, after a pretty Malaga barmaid whose animal magnetism captivated her customers - and him. He had a portrait painted by the painter father of the famous composer Joaquin Turina which hangs in the bodega's office.

Monday, 2 July 2012

News from Jerez 2.7.12

The mayoress of Jerez Maria Jose Garcia Pelayo has announced the completed official programme for the Fiesta de la Vendimia 2012 which will again celebrate the arrival of the grapes and the birth of the new wine. The Fiesta will take place betwen the11th and 16th of September with a wide range of cultural events all celebrating Sherry. The mayoress is pictured above with the new logo and members of relevant committees at the announcement. You still have time to book!!

Bodegas: Williams & Humbert

This famous firm was founded in 1877, the fruit of a romance. Englishman Alexander Williams went to Jerez to try his luck and for a while worked in a humble bodega job with Wisdom & Warter. He fell for a girl called Amy Humbert, also English though resident in Jerez, but his salary could never pay for a family and he begged his employers to help. After their refusal he decided to rent a warehouse and establish his own bodega, helped by Edward Engelbach, a banker with Coutts, and being joined later by Arthur Humbert, soon to be his brother in law. Arthur was expert in international relations, which proved very useful, and their first (modest) order came in from London that same year for 2 half-butts of fino. This is interesting since at that time it was mainly oloroso that was exported in any quantity.

As time passed the bodega was growing and exports increasing to such diverse places as Denmark, the Far East, Malaysia, Ireland and India. The firm now exports to over 80 countries. Williams was later knighted. In 1900 Carl Williams, son of Alexander,  introduced the "Sherry Girl" logo and in 1906 what is now their signature brand, Dry Sack, a blend of amontillado, oloroso and PX. The new century arrived, and in the 1920's they were involved in the establishment of the Consejo Regulador. For a while W&H owned Robertsons, a port firm in Oporto, but sold it to Sandeman, a Sherry firm also involved with Port. In 1920 the firm laid down a butt of wine in honour of the birth of a family member, and this became habitual meaning the bodega now has a collection of butts of vintage wine from every year since, now amounting to over 500.

Nowadays the company owns over 450 hectares of vineyard consisting of 2 plots, Las Conchas in the Balbaina, and Dos Mercedes in the Carrascal and they are experimenting with the production of Moscatel and PX. The bodega complex built in 1974 is also interesting, if rather industrial looking. Built by Rumasa for Bodegas Internacionales, it extends to 180,000 square metres (or about 25 acres, making it the biggest winery in Europe, if not beyond) and is constructed from interlocking reinforced concrete modules in the shape of inverted umbrellas. At the entrance is a large pond with two water spouts. Here ducks spend their days sometimes snapping at dragonflies. As is tradition in Jerez, visiting dignitaries are asked to sign a cask, and here you can see casks signed by the Beatles, the King and Queen of Spain, Queen Elizabeth II, Peter O'Toole...The "Sacristy" (where the oldest wines - most dating from foundation or before are kept) is named after Don Guido, or Guy Dingwall Williams who ran the firm till his death in 1959, (an old PX wine is also named after him) and is full of memories and tradition. Here too is a wine museum; it says a lot for the bodega managers over the years that they kept all the old equipment as it was replaced, though there is no shortage of room. 50,000 butts are stored here.

In 1972 the firm was bought by Rumasa and moved to the new modern bodega from their charming old bodegas mostly in the Calle Paul. Much of these remains, but their office building and one bodega (which stored the Pando solera) are now integrated into Hotel Los Jandalos, another bodega is now a museum of nativity scenes and another is a youth club. Rumasa was finally expropriated by the Spanish Government in 1983, as they dismantled its labyrinthine wrongdoings. It was then re-privatised in 1985 from the Patrimonio del Estado and bought by the Riojan entrepreneur Marcos Eguizabal, who sold it on to Luis Paez who were helped by Dutch supermarket chain Royal Ahold and sold to Jose Medina y Cia. in 1995. There were initial problems with the rights to the brand Dry Sack which the Ruiz Mateos family (of Rumasa) had tried to secure, but the Medinas have re-dynamised W&H and it is now one of the leading bodegas again, exporting 90% of the 9 million bottles of Sherry produced.

Jose Medina was established in 1971 by 4 brothers: Jose, Nicolas, Jesus and Angel Medina Cachero who worked in bodegas and wanted their own. Their business grew mainly from exports by means of collaboration agreements with various big buyers. In 1979 Royal Ahold agreed with them a partnership through an associated company, Luis Paez. This and subsequent agreements helped Medina consolidate becoming a leading exporter and they bought out Luis Paez, along with various brands such as Bodegas Internacionales and Gran Duque de Alba brandy. In 1995, with the purchase of W&H, they grouped all their businesses under one umbrella, W&H, and signed long term agreements to supply Ahold and its subsidiaries with Sherry. So now W&H is entirely Andaluz owned!

Since then they have diversified into table wines from other regions of Spain such as Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Rias Baixas, and local Palomino table wine (Estero). There is also Rum and a cream liqueur version of the brandy. Then there is Medina del Encinar, their own brand of fine cheeses, Iberico cured pork, and their own distribution company (Sovisur).

What with the scale of the bodegas, there is room for events, and all sorts can be arranged there, for example parties, weddings, conventions etc, there is an equestrian show and a lot more!

Manzanillas: Manzanilla Alegria, Collection Manzanilla,
Finos: Dry Sack Fino, Collection Fino, Don Zoilo, Fino en Rama Vintage 2006, 2009, 2012... Pando
Amontillados: Collection 12 Years Old, Jalifa VORS 30 years, Vintage 2003,
Blends: Dry Sack, Dry Sack Solera Especial 15 years
Palo Cortado: Dos Cortados VOS 20 years
PX: Don Guido, Collection PX 12 years, PX Cedro
Olorosos: Collection 12 years, Lacave, Vintage 
Sweetened olorosos: Walnut Brown, Canasta Cream,  Collection Cream
Sweetened Amontillado: A Winter's Tale, As You Like It
Also some old Vintage Sherries, mostly Olorosos

{Some old brands: Carlito Dry Amontillado, Cedro Medium Dry, Molino Manzanilla}

Yes, with advance booking
Address: Autovia Jerez-Puerto de Santa Maria, Km 641.7
11408 Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Tel: (+34) 956 353 400

Sunday, 1 July 2012

News from Jerez 1.7.12

More on Beltran Domecq (b. 1946), new President of the CRDO Jerez, by his peers. He is diplomacy and gentlemanliness personified, a dandy of the wine world for which he was born, predestined for a career as a bodeguero and passionate about Sherry for which he professes a contagious devotion.

He hasn't a bad word for anyone, and no-one has one for him. Anyone who has had the privilege of attending a tasting given by him falls under his passionate spell of Sherry to which he refers as the "Mythical Wine". He speaks perfect English as his mother was English (a Wiliams from Williams & Humbert) and he is related also to the Gonzalez (Byass) family and of course Domecq. He is an enologist and a chemist and completed his academic education at courses in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Cognac. He began work at Williams & Humbert and later moved to Domecq, working in Sherry and brandy production along with commerce and PR.

The author of numerous articles and technical publications, not to mention his recent book "El Jerez y sus Misterios", he derived his passion from his legendary father Jose Ignacio Domecq, known affectionately in Jerez as "La Nariz" (the Nose - because of his brilliant tasting skills). He has travelled the wine world either learning about other wines or promoting Sherry. Sherry could have no better ambassador.

News from Jerez 29.6.12

As was predicted, at a plenary session of the Consejo this morning Don Beltran Domecq Williams Gonzalez was elected as President, unopposed and unanimously. His apointment will be ratified by the Andalucian Ministry of Agriculture who will publish the relevant Bulletin, and will be made official at a plenary on 24th July according to a statement by Cesar Saldana, Director General of the Consejo. The current acting president Francisco Lorenzo said the new President's first job will be to develop balance and stability through the entire production chain. "We need to push quality in all aspects of the business and sell more and better and inspire all sectors. Don Beltran has formally accepted the post, which is good news for Sherry. He will help us to maintain prestige as he has a lifetime of Sherry knowledge and experience, and has recently published a book on the subject which clearly shows his devotion".