Thursday, 29 November 2012

Don Fino 15%, Sandeman

Bright clean pale gold, legs.
Fresh and forthcoming then some complexities come through; a faint trace of oxidation, flor bitterness, perhaps a touch of almond, slight salinity, traces of dried flowers, lees and a trace of autolysis, a hint of Palomino fruit adds to the mix for a quality nose.
Similar, fairly soft and good and dry with a very dry feel from the albariza, smooth, fairly low acidity and appetising with that trademark Fino bitterness and long clean finish.
This is Sandeman's middle range Fino, between the Fino Seco and the Rare Fino. It is around 5-6 years old and comes from a solera laid down in 1887. The name "Don" refers to the famous Sandeman logo of the Don in a Capa Negra (black cape) which you can make out on the label. Over the years Sandeman Finos have had a variety of names such as Dry Don and Apitiv.
£12.00 from Vino, Edinburgh

29.11.12 Decanter Magazine Praises Sherry

Decanter Magazine, in its current (December) edition has given high praise to some Sherries. The article was written by Sarah Jane Evans MW, who knows a lot about Sherry, having written her MW dissertation on the Almacenistas. I can confirm that; I last met her at Vinoble giving a talk on Moscatel. She praises the following:

La Bota de Manzanilla No 32, Equipo Navazos
Manzanilla Pasada Cuevas Jurado, Lustau Almacenista
Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, Hidalgo la Gitana
Puerto Fino, Emilio Lustau
Fino la Ina, Emilio Lustau
Fino Antique, Fernando de Castilla
Fino Perdido, Sanchez Romate
Amontillado La Bota No 31, Equipo Navazos
Amontillado Antique, Fernando de Castilla
Amontillado Vina AB, Gonzalez Byass
Oloroso La Bota No 28 Bota Punta, Equipo Navazos
Palo Cortado Viejisimo 1/5, Cayetano del Pino
Palo Cortado Vides, Lustau Almacenista
Palo Cortado Wellington VORS, Hidalgo la Gitana
Moscatel Emilin, Emilio Lustau
PX Antique, Fernando de Castilla
PX Noe VORS, Gonzalez Byass

I have tasted most of these, and will post my notes on those not already posted as soon as I can. They are all quite excellent, and you should stock up with them for Christmas!

29.11.12 CRDO Takes Reins of Rutas del Vino

The association of the Rutas del Vino y del Brandy de Jerez yesterday began a new era with a new board of directors which includes the Consejos Reguladores of both the Sherry and the Brandy, who take on full responsibility for improving facilities and giving more drive to enotourism. An extraordinary meeting adopted the motion unanimously, and Cesar Saldana, director of the CRDO Sherry will preside while the Council’s tourism chief, Antonio Real will be vice-president.

The new set up will re-structure internally and renew its on-line communication strategy,  emphasising the role of the vineyards as a first rate tourist attraction, as a priority. The CRDO website has been revised to achieve more consumer involvement, and the plan is to improve the Rutas del Vino site as well. Better cohesion among the over 100 associated establishments is also an objective. Vineyards as attractions and countryside catering are also to be improved. It should be remembered that the Sherry area is the most popular for enotourism, cycle tourism and horse tourism in Spain.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Fino Seco Suite 15%, Valdivia

Paleish bright strawy gold, legs.
Quite forthcoming, touch bitterness and green almond from the flor, traces of olive brine, Palomino fruit and dried flowers and just the slightest hint of autolysis, dry.
Full, lots of flavour, quite rounded and on the low side acid-wise, but still balanced by that bitterness which makes Fino such a good aperitif. This wine is fairly serious with its almondy, strawy tang and pronounced flor characteristics. Good length too.
Very good, lots of character. Valdivia have two ranges: Suite (the affordable wines) and Sacromonte (the older wines). The bodega is part of the Hotel Villa del Duque in Jerez and belongs to Garvey which is now owned by Back in Business after two separate ownerships by Rumasa/Nueva Rumasa. Despite all the goings on, this is a really good Fino.

£8.99 ( 50cl ) from Baxter's in Edinburgh

A Certain Optimism in Jerez

Sherry has a good opportunity to recover its lost prestige. The resurgence of interest in the wine and the elimination of excess production have brought an air of optimism to the trade. The bodegas, the growers, the institutions and wine experts all agree on this. Now is the chance to get out of the rut of being forgotten, to leave behind years of decadence and pessimism, of vine – pulling, abandoning vineyards, internal disputes and ruinous pricing and get back to the top where Sherry should always have been.

Sherry could be at a crossroads. Interest in the wine is increasing, albeit in export markets, particularly the English speaking ones, and especially the USA. Grape and must prices are rising, growers are seeing longer supply contracts, and the cooperatives are able to sell their produce. The relations between producers and exporters are more cordial than they have been for a long time, things are running smoothly and there is some profit to be made.

There remains a lot to be done however. Jose Ramon Estevez says a change of mentality is needed to ensure that the growers can make a reasonable living and be incentivised to go for quality. He is among the more optimistic and practices what he preaches. Asevi and Aecovi have applauded his (among others’) attitude in helping the growers in hard times. They also cite Barbadillo – one of the biggest buyers because of their best-selling table wine Castillo de San Diego– Lustau and Beam.  The coops at Trebujena have a good friend in Williams & Humbert, especially after the latter broke the long-established link with Coop Virgen de la Caridad in Sanlucar when it was acquired by Nueva Rumasa. Jesus Medina,CEO of Grupo Medina , owners of W&H is also optimistic. He says the important thing is that everyone makes some money, although ex bodega prices will have to rise.

Officials at the Consejo Regulador and at Fedejerez (the bodega association) also see cause for optimism, but warn to avoid the pendulum effect. The Consejo president, Beltran Domecq has been much involved with promoting Sherry, with the Copa de Jerez and tastings in various countries, but he is fed up with the lack of financial resources to really promote Sherry. Others, perhaps with a slightly more pragmatic view believe that volumes should be kept low and that Sherry should be promoted as a “fine” wine. To the connoisseurs it is, but far too many consumers drink bulk plonk from own-label brands blended down to a price. The trade needs to get away from bulk.

Jesus Barquin, co-founder of Equipo Navazos believes the mistake was the “factory mentality” wine and getting too disconnected from the vineyards. Sherry should be a vineyard-driven wine, not some sort of homogenous commodity like Coca Cola. Jose Penin, founder of the Guia Penin, is also critical about affairs have been run in Jerez. Carmen Romero, manager of Aecovi  also says that Sherry must be vineyard driven, and applauds those who have seen the light. Aecovi took the bold step of marketing their own Sherries to ensure profitability for the Coop members. It should be borne in mind that the cheapest grapes in Spain are those of Jerez, and there is room for improvement, however if Sherry keeps to the current path there may be even more room for optimism.

26.11.12 FEE to Hold Congress in Jerez

Jerez is to be the meeting place in May 2014 of the Spanish Federation of Enologists. The biennial meeting will bring together over 300 wine makers. The president of the board of the Federation is from Jerez and he has made arrangements with the Mayoress. This is a great tourism opportunity for Jerez:  the wine must be good if 300 professionals want to meet there. The enologists are hoping that their meeting will coincide with Vinoble (a biennial sweet and fortified wine fair held in Jerez). The city will organise other events as well.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Amontillado Napoleon 17.5%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Deep old burnished gold verging on amber, trace green at rim, legs.
Elegant and aromatic, toasted almonds and hazelnuts, traces oak and cedar, quite punzante - traces of manzanilla pasada origins. Light hints of old furniture polished with linseed oil and a hint of oxidation, complex and somehow more aromatic than its paler colour would suggest.
Quite light in weight but compensated by lots of flavour surging through, a gentle trace of acidity, good grip and lots of deep nutty tang, a trace of salinity and bitterness from the flor, clean, quite crisp and very long.
Delicious. I love it when you can see how a wine has developed. A classic Sanlucar wine. It gets its name from the fact that Hidalgo supplied Napoleon's army with wine during the peninsula War. Be careful, though, because Hidalgo have two wines named Napoleon: this one and a VORS which is much dearer.Without wishing to appear partisan, they also supplied the British army, hence their other wine Palo Cortado Wellington. This solera is from the end of the XVIII century and is filled with Pastrana. Some of this wine, which is close to 20 years old then goes to the VORS solera.

£ 10, 95 (50cl) from Drinkmonger

Friday, 23 November 2012

23.11.12 Paco Cepero Launches New Suite at Gonzalez Byass

The Jerezano guitarist Paco Cepero has celebrated the release of the recording of his latest work “Suite Gades” at the bodegas of Gonzalez Byass. He has spent the last 2 years working on it and it received its premiere at the Teatro Falla in Cadiz last May. The work, which is dedicated to the bi-centenary of La Pepa (the Cadiz Constitution of 1812), is a blend of flamenco and symphonic music, recorded with the Symphony Orchestra of Cordoba. He could have held the celebration in Madrid, but being Jerezano he preferred Jerez, supported by Gonzalez Byass. So far the recording is only available in Jerez at Abrines, but is also available on itunes.

Picture from Diario de Jerez

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Waitrose Medium Dry Amontillado 18.5%, Romate

Deep amber to walnut, darker than most amontillados - some vino de color probably, legs.
Quite fat, and more like oloroso, and a little dumb from colouring and sweetening wines presumably. Nicely controlled oxidation, quite full, traces dried fruit and walnut.
Oloroso surely, quite tangy, less sweet than nose, but certainly sweetness there - and not much of it is PX. It is actually quite a pleasant wine , and definitely suitable for "medium" drinkers, but is never amontillado.

Classic "Medium (dry) Sherry". By no means the worst of its breed, but not amontillado. I wish the Consejo would ban use of the A word for wines which are simply not A. It is they after all who want to promote Sherry for its quality. Still, this wine is cheap, and thus good value for what it is.
£ 6.49

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

21.11.12 News from Barbadillo

The white wine chosen for the lunch celebrated by those attending the recent  Iberoamericano meeting in Cadiz was Barbadillo’s Castillo de San Diego, the biggest selling white wine in Spain.

Barbadillo has also just put on the market the Autumn “Saca” (limited release) of their classic Manzanilla en Rama. Just 1200 half bottles are available. En Rama wines are subjected to minimum clarification treatment to retain all their nuances, and this one is fined using egg white. As always, the label depicts an animal from the Coto Donana, and this time it is the badger. This is a fabulous wine and well worth looking out for. (UK importer is Ehrmanns)

PX La Cilla 17.5%, Barbadillo

Deep, almost opaque blacky brown through golden brown to amber rim, slow legs.
Most attractive, notes of honey and pasa, a certain dankness yet fresh, unctuous, traces of wood, licorice, carob, amazingly rich.
Really sweet and full of pasa pulp, quite penetrating with those traces of honey, licorice and wood to give a more serious side, terrific length.
Quite delicious. From what I can discover it has an average age of only five years in which case it is a real star, with amazing complexity for that age.

Retail around £15 (UK importer Ehrmanns)

21.11.12 Consejo to push Amo, Palo, Oloroso Sherry in Holland

The President of the Consejo Regulador, Beltran Domecq sees growth possibilities in the traditional Sherry styles of Amontillado and Oloroso, by bringing Sherry culture in all its breadth to the traditional consuming countries such as the UK, Germany and Holland. Despite the sector being in a less than perfect state as a result of the crisis, Domecq believes there are possibilities in other European countries and other continents, such as the USA, where Sherry is known but not as widely available as it could be.

The Consejo sees potential in the traditional dry styles; Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado as tastes have moved on from the sweeter styles like Cream. Another avenue is the Sherry Vinegar, an essential culinary condiment, but which is little known beyond Spain and France. Part of the Consejo’s work to internationalise Sherry is the V Copa de Jerez, the gastronomic competition which marries food and Sherry. Domecq hope this will offer an excellent alternative to the standard white wine with fish and red wine with meat syndrome. Indeed some Sherries are better suited anyway.

Utrecht in Holland was host recently to a Wine and Gastronomy fair “Gastronomie 2012” at which there was a Sherry stand. Over 4,000 people attended, mainly chefs and sommeliers. The Sherry stand presented a tasting of various top quality wines along with a selection of cheeses, which was extremely popular.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Lustau East India Solera 20%

Deep blacky brown - burnt sienna - through amber and yellow to pale rim with a trace of green, legs.
Full and deep with damp old barrel notes, a pronounced presence of PX and an attractive oloroso behind. Serious wine of some age, a simple but clever blend which reveals the fine characteristics of its two constituents: old oloroso and old PX, each reining in the other, balancing beautifully and creating something special. There is a texture there from the PX and a structure and fragrance from the oloroso. Traces of gravy, coffee, caramel, walnuts and toffee.
Medium-sweet but the sweetness is not excessive, a beautifully balanced palate with texture, lots of flavour, tangy acidity and terrific length. A lovely wine and fairly unusual in style.
The Oloroso and the PX are already aged in separate soleras before they are blended. The blend is then further aged for 3 years in its own solera of only 33 butts in bodegas where the atmosphere is similar to the conditions export wines once underwent in sailing ships when used as ballast, subject to high temperatures and rolling seas. Many wines went to and fro the East Indies either as ballast or to improve them, or both, hence the name.

£9.95 (50cl.) from Waitrose, UK agents FMV

19.11.12 Osborne Win Ham Award; World Wine Tourism Day

Bodegas Osborne in el Puerto de Santa Maria has won an award for its efforts in internationalising and exporting Jamon Iberico as a fine Spanish product at the tenth Exporters and Investors Club Awards. Osborne is the owner of the top quality brand Cinco Jotas, which is already exported to various countries including China, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong, the United States and Europe. The award will be presented on the 20th November by the Secretary of State for Commerce Jaime Garcia-Legaz.

Cinco Jotas Pata Negra Ham....divine!

World Wine Tourism Day was celebrated last Thursday in el Puerto de Santa Maria with a tutored tasting in the Hotel Pinomar offered by Bodegas Delgado Zuleta. Along with their magnificent wines various tapas were offered to participants – of whom there were many. Other bodegas participated also, and there was a free visit to the Castillo de San Marcos.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Oloroso Faraon 18%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Amber like old patinated furniture through yellow to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Very savoury, gamey, some walnut, slight trace of varnished wood, barrels, hints of seaweed, subtle oxidation, dried apricots and a trace of raisin. Just a flash of youth there too in a complex wine.
Dry with a decent tangy acidity, and comparatively light but very elegant with a long, tasty and gentle finish.
A lovely wine, and quite a character; less "oloroso-y" than many and with all the hallmarks of its Sanlucar origins. It is aged in solera for at least 7 years before bottling, developing an extra 1 degree of alcohol in the process. A "Faraon" is a gypsy title for the head of a family. Hidalgo are self sufficient for grapes with about 200 hectares in Miraflores and Balbaina.
£13.50 from Villeneuve Wines in Edinburgh and Peebles (UK agent: Mentzendorff)

Friday, 16 November 2012

16.11.12 Queen in Jerez; More Rumasa Nonsense

The Queen of Spain, Dona Sofia, will today play host to a lunch and visit to bodegas Gonzalez Byass for the “First Ladies” of Latin America, whose husbands are attending the XXII Ibero-American summit, being held in Cadiz. The summit will be presided over by the King, Don Juan Carlos, and his son Don Felipe the Principe de Asturias, and its theme will be to restore good relations in the bicentenary of the Constitution of Cadiz. Along with Latin American heads of state and of government, those of Portugal and Andorra are attending. 
I just hope the First Ladies don’t see (or smell) the effects of the dustbin men’s two week strike!

The Ruiz Mateos family is suing Joaquin Yvancos, the ex Rumasa chief of accountancy for 28 years for  "grave calumny and falsehood” published in El Mundo.  They accuse him of trying to evade possible penalties for his part in the Rumasa empire as chief executive, and of extorsion.  Meanwhile the husband of Begona, Ruiz Mateos’ daughter is suing her 6 brothers, accusing them of evading VAT payments of 12 million euros among many other types of fraud. 
Dear oh dear!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fino La Janda 15%, Álvaro Domecq

Bright, very pale strawy gold, legs.
Attractive and quite complex, very fresh with plenty of flor, hints of bread dough and a faint background trace of autolysis, there's a hint of something like new wood or dry scrub from the flor presumably, and the faintest note of cinnamon.
Very rounded and clean, its extra year or two of ageing gives some real depth and character with an appealing yeasty bitterness and a trace of olive brine at the end. Smooth and dangerously drinkable yet very precise and complex.
A very good Fino, a little over seven years old. The Fino bodega adjoins that of the oxidatively aged wines and, up a few steps, is noticeably cooler and more humid, perfect conditions for flor. The Álvaro Domecq wines are quite simply those of the bodega's previous proprietor, the famous almacenista Pilar Aranda, who had a well-earned reputation for quality. The new owner, who bought the bodega in 1999, has certainly maintained the quality, and the bodega is kept immaculately. The name La Janda is derived from a large area of land of that name in the province of Cádiz in which Don Álvaro's horse and bull ranch lies.
Around 6.50 euros


14.11.12 Amid strikes, some good news

The bad news:
Today was 14N. The 14th of November, and the day chosen by the trades unions in Spain to hold a national strike against the cuts, the second under the government of Mariano Rajoy. The unions said it was a success, with 80% going on strike, while criticising the  over-policing of the event, but the Government said everything was comparatively norma, and disputed the unions' figuresl. Meanwhile in Jerez the dustbin men have been on strike for nearly two weeks, and there are piles of rubbish everywhere. The strike which is over reducing council costs, seems intractable. Something will have to give soon though…

The good news:
The Copa de Jerez national competition has chosen Madrid restaurant Il Bambino to represent Spain in the international competition. The Copa de Jerez is awarded to the best menu married with Sherry.

The chef Angel Vellon produced three courses accompanied by wines chosen by sommelier Ivan de la Torre. The menu is as follows:
First course:  a dish based on artichokes with an oloroso foam with crisp ham, accompanied by Fino  La Panesa from Emilio Hidalgo
Second course: a terrine of duck confit accompanied by Williams & Humbert’s Dos Cortados Palo Cortado
Dessert:  Fantasy sorbet Romate, with Sanchez Romate Old & Plus PX
The panel of judges includes Beltran Domecq, president Of the Consejo Regulador Jerez. The final will be celebrated in Jerez next year.

Monday, 12 November 2012

More on Women in the Sherry Business

(Another interesting article from the Diario de Jerez - I've added a few details)

Women have managed to conquer the Sherry trade, in a small but growing group of managers, executives, enologists, public relations people, venenciadores, growers...

From starting out working at the bottling lines, women have built an important niche in the Sherry business. Nowadays women are to be found in all the specialist areas; a group of women would establish a big bodega run exclusively by women; their names run into the hundreds, too many to mention, but there follow a few examples. In an earlier article we looked at the women who took over bodegas after their husbands' deaths, such as the memorable Pilar Aranda and Pilar Pla. Both of them and many others broke the masculine hegemony to give women a step up the ladder to the feminisation of the trade. And by the 1980s things really began to take off for women in Spain.

Firstly there is Fatima Ruiz-Lassaletta, a Jerezana who worked for many years with Rumasa as the first director of public relations from the 1960s, then there is Millie Swithinbank, secretary to the legendary Guido Williams at Williams&Humbert, who, upon his death became the British Vice Consul in Spain and ran the W&H public relations department. Esperanza Paez Morilla, daughter of the "Vinegar King" Antonio Paez Lobato ended up running the entire Paez Morilla wine business herself. Another young woman, Maria del Carmen Padilla, is the "face" of the financial analysis centre of Beam in Spain, and Marta Ferguson, still works as manager and administrator of Domecq (now Beam).

There are many female enologists in the Sherry area. Beltran Domecq was once asked how his famous uncle Jose Ignacio Domecq felt about the better aptitude women have for enology and tasting. He simply replied diplomatically that both sexes were born with sufficient sensorial attributes to allow them to work as enologists as long as they worked hard, studied hard, tasted hard and remembered hard. The secret is work - for either sex.

Maribel Estevez Puerto, daughter of the unforgettable Jose Estevez is a familiar face. As an enologist she is director of research and development at bodegas Real Tesoro and introduced the first low histamine fino, Tio Mateo, and the genome "Music3 (Vid-Vino-Vina)", a musical translation of the genetic sequence of flor yeast, CDs of which are played to the yeasts working in the wine.

Many are not from Jerez. Montse Molina is another enologist, a Catalan, working for Bodegas Barbadillo, firstly as a technician in research and development, and for the last ten years or so as chief of the technical department. Then there's Jane Ward, an Englishwoman, export manager at Lustau, and Claire Marie Henderson from Glasgow working at Gonzalez Byass. Ana Cabestrero Ortega comes from the Ribera del Duero near Valladolid and is commercial director and award winning enologist at Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, owned and run by a woman, Pilar Pla and her daughter Maria del Carmen Borrego.

The marketing and commercial world of Sherry has not missed out either on the feminine touch. Here there are many more women. Victoria (Vicki) Gonzalez Gordon, a member of the GB family, is international marketing manager not only for Sherry but also for the firm's other wines and spirits. She says that the international consumer is slowly rediscovering Sherry, helped by the Sherry Bars, tapas and the fame of Spanish chefs.

At Beam Global, we find Maria Eugenia Herrera, who runs the PR department and has as colleagues Maria del Carmen Padilla and Marta Ferguson. They are proud to work for Beam which as an international company has a good gender  equality policy.

Veneciadores of such fame as Julian Delgado or Pepe Ortega are being challenged, as are vine growers. Carmen Romero not only holds a technical degree in agriculture but is also a qualified enologist. She is the fourth generation of a vine growing family and is also the figurehead of Aecovi, a grouping of four cooperatives with some 1,200 vine growing members. This is a young dynamic company which uses the latest technology to augment artesan methods in the vineyard and bodega. These days it has a full range of wines as well as vinegars and sauces, exporting these to about fifteen countries. Carmen forms a part of the 60% of the workforce which is female.

Not only are women now heavily involved in the Sherry trade on the production side, but we are also major consumers. Gone are the days of little English grannies and their Cream Sherry. Women now enjoy - and appreciate - the finest of all styles of Sherry. Viva la mujer!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

10.11.12 Estevez signs permanent contract with Covisan

Covisan cooperative with its 170 members has agreed a “life” contract to supply grapes and musts to Estevez, to whom they are already the main supplier. Jose Ramon Estevez said that this was a joint project for the future in the hope of reducing production costs and improving quality, one which guarantees grape sales for the growers and supplies for the bodega. This latter point is important as not every bodega secured enough this year to replace stocks, what with the recent grubbing up of vines and the small harvest.  Now that balance has been restored work can begin on improving the image, the prestige and the price of Sherry. If the growers and bodegas work together they can both make a profit. As the president of Covisan, Antonio Palacios, put it, “there is hope”.

Covisan bodegas in Sanlucar

Friday, 9 November 2012

9.11.12 Palacio Domecq is sold

Juan Rodriguez, a Jerezano with interests in bars and catering in Jerez is to buy the historic old seat of the Domecqs from Beam for 4 million euros. The deal was signed yesterday after 6 months of negotiations.  Sr. Rodriguez is involved with Alta Cazuela, a catering firm (which provided the food at the Alcazar recently for the Grand Tastings for the Fiesta de la Vendimia), and the famous traditional Bar Juanito. He sees great possibilities in the building for hotel and up market catering, creating another top quality venue in Jerez.

What held up negotiations for so long – six months – was the question of what was to be done with the contents of the palace; numerous works of art including paintings, tapestries, photographs, and all the trappings of the Domecqs’ position in Jerez for 300 years.

The fact that the palace is a listed building (a Bien de Interes Cultural) and is so centrally situated (in the Alameda Cristina) appealed to Sr. Rodriguez, and keeping it open to the public features in his plans. The building dates from the XVII C, was renovated in the 1970s and is in excellent condition. It is listed for domestic use which restricts but doesn’t impede its use for weddings for example.

Interior Patio of the Palacio Domecq

Wine Tourism in Jerez

The Sherry bodegas were the first to offer wine tourism in the 1960s and it is much more sophisticated now.  Sherry bodegas are the most visited wineries in Europe.  Wine tourism is always a pleasure and now it has gone beyond simply getting to know the wines, it means soaking up the culture of the place. Now you can stay among the vines, learn the art of tasting, and matching each wine with the local gastronomy. Local wine bars as well as bodegas offer great tutored tastings.

Here in the quiet of cathedral like bodegas you can feel the art of generations, the wisdom of centuries combined to produce unique wines of exceptional quality, many of which are extremely old. The countryside and towns are dotted with the classic bodega architecture of soaring pillars supporting high roofs, some resembling cathedrals, others mosques. Some bodega families collected art, such as Bodegas Tradicion, with works by great artists like Velazquez, Goya or Zurbaran. Estevez has a collection of Picasso engravings and works by Dali and Miro. Others have stables of thoroughbred horses, museums of old winery tools, or old labels. And the vineyards themselves offer beautiful views, be they of hills and castles or of the Atlantic horizon.
The Patio de las Armas, Alcazar, Jerez, home of Vinoble
the biennial sweet and fortified wine fair

The Sherry zone is a beautiful place, steeped in history, culture and tradition, which makes the world’s most unique fine wine and a wide range of gastronomy to accompany it. Now is the time to plan your trip - you'll never regret it! Go!

Go to: Turismo Jerez
           Rutas del vino

Thursday, 8 November 2012

As You Like It 20.5%, Williams & Humbert

Quite deep amber fading through yellow to green tinged rim, some age apparently, legs.
Fragrant amontillado, quite nutty, a curious interplay between that implicit sweetness of amontillado and real sweetness harmonised in the wine over decades, beautifully aged - fresh with minimal oxidative or woody notes, a certain tang with slightest traces of dried apricot, vanilla and raisin, complex, lovely.
Medium sweet - if not sweeter -  but the sweetness is balanced by that tanginess and traces of tannin from the wood. It could do with less sweetness but it was made when this style was more the norm. Nonetheless, the flavour is not masked, and is that of genuine amontillado, with the characteristic toasted nuts flavour and terrific length.
W & H are famous for their excellent sweeter wines, usually made by solera ageing the blend. Many "Medium" Sherries are horrid pre-bottling blends made to a price. This is not. All that went into this blend was quality wine. And time. The blend was introduced by Carl Williams, second generation of the family, in early 1900. It comes from a solera of only 27 butts which has a bit of a story. In the days when the bodega was still family owned, it was decided to de-list the brand, but the then capataz, Manuel Offerrall, liked the wine so much that rather than dispose of it he had it hidden in among the Canasta soleras. His deception was only discovered 25 years later when the new owners, Rumasa, moved all the soleras to the new bodega. Francisco Salas Lopez, the "nose" of the bodega sniffed out these special butts which were obviously exceptional and not connected with Canasta, and informed the new capataz, Jose Luis Moreno Garcia. They figured out what had happened and a new brand was born. The wine is not sold as a VORS, but probably could be. It is certainly expensive enough! More than many VORS in fact, but it is lovely. And it is nice to see a more traditional label. 

£ 23.99 (per half bottle) from Waitrose, also available from the Wine Society.

8.11.12 21 New Sherry Educators

The Consejo Regulador reports that last month 21 people from various branches of the wine and food trade and from 13 countries have achieved Sherry Educator status (Formador Homologado del Vino de Jerez), bringing the total number of Educators to over 300 since the initiative was established in 2004. Every year there are two courses; one in Spanish and one in English.

After an intensive 3 days of total immersion in theoretical and practical seminars, tastings, visits to vineyards and bodegas they underwent a final evaluation to obtain their title. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana 15%,Hidalgo La Gitana

Pale to mid strawy gold, slightest trace brass tinged with faint green, legs.
Typical manzanilla pasada - complex and interesting, strong flor notes; saline, dry, with hints of dried flowers and scrubland under the Andalucian sun, resin, slight autolysis and sourdough. There is also a slight trace of dried fruit and nuts. It is quite tight and very clean  and fresh with lots of character.
Fairly low acidity but still fresh and tangy, quite light, but the depth is in the flavour, very much as above. It is fairly soft but has great presence, with a long, very slightly bitter finish. Very elegant.
From a single vineyard, "Pastrana" in the Jerez Superior area of Miraflores and aged in the Bodega San Francisco with 31 solera butts. This wine was conceived by Javier Hidalgo and his old friend Cristiano van Zeller (of Quinta do Noval Port fame) as recently as 1997. They tried endless wines and came up with this one, (and an old amontillado) and it's a cracker. From the label you would think it had been around for years. The bottle has changed since this Majestic photo was taken, and is now the same more elegant style as La Gitana with more sloping shoulders and a low, nipped-in waist.
Majestic have it on offer just now at £9.99 (UK RRP £12.99) - worth every penny. I bought two - you can never have too much Sherry!

7.11.12 57 DO's meet with other countries to discuss EU plantation rights

An international meeting of European wine regions convened today in Brussels to defend the current system of plantation rights in Europe.  71 wine regions, including Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Portugal and Austria, comprise the Association of European Wine Regions and are unanimously against the proposed reforms. Many a politician will also attend, representing both the EU and the wine regions. The meeting was arranged with the High Level group meeting of the 14th December in mind, which was set up to report to the Comission with recommendations.

Pladevi complains about the system

La Plataforma de la defensa de la vina (Pladevi) have complained of a lack of transparency in both the rules by which the DO is operated and by their application.

They say that the absence of a solid, stable framework of rules prejudices companies’ investment decisions and could have further negative effects such as disincentivising the entrance to the field of other operators. The growers feel inadequately represented by the organisations with a seat on the Consejo Regulador, and feel their hands are tied when entering into agro-tourism or into the market with their wines.

They are therefore asking for clarity in the way people can operate and in the restrictions and their justification, saying that the lack of transparency is usually a barrier to entering the market, which protects those already there hindering newcomers with a lesser understanding of how things work.

Pladevi wants to see an improvement in access to information on decisions taken by the Consejo from whom it is asking for a permanent public register of circulars sent out by plenary sessions , and suggests these could be published on the Consejo website.

Junta de Andalucia invests 2.9m Euros to promote Spanish wine abroad

The money comes from the European Agricultural Guarantee fund (FEAGA) and represents an increase on last year’s grant of 1 million euros. The fund covers such activities as PR, promotion, publicity and participation in wine fairs and events abroad.

61 programmes of information and promotion have been developed by 11 wine companies in 30 foreign countries. This assistance is aimed at developing understanding of the characteristics and quality of Spanish wine to increase competitivity by opening new markets or consolidating existing ones.

The wine being promoted is that supported by Denominacion de Origen Protegida (the DO wines such as Sherry or Rioja), Indicacion Geografica Protegida, and the less exalted wines which can put the grape varieties used on the label.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Worries about liberalisation of planting rights

Growers are following with concern the EU debate on planting liberalisation which could do away with their rights with the stroke of a pen. These rights have been acquired thanks to decades of work through generations of family, or bought at a high price during the good times when they were more profitable. The growers reject the proposed change in the system which could see prices fall and break the current hard-earned balance of supply and demand.

Many fear that these reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy will see the big wine companies, who just want the best priced grapes, swinging the balance towards liberalisation of certain rights, which in many DO’s including Jerez are subject to the rule of the Consejo, which is authorised to permit new plantings in line with demand.

But this liberalisation could allow speculation. There is the possibility that those growers who benefited from substantial Community aid to uproot their vines from 2008-10 could now obtain new planting rights without having to pay back the grants. It seems that there was no time limit on when a grower could return to wine growing, and so the whole idea of supply matching demand could be thrown out of the window.

The EU is debating whether to maintain the limitation on planting till 2018 or to go ahead in 2015, be it partially or wholly, but is keeping details close to its chest. The growers are roundly opposed to the change, and have asked the Ministry of Agriculture to be firm in its opposition.

Growers from 50 European wine regions are united against the EU reform and have nearly amassed enough votes to stop it. It affects the whole EU, not just Spain.

People's names as Sherry brands

(Based on a recent Diario de Jerez article)

The use of people’s names for brands is a long standing tradition in Jerez. In many cases it was used in recognition of a member of the bodega family, such as in the case of Gonzalez Byass’ Alfonso , the king at the time, or alternatively to honour a well -known person such as Leonor, granddaughter of king Juan Carlos. The name is often accompanied by a familiar reference such as “Tio” Pepe, “Tio” Diego or “Don” Jose.

In 2008 Aecovi, a coop in Jerez, decided to launch its own wines onto the market, and in 2011 they launched a range called Alejandro, ostensibly after the ancient Greek Alexander, “saviour of men”, but eschewing the traditional use of “Tio” or “Don” to give a more current image. The label itself is also a departure, with a modern font and vertical lettering.  The coop is already selling its wines in many export markets.

 This range has just been followed up by another called “Santiago”. This name was chosen because Santiago (Saint James) is a well-known name, and everyone knows the Camino de Santiago. The wine met with success at the Sherryfest in New York, and will now be exported there after the signing of contracts.

Many Sherries have interesting names, here are a few more:

GB’s La Concha is named after their bodega La Concha (a seashell in plan) designed by Eiffel, and their Vina AB is named after Andres Botaina from whom they bought the vineyard

Valdespino’s Inocente comes from a vineyard of that name, as does Domecq Fino La Ina, now Lustau

Garvey San Patricio was named by Irishman William Garvey after Ireland’s patron saint, and their Tio Guillermo after him, the firm’s founder

Lots are named after Napoleonic times, such as Hidalgo La Gitana’s Napoleon and Wellington or Rivero’s Trafalgar 1815

Barbadillo’s Solear refers to sunning the grapes,; Osborne’s Coquinero is slang for someone from Puerto de Santa Maria.

La Guita is a play on words: it is slang for cash which the founder insisted upon, and also means string, which runs between capsule and label.

La Gitana is named after a painting of a gypsy painted for the firm by the composer Turina’s father. It is rumoured that there may be more to it than that…

Manzanilla is always feminine: La Bailaora, Deliciosa, Pastrana, La Cigarrera…

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Manzanilla La Jaca 15%, Alvaro Domecq

Very pale gold, bright and clean, very light legs.
Full, assertive, lots of flor and hints of autolysis, traces beach sand with a trace of the complexity of Manzanilla pasada, very attractive.
Fresh and tangy, quite lean surprisingly but "punzante", very clean and yeasty with attractive hint of bitterness at the finish, quite a serious wine for a straightforward Manzanilla. Good.
Not wine from a solera bought from Pilar Aranda, so I don't know whence it comes, but it is certainly high quality. Higher quality than the label would suggest. Alvaro Domecq wines are of superior quality and are worth looking out for.

I bought this in Jerez for 6 or 7 euros, but I'm not sure if it is available in the UK

Back from Jerez: 4

The next morning it was off to Williams & Humbert, on the edge of town but somehow near the centre as well. This is the biggest bodega in Europe, though you would never guess that from the front. It is a modern, even boring, industrial looking concrete complex from the outside, yet enormous on the inside, seemingly going off in all directions. Constructed in 1974, it is much cleverer than it looks from the outside, being a series of umbrella-shaped concrete castings which link together at the top. (see photo below)

It was built for Rumasa who wanted one vast complex in which to house the various soleras for the different bodegas they had taken over. One still remains, the excellent Don Zoilo (see Tastings). There is space for a museum of tools and instruments, a huge tasting area, room for horse shows, large private gatherings and flamenco. Here is housed the famous collection of Anadas going back to 1920, a vintage car, and a large shop - not to mention huge aisles of Sherry.

The bodega welcomes busloads of tourists, and was full of them, so there was nobody serious to talk with, but I managed to wander around unnoticed, taste a couple of wines and take in the amazing atmosphere.

Then it was off to Sanlucar to visit Barbadillo. It is a short drive on a beautiful day and I managed to park very near to the bodegas! They have a very interesting Museo de la Manzanilla upstairs above the formal entrance, which has many old vineyard and bodega implements, short videos, collections of old labels and bottles, and is well worth a visit. Back downstairs I met the technical director, Juan Guerrero Ferrer along with some of his staff and over a few glasses of the excellent Manzanilla Solear we discussed - at some length - Sherry and what is going on.

Most unusually for the Sherry area - indeed almost uniquely - Barbadillo is producing an excellent Sparkling wine, which they were first to produce. "Beta" is a traditional method sparkling wine made in the Sherry area from Palomino and Chardonnay grapes, and is probably the first sparkling wine produced in Andalucia, of which they are rightly proud. Then we discussed their wonderful, seasonally released Manzanilla en Rama. (The Autumn 2012 has just been released). It is a cracking wine, concentrated Manzanilla yet subtle and so fragrant and zesty. The very essence of Manzanilla. And it is only a part of their very fine range of Sherries.

The team at Barbadillo, Solear at the ready
Rosario, second from left in the picture above, featured in a recent Spanish television film about Sherry in general and Manzanilla in particular, which I happened to see a few days later. Felicidades, Rosario! What a delightful bunch of people - no wonder their wines are so good!

After a lovely day in Sanlucar, it was off back to Jerez for dinner and a glass of Sherry. Next day I was off to Malaga for a pre-opening visit to the latest bar-restaurant, Los Patios de Beatas. It is huge and beautifully set up in an old building right in the old city centre off the Calle Granada, and has tasting rooms, extensive bar, restaurant and entertainment areas for Jazz, Flamenco etc. The kitchens are state of the art, and the wine list is probably the best I have ever seen - it is immense!! Next time you are in Malaga, you have to go. This in itself is a very good reason to go! It is a difficult place to photograph, but the photo below should give you an idea of at least part of it.

The stained glass roof, Los Patios de Beatas