Monday, 31 December 2012

30.12.12 3 Kings Dinner at Gonzalez Byass

Gonzalez Byass held a candle-lit dinner for the 3 Kings and members of the public in their Apostoles bodega last night. Each year this is one of the important dates on the Kings’ busy schedule, though slightly earlier than usual this year. Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar were able to chat with others who had played the roles of the Kings in the past, and who gave them good advice for the year’s most magical night.
In Spain Christmas is celebrated on the 5th/6th of January, when the Kings or Wise Men (Reyes Magos) are supposed to have given their gifts to the infant Jesus. Local worthies dress up as the Kings and drive through the streets in a cavalcade giving children sweets. On the 2nd of January the Grand Vizier of the Kings will pass through central streets dishing out 2,000 kg of sweets with bands playing. He will then repair to the Alcazar to receive children’s Christmas wishes in writing which he can pass to the Kings

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas and New Year! Feliz Navidad y prospero Ano Nuevo!

I would just like to wish all you Sherry drinkers out there a very happy Christmas and New Year.

Thank you all so much for reading the Blog and for your intelligent feedback. It's been great fun.

Os deseo todos feliz Navidad y prospero Ano Nuevo. Os agradezco por leer el Blog y por beber Sherry!

But remember - Christmas just isn't Christmas without a glass of good Sherry. (I'm drinking the Antique Amontillado from Fernando de Castilla).  Salud!!

Let us hope 2013 is a vintage year for the producers of this great wine!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

23.12.12 Vinoble Back; Pope claims 3 Kings came from Spain

The great Sweet and Fortified Wine fair held every two years since 2000 at the Alcazar in Jerez will take place again in 2014. This year’s event was cancelled due to lack of support from the Jerez Council and the Regional Government. The 2014 event will likely take place during the second fortnight of May or the first fortnight of June.

The chief organiser of the last event was Pancho Campo of the Wine Academy, and it is hoped that Jesus Barquin of Equipo Navazos will be in charge for the next event. While available finances are still tight, every effort will be made to do more with less in order to retain the quality and professional ambience of the event.

In his recently published book "Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives", Pope Benedict XVI claims that the Three Kings came from Tartessus, which is thought to have been in the Sherry area. The whole thing is surrounded in archaeological and historical doubt, but it is possible. Maybe, just maybe, one of the gifts to the infant might have been Sherry?!

Bristol Cream 17.5%, Harveys

Fairly pale for a cream, deep amber fading through yellow to a pale rim with the slightest hint of green, legs.
Rich and sweet, very light oloroso with only hints of PX, and slightly savoury, almost pickled walnut oxidised notes. There are hints of raisin, yeast autolysis and damp barrels as well as a certain rather old fashioned  seriousness. Looks as if the wine has been further aged after blending - quite homogeneous.
Sweet on entry and quite light (not really as full bodied as the label says), quite mellow, attractive amontillado/oloroso flavours rather obscured by sweetness, but, well, it's a sweet Sherry! A classic (the original!) cream, long complex and interesting.
Along with Tio Pepe, the world's best known Sherry. HBC (as it is known in the trade) has in recent times come in a Bristol Blue bottle, presumably to reflect its Bristol heritage, though it is an odd colour in which to present a Sherry. The blue glass was a Bristol tradition, starting in the early 18th C and running out of steam in the early 20th C, but has since seen some revival. The blue comes from Cobalt Oxide. HBC was originally further matured, blended and bottled in Bristol using wines imported from Jerez, but has for some time now been completely produced and bottled in Jerez. Finos, Amontillados, Olorosos and 20% PX are all in the mix, giving a fairly unique style. It contains 135g/l sugars. In an attempt to sell more presumably, the label advises one to drink it chilled or mix it with lemonade and slices of fruit. Pleasant though that is, to do so would ruin a very fine Sherry.

Around £ 10.00, widely available.

23.12.12 Good News on Tio Pepe Sign

The Tio Pepe illuminated sign has been given planning permission to be installed above the Corte Ingles department store at Puerta del Sol, 11 in Madrid.  Gonzalez Byass applauded the decision taken yesterday by various interested bodies including the Patrimony Commission of the Community of Madrid, but the famous neon sign will not be there in time for this year’s festivities. There remain details to be worked out with the building’s proprietors before a date can be fixed. In the meantime the sign will be restored and its weight reduced. The decision by the Patrimony Commission links with other well - loved signs such as Schweppes, Firestone and BBVA (a bank) after the approval of new regulations governing exterior advertising. Gonzalez Byass  said that 2013 will start with renewed hope of meeting an old friend again, expressing their gratitude for all the spontaneous support and affection generated for the sign.

Friday, 21 December 2012

21.12.12 Las Angustias Launches Two Rare Wines

The Cooperative Las Angustias has launched two very old wines, an Amontillado (20% vol) and an Oloroso (21% vol) in celebration of the Coop’s 45th anniversary. The releases are limited to only 100 bottles of each wine and are dedicated to the Coop’s first enologist, Antonio Monje. The wines are available in twin packs at the very reasonable price of 25 euros each at the bodega’s wine shop.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

20.12.12 Madrid Tio Pepe Sign; Godfather of the Must

No Grapes for Puerta del Sol Tio Pepe Sign this Year:

The sign which has been such a well-known feature of the central Madrid square since 1936 will not be there this year. Every year thousands of Madrilenos flock to the square to eat the 12 lucky grapes and hear the bells chime the beginning of the New Year.

 The owners of the Hotel Paris, where it has been sited for so long did not renew the contract for its position atop the building last year and while there has been much negotiation, no deal has been signed for a new position. Despite 20,000 signatures on a petition, Apple, the new tenants of the building, want their own sign there. Mauricio Gonzalez Gordon, president of the bodega is confident the sign will be back in the square next year, albeit on a different building, and it is being restored in readiness.

Jesus Quintero elected “Godfather of the Must”

The Andalucian Association of Winemakers (AAE) recently celebrated a dinner in honour of the patron, San Andres, at bodegas Williams & Humbert, at which Jesus Quintero was elected to the honorary position to promote the Sherry wines. After the dinner the new Godfather was invited to sign a butt.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

19.12.12 "Sherry is Over the Worst of the Crisis"

Fedejerez (the association of bodegas) thinks that the worst of the Sherry crisis has passed, and is encouraging everyone to get involved and make Sherry a profitable business again. At the end of the Fedejerez annual general meeting, the organisation’s president, Evaristo Babe painted a more confident, optimistic picture of the situation after a difficult year, plagued with difficulties.

At the post-meeting lunch and get-together hosted by Lustau, attended also by the Confederation of Buisiness in Cadiz, the Agriculture Department of the Junta and the Press, he pointed out that above any differences between the various operators in the sector there is unanimity in the need for radical change.  Jerez has a great patrimony and a great product, but needs to be more profitable.  He also pointed out that there needs to be more generic promotion. Many bodegas prefer to invest in their own  brands, but Sherry itself needs promotion. He said that the Sherry trade has been much reduced, and that prices would have to increase, but the quality would justify that.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Oloroso Seco 18%, Gutierrez Colosia

Deep mahogany amber, through amber to paleish green-tinged rim, legs.
Quite full, savoury hints, walnuts in syrup, touch slightly sweet toasted hazelnut, very clean with few if any wood notes and an attractive sweet nuttiness.
Tangy, dry and well rounded, quite full with traces of walnut, truffle and barrels and a long slightly savoury finish. It is quite young, from the standard range, and so not desperately complex, but has good Oloroso character.
A very good oloroso from the family firm of Gutierrez Colosia established in 1856 in El Puerto de Santa Maria. This wine is aged for over 5 years, and would accompany perfectly good bellota ham or a chick pea stew with chorizo.

About £ 16.00

17.12.12 Consejo Wants More Money From Bodegas

The Consejo Regulador wants to take advantage of the better state of the Sherry business to give a new push in the generic promotion of Sherry wines. Promotion in the various markets has amounted to very little over recent years due to the drastic reduction in the budget. The prolonged dip in sales, the economic crisis and internal industry disputes (which appear to be solved) provoked a slimming-down of the Consejo’s finances, and now is felt to be a propitious time to make an extra effort , what with the better atmosphere in the business and rising interest in Sherry in world markets.

The bodegas are currently paying the Consejo 0.24 centimos per bottle towards the promotional budget, a figure which is "ridiculous" when compared with other Denominaciones de Origen such as Rioja, where bodegas pay 2,65 centimos (more than 10 times more), or Rias Baixas where they pay 2.35 centimos. These contributions will have to rise if Sherry is to regain lost ground.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

15.12.12 2013 Harvest; New Palmas from Gonzalez Byass

Bodegas take steps toward next harvest.

The bodegas are already worried about next year’s harvest which could be another small one – though probably a bit bigger - despite the recent heavy rainfall. The effects of the severe 2012 drought include a weakening of the vines’ branches which will reduce yields. There are worries that with a slight increase in sales there will not be enough wine to replace stocks, according to Francisco Guerrero, president of the independent growers Asevi-Asaja. The bodegas are looking to sign contracts with the few growers not already contracted in order to ensure grape supply. Prices are on the increase as a result with 3 year contract prices increasing each year in an attempt to give the growers a living without increasing Sherry prices excessively.

GB launch new range of Palmas

The new wines were presented by Antonio Flores the bodega’s enologist in Madrid yesterday. The wines are Finos of considerable age with particularly fine and delicate aromas, awarded Palmas (cask markings) according to age. The term Palma is hardly used any more, but GB resuscitated it for the recent 175th anniversary of Tio Pepe. Expert tasters along with GB people have selected the best 4 wines from over 150 chosen butts from the numerous Tio Pepe soleras.

The wines show the path followed by the wine as it slowly loses the flor and becomes Amontillado, ranging from approximately 6 – 45 years of age. Needless to say, these 4 bottles are in extremely limited supply, and all four will cost you around £120. Money well spent, especially for those who are REALLY interested in Sherry.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

13.12.12 Three Kings Sherry; Rutas del Vino

Sherry for the Three Kings

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh will be replaced this year by Sherry and Vinegar in a singular initiative to raise funds for social work.  Rey (King) Melchor Fino Oro, Rey Gaspar Incienso Cream and Rey Baltasar Vinagre Mirra will be sold at events attended by the kings and in commercial outlets which wish to participate. A pack of three half bottles (I of each) will sell for 10 euros and a pack of 75cl bottles 18 euros.  A presentation was held at the Consejo Regulador attended by the three presidents (Wine, Brandy and Vinegar) at which, as usual, a donation was made to the Kings’ campaign.

Rutas del Vino

A meeting was held yesterday in El Puerto of the new board of the Association of Rutas del Vino and Brandy which now includes representatives from the Consejos Reguladores. It was agreed that sectorial groups would be set up to bring together the different segments of activity to improve the tourist experience. Among the projects is a plan to restore old “casas de la vina”  (vineyard houses) which could be used for wine tourism purposes. Another project is to improve the communication of the offer by using the internet and social networking sites.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Palo Cortado Viejo CP 20%, Valdespino

Lightish amber, quite pale really, fading through pale yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Relaxed, deceptively light and very complex. A hint of that implied but non-existent sweetness, toasted bread, almond and hazelnut, traces damp old barrels, slightly tangy dried fruits such as apricot, date, incredibly fresh and no trace of woodiness, all the elements perfectly harmonised as only age can achieve.
Broadly similar, quite light and fairly tangy, with lots of toasted bread and hazelnut, big on flavour rather than weight and incredibly elegant, in fact less "oloroso-y" than many Palos Cortados, a little more like delicate Amontillado in style with amazing length and great refinement.
An exquisite wine which I could drink forever. The "CP" comes from the initials for Calle Ponce, the street in which the bodega was which stored this wine. (It is just off the Calle Larga, round the corner from Sanchez Romate). The bodega, which is now in a ruinous state, had a very old column still which mysteriously disappeared. All the Valdespino soleras are now safely housed in a purpose-built bodega built by Grupo Estevez. This wine, from a single vineyard, Inocente, is created from a system of a solera and 4 criaderas, the 4th of which is supplied from the 9th criadera of the Fino Inocente and the 9th criadera of the Amontillado Tio Diego, both wines with flor at this early stage, but which is soon lost. CP is estimated to be around 25 years old, which is a lovely age; not too concentrated and retaining freshness and a slight reminder of the flor. Bottled once a year, quantities are so small it is sold on allocation.

£ 30.95 from Drinkmonger Edinburgh

The Story behind the Brand: Tio Pepe

Tio Pepe (Uncle Joe) whose real name was Jose Maria Angel y Vargas was the maternal uncle of Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel , a Sanluqueno, who founded the bodega in 1835. As a commercial clerk in Cadiz, Manuel Maria saw from the office windows large amounts of wine being exported from the quayside and thought to himself that this was the business to be in.

The rapid success of the bodega, founded by one who knew little or nothing of wine had to have a reason, and that was that Manuel Maria took on two partners (one called Dubosq) and was also helped by his uncle and one Francisco Gutierrez de Aguera, whose specialist advice was invaluable.  These two fostered an interest in the Fino wines in Manuel Maria, as also being from Sanlucar, this was what they enjoyed at a time when Jerez was exporting more of the Amontillado and sweetened Oloroso styles.

Uncle Joe drank Manzanilla, the Sanlucar Fino wine, and had little time for the heavier styles. Despite the prevailing preference for these, he set about obtaining and selecting carefully Fino wines in small parcels from almacenistas. In 1837 he acquired 102 arrobas (@ 1700 litres, or @ 3 butts) from Gregorio Ruiz –Bustamante at 65 Reales the arroba. With a few more parcels, by 1844 he had amassed 49 butts of selected Fino. Manuel Maria let his uncle have a bodega to do his blending work on the wine, and in 1849 – the 13th of March to be precise – the Tio Pepe bodega had a solera and 3 criaderas. One butt of this Fino wine had already been exported to England in 1844 to the company’s agent, one Robert Blake Byass, who didn’t like the look of this pallid wine at all.

This was the first time such a wine had appeared in England, a style that was virtually unknown until then. A butt was also sent to America, where in contrast to the English attitude, the firm’s agent promptly asked for more. By the 1860’s Tio Pepe was being drunk in various European countries including Spain, where Queen Isabel II, having visited the bodegas, became accustomed to drinking it as her daily aperitif. The palace got through about 600 bottles a year. The royal household, whose wines were ordered by Don Rafael Ortiz de Zuniga (a magistrate of the Supreme Tribunal and a personal friend of Manuel Maria) were sent in bottles, but the Fino was ordered every six months in barrels to conserve it better.  The first bottled Tio Pepe is thought to be that sent as a Christmas gift to Lord Brownlow Cecil, Governor of Gibraltar in 1856.

The criaderas – which had by now grown to six – and the solera was moved to the Bodega del Jardin, and while the brand was respected by other exporters it was only registered in 1888. All the while, Uncle Joe worked away in the bodega, entertaining friends and opening and closing when he felt like it. The prestige of Tio Pepe grew and grew, especially in the inter-war years thanks to Luis Perez Solero, the bodega’s marketing chief, who designed the now famous bottle wearing a red bolero jacket and sombrero. The brand is now the world’s most recognised Fino - indeed Sherry.

(From Diario de Jerez who were able to see some of the company files).

Saturday, 8 December 2012

How to Taste Sherry - Part 2

Oloroso itself never had flor and has spent its entire life oxidising gently away. The result is a robust wine of more weight, body, colour, implied sweetness, and pretty full aroma. It has no flor aromas at all, obviously, but you can’t miss the savoury chestnut, walnut and old furniture aromas! As they age, Olorosos also get more concentrated, meaning they can get quite lean, and can develop astringent woody notes, so sometimes a trace of PX is blended in before bottling.

Moscatel is generally made in two ways. Either the sweet juice is fortified thus preserving the primary grapey aromas and the natural sugars producing a young fresh tangy wine, or the grapes are dried in the sun to raisins and the juice is fortified still preserving the sugars, but producing an altogether different wine. The latter is still grapey but also raisiny, more concentrated, and oxidation from sun-drying and long ageing will be there too, as well as enhanced complexity.

Pedro Ximenez is also sun-dried to raisins and also has that raisiny aroma and flavour. It is normally aged longer than Moscatel and therefore more concentrated. In both PX and Moscatel made from dried grapes, there is a little more tannin from the stalk, which cannot be separated after drying. In PX there is quite an array of aromas, some fruity and some phenolic. The former are raisins, figs, prunes, with the attendant texture of dried fruit, and the latter are toasted aromas such as coffee, chocolate, treacle.

Whenever you taste a wine as versatile as Sherry, think what dish it would marry with. There is a Sherry to match each and every dish you could come up with. Not only that, but Sherry makes the perfect aperitif as well as the perfect post prandial. You need never drink anything else!!

8.12.12 October Sales Figures from the Consejo

Sherry sales may be on the increase?

After years of stagnation, the sales figures for October show an increase on last year of almost 14%. The Christmas season, along with the spring feria season, traditionally sees the biggest sales, and there is some optimism that better sale might continue. But this rise in sales has only gone some way to slowing the decline from 6% to 3.36%; the general trend is still downward. The traditional markets are slightly down, but there is growth in Asia.

Sales by style are interesting: the biggest seller is Fino at 7.4 million litres (2 million in Spain, and 4.4% down), Cream at 6.5 million litres (up 5.47%), Manzanilla is in 3rd place with 6.5 million litres (the vast majority of sales in Spain), Medium sells some 6.4 million litres (up3.5%), Pale Cream sells 2.2 million litres (down 14.51%), Amontillado sells 1.7 million litres (down 19.2%, Oloroso sells 719,000 litres (down 37%) Palo Cortado sells 41,000 litres (up 30%), and PX 666,000 litres (up 4.6%).

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

New Wine and Food Experience in Malaga

On Saturday an incredible new Wine Bar /Restaurant/ Wine Shop /Cocktail Bar/And Much More-opened its doors in Malaga. It is Los Patios de Beatas, and promises to be the best in the business.

It is run by Julian Sanjuan, a professional sommelier with long experience in the hospitality trade and a real character. He successfully ran the Museo del Vino in Ojen and the Museo del Vino in Mijas, and Beatas is the latest venture, but on an altogether bigger scale. This is Heaven for the wine lover, gourmet, cigar aficionado or cocktail lover. It is bristling with knowledgeable sommeliers and baristas headed by Francisco Rios Ona, a very knowledgeable and charming man, and the wine list is nothing less than phenomenal - 300 Spanish wines (including Sherry naturally), 100 others and nearly 100 spirits.

It is situated in Calle Beatas, right in the heart of Malaga's old town, a stonesthrow from the Picasso Museum and the Plaza de la Merced in a pedestrianised area. The buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries and have been restored sensitively, preserving the past where possible and modernising where necessary, especially the kitchens, which are state of the art. The most outstanding feature is a fantastic stained glass roof over the dining area which gives a beautiful light to the interior.
Stained glass roof (taken at night)

There are various patios for various types of event, be it business lunches, congresses, Wine Fairs, tourism related events or family celebrations. The facilities are there for live entertainment, fine cuisine, tapas, wine tastings, cigar and spirit tastings, olive oil, well everything! He can provide tourists with all sorts of bodega visits, tastings, meals and events. There are menus for every conceivable requirement, even vegetarian and coeliac. This has been thought through to the last detail, and it shows.

This is a fresco on the stairway to the upper patios showing (humorous) details of the grape harvest. Los Patios is not only a feast for the palate and the stomach, but also for the eyes. It's amazing!

Now you may be thinking that this all sounds like an advertisement. Well you are quite right! I used to work with these guys and can attest strongly to their professionalism and experience. This is a fantastic place which does whatever you want it to. It is an unmissable experience when you're next in Malaga. (Open 12-12)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How to Taste Sherry - Part 1

Tasting Wine
The tasting vocabulary for wines is very diverse. To enologists a certain aroma will relate to a certain chemical or compound constituent in the wine, but the best we mortals can do is to relate aromas found in the wine to those we already know, such as fruit, flowers or nuts .Unfortunately for communication purposes, one person’s blackcurrant is another’s blueberry, so tasting notes differ widely between tasters according to their perception – or interpretation. Fortunately, however, this means that everybody’s point of view is valid – within reason. At the end of the day, all you need to become a skilled taster is honesty, perspicacity and ultimately experience.  There are those gifted with a special palate or scientific knowledge, but mostly it is just learned, and the more you have tasted the better. As they say in Spain: “Catar, catar y volver a catar.” (Taste, taste and taste again).

Tasting is not about swallowing wine, it is about analysing wine, and the condition it is in. It is not just about flavour; it is principally about aroma, but also appearance, flavour, texture, structure, balance and length. The ultimate taste of a wine is the guiding principle of those who make it, and the least we consumers can do is to taste it carefully and give it some thought. Personal taste should be irrelevant. Just because you don’t like sweet wines (for example), doesn’t mean they are bad wines. One must learn to judge a wine for what it is, whether one likes it or not. It is still interesting and one can learn from it.

Tasting Sherry
To taste any wine, you need a proper glass, and the famous “Copita” used in Jerez is ideal – in fact the International Standards Organisation have enshrined the copita as the “standard” tasting glass for wine (albeit in a slightly bigger version):

In order to get the maximum flavour and aroma from Sherry (or any other wine) always taste at room temperature. Fino/Manzanilla is lovely to drink at 7C with your tapas in a Jerez street, but chilling it obscures the aromas and flavour. Swirl the wine around the glass, watch it, see if there are any legs (tears, or trails of glycerol) down the sides of the glass. These indicate the glycerol content of the wine. Smell it carefully and note what you smell. Many of the aromas you smell will continue when you taste it, as the nose and palate are connected. The nose will tell you more about the wine, as the tongue can only really pick out acidity, tannin, salts and sweetness.

One key quality of any wine is balance. All the sensorial components should balance. While this can vary as (say a Claret) ages, its tannins gradually precipitating along with some of its acidity, Sherry is ready to drink when purchased, and should have perfect balance and stability.  This balance is achieved when the sweet flavours (glycerol, alcohol, sugar balance with the acid (mainly tartaric), saline(flor) and bitter (flor, tannin) flavours, forming a harmony.  Never be too quick to love or hate a wine, always give it some thought. Writing tasting notes is a useful aide-memoire, and concentrates the mind while tasting.

What to look for
Sherry is a white wine, and therefore has some descriptors in common with others, but it is also a fortified wine and undergoes a unique production process, and therefore has many descriptors not used for other wines. There are three unique characteristics, namely the flor yeast, the oxidation and the sheer (barrel) age of some wines. Then, of course, there are various different styles of Sherry but the over-riding aroma however is that of Acetaldehyde. This one word might be used to describe the smell of Sherry as a whole, but in particular those wines where flor plays a part in their ageing.

Acetaldehyde in Finos/Manzanillas is formed by yeast metabolism primarily during fermentation, but also where the wine is stored in barrels which are not completely full and air has access- typical in Sherry. Oxygen in the air oxidises the alcohol forming more Acetaldehyde and the flor yeasts matabolise it further creating the pungent “punzante” slightly oxidised bitter almond character of finos, Manzanillas and Manzanillas Pasadas, and to a lesser extent the related Amontillados and Palos Cortados where Acetaldehyde manifests itself as more hazelnutty.  With these wines, however, the yeast has gone and so the level of Acetaldehyde is lower. In olorosos there is much less, but there is some, and negligible amounts in the Moscatel and PX.

Finos and Manzanillas are generally the youngest wines to be sold, anywhere from 3 years onwards, and often retain primary aromas (those of the grapes themselves). This gentle fruit character is noticeable in younger wines, having survived fermentation (which gives secondary aromas), but is gradually overtaken by tertiary aromas, (those of crianza - ageing), after a longer time in the solera system. A young Fino/Manzanilla smells of fruit as well as flor, and is generally less bitter than an older wine. Manzanillas are often possessed of maritime aromas due to the vines’ and bodegas’ proximity to the sea: sea breezes, seaweed, aromas of a fishing harbour, and with more age, tarry rope and fishy aromas. Older Finos/Manzanillas, will take on more flor character – salinity, bitterness, almondiness, (acetaldehyde) and over time absorb some of the autolyic (decayed yeast) aromas from the bottom of the butt as well as some oxidation. In short, more complexity and concentration (Sherry butts lose an average of 4% per year to evaporation – of water).

This loss of water naturally concentrates everything else, including alcohol, so as the strength gradually rises in butts which are less regularly refreshed, the yeast gradually dies off giving us  Amontillado and Palo Cortado. These wines originated as Finos/Manzanillas, and for quite a long time can retain some of these characteristics, but as they continue to oxidise, they develop into their own unique style. Genuine Amontillados are at least 8 years old, and produce delightful aromas of hazelnut and toasted almond, often with a certain implied sweetness, as the glycerine stripped out by the yeast starts to concentrate again. The Palos Cortados, separated from the Fino family a little earlier, have the aroma of Amontillado, but more body and breadth on the palate – more like Oloroso with a more walnutty sort of flavour.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Tapas: Albondigas

Tapas are the little dishes traditionally served in Spain with a glass of Sherry, and have become a whole cuisine unto themselves. They originated as a tiny morsel served on a saucer on top (tapa) of a glass of Sherry. Most bars offer a large range of them, and there is an element of competition between bars. Enough tapas can constitute a meal, and the best wine is, of course, Sherry! I thought I would post an occasional tapa recipe to accompany all the Sherry in the Blog, so here's number one:

Albondigas are Spanish meatballs, often served as a tapa in sauce. Here is my recipe:


For the meatballs: 250 grams Pork mince, 100 grams cooking (or almost any) Chorizo, finely chopped

For the sauce: 3 or 4 slices red and green pepper; 2 teeth of garlic; half a small onion, all finely chopped; half a tin of peeled chopped tomatoes; teaspoon pimenton (paprika), oregano and thyme for sprinkling, olive oil for cooking; optional chili sauce.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a saucepan. Fry the onion, peppers and garlic, and when done add the tomato and pimenton. Cook a little till well integrated, and leave aside.

Mix chorizo and mince well together and make little balls about 3cm in diameter. Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan and fry the meatballs till cooked through, keeping them on the move. Once cooked, add the meatballs to the sauce and heat through, adding chili if required and sprinkling the oregano and thyme onto the mix. Serve in a terracotta cazuela (shallow dish) with some chunky bread and a glass of dry Amontillado.

Albondigas en Salsa

Bodegas: Osborne

Thomas Osborne Mann, a young English aristocrat, 8th Earl of Yalbourne in fact, from Exeter, Devon, arrived in Cadiz in 1772. He soon became associated with Lonergan & White, an established business dealing in wine and became friendly with Sir James Duff, a Scot who was the British Consul, and his nephew William Gordon, who were also involved with wine in El Puerto de Santa Maria. When Osborne began shipping Sherry on his own account, they allowed him to store it at their bodega, and a close business relationship began, with Osborne moving to El Puerto. Sir James died in 1815 and Sir William in 1823, whereupon Osborne became more closely involved in Duff Gordon and was made a partner by Cosmo Duff Gordon. In 1825 he married Aurora Bohl de Faber, daughter of Juan Nicolas Bohl de Faber, manager of the Duff Gordon Bodegas. They had five children by the marriage.

In 1854 Thomas Osborne died and his three sons, Tomas, Juan and Nicolas inherited the business, which was run on their behalf by their uncle Francisco Morgan until Tomas came of age, and duly became a partner in the business. It must have been thriving, for he paid for the construction of the town’s bull ring. Juan Nicolas went into the Diplomatic Service in various European capital cities, earning the title Conde de Osborne from Pope Pius IX in 1869. Indeed the firm received a warrant to supply the Vatican. On the death of Sir Cosmo in 1872, the Osbornes bought out the Duff Gordon interests. Tomas was succeeded by his son Tomas Osborne Guezala, who inherited the title from his uncle Juan Nicolas who died without issue, and ran the firm till his death in 1935.

Between 1935 and 1972 the company was run by Ignacio Osborne Vazquez, and during his stewardship the company expanded greatly due largely to the consolidation of its brands of brandy in the Spanish market, principally Veterano, whose legendary bulls have been seen on most Spanish hilltops since 1957, and whose 1960s marketing campaign is still remembered (Veterano tiene ESO). In 1952 the firm acquired the Sherry interests of Morgan Brothers. From 1972 to 1980 the firm was run by Ignacio’s brother Antonio, who was succeeded by his nephew Enrique Osborne MacPherson. He was in turn succeeded in 1988 by Tomas Osborne Vazquez, IV Conde de Osborne, and since 1996 his son Tomas Osborne Bamero-Civico and nephew Ignacio Osborne Cologan, have run the firm.

Nowadays Osborne is a huge company.  It owns nearly 400 hectares of (Sherry) vineyard, much in the Balbaina district of Jerez Superior, and fairly recently acquired the old Domecq VORS soleras as well as those of Bobadilla. It is Spain’s largest brandy distiller-in fact distiller. It makes Rives Gin, Ponche, various liqueurs such as Anis del Mono and what’s more they own many other companies, Rioja Montecillo, Bodegas Solaz in Malpica de Tajo (Castilla), Osborne Port, Cinco Jotas (some of Spain’s finest Iberico meat from Jabugo), various up-market restaurants and their own distribution company. Osborne is more of an empire than a company.

Main Sherry Brands:
The standard range is: Fino Quinta, Fino-Amontillado Coquinero, Olorosos Bailen and 10RF, Santa Maria Cream, PX 1827
Then the old solera wines: Amontillado Solera AOS (@25years old), Oloroso Solera BC200 (established 1864 and sold at (@40y.o.), Oloroso Solera India (@25y.o.), Palo Cortado Solera PΔP (well over 30 years old)
Domecq old VORS soleras: Sibarita Oloroso, Amontillado 51-1a, Capuchino Palo Cortado (originally Agustin Blazquez), Venerable PX

Visits ? Yes, you can visit the brandy plant, Jabugo, Sherry in El Puerto and the winery in Malpica.
Address:  Calle Los Moros s/n, 11500 El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 869 100

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Bodegas: Sandeman

George Sandeman, an ambitious young Scotsman born in Perth in 1765 set up in the London wine trade in 1790. He soon rented a cellar, and, with a loan of £300 from his father, traded in Sherry and Port from Tom’s Coffee House, near the Strand. He began selling the Sherry of fellow Scot James Duff until 1805, when he opened offices in St. Swithin's Lane and briefly switched to W Lacosta till 1809. For the year 1792, he sold 127 1/2 butts in England and 25 1/2 in Scotland. In 1797 he was made a Freeman of the city of Perth, aged just 32. His brother David helped for the first couple of years, until they dissolved their partnership amicably, and David went on to found the Commercial Bank of Scotland. In the early 1800s George was shipping wines all over the world. In 1805 he was (apparently) the first to fire-brand the casks, giving a recognisable trademark to his wines. In 1809 one of his partners, James Gooden, moved to Cadiz where he began to export wines under the Sandeman label. 

In 1823 Sandeman began buying the Sherries of Julian Pemartin, whose son went bust in 1879 as a result of his spendthrift nature.  Sandeman had taken into partnership Walter J Buck (ex bodegas Matthiesen Furlong & Co.) and the firm was known as Sandeman Buck & Co. between 1879 and 1923. As a result of Pemartin's collapse Sandeman took over all the Pemartin assets which included vineyards, bodegas and soleras, and for the first time produced their own Sherry. George Sandeman, whose nickname was "old cauliflower" in reference to his now dated white wig, died in 1841 and was succeeded by his nephew George Glas Sandeman (1792-1868). He widened the scope of the business, trading in linen goods as well as wine. George Glas was succeeded by his eldest son, Albert George Sandeman (1833-1923), who took into partnership his three brothers. Interestingly, one of them, Col. John Glas Sandeman was co-inventor of the coin operated slot machine. This partnership became a Private Limited Company in 1902. Albert Georges's son Walter Albert (1858-1937) began an overdue modernisation of the company, and it was he who began the famous advertising.

In 1894 Sandeman bought 800 butts of Oloroso from Antonio Bernardo de Quiros, which became the soleras known as Royal Corregidor and Imperial Corregidor (after the Corregidor vineyard). The Buck assets were acquired during the First World War, and the Sandeman family became outright owners of the firm. They also had extensive interests in the Douro for the production of Port, but this is about Sherry.

The famous logo of the “Don” was designed in 1928 by George Massiot Brown for Sandeman who, in the 20th century had begun many innovative – and successful - advertising campaigns. The Don wears a Spanish sombrero and a Portuguese student's cape symbolising the firm’s commitment to both countries. Unlike other firms involved in both Sherry and Port who specialise in one more than the other, Sandeman were fully committed to both. In Spain they own 358 ha of vineyard, all in good albariza soils and some in Carrascal (Jerez Superior). 95% of production is exported.

The firm was bought by the Canadian multinational Seagram in 1979 and merged in 1984 with a Rioja producer called  Palacio Coprimar, forming Sandeman Coprimar SA, and in 1991 Seagram Espana. There took place a real sales push, but this did nothing for quality, and in 2002 Sandeman was bought by Sogrape, the Portuguese company behind Mateus Rose (among many better wines), and before too long the Sandeman wine got back to form.

In 2004 a deal was struck with Nueva Rumasa, by which their subsidiary Bodegas Zoilo Ruiz Mateos took over all the Sandeman installations in Jerez, including vineyards, bodegas and stocks, but not, importantly the name, or the brands, although they wanted them too. Effectively, therefore, Sandeman Sherry is all made by Zoilo Ruiz Mateos, though from Sandeman soleras, and with a Sandeman label.

The 7th generation, George Sandeman is still with the company. The old bodega, now visitor centre, is in central Jerez close to the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre (the famous riding school), the Atalaya Museum and the Museo del Enganche (Carriage Museum).

The Wines:
VOS (20yo):  Royal Ambrosante PX,    Royal Corregidor Oloroso,   Royal Esmeralda Amontillado
Good Range: Rare Fino, Don Fino, Armada Cream, Character Med. Amo., Dry Don Med. Amo.
Basic Range: Dry Fino, Medium “Amontillado”, Rich Golden

Visits?  Yes
Address:  Calle Pizarro, 10, 11403 Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Telephone:  (+34) 956 151 700
Web: /

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Pricing of Sherry

While there are encouraging signs in Jerez; the Sherryfest in New York, the Copa De Jerez, the new air of support for the growers, the re-balancing of supply and demand for example, deep seated attitudes need to change.

For far too long, customers have dictated the price of the (usually bulk, blended) wine, and these constraints have fed through the exporters (bodegas) to the growers who have been expected to come up with grapes at a ludicrously cheap, ruinous price. Sherry may be one of the World’s finest wines, but the grapes are the cheapest anywhere – much the same price as 30 years ago - and that is never good for long-term quality. Indeed the price of the wine has barely changed in real terms since the 19th century! This is quite unsustainable for commercial reasons, quite apart from those of image.

Let us hope that good sense – good commercial sense- prevails. How come a Rioja with one or two years’ crianza can sell for so much more than an older Sherry with a far more complex ageing system? It is madness. As a consumer, I naturally don’t want to see prices rise, but what I do want to see is the very survival of my beloved Sherry.

Manzanilla En Rama 1a Saca 2011 15%, Barbadillo

Quite deep strawy gold, some depth for a fino, bright.
Full, soft, broad and yeasty, lots of bitter almond and salinity, a trace of oxidation along with a touch of autolysis and the smell of the beach. Very complex, fascinating and attractive.
Full yet soft with a trace of the fruit from whence it came, trace oxidation and autolysis mingle with the complexities imparted by the flor, thoroughly delicious if a little short.

For more detail see notes on the Saca 2012. I tasted these two side by side, and they were remarkably different. The principal reasons, I guess, are that the flor is of a diferent thickness in different seasons, so you get slight changes in the oxidative and yeasty aromas, and that the 2011 is obviously one year older and has one year's bottle age. A fascinating tasting would be to compare the four sacas of one year. I once tasted a (well-stored) Autumn saca 2008 in May 2011 and found it really interesting how it had developed. It was less punzante, slightly more oxidised and much more rounded, still with lots of flor character, aching to be an amontillado but unable. It also seemed to have more glycerol, and traces of apple or quince yet retaining its manzanilla characteristics.

Manzanilla En Rama 1a Saca 2012 15%, Barbadillo

Quite a deep shade of gold, trace straw, bright.
Big and complex, full and broad with lots of sea air, hints of autolysis, dry scrub, flor, yellow fruits and bitter almond. Very fresh but with a whiff of Manzanilla pasada, and the complexity that goes with it.
Full, lots of flavour, tangy with hints of Manzanilla pasada, fresh, round and maritime and with a lovely slightly bitter edge, long and beautiful.
Barbadillo release the En Rama wines seasonally, in Spring Summer, Autumn and Winter, so this one is from Spring 2012. (See note on Spring 2011) These are wines drawn only from a few selected solera butts somewhere around 8 years old, and bottled with only the slightest possible pre-bottling treatment - fining with egg white - thus preserving to the maximum their aromatic and flavour profiles. Most commercial finos and manzanillas are subjected to Bentinite fining, chill filtration and physical filtration before bottling to ensure stability in export markets with different climates, and to avoid the possibility of any sediment appearing in bottle. The En Ramas therefore, need to be drunk much sooner and more quickly. That's hardly a problem, now, is it?! The problem is getting hold of any: they only fill about 1,200 half bottles from each saca.

Hard to find in the Uk, but importer is Ehrmanns in London. Probably around £ 20.00