Monday, 30 December 2013

Ageing in Jerez: The Solera System

Up till now, the wine-making process has been pretty similar to that of other wines, except for the fortification, but now comes the process which makes Sherry the wine it is: ageing in Solera. There are a few wines which are not aged in Solera - the Anadas or Vintage Sherries - which age "statically" in the same butt till ready, but these are pretty rare, and very expensive. The key to Sherry is "dynamic ageing", where the wine flows from butt to butt. The word "Solera"  comes from the fact that the butts containing the oldest, finished wine are at floor ("suelo") level.

After wine is drawn from the solera for blending and/or bottling, more wine is needed in the system to replace it and refresh what remains, so butts from the Sobretablas or the Anadas are used to supply it. These are young wines, perhaps 6 - 8 months old, which have been classified so they go to the correct solera. The Solera System is almost unique to Sherry, and while it is complex, it produces an incredibly consistent wine. Each style of wine has its own solera, so there are many, and each one is worth a fortune. There are even one or two which date from the XVII century! As the wine is constantly moving through the system, however, very little remains of the ancient wine except the character it imparted to the Solera. Some brands of Sherry include the date of the Solera's foundation, (eg Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847) but this should not be mistaken for a vintage date. Only bottles labelled "Anada" will have a vintage date. Sherry only has an average age, which can be amazingly old, easily between 60 and 100 years!

Above is a schematic Solera system. "Saca" is the withdrawal of wine, "Rocio" is topping up the butt. The process is known as "running the scales". As you can see in the diagram, the finished wine is withdrawn (never more than a third of the butt, in order to retain the style of the wine) and topped-up from the first Criadera, which is itself topped-up from the second Criadera etcetera. Each Solera system consists of a Solera, the bottom row of butts, and a widely varying number of Criaderas depending on the type of wine. An old Jerez Oloroso, for example might have three Criaderas, while a Manzanilla Solera in Sanlucar might have up to twenty-five. This constant Saca and Rocio means the older wine is constantly refreshed with younger wine, while giving to the younger wine its character and complexity. Before topping up each butt, the wines from the previous criadera will be blended together, ensuring greater consistency.

There are two distinct types of Sherry: wines aged "biologically" under a layer of Flor yeast (the Finos and Manzanillas), and wines aged "oxidatively" without that layer of Flor (Olorosos). There are of course some wines which are aged in both ways (Amontillados and Palos Cortados). The Flor provides a barrier to air coming into contact with the surface of the wine, keeping it pale in colour and fresh, and imparts to it complex, bitter flavours and aromas such as dried flowers, camomile, dough, bitter almond, olive brine etc. Wines without Flor are exposed to the air and oxidise gently, which creates deeper, mahogany colours, and a nuttier, fuller, oxidised character. The butts normally have a capacity of 600 litres, but are only filled to 500 litres (or 36 arrobas, a local measure) to allow headspace for either Flor or air to work its magic. Much to the Scotch Whisky Industry's despair, the butts are never replaced - they may be repaired, but never replaced, so some are very old indeed, and with good reason.

Especially with the Finos and Manzanillas - the Flor wines, replacing or renewing butts would adversely affect the wine. Sherry is not like fine Claret, for example, aged in new barrels every year to add complexity of flavour. The Flor yeast is constantly renewing itself, and requires the special conditions found in old butts: humidity, stable temperatures, and an alcohol level of not more than about 15.5% vol. Bodegas are often sprayed with water to conserve coolness and humidity and thus protect the Flor. As the Flor renews itself, dead yeast cells sink to the bottom of the butt, and over time, a thick layer of these cells builds up. They decompose in a process called "autolysis", which adds even more complex flavours to the wine - savoury, toasty, even slightly cheesy. Naturally, the butts need to be cleaned out occasionally, but great care is exercised to minimise any disturbance to the Flor. The longer the wine is in contact with these lees, the more complex its character, so Finos and Manzanillas sold at average three years old (the minimum age) have very little of it, but older wines, say average five years up to ten or more have much, much more. Manzanilla Pasada for example, and also wines bottled "en rama" - with minimal filtration.

Flor consists of a few varieties of naturally occurring saccharomyces (sugar-eating) yeasts. They settle on the new wine and feed on the various nutrients it provides such as glycerol ( a substance created during ferm- entation which gives a rounder implied - but not real - sweet feel to the wine), acetic acid (any vinegary traces), dissolved oxygen, alcohol itself. In turn it creates acetaldehydes, which give Finos and Manzanillas much of their flavour, and gives off some carbon dioxide. The lack of glycerol in these wines gives them that super-dry feel, and they don't have much of the "legs" or "tears" which run down the glass.

As wines age in the Solera system, the alcoholic strength rises slightly and gradually, because of transpiration of water from the wine. Losses in liquid volume are between 3-4% per annum. The Flor wines are most affected because this inexorable rise in strength will slowly kill off the Flor, allowing oxidation and the wine's gradual transformation to Amontillado. If a Fino or Manzanilla loses its flor for some reason, it will be fortified to 17 or 18% and become an Oloroso. Running the scales regularly is therefore vital, as the younger wine is of a slightly lower strength, and the act of moving the wine provides fresher yeast and some oxygen to nourish the Flor. The scales should be run regularly for another reason. The wine is constantly ageing, and to leave too big a gap between sacas would create an age difference between the last one and the latest one. So if you do your saca every six months, for example, you will always have to do it every six months to keep the wine consistent.

Once the wine has completed its journey through the solera system, it is ready for bottling as a straight Fino or Oloroso for example, or ready for blending. While some brands are aged in solera as a blend from the start, most are blended after the solera. A Cream Sherry is usually a blend of Oloroso with Pedro Ximenez, wines from at least two soleras. Bristol Cream is a more complex blend, though not necessarily better, which includes Amontillado. The more commercial cheaper supermarket wines are blended down to a price the supermarket wants to pay, and consist of various wines of varying quality. Beware the "Amontillados" which contain little if any real Amontillado. In this context, "Amontillado" is a medium wine, where in fact it is a dry wine of good quality. Pale Cream is a blend of Finos and rectified concentrated must (grape juice boiled down to lose much of its water content, but keep its pale colour.

The future of Sherry depends in part on the removal from the market of the cheap blends which people associate with vicars or grandmothers (though they still form a fairly large proportion of many bodegas' business - if not very profitable) and the resurgence of the natural styles of Sherry.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

29.12.13 Sherry Cosmetics; Jerez Olive Oil

A range of cosmetics made from Sherry grapes has been launched.  According to Jose Manuel Gavilan, commercial director of SkinWine Laboratories, research at the universities of Madrid, Seville and Cadiz has proved the efficacy of the products just in time to help celebrate Jerez City of Wine 2014.

What makes SkinWine products different is that they have two new natural properties: AHS (Alpha Hydroxy Sherry), which acts to rejuvenate the skin, and a Sherry Polyphenol Pool which fights free radicals which cause ageing of the skin. The firm is making use of otherwise under-used by-products of winemaking in Jerez.

Jerez, famous for Sherry, is now working on regaining its position as a major olive oil producer. Throughout the ages both oil and wine were equally important, but after the massive growth of wine from the XVIII century, olive oil got left behind as growers turned to more profitable grape production.

(Imagen Diario Jerez)
There are currently over 3,000 hectares of olive groves in the area, and at least seven firms producing oil, mostly from the Arbequina and Hojiblanca varieties, though Lechin, Manzanilla and Picual can also be found. These firms have decided to join forces to promote their product as “Aceite de Oliva de Jerez” (Jerez olive oil). While olive oil is nothing new in the area, most of these firms are, and they have connections to the wine business, with many olive groves interspersed with vineyard. This is partly because of the recent uprooting of vineyard to reduce Sherry production to match sales. 

28.12.13 Various Items of News

Last night Gonzalez Byass hosted the annual charity dinner for the Reyes Magos (the three Kings or Magi) at their bodega Los Apostoles. Each year three people are chosen to dress up as the three Kings, Melchor Gaspar and Baltasar, and distribute sweets to children in the streets on the night of the 5th January. All those attending the dinner who had previously done their royal duty received a gift from the Reyes Magos Association, as well as advice from past masters.

(Reyes Magos past & present, Imagen Diario Jerez)

The High Court has annulled another fine imposed on Jerez by the Spanish equivalent of the Office of Fair Trading. This one was for 22,000 euros and was imposed on COAG, an agricultural organisation, for allegedly fixing grape prices with bodegas. Luckily the Court seems to have a better understanding of how the wine trade works.

Journalist Javier Benitez has written a book about Sherry for children, published by Peripecias Libros and approved by the Consejo Regulador. The protagonist is a mouse called Balti who, along with another, English, mouse called Monti, discovers how things work in a bodega. The book is illustrated by fellow Jerezano Jose Juan Romero, and is sold under the title "Balti: Aventura en la Bodega. It will hopefully prove useful to Jerezano children who have little understanding of their heritage.

(The author with Consejo Director Cesar Saldana and book Imagen Diario Jerez)

Gonzalez Byass Cuatro Palmas has received 97 points from Robert Parker, and has been rated among the best wines tasted by the organisation in 2013. Parker recently appointed a new man to cover Spanish wine, Luis Gutierrez, who pointed out the quality of the other wines in the Palmas range, awarding 90 to the Una Palma, 91 for the Dos Palmas and 95 for Tres Palmas. It makes a pleasant change to have a Spaniard tasting the Spanish wines, someone who has a better understanding and capacity for criticism than his predecessor.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

24.12.13 Feliz Navidad!

Happy Christmas and a great New Year to you all, and thank you for your support. It is much appreciated.

Salud! Brindis! Felicidades! Sherry! Mas Sherry!

Feliz Navidad y prospero Ano Nuevo a todos!

Old Harvest Medium Dry PX 17%, Ximenez Spinola

Light amber/old gold through gold to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Aromatic, different, charming. A honeyed sweetness with lots of dried fruit - raisin, obviously, but amazingly fresh, nothing like the big black sweet PX wines, some quince jelly, trace oxidative notes and wood, cinnamon, fragrant, quite different to normal (palomino) Sherry, and most attractive.
Medium-dry, decent tangy acidity balances the sweetness, so doesn't cloy, that quincey-raisin flavour predominates with slight notes of gingerbread, broader, fatter in style to the palomino wines, with perhaps a little more texture, lovely and clean with a very long finish. Delicious, really friendly.
XS uniquely only make Sherry from PX, and this is a blend of dry oxidatively aged wine from a solera laid down in 1964, and resembling an oloroso, with sweet wine from a solera laid down in 1918 whose wine’s average age is 25 years. Wine is drawn from both soleras (though more from the oxidative solera) and blended by a family tasting panel (rather than by any preconceived proportions) a year before bottling and married in butts till ready. 10,145 bottles were produced in this batch.
One should remember that PX does not have to be sweet, it is just a grape like all the rest and it depends what you do with it. After all the entire production of Montilla-Moriles is PX, but the wines range from pale dry Finos through to intensely sweet PX.
This wine would be lovely with a fairly youg sheep's milk cheese or possibly a crema catalana (creme brulee).
Price About 22 Euros in Spain for a 50cl bottle. As far as I know it is not available in the UK, but you could try Its is a pity it is hard to obtain, but then it  is a very small bodega with private clients as well as trade ones.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

18.12.13 New Sherry Cheese; Peter O'Toole in Jerez

A new goat’s cheese has been launched in a joint project between Queseria El Gazul, based near Jerez, and bodegas Gonzalez Byass. The cheese, made from organic Payoyo goats’ milk has been aged for 45 days in Solera 1847 Cream Sherry, and offers a whole new style of cheese which is totally Jerezano. It represents a whole new, slightly bittersweet flavour, sophisticated and delicious. The Sherry cleans the palate and offsets the fats in the cheese, resulting in an exquisite gastronomic experience. Previous experiments were mentioned here some months ago, and now we have the finished  - and excellent – product.

The late British actor Peter O’Toole came to visit Jerez in March 1962, during a break in filming of Lawrence of Arabia in Seville. He was very taken with the wines of Williams and Humbert, where he signed a butt, as did his co-stars Alex Guinness and Anthony Quayle.

(Info & foto JL Jimenez)

Friday, 13 December 2013

13.12.13 Flamenco Fashion Show 2014; Vendimia Posters at Consejo

The 2014 Mercedes Benz Flamenco Fashion Show will take place in Gonzalez Byass on the 6th – 9th of February.  This will be the 7th year of the successful show which keeps getting bigger despite the crisis. Eighteen brands will present their wares which include jewellery and leather goods. The Flamenco costumes represent the south and its people at their best – at the Fiesta, but at the same time they provide work and fun in difficult times.

The Bodega of San Gines next to and belonging to the Consejo Regulador in Jerez is, as of yesterday, the new home of a collection of original old Fiesta de la Vendimia posters from 1948 – 1985,  a golden age for Sherry. The posters have been given to the Consejo by Fedejerez, the bodegas’ association so that the public can see them, as they form a part of the patrimony of Jerez. Evaristo Babe, president of Fedejerez, said that the values of the past which the posters represent will give us inspiration for the future.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Bodegas: Marques del Real Tesoro

In March 1760, His Excellency Don Joaquin Manuel de Villena Guadalfajara Rodriguez de Manzano y Nieto, Lieutenant General of the Royal Spanish Armada (Navy), was appointed Marques de Real Tesoro (Royal Treasure) by the King, Carlos III. This was a new title, and it was bestowed on him because he had defeated a group of pirate ships attacking his fleet, which was carrying royal treasure from South America. As the fleet ran short of munitions, he ordered that his own silver be melted down and used to make more. The resultant glorious victory was rewarded by a grateful king with the honour.

After his death the title languished, and it was in 1897 when King Alfonso XIII bestowed it on the original Marques’ grandson, Juan Jacome y Pareja, Vice Admiral and Minister for the Navy, who went on to use the title as a brand name for his Sherries, establishing a bodega in 1904. The first soleras were acquired from the Marques de Villacreces, wines nearly two centuries old which were rightly famous. Soon the firm was supplying wines to the Royal Household. The bodegas, in the calle Pajarete in Jerez contained 5,000 butts, and another in Sanlucar 2,000.

Jose Estevez bought most of the firm, by now called Herederos del Marques del Real Tesoro, in 1982, completing the purchase in 1989. He already owned Ruiz, and went on to acquire Valdespino, M Gil Luque and La Guita forming the family owned Grupo Estevez. He constructed a completely new bodega complex to accommodate Real Tesoro and Valdespino, along with laboratories, offices and bottling lines on the old Circunvalacion road immediately outside Jerez. The group as a whole is now the third biggest Sherry producer.

The bodega owns 186 hectares of vineyard, much of it in the top pago of Macharnudo, and a further 220 which it controls. Estevez as a whole owns around 800 hectares.  65% of the Real Tesoro wine is exported. The bodegas have stables where Spanish thoroughbreds are reared, there is also an art collection which includes tapestry and lots of Picasso, and a bodega dedicated to Lola Flores, the famous singer and actress from Jerez. There is even a carriage museum.

The firm’s excellent Fino Tio Mateo, once owned by Palomino & Vergara, has its soleras here, as does one of the best Amontillados, del Principe, and their Oloroso Almirante. The firm conducts exhaustive scientific research. They looked into histamine, for example, an organic substance found in products made by fermentation, which can cause bad reactions in certain people. They have managed to reduce histamine content in Tio Mateo to almost nil by a process which is still secret, but at least you can drink this excellent Fino without worrying about headaches. Music is played in the bodegas to investigate if it has a beneficial effect on the flor, or indeed the wine. You can hear it on the website, but that’s yet to be proved, and they are also looking for the flor genome. Equipo Navazos bottled some of the old Real Tesoro PX originating from Manuel de Argueso.  

There is a basic range of Real Tesoro Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Dulce
Then there is the better range: Manzanilla La Bailaora, Fino Tio Mateo, Amontillado del Principe, Oloroso Almirante, Royal Cream, PX Viejo, and the amazing Oloroso Covadonga VORS.

This is a really good bodega to visit as there’s lots to see. They offer weddings, baptisms etc as well.
Address: Ctra. Nacional IV, Km 640, 11408 Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Telephone: 956 321 004


11.12.13 Lustau Wins Another Award

The export director of Bodegas Emilio Lustau, Ignacio Lopez de Carrizosa, sees a growing interest in fine Sherries in the English speaking world, as well as in Asian countries and Russia. Since Lustau specialises in fine Sherry, it is in a good position. Sales are already around 45,000 12 bottle cases per year, and last year showed an increase in turnover of 8%. Nearly all of this went worldwide, with only 6 or 7% of sales in Spain.

Mr Lopez de Carrizosa was speaking to EFE after Lustau was presented with the Sherry Trophy at the International Wine and Spirits Competition for their Pedro Ximenez VORS, of which only around 1,000 bottles are released annually.  Lustau chief oenologist Manuel Lozano has won the best fortified wine maker award for five years in succession.

The bodega has a good network of international importers, but is seeing growing interest in more distant markets such as Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines. Their agent in Russia has managed to position the wines in a super luxurious wine and spirit chain.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

8.12.13 Chiclana Wines; Day of the Must Near Jerez

Preparations are underway to make a better job of promoting the wines of Chiclana than was achieved last year at the annual Feria de San Antonio in June. During the 4 day festival, local products are widely available at the stands in the streets of the fairground of Las Albinas, where there is also lots of flamenco and horses.

There is a local council subsidy for the stands to promote Chiclana wine, which has to be applied for and granted, and last year only 35% of them received it, and products from other areas are creeping in. This year, a new promotional campaign is being prepared by the association of bodegueros supported by the municipal development department. They aim to promote the local wines to the locals, as much as visitors, under the banner of “En Chiclana, Vinos de Chiclana”.

Chiclana wines are made in eight bodegas in the town, and are like Sherry – many are – and they make styles such as Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Moscatel. Well worth looking out for.

Yesterday was the X Day of the Must in the country neighbourhood of Las Tablas near Jerez. People come from all over the province of Cadiz to the school square, which is surrounded by a sea of parked cars and the smell of multiple barbeques. Here they indulge in a glass of the new wine, served from a butt in the centre of the square, and something to eat. It is a great family day out.

Meanwhile, inside the school, members of the Consejo Regulador hold a tasting of the 44 new wines, eventually selecting 3 winners which will be given trophies and diplomas. The new wines are not from big bodegas, but have been made by locals at their own houses. The local cabbage and garlic is also up for tasting, but according to the mayor, there are finite quantities available, and every year more people come. Stands offer other delicacies too, such as chacina (seasoned  pork) and chicharrones (fried pork rind strips), with long hungry queues.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Oloroso Pata de Gallina 20%, Lustau Almacenista

Deep, dark amber, mahogany through yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Delightful, complex and fresh with quite sweet aromas of walnut in syrup which neatly balance with toasted almond, hints of wood, autumn leaf litter. There are traces of spiced orange, cinnamon, garrapiñadas, nut oil and turron de yema tostada.
Beautifully rounded, just off dry with mostly implied sweetness, gentle, fairly nutty and quite light. Supremely elegant and deeply flavoured with all the above and a gentle tang, and a very long clean finish.
Another excellent wine from Lustau's Almacenista range, scoring 91 Parker points. This wine comes from the almacenista Juan Garcia Jarana, a bodega established over 100 years ago. This is his oldest solera, and contains 100 butts. In his spare time he imports Japanese motorcycles! The term Pata de Gallina (hen's foot) comes from a cask marking of that description, and means an oloroso which is especially smooth and glyceric on the palate.
Around £21.00 (50cl) in the UK. Available in many fine wine shops or imported by Fields, Morris & Verdin. For other countries try

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

3.12.13 New Wine Celebrated in Sanlucar

Over 50 local hotel, restaurant and bar owners assembled at bodegas La Guita in Sanlucar recently to celebrate the end of the fermentation. The new wines will now begin to clarify themselves now that the cold weather has arrived, and a lot of “mosto” is available in bars taking part in the Ruta del Mosto. The tasting at La Guita was followed by the traditional lunch. The celebration of the must takes place around St Andrew’s day all over the region.

"Hosteleros" at La Guita (+Jerez)

Monday, 2 December 2013

Lost Bodegas: Ivison

There is a long history behind the Ivison family. They were Scots descended from Vikings. Many centuries ago, the Vikings came in their longships and colonised British shores, and it is known that Ragnar Lodbrog, king of Denmark and Jutland united these territories, as well as the kingdoms of Norway and Sweden under his crown. On his death in AD 749, he divided his territories among his three sons, Sigburg, Ragnar and Ivar. The latter received western Norway and Sweden, York, Northumbria and the south of England. These sons, of course had the surname Ivarsson, which over time became Ivison.

At the end of the XVI century, the Ivison family, who were mostly merchants, suffered very hard economic times and were forced to emigrate to seek better fortunes. Some came to Spain, and the first we know anything concrete about was Fletcher Ivison Parke. He was born in Kingsmorehouse, Cumberland in 1796 to a well to do family originally from Scotland, though of Viking descent. He set up in Gibraltar at the beginning of the 19C as a merchant, and soon settled on the export of Sherry. Successful, he decided to move to Cadiz. He married Francesca Giovanna Viale y Mossa, who was of of Italian descent. Their son Ricardo Carlos Ivison y Viale was sent to school in England aged 12, and when he was old enough, distributed samples of the firm’s wines there.

Ricardo carlos Ivison Viale (Imagen Jerez Siempre)
In 1838/1840 Fletcher Ivison bought a bodega in Puerto Real and called his firm Fletcher Ivison & Co. When he died in Puerto Real in 1856, his son Ricardo Carlos, already expert in Sherry, returned from England, and in order to streamline the exports, decided to consolidate all the firm’s affairs in one place, building large bodegas at Calle Pizarro, 7 in Jerez, close to those of Wisdom & Warter, under the name RC Ivison & Son. He bought soleras, including one oloroso from 1846. He was an admirer of the wines of Sevilla, similar but slightly stronger, and sometimes put inferior wines into a special bodega with a low galvanised iron roof and with little ventilation to hasten their development.

He also bought vineyards in the Pago Tizon, north-west of Jerez in good albariza soil, which were called Santa Petronila, named after his wife, Petronila Pastor. The business continued to prosper. His three sons inherited the business, calling it RC Ivison & Co, and later it was run by his elder son Jose Eduardo Ivison y Viale, who renamed it RC Ivison. 

Casa de la vina Vina Petronila
He later broke away from the family firm to run of the Jerez side of the London firm of FW (Federico Guillermo) Cosens & Co. around 1848, securing bodegas in the Calle San Domingo in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Meanwhile Ricardo Ivison y de Arcos was the last in the family to conduct important business, especially with England and Ireland, always in branded containers. He was exporting brands such as a fino called Delicado, an oloroso Cream called V.O.X. and a PX Viejisimo called Matusalen.

His brother, Francisco Ivison O’Neale, a fellow grandson of the founder, was a noted chemist who was at the forefront in the development of wine and brandy production, and Ivison was one of the earliest brandy producers, who by 1880 had large stocks of French style brandy which they exported as La Marque Speciale, as it was more expedient to market the new brandy under a French sounding name.

When Cosens faced problems after the founder’s death in 1899, one of Jose Eduardo’s sons, Jose Enrique Ivison O’Neale took over the ailing firm, becoming sole proprietor and renamed the firm JE Ivison O’Neale at the end of the 1920’s.

A view of the bodegas (foto:jerezsiempre)
In 1964, the Ivison family sold the firm, lock stock and barrel to Wisdom and Warter which was owned by Gonzalez Byass, and which was run by Enrique Isasi Ivison. He had the distinction of being the great grandson of both the founder of Gonzalez Byass and of Ivison. W&W continued with the business at the same address, at least until the 1970’s.Various standard brands were marketed, eg Fino, Manzanilla etc. but the Ivison brand trademark expired in 1998. Matusalem (as it is now called) is now a brand of Gonzalez Byass and sold as a VORS.

Now out of the Sherry trade, members of the Ivison family, which has such deep roots in the area - up to 400 years- and has intermarried like so many with other well-known Sherry families, have made names for themselves in various fields, such as broadcasting (Carlos Vergara Ivison) and law (Pedro Ivison y de Arcos and Ignacio Vergara Ivison, who was Dean of the College of Lawyers in Jerez). They have high social standing, and are very friendly with the Spanish Royal family. Pedro's sister Petronila (known as "Tola") used to be the organiser of the Fiesta de la Vendimia. Paz Ivison Cabrera is a well-known journalist and one of the Sherry Educators.The family had a beautiful house in the Calle Bizcocheros.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

1.12.13 The "Sherry Chef" Gets Another Michelin Star

Javier Muñoz, owner/chef of the top Jerez restaurant La Carbona has been awarded a Michelin Star for the second year running. Not bad for a man of only 30 years of age, who uses Sherry wherever possible in his cuisine, and who was therefore described as the “Sherry Chef” by the Financial Times, a nickname of which he is proud. His restaurant is in an old bodega, and has not only real character, but amazing food.

Friday, 29 November 2013

29.11.13 International Shery Week; Gastronomes Visit Gonzalez Byass

World Sherry Day, which began last May and saw people getting together with Sherry and food around the world, has been transformed for 2014 into International Sherry Week.  A new website is being created ( and new dates have been arranged. The 2014 edition will take place between the 2nd and the 8th of June.

According to Chelsea Anthon of International Sherry Week, last year’s one day affair was simply not long enough, and a week is a more suitable period for all the worldwide events. They might, however change the word “international” for “world”. It is all still on the drawing board, but Jerez council has been busy.

A whole series of events will be taking place next year in Jerez, European City of Wine 2014, most notably Vinoble, from the 25th till the 27th May. Events of all kinds are being arranged to take advantage of the city’s new status. Wine is, obviously the protagonist, but there will be many horse and flamenco events, and motor racing. 2014 is definitely a year to visit Jerez.

Fifty members of the Andalusian Academy of Gastronomy and Tourism paid a visit to the Gonzalez Byass vineyard of la Canariera yesterday to celebrate the end of the fermentations. Saint Andrew’s Day (actually the 30th) is an important day in the viticultural world, when the fermentation ends, and the musts become wine. As the popular saying  in Spain goes:  “Por San Andres, el mosto vino es”. (The must becomes wine on St. Andrew’s Day.) This was the first such celebration in the province, and there were various well-known chefs as well as the GB directors, led by Pedro Rebuelta who enjoyed some good food with GB wines.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Amontillado 18%, Gutierrez Colosia

Amber with polished bronze highlights, legs.
Quite full with toasted, honeyed nuts, a hint of turron de yema tostada (ground almond and honey bar with toasted egg yolk on top), a touch of dried fruit, and then the more savoury elements: a maritime note and a trace of Marmite. Not particularly complex or old, but a bit of a charmer.
Dry with lots of nuts, almond hazel and walnut, not a hint of astringency, rather an attractive mellow feel and a long clean finish. Perhaps around 10 years old, but very attractive.
Highly recommended by Decanter Magazine with a score of 17/20, this is a wine to offer someone who thinks they don't like Sherry. If they don't like this, then there's no hope for them! It is correct and characterful and yet easy drinking at the same time. It is aged as a fino for at least three years before being aged in the Amontillado solera for at least a further five, so it is quite young for an Amontillado, but with all the charms of youth.
Around £16.00 Uk Importers: Eaux de Vie (mainly) and Alliance Wine

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Daily Life of the Sherry Barons in the Late XIX and Early XX Centuries

The second half of the XIX century was very prosperous for the Sherry business. The 1850s and 1860s were a period of commercial splendour supported by exports. Sales were growing healthily and a record volume was reached in 1873. The arrival of the railway facilitated the business of this progressive and industrious bourgeoisie, who held the political and urban reins of the city, while they amassed fortunes.

Writer and producer of Manzanilla, Manuel Barbadillo distinguished two classes of wine producer: those who were aristocratic, and those who were not. The aristocracy had lineage from antiquity, some with coats of arms dating way back, and went around with haughty even contemptuous smiles for those who had entered the business in the era pre First World War. These were the first, the great exporters, the gentlemen, those who played Polo, drank whisky, had Irish nurses, sent their sons to prestigious English universities and bathed in chilled pools.

At the beginning of the XX century there were three good friends with great houses and large families. One was Juan Pedro Domecq Nuñez de Villavicencio, first Marques de Domecq, who lived during a certain stage in his life at the Palacio Cristina (now known as the Palacio Domecq). Another was Joaquin Rivero O’Neale, who had entered the Sherry trade through the ancient house of Cabeza de Aranda y Zarco, and who lived in a palatial house in the Plaza Rivero, also in exquisite taste. And there was Julian Pemartin Carrera, father of Julian Pemartin Sanjuan, the author, along with his wife, Mercedes Diez y Zurita, of the Diccionario del Vino de Jerez – essential for those serious about the study of Sherry. He lived in a palatial house on the Plaza de las Angustias, now a hotel.

The XVIII C Palacio Domecq
Another great house is El Altillo, with its gothic chapel, built about 150 years ago by Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel, founder of Gonzalez Byass as a peaceful family retreat in summer. Time has stood still at this classic house of the Victorian era. Its last family occupants were the seven daughters (known as “las Altillanas”) of Cristobal de la Quintana and Margarita Gonzalez Gordon. The daughters conserved the house exactly as it was, like a living museum of a bygone era, with cabinets of fine English china, and table linen. The rooms still smell of the past. It's as if Las Altillanas might appear at any minute.

At dawn, in those days, there were servants rushing about the stables and coachhouses, fires were lit, kitchens readied, horses were brushed and coaches polished, ready for el Gran Señor to rush off to the bodega. The horse is extremely important in the history of Jerez, and the development of the business. It was a sign of success, prosperity, and when horses multiplied and were attached to great coaches; they became a real status symbol.

One day Manuel Misa y Bertemati, Conde de Bayona was entertaining important visitors, friends of his, among whom was the city Magistrate, Manuel Monti y Diaz. Over (quite a few) copitas their conversation went like this:

- Sherry seems to be selling really quickly, as if it were on horseback, said Monti.
- The butts all lined up look like a cavalry squadron, said Misa.
- Yes, said Monti, each butt the size of a colt which needs to be tamed.
The Conde drifted off into explanations of the bodega, how the wine was made, the different types, a copa of fino here, a copa of oloroso there, ending up with the sweet wines.
- Looks like the wine is galloping, said Monti.
- It’s as if it were on horseback.
- Señor Conde! Said Monti, it feels like the horses are galloping in my veins! What could it be?
- The aristocratic nature of the wine, my dear Magistrate! Fino is an English horse, Amontillado, an Arab horse, and Oloroso a Jerezano horse.
- Well let’s drink a toast to your wines, Señor Conde, said the visitors.
- Let’s drink to our horses, gentlemen, said Monti.
- Let it be so! Said the Conde.

The list of staff in these grand houses is long. There were servants for the keys, dining room servants, gentle-man’s gentlemen, lady’s chambermaids, nurses and governesses for the children, cleaners, launderers, ironers, dining room waiters in grey livery with blue trousers, caps and silver buttons, sometimes with the family crest, some to serve food and some to serve wine, and stable boys. All occupied the upper floor, while the family occupied the first floor which had more sunlight and better accessibility. Every morning the master would go downstairs to the dining room with the children and they would drink plenty of coffee and eat toast with jam before going about their respective business.

The mansion of Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez de Soto, first Marques de Torresoto, was another such household, and became one of the best known in Jerez. The city had inns, but there was no suitable hotel, so people stayed at their friends' houses. Guests of the Marques included Marconi, Sorolla (famous Spanish painter) and Bastida, all of whom admired his collection of antiques collected from all round the world.

As to food, the English way was observed, if not strictly followed, as families of Spanish and French origin needed a better lunch than the English 1 o’clock sandwich of roast beef and gherkin or salmon and salad. The continentals were more accustomed to a three course lunch accompanied by Sherry. They would usually serve soup made from meat stock and various vegetables, or just the stock with rice or pasta. Eggs cooked in various ways, chick pea stews with chicken or game birds, pickled partridge, pigeon with golden onion, quail wrapped in ham or thrush in vine leaves were all dishes accompanied by Sherry: Oloroso with soup and chick peas, Amontillado with fowl. Then there were fresh fruit, meringues floating in custard, soufflés or mousses before finishing with a glass of brandy. At Calle Porvera, 3, Carolina Pemartin de Sanchez Romate had an excellent table and service, as did Maria Luisa Hidalgo, wife of Tomas Diez Carrera who lived in the Calle Caballeros.

The siesta was sacred. The diligent bodeguero just nodded off briefly, although there were some who would go to bed for a while, rather than have just a quick nap on the sofa. Thus visits took place after 6.00. In those houses which still had no telephone, there was always a servant to take somebody’s card, and in those houses which did, the reply to an inopportune call might have gone like this:

- Is El Señor at home?
- El Señor is occupied (meaning perhaps sleeping, reading, trimming roses…)

All the while, the relationship with England gradually changed from simple commercial necessity to a sign of distinction with the appearance of the “gentleman” figure. Everything English was “a la mode”; “Sherry barons” were seen in hats by Lock and suits from Savile Row. They drove English style carriages to banquets prepared by French chefs. They wore suits from John & Peggs, shirts from Beal & Immand, hats from Andre & Scott, shoes from Roberts, drove carriages from Peter’s, and bought sporting items from Hammond.

Having reached the top economically, many of the Sherry Barons managed to consolidate their social prestige by taking up civic posts. There were many examples, such as Juan Haurie, Agustin Blazquez, Manuel Francisco de Paul, Alberto Ramos Santana, Antonio Otaolaurruchi, EduardoHidalgo Verjano, Pedro Barbadillo Ambrosy, Carlos Delgado, Tomas Barbadillo. All were mayors of their respective towns. 

Many others were members of institutions, such as Rafael Rivero, Juan Pedro Domecq, Pedro Carlos Gordon, Jose Pemartin, Guillermo Garvey, all members of the Economic Society of Friends of the Nation. The first board of the Atheneum of Jerez had a few as well: Pedro Domecq y Villavicencio, Carlos de Bertemati, Carlos Rivero y Gordon, Rafael Estevez and Francisco Ivison O’Neale.

Free time was also invested in English sports which the Marques de Torresoto had introduced, such as Polo. Perico Gonzalez Soto wrote from London to his father Manuel Maria, “This is a new sport which requires the blood of a Villavicencio, the courage of an Estopiñan and the skill of a Cabrera”. Many members of the Jerez Polo Club were Sherry people, such as: Richard Davies, the Lassaletta Vergara brothers, Carl and Alexander Williams, the MacKenzie brothers and the Isasi Gonzalez brothers. Torresoto also introduced tennis and clay pigeon shooting, and founded the Lawn Tennis Association and the Gun Club of Jerez.

Back at home, they played the piano, read from their library or simply enjoyed a leisurely dinner, always between 8.00 and 9.00 in the evening. This was a simpler meal than lunch and consisted of some sort of soup in a cup, fish in sauce, meat and a dessert. From 1890, Jerez had electric lighting, being the first city in Spain to dispense with gas. Thus was resolved the big problem of going about the streets at night, when one had to be accompanied by a servant with a stout stick, according to the writer Sutter. In those days there were many casinos, but the Sherry Barons chose to go to the Jockey Club of Jerez or the Grand National Club.

Every Sunday, after 12 o’ clock mass, the Barons attended to the poor, who had formed queues outside their mansions. Wealth and the good use of it; its straightforward Christian effectiveness and means of soaking up of social conflicts appealed to the philanthropic side of the Domecq Loustaus, the Sanchez Romates, to Rafael Rivero and the Misa brothers. For this reason – and many others – the XIX century bourgeoisie received plenty of honours: Tomas Osborne became a Caballero of the Order of Carlos III, Patricio Garvey became Steward to the King, and many, many others received them too, such as the Marques de Misa, the Conde de Osborne, the Marques de Bonanza, the Marques de Domecq d’Usquain.

Where did our great-great grandfathers find the time?

(From Diario Jerez)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

26.11.13 Attempted Theft of Osborne Bull; New Art Installation in Jerez

Two men have been caught in the act of cutting down one of the famous Osborne bulls with the intention of selling the metal for scrap. The incident occurred near Alicante, and the prosecutor is asking for a five month sentence.

The Osborne bulls, of which there are about 90, are huge, made from galvanised steel sheeting supported on a scaffold. The total weight of these beasts is around 4,000 kilos. They can be seen for miles and have state protection.

A wonderful new work of art has appeared in Jerez. It is a 12 metre high photograph of Manuel Moneo, a famous local flamenco singer, which occupies the wall of an old (I think Domecq) bodega in Jerez. The artist is Juan Carlos Toro, and the work, which is to be seen in the Plaza del Cristo de la Expiracion, is titled “Presences”. It certainly has presence, and this sort of work is popping up in abandoned spaces in Jerez.

25.11.13 Tio Pepe Sign; New Look for Canasta Cream

It seems that the Tio Pepe illuminated sign will not now be in its new position in the Puerta del Sol, no. 11 in time for Christmas. It is currently in a warehouse in the Poligono Azque in Alcala de Henares on the outskirts of Madrid, where serious restoration work is being undertaken. According to Gonzalez Byass, it will be mounted in its new position “in a few months”. It was put in the square originally in 1937 after GB had applied to Madrid Council to erect it to celebrate the bodega’s centenary in 1935. The fee for the licence was 796 pesetas! Every component of the sign is being restored with the minutest care with modern finishing techniques.

Williams & Humbert’s Canasta Cream Sherry, the best-selling sweet Oloroso in Spain, has had a facelift. The new design is not so different from the original, but has a slightly more modern feel, both in the label, and the shape of the bottle. According to Eduardo Medina, marketing director of W&H, “the presentation has changed very little in recent years, and we saw a need to update it, with a contemporary and vibrant design which would still be faithful to the brand’s roots and which could still be identifiable to our customers. The new design will be available in Spain by the end of the month.

New bottle is on the left

Saturday, 23 November 2013

23.11.13 Tio Pepe Palmas Live Tasting

The recent live Twitter tasting of the 2013 release of the Gonzalez Byass Palmas range attracted over 180,000 participants in Spain, Japan, the USA, Mexico, Belgium…  The event can still be seen on You Tube. There were 3 videos; “Greetings from GB president Mauricio Gonzalez”, “The Sounds of the Night Harvest in Jerez” and “The Selection of the 2013 Palmas”. What with video technology, streaming and stuff, the GB team employed over 25 technicians in a pretty complex, but very successful tasting.

(Imagen Diario Jerez)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

20.11.13 Medina Family Now Own 100% of Williams and Humbert

The Medina family has taken full ownership of the bodega Williams & Humbert after purchasing the 45% stake owned by the capital risk fund Andalucia Capital Desarrollo (ACD). It was ACD who financed the purchase of the bodega from the Dutch multinational Ahold in 2005. The price for the share purchase has not been released, but both parties have declared themselves satisfied. The Medina family has been involved with Williams & Humbert for over twenty years, and at last it is theirs 100%, and includes their original firm Bodegas Medina.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


This cartoon was published in today's Diario de Jerez, and shows that, even in Jerez, while people are immensely proud of it, not enough people are drinking their own product. Remember, a glass of Sherry every day will help you live till 100!

"Tito, let's have a couple of rum and cokes to celebrate Jerez becoming European City of Wine!"
"All that work, and they still don't get it!"

Monday, 18 November 2013

Jamon and Manzanilla in London

If you're in London, this is not to be missed. Sorry, not much notice, so drop everything!

Palo Cortado Viejo Scully 20%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Deep blacky amber fading through to a yellowy-green rim, legs.
Quite Amontillado: old, lots of toast, hints of dried fruit and old polished furniture, almonds and hazelnuts, and only a trace of oak. Something slightly savoury, from its Manzanilla past, but all this has integrated into a really complex fresh - even crisp - and fragrant nose with a trace of apparent sweetness.
Fairly intense, light, dry and beautifully rounded. Traces of licorice, oak barrels, cedar/sandalwood, dried fruit, sweet spices, walnut. Quite tangy as befits a wine from Sanlucar, quite light in weight and immensely long. Lovely!
This excellent wine comes from a limited edition (2,150 half bottles) produced in 2008 for the Revista Matador art and graphics magazine. Each year, the mag. gets a celebrated winemaker to produce a one-off limited edition top notch wine which they sell with a special designer label. This wine bears a label designed by Irish-American artist Sean Scully, twice nominated for the Turner Prize. The wine is made from Pago Miraflores grapes and comes from Hidalgo family reserves, of which they keep back four butts to celebrate the birth of a new member of the family. It is around 70 years old.
A half bottle costs over 30 euros - if you can obtain one... Try

Sunday, 17 November 2013

What You Need to Know about Zambombas

Every December, in the run up to Christmas, zambombas can be heard accompanying carols in homes, streets, bars etc. It is an old tradition in Andalucia, dating back to the XVIII century at least, where  leading up to Christmas Eve people join in with the singing and sometimes dancing with a slightly flamenco edge. It is a terrific atmosphere; everyone is happy, especially as they are usually enjoying a glass of anis (a clear aniseed liqueur), ponche (a brandy and orange based liqueur) or local wine and a pestiña de navidad (lovely seasonal sweetmeats made from flour dough cooked in olive oil and dipped in honey).

So what is a zambomba? It is an ancient instrument made from a large clay jar with an animal skin fixed tightly to the top, like a drum, but a long stick has been pushed through the skin, and on moving it up and down, it gives off a distinct sound. The clay jars vary in size between about 35cm and 80cm long, so that they are either played vertically sitting down, or horizontally by sitting on the zambomba itself.

Gente de Jerez (quite peaceful this one!)
Typical anis bottle
Other rudimentary instruments are often on hand to accompany things, such as an empty anis bottle rattled with a knife, bells or tambourines, and, of course, song. There is a subtle difference between the traditional flamenco mass, which is slightly more flamenco and formal, and the lively laid-back zambombas (the word has now come to mean the event as much as the instrument). Jerez has a long tradition of zambombas, flamenco and flamenco masses, most of which, along with many carols (villancicos) have been passed down orally through the generations. So if you're going to be in Jerez soon, here are some useful dates:

16.11.12 Jerez has done it! European City of Wine 2014!

At the XVII general asembly of RECEVIN (network of European Wine cities), Jerez beat off competition from Cambados (Galicia) to winn the coveted award European City of Wine 2014. The competition took place in Marsala (Sicily), 2013 European City of Wine, and was attended by representatives from both cities, including their mayors and various officials.

Maria Jose Garcia Pelayo, mayoress of Jerez, pointed out the huge potential benefits to wine tourism, promotion and sales, and gave thanks to the many who had contributed so much to the Jerez bid. According to the mayoress of Marsala, her city saw a 27% increase in wine tourism, and the year is not over yet.

Garcia Pelayo (centre) with Marsala Mayoress on her left (Imagen Andaluciainfo)

This award comes at a historic time for Jerez, which is celebrating the 750th anniversary of its accession to Christian Spain, and has a huge list of wine-related activities scheduled for next year.

Things are really looking up for Jerez, so let's all support it!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

15.11.13 Sherry and Tweets; New GB Palmas Release

There is a great new way to promote Sherry, based in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Sherry and Tweets is aimed at promoting our favourite wine to the younger generation by making use of the social media of which they are so fond. Sherry & Tweets HQ is a charming family hotel in El Puerto called La Casa Huespedes de Santa Maria, owned by Carlos and Myriam.

The idea is that every month there is a Sherry event, about which there will be a lot of tweeting, (internet messages restricted to 140 characters) which will hopefully be picked up by young people who might feel inclined to get involved. The events will take place in interesting places, and feature not only Sherry but its marriage with foods to demonstrate its versatility. In this way, anyone participating can buy the goods physical or online to try at home or meet other fans through the “twittersphere”.

There is a website ( with more information on the “catas 2.0” as they are known. The initiative has the full support of El Puerto town council and the Consejo Regulador. And me!

Gonzalez Byass  will make the 2013 release (the third release) of the Finos Palmas on the 21st of this month. For the first time they will be doing a live master tasting of the “Ages of Tio Pepe”, which can be followed in real time via streaming on any computer, tablet or suitable mobile phone, at 7.00 pm (Spanish time one presumes – 6.00pm in UK). Just log onto and participate via Twitter with the hashtag #finospalmas. The tasting will be led by the firm’s chief oenologist Antonio Flores from the bodegas in Jerez.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Vote for Tio Pepe Roundabout!

Just a reminder. You have till the 30th November to cast a vote for the best Tio Pepe statue to be placed on the roundabout. Here is a picture of the roundabout itself, and you can see the candidates on my post of 25th October. You can vote on

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Old Canal Project at Jerez

Shortly after the Spanish Civil War, there was a project to build a 5 km canal from Jerez to the river Guadalete, which would have connected the city by water to the sea at El Puerto de Santa Maria.

According to a study by the Ministry of Public Works in 1946, the canal would have started in the south of Jerez in an area known as Playas de San Telmo, and joined the Guadalete near El Portal. It was proposed to take advantage of the long straight stretches, but the river should be widened or straightened at tight curves. This would shorten the distance by 2 km.

This project, along with many before it, never reached fruition. It would have taken at least 6 years, and cost 91 million pesetas. It might have taken huge amounts of Sherry to market.

Manzanilla Piconera 15%, Bodegas J Ferris

Very pale strawy gold, light legs.
Gentle flor influence: hints of camomile, almond and traces of palomino fruit with a definite saline tinge and a fine trace of yeast autolysis.
Light and fresh, very clean with notes of bread dough, almond, and flor and marine salinity. Young fresh, gentle and refreshing with a decent tang - a "session" Manzanilla ( perfect for a good few glasses with a long, unhurried lunch of seafood on the Bajo de Guia in Sanlucar....)
Young, inexpensive and uncomplicated, but has a certain charm. Palomino y Vergara had a Manzanilla some time ago called "La Piconera", but whose label sported a dandy with a glass of Sherry, rather than a woman. A piconera is a woman who sells coal (or was once). Remember, Manzanilla is always feminine, so what a male dandy had to do with a female coal seller, goodness knows. Nevertheless the P&V Manzanilla was certainly more complex. But, alas, not any longer available.
Around 5 euros in Spain. Ferris has a good export business, but I've never heard of it in Britain. Try

11.11.13 Sherry Exports

Wine exports from the province of Cadiz have touched 48 million Euros up to August, and nearly all of that is Sherry. Spain may now be officially out of recession (tell that to the unemployed of Andalucia!) but the economy depends on exports, as the domestic market is still in decline. If there is one thing that characterises the Sherry business, however, it is exports – 4 out of every 5 bottles sold are exported.

Sherry prices have risen recently in line with trade policy, allowing revenues to rise, though volumes have slipped a bit. This is also in line with policy: to sell better wine in smaller quantities, concentrate on bodegas’ own brands and try to cut down on the unprofitable BOB (buyers own brand – supermarket) trade, although it is still very important.

The main export markets spent: UK 15.6 m Euros (down 8%), Holland 6.8m (up 0.6%), Germany 5.4 m (up 1.4%), USA 5.3 m (up 41%!), France, Belgium, Mexico and Canada @1.5m, and Denmark and Japan @ 1m.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

9.11.13 XVIII Fino Days in El Puerto

This Monday, at the bodegas Obregon in El Puerto, the programme for the events will be unveiled at 1.00, which this year will be celebrated on the 15th, 16th and 17th of this month. The programme is as follows:

Friday 15th at 8.30 at the Hotel Monasterio San Miguel: The presentation of the programme followed by a round table on single vineyard Fino. There will be a glass of Fino served afterwards in the Hotel’s Cloister.

Saturday 16th at 12.00 at Bodegas Caballero (entrance by the Castle). There will be a grand tasting starring Fino Pavon and a homage to Caballero and Lustau oenologist Manuel Lozano, winner five times consecutively of the IWC “Best fortified Wine Maker in the World”.

Sunday 17th at 12.30 at Viña del Carmen (meet at Venta el Cepo) Visit to the vineyard and talk about the soils and the single vineyards by historian Javier Maldonado Rosso. New wine and country food will be served.

There’s just time to get a flight booked!

Fino 15% Pedro's Almacenista Selection

Pale, quite golden straw, legs.
Interesting; lots of flor and olive, traces of oxidation, bitter and quite full, hints of oxidised apple, palomino fruit, a slight whiff of cinnamon. More complex than it seems at first, a strong flor effect though no autolysis, but really quite bitter - and appetising - needs olives!
Fairly low acidity is compensated for by bitterness, yet well rounded with a little weight, lots of very bitter almond and traces of salinity, apple, yeast, very long.
A really stylish Fino, but only available from Majestic. The range is only minimally filtered, so all the flavour is retained. This Fino is sourced from the Almacenista Garcia Jarana and contract bottled by Sanchez Romate. The label is a reproduction of the poster for the Fiesta de la Vendimia in Jerez from 1967. For more background to the range, see the notes on the Palo Cortado.
£8.99, and extremely good value.

Friday, 8 November 2013

8.11.13 Gymcata Jerez

"You can smell that lovely aroma from the street!"

The I “Gymcata Denominacion de Origen Jerez” has been a great success. The 13 teams of contestants had to pass tests such as blind tastings and differentiating different types of vinegar, going round tabancos and bodegas.

A member of one team, the “Turismologos”, a UCA student, said that she had begun to get to know Jerez itself, rather than just the route from the station to college. “It is really interesting”.

The event, organised by the University of Cadiz (UCA) and the Campus of Agro-alimentary Excellence, and supported by the City Council, The Consejo Regulador, Tabancora (the Tabanco association) and the Association of Oenologists of Andalucia, was timed to coincide with the V European Day of Wine Tourism. Another student, of oenology, said it was great fun. They had visited Gonzalez Byass and the tabanco El Pasaje. “The professors have been encouraging us, and “we’ve arrived in a very good place”.

In El Pasaje they had a really sweet test. Manuel Sanchez, one of those in charge of the test, and who is finishing his doctoral thesis on research into making sweets from Sherry, brought various samples of truffles to see if the contestants could tell which type of Sherry they had been made with.

Another team, “Los Viñeros”, were the winners after they completed all the tests in the least time. The team’s spokesperson pointed out that the event is the perfect way to promote not only Sherry itself, but to get the locals to realise what a treasure of a wine they have. Speaking from the door of the tabanco Las Banderillas, Domi Guillen also said that people would get to know better the tabancos of Jerez, which are delightful. “My test was to differentiate between Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Amontillado and Fino”.

Most of the teams were students, mostly Spanish, but from as far afield as Colombia and Portugal, and they were all delighted to discover how good Sherry and other local products are, not to mention the place and its history.

Tomorrow is also full of activities. Many bodegas have doors open days, some with violin concerts or equestrian shows, visits to vineyards, art exhibitions. There will also take place the first of the “Sherry Cooking Classes”, while the Consejo is organising a tasting for the visually impaired in collaboration with the City council and the ONCE (the Spanish National Organisation for the Blind). There will also be a tutored Sherry and food marriage tasting with a reading of poetry. Then there will be a timed rally starting in the Plaza Arenal.

Oh! How I wish I were in Jerez right now!!!