Thursday, 28 February 2013

Susan Sarandon drinks Sherry!

In a US TV series, The Big C, Susan Sarandon and a friend enjoy a proper aperitif! And they seem to be enjoying it quite a lot! The wine is Bodegas Dios Baco Oloroso, by the way. Sherry is definitely gaining some ground in the US, and this is just the sort of promotion it needs.

Many thanks to Jose Luis Jimenez Garcia! ( - excellent blog!)

Fino Campo de Guia 15%, Gutierrez Colosia

Mid strawy yellowy gold, very light legs.
Full, lots of broad fleshy flor with saline, maritime edge - beach sand and even seaweed - touches of straw and bitter almond.
Broad soft and yeasty, low acid but attractive bitterness compensates, a young wine but quite serious and characterful, long and moreish.
Only a bit over 3 years old, but delicious, very yeasty and exuberant. The Campo de Guia is the bodega area of El Puerto de Santa Maria which sprang up in the XIX century between the bullring and the riverbank. Gutierrez Colosia's bodega is on the riverbank, and nearby are Luis Caballero and Osborne.
6 euros ex bodega, but not available here as far as I know. Sorry.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Andalucia Day

Tomorrow, the 28th February is El Dia de Andalucia. It is a public holiday throughout the region, and the date recalls the vote by the people of Andalucia on February the 28th 1980 to be a regional autonomy.

Andalucia is an important place: the world's largest producer of olives and olive oil; a massive fruit and vegetable producer; maker of many important wines including our beloved Sherry and also Malaga, Montilla and many others. It is a major tourist destination with world heritage sites. Andalucia invented Flamenco, and tapas. I can't imagine Heaven being much better!

The region consists of 8 provinces: Cadiz, Almeria, Malaga, Granada, Jaen, Huelva, Cordoba and Sevilla, where the regional government is established.

Somehow, only Andalucia could produce Sherry, and I would ask you all to raise a glass of it and drink "To Andalucia!"  "Viva Andalucia!"

Oloroso Urium 19%, Bodegas Urium

Bright clean mahogany-amber through pale amber to slight trace of green at the rim, legs.
Aromatic and generous quite dry, but some implied sweetness follows through, very fine and elegant, traces of dry fruit cake, hazelnuts and walnuts, lightish but most attractive.
Very elegant, lightish and refined, lots of warm nutty flavours, even nut liqueur, perhaps a trace of polished furniture, long, dry with a trace of tannin but well rounded, beautifully balanced and delicious.
A really fine, elegant Oloroso. This is from the Classic range, after which they offer the VORS wines. It is undoubtedly from an old solera which the firm bought, but I know no more about it, except that it is lovely. As far as I am aware it is not imported into the UK. Sorry!

PX Royal Ambrosante VOS 17%, Sandeman

Almost opaque black-brown to fading yellow rim with pronounced legs.
Very Jerez in style, seems fairly dry at first, but a certain sweetness with lots of raisin, fruit cake, damp barrels, coffee, treacle and a savoury element too, slight traces of Marmite and licorice, quite serious and old.
Full, rich, very sweet and luscious, lots of tangy raisin and a hint of date with all the texture you'd expect from dried fruit and just enough acidity for a clean finish, quite lively with traces of well-done toast and treacle. Long and delicious.
This is a VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum) or a wine with a minimum of 20 years solera age. The solera was laid down in 1894, and all bottles (mostly halves) are numbered. It contains a modest 380g/l sugars and 4.5g/l tartaric acid which gives it tang and length.

£13-15 per half bottle. UK importer Stephens Garnier

Saturday, 23 February 2013

23.2.13 Various News Items

The XVII Festival de Jerez got underway last night with various flamenco acts with dancing, singing and music at the Villamarta Theatre. The Gala Inaugural was criticised for its length, partly for unnecessary extras, but was nonetheless a success, and a great start to the festival.

Garvey is selling its last two bodegas. The Complejo Bellavista and bodega Zoilo Ruiz Mateos will be sold together in the summer, although a price has not yet been fixed. In April it will be two years since the administration proceedings began, and a meeting will be held soon with management.

The actual owner of the bodegas, Angel de Cabo, through his company Back in Business, is in custody for suspected fraud concerning a travel agency business, and the possibility of him running Garvey and ZRM has been ruled out. The workforce, which has been much reduced over the last few years as the company’s debt spiralled to 250 million euros, along with the management, would like the business to be sold to someone who would continue it as it is.

According to accounts supplied by Back in Business, the value of the business minus its debt stands at a negative figure of 18 million euros if the distribution company Union de Grandes Bodegas is taken into account.

Meanwhile the Ruiz Mateos family, once owners of the bodegas as Nueva Rumasa, are being pursued through the courts. The labyrinthine nature of their affairs, however, will make it very difficult to secure convictions. In the family itself, everyone is falling out with each other and blaming each other while their creditors and investors will likely get nothing.

Ruiz Mateos and his six sons 

Lustau recently gave a tutored tasting of a range of its wines to students of the prestigious Oxford University Wine Society at Exeter College, founded in 1314. Around 50 students were given a talk about the bodega followed by a tasting of the wines by Federico Sanchez Pece, brand ambassador.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Sherry Called BOB !

This was the cleverly named title of the following article in today's Diario de Jerez

The IDEA agency of the Junta de Andalucia has published a report into the situation of Sherry, its market and its future possibilities, and presented it to the last plenary session of the Consejo Regulador in January.
Alongside recommendations for opening new markets and making Sherry more accessible to younger consumers, the report revives the debate about the difficult co-existence of buyers’ own brands (BOB) and the bodegas’ own brands on one side, and on the other side the complexity of the plethora of styles of Sherry.

Much has been said about the BOB business to which bodegas have traditionally resorted to boost turnover as sales fell, but which had grave consequences for both the price and the image of Sherry. Despite the abandonment of BOB by one of the leading bodegas in recent years, it is BOB which provides the vast majority of exports to the traditional markets of the UK, Holland and Germany, at a price often of below one euro a bottle, and that damages the bodega brands.

BOB was the main reason for the massive fine of seven million euros imposed by the National Competition Commission on some Sherry shippers for an alleged cartel to assure dominant positions in the export markets.

In line with the report, sources in the Sherry sector agree that it is time the debate resurfaced, in order to avoid confusion. One suggestion is to mark bodega brands with the words “Jerez Superior”. While the report recommends simplification of the different styles of Sherry, this would not be easy, and in some cases would run against the Consejo’s own Reglamento.

The report notes that another thing holding back Sherry is the concentration on just a few markets which are not evolving and which generally prefer one style of wine, and recommends diversifying the range on offer. Spain drinks little else but Manzanilla; Britain little else but Cream and Medium, for example, but some bodegas have been trying to diversify.

Other recommendations are pretty obvious, such as creating and promoting brands; increasing public knowledge of the wines; concentrating more on the pouring trade; working on enotourism.
To sum up, the report, rather than coming up with new ideas, points up some questions which have never been resolved, mainly because of the tense and confrontational atmosphere between the bodegas and the producers over the many years of crisis. Now that there is interest again in Sherry, it is up to them to do the right thing.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Amontillado Fino El Tresillo 17.5%, Emilio Hidalgo

Paleish, old gold with slight amber hue, legs.
Very attractive and interesting; a complex array of aromas starting with oxidised Fino, rich and full - at that half-way stage between Fino and Amontillado - some dried fruits such as sultana and a trace of barrels, something slightly humid and autumnal, the beginnings of that delightful Amontillado smell of toasted hazelnuts with a hint of honeyed sweetness, quince jelly.
Starts with a certain sweetness, but is actually dry, some glycerol here which one would have expected to be lost under the flor, but there is a (not unattractive) oiliness which will give way to a crisper wine with further ageing. Acidity is low but there is a slight tang, and already considerable length.
This could be described as work in progress. Very good work. The solera dates from 1874 and this wine is from (if I remember correctly) the 3rd criadera with an average age of 15 years. Amontillado El Tresillo 1874 is the finished wine, somewhere around 50 years old, and any self-respecting Sherry fan will HAVE to try the finished wine after trying this one - which I definitely recommend. This is REAL Sherry, constantly evolving. One of the very few Sherries to be sealed with a driven cork, and thus better able to be laid down, which would certainly be worth doing. Tresillo is a card game once popular at the bodega.
Ex bodega 25.00 euros, and well worth it. UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Manzanilla Pasada en rama Goya XL 15% Delgado Zuleta

Bright paleish strawy gold, legs.
Saline, bread dough and camomile, bitter almond, slightest trace seaweed and olive brine and dry scrubland, traces of autolysis in the background, very complex and expressive yet beautifully fresh, fantastic.
Once in the mouth it just grows, bone dry, all the flavours of the nose, very savoury from autolysis with pronounced notes of olive, low acid compensated for by flor bitterness, bursting with flavour and with great persistence.
An absolute beauty. This wine is over 10 years old and fresher than most daisies. It is a Manzanilla with all the hallmarks of a pasada yet just so fresh. John Radford gave it 19/20 and so do I. The scales of the solera are run only to compensate for losses due to transpiration, and of course to refresh the nutrients for the flor, so not much is available for sale, just one annual selected saca. While this might be reviewed, the feeling is that it is better to draw the wine in its very best moment than to draw it seasonally. Do try and get some.
15 euros ex bodega for a 50cl bottle, and somewhere around £20 in the UK, imported by Borough Wines. And worth every centimo or penny!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Bodegas: Urium

Urium is a family bodega situated in the Calle Muro, which runs alongside the old city wall in the old barrio Santiago quarter of Jerez. At one time there were many bodegas here, but most have gradually disappeared. This one was bought from a former manager at Valdespino and almacenista in 2006. As a firm, then, it is very recent, only registering with the Consejo Regulador in September 2009 and then starting to sell the wines. It is owned and run by Alonso Ruiz Olivares, a businessman from Moguer (Huelva) and Sherry aficionado, his daughter Rocio Ruiz Lopez, who is also the enologist and her husband Mario. Sr. Ruiz bought the bodega along with its fine old stocks and renamed it after the Roman name for Moguer: Mons Urium (or golden mountain). The bodega is very small, with only about 500 butts, and consists of two warehouses with a central patio where they age the vinegar. Of the butts they bought, some 60 were not up to their standards and were sold off and replaced by better ones from old soleras around Jerez, and they were easy enough to obtain since in those days of crisis many small firms were closing.

After 3 years of hard work getting things together, a party was held in the bodega to which various bloggers, members of the gastronomic world and foreign buyers were invited. They also held a reception at the Consejo Regulador, attended by the president, the mayor of Jerez and various councillors. After the reception, a menu maridaje was enjoyed by the guests.

The old bodega in Calle Muro - strange not to see lots of parked cars!
The age of the wine stocks allowed them to produce a range of VORS (over 30 year old) wines straight away, to which they added a Fino solera and buy in Manzanilla from an almacenista in Sanlucar. They own no vineyard so buy mosto from growers in Balbaina with whom they collaborate closely. All wines are bottled en rama. Interestingly one of the botas punta of the fino solera lost its flor for some reason, and yet it miraculously returned two years later. Its average age is some 15 years, and thanks to a couple of years without flor shows oxidative notes and so could best be described as Fino-Amontillado. It is a lovely wine, known as Fino Elena, but not bottled.

In 2011 they created the Classic Range in innovative bottles of their own 50cl design, in tall clear glass. In 2016 the family bought the old San Francisco bodega in Sanlucar's Barrio Bajo which was once home to Manzanilla El Rocio. It had been used as a restaurant (Currito) for a while and it is currently being re-converted back to bodega use. In 2017 they created one butt of completely natural Medium Dry Sherry for the winning Dutch contestants in the Copa Jerez. In fact Urium wines have often been chosen for this competition.

Alonso and Rocio

The range consists of:
Fino en Rama, Manzanilla Pasada, both about 8 years old
Classic Range, all 15 years old or more: Pale Cream, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream, PX
VORS Range: all about 45 years old: Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and PX  limited release and all in numbered bottles
They also have a really special Palo Cortado, over 100 years old and known as el Gran Senor, from a solera of just one butt and a 60 year old PX.
Occasionally they sell a fine brandy.

Address: C/Muro, 28, 11404 Jerez de la Frontera,  Cadiz
Tel: (+34) 956 335 597
Visits: yes, by appointment

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Palo Cortado Regente 20%, Sanchez Romate

Mid to deep amber, through to yellowrim with a trace of green, legs.
Very attractive mix of toasted nuts, mainly almond and hazel, but a hint of walnut, a touch of sweet marzipan too. More Amontillado than Oloroso on the nose, but a hint of walnut in syrup behind promises an interesting flavour.
Dry, still Amontillado characteristics there - those toasted nuts, but also some walnut, a trace of wood astringency and a definite though lightish Oloroso tang. For me a classic Palo Cortado: it's neither one nor the other but very much a wine in its own right. Quite serious and very long.
A really good and almost affordable wine, it is over 15 years old from a solera of only 30 butts. Luckily for us all, Romate are rather too busy with Cardenal Mendoza brandy and other spirits to mess about with the Sherry, and the result is a range of very natural wines of high quality and personality. I am very fond of this bodega.
9.89 euros in Spain, probably about £15 here. UK agents: Eaux de Vie

Fino 15%, Real Tesoro

Pretty pale strawy gold, young, legs.
Hints of Palomino fruit - some primary (of the original grape) aromas mixed with those of flor with a trace of camomile, unusually fruity and floral, touch green but by no means unpleasant - just young.
Confirms nose, young, slight trace of lime, hint of flor, not at all complex but light, clean and refreshing. Very gluggable! A very pleasant wine whose only crime is to lack age.
Young fresh and cheap, but good value all the same. This is usually to be found in Mercadona supermarkets who work closely with Grupo Estevez who own Marques del Real Tesoro.
2.89 Euros!!

Original Exceptional Harvest PX 2011 12.5%, Ximenez Spinola

Bright gold colour with old gold reflections, some depth, legs.
Lovely, rich and full, hint oily and sweet - very over-ripe grapes, some light texture and a traces of Fino Sherry, apricot jam and perfume, amazingly fresh.
Low acid but retains a certain tang, not over sweet (somewhere around 50grams/litre?) but certainly sweet, traces of nut oil, apricot, grapes and yeast from the batonnage. Quite a luscious texture, like a German Auslese, but lower acid and made from PX. Lovely, long, unusual, moreish...
The grapes were picked 21 days after normal table wine ripeness and fermented without soleo (sun-drying) on their skins. The wine was aged for 4 months on its lees in American oak butts (PX butts?) undergoing light batonnage (lees stirring), and lightly filtered into bottle. As far as I know this is the first vintage of this wine, which is unusual and gorgeous. It dos not claim to be Sherry, but is included here because it is nearly Sherry. The winemaker was the consultant oenologist Ramiro Ibanez Espinar.
About 20 euros in Spain, not sure about UK availability.

Pedro Ximenez 15%, Ximenez Spinola

Dense black-brown-walnut through amber to yellow rim, pronounced legs.
Full, rich, intense, very slightly cooked, lots of fruit pulp - figs, dates, pasas, apricots, traces of old barrels, molasses, caramel, very fruity but with less of the toasted bread/coffe aroma.
Unctuously sweet, concentrated, deep and intense, lots of texture of dried fruit skin/pulp, extremely viscous, slightest trace of Marmite hiding behind the complexity. Amazing.
This was bottle number 2659 of 9215 released that year (2007). It is hard to say how old the wine is, but I would guess somewhere around 15 years. The style is, to me, more Montilla than Jerez, but none the worse for that, it is a wonderful wine.
This cost me 50 euros a couple of years ago. It will be about £50-60 now in the UK.

Bodegas: Ximenez Spinola

This very old firm seems to keep itself a bit below the radar, probably because of their very limited production which is mostly sold directly to private clients. Ximenez Spinola is a most unusual bodega in that they grow no Palomino at all and concentrate solely on what can be done with Pedro Ximenez, and the results are really interesting and quite prestigious.

The new bodega: much easier outside Jerez (foto:escuelainternacionaldecocina)
 The story began in Jerez when one Phelipe Antonio Zarzana Spinola established himself as an exporter of wines. The first documented sale was in 1729. Little more was known of them till later on in the century when it appears that they became growers and almacenistas around 1752. The old bodega was in the Plaza de Mendoza and dated back to the XIX century but it was too cramped and inconvenient so they moved out of town. It is still an independent family business, now in its ninth generation, but still run by the eighth, Jose Antonio Zarzana.

The old bodega. You can see why they moved! (
Grapes are sourced from the family's own 16 hectares of vineyard in the Pago Carrascal and grown organically. Business decisions are made by a family council, and decisions on winemaking and the quality of releases are made by a tasting and selection committee consisting of the family council and of course the oenologist. Any wine not perfect for bottling will be distilled. They have only 234 butts in their bodega, so annual releases are extremely limited, never more than 12,000 bottles, (usually fewer) and each one is numbered and signed.

All the following products are made exclusively from Pedro Ximenez:

Exceptional Harvest, a new luscious vintage PX sweet table wine, late harvested German style and unfortified
Medium Dry Old Harvest 1964 solera of dry PX blended with some wine from the 1948 solera of sweet PX
PX Muy Viejo Probably the most normal of the wines
PX de Añada Not a vintage wine in the normal Sherry sense as it is unfortified and sold young
Licor de Brandy Very old and aged, of course, in PX barrels
Brandy Cigar Club No 1, No 2 and No 3 depending on strength and age - all are a minimum of 25 years old and there are only 350 bottles of each annually.
Single Barrel Brandy - 15 year old PX is distilled and aged as brandy for another 15 years in the San Cristino solera (1948) and spends its last year in a numbered single barrel
Brandy Criaderas Distilled from criaderas in the San Cristino solera and aged for 15 years in old chestnut barrels
Vinagre PX en rama
Vinagre Paula Coll 25 year old PX vinegar

Address: Carretera Jerez - Sanlúcar, Desvio Las Tablas, km 1.5, 11408 Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Phone: (+34) 956 348 000
Visits: No mention, but probably by appointment

Iberia Cream 18%, Sanchez Romate

Very deep brown, chestnut/walnut, not much black, through amber to greeny yellow rim, legs.
Very fresh, a no-nonsence proper cream Sherry with noticeable Oloroso, PX and Moscatel, quite fruity - traces of raisins backed by some seriousness from age. Very attractive.
Broadly similar, very homogeneous, decent tangy freshness, could be matured as a blend (not sure), rich, fruity; pasas, dates and good Oloroso lifted by Moscatel, very natural, not over sweet, long, classic.
Aged over 8 years; according to the bodega it is made from oloroso and about 15% PX, which are certainly there - and good - but I am sure there is some Moscatel there too, though they deny it. Whatever, it is lovely, one of the best Creams around.
Around £15.00 in the UK

Manzanilla Bajo de Guia 15%, CAYDSA

Bright, pale strawy gold, slightest trace of green, very light legs.
Young, fresh and zippy, exuberance makes up for lack of complexity, trace green - lime peel, almond, fresh flor, very clean and young.
Retains some acidity, very fresh with youthful vigour, traces almond and flor, tangy, long, uncomplicated, refreshing.
This is CAYDSA's young Manzanilla, followed by their slightly older Sanluquena. CAYDSA is actually the cooperative Coop. del Campo Virgen de la Caridad, consisting of some 2,500 growers in the Sanlucar area.  It was taken over by Nueva Rumasa and re-named Teresa Rivero, but as the deal was never finalised and Nueva Rumasa hit the rocks, the members were able to get it back. Bajo de guia is a street by the seafront in Sanlucar.
4.66 euros at the bodega - including a carton which shows the old label. Not available in the UK as far as I know.

PX Monteagudo 17.5%, Delgado Zuleta

Very deep burnt siena walnut through yellowy amber to yellow and slightest trace of green at the rim, very viscous.
Concentrated raisin, fig, date, slightly burned toast, damp barrels, with traces of coffee, treacle and sunbunred grapeskins, quite serious.
Intensely sweet yet tangy and raisiny at first with quite low tannin, then the phenolic side kicks in with overdone toast, a certain balancing bitterness and coffee. Luscious texture with an extremely long raisiny yet dryish finish, lovely.
From a very old solera once belonging to the Conde de Monteagudo, the wine tastes older than its 10-12 years of solera age.
I paid 5.54 euros at the bodega for a half bottle, so excellent value. It is imported into the UK by Borough Wines.

13.2.13 Fake Sherry; Barbadillo; Japanese Venenciadores

The Sherry bodegas are beginning to scent victory in the endless fight against fake Sherry.  Canada has agreed to ban these products as of the 31st December next, when the period for selling these through expires. This is the latest in a series of bans on wines masquerading as all sorts of classic European appellations, after talks between Canada and the European Union which began 10 years ago. Previously, Canadian made “Sherry” was outselling the real thing by 9-1, and now, at last, there is an opportunity for the real thing to improve its position. Now the Consejo needs to look at the USA, especially in light of the recent success of Sherryfest in New York. American Sherries outsell Spanish ones by 5-1. Other countries too, have imitation Sherry, but in much smaller quantities.

Two wines from Bodegas Barbadillo have been awarded prizes by the Spanish Association of Journalists and Wine Writers. Amontillado VORS and Manzanilla Solear won against 403 other wines, making Jerez the Denominacion de Origen with the most awards with 7 prizes in total.

Recently a group of 10 Japanese wine professionals visited Jerez to take part in the ninth edition of the Japan Sherry Academy. They attended in-depth seminars on all aspects of Sherry imparted by Beltran Domecq and Cesar Saldana. Every year in Japan, an important market for Sherry, a venencia competition is held, and last year’s winner, Kosuno Ki Yokihuro was on hand.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

2.2.13 World Sherry Day

The Consejo is launching another new website called, after one of the leading Sherry Educators came up with the idea. The site is still under construction, but will be up and running in plenty of time for the day irself which is - get your diaries out - the 26th May 2013. Events will be taking place all over the world in restaurants, bars, bodegas and private parties.

Carol Ann Duffy

It's old news now, but chosen as Poet Laureate in 2009, Carol's payment was, as tradition dictates, a butt of Sherry. She chose to receive it in the form of bottles of Manzanilla and Fino (from Lustau). Here is a picture of her signing a butt in Jerez:

And here is her poem about Jerez:

At Jerez 

Who wouldn't feel favoured, 
at the end of a week's labour, 
to receive as part-wages 
a pale wine 
that puts the mouth in mind of the sea ... 

and not gladly be kissed 
by gentle William Shakespeare's lips, 
the dark, raisiny taste of his song; 
bequeathed to his thousand daughters and sons, 
the stolen wines of the Spanish sun... 

or walk the cool bodegas' aisles - 
where flor and oxygen 
grow talented in fragrances and flavours ­ 
to sniff, sip, spit, swallow, savour... 

Carol Ann Duffy 

She has donated a few bottles to charity for fundraising purposes, for example to a school and to a university. Her bottles have a special label with her poem on the back label. This one was auctioned  for charity.

Friday, 1 February 2013

31.1.13 Jerez Bodega Makes 1st Andaluz Wine Matured Under the Sea

The discovery of wine in shipwrecks has shown that undersea conditions can be ideal for maturing wine. There are various examples round the world, but now Andalucia has its own, aged in Phonecean style amphorae.
Bodegas Luis Perez showed the wine yesterday to 20 top level sommeliers after 2 years of work on the project. The wine matured under the sea at a depth of 12 metres and average temperature of 14 degrees off the Atlantic coast near Conil. The red wine matured for 1 year in a total of 50 amphorae, and the first edition will be sold to selected restaurants with an international reputation. I will be named Garum, after the ancient Roman bluefish sauce. The bodega hopes to age Sherry style wine in its next undersea project.