Friday, 26 April 2013

Amontillado Alcazar 19%, Bobadilla

Deep amber to brown with reddy-gold tints, legs.
Pronounced and full, very amontillado with traces of wood, traces even of resin, some age, dry with that typical apparent sweetness and lots of toasted hazelnut and almond, most attractive.
Full and dry, but with that apparent sweetness from glycerol, and fairly intense with toasted nuts, beautifully refined oxidation, elegant and expressive, perfectly balanced between the slight woodiness of ageing and that glycerol feel of sweetness, with a certain fresh crispness, long. A serious and delicious wine.
I'm afraid I can't tell you much about it except that the grapes came from the Macharnudo, it is a solera pura wine (straight from the solera, unblended - as was the Bobadilla preference) and that it was delicious. I bought it 8 years ago, the last bottle in a back-street shop in Spain. It must have been sitting around some time as it had sediment, but it turned out to be in good condition.
Years ago I had my own wine shop, and naturally we specialised in Spanish wines. We had a large range of Sherry, and our best seller was Bobadilla. It was high quality, well presented and well priced, but at the end of the eighties it suddenly stopped being available. I really miss it.
5.50 euros a ridiculous price, but one I was happy to pay!


Bodegas: Bobadilla

Don Manuel Fernandez de Bobadillay Martinez was born in Arenzana, Logrono 1n 1852. He found his way to Jerez, he began exporting wines in 1879 and founded his bodega in 1882 in the Calle Cristal, 4, in the old monastery of Los Padres Mercedarios.  A beautiful building, it was full of patios with overhanging roofs with butts stacked below, and inside, many murals of harvesting and bacchanales. He bought 150 ha of vineyards in Balbaina and Macharnudo and soleras. One of the shareholders was the Marques de Misa. It didn’t take long for Bobadilla to become one of the best bodegas in Jerez. Don Manuel died in 1924, his wife Dona Maria Ragel y Rendon having predeceased him.

His descendants continued to run the firm, and in 1930 the name was changed to Bobadilla & Cia. In the vineyards they were progressive, Gonzalo Fernandez de Bobadilla developing a new clone of Palomino, Palomino 84, which gave a 50% increase in yield with no (apparent) loss in quality. They were particularly successful with their Brandy, however: 103 Etiqueta Blanca, launched in 1903, the older 103 Etiqueta Negra and the Gran Capitan, though the wines enjoyed a very good reputation.

Circunvalacion Bodegas (JL Jimenez/Jerez Siempre)
Towards the end of the 1960's the bodega moved to more spacious premises in the Carretera de Circunvalacion (s/n) - Bodega Don Manuel, and in 2009 the old C/Cristal bodega was converted into a columbarium. First of many bodegas to move out of the town centre, Bobadilla had seen the advantages: easier access for lorries carrying grapes in - and lorries with wine out. 

1987 the Dutch liqueur firm Bols made an offer for Bobadilla which was approved by the shareholders. But Alvaro Fernandez Bobadilla, until now a minority shareholder, made an improved offer, and bought almost the entire company for over 1,500 million pesetas, some borrowed from a Danish financier. At the time, the bodega employed about 200 staff and turnover was about 6,000 million pesetas. It also owned Detosa (Destilerias de Tomelloso) as well as distributors in Barcelona, La Coruna, Mexico, USA, and Belgium. There were also three vineyards, 150 hectares in total.

In 1989 Bobadilla merged with Naviera Arenas and Tomas Garcia SA becoming Bodegas Bobadilla SA, but control soon passed out of the family to the European Wine Company, 50% owned by United Dutch Holdings. The firm was launched on the stock market, making it an easier target. In 1992, it was taken over by Osborne, who, as brandy specialists, were principally interested in the Brandy 103. The purchase of Bobadilla helped Osborne become the biggest producer of Brandy de Jerez (42% of it).

Osborne Transferred all the wine (one solera dating back to 1809) and brandy to its own bodegas in El Puerto de Santa Maria, where a huge brandy complex (El Tiro) was built. The Bobadilla Sherries disappeared (what happened to them?), and the 103 Brandy now carries the name Osborne.

Complejo bodeguero El Tiro in El Puerto

In 2006, the Circunvalacion bodegas were converted into industrial units.

Some of the Bobadilla Sherry Brands were:
Manzanilla Carmen
Fino Victoria (Macharnudo)
Oloroso Capitan
Amontillado Alcazar
Cream La Merced
PX Romantico
Golden Sherry Eldorado

They also produced anis and vinegar, as well as the brandies

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

24.4.13 Latest Tio Pepe En Rama Released

The 4th in the series, the 2013 Tio Pepe en Rama has been launched in the UK at the Big Fortified Tasting in London today. En rama Sherry undergoes the least possible stabilisation and filtration, leaving the wine in a state similar to that in the solera, and far more complex than the normal wine. Chief winemaker at Gonzalez Byass, Antonio Flores, describes it as “untamed Tio Pepe”. This year’s release has  more flor character than usual, due to the mild and wet winter and spring which makes the flor grow thicker. The wine was bottled on the 8th of April, and being en rama, should be drunk sooner than the normal wine, ideally about 3 months.

 RRP is £14.99. Only 10752 bottles have been released along with a few half bottles, so don’t hang about!!

Dry Sack Fino 15%, Williams & Humbert

Fairly pale bright light gold with some legs.
Forthcoming, plenty of flor: green almond, saline bitterness, plenty acataldehyde, trace olive brine and hints of quince, quite dry with a little weight.
Very dry, very slightly savoury, a little acidity, clean with pungent flor flavours; sourdough, almond, and really quite bitter with a certain tang. This one cries out for tapas - it really makes you hungry!
A really good Fino made from Balbaina grapes with virtually no residual sugar. Any unfermented sugars are, of course consumed by the yeast, along with glycerine, so Finos are genuinely dry. Try a glass of dry red or white after a glass of Fino, and they will seem positively sweet! Anyway this wine works its way through 6 criaderas, and is drawn from the solera with a minimum age of at least 5 years. That is about the age where complexity starts to make itself felt, and it is certainly noticeable here.
I paid £12.75 at Harrisons Fine Wines in Crieff. UK importer Ehrmanns.

24.4.13 Help for Small Bodegas; Feria de la Manzanilla

Small bodegas have been given a helping hand by the Junta to sell their wines on the open market. The minimum stock holding requirement has been reduced from 500 to 50 butts by The Agriculture Ministry of the Junta de Andalucia. The proposal, by Fedejerez (the bodegas association) was approved at a plenary meeting of the Consejo Regulador, and the modified Reglamento (regulations governing Sherry production) will be published in the Junta’s official Buletin in good time for the deadline of 29th May stipulated by Brussels.

Leaving the 500 butt minimum in place would have meant many small bodegas and almacenistas would have been unable to market their wines, some of which are fantastic. According to Sr Planas of the Junta, the industry has the Junta’s full support and it will help Sherry where it can to adjust to the new market realities. “I am convinced that if we all do our bit we have a future”, he said.

The Feria de la Manzanilla 2013 will take place in Sanlucar between the 28th May and the 2nd of June. The lights will be switched on on Tuesday 28th and the event will close with a fireworks display on the Sunday night. It takes place in the recinto ferial (fairground) in the Calzada Duquesa Isabel, which will be decorated in traditional festive manner, where during the feria there will be bullfights, flamenco, dancing competitions, eating and drinking – Manzanilla, of course, and much more.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Vinoble - Welcome Back!

It is really great news that Vinoble can take place again next year. It is a wonderful event, scattered inside and out all round the Alcazar, showcasing great wines from all over the world, as long as they are sweet or fortified - or both.

Patio de las Armas, Alcazar, Jerez

Naturally, Sherry has centre stage - and there are very many - but lots of other wines from Spain are present, such as Canarias, Malaga, Huelva, Fondillon and Montilla. But the show is far more diverse. Over the last three events, I have come across wines from Greece, USA, France, Canada, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and many more.

There are many bodega stands, as well as generic and Consejo stands. Here is a great place to taste truly interesting wine, and often to meet its producer. Having done so, there is a wide variety of restaurants not too far away, where one can indulge in local gastronomy and drink more Sherry!

It was an embarrassing shame that last year's event had to be cancelled, but there just wasn't the money. Congratulations to all concerned in the renaissance of this great event! So now it will be taking place next year, I urge you to go, you can't fail to have a wonderful time!

PS One is supposed to be in the trade, but I'm sure you can blag it.

Equestrian Tourism Centre? Vinoble 2014

The Ayuntamiento (Council) of Jerez planning department has given the green light to a new project in the famaous Macharnudo vineyards, which are situated about 5 km. from Jerez on the Trebujena road. The plan is to set up an Equestrian Tourism Centre, which it is hoped, will give a new image to this agricultural area by demonstrating its beauty while creating jobs.

Existing vineyard buildings can be used without in any way inflicting environmental or urbanistic damage. The project envisages the adaptation of two of the buildings of the Casa de Las Carrenas by doing some construction work in the main building of some 672 square metres, and the bodega section of some1,000 square metres.

Many old vineyard buildings were known as “casas de la vina”. They were places where harvesters could eat and sleep, with attendant winemaking facilities: presses, lagares (treading troughs),mats for drying the grapes, stables and barrels for the wine’s fermentation. It was usually only after the fermentation that the “mosto” (newly made wine) was transported to Jerez for ageing. All that has changed, and nowadays the grapes usually come direct to the main bodegas for processing, (avoiding a lot of oxidation en route!) So no more bullock carts dragging barrels, just lorries and traffic congestion!

Macharnudo vineyards (

Vinoble, the bi-annual sweet and fortified wine fair which takes place at the Alcazar in Jerez is to receive financial support to the tune of 100,000 euros from the Ministry of Agriculture. There will also be finance from local government. The 2014 edition can now go ahead after lack of finance put paid to the 2012 edition. Furthermore, 2014 will be the 750th anniversary of the re-conquest of Jerez. The mayor, Maria Jose Garcia Pelayo has confirmed that the state will pay one third of the costs of putting on the event, which will take place in the first week of June.

The mayor now has about 300,000 euros for the event, and the minister of agriculture of the Junta de Andalucia is expected to offer a contribution as well, after all his withdrawal of support was one reason for the event’s cancellation last time. In a recent meeting with the Consejo Regulador, he said he would look at the situation favourably, given the importance of the event.

The mayor hopes to have all the finance in place in order to progress with the programming of this the 8th Vinoble. She is also thinking of extending the event from four days to up to two weeks, with many spin-off events. She is also keen on the Consejo’s idea that Jerez could go for the European City of Wine designation in 2014. There is a rotating network of European Wine cities, of which Jerez is one, and perhaps it is Jerez’s turn.

Among the other possibilities in play are a congress of winemakers and a congress of Consejos Reguladores. The latter would be for the Jerez Consejo to organise, and they have given full support to Vinoble, along with a contribution of 50,000 euros from their budget. The Council is determined to do the maximum for the minimum, and with cost cutting here and there, they think they can pull it off without losing quality – or indeed improving it.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Vintage Sherry...and More!


17th April, 2013 by Gabriel Savage                                                                                   From The Drinks Business Magazine

UK importer Ehrmanns is seeking to capitalise on the growing interest for niche, high quality Sherry styles with the release of two vintage expressions from Williams & Humbert.

The Williams & Humbert bodega
The Williams & Humbert bodega
Due to be unveiled at the Big Fortified Tasting in London on 24 April, the launch will feature a fino en rama 2006 and single cask oloroso 1982. The packaging and prices for both wines are still to be confirmed, although they are expected to reach the market this summer.
Claiming that Williams & Humbert was the first to create vintage Sherry styles, although other houses also offer them, Ehrmanns director Peter Dauthieu told the drinks business that these expressions had previously been reserved for family members or sold exclusively at auction.
Despite having an extensive library of vintages available back to the 1920s, he suggested that 1982 was ‘perfect’, both in terms of style and generating realistic commercial demand – the oloroso is expected to retail for “around £45” per half bottle.
Although Sherry is more closely associated with its solera system, which blends wines of different ages, Dauthieu explained the alternative appeal of these vintage styles.
“If you’re setting aside must from a certain high quality plot then there will be variation from year to year,” he remarked. “In fact,” he stressed of the oloroso expression, “it enhances complexity because these is no blending, it’s not topped up at all, it’s always in the same barrel – it just gets older and more concentrated with age.”
With this in mind, Dauthieu pointed to the decision to focus on the oloroso style for these older vintages, saying: “When an amontillado gets too old it becomes too austere, too burnt; for an oloroso, 30-40 years is a great amount of time.”
What’s more he added: “In one year we will have an oloroso, in another it will be a palo cortado because that’s what nature has given us – it won’t always be the same style.”
As for the fino en rama 2006, which has yet to be bottled, Dauthieu explained: “It would turn into an amontillado if we left it any longer,” comparing its style as sitting equivalent to somewhere “between two and three” within the Gonzàlez Byass’ Palmas range.
While the fino’s protective flor, or yeast layer, has survived this long partly thanks to topping up with wine from the same vintage, he also credited this longevity to “the high albariza [white, lime-rich soils] area” where the grapes were grown, as well as the “high humidity and coolness” of the barrels’ location.
Buoyed by the UK’s recent Sherry revival, which has seen a surge in en rama and other specialist expressions, Ehrmanns will also use the trade event to bring its existing range of “special Sherries bottled in extremely limited quantities” to a wider audience.
Among these rare offerings are Sacristia AB Manzanilla Saca Primavera 2012, a new bottling from an aged manzanilla range; Sanchez Romate Hnos Fino Perdido, a seven year-old fino; Cayetano del Pino & Cia Palo Cortado Viejisimo, which averages 30 years old and comes from a specialist palo cortado almacenista; Salto Al Cielo Oloroso, a project on the estate of a former Carthusian monastery; and Williams & Humbert “As You Like It” Amontillado Medium Sweet, a sophisticated take on the cream style, with amontillado and Pedro Ximénez matured together in barrel for over 30 years.
Although a number of these styles are already available through specialist outlets such as The Wine Society and London restaurant Cambio de Tercio, Dauthieu explained: “We are now trying to rejuvenate and take them to the mainstream market a little more.”
Retail prices range from £8.50 a bottle for the Sanchez Romate Fino Perdido to £22 per half bottle for the Williams & Humbert “As You Like it”, whose name represents a Shakespearean link to the family’s English roots.
Discussing the latter, Dauthieu emphasised that, in contrast to more recently blended, younger cream styles, “this is a wine that is completely integrated.”
Despite its 100g/l sugar content, he remarked: “You wouldn’t say it was sweet,” pointing to the acidity and freshness contributed by the amontillado base in contrast to the more usual, rounder oloroso that has historically been used in cream styles. “The taste reminds you more of a Madeira than a Sherry,” Dauthieu concluded.
The Big Fortified Tasting takes place on Wednesday 24 April from 10.30-6pm at Glaziers Hall in London.

Dos Cortados VOS 19.5%, Williams & Humbert

Amber with slight ruddy tints through to a pale greeny yellow rim, legs.
Beautiful, lots of nuts and dried fruits; toasted hazelnut, almond, date, fig and wine-soaked oak. Supremely elegant with just a trace of flor bitterness balancing tantalisingly with the apparent sweetness these old wines have, just a hint fatter than an Amontillado, rich, clean, balanced and quite intense.
Full, but in terms of flavour rather than weight, delicious mellow oloroso flavours of walnut in syrup, and that apparently sweet roundness, but with the added dimension of lots of toasted hazelnuts and an oaky tang. Very tangy and lively, with decent acidity which gives it terrific length. Very complex. Quite lovely.
This is a classic old Palo Cortado. These wines, which are quite rare, could be described as Olorosos with the aroma of Amontillado. They are wines which started out with flor, but didn't want to be Finos, and quickly lost it, hopefully in the anada/sobretabla stage, when they would end up in the Palo Cortado Solera. They are categorised  as follows, according to their weight: Palo Cortado; Dos, Tres and Cuatro Cortados. The term translates literally as "cut stick" from the cask marking which is an angled stroke with a short horizontal stroke across it. More strokes mean fuller wine. Tres and Cuatro Cortados are rarely seen, in fact W&H is the only bodega I can think of which even does a Dos.
Anyway, this one comes from Palomino grapes grown in the Balbaina vineyards, was fermented at 22C, fortified to 15% and put into the Fino sobretablas, but changed its mind while in the criaderas. It was removed, fortified to 18% and transferred to the sobretablas of the Palo Cortado Solera of 396 butts, where it aged for an average of over 20 years. Follow?
About £15-17.00 per half bottle. I got this at Henderson Wines in Edinburgh. UK importer: Ehrmanns

Famous Sherry Lovers: Giuseppe Verdi, Charles Dickens

Giuseppe Verdi wrote no less than four operas with a Spanish theme: Ernani; Il Trovatore; Don Carlo and La Forza del Destino. His opera Falstaff, while based on Shakespeare, contained references to Sherry. He was a big fan of Spain, and when he came to Madrid in 1863 to direct La Forza del Destino at the Teatro Real (with enormous success), he took time off to do some tourism.

He travelled all over Spain, and spending some time in Andalucia with his second wife Giuseppina Strepponi.  Naturally he visited Jerez, and it was there that he bought a cask of Sherry (from Gonzalez Byass, it is thought), and took it away with him on the train, back to Italy.

Charles Dickens adored Sherry. There are references to it in 12 of his most important novels, and when he died, his cellar was full of Sherry.

During his bicentenary celebrations, London City Council included Sherry (Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Oloroso 15 Years Old) at a dinner held at the Mansion House.

At the suggestion of the Cine Club Popular in Jerez, the Jerez Council approved the dedication of a public street to Charles Dickens in recognition of his work in promoting Sherry for its human and literary value.

17.4.13 High Court Reduces More BOB Fines

From exemplary punishment to symbolic. The High Court has reduced fines imposed on two more bodegas for their part in alleged BOB (buyer's own brand) price fixing: Williams & Humbert and J.Ferris. The Court has already reduced the fine imposed on Gonzalez Byass. The reductions will be between 75% and 90%.

The Consejo Regulador has not been so lucky, however. Despite the annulment by the Court of the fine for grape prices, it will have to pay 200,000 euros plus 100,000 euros respectively for discriminatory quotas and the BOB cartel. It could have been worse; the original total fine was 708,000 euros.

The affair is not over yet. Six more bodegas and Fedejerez (the bodegas association) are still to hear their fate, but are naturally hoping that they will have fines reduced as well.

17.4.13 Solear at the Feria; Castillo Matrera Collapses

Antonio Barbadillo's Manzanilla Solear is expected to sell around 600,000 1/2 bottles at the Feria de Sevilla this week. This represents about 40% of the 1.5 million consumed annually. It will be available in 500 casetas and the company will have a staff of 100 working there. Manzanilla La Guita will also have a strong presence. Now that the Feria season has started, sales of Sherry are on the up. It is the busiest time of year apart from Christmas, and some of the Jerez bodegas are taking an interest. Traditionally, they have concentrated more on exports, but Gonzalez Byass, for example is keen.

Of the 10 million bottles of Manzanilla sold annually, one third come from Barbadillo.

The XIIIC Castillo Matrera, commonly known as the Torre Pajarete has suffered a major structural collapse. Lack of maintenance and recent heavy rainfall weakened parts of the building, and walls, a couple of storeys and a vault have all fallen down.

The castle, near Villamartin, a little east of Jerez and outside the Sherry zone, sits at the top of a sierra at about 525 metres altitude and has a commanding view in all directions. It was built by the Moors, and later formed part of the "banda morisca", a series of fortifications to protect Sevilla from them.

The area once had vineyards which produced very sweet wines, which, of course, were known as Pajarete (or in English, Paxarette). Nowadays, though not much used, Pajarete tends to be a blend of must or wine and arrope or sancocho (both made by reducing must over heat to produce very sweet wine). Pajarete was very popular with Whisky distillers for seasoning casks.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The "Pope of Sherry"

Now that the Church has a new Pope, it might be fitting to discuss the Pope of Sherry. His name was Manuel Maria Gonzalez Gordon. Any Sherry aficionado should be familiar with his name, as he wrote one of the greatest books on the subject:  Jerez-Xeres-Scheris (In Spanish) or Sherry the Noble Wine (in English translation).

He was born in Jerez in 1886 to Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez de Soto, 1st Marques de Torresoto, and Maria Nicolasa Gordon de Wardhouse, both with Sherry bloodlines. As an infant he was poorly and the doctors only gave him a short time to live, but his mother gave him a daily spoonful of Sherry and the illness passed. Sherry had saved his life. He repaid the debt by publishing the book.

He attended the same school as the children of the bodega’s employees, paid for by the bodega, and then went to Mannheim in Germany to train as an industrial engineer. Once qualified, he went to work in Scotland with Beardmore in Dalmuir, Glasgow. He later worked for Norton Griffithe & Co. on a 640 km stretch of the Ferrocarril Longitudinal (North-South railway) in Chile.

On his return to Jerez he continued work as an engineer, but soon decided to work in the family business. He married Emilia Diez Gutierrez (another very Jerezano name) and they had four children: Maria Dacia, Mauricio, Luisa and Jaime. As the years passed, his passion for the wine grew and he worked at Wisdom & Warter before ending up on the board of the family company, Gonzalez Byass.

He was much loved and respected for his charm, education and intelligence. He would talk with anyone, treating the workforce with equal respect as an important patron. He began to be affectionately nicknamed Tio (uncle) Manolo. His younger son Jaime took posts at Wisdom & Warter (a subsidiary of GB), but his passion was devoted to Nature, common in the Gonzalez family, the most “British” of the Sherry dynasties, who speak the best English and are extremely well educated and refined.

According to Jaime, with Tio Manolo there was never a problem. “He was like Vaseline”. A problem would come up, and he would solve it. On one occasion he was with the local agent in Extremadura and asked him to take him to all the bars which did not sell their products. They arrived at one, and Manolo got out of the car and stood waiting all morning at the door. The owner gave in: he came out of the door and said “You are the most stubborn man I’ve ever come across in my life. Send me three cases!”

His elder son, Mauricio, who needs no introduction, pointed out his father’s humanity, something that proved useful in business negotiations. He knew how to convince people, and he did it. On the highways, he would constantly stop at ventas (roadside inns). On one occasion he stopped forty times between Jerez and Madrid. He didn’t want to drive past without stopping and saying hello. He didn’t normally drive himself, but gave constant instructions: “Wait… stop..STOP! Out you get, we’re going to see the man in charge here.” He would arrive and say “Antonio! Good morning! Did your son pass or not?” He knew the man was called Antonio because days earlier the man had told him he was worried that his son might fail. “He passed!” “Great, well let’s have a copita!” But the new motorways did away with most of the old ventas.

When Manolo reached 87 years old, he was still firing on all cylinders except for his sight. He was once asked what advice he would give for living to 87 years and a hundred more. He replied that drinking Sherry in moderation certainly wouldn’t do any harm. He died in 1980 aged 93 (his father was 97). Mauricio is already 90, his cousin was 97, and his wife 94. Mauricio and his wife share a bottle of Tio Pepe every day, half each.

Every year Manolo would go to the Feria with three other GB executives. They would visit four or five casetas and always have a half bottle of Sherry, which conveniently gave four glasses. In each caseta Manolo would greet people, the owner, the waiter, see how things were going, and always leave a tip before moving on to the next caseta.

He was a deeply religious man, he was always there for, and honest with, the employees. He always used to visit employees on their deathbeds, and some superstitious ones would ask him not to visit. When he himself died, it was a quiet affair, safe in the knowledge that the business would remain in family hands, the family united. Especially in times of war. Once Don Guido (Williams) advised Manolo that he should send his young children Maria Dacia and Mauricio to London, where they had been born, for fear of reprisals during the Civil War. Manolo responded that he wanted all his children together, and their English tutor said “Well if they are going to stay, so will I!”

In a long life, Manuel Maria Gonzalez Gordon, Marques de Bonanza, achieved many things. He managed to get the monks to return to the Cartuja; he helped with the foundation of the religious brotherhood of el Rocio; getting the Consejo Regulador off the ground; protecting the Coto Donana -by buying 17,000 hectares of it; Grand Cross of Benificence; Knight of the British Empire (KBE); Hijo Predilecto de Jerez (Honoured Son); President of the Jerez Red Cross, etc.

And at the root of it was the wine, which he venerated and respected. One day he left the bodega and said “I’m finished with leaving the bodega with one fewer glass. I feel well, very well, and enjoying the euphoria which Sherry wines offer.”

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Sherry Bar Scene

Sherry bars have exploded in London, on the back of the popularity of tapas, and Sherry is fast becoming the after-work drink of choice. Bar Pepito, established March 2010, was the first to open, with backing from Gonzalez Byass. They are all styled, more or less, like Spanish bars, and mostly – but not always - run by Brits. Due to their popularity, you need to get there early.  The following are the top 10 as selected by the Drinks Business Magazine, although there are even more. So if you find yourself in London – or even live there - it is your duty to pay a visit (if you see what I mean!)

Tramontana, 152-4 Curtain Road EC2A 3AT, 020 7749 9961
Donostia, 10 Seymour Place W1H 7ND, 020 3620 1845
Rosita, 124 Northcote Road SW11 6QU, 020 7998 9093
Morito, 32 Exmouth Market EC1R 4QE, 020 7278 7007
Copita, 27 D’Arblay Street W1F 8EP, 020 7287 7797
Opera Tavern, 23 Catherine Street WC2B 5JS, 020 7836 3680
Barrafina, 54 Frith Street W1D 4SL, 020 7813 8016
Jose, 104 Bermondsey Street SE1 3UB, 020 7490 379
Capote y Toros, 157 Old Brompton Road 020 7244 8970
Bar Pepito, 3 Varnishers Yard N1 9DF, 020 7841 7331

The tapas revolution is sweeping the country - and not just the UK, there are tapas bars in New York and elsewhere - and Sherry is thus being introduced to new consumers all the time. After all, there is no better combination of food and wine.

Viva la revolucion!!

11.4.13 La Guita Feria Promo.; Sherry and Mrs Thatcher

Manzanilla La Guita is expecting to sell over 650,000 bottles during the Feria de Sevilla (the annual Seville fair) which takes place from the 15th – 21st April. This represents an increase over last year, despite the crisis. A special team was recruited to really market the wine, and has succeeded in getting it into 60% of the 1040 casetas (booths/tents) at the fairground, maintaining La Guita’s position as the leading Manzanilla at the Feria. In order to service the anticipated demand, the firm has rented a store of 6,000 m2 close to the fairground, and a team of 150 people. They will also have a major presence on Facebook.

Margaret Thatcher once visited Jerez with her husband Dennis. In 1998 she enjoyed a good lunch and a few copitas at Gonzalez Byass, before signing a butt.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Los Pecadillos: Furia Manzanilla 15%, Gutierrez Colosia

Pale straw with golden tints, legs.
Quite refined, but very manzanilla, not quite so salty and bitter, but some brine and green almond and definite maritime yeasty aromas, no autolysis so fairly young and very clean.
Fresh and tasty. Slightly salty and a lttle more bitter than nose, not  a lot of acidity but has a definite coastal  tang, it has a little more weight, depth and complexity than was expected from the nose, and good length.
This is one of a range of Spanish wines called Los Pecadillos (The Sins) which are imported and distributed by the Alliance Wine Co. in Scotland. The wines are from various different DOs: Gluttony is a PX from Montilla; Sloth is a rose from Campo de Borja; Envy is a white Rueda; Lust is a red Navarra; Pride is a Red Rioja; Avarice is a white La Mancha; and Wrath (Furia) is the representative of the marco de Jerez. One presumes this wine is bought in by Gutierrez Colosia, as they have no installations in Sanlucar, but it is good nonetheless.
About £10.00 (50cl.) from Henderson Wines in Edinburgh.

ChampagneSherry !

Champagne and Sherry are considered as unique wines in the world, capable of awakening passion among conoisseurs. Sanlucar played host recently to the first meeting between bodegueros, enologists and aficionados of both to get to the bottom of the numerous common denominators between the two wines. Some participants are sure that this encounter marks a before and after in the wine trade, a departure point for common projects.

This was an independent event, with no grants or assistance, organised and financed by aficionados and the six participants from Champagne:  Jacques Selosse, Jerome Prevost, Egly Ouriet, Larmandier Bernier, Roger Coulon and Jaquesson, members of Trait d’Union, all protagonists of the revolution in Champagne over the last 30 years. Chief organisers were Anselme Selosse, enologist  of the eponymous firm and Fernando Angulo, a Sherry Educator.

The Andalucian bodegas participating were Valdespino-La Guita, Rey Fernando de Castilla, Williams & Humbert, Barbadillo, Delgado Zuleta and Gonzalez Byass as well as Perez Barquero from Montilla. These bodegas brought their crianza biologica wines, finos and manzanillas, as well as some samples of wines from their most exclusive soleras which are not on the market.

Fernando Angulo pointed out that the two wines have similar sensations on drinking them, a similar aftertaste, characteristic sapidity and depth of flavour as well as a certain butteriness coming from the autolysis in bottle with Champagne, and with Sherry from the long yeast contact – and certain autolysis - during crianza biologica. These are wines which stimulate the appetite, very gastronomic wines.

For the majority of connoisseurs, this takes one back to the soil. Both wines come from similar chalky soils, and it is no accident that two of the world’s great wines come from it. The other principal similarity is the presence of yeast during the wines’ ageing - much more than just during fermentation.

Talk of sparkling wines in Jerez is nothing new. There exist numerous records of sparkling wines made in Jerez by the Champagne method between the XIX century and the 1960s. For example, Champagne Domecq. XIX century newspaper advertisements can be found in, for example the (now defunct) paper El Liberal, and the cellars where Domecq’s product was made still exist. Even now, Barbadillo make a sparkling wine from Palomino and Chardonnay called Beta Brut.

Sherry wines and their production methods have also been present in the history of Champagne.  The first Selosse Champagne, made in the 1960s, used seasoned Sherry butts for ageing the wine. One of the Selosse wines available for tasting in Sanlucar is Substance, which is aged in a solera system.

In the 1970s Champagne suffered a crisis of quality, and the Selosses were protagonists in re-directing attention back to the vineyard, deciding to adopt biodynamic viticulture. They lowered yields, cared for the soil and considered the importance of each individual plot. In 1994 Anselme was recognised as best French enologist in all categories, a unique feat, resulting in it becoming almost impossible to obtain a bottle.

Jerome Prevost only has a single vineyard from which he produces the mythical La Closerie and Facsimile Rose, both from Pinot Meunier grapes, the ugly duckling of Champagne grapes. Egly Ouriet make their wine with long lees ageing of about 72 weeks, giving a Champagne for laying down, one where the yeasts play an important role. Fernando Angulo describes Larmandier Bernier as the most “Sanluqueno” of the Champenois. Their wines are Chardonnays, and have a distinct salty sea air note, reminiscent of manzanilla pasada, as do the Champagnes of Roger Coulon. Lastly, Jacquesson, who are the largest of these producers with around 350,000 bottles, and who produce the most classic style of Champagne presented in Sanlucar.

{Translated from an article by JF Ferrer featured on}

Just a footnote:
I can understand why Larmandier Bernier is the most "Sanluqueno", as his soils were once under the sea; you can see all sorts of marine evidence in them. The entire Champagne region was once under the sea, hence all the chalk.

Just another footnote:
It should be mentioned in connection with Champagne and Sherry that Equipo Navazos are working with Cava producer Sergi Colet to produce Cava using flor yeast, and ultimately from Palomino in Jerez with some oxidative notes. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Manzanilla Alegria 15%, Williams & Humbert

Bright pale gold, light legs.
Dry and salty with some bitterness and traces of green almond, lots of flor and a definite air of the seaside. Reasonably pungent, as if not too much has been lost in "stabilisation", a trace of olive brine.
Tangy and briny, plenty flor bitterness and a little more body than some, a slight trace of oxidation, very dry with considerable presence and length and just the faintest hint of autolysed yeast, complex with a few pasada notes. This will stand up to some interesting food.

An interesting wine, and a good one. Alegria translates as "joy"or "happiness" but the name may derive from the name of a vineyard. It comes from a solera with a comparatively small number of criaderas - (6?) It is a comparative newcomer to the W&H range, replacing the old W&H brand Cedro, and comes from soleras laid down by the bodega Hijos de A Perez Megia, an old family firm established in Sanlucar in 1821. They were bought out in the 1980s by Jose Medina y Cia., who went on to acquire a controlling stake in W&H. Another Manzanilla Alegria was once marketed by Jose Martinez of Jerez. Now, all the Medina Sherries are produced under the W&H name at the old Internacionales bodega in Jerez - except Alegria, which, as a Manzanilla, has to age in Sanlucar. {Interestingly another old Perez Megia brand - Amontillado Jalifa - is sold under the W&H label now.}
About £7.00 (half bottle) from Henderson Wines, Edinburgh. (UK importers: Ehrmanns)

6.4.13 Give Sherry!

Journalist Jose Maria Castano has come up with a great way to celebrate World Sherry Day: “Give Sherry”. The idea came from the old Catalan tradition of the Dia de San Jordi, on the 23rd April, when women give men a book, and men give women a rose.

Jose Maria recommends that on the 24th May, the 25th, and especially the 26th, everybody “without exception” should give a bottle of Sherry. Quite right!

More details can be found on Facebook: Regala Vino de Jerez                                                                    and on Twitter: #regalavinodejerez

Women in Sherry: Millie Swithinbank

Bridget Amelia Swithinbank was born in a village in greater London one hundred years ago. After school, she studied book keeping and shorthand. During the war she worked in a light bulb factory and helped with the removal of railings from London gardens, so that the latter could be melted down to make armaments.

After the war, she travelled in Europe with her husband. Nobody seems sure how or why she went to Jerez, but she arrived in 1952, having lost her husband. She was tall, elegant and blonde, with bright blue eyes; a real English rose. She became secretary to Guy Dingwall Williams (known to all as ”Don Guido”), son of Alexander Dingwall Williams and Amy Humbert, who had been running Williams & Humbert since 1911. Don Guido had married Nina Milward in 1921 and she bore him a daughter, Anne Christine Williams, who would eventually marry Beltran Domecq.

Anyway, Millie Swithinbank was very diplomatic and had a natural flair for human relations. As well as her secretarial job, she took on the visitors’ department and, effectively, public relations. She had great charm and a very English sense of humour, and got along well with all the Spanish people, even if she had a rather serious, particular side.  Her Spanish, however was never up to much. She was a Briton who didn’t really want to be a Jerezana – though she was more than fond of Fino, paella and cocido (stew)!

When in 1959 Don Guido passed away, Millie continued to run the visitors’ department and took on the role of British Vice Consul, formerly held by her boss. She took to the honorary job, dealing daily with her compatriots, and in just one year, W&H received 40,000 visits!

For her dedication and good work as Vice Consul, Millie was awarded the MBE by the Queen in 1970, thus becoming a Dame.  Since her arrival in Jerez, she lived at the now gone Hotel Los Cisnes until she met Mike Barnett, an English highways engineer who was working on the planning of the naval base at Rota. They moved into a house together, with their dog George.

In 1972 Rumasa, in a surprise move, took over Williams & Humbert for 1 thousand million pesetas. Millie seemed more worried that the Vice Consulate could continue at the bodegas. After her retirement, she returned to Britain, and by the 1980s she was in a care home, helped by her two sisters. She died at the end of the decade, and that attractive, efficient Englishwoman who adored Fino, paella and cocido, who hated wasting time in hairdressers, and who never lost her English ways after all that time in Spain, was heard from no more.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Today is the Blog's First Birthday!

When I started out with the blog, I never realised just how many people shared my passion, so you can imagine my delight at the response. Thank you all for your remarks and comments; feedback is always needed, and helps guide the blog in the right direction. It would be wonderful, however, if the bodegas themselves were to contribute something - anything - as one of the main purposes of the blog is to stimulate interest in their product, as well as educating consumers about its fabulousness.

It has been an interesting year. The renaissance of interest in Sherry is growing. The Great Sherry Tasting in London, two Sherryfests in America, World Sherry Day are testament to that. Then there is the growing number of Sherry bars, which seem  to be (unsurprisingly) incredibly popular. Sales seem to have bottomed out, and a modest increase in UK sales has cancelled out falling sales in Spain. At my work, Drinkmonger in Edinburgh, we do many consumer tastings, but the only one we have had to repeat - by popular demand -was the Sherry tasting - twice!

Other good things to have happened are the increase in sales of bodega's own brands and a corresponding dip in buyers' own brands (BOB). That can only be good news for quality, for at the end of the day, quality is what sells. How much claret is sold on the back of the reputation of the Classed Growths? The word needs to be spread, and I'm sure we are all doing what we can, but the Consejo needs to be better funded. It is doing well on a limited budget - a mere fraction of the 8 million euros of that of the Rioja. The bodegas could surely get away with a tiny price increase to cover increased levies to the Consejo for the urgently needed education and promotion which would be recouped with increased sales.

So let's all rush out for a bottle of Sherry and celebrate the World's greatest wine - I did:

Thursday, 4 April 2013

3.4.13 Agriculture Minister Supportive of Sherry

After a good meeting at the Consejo Regulador yesterday with its director and president as well as various representatives of the sector, Luis Planas, the Junta’s agriculture minister said he was optimistic about the future of Jerez as long as they can work together.

In his first visit to the Consejo, the minister offered his personal support and that of the Junta for the work of the Consejo, but stressed the importance of adapting to current market conditions, as there have been difficulties in selling to the markets and getting across the actual product. It could be deduced from his words that he felt that a bit more drive would be helpful, but the future could be bright if everyone worked diligently. He announced significant support.

He encouraged the sector to take advantage of the various lines of aid for promotion, especially those directed at export, and pointed out the high level of acceptance, which according to Ministry figures amounted to 87% of the total of grants paid during the period of the Programme of National Support, some 9.7 million euros. He said that by working together this measure could be  used more and better by the bodegas and cooperatives of the area.

The minister also addressed the reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and in particular how it affects the vineyards. He went over the actual state of negotiations about plantation rights: the proposals of the Parliament and Council of Europe are leaning towards the status quo until 2019 or 2024 and with an increase in the eligible area up to a maximum of 145%, which could mean that Andalucia went from 3.5 to 4.7 million hectares. As to the fines imposed by the CNC (Office of Fair Trading), he said that more flexible rules would have avoided the problem.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Bodegas: Dios Baco

Jose Paez Morilla is proprietor of Paez Morilla, a company based on the south side of Jerez which produces local table wines and outstanding vinegars from a solera established by his grandfather in 1910. When they decided to commercialise vinegar in the 1940s, more was needed and fine old butts were purchased from many leading Sherry bodegas. After buying the vineyard “La Vicaria”, they decided to add table wines to their portfolio, and “Tierra Blanca” was launched in 1981.

The next move was to acquire a Sherry business, and that was achieved in 1992 with the purchase of one of the attractive old Palomino & Vergara bodegas constructed in 1848 in the Calle Medina, as well as some old soleras.  P & V had owned twelve bodegas in the area, each named after one of the twelve apostles, and this one, which was named after Matthew, was re-christened Dios Baco, and a new brand created. It contains fino soleras, older wines and brandy, while another nearby bodega houses more wine and their despacho de vinos (wine shop) in the Calle Huerta Pintada, as well as a third bodega towards the outskirts of town which houses more soleras, offices and bottling.

Bodega and shop, Calle Huerta Pintada

Dios Baco offer 3 ranges of Sherry:

Buleria Fino and Cream

The Dios Baco range:
Fino, Ria Pita Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream, Oxford 1970 PX (@ 19 years old), Baco de Elite Oloroso Medium Dry (12-15 years old) and Esnobista Moscatel de Pasas (12-15 years old).

The Baco Imperial range:
PX VOS, Amontillado VOS, Palo Cortado VORS and Oloroso VORS

Visits?  Yes, by arrangement.
Address: Calle Huerta Pintada s/n, Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Tel: (+34) 956 333 337

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Manzanilla Ria Pita 15%, Bodegas Dios Baco

Yellowy gold, not as pale as some, and more legs. Some light sediment in the bottle.
Most attractive and fairly intense salinity, bitter almond, acetaldehyde and early stage yeast autolysis along with sea breezes, a trace of iodine. Lots of character, but may well have been on the shelf for a while.
As fully flavoured as the nose, but with a very slightly oily feel and a trace of quince jelly indicating light oxidation. Still delicious though with lots of flor bitterness, very long, intense and very complex. Finos/Manzanillas can age very rewardingly in bottle given good conditions.
Looks as if this wine avoided being over filtered, leaving it to develop more interestingly in bottle, and while it is not in pristine condition, it is delicious. Frankly it could pass as a Manzanilla Pasada of decent quality, and is probably better than when it was bottled. It has definitely been around a bit, but has improved. I just filtered it through a hankie and enjoyed every drop. Hopefully, if you can find a bottle, it will be fresher, but don't worry if it isn't.
Anyway, Dios Baco buy in their Manzanilla, so I don't know much about it except that  it is good. Ria Pita, by the way is the sound of the castanets, with the accent on the last syllables.

£8.50 (50cl) from Herbie's Delicatessen, Edinburgh. I can't find any importer as yet.

2.4.13 Important Meeting Today in Jerez

The agriculture minister of the Junta de Andalucia, Luis Planas, is today paying his first official visit to the Consejo Regulador in Jerez, where he will meet Consejo officials as well as representatives of the various parts of the trade. He will gain first-hand information on the current situation and the trade’s preoccupations, one of the biggest of which is their request for a change to the rules on minimum stocks required to sell wine on the open market.

The three year transition period for the adoption of the new Reglamento (Rules for Sherry production) which sets a minimum of 500 butts of stock, expires on the 29th May. If this is not modified, it will make life very difficult for the small bodegas, especially those who have recently incorporated with the Consejo Regulador, and who are not selling large volumes, concentrating instead on quality. If the minimum stock situation is not reduced to 50 butts, many will be forced to leave the Consejo. The 500 butt minimum was set for fear of new businesses speculating, but has proved to be excessive. It is hoped the modification can be achieved before the new Reglamento is set in stone by Brussels.

Separately, officials at the Consejo will be asking for increased funding for the promotion of the wines, specifically to the same level as the bodegas are increasing their contribution. Currently, they are paying 1 centimo per litre of wine commercialised which gives a figure of 425,000 euros. Along with contributions from ICEX and Extenda, the promotional pot will reach somewhere between 650,000 and 700,000 euros. Not a lot.

2.4.13 Two New Tabancos!

At last the tabancos of Jerez (the traditional bars where wine is served from the barrel) seem to be enjoying a resurgence in popularity. They are wonderful for their atmosphere, and it is impossible to leave a tabanco without having made a few new friends. Just recently two “new” ones have opened, and let’s wish them every success.

El Telescopio in the Calle Avila has reopened after many years of closure. It was a very popular bar founded by Fernando Macias in 1925, where there was often live - and usually unplanned flamenco. It has now been renovated in the form of a tabanco. The new proprietors are Sergio Garcia and Francisco Verano. They are very proud of their 1950s fridge which works perfectly!

La Pandilla is another famous old bar which has also been converted into a tabanco, and can be found in the Calle Los Valientes. Originally run byManuel Rodriguez, it was like a bodega with arches and a high ceiling and was festooned with bullfight posters. It had a reputation for the quality of its red Valdepenas table wine. A scene from Lola Flores film was shot here. Antonio Ruiz and Bosco Delage are the proprietors, and the Sherry is Sanchez Romate.

If you are interested in tabancos, there is a book about them (in Spanish) “Los Tabancos y Ventas de Jerez” by Juan de la Plata, a local historian.

1.4.13 Sherryfest West; "Cartel" Fines Reduced

Last week Sherryfest West was held in Portland (Oregon, USA) after the great success of its predecessor, Sherryfest New York last autumn. The events were the idea of Peter Liem, who co-wrote the recently published book “Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla” with Jesus Barquin, and the idea was to hold events where people could taste and enjoy Sherry and learn about it.

Like the event in New York, the Portland event held 36 tastings in shops, four seminars, various dinners and a big public tasting of 130 wines from 20 bodegas. It was the biggest event promoting andaluz fortified wines ever held outside Spain, and many of the big Sherry names were present.

The impact of these events in the press has been enormous, and thousands of consumers have taken part. What with last summer's Great Sherry Tasting in London and the Big Fortified Tasting (to be held on April 24th – also in London), Sherry and fortified wines are at last experiencing a real renaissance on both sides of the Atlantic – something unimaginable just two years ago.

The Supreme Tribunal has considerably reduced the fine imposed on Gonzalez Byass by the Comision Nacional de la Competencia (the equivalent of the Office of Fair Trading in Britain) for allegedly being involved in a “Buyer’s own Brand cartel. In 2010 the CNC had fined the Sherry Shippers, all members of Fedejerez, and the Consejo 6.7 million euros, but the Supreme Tribunal found that while the fines were correct in principle, they were excessive.

The shippers had agreed, given extremely difficult market conditions, to put a cap on BOB sales in order to increase prices. Nueva Rumasa complained and the next thing was that the CNC began looking into things. The trade was also fined for fixing grape prices. Nueva Rumasa was exempted from its 670,000 euro fine for cooperating with the investigation.

GB had been fined 780,000 euros, being about 10% of its BOB turnover while it belonged to the cartel, but the Tribunal has halved that to 5%. It is thought that this will open the door to similar reductions to the fines of others.