Friday 28 June 2013

Bodegas: Marques de Misa

Manuel Misa y Bertemati was born in 1815 in Bayona in Galicia to a seafaring family of partly Italian descent. In 1840 he gained a doctorate in Law at Santiago de Compostela University, and promptly decided to join his brother Buenaventura (1802-85) in Jerez where the Sherry business was flourishing, and help him to open up the British market. In 1844 he joined with Buenaventura, who already had vineyards and a bodega established in 1840, and in a very short time, they enjoyed considerable success. 

After fairly extensive travel in Europe and America, he then decided to move to London, to assess the British market and make contacts, and in 1867 he married Helena Busheroy Blake. There they had a son and a daughter. During his time in London, apart from selling Sherry, he financed the establishment of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce there, becoming its first president. He also contributed to the construction of the catholic Westminster Cathedral, and he donated his Belgrave Square house, which was used as the Spanish Embassy, to the Spanish State.

In October 1873 – at the height of Sherry’s golden age – Misa exported 1,400 butts, and that is a record to this day. King Alfonso XII paid a visit, in 1882, accompanied by Queen Maria Cristina, their children and various high-ranking courtiers. This was a great honour, but then Misa was a massive enterprise.  In recognition of all he had done for Spain, the Spanish Crown honoured him in 1875 with the title Conde de Bayona, and in 1889 Marques de Misa with full grandee status. Jerez Town Council named a street after him and awarded him Hijo Predilecto (Favourite Son) status. He died 1904, and is buried in London.

The bodega business grew to equal the scale of Gonzalez Byass and Domecq. The huge bodegas, not far from the railway station, were mightily impressive. It was said that they occupied a whole neighbourhood whose streets and buildings totalled 50,000 square metres and were surrounded by a wall. Inside were 17 bodegas containing over 18,000 butts – some 13 million litres of wine – of 76 different types. There was a cooperage capable of producing 10,000 new butts a year and equipped with a steam engine, there was a still, there were patios. A railway connected to the main line and there were endless ancillary buildings: offices, counting house, private rooms and a sample room with 11,000 samples. it was an industrial village employing an army of workers. And as if that were not enough, the riches they contained were priceless: Solera Non Plus Ultra (Oloroso, 1815), Solera Royal (Dos Palmas, 1853) for example. The various bodegas had names such as: Lara, Badel, Fontan, and Bodega Nueva (2nd biggest in Jerez). The firm continued successfully.

(Jose Luis Jimenez)
Then in the 1970’s it was bought by Rumasa, but was able to continue with its own brands, albeit now at the new BISA (Bodegas Internacionales) - the vast purpose built bodega complex which is now home to Williams & Humbert - to which its soleras had been transferred.  In 1979, however, Rumasa sold the bodega buildings – but not the name or the wine – to Harveys.  In 1984 the Government merged Misa with 5 other bodegas (Otaolaurruchi, Pemartin, Bertola, Varela, Diestro) for sale after the Rumasa collapse.

Misa is now a memory, another bodega ruined by Rumasa, and the only surviving product is the Marques de Misa brandy, which is now produced by Williams & Humbert. {The other 5 are memories too, with the exception of Bertola, which belongs now to Marcos Eguizabal, and is still in business}.

The important Misa brands were:

Amontillado Abolengo;  Fino Chiquilla; Oloroso La Novia; Gran Solera 1815; Reanejo; Waterloo; Royal Brandy

28.6.13 Master Awards for Sherry

At the inaugural “Drinks Business Fortified Masters” tasting, held at the Institute of Masters of Wine recently, over 100 worldwide fortified wines vied for medals. To qualify as a “Master”, wines had to achieve a score of 95/100 or more, and this was achieved by Port, particularly for old tawnies, Madeira, and of course Sherry. Then there were Gold (over 90 points), Silver (over 85) and Bronze (over 80) medals.

Highly experienced Fortified tasters
Bodegas Barbadillo of Sanlucar achieved two Masters, for their Palo Cortado Obisco Gascon, and for their Amontillado VORS. They also won gold for PX La Cilla and bronze for Manzanilla Solear. Other Sherry bodegas in the medals were: Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso – Gold, and Antique Fino -Silver; Hidalgo la Gitana Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana – Gold, and Manzanilla la Gitana – Bronze; and Gonzalez Byass with Silver for Tio Pepe.

27.6.13 Closure of Feria de la Manzanilla; Manzanilla Exhibition

In Sanlucar, the Feria de la Manzanilla has come to an end for this year, running from World Sherry Day (26th May) till yesterday. Quite a Feria! Doors-open days at bodegas, tastings, guided visits, tourist routes, exhibitions, all – and more - have been on offer.

The official closure of the Feria took place yesterday in the tasting room of the Taberna der Guerrita with a round-table; “La Manzanilla, Tres Perspectivas:  Historica Enologica y Juridica”. Taking part were the historian and humanist Javier Maldonado Rosso, Beltran Domecq Williams and Cesar Saldaña Sanchez, president and director respectively of the Consejo Regulador.

Afterwards, the assistant deputy Mayor, Juan Marin, presented a commemorative tasting glass to Manuel Barba Saborido, winemaker of Delgado Zuleta, in recognition of his professional life dedicated to Manzanilla.

The municipal tourism officer, Antonio Reyes, said that it is fundamental to keep working to promote Manzanilla as a very important resource for tourism in our town. It is necessary, therefore, that everyone from tourism professionals to citizens themselves be aware of the value of our special wines. He finished by thanking all involved and especially Armando Guerra, owner of the taberna for his hospitality.

 Yesterday saw the opening of an exhibition of 40 bottles of Manzanilla from various local bodegas and quite a few posters for the Feria de la Manzanilla from the La Caña Association at the Hotel Guadalquivir, as a part of the activities organised by the tourism department for the Feria de la Manzanilla. Tourism councillor Antonio Reyes thanked Beltran Domecq for attending and Toñi Mata, director of the hotel, for providing the exhibition space. The exhibition will be open to the public till the 14th July.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

If Only....

A couple of weekends ago, 12,000 people were attracted to the 6th Rioja Tapas Fantasticas event held in Potters Field Park, near Tower Bridge, London. This hugely successful event, sponsored by the Consejo Regulador of the Rioja, featured 14 local Spanish restaurants and 41 wineries showing 178 wines.

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if it could have been Sherry? No wine goes better with tapas than Sherry, but there is no budget for such events. We all understand the position the Consjo Regulador of Sherry is in, but at the end of the day, a decent marketing budget will do far more for Sherry than almost anything else. This should be the Consejo’s - and the bodegas' - absolute priority.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

25.6.13 Trebujena Power Station; No Space Man for El Puerto; Gutierrez Colosia Tastings

At Trebujena’s municipal limits, a vast new solar power station is to be built. It is hoped that it will be completed by 2017, at a cost of 276 million euros which the solar energy company Tentusol will invest in the project. The photovoltaic park will generate 250 megawatts and cover an area of well over 600 hectares and consist of 90,000 solar panels. It will generate enough electricity to power 117,000 families, and reduce CO2 emissions by 456,000 tons. Over 70 jobs will be created.

A young man from El Puerto, Cristobal Nieto, who dreamed of going into space, has failed to pass the final test. He was one of 20 Spanish candidates chosen for a chance of a space trip by AXE Apollo Space. At the Space Jump test in Ibiza at the weekend, his score was just shy of what was required. He has thanked all those who supported him, (most of El Puerto!) and will have to wait for another chance.

Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia has organised new tutored tastings and guided visits to their bodegas. The events will take place on Thursdays, the 11th and 25th of July; the 8th and 22nd of August and the 5th of September. A considerable range of wines can be tasted, and also, on the 25th July and 22nd August, they will include their brandies, Solera Amerigo Vespucci and Solera Gran Reserva  Juan Sebastian Elcano.

There is room for 30 people, and at the wine tastings, the price per person is (a very reasonable) 6.00 euros, while the price for the wine and brandy tastings is 9.00 euros. To make reservations, call the bodega on: (+34)956 852 852 or (+34)659 755 701(mobile). For more information see the website: The events are in collaboration with the town council of El Puerto and the Ruta del Vino y Brandy del Marco de Jerez.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Sherry Characters: Lorenzo Mesa

Lorenzo “El Gordo” (The Fat Man) Mesa was the capataz (cellar master) at Sandeman for over 50 years. He was also known as the “Mesa Redonda” (round table). Always wearing a jacket and self-taught, he rose from nothing to be in charge of the bodega.

He was born on the 5th of March 1902 when Sherry was going through a period of prosperity. The bodegas were producing much better wines than they had been, but however good the wine, they were making good profits from brandy.

Lorenzo had a hard start in life. Many Jerezanos were tied for work to the bodagas, and his family was no exception. His grandfather Antonio was an arrumbador (one who moves butts and withdraws samples) at the bodega El Cuadro, Sandeman’s first bodega in Jerez, and it was there he lost an arm in an accident. Nearly all Lorenzo’s relatives worked in some capacity at bodegas.

When Lorenzo was ten, his father died, and he felt obliged to drop his studies and support his family. So it was that he joined Sandeman as an apprentice, following the capataz around every morning, sample jug in hand, watching as the wine fell accurately from the venencia into the glass for nosing. He would get involved with all aspects of the bodega work such as the trasiego (running the scales). He would note the expression on the faces of the capataces when they nosed a wine, he memorised the chalk cask markings they applied, and above all he worked hard to memorise all the aromas of the wines.

He became passionate about his work. When nobody was looking, he would grab a venencia and go along the rows of butts nosing them and copying the methods of the capataces. Later he would get involved with chocking the butts to position the bung hole uppermost. He had fallen in love with wine. It was thought that one day he would be a capataz. After only four days in the job, a fire destroyed Sandeman’s Bodega Grande. An ancient butt of oloroso was found in which the wine had been distilled by the heat and the alcohol had burnt it. This was a tragedy, but as in so many tragedies, there was a comic element. The whole town turned out to stem the river of wine flowing down the Calle Pizarro with pots and pans, and once the fire had been extinguished there was a massive party with warm spiced Sherry. Sandeman managed to find replacement wine and began immediately the reconstruction of the bodega in traditional style.

The capataz, Ramon Rodil, recognised talent in the boy. Lorenzo praised him; ”Rodil must have been born under a vine. He knew all the aromas and was very intelligent. It was he who taught me the aromas of the wine and how to classify it. Lorenzo’s enormous dedication was rewarded. In 1937, he was given the job of 2nd Capataz. Now he began to visit the countryside, covering huge distances, getting to know the vineyards of all areas, including Sevilla, Huelva and Cordoba. In 1947 he was promoted to principal capataz, and he became the person you could trust; he was entrusted with wine purchasing, and his superiors often consulted him. He was now a consummate taster who impressed everyone.

Note interesting cask markings on these anadas (foto Diario Jerez)
In the photo, one can see the concentration on his face, his eyes are open, but he is not seeing, he is nosing without distraction, analysing every last nuance.This is the solemnity of a purely Jerezano act. He has just drawn the wine from the butt with his venencia, from deep down, below the flor, and withdrawn it rapidly to disperse the flor and prevent any getting into the cup of the venencia. He has then held the venencia aloft, and allowed the wine to cascade into his tasting glass, filling the air with its fragrance.

Lorenzo, one of his three children by his wife, Manuela Cornejo Blanco, tells the following story: “He had a solution for everything. One day it was noticed that some seventy butts of must, which had been stored in a part of the bodega which was shaded from the sun, were not fermenting. On the Saturday, he ordered the bodega to be closed and asked for some charcoal to be brought from the vineyards, which he distributed amongst the butts.  In three days, the temperature of the butts rose sufficiently for the fermentation to get underway.”

Lorenzo became a real personality in the bodega. Everyone loved and admired him. Even the Sandemans had to respect his wisdom. David Sandeman, who ran the Sherry side of the business from head office at Harlow in England, had special quarters for him at his office. And when Lorenzo reached retirement, his work was so highly considered and valued, that David Sandeman ordered that he receive his full salary till he died.

Lorenzo worked a full fifty years at Sandeman, and the day he retired, Jerez paid tribute to one of its finest. The bodega stopped dead. There was a morning mass for the workers; an official ceremony with the town council, at which the Mayor pinned the bronze Medal of Jerez close to his heart; an official banquet; and a gift of three bottles of Sherry to each and every worker. Two years later, El Gordo was awarded the Medal for Work Achievement and the Prize for Outstanding Producer, by the Junta Oficial of the Fiesta de la Vendimia 1967.

Lorenzo was not a man for fiestas and revelry. Neither was he one for heavy wines and brandy, and although he drank a bottle of fino every day, the “miracle” of Sherry ensured he had a long life.  He was a man who was open, generous, quite a character but with a big heart. The director Hugo Ungricht used to speak of him as “short, fat and intelligent, but with a heart which was so big it couldn’t fit into his body.” He weighed 120 kilos, but he never had a complex about it.

As a retirement gift, Sandeman invited him and his wife to spend a week in London, where he visited Harlow and took account of the care the English took with the shipment of barrels and their advanced and sophisticated technology.

For thirty years, through the offices of Hugo Ungricht and the Junta Oficial de la Vendimia, Lorenzo took charge of the setting up of the all-important lagar (vessel for treading grapes), an integral part of the annual Fiesta de la Vendimia, which he went out of his way to do. It was said he didn’t sleep, thinking how best to do it. The treaders all wanted to take part, even though it was a mule train taking the butt of must to the bodega of San Gines (the Consejo’s own bodega).

At 91 years of age, and surrounded by his family, Lorenzo died on 3rd October 1993, in the bed to which he had been confined in his last years. But even from his bed, he was always asking visitors about shipping sales, the state of the harvest, or what was going on in the bodegas.

A Sandeman television advertisement from 1968 starred Lorenzo showing workers how to use a venencia, and can still be seen on You Tube. It gives us a smile, remembering a good man with a big heart.

Search “The people who blended it first” on You Tube.

23.6.13 Cork Harvest; Adriano; Luna de San Juan

The cork extraction season has begun in the Montes de Propio near Jerez.  The production of cork provides a fundamental economic base with a yield of 650,000 kilos of cork, which gives an economic yield of 900,000 euros.

Cork oaks (alcornoques) can only be stripped every 9 or 10 years, and the season begins on the 1st of June. It is highly specialised and skilful work done by men using axes who cut the bark without damaging the tree, which is not easy. They are casual workers nonetheless, as the work is not available often. The cork stripping work follows previous work to clean up the hillsides from tree detritus, which not only gives the workers room to move easily, but helps to prevent forest fires.

The lengths of bark are loaded onto mules for transport to the yard, and from there, by lorry, to the factory. Here, the cork goes through an industrial process to produce wine bottle corks. The Montes de Propio were a gift to Jerez from Alfonso X “El Sabio” (the wise) in the XIII century, and comprise a number of fincas totalling 7,200 hectares in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales. You drive through this lovely natural park when you approach Jerez from the south.

Adriano, the boat which takes people across the mouth of the Guadalete at El Puerto and the Bay of Cadiz, which sank at the quayside in Cadiz in 2011, is nearing completion of repairs. She should be ready at the end of the summer, 500,000 euros having been spent on her. While ashore, she will undergo some modifications to make her more of a tourist attraction, such as various salons for receptions, a bar and space for souvenir shops.

 La Luna de San Juan took place last night in the old part of Jerez. It takes place every year at ten o’clock on midsummer night until late, and is a fantastic festival of flamenco. San Mateo, La Cruz Vieja, Santiago and the Plaza de la Asuncion were the venues, and there were almost as many flamenco artists as members of the public and tourists enjoying the rythms on a decently warm night. The only downside was that many performances were taking place at the same time, something which needs to be addressed.

The Noche de San Juan is a christianisation of an old pagan midsummer solstice festival where it is traditional to burn fires. La Luna de San Juan is simply a flamenco festival which takes place on the same date.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Sherry Shippers and Port: Da Silva & Cosens

{Please see separate post on FW Cosens & Co., Jerez}

In 1862 John da Silva, son of Bruno, a Portuguese Port merchant based in London, took the established Sherry shipper Frederick William Cosens into partnership. The firm, both in London and in Oporto became Da Silva & Cosens, though it remained FW Cosens & Co. in Jerez.

Da Siva & Cosens were joined in 1868 by George Acheson Warre, a member of the oldest-established British Port shippers in Oporto (est. 1670). In 1877 the firm merged with Dow, whose senior partner, James Ramsay Dow, had earned a reputation with his publication of a treatise on Oidium, a fungal infestation that was causing mayhem in the vineyards at the time. It was soon decided to rename the firm Dow.

Together, the partners earned an excellent reputation for Dow’s Ports, which lasts to this day. Dow is now part of the Symington Group, whose name now appears on the label, though that of Silva & Cosens appeared on it until about the turn of the 21st century. Cosens, however, had pulled out by the 1920s.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Bodegas: Diez-Merito

Salvador Diez y Perez de Munoz (1858-1939) was one of  ten children born to Rafaela Perez de Munoz y Duque and Jose Maria Diez y Fernandez de la Somera. He was born at a prosperous time for Jerez, and received a strict religious education. Perhaps because of that, when there was civil unrest and disorder between the Carlists and the Liberals, he promptly sided with the Carlists and joined their army. After its defeat, he found himself in exile in Bayonne, France, aged just 18.

In 1876 he wrote to his father, a Jerez banker, asking him to send "good, old Sherry and plenty of it" to sell, and he soon did very well. His younger brothers Manuel and later Pedro began selling wine in Marseille, and Diez Hermanos came into being, buying the soleras of Ysasi y Cia. The family business grew and grew, becoming one of the biggest, and soon had enough to buy a large bodega in Jerez, at Calle Ferrocarril, 2, right opposite the station {a lovely building, now in a very poor state}.

On his return to Jerez, Salvador married Maria Antonia Gutierrez O’Neale in 1885. They had ten children. {The number ten - "diez" in Spanish - seems to be a constant in this family}.He then bought the important soleras of Ysasi y Cia in 1889. In 1892 his brother Francisco joined him. They were awarded the royal warrant by Alfonso XII, (by whose orders he had been exiled) by which they were able to use the royal arms on letters and invoices.

The firm progressed very profitably, and they bought up a few bodegas, including Jose de Fuentes Parrilla (est. 1864 and the first firm to ship Sherry in bottle rather than butt) and Riva & Rubio & Cia. In 1904 they sold 3,796 butts making them very important shippers. They had enough money to restore the cloisters of Santo Domingo in 1908, long after they had been abandoned by the monks; and the Alcazar, which was in a ruinous state, in 1926.

In 1924, like many Sherry bodegas, they got involved in the Port trade, having already dabbled in Madeira. Pablo Diez married and moved to Oporto in 1929, where he ran the Port business until his death in 1966, and soon after, in 1968, the Port business was sold to Offley Forrester. Diez Hermanos remains an Offley sous-marque, but the last vintage was declared in 1977. Offley was later taken over by Sandeman.

Patio at Bertemati Bodega, Jerez, built 1790

In 1970 International Distillers and Vintners (IDV) decided to add a Sherry arm to their famous Port brand, Croft. Gilbeys (a part of IDV) already had large stocks of Sherry in Jerez, looked after by Gonzalez Byass, and more wines were acquired. Diez Hermanos  were deeply involved in the project, but decided to pull out in 1977.They also had a stake in Bodegas Bertola for a while.

Then in 1979, Diez Hnos merged with the important bodega Marques del Merito, founded in the mid XIX century by one of the great Sherry families, the Lopez de Carrizosa. The two firms were merged to become Diez-Merito. They were a good fit, and owned extensive vineyards, bodegas and equipment. This state of affairs was not to last, however as they were soon swallowed up by Rumasa in one of their last takeovers a year or two later.

After the collapse of Rumasa, the Spanish Government sold Diez-Merito to businessman Marcos Eguizabal in 1985, along with the Rioja bodega of Federico Paternina, Bodegas Pemartin (Est 1810) and Bodegas Bertola (Est. 1911). Eguizabal died in 1994 and his heirs began to lose interest, selling Diez Merito in 2016 to the Espinosa family of Jerez.

Now, Diez Merito own seven vineyards, a large winemaking and bottling plant just outside Jerez and various bodegas including the beautiful old Bertemati bodega (1790, once owned by Misa) and the lovely old El Cuadro (built in 1819 for Pemartin, Calle Diego Fernandez Herrera, 4) in Jerez. They are a must-visit when in Jerez.

Brands:  Fino Imperial (Amontillado VORS solera 1793); Oloroso Regina VORS (solera 1906); Brandy Conde de Los Andes (the same name as a Reserva Rioja from Paternina) has been renamed Marques del Merito; Manzanilla Victoria, the Bertola range; also various more commercial wine and Sherry brands such as Pemartin. Once famous for Fino Palma and Brandy Oxigenado

Visits: Yes:  956 332 973 or 660 233 438 and events too…
Address: Calle Diego Fernandez Herrera, 4, 11401 Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz

18.6.13 More trouble for Ruiz Mateos

Lawyers working on behalf of Hacienda (Inland Revenue) is asking for Jose Maria Ruiz Mateos, his son Alfonso and three others to be jailed for seven years for irregularities in the sale of two fincas (estates) owned by Garvey. The case involves evasion of corporation tax and VAT. Furthermore, the accused have to put up a total of 3,100,000 to indemnify Hacienda if found guilty, which is quite likely.

Monday 17 June 2013

17.6.13 "Brandy"; Navazos

ASEVI, the growers’ association considers that any permission to blend grape alcohol and non-grape alcohol and call the product brandy is “intolerable”. There is a proposal to allow up to 49% non -grape alcohol in a blend, which has been roundly denounced by growers.

A large lobby against the proposal has been set up, and has written to the minister for agriculture, Miguel Arias Canete asking for a meeting to look into the matter in detail, and persuade him of the negative effects such a change would have on viticulture. They consider it unacceptable that brandy could consist of up to 49% industrial alcohol, even if it is derived from agriculture (molasses, beetroot etc). According to current EU legislation, brandy consists of distilled wine.

From the 21st till the 25th of June the Feria Andaluza de la Biodiversidad Agricola will be taking place. It takes place in many places, but the first event is a visit to the navazos of Sanlucar. Many are now in disuse, and lack care and attention, and the idea is to bring to people’s attention this aspect of their patrimony and there are moves to save it.

Navazos are rarely found elsewhere than the Sanlucar area and are an ancient method of agriculture which creates usable land among the coastal sand dunes as well as helping to stabilise them. Soil is dug out from behind the beach head and put on top of it to form a barrier to the sea, and soil is also heaped up behind the dug-out area and heaped up similarly, facing inland. Between the heaps is a lower area which can be used for agriculture or viticulture, an area with its own microclimate, humid, as it is close to the water table, and protected from the west winds. Drainage was naturally a consideration as well. Some navazos are allowed to be irrigated by the tides. All in all, they worked very well and fitted beautifully into the eco-system.

The earliest archaeological remains of navazos date back to the V century BC and they were still used in theXVII century. Moves to restore them will bring rewards as another form of tourism.

Sunday 16 June 2013

15.6.13 Food and Manzanilla Tasting

A major tasting of Manzanilla matched with food took place yesterday evening at the Hotel Abba Palacio Arizon in Sanlucar as part of the programme of activities organised by the Tourism Department in celebration of Manzanilla Day.

Rafael Veas, director of bodegas Argueso and their enologist, Jose Carlos Garrido talked about the six wines, and the food was served by the restaurants Cargadores de Indias and Meson Lantero. The Director of the Consejo Regulador, Cesar Saldana, attended the tasting, along with various “enogastronomic” bloggers and members of the catering and tourism sectors. The purpose of the tasting was to promote the fantastic quality of the local wines and gastronomy.

Friday 14 June 2013

Manzanilla 15%, Gutierrez Colosia

Pale bright strawy gold with a slight trace of green, some legs.
Light, fresh, soft, bread dough, traces olive brine, seaside, saline yet with a hint of fruit.
Dry, salty, tangy and bitter with a little weight following through, and slightest trace of lime, good clean, long finish. Very sound with some character.
As Gutierrez Colosia are based in El Puerto de Santa Maria, and that is their only bodega, one assumes they have bought this in from another bodega in Sanlucar to augment their range. This belongs to the standard range.
About £ 11.00 UK agent Alliance Wine

14.6.13 Gonzalez Byass to Release New Tintilla

Gonzalez Byass is preparing the second release of their Tintilla de Rota, a fortified sweet red wine from the Tintilla grape, at their Finca Moncloa estate at Arcos de la Frontera. The grape has largely fallen into disuse, and GB claim their Tintilla de Rota is the only such wine made from 100% Tintilla on the market. They also use the grape to improve other table wines produced at Moncloa, for its intensity, colour and aroma.

Jaime Carvajal (imagen Diario Jerez)

GB has a history of Tintilla, having been suppliers of it to Queen Isabel II in the XIX century. More recently, at the Decanter World Wine Awards, the Tintilla won the gold medal for the best Spanish fortified wine over £15. Jaime Carvajal, director of Moncloa is especially pleased, as it is recognition of hard work well done. The award was for the last vintage of the wine, 690 half litre bottles, now all long gone. This presented a problem for Jaime Carvajal, as they wanted to show it at Vinexpo and eight bottles are needed, so he had to buy it back from people. For notes on the last release, see Tastings)

The new release should be available in July, and there will be about 2,000 bottles. It will be on show at Vinexpo. At Moncloa there are barely 3 hectares of Tintilla, the other 39 being for table wine grapes, Syrah, the two Cabernets, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. These wines are showing very satisfactory sales as well.

Thursday 13 June 2013


From the 16th to the 20th of this month, one of the world's biggest wine and spirit exhibitions is taking place in  Bordeaux. At the last event in 2011, 47 countries were represented, 1245 journalists were present at an exhibition centre with 45,000 square metres of space. (that's four and a half hectares!) Over 45,000 trade visitors attended. It costs thousands to have a stand there, but the potential is enormous.

So you would imagine That Sherry would be out in force to regain lost ground. Well, only 5 bodegas have a stand: Caballero, Gonzalez Byass, Osborne, Tradicion and Williams & Humbert. And you can bet that many of the products they will be showing are not Sherry - with the exception of Tradicion.

When you consider that proportionally Port and Madeira are much better represented, it seems a real shame that Sherry cannot compete. Only well - and self - financed bodegas will be there. The Consejo's budget doesn't allow it to have a generic stand.

So if Sherry sales are to grow, and Jerez is to be revitalised, it is up to us, dear readers, to spread the word and buy the wine. A challenge, perhaps, but what a good one!

13.6.13 The Brandy Question; Earth Tremors

The Spanish agriculture minister, Miguel Arias Cañete, has denied in the Congress of Deputies (Parliament) that there is a European Commission proposal to allow alcohol with other origins than wine to be used to make brandy. He was answering a question put by the Socialist Parliamentary Group, which is worried about the effects of the proposal. It was, however, accused of scaremongering.

Brandy currently accounts for over 650 million litres of wine, and such a proposal could result in the uprooting of 150,000 hectares of vineyard –mostly in La Mancha, where the Airen grape is used for brandy production. While it would result in huge production cost reductions, it would inevitably also result in unemployment.

Earth tremors were felt at about 2.30 yesterday afternoon in the Bay of Cadiz areas of El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz and Puerto Real. The tremors registered 2.8 on the Richter scale, but no damage or injury was reported. These followed mild tremors at about 10.00 on Tuesday night with a reading of about 1.7 Richter. The south coast of Spain has thousands of tremors every year, but they are usually very mild and rarely noticed. The reason is probably that the African tectonic plate is pushing north, a long-standing affair which has caused the Pyrenees to very gradually rise.

13.6.13 Vineyard Tourism; GB & Instituto Cervantes; Alvaro Domecq; Bodega Management Changes; BBC in Jerez

Yesterday the local government presented the first phase of its special plan for development of vineyard tourism to the Sherry trade at the Hacienda Vistahermosa of bodegas Luis Perez. The mayoress, Maria Jose Garcia Pelayo told the 200 people  present that the aim is not only to preserve the countryside, but also to create economic and touristic development of the area in the hope of creating wealth and employment.

The idea is to promote the initiative with Sherry as the central theme and create activities which are considered to be in the public interest at, for example vineyard houses, bodegas and associated industries, equestrian centres, school farms, health, religious and educational centres, as well as inns, hotels, restaurants.

This is a suitable legal framework to define all the possible activities, which would eliminate the need for individual projects.  It would also help the infrastructure, strengthening countryside and environmental values. Present at the meeting were representatives of the growers and cooperatives, Fedejerez, the Consejos Reguladores of Sherry and Brandy, the hotel and catering trade, Wine tourism, Equestrianism, and any business with an interest in rural tourism and viticulture.

Jorge A Grosse MacDougall of Gonzalez Byass and Victor Garcia de la Concha of the Instituto Cervantes have signed an agreement of collaboration. The bodega will support the institute in its work to promote Spanish language and culturerge A Grosse MacDougall world-wide in the 102 countries in which GB does business through various initiatives of a cultural, academic or institutional character. Tio Pepe itself is a part of Spanish culture and a languagewith 500 million speakers throughout the world.

Tourism professionals in the province of Cadiz have decided to recognise the great work done by Alvaro Domecq Romero to promote the brand “Jerez” over decades. They have organised an event at the Sherry Park Hotel on the 20th June at 8 o’clock, in the Salon Guadalete. Alvaro has confirmed he will be there.   
Alvaro Domecq with some of his wines
Lola Rueda of the organising committee said that he was and is an entrepreneur, ahead of his time, having realised projects which have brought wealth and employment to the province over many years. “He is admired and respected by tourism professionals as someone who is passionate about Jerez”

Horses and wine were the basis of his brilliant career. For 26 years he was a hugely successful rejoneador, in 1973 he organised an equestrian spectacular which became the Real Academia, later he created A Campo Abierto, a horse and cattle spectacular at his cortijo los alburejos  In 1999 he acquired the old bodegas of Pilar Aranda, and began a career in Sherry, Alvaro Domecq SL.

Poor results have led to surprise management changes at Barbadillo and Caballero. Manuel Valdecantos leaves Barbadillo, being replaced by Victor Velez, and Jon Martinez leaves Caballero, replaced by Luis Luengo. Manuel Valdecantos leaves at a delicate moment, being the main spokesperson for the Sanlucar bodegas against the Fino/Manzanilla changes to the reglamento proposed by Fedejerez.

The BBC has been filming in Jerez and various other places in Andalucia for a documentary on Flamenco. They filmed activities at the academy of Ana Maria Lopez at the oldest Flamenco club in Jerez, Los Cernicalos in the Calle Vicario. No news about when the programme will be screened.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

More on Ruiz Mateos

The Ruiz Mateos family has pocketed some 60 million euros from commissions linked to the fictitious buying and selling of shares in companies which mainly belonged to the family. These operations are nicknamed “operaciones palanca” or lever operations and are a mechanism used for decades to achieve liquidity and defray company costs.

This strategy has produced 3 million per year for the last 20 years, and was used by JM Ruiz Mateos to finance the running of Nueva Rumasa in Madrid, mainly loans and wages, according to the family’s ex-lawyer Joaquin Yvancos.

Operation Palanca, which Ruiz Mateos even announced in the press, consisted of faking the purchase of shares from annoying minority shareholders and managing the majority shareholders, who at the start had been offered a lower price than they had thought reasonable to sell up.

Jose Maria Ruiz Mateos

“This was a classic example of many family businesses, and Ruiz Mateos saw in it a juicy profit”, the lawyer explains in his book “An Ideal Family”.

Yvancos relates that Ruiz Mateos agreed with the minority shareholders to make them a fictitious offer for their shares which was higher than their real value, so that they could put pressure on the majority shareholders, who finally gave in and paid the inflated agreed price for the minority shares, exercising their right of preferential option, for fear that Nueva Rumasa might become a shareholder in their companies.

11.6.13 Amazing New Book on Sherry in Film

President of the Cine Club Popular de Jerez and film expert, Jose Luis Jimenez, is about to publish an amazing book with an analysis of over 250 films in which there is a mention or an appearance of Sherry.

Jose Luis Jimenez

It is quite amazing how many references there are to Sherry in the movies. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Gone With the Wind; The Aristocats; The Philadelphia Story; Portrait of Dorian Gray; An American in Paris; James Bond in Diamonds are Forever, the list is endless!

Jose Luis hopes that some Sherry bodegas will get involved, given that his book is a way of broadcasting the name "Sherry" worldwide.  A wine enjoyed by  lots of celluloid stars, a wine which deserves its place in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

This magnificent work, which has taken 30 years in preparation, will be published in September. NB -in good time for Christmas.....!

11.6.13 What is Jerez Brandy?

 The brands which abandoned the DO Brandy de Jerez are now seeking the DO’s support so that Brussels might authorise their production without a base of distilled wine and with a reduction in strength to below 36%, and still call themselves “Brandy”, which they can’t at the moment.

Brands like Veterano and Soberano and many solera brandies left the DO to change themselves into “Spirituous Drinks” below 36% vol. without the requirement any longer to be made 100% from wine.

The plenary session at the Consejo Regulador del Brandy de Jerez last Thursday avoided any pronouncement on the proposal, spearheaded by Osborne - the first to convert to “Spirituous Drink” - to seek support for the use of the word “Brandy” once more. The appellants, who include Torres in Catalunya, would like the Consejo to lobby Brussels for a change in the Community regulations to allow their products to be called Brandy.

The old label, marked "Brandy Solera"

Below, the new label marked "Bebida Espirituosa"

They want to change the European rules to allow a new category for Brandy, made from a blend of at least 51% wine distillate and the other 49% from other alcohols (distilled possibly from molasses, cereal etc.)in order to reduce their production costs, which have increased fourfold for raw material.

To achieve this, they need the support of the Consejo, Fedejerez, FEBE (Federacion Espanola de Bebidas Espirituosas) and the Spanish Government to apply pressure on Brussels.

Currently, the European definition of Brandy is an alcoholic drink distilled 100% from wine, with a minimum strength of 36% vol. It is not only Spain which is seeking change; France would like to see it too.

The proposal is by no means fully supported in Jerez. Together with the fact that many bodegas wish to keep things as they are (to avoid consumer confusion for one reason), the enormous task of securing change to a European regulation will make things very difficult.

Bodegas who are against the changes complain that the brands which converted to Spirituous Drinks have been playing on the confusion caused by the fact that their labels have not changed at all, except for the exclusion of the word “Brandy”. They also complain that nothing has been done to differentiate Spirituous Drinks from Brandy on the sales side of things; both products being found on the same bar gantry, the same shop shelf, and in the same section of product lists.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Ham & Manzanilla Masterclasses

If the recent post on Jamon has whetted your appetite, and you like a glass of fine quality Manzanilla to accompany your ham, then this will definitely be for you! A Spanish friend of mine in London, Juan Manuel Gomez and his friend Jose Sol, a ham expert at Spanish Ham Master, are offering  fantastic ham and Manzanilla masterclasses.

There are two alternatives:

Firstly, there is the Personalised Ham Carving Course, which consists of a lecture on ham and how to carve it followed by a practical hands-on session (to prove you've been listening!) Three different types of ham will be used: Jamon Serrano, Jamon Iberico de Cebo and Jamon Iberico de Bellota, and all the ham each person carves will be wrapped for them to take away with them. Then there's a talk on the wines of Jerez and a tasting of the lovely Manzanilla En Rama "Esencia de la Andana" accompanied by ham. This course costs £120 per person with a maximum of 10 people and lasts two hours. Given that the ham is very expensive and that people learn a new skill and have a wonderful time doing it, the price is very reasonable.

Secondly, there is the Ham and Manzanilla Tasting which consists of a talk about the different types of ham, a demonstration of how it is carved, and the opportunity for a  (no doubt more than willing!) volunteer to try their hand. Then there is a talk about Manzanilla En Rama "Esencia de la Andana", finishing up with a session of enjoying the ham and the Manzanilla. This course lasts for an hour and a half and costs £25 per person. There is no limit on numbers. So invite some friends round and have a wonderful time!

If you are interested in one of these terrific events, please get in touch with Juan Manuel Gomez directly at:

Spanish Tiles with Wine-Related Sayings

The Azulejos de Refranes, or tiles with rhyming sayings, are an old tradition in Spain. They are not only full of wisdom, but humour as well, and are a great way of learning Spanish. Just for fun, here are a few:

"From winter to winter, money goes to the Government"

                                      "With old wine and ham, the heart won't suffer"

"The mosquito said to the frog, Better to die in wine than live in water!"

  "Good bread, good wine and good meat: the sign of a good house."


The tabanco San Pablo first opened in 1934. It is not the oldest, but is the oldest surviving of the tabancos which used to number about a hundred in the centre of Jerez, but were not so long ago reduced to two (the other being El Pasaje). San Pablo is run by Jesus Munoz, who is involved in the Tabancora project to repopulate the centre with tabancos.

San Pablo can be found in the Calle San Pablo, 12 and is full of atmosphere. All sorts of bullfighters, artists and actors have passed through its doors over the decades. Jesus is president of Tabancora, an association which counts on support from the City Council and the Consejo Regulador, and says that since its inception, a few new tabancos have opened, more people are drinking Sherry, and the young people are becoming more aware of it.

San Pablo has, of course, evolved a bit over the years. Once it was a glass of wine accompanied perhaps by an olive or an almond, but now there is a full list of tapas, (including the 3 times awarded snails) so the bar attracts families. And the clientele varies according to the time of day; in the mornings, it is old men for a glass of Sherry and in the evenings it is the young set.

Currently Tabancora has five member establishments, which are:
San Pablo, Plateros, El Pasaje, La Bodega and Surena, and the council offers a Ruta de Tabancos, which can be found at this link:

9.6.13 First Organic Manzanilla

The finished product will be a while in coming, but an agreement has been signed between bodegas Delgado Zuleta and Jose Cabral, grower and winemaker in the Sanlucar area, to produce an organic Manzanilla. Jose Cabral will produce the grapes and make the initial wine, fortify it, and send it for ageing to Delgado Zuleta.

These are times of innovation, and new ideas are coming to market, yet still within the rules of production. Recently, Delgado Zuleta surprised the market with the launch of Goya XL, a Manzanilla “reposada” – or pasada – and bottled en rama. It impressed experts who already know the bodega’s long history (established 1744).

The idea with the new wine is to go further, to the grapes and vineyards themselves, where Jose Cabral is cultivating his grapes to the strictest ecological regulations, certified by the relevant authorities. The must from the grapes is very carefully fermented at the Cooperativa Catolica Agricola and taken to Delgado Zuleta bodegas where it is filled into butts, carefully selected by the bodega’s enologist, Manuel Barba, and placed in an ideal area for its crianza (ageing).

The Consejo Regulador is already involved in the project, along with the food and agriculture laboratory which will monitor progress. The plan is to create a new scale every year for the initial solera and eventually run the scales in a way which will produce the correct development of the flor to produce the final product – the organic Manzanilla.

The project started off with only a couple of butts, but is developing and will be constantly monitored by all the parties involved, who will also analyse the opportunities for the wine in markets where the adjective “organic” is highly valued. There is no doubt there is a market for these wines and there is plenty of scope.  The En Rama concept has helped to reawaken consumer interest in Sherry, and the new organic Manzanilla will surely add to it.

Saturday 8 June 2013

8.6.13 Vinoble; Manzanilla Cocktail Competition; Fedejerez

Vinoble, the biennial exhibition of sweet and fortified wines is to be held once again in Jerez next year, as previously reported. The dates have now been decided, and they are the 1,2,3 of June. As usual, this fantastic event will take place at the Alcazar in Jerez.

(Imagen MasJerez)

 Bodegas Delgado Zuleta, in collaboration with the Hotel School IES El Picacho and the local tourism authority, hosted the 3rd Manzanilla-based cocktail competition on Thursday, timed to coincide with the Feria de la Manzanilla. The competition was open to students and professionals alike, and 25 people entered. The winning cocktail was a Sing de Sierra, by Daniel Campon.

Fedejerez yesterday reiterated its desire to “resolve the (Fino/Manzanilla) problem, not shelve it”. The Junta felt that postponing the matter, at least while Europe was dealing with other aspects of the modifications to the Reglamento, would allow time for reconciliation. However the president of Fedejerez, Evaristo Babe, wants to press ahead, “in the interests of both DO’s: Sherry and Manzanilla”, and feels that there is some cordiality between the two. Miguel Perez, of Coag and the Coop Virgen de la Caridad in Sanlucar said it would suit all concerned to get on with the dialogue and put the matter to rest. The Junta does not really want to get too deeply involved, especially in the core question as to whether Fino can still be aged in Sanlucar. They would prefer to wait to see what Brussels says and not create any more problems.

Friday 7 June 2013

Junta Postpones Fino/Manzanilla Question

The Junta de Andalucia has recommended the Consejo Regulador to shelve the contentious question of whether Fino can be produced in Sanlucar. Without wishing to get involved in the minutiae of the question, the secretary general for agriculture, Judith Anda Ugarte, said that it was better to complete the matters already in hand - modifications to the Reglamento, which are now awaiting approval by Brussels – before starting on any others.

Fedejerez, whose proposal it was, were frustrated at the last plenary at the Consejo, when the vote was postponed till July in order to allow more time for dialogue. The Manzanilla producers felt they were to be deprived of a long standing right, though it should be borne in mind that the Jerez and Puerto Santa Maria bodegas had once to give up their right to make Manzanilla in Sanlucar. Nonetheless, the Manzanilleros are prepared to go to court over the issue.

Vintage Sherries at Williams & Humbert

It is not very well-known that W&H have a special section of their vast bodega set aside for the anadas, or vintage wines. This was done in 2004, not long after the firm moved into the old Internacionales bodegas.

The anadas, of which they are very proud, are single vintage wines which have not been involved with the usual solera system. The wines, selected from the best of their particular vintage, were fortified to 18% and simply left to age, untouched save for the occasional tiny sample taken, and have all evolved into Palos Cortados, Olorosos or Amontillados.

The first anadas were laid down in 1920, when the family put aside a butt to celebrate the birth of a new family member. They continued to do this, and in 1924 decided to make it a permanent custom, the wine always being from the same vineyard in the Balbaina.

Nearly every year since 1920 is represented, but there are difficulties: as the wine has been ageing statically without being refreshed - like it would have been in a solera. Thus the evaporation losses are considerable, and some vintages have had to be racked into smaller barrels, every 15 years or so, to conserve them. In fact it is reckoned that after about 70 years, the entire contents of a butt would evaporate.

Certain vintages are not in butts. The 1992 was never made due to a strike at harvest time. When little remains in the smaller barrels, the wines are bottled to preserve them. There is a wooden cabinet which contains 1926, 1930, 1933, 1938 and 1939. There is also a bottle there to commemorate the firm’s first centenary.
It is fascinating to observe how the wines have evolved – and continue to do so – over the years. They gradually get darker, improve in flavour and gently rise in alcoholic strength up to about 22%. For example, the 1930 was classified in 1957 as an “acceptable wine” and by 1965 it was classified as “viejisimo” (very old). They never stop developing. There is a fascinating discussion on this in Beltran Domecq’s excellent book “EL Jerez y sus Misterios” – he was involved with the classifications.

The complete W&H collection of anadas is unique in Jerez, and has been the subject of a successful study by the University of Cadiz to find a model for certifying the age of vintage wines with a view to doing the same for other very old wines. These wines are rarely drawn from the butt or bottled, but in 1999, the famous auctioneers Christies arrived in Jerez, and tasted the wines in the minutest detail. Some wine was bottled and sold at auction at an average of 250 euros a bottle. Subsequently two further auctions, in New York and Los Angeles took place, and then another in London.

There are a few other vintage wines around, notably from Gonzalez Byass, but the W&H collection is unique and very special – and something to look out for when you next visit.

Thursday 6 June 2013

The World's Most Expensive Bottle of Sherry

In 2001, the London auctioneers Sothebys sold the most expensive Sherry ever sold, for $ 43,500. The bottle, bearing the Imperial seal, was dated 1775, and was found in the Massandra cellars in the Crimea. These cellars contained over a million bottles of Russian and European wines, and this Sherry was the oldest of the European wines. Massandra was also a winery, where this Sherry was most likely bottled. The winery was highly regarded in Tsarist times, and later produced its own "Sherry" among other wines.

It was the property of Tsar Nicolas II, and Stalin ordered the Soviet Revolutionaries to preserve it and all its contents, and it has been preserved till now. It formed a part of a collection, along with other bottles of different Sherries which were laid down in these famous cellars, some from 1841. The wine has now been re-valued at $ 52,000, and is considered one of the 10 most expensive bottles of wine in the world. Occasionally, wines from Massandra are to be found at auction.

(Imagen: +Jerez)

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Bodegas: FW Cosens & Co.

Frederick William Cosens was born in Sussex in 1819, the son of an important farmer near Chichester. His father died when he was only 13, and his family moved to London to join relatives there. After studying in Scotland, he began work in the Sherry trade aged 17, and worked with the firms of Pinto Perez & Co. and Widow Victoria & Sons of El Puerto de Santa Maria. In 1845 he married Rosa Frances Collins with whom he had four sons and two daughters. In 1848 he ceased dealing with the Spanish firms and decided to create one of his own.

FW Cosens (Foto Jerez Siempre)

Jose Eduardo Ivison y Viale decided to leave his family Sherry firm, RC Ivison, to his siblings, and became manager in Jerez for FW Cosens, still based in London. This, in effect, established a base for Cosens in Jerez in about 1848, at the Calle Santo Domingo, and several large bodegas were soon acquired, 4 in El Puerto, and 3 in Jerez. They had a major export business, especially to Glasgow.

The firm prospered, and he made a great deal of money, and spent a good deal of it altruistically: restoration of churches, charity donations, and notably he was a member of the fundraising committee in London to help with the Cholera outbreak in Jerez. Cosens even wrote a book in 1866 about Sherry, called Sherryana, illustrated by Edwin Linley Sambourne, but it is now out of print. He also collected Spanish and Italian paintings and drawings, which fetched a high price at Sotheby's in 1890, a year after his death.

In 1862 FW Cosens entered into a partnership with established London based Port shipper, John da Silva, and the Oporto arm of the business became Da Silva & Cosens, later becoming Dow's Port, {See separate post on the Port}, now part of the Symington Group, and a top shipper. He also bought the firm of Ignacio Fernandez de Castro in 1867.

According to Vizetelly in 1875, the principal bodega had a courtyard planted with flower beds, mulberry, laurel, orange and cypress   trees. There were piles of barrels everywhere and oak staves, a cooperage in lovely surroundings. Here they kept Manzanillas and Finos. {Interestingly, Manzanillas seem to have been stored in either Jerez or El Puerto}.

Cosens were renowned for their blends, and were the second biggest shippers at this time. The bodegas were well equipped, being one of the few who possessed a crane to lift butts into position. They had a steaming apparatus for seasoning casks which would steam 125 casks at a time for the 18 hours it took. This process was deemed to “bed in” new casks and test for leaks, and seasoning with wine was no longer thought necessary.

Vizetelly quotes the makeup of one blend:
Amontillado Pasado 1820………………....................7 arrobas       (Very old, even in 1875)
Double Palma (Amontillado type) 1869…………..10 arrobas       ((Amontillado-Fino)
Single Palma (Fino)………………………………………..12.5 arrobas
Pedro Jimenez (top quality vino dulce)……………0.5 arrobas
Sounds delicious, and not very sweet.
{Arrobas are liquid measures of about 16 litres, and in every blend the number of arrobas of each component will total 30 – the equivalent of 600 litres, the capacity of a bodega butt.}   

Blending at Cosens 1870s, from Vizetelly
Cosens had become, from 1861, the leading exporter of Sherry from the port of Guadalete with 2045 butts, and in the same year they exported 2236 from Jerez. They were associated with other firms; Juan de Dios Lasanta e Hijos in Cadiz, and Larios Hermanos of Gibraltar. This set-up, trying to appeal both to the Spanish and British markets was fragile, especially as the English directors were rarely seen in Spain. On the death of FW Cosens in 1889, his share of the company was shared by his two sons, Frederick and Francis, but they preferred to conduct their affairs in London, at precisely the inauspicious time when the UK market was opened up to other wines and taxes were increased.

The firm was taken over by one of the sons of Jose Eduardo Ivison, Jose Enrique Ivison O’Neale, who being the sole owner of the old company FW Cosens, renamed it JE Ivison O’Neale in the late 1920s.

{FG and FW Cosens are one and the same: the G stands for Guillermo, Spanish for William.}

Jamon Iberico, a Fabulous Partner for Sherry

Spain produces the greatest ham in the world. The finest are produced from a breed of pig called the Cerdo Iberico, a breed which only lives in the South West of Spain and a few can be found in Portugal. It is darker in colour than other pigs, and is to be found wandering free-range in large estates with plenty of Encinas (Ilex or Holm Oaks) and Alcornoques (Cork Oak trees). Iberico ham accounts for only about 10% of all Spanish ham.

It is worth pointing out that these large estates are a good carbon sink, and that the cork produced from these trees should be used for wines instead of  screwcaps and extruded plastic. Here we have nature in perfect harmony, why spoil it?

Some 4 million pigs are sacrificed in Spain annually, of which only 400,000 are Iberico. The Iberico de Bellota ham is rich in proteins, and in vitamins B1 and B6 (good for the nervous system).  100 grams only contain 185 calories, and it is high in oleic acid (good for the cardiovascular system). In fact the Iberico pig is known as “an olive with legs”!

There are two distinct types of ham: Jamon Serrano (mountain ham, from white pigs) and Jamon Iberico (from the Iberico pig). Both types of ham require a minimum curing period of 18 weeks.

While Serrano ham can be produced anywhere, the principal production zones for Iberico, which, like wines, have Denominaciones de Origen, are:

Jamon de Pedroches                    Jamon de Dehesa de Extremadura                         Jamon de Guijuelo
Jamon de Huelva                                       Jamon de Teruel                                       Jamon de Trivelez

 Within the Iberico category, there are more distinct types, all cured for between 24 and 48 months:
Iberico de bellota (acorn): The finest of all, the free-range pigs eat what they can find in their environment as well as the oak acorns which help make the meat extra finely marbled and delicious. In the run-up to slaughter, the pigs can gain a kilo a day in weight as they gorge on their beloved acorns. This makes the fat in the meat largely mono-unsaturated – or good for you! It is a shame how many people separate off the fat, but it is not only very tasty, but very low in saturated fat – and part of the wonderful experience.

Iberico de recebo:  Fed on acorns, pasture and feed (mainly cereal)

Iberico:  Fed on feed (also used to be known as “Pata Negra” or black foot, but this term is no longer used officially, as all iberico hams have black feet).
Ham is made only from the rear legs of the pig, but the cured meat from the front legs is delicious as well, and is called “Paleta”. The paleta is smaller and cheaper than jamon, a whole Iberico de Bellota leg of which can set you back up to 650 euros.

There are many other cured products made from the Iberico pig:

Chorizo is a cooking or slicing sausage made from the meat and spiced with “Pimenton” or paprika.

Salchichon is a slicing sausage made from finer cuts with peppercorns in it.

(cana de) Lomo is a length of cured pork loin served in slices.

Taquitos are tiny chunks of left over ham, which are lovely in omelettes or stews.

Morcilla is the Spanish equivalent of black pudding

And of course the meat does not have to be cured. Much is sold in restaurants in the form of chops, fillets etc., and my favourite, “Secreto”, an internal cut from below the back which looks a little like a fan and is a little fattier. But it barbecues beautifully.

Curing is a process of drying meat to preserve it. It is wreathed in salt and left to hang in “bodegas” where the temperature and humidity are as constant as possible. It is by no means peculiar to Spain, there being the lovely Prosciuttos and salume of Italy, for example. What a shame, though, that Britain and Sweden still boil their hams!

Carving Spanish ham is quite a skill, and for this purpose a special mount is used for it, called a “Jamonero”. A very long narrow-bladed knife is used, and only the amount needed is carved, after which the ham is covered with a cloth.

One of the best ham producers is Sanchez Romero Carvajal with their famous brand 5J (or Cinco Jotas). They are based in Jabugo, Huelva, where probably the best ham comes from. The firm is owned by the Sherry and brandy bodega Osborne. Barbadillo are also involved with ham from the Sierra de Sevilla. Of course, good ham needs good Sherry, and the Finos, Manzanillas and light Amontillados will do it proud.

In Spain there are specialist Iberico ham shops, where you can buy any Iberico product, along with interesting cheeses and olives. They are a must for visitors – and locals alike! At Christmas time, many business gifts consist of Iberico, and there are often to be found gift packs Including Iberico and wine.
Spain is rightly immensely proud of Jamon Iberico, and if you haven’t tried it yet, I urge you to do so. It will enhance any good Sherry!

A Winter's Tale Medium Sweet Amontillado 19.5%, Williams & Humbert

Bright light amber to yellowy gold rim, legs.
There is an old fashioned air about the nose; definite signs of Amontillado  toasted nuts along with the sweet aroma of young PX with a trace of honey, raisins and malt. A hint of damp barrels, oxidation and fresh acidity balance it up to quite a lively nose, but the Amontillado is a little muted by the sweetness.
Medium sweet - in fact not far off fully sweet (however you define that). The wine has an attractive light weight for a sweet Sherry and a certain tang, with flavours of raisin - rather than pasa, and a touch of  nuttiness which follows through to a long mellow finish. It would be brilliant with pate.
This classic old blend consists of young Amontillado from Palomino from the Balbaina and Carrascal vineyards fermented at 28C and blended at the sobretablas stage with PX before going into the solera system, where it stays for six years as a blend. It contains 82 grams per litre of (natural grape) sugar. Williams & Humbert make three Sherries with an Elizabethan theme in their names: Dry Sack, As you Like it and A Winter's Tale, presumably to appeal to the important British market. At one time, there was no more British Sherry company than W&H; Beltran Domecq Williams, president of the Consejo Regulador, relates that he had to speak English at home! His mother was English. A Winter's Tale was introduced in early 1900 by Carl Williams, second generation in the bodega.
£10.50 from Henderson Wines, Edinburgh. UK importers Ehrmanns.

4.6.13 Sherry Sales; Tio Pepe Sign; Feria in Chiclana

April boosts Sherry sales after a quiet 1st quarter.
Sales are still falling, albeit at a slightly slower rate. The various fairs which take place in Spain in April have helped with a slight increase in sales of 0.8% to 4.4 million litres, but exports show a drop of 6.2% to 7.4 million litres. Exports account for about two thirds of Sherry sales.

The Tio Pepe sign now has a new home. 
Its new address is no. 11 Puerta del Sol, where it will witness once again the bells at New Year. The Madrid town council and Gonzalez Byass have been working tirelessly towards this successful outcome.

Chiclana's annual fair starts soon 
The Fiestas de San Antonio will begin on Wednesday the 12th at the recinto ferial (fair ground) Las Albinas. No fewer than 493,000 light bulbs are being installed to illuminate the festivities.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Oloroso Seco Full Dry 18%, Barbadillo

Bright, fairly deep amber fading to golden yellow at rim., legs.
Walnuts in syrup, damp barrels, slightest traces of oak, full and nutty with a slightly savoury hint of earth and truffle. A certain apparent sweetness balances it nicely, yet it retains a certain crispness as well.
Similar, the crispness soon gives way to a warm mellowness. Traces of dried fruit, nuts and oak with a nicely honed oxidation and a round sweet feel, though the wine is dry. Very easy to drink, but has a little weight there and a long dry finish.
Barbadillo's entry-level unsweetened oloroso. It is not particularly complex, and you wouldn't expect it to be from the price, but it is skilfully made and has a certain charm. Good value for money.
£8.50 from Henderson Wines, Edinburgh. UK importer is Fells.