Thursday 29 August 2013

29.8.13 Wine, Food and Flamenco at Harvest Festival

The Consejo, six bodegas and the leading Jerez catering firm Alta Cazuela are participating in the Grand tastings for the harvest Festival which begin on the 4th September. The events will take place in the the Alcazar’s Patio San Fernando, an open space where one can combine history, wine, gastronomy and flamenco.


These tastings have become a major attraction which could be repeated throughout the year. There will be eight of them, from the 4th – 7th and from 11th – 14th and two menus will be offered along with an ample range of Sherries. The tastings, which start at 8.30, will be led by experts from each of the participating bodegas, who will explain their production and how they marry with the food. Tickets are already on sale at 25 euros, and can be obtained from Bar Juanito, the Alcazar, Pescaderia Vieja and the hotel Villa Jerez.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Fino Bella Luna 15%, Sanchez Romate

Pale strawy gold, virtually no legs.
Slightly waxy at first, dry, then the flor hits with dough, almond and traces of membrillo and background marmite, quite an attractive nose which develops.
Good and dry with trace acidity and lots of flor bitterness, and yet well rounded with a clean, long finish.  No great age, but has a certain seriousness.A good glass of Fino.
There are three wines in the Bella Luna range: PX, Amontillado and Fino, all available in half bottles only, which is a good price for people to try them. They are all made by Sanchez Romate in Jerez, and have the quality you would expect from this fine bodega.
About the £7 mark. Reasonably widely available. UK importer Enotria.

Sunday 25 August 2013

25.8.13 Harvesting by Night

Many of the Sherry vineyards are being harvested at night. This is not a new phenomenon, but is comparatively new for Jerez. It means the grapes arrive at the lagares (press houses) in a cooler state and are therefore less prone to oxidation, and fermentations are easier to control. The grapes also arrive more quickly, and are more uniformly ripe.

The harvest has seen a technological transformation in recent years, and the familiar sight of innumerable teams of pickers has been drastically reduced. Hand picking grapes by day is extremely hard work anyway, as temperatures can be suffocating – well into the 40’s. Even the machines prefer working at night, as their engines and other mechanisms run cooler, and there are fewer breakdowns.

(Imagen Diario Jerez)

More than half the crop will be harvested mechanically. Many fewer people are even looking for work at harvest time now, though there are jobs for people to repair and service the machines, and to fix any damage they cause – which is not much, as the machines have been improving, and are quite sensitive to the vines. Naturally, some older vineyards which were not planted with machines in mind will need to be done by hand.

This year’s harvest should be over towards the end of next week – just in time for the harvest festival, and this year’s Fiesta de la Buleria, which begins at the bullring on the 7th of September.

Saturday 24 August 2013

24.8.13 Sanlucar Harvest Underway

The Sherry harvest has begun in Sanlucar with Barbadillo starting to pick 3 million kilos of excellent quality from their 350 hectares of vineyard at Santa Lucia and Gibalbin. They also have contracted suppliers in Sanlucar and Jerez vineyards. Some grapes – 150,000 kilos – were harvested last week for the Pie de Cuba, or starter fermentations, and, of course for their table wine Castillo de San Diego. 11 million kilos are expected in Sanlucar.

Friday 23 August 2013

Red Wines from the Sherry Zone

Plantations of red grapes in Cadiz have doubled in the last decade, now covering 400 hectares which are producing 20 successful brands of red table wine. This wine which is excellent cannot call itself Sherry, naturally, but goes under the title of Indicacion Geografico Protegido or Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz – as does much white table wine. Of course, with the white wines there is plenty of experience, but the reds are comparatively new, and are still finding their feet.

There is an native red grape, however, grown in Cadiz for centuries, and that is the Tintilla (de Rota). It was almost extinct, covering barely 3 hectares, until it earned a place in the Vino de la Tierra appellation. Tintilla de Rota, a fortified sweet red wine, has all but disappeared (except for Gonzalez Byass releasing one recently), and the grape finds itself in blends. Table wine production has grown roughly in line with Sherry’s decline, and there are reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy in the air which might benefit them.

At the end of 2012, there were about 90 ha of Tempranillo, Syrah 63 ha, Cabernet Sauvignon 60 ha, Merlot 48 ha,Tintilla 23 ha, Petit Verdot 10ha. Garnacha and Cabernet Franc also have a presence. The vineyards are mostly owned by three big companies; Gonzalez Byass, Barbadillo and Taberner, each with around 65 hectares, but there are lots of small yet successful holdings of between 2 and 5 hectares as well. These are helped by the Junta de Andalucia, which gives them not only technical and analytical help via the Viticultural Station, but also experience gained at the Rancho de la Merced and help with paperwork. This help is vital to their success.

See also: The Table Wines of Cadiz

23.8.13 Limited Sherry to Toast the Poet

Bodegas Manuel Aragon in Chiclana is raising a glass of something special to toast the bicentenary of locally born romantic poet and dramatist, Antonio Garcia Gutierrez, who wrote El Trovador, which became Verdi’s Il Trovatore, among other important works.

A toast to the Poet at Manuel Aragon
The bodega El Sanatorio in the C/ El Olivo, which houses the firm’s oldest wines, has produced a very old Cream Sherry based on the old oloroso stored in an area known as the Nave de los Poetas. Enologist Sebastian Aragon explained that the wine is a blend of very old oloroso with moscatel at 18% which could easily age in bottle for a further 50 years. It is, however a limited release of only 1,000 bottles.

German Beer Festival - in El Puerto?

A beer festival is to be held in El Puerto de Santa Maria starting today and running till the 7th of September at the Centro Comercial Bahia Mar. The intention is to woo German tourists with products from Germany such as beer, food and music. According to one of its promoters, Elsa Kramer of Bierfeste, it will be the little brother to the famous Munich beer festival.

(Imagen oz Digital)
What are they thinking?! The Germans have plenty of that in Germany, and it is excellent. Why go to Spain for it? El Puerto is world famous for its fine Sherries and its gastronomy which match the climate perfectly. It might be of interest to a few Portuenses (people from El Puerto), but why would Germans travel that far for a beer festival they can do better themselves? True, as the mayor says, it will provide employment, but only for a couple of weeks.

Why not try and attract tourists to what El Puerto itself has to offer, which is plenty. Any serious German tourists would, I am sure be far more interested in that.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Palo Cortado Marques de Rodil 18%, Emilio Hidalgo

Old gold with a trace of amber creeping in, quite pale for a Palo Cortado, legs
Complex and interesting, traces of its Fino past, yeast and autolysis, trace oxidation, along with lots of nuts (mainly hazelnuts). A background hint of Oloroso-style apparent sweetness, hints of quince and almond.
Similar to nose, but tangy and a touch fuller, obvious Fino origins but also the oxidative Amontillado/Oloroso character but not in excess. On the light side but very tasty and stylish - and very long. Elegant. Delicious.
From a solera dated 1860, so bought in when the business was established in 1874. The wine is sealed with a driven cork, not the normal T-shaped stopper or screw cap. This is standard Hidalgo practice, and means, of course, that you can keep the wine for many years - if you can resist it!
Around £30.00 + Not easy to find, but Selfridges have it, and possibly Harvey Nichols.

20.8.13 Latest on Harvest

The recent August heatwave, following a slightly cooler than normal July, has moved the harvest forward by a week or so. Picking is under way in the inland vineyards, while those nearer the coast have not quite reached full ripeness. Gonzalez Byass began yesterday in the 500 hectares of vineyards they own in Carrascal, Burujena and Macharnudo, along with 400 hectares of contracted vineyard. Other big players such as Estevez and Beam will start in the next few hours, while the committees of the cooperatives Las Angustias in Jerez and Palomares y Albariza in Trebujena  - among many others - will decide shortly. The harvest for table wines – Vinos de la Tierra de Cadiz – is nearly finished, and a few more forward vineyards have already been picked for the “pie de cuba” (starter fermentations) for Sherry. The grapes are currently in a very good state of health.

(Diario Jerez)
The inland vineyards are registering about 12 degrees Beaume, and are thus ready to pick, but the coastal vineyards are still only registering about 10 degrees (10.5 is the minimum required by the Consejo). An average yield increase of 30% is predicted, or 60 million kilos as compared with last year’s 47 million, the smallest in recent memory due to a prolonged drought. Different zones will have different results, and Trebujena is expected to have a much better yield than last year’s extremely small one albeit with signs of raisining in some grapes due to the heat, even though the grapes are not fully ripe. At least the hot, drying Levante wind is not active.

Meanwhile, the Consejo says that close to 70% of the grapes will be picked by machine, and this percentage is growing. But while this means fewer temporary jobs, the harvest can be collected much quicker – at night if necessary - and at half the cost. The grapes will arrive cooler at the bodegas, limiting oxidation and premature fermentation. This year there are 30 bodegas de elaboracion (press houses), 17 in Jerez, 4 in Sanlucar, 3 in Chipiona, 2 in Chiclana, 2 in Trebujena and 1 each in Puerto de Santa Maria and Rota. Only two, both in Jerez, have begun operations so far.

Monday 19 August 2013

19.8.13 What Pippa Middleton Thinks of Sherry

A dry sherry and salted almonds are quite the thing now and not quite as ‘old-generation’ as some think!”
(Un jerez seco con almendras saladas es un aperitivo perfecto. No es algo de antiguos como algunos piensan)
Pippa Middleton
(Thanks to JL Jimenez)

19.8.13 7 Kilo Bunch of Grapes! The Beatles in Jerez?

In the LIX edition of the Racimo de Oro (golden bunch) competition in Trebujena, 43 enormous bunches were presented, 34 Palomino and 9 Pedro Ximenez. The winner was a bunch of Palomino weighing 6.845 kilos presented by Manuel Marin Raposo. Palomino usually wins as the bunches are usually bigger. The Racimo de Oro is awarded to someone or some organisation who has done the most for Trebujena, and this year it went to the women’s organisation Doña Palomares Oliveros.

(Foto + Jerez)

If you visit Williams & Humbert you will see four butts signed by the Beatles in 1965. It has always been assumed, therefore, that they were in Jerez – and even that they played there. Unfortunately this is untrue. They played only in Madrid and Barcelona, but a shrewd W&H marketing man took some butts to Madrid, along with a venenciador, and they were signed there – at the hotel. John Lennon had a (not very successful) shot at the venencia. All this and more will be revealed in a forthcoming RTVE (Spanish TV)documentary.

(Foto JL Jimenez)

Thursday 15 August 2013

15.8.13 Harvest Festival in Puerto de Santa Maria

El Puerto de Santa Maria is celebrating the harvest with La Velada de los Milagros (Evening of Miracles - the Virgin of Miracles is the town's patron saint) from the 28th August till the 1st September in  the parking area on the left bank at the port. There will be 20 casetas (tented stands) offering a drink and a tapa, all local produce, at 3 euros (up from 2.50 last year), as well as fairground attractions, and the fair will be open from 13.30 till late. Live music will be available every day from orchestras and flamenco groups. After last year’s great success, the fair is being organised again by local authorities and companies, including Bodegas Real Tesoro and Osborne.

14.8.13 BBC in Jerez; Salt & Wine Museum Chiclana

The Cine Club de Jerez and its president, Jose Luis Jimenez, have been assisting the BBC in a new television programme, part of Michael Portillo’s new series on train journeys; Great Continental Railway journeys.  Jose Luis has given them access to the oldest existing cine films, from the 1920’s, of the “Wine Train”, which took butts of wine to be loaded onto ships for export. Last May a television crew led by Michael Portillo, who is of Spanish descent, came to Jerez to record backgrounds and interviews. The purpose is to highlight the importance of Jerez in the development of the railways, as the wine needed to be transported quickly and efficiently. The film will also explain how the train – or “maquinilla” as it was known – functioned.  It plied the urban lines with butts of Sherry from the main bodegas down to the quayside at the Trocadero in Puerto Real. This was the first line in Andalucia – and one of the first in Spain, and was still in use till the mid 1960’s.

From Vizetelly, 1875

"La Maquinilla" (JL Jimenez)

Construction of Chiclana’s new Museum of Wine & Salt will start in early September. The work is part of an on-going project by the town council to revitalise the town centre, and the location of the new museum is an old bodega in the Calle Concepcion at the central Plaza de las Bodegas. It is hoped that the work will be completed in four months, and that the museum will represent not only a reminder to the locals of their history, but a valuable tourist destination. Chiclana was once endowed with extensive salt pans, most of which are now lost.

The old bodega which will become the new Museum of Wine & Salt

Friday 9 August 2013

9.8.13 Consejo Agreement with Cadiz University; Harvest; GB Buys US Distributor

An important agreement has been signed between the Consejo Regulador, The University of Cadiz (UCA) and the Andalusian Industrial Heritage Foundation (FUPIA) to collaborate in the development of training and educational activities, aimed at raising awareness of the viticultural heritage of Jerez. The agreement complements others with a similar aim, which have been developed by UCA, either through the Andalusian Centre of Viticultural Research (CAIV) or through the development of specific courses such as the degree in oenology (the only one in Andalucia,) and the Master’s Degree in Viticultural Practices in Warm Climates.

As a long-established industry, wine making in Jerez has a unique heritage which should be preserved and promoted through training, educational, touristic and investigative activities. Consejo president, Beltran Domecq, was delighted with the agreement as it covers the entire Sherry process.

(Imagen CRDO)

 The harvesting machines are being fired up already in the Gibalbin area near Arcos. Some inland vineyard areas are a week ahead of the coastal areas in terms of ripeness, and need to be picked now. If the weather stays as it is, the Sherry harvest as a whole will probably start around the 20th, when the sugar levels should reach the required 10.5 Beaume. That said, the harvest for other types of wine is already underway. Many bodegas also make table wine, for which the grapes need to be picked earlier.

In the lagares (vineyard winemaking facilities), the “pie de cuba” (starter fermentations) are being prepared, so that when the main crop comes in it will ferment without complications. This year the weather has been much better than last year, when extended drought drastically reduced the crop. This year rainfall has been good – 650-800 litres/square metre, and the harvest yield should be normal.

(Imagen Diario Jerez)

 Gonzalez Byass has bought a distributor in the United States. Vin Divino deals with wines from Chile, Italy and Austria, to which will now be added wines from Spain. The US is the world’s largest wine market in terms of both quantity and value, and has seen a 30% increase in sales of Sherry, and is the 5th largest importer of it. GB will also be selling its other wines from Somontano, Rioja, Castilla, Cadiz and Penedes.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Rations for the Spanish Armada

In a document from the Simancas Archives dated 12th April 1588 the VII Duke of Medina Sidonia gives the captains of the ships of the Invincible Armada, based at Lisbon and ready for the invasion of England, instructions as to food and drink rations for the sailors.

Each man is to receive half a pound of biscuit a day, or two pounds of fresh bread on days when the biscuits are not given out.

(Imagen BBC)

As to wine, this will consist of one third of an azumbre (a measure, a little over two litres) of Sherry, or Lamego (Upper Douro), Monzon (Douro, near Oporto), Pajica (?) or Condado (Huelva), but only a pint of Candia (Liguria, Italy) as it is stronger, and it should be accompanied by double the quantity of water.

The first wine to be distributed shall be Condado or Lisbon, then the Lamego or Monzon. The Sherry and the Candia shall be the last to be distributed, since they better survive a sea voyage.

The document ends with a warning to the ships’ captains that no barrel of Condado or Lisbon which goes off, due to keeping it, will not be refunded, and will be charged at the same price as Sherry.

(Info JL Jimenez)

8.8.13 Fiesta Buleria; Special Manzanilla Bottles; Harvest Festival

 The XLVI Fiesta de la Buleria is to take place in Jerez at the bullring on 7th September. This is the 3rd oldest Flamenco festival, a big tourist attraction, and counts on the support of the Junta and the Council. Tickets go on sale this week at 20 euros and can be purchased at the tourist office in the Plaza del Arenal. Many famous Flamenco stars from Jerez will take part, as well as a few from outside the area.

 A set of promotional bottles of Manzanilla has been organised by the cultural tourism organisation La Pandorga along with Sanlucar Council and Bodegas Baron. The idea is to promote the town as a summer resort linking posters from 1949, 1958 and 1959 with three specially produced bottles with the historic posters as labels. The set is named La Manzanilla, el Vino Ilustrado. The tourism councillor, Antonio Reyes said that Sanlucar is like a kind of natural theme park for Manzanilla and the local gastronomy.

 The 2013 Harvest Festival will have over 50 activities between the 10th and 15th of September. Junior grape treading and concerts are among the new activities which will take place in emblematic areas of the city. Naturally the bodegas will be protagonists, along with the Alcazar, the Alameda Vieja and the Cathedral, among others. There will be 6 exhibitions related to wine at the municipal library, the old fishmarket gallery, the Alcazar, Bodega la Reservada, Gonzalez Byass and the bodega San Gines at the Consejo. The idea of a junior treading of the grapes, the day after the senior treading, is to keep young people involved with the city traditions, so they can carry them forward. Prizes for the Short Story competition will be awarded at the Alcazar, and the programme for European Wine Tourism Day (7-10 Nov.)will be presented. The III Gastronomic Fair wll take place in the Alameda Vieja.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

6.8.13 Increased Mechanisation of Sherry Harvest

This year’s Sherry harvest is expected to see another drop in grape picking by hand. The unions reckon that 20% less of the crop will be hand-picked, as the machines are cheaper – by about 50%. Long gone are the days when the Jerez harvest, along with that of the beetroot, saw hordes (20,000) of workers in the fields. The machines are taking over leaving many out of work. Not that it is great work; seven hours on end in the baking heat for 6.17 euros an hour.

Last year’s very small harvest of just over 40 million kilos employed 6,000 pickers as well as the machines. This year, a harvest of 70 million kilos is forecast, and only 5,000 pickers will be employed – along with the machines. The vineyards now only extend to 7,000 hectares, of which 60% will be machine-picked. Labour savings are not the only advantage of the machines, however; they can pick at night, and much quicker, which helps preserve quality and avoid loss of yield.

The way that the vines are planted obviously affects whether machines can be used. Some 5,000 of the 7,000 hectares of vineyard are planted on espaliers (trained on wires), meaning machines can operate there, and it is likely that machines will pick more next year. A mechanised harvest takes far less time, but this is not the case in the many small vineyards which will be hand-picked by the grower’s family.

Saturday 3 August 2013

3.8.13 Eno-gastro Fair in Sanlucar; Osborne Crystal Bull; New Book on El Puerto

A festival of culture, gastronomy and tourism in Andalucia opened yesterday in Sanlucar. It is sponsored by (among others) Manzanilla La Guita, the Society of Horse Racing and the Tourism department of Sanlucar, and organised by Celebraciones Alianzza. There are gastronomy, culture and tourism stands covering all of Andalucia, as well as concerts and various other activities.The venue is at the entrance to the Horse Racing Society at Las Piletas beach and is open from 19.00 daily till the 7th August.

 Swarovski, the crystal producers, have recreated the legendary Osborne bull in crystalline form, and the result can be seen at Osborne’s bodega La Mora in el Puerto. It is 4 metres high, weighs 500 kilos and has 2,000 crystals. The bodega is open from 10.00 – 15.00 and 19.00 – 22.00 every day, except Sunday evening, admission is free to see the bull, which will be on display till October. A bodega visit costs 8 euros, but is well worth it.
The bull was designed and built by local craftsman Willie Marquez, and the crystals were applied in the Swarovski workshops. The piece was first displayed a month ago in the Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid. After its display in El Puerto, the bull will go on a world tour, ending up as the centrepiece of the Osborne Bull Museum which will open at the bodega in the first half of 2014.

A new book about the grand houses in El Puerto will be introduced by its author, Fatima Ruiz de Lassaletta at Osborne’s bodega La Mora on Wednesday 7th August at 21.00. Known as the “city of a hundred palaces”, El Puerto has seen some decline over some decades, but interest in its preservation has grown since the 1980’s. The book covers 50 houses or “casas palacios” which once belonged to wealthy bodega families or those who were involved with the import and export trade to the Americas. The author says that this book is the second part of her previous work “Seigneurial houses, bodegas and flavours of Jerez”, and she hopes to complete a trilogy with a similar work on Sanlucar.

2.8.13 Jerez Candidate for European City of Wine 2014

Jerez Council has approved the presentation of the city’s candidature to RECEVIN, the European network of wine towns, and has set up a working committee, which includes the Sherry trade, to support the application. Principal among RECEVIN’s remits are the promotion of awareness and knowledge of the winemaking world, its products and different denominations of origin, as well as the excellence of the wines and their healthy properties as European wines.

RECEVIN also considers the growth of wine tourism for this, the third year of the project, which works on a rotary basis around the European wine growing countries. The first was Portugal (Palmela), then Italy (Marsala), and now it is Spain’s turn. Jerez will be up against 22 other Spanish wine towns, including Chiclana andE l Puerto de Santa Maria! 2015 will be France’s turn.

The Council considers that Jerez fulfils all the requirements, and so has decided to apply. It will now try to get things moving by promoting the richness, diversity and common traits of the area at a European level, offering a better knowledge of the countryside, gastronomy and patrimony of the Jerez area “for a better mutual understanding among citizens of the European Union”.

RECEVIN is also promoting the European Day of Wine Tourism, on the 10th November 2013.

Friday 2 August 2013

1.8.13 Horse Races of Sanlucar Underway

For the 168th year, the horse races on the beach at Sanlucar are about to begin. The races, which have been declared to be of National Touristic interest, and attract some 30,000 spectators, take place in two phases, the first from today till Sunday, and the second from the 16th - 18th August.

At these dates the tide is low and the sand is suitably moist between the beaches of Bajo de Guia and Las Piletas, providing perfect conditions for the horses to race, and as the day draws to a close a veritable hippodrome is formed with the Coto Doñana as a backdrop.

There will be 23 races, all for thoroughbreds. The cost of the event is 600,000 euros, 150,000 of which is for prizes. Columbus sailed from here on his third journey to the Americas, and Magellan too, on his first circumnavigation of the world.

The races have been an institution since 1845, and have been growing in recent times, with meetings for Jockeys (professionals), Gentlemen (enthusiasts), and Amazons….! Where do I sign?!

Thursday 1 August 2013

31.7.13 Tio Pepe gets Q Certification; Consejo Meeting

Bodegas Tio Pepe is the first bodega in Jerez to be awarded the “Q Certification” for quality as a tourist venue. The Instituto para la Calidad Turistica de España (ICTE) made the award, which is endorsed by the secretary of state for tourism and the autonomous communities. The ICTE is there to promote, find and organise quality tourism in Spain. This means constant attention to various factors, such as accessibility, management of resources and care for the environment. The certificate thus guarantees quality in touristic establishments.  The award of the certificate to Bodegas Tio Pepe makes it the leading tourist attraction in Jerez with around 250,000 visitors per year (30,000 British) – the most visited bodega in Spain.

The Consejo Regulador thinks it is time to think about the “revaluation” of Sherry. Now that the balance of supply and demand is satisfactory – at least for the moment -after years of over-production and ever falling prices, the hitherto unthinkable prospect of actually raising prices is on the horizon.

At yesterday’s last Consejo meeting before the harvest, it was felt that this might be a possibility, providing, in the words of Cesar Saldaña “that producers and bodegas plan the immediate future well. We’re not going to go mad planting more vineyards but we will seek to control the reduction of wine stocks in bodegas.”

Forecasts for this year’s harvest show a 30% increase on last year’s very small crop giving a total of 68,000 butts of qualified must, as opposed to last year’s 51,392. Actual sales are 82,000 butts – 2,000 more if you include vinegar – so this harvest will leave the trade short by some 14,000 butts. For the 2014 harvest there will be more vineyard in production, since 527 hectares which had been set aside for experimenting with other products have been allowed back to Sherry production. Taking this into account, 2014 could yield 77,000 butts, which calculated with wine already in bodega, means sufficient supply for four years.

There is an opportunity here to revalue vineyard and wine, and everyone should give it some thought and not miss the opportunity. Both Cesar Saldaña and Beltran Domecq underlined the quality of the grapes this year, which are recuperating from reduced phenol levels caused by abundant spring rain and variable temperatures. A very good quality harvest is expected.

The matter of Chiclana wine being sold in bulk, and the Fino-Manzanilla question have been shelved for the time being, provided that the situation does not go on for ever.