Friday, 31 January 2014

31.1.14 Vineyards Special Plan; 2.3 Million to Promote Sherry

The “special plan for the development of vineyard activities” was approved unanimously and envisages the re-launching of vineyard and wine tourism. It has great importance for the city, which as the mayor put it, “is a place with great patrimonial, ethnographical, cultural and architectural value with especially protected countryside”. Local councillor Agustin Munoz pointed out the support of the wine and tourism sectors for this historic and novel project would act as an umbrella for any public and private initiatives which will add value and reduce time taken to implement them.

 The Support Programme for Spanish Viti-viniculture is to invest 2.3 million euros, paid for by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, in the promotion of Sherry outside Europe. The announcement came from Federico Fernandez, environment delegate of the Junta, on his visit to Las Angustias Cooperative, where he met Salvador Espinosa, its newly appointed president.

The money will be divided as follows: Aecovi Cooperative will receive 694,518 euros, while the rest will be spent in the following countries: USA, Canada, Mexico: 223,380 euros; Russia, Ukraine, Serbia: 141,168 euros; China, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines: 108,018 euros.

While in Jerez, Fernandez took the opportunity to pay visits to Williams & Humbert and Lustau, two companies to which the Junta de Andalucia has given 120,000 euros in funds towards promotion in third countries. He underlined the Junta’s commitment to the cooperative movement, which will be a priority in 2014. He said that promotion will determine their long term viability.

Salvador Espinosa reaffirmed what Fernandez said, how important financial is to promote wine abroad, especially to such potentially important markets as Asia, USA and Canada. He announced he was going to China in March on a sales mission organised by the Business Confederation. He \said it would be more difficult for the cooperatives than for the bodegas who have recognised brands, but he would fight for market share.

He pointed out, however that it should never be forgotten that the Cooperatives’ biggest market is the bodegas themselves, who buy the musts, but who have enjoyed years of paying low prices. The growers must remain profitable, an no growers, no Sherry. In reference to Jerez being European City of Wine this year, he said that the cooperatives would be doing open doors days, tastings, food and wine pairings and vineyard visits. “We have come a long way, but there is still plenty to be done”.


Thursday, 30 January 2014

30.1.14 Barbie at Gonzalez Byass; Domecq to Visit China

Barbie, the biggest-selling doll in the world, will be present at the forthcoming Mercedes Benz-sponsored Flamenco fashion show to be held at Gonzalez Byass on 6th February.

There will be a special exhibition of around 400Barbies in a variety of Flamenco costumes and in a variety of scenes, such as a bodega, El Rocio, at the bullfight, at the Feria etc. She will, of course be accompanied by her long-term boyfriend, Ken, who will be dressed as a bullfighter, a horseman etc.

The exhibition can be seen for 2 euros at the Sala de Arte in Gonzalez Byass from the 6th February to the 8th of March, coinciding with the end of the XVIII Festival de Jerez.

(Imagen: + Jerez)

The Consejo Regulador has its eyes set on the Asian market, where Japan is already a major – and growing - customer for Sherry, and sees similar possibilities in China. According to Beltran Domecq, they have already been working on China for a while, but he is going there in March to do his bit to promote Sherry there. 

An “important” plan is already underway for extra promotion in the existing major markets:  Spain, UK, Holland, Germany and the USA. South America has distinct possibilities, like Mexico, for example, but it will need more time.

Beltran Domecq closed the big wine and gastronomy fair Enofusion yesterday with a top level Sherry tasting, where he promoted the forthcoming wine fair in Jerez, Vinoble, which will be taking place on 25-27 May.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Palo Cortado Bota Punta No.6 21%, Equipo Navazos

Deep limpid amber with slight reddy hue (almost like very old colheita Port) fading through pale yellow to a trace of green on the rim. Legs.
Fresh and aromatic with lots of toasted almonds and a delightful raisins in caramel sweetness, then a salty, slightly bitter tang of flor and a trace of wood dry things out a bit. Hints of pastry with almond cream and tangy raisin with a faint whiff of cinnamon, complex, interesting and very elegant.
Quite light but full of flavour, tangy, almost crisp with more phenolic notes of wood and walnut, even a certain earthy bitterness which balance with that slight implied sweetness. While the nose is very Amontillado, the palate is more oloroso in style, which is the hallmark of good Palo Cortado. This is a really characterful wine, very long and quite superb.
It comes from a tiny old solera of 7 butts originally established by Fernando Carrasco Sagastizabal in his old bodegas at Rincon Malillo and Cordobeses, which was bought by M Gil Luque, owned by La Guita, in 1995. It was then moved to their bodega complex at Vina El Telegrafo. In 2007, La Guita including Gil Luque was taken over by Grupo Estevez, and the solera was moved again to their modern facilities. Just before this happened, and before any changes that might happen to the wine, Equipo Navazos managed to bottle 300 half bottles from the Bota Punta, or end butt, the one containing the best wine of all. Luque had been using the old Carrasco Sagastizabal soleras for their flagship range De Bandera. This wine, then, is unique, though Equipo Navazos may well look at the solera again once  it has settled down.
I paid around 30 euros for the half bottle in Spain, but I doubt it will still be obtainable. Try winesearcher.

29.1.14 Consejo Budget Increase

The Consejo Regulador will have a budget increase of 25% over last year for the promotion of Sherry, around 500,000 euros, to which will be added a further 500,000 by the OCM (Organizacion  Comun del Mercado). This is a good deal less than they had hoped for.  Beltran Domecq had proposed to triple the budget to 2 million euros at yesterday’s full meeting of the Consejo.

He had hoped that the bodegas’ contribution could be doubled from one centimo per litre sold to two, along with one centime per kilo of grapes from the growers. He felt it would be ideal in a year when Vinoble is returning and Jerez is European City of Wine. While bodegas and growers approved in principle however, agreement couldn’t be reached, mainly because the bodegas, who own about one third of the vineyards, felt they were paying twice.

According to Evaristo Babe, president of the bodegas association Fedejerez, the bodegas were making a great effort by increasing their contribution by 25%, and would have liked it to be more, but that is the limit, especially as the increase comes only from them.

Some say, however, that realistically, their contribution should be much more. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Fino San Patricio 15%, Garvey

Strawy gold, light legs.
Full and fresh, lots of bitterness from the flor and the very slightest hints of fruit and autolysis. Refined and elegant with traces of flowers, well rounded with a certain softness.
Soft and fresh at first then develops the flor flavours, good depth with traces of fruit and almond and a lovely long clean finish with some length.
A very good wine with character. San Patricio (Saint Patrick) was the name William Garvey, an Irishman, chose for his grand - and huge - new bodega and this, the first Fino to be exported from Jerez. "Pajizo" (or straw wine - what we now call Fino) was regarded as inferior in Garvey's day, and often ended up as vinegar, but he saw potential and began exporting it in the 1820s albeit on a small scale. The real development of Garvey's Fino was left to his only son and heir, Patrick Garvey. The wine runs through 6 criaderas and then the solera.
5,50 Euros in Spain. Distribution abroad is a bit unsure, as the bodega is in a rather dodgy financial position after the Nueva Rumasa collapse.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

25.1.13 Jerez-Sydney Tasting; Fitur; Barbadillo Prize; Guia Penin; Guinness Venencia Record

An interactive tasting of Finos and Manzanillas has united Jerez with Australia. The online tasting was organised by Chelsea Anthon of International Sherry Week and conducted by Cesar Saldaña, director of the Consejo Regulador. “Fino and Manzanilla Masterclass” was the name given to the tasting, and ten guests enjoyed the interactive tasting from Tapavino wine bar in Sydney Australia in live contact with Jerez. The wines tasted were:

Tio Pepe en rama;  Manzanilla La Goya;  Fino Inocente;  Tio Pepe dos palmas and Barbadillo’s Manzanilla Sacristia, which was being tasted for the first time ever in Australia.

Fitur, the international tourism trade fair now in its 34th year is currently taking place in Madrid and closes tomorrow. It was opened by Prince Felipe and Doña Letizia. Needless to say, there is a strong representation from Andalucia, and particularly the Sherry zone. Sanlucar for its part, has presented the posters for the 3 main tourist events, the Carnival, Semana Santa and the Feria de la Manzanilla (27th May-1st June). They were also promoting the VI Ruta de la Tapa y de la Manzanilla which will take place on 1st September. El Puerto de Santa Maria has a stand too, in which they are promoting the city with the slogan “365 Days and 360 Degrees”, highlighting the fact that there is something interesting going on every day. Sherry is naturally a key part of their strategy. Jerez is, of course promoting itself as European City of Wine 2014.

Vivir el Vino Magazine has chosen Barbadillo’s Palo Cortado VORS as its best fortified wine in its “11 Magnificos”(the eleven best from their respective Dos), a part of its 2014 guide. The prizes were handed over in Madrid on Tuesday. The guide presents the 365 best of over 1,500 tasted blind.

“If any Spanish wine deserves 100 points, it is without doubt Sherry”. This is what Carlos Dominguez had to say about our beloved wine as his tasting team descended on Jerez to do the tastings for the 2014 Guia Peñin. Carlos is director of the Guia. In last year’s edition, Sherry achieved the best scores, and averaged 91 points. As is habitual with the Guia, no wine can score 100 points, and last year the highest score was 98. Two Sherry brands achieved this: Equipo Navazos and Barbadillo.

Jerez is traditionally the first stop for the Peñin tasters on their whistle-stop tour round Spain’s wine regions during which they will taste some 10,000 wines from 135 regions. The Sherry wines just keep getting better, according to Carlos, “they are spectacular. Tasting these wines imposes respect for them, and requires serenity”.

The Consejo Regulador is proposing to break the Guinness World Record for the Venencia. (the long flexible stick with a cup at the end for extracting Sherry from the butt) The winner of the 11th Venencia competition in Japan (where the competition is held), is Shuji Fujikawa, a young cocktail bar owner, who is currently in Jerez to receive his title from Beltran Domecq and visit bodegas.

Shuji Fujikawa (L) at the Consejo bodega San Gines
The Japanese love Sherry, and there are over 100 Japanese venenciadores registered with the Consejo. They even go so far as to serve Sherry with a venencia direct from the barrel in Japanese bars and restaurants, not from the bottle. The Bamboo cocktail is popular in Japan, and consists of one part Fino Sherry, three parts dry vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters.

The Consejo plan is to beat the Guinness record for the highest number of venenciadores pouring at the same time, which currently stands at 61, and which was achieved in Seville in 2005.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fino Quinta 15%, Bodegas Osborne

Pale golden straw, light legs.
Flor followed by saline almondiness beautifully balanced by gentle background fruit and a hint of camomile. There is a slight fatness typical of finos from El Puerto, but it is deep and well rounded, yet always with that bitter flor edge, lovely.
Similar to nose really, deep flor influence but with the perfect manners imparted by that fruity floral note. Just enough bitterness to show its quality. I would guess it is about five years old, and it has considerable length and is terribly moreish.
An excellent fino. The name "Quinta" has nothing to do with Port vineyards (although Osborne do produce Port). It refers to the solera which is the fifth (Sp."quinta") row of butts. In other words, the solera system for this wine consists of four criaderas and a solera. If only Osborne would promote their excellent wines a bit harder. They have some gems of soleras.
In Spain 6.50 Euros. Availability in UK soon apparently. Check with importers Grands Chais de France or Emporia Brands. I've checked already, and there seems to be no news so far.....

Buy this wine online

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Manzanilla La Bailaora 15%, Bodegas Jose Estevez

Pale bright lemony gold, some legs.
Fresh, young, still hints of Palomino fruit along with a maritime air and a little dry bitterness from the flor. Quite soft with a savoury note there, but overall young, light and yeasty.
A little more intense than the nose with strong seaside flavours, traces almond, fairly fruity, quite a pretty wine which lacks the depth that further ageing would have conferred. Clean, fresh and a little short, but pleasant nonetheless - and inexpensive.
A bailaora means a dancer, the one who appears on the label. Manzanilla from Estevez must mean the wine is from La Guita, one of their subsidiaries, or it may be bought in. This is the Manzanilla for the Marques del Real Tesoro range, and has been on the market as such for a long time, though originally spelled "bailadora", and probably of better quality then. Anyway this is a young wine probably not yet four years old, and is a Manzanilla Fina, in other words filtered,so it is light fresh and easy going, ideal for the supermarket shelves it was designed for, and the ferias of Andalucia.
Not available outside Spain, it cost 2,44 euros in Mercadona supermarket (who work extensively with Estevez for most of their alcoholic products).

Monday, 20 January 2014

Bodegas: Bodegas Blanca Reyes

This small firm was Established in 1884 as Bodegas Sol in the Plazuela neighbourhood of Jerez by Francisco Espinosa de los Monteros. This area was where many gypsies lived, and was – and is – full of Flamenco.  The bodega continues still in family hands. It is run by Maria Jimenez Garcia (an Espinosa de los Monteros) and her son Telmo Moreno along with their salesman Sebastian Iñigo Vera.

Telmo and Maria
Maria was one of the six children of Rafael Jimenez and Maria Garcia Sanchez. Her father worked as an arrumbador (people who operate the soleras) at Valdespino, and her mother applied labels to bottles and young Maria took her father his lunch, which he would enjoy with a couple of glasses of Sherry, and then go and crash his motor scooter.

She married a man called Telmo after seven years of courtship, but was soon widowed. Later she got to know Aurelio Blanca Reyes, a hard-working man from Algeciras with business acumen. He ran a transport business in the Calle Circo, but soon got involved with running the family bodega. He had learned his craft at Gonzalez Byass. After only three months of marriage however, Aurelio died, leaving Maria a widow again, and this time with a son whom she called Telmo.

Maria was presented with a choice: sell the bodega and live comfortably sacrificing all Aurelio’s hard work, or take over the running of the bodega in his memory. She took over the bodega, about 20 years ago now, despite worries about working in a very male-dominated industry with falling sales, and knowing little about it. There was no alternative but to learn. Her son Telmo was taught by a chemist from Bodegas Caballero and is her right hand. Together they have kept the bodega going, and are now exploring export markets.

Solera La Perla
The small bodega is registered at the Consejo Regulador as one which stores, ages and sells wine on the open market. It contains 500 butts from which they produce a range of wines from which they bottle their star wine Fino Perla along with PX, Moscatel, Oloroso and Cream. Soon they will also bottle a range of Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Medium and Vinegar.

Visits: Yes by appointment
Address: Puertas del Sol, 22-24, 11401 Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Telephone: (+34)956 342 534
Web: www. bodegas blanca

Friday, 17 January 2014

16.1.14 Tio pepe Roundabout; Mayor Visits La Guita; State of Old Diez Merito Bodega

The competition to choose which Tio Pepe should stand on the Tio Pepe roundabout in Jerez is finally over. The winner is the Tio Pepe designed by sculptor Chiqui Diaz, chosen by over 6,000 people from all over the world – but mainly Spain - who voted for the four finalists online on the Tio Pepe facebook page. Soon, the new Tio Pepe will preside over the Avenida Tio Pepe.  Great marketing, eh?!  Anyway, the roundabout will look quite like this:

The Mayor of Sanlucar, Victor Mora, visited the bodegas of La Guita in the Calle Misericordia today to inspect renovation and improvement works which have just been finished. Responding to an invitation from the president of owners Grupo Estevez, the mayor toured the bodega in the old quarter of Sanlucar and saw the repair work to the façade as well as interior improvements.

In this historic building from the XVI century there was once the most important hospital in Sanlucar, known as the Hospital de la Santa Misericordia, or later as the Hospital de San Juan de Dios. From 1867-8 the building was converted to bodega use, and has been a bodega ever since. Interestingly, the old doorway of San Juan de Dios is still preserved.

The Andalucia Party has asked that the local government restore the old School of Industrial Relations building (formerly the Diez Merito bodegas, right opposite the railway station) to avoid further deterioration, and give it a cultural and social use, if the Junta de Andalucia’s projected health centre doesn’t materialise. The building is now presenting a danger to children and is infested with rats. The party has asked the council to pressurise the health service to do what it has promised to do many times, and make it into an extra-hospital emergency centre for the use of citizens of Jerez.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

16.1.14 Sherry Dinner in Edinburgh

Should anyone be in Edinburgh on Thursday 13th February, I'm doing the talk for a Sherry dinner, a joint effort between Drinkmonger and the Apartment Restaurant, 7-13 Barclay Terrace.

Appetizers and a four course dinner with matching Sherries will be served, which will make it easier for those having to listen to me drone on about Sherry.

To book, please contact the restaurant on 0131 228 6456 or
The inclusive price per head is £50.00

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Lament of Beltran Domecq

 Chemist, oenologist, and above all one who continues the long tradition of bodegas, Beltran Domecq (Jerez 1946), president of the Consejo Regulador Jerez, believes that it is extremely sad that the consumption of wine in Spain has fallen during the last four decades from 60 to 20 litres per head per year. What is more painful than this fall, which has been less noticeable in Italy or France, is the lack of knowledge in Spain of this most natural of products, despite Spain being the world’s largest vineyard, with 1 million hectares.

This lack of knowledge affects especially the wines of Jerez with their centuries of history, to which Shakespeare dedicated verses, and which are as unknown in Spain as they are venerated abroad. For this reason, Beltran Domecq has set the Consejo the task of promoting them in this, the year in which Jerez is the European City of Wine 2014.

The Sherry vineyards produce 11 distinct types of wine which Domecq says have a versatility unique in the world, and are capable of accompanying the most difficult to match food, such as asparagus, artichoke or vinaigrette, not to mention meats, cheeses – even sushi - and are suitable at any occasion or time of day.

The Sherry district has closed the 2013 season with sales at 45 million litres, a drop of 4%. Sales in Spain, despite the spikes at Feria times, have dropped 2%, but still represent 30% of total sales, similar to the UK market to which Sherry has been exported since the XIV century, and which until the last few years was the leading market. Holland and Germany are in third and fourth places, followed by the USA, where last year sales rose by 11%, and Japan, where they even have venencia competitions, by 17%.

Sherry reaches the market with an average age of four years’ ageing, but there are wines out there with age certification of over 30 years – for around 60 euros. To Domecq they seem too cheap, when you consider that they are unique. He bemoans the fact that Sherry prices still resemble those of 20 years ago, and points out that the prestigious international press says that they are remarkable value for money.

Domecq finds it irritating that many bars do not serve Sherry as a wine, and pour it into the smallest glass they have, that people say it is terribly strong, when it is the same strength as most wines these days – although the older Sherries can reach 20%.

Sherry wines, which are solely made by natural processes can contain 700-1000 chemical substances, so it is wise to drink them with the intention of tasting them, and as with all wines, in moderation. These are healthy wines, he says, and to prove it he relates that his father, who drank up to three bottles of Sherry a day lived till 82 and died with a liver as healthy as a three year old. Domecq himself began tasting Sherry at 8 or 10 years of age with his grandfather, who taught him what it was, and how and how much should be drunk. This, he says, was an opportunity few other young people have, and now they drink liquor of questionable origin at botellones (drunken street parties).

Bringing up a child is done at home, and if they are going to drink, they need to be taught how, possibly with the addition of a little water, and that the purpose of drinking wine is to enjoy its flavour, not to get drunk. Sherry is a complex wine, full of mysteries, such as the flor, and to spread knowledge, Domecq has published a book (Jerez y sus Misterios – now available in English), because to know Sherry is to love it.

(Translated from El Mundo)

And by the way, Jerez 2014 has a website:
There is also a Facebook page :

Do follow these, as there will be a lot going on while you are there - you will be there, won't you?!

14.1.14 Suntory Buys Beam

The Japanese distiller Suntory has just bought the American group Jim Beam, for nearly 12 billion euros. Beam is proprietor of a number of important spirit brands such as Scotch Whiskies Laphroaig, Ardmore, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Teachers; Irish Whiskey Cooley; Canadian Club; Tequila Sauza; Courvoisier Cognac  and the Spanish brands Larios gin; Domecq Fundador brandy; Terry Centenario brandy and the Terry Sherry bodegas, not to mention Harveys, whose Bristol Cream is the world’s biggest selling Sherry.

Suntory quietly beat Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits company, to the deal, which is still awaiting final shareholder and regulatory approval, and would make Suntory the third biggest spirits company in the world. For Evaristo Babe, the president of Fedejerez, the body which represents the bodegas, the deal is good news as Suntory understands the language of wine. For some time Beam and Suntory have been distributing each other’s brands in their respective areas, including Sherry.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

12.01.14 Fascinating Roman Exhibition in Jerez

A fascinating exhibition is to open on the 30th January in Jerez’ central square, the Plaza Arenal. The exhibition, sponsored by the bank La Caixa, will be called Romanorum Vita, and will offer people the opportunity to walk down a street and visit houses from AD 79 in the Roman era, just prior to the destruction of Pompeii.

This travelling exhibition, which consists of no less than 11 truckloads will see the reconstruction of Roman houses and will be equipped with all the objects, sights, sounds and smells of that era. There will also be audio-visuals and texts so that visitors can get the maximum out of the show, which lasts till the 4th of March. Go if you possibly can.

When Sherry Saved Cadiz

During the XVI and XVII centuries, when Spain had an empire in the Americas, there was huge traffic between the empire and the homeland. Many ships were bringing gold and silver, and naturally became a target for pirates. At the same time, there was an undeclared war between Catholic Spain and the growing number of Protestants, including Elizabeth I’s England, as Spain tried to retain its Catholic territories in the Low Countries. The war lasted from 1585 till 1604, and during that time there were various official - and unofficial - attacks on Spain.

English adventurers/pirates like Hawkins and Drake were a constant thorn in the Spanish side as they raided Spanish colonies and shipping, and Spain itself. Thus the English came upon the local wine and found it very much to their taste, leading in the longer term to its popularisation in England.

This story relates how an English and Dutch fleet consisting of some 90 ships, 10,000 soldiers, 100 horses and 5,500crew set sail on 15th October 1625 under the command of Edward Cecil, Viscount Wimbledon. The aim was to attack the Spanish Fleet of the Indies, which was lying at Cadiz Bay, and make off with its treasure. On the fleet’s arrival, local watchtowers and defence posts sent out the alarm to all areas of the locality to summon aid in defence of Cadiz.

(Imagen BBC)
The mayor of Jerez, Luis Portocarrero led 2,000 soldiers with seven cannons, leaving a rear-guard of 4,000 soldiers. He advanced to the Puente Zuazo, a bridge connecting San Fernando to Cadiz and waited. The English disembarked at nearby El Puntal, reaching San Fernando starving and in search of food and drink. There, about 8,000 English soldiers led by the Viscount Wimbledon prepared to halt the Spanish advance. At this point, however, they discovered a warehouse full of barrels of wine ready for embarkation for the Indies. One can only imagine their joy at discovering so much wine!

They proceeded to drink their fill. As the wine took hold, there were all sorts of drunken fracas and fights amongst themselves to get to the best wine, leading to insubordination and even mutiny among the paralytic soldiers. The Viscount was horrified and decided to retire back to their ships as fast as possible, much to the amusement and mockery of the Spanish troops chasing them. The Viscount got back to the ships, but thirty of them had by now been sunk by the Spanish, and 1,000 soldiers had gone astray. The Spanish Indies fleet, meanwhile, had sailed off unharmed to Sanlucar. Sherry had won the day, and has been doing so ever since.

From an article by Francisco Jose Becerra Marin in La Sacristia Caminante

Friday, 10 January 2014

Manzanilla La Gitana En Rama 15%

Strawy, fairly pale gold, very light legs.
Soft, fresh and yeasty. Some sea breezes and quite a lot of flor with a dry, bitter edge, salty, almondy, quite deep and complex but stops short of manzanilla pasada - deep but no autolysis. The emphasis is on dry, both in lack of sugar and in feel, hints of dry scrub, chamomile flowers, even traces of quince and olive. Nice.
Good and dry with quite bitter flor flavours like straw on toast, saline and almondy, quite full and very clean, REALLY gives you an appetite, long, bitter tangy finish with a savoury hint. Lovely, and SO much more interesting than the standard La Gitana.
Top notch Manzanilla. The total sugar content is 0.03 grams per litre - very dry. Many table wines have up to, say, 6 g/l residual sugar and you wouldn't really notice it. But here we have flor consuming it. The wine comes from 200 or so hectares owned by Hidalgo in Miraflores and Balbaina vineyards, and the winemaker is Antonio Sanchez. To me, the difference between manzanilla "fina" (filtered commercial manzanilla) and this unfiltered example really shows the difference, and how well worth while it is to buy "en rama".
About £15.00 for 75cl. from Villeneuve Wines in Edinburgh. UK agents Mentzendorff

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Sparkling Sherry!?!

Our favourite wine comes in all sorts of styles, so why not sparkling? Well for one thing, as a fortified wine it is strong enough already, but if it was sparkling as well, it would knock you for six. Sparkling wine has been – and still is - produced in the Sherry zone, but is not technically Sherry, as this style of wine does not fall into the remit of the Consejo Regulador. It is, however, produced entirely in the Sherry zone, and much of it from Sherry grapes. And there may well be more to come.

The first sparkling wine produced here was “Gran Champagne Continental“made by the now lost, but very reputable bodega Hijos de Jimenez Varela in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Their idea was to come up with a new product in the face of falling Sherry sales due to various scandals in the 1880s. In a period of massive growth, some speculative bodegas were bringing the industry into disrepute in their biggest market, Britain, by fortifying poor wine with potato spirit. There were also still the rumblings from certain British doctors complaining of the “plastering” of the must (adding gypsum to the wine to help it fall bright after fermentation), which was proved to be perfectly safe. “Champagne” was not the only alternative product;  there were various “tonic” wines (Quina) and spirits such as liqueurs Anis and Cacao, as well as Rum, Gin etc., and of course plentiful brandy.

Jimenez Varela produced their “Champagne” from Palomino grapes from their own vineyards in the Pago Balbaina and produced the wine by the traditional “Champagne” method, that is by conducting the secondary fermentation in bottle. They made the wine in purpose-built cellars at their Finca Caracol by hand, the only way available then. The wine sold very well for a few years, but was eventually dropped as sales waned. This was, of course, long before the word “Champagne” was protected by French and later European law, and anyone could get away with calling their sparkling wine “Champagne”. After all many were imitating Sherry too.

(foto: elcellerdelaspic)

Domecq was another who did. They launched a sparkling wine in 1904 made with mostly Palomino but with some Moscatel to sweeten it, as was the fashion in those days. It sold well, despite losing the word "Champagne" and was produced until the 1960s. The poster above is from 1933. At the height of their productivity, Cayetano del Pino also made sparkling wine, thogh how sparkling Sherry could ever be "Champagne Style" escapes me.

Don Quijote was always accompanied by Sancho Panza but were these Cayetano del Pino wines different?
Some excellent sparkling wine is being produced by Alba Viticultores in Sanlúcar using organic Palomino grapes and the simple old fashioned “ancestral” method of bottling the wine half way through fermentation, a method they call Método Sanluqueño. They also make rosé using Palomino and a little Tintilla. These wines have no addition of anything and are very natural.

Bodegas Antonio Barbadillo in Sanlucar also produce sparkling wine. After a few years of experimentation, they launched Beta Brut at Christmas time in 2009. It is composed of locally grown Chardonnay (30%) as well as Palomino (70%), and is also made by the classic bottle fermentation process, being aged on lees for 9 months. Barbadillo’s research was conducted in conjunction with the Andalucian Technical Corporation (CTA) and the Ministry of Science and Technology to develop new types of wine and other avenues of income than the traditional Sherry. The wine currently sells well as an Andaluz product versus the almighty Catalan Cava.

There is another bodega in Jerez producing sparkling wine, and it is Bodegas Tejero Moreno.  They have produced, as well as Sherry, a “Vino de Aguja” (a semi-sparkling wine) from their own vineyards near Jerez since 2004. The wine is called Jose Tejero Moreno and is sold under the denomination Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz. The grapes are picked at dawn to keep their temperature low, pressed, and the must fermented at 18C in stainless tanks before being carbonated gently to give a very fine crisp fizz. The result is an inexpensive but very refreshing wine.

One of the Tejero Moreno brothers at the bottling line
It is also worth mentioning the Jerez component in a Cava produced in Cataluña. Equipo Navazos have been working to produce top quality sparkling wine in Jerez with Sergi Colet, a top level producer in Cataluña. Much experimentation is going on in Jerez, but what they have released so far is Cava, mainly from Xarel.lo grapes but with the addition of a little Jerez flor and/or some lees from Jerez biological ageing in the licor de expedicion (a mix of wine, yeast and sugar to set off the secondary fermentation in bottle). Results have been good, and the Cava has a pleasing, very dry southern flavour, and has been released in very small quantities onto the market.

Over the last twenty years or more, many bodegas, seeing the slow but inexorable decline of Sherry sales have made moves to get involved with other, more profitable wines or spirits. Gonzalez Byass, for example, makes Rioja (Beronia), Cava (Vilarnau), table wines in Castilla (Finca la Constancia), Somontano (Viñas del Vero), and Andalucia (Finca Moncloa). They are among many others such as Osborne and Barbadillo. Sparkling wine as a regular product seems a while away, but is a definite possibility. Watch this space....

Friday, 3 January 2014

Bodegas: Juan C Grant

This small bodega was established in 1841 in a flourishing El Puerto de Santa Maria by Edmundo Grant Falconell, and has remained in family hands until the present day. He was born in London, of Scottish or Irish descent, and emigrated to El Puerto aged only 17, but counted on the support of a relation called Alexander Grant who was already established there and trading in a small way. He was looking to work with his compatriot Guillermo (William) Oldham, who had bodegas in the Calle Albareda.

Before and after renovation
The firm began as an almacenista, buying in wines mainly from the Balbaina vineyards as they owned none, ageing them, and then supplying finished wines to other, bigger, bodegas to replenish their soleras. They notably used to supply Fino to Osborne. Edmundo's son, Edmundo Grant Lopez inherited and continued the business. It continued as such till about 2003, when the firm decided to bottle their wines on their own account and with their own brands. They still sell wine in bulk, however. The bodega is by no means the largest in El Puerto but it is very pretty, and it is still run by an Edmundo Grant.

Known locally as the "bodega de las siete esquinas" (bodega with seven corners), Grant is well located in El Puerto,  five minutes' walk from the bullring and close to the Guadalete riverside, where the atmosphere favours the development of flor. As well as lots of wine, there is a museum of bodega tools and a lovely enclosed patio, where food is served, and of course, Sherry. Here one can enjoy a fine meal and purchase the bodega's wine.

The range of wines is as follows:

Fino Valeroso (the best fino) aged for three years
The La Garrocha Range: Manzanilla, Fino (3 years old), Amontillado (7 years old), Oloroso (7 years old), Moscatel, Cream, Pedro Ximenez
{La Garrocha is a dance performed on horseback where the horse - an andulucian beauty - dances round a pole}
Vinos Viejos: Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez, all sealed with wax but not always available.

Visits to the bodega are welcome by appointment
Address: Calle de los Bolos, 1 and 3, 11500 El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 870 406

2.1.14 Apostoles Best Wine in China; El Torta Dies; Grant for Chiclana

Palo Cortado Apostoles VORS from Gonzalez Byass has been elected best wine in the Wine in China Top 100 2013. After four days of tasting and analysis of more than 4,000 samples from all over the wine world, 18 experts and professionals from the UK, Australia, France and China gave the wine 96 points, the highest score of the Top 100. The award demonstrates further recognition of Sherry and of Gonzalez Byass at an international level. The solera was laid down in 1862 to celebrate the visit of Queen Isabel II to the bodegas that year.

The Flamenco world in Cadiz is reeling after the sudden death of one of the great exponents of the buleria, Juan Moneo Lara “El Torta”. Aged only 61, he died suddenly, from natural causes, on his sofa at home in Sanlucar. He died on the last day of 2013, and was buried on the first day of 2014. He left a fantastic legacy which will live on.

The Union de Viticultores of Chiclana is to receive a municipal grant of 57,000 euros to maintain, promote, and recuperate the vineyards and wines of the area, after an agreement was signed between the union’s president, Ernesto Marin and the mayor, Manuel Manzano. The grant will be paid to growers according to the extent of their vineyards, which, by the terms of the agreement must be made available to students and others for educational visits. The intention is to promote Chiclana both at home and abroad.