Friday 28 February 2014

28.2.14 World Mourns Paco de Lucia; Toast to Andalucia Day

Guitar legend Paco de Lucia has died in Mexico of a heart attack aged only 66. He was without doubt the most influential flamenco guitarist of the XX century, and leaves behind a phenomenal legacy.

Over the years he won every award going for his skill with the guitar. His recordings with another legend, Camaron de la Isla, were of the highest quality, especially the bulerias. Paco was always restless, moving forward. He played other forms of music as well as composing his own (like the classic Entre dos Aguas): his Concierto de Aranjuez (by Joaquin Rodrigo) was beautifully played, and he ventured into jazz as well, playing with names like Chick Corea and John McLauchlin.

Francisco (Paco) Sanchez Gomez was born in 1947 in Algeciras, where now, preparations are being made for his funeral, which will be attended by thousands. Cadiz has lost another legend, but look for him with Camaron on You tube – pour a glass of Sherry, sit back, and be amazed.

Today's cartoon in Diario de Jerez

The Consejo, the town council of Jerez and TV station canal Sur have organised a public toast to celebrate Andalucia Day and Jerez being European City of Wine tomorrow, 28th February. It will take place in front of the doors of Santo Domingo church at 12.30. The municipal band will play the national anthem of Andalucia, and venenciadores will be there dishing out Sherry. The event will be broadcast live. If you can’t be there, be sure to join in with a glass of Sherry anyway!

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Oloroso Don Gonzalo VOS 21%, Valdespino

Warm transparent amber/mahogany fading through yellow to trace of green at the rim, legs.
Pronounced and generous, amazingly fresh with walnuts, the aroma of oak which has aged noble wines, vanilla, traces of raisin, hazelnuts, marzipan, "bodegas"and Seville orange marmalade. A lovely nose with a slight sweetness which comes of maturity and also a small dash of PX.
Full, old, mouthfilling with that gentle sweetness which takes away any astringency from the wood, and which balances slight hints of raisin with the savoury side of the wine: walnuts, slightest traces Marmite and oak. It has a noticeable tangy acidity there too, which balances with the sweetness. There is a lot going on in the glass, a very complex, full and interesting wine with terrific length.
Valdespino run two parallel oloroso soleras: the Solera 1842 which is bottled a bit sweeter, and Don Gonzalo, a late XIX century solera which is the drier of the two with about 9 grams per litre sugar from the addition of a little PX. The grapes came mainly from Valdespino vineyards in the Carrascal, one of the oldest vineyard areas, and farthest from the sea, making it ideal for the production of Oloroso. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks, and the wine has been aged in solera for about 25 years.
UK retail about £30.00 (halves available). UK distributor Liberty Wines

Bodegas: Infantes de Orleans Borbon

The title of Monpensier was one of the noblest in France. Antoine Philippe Marie Louis de Orleans, Duc de Monpensier (Neuilly 1824 – Sanlucar 1890) was the son of the French King Louis Philippe of Orleans (the last King of France) and would surely one day be king of Spain. To this end, a marriage was arranged in 1846 between the Duc and the Infanta  Maria Luisa Fernanda de Borbon (1832-1897), daughter of Fernando VII and younger sister of Isabel II who was married to the Infante Francisco de Asis de Borbon. Frustrated in his kingly hopes by his sister in law, the Duc devoted his energies, and immense fortune, to conspiring against her.

Two years later, because of their political views, he and the Royal Family were obliged to leave France after it became a republic in 1848, and decided to go into exile in England, but what with political problems there, the Duc and his wife decided to move to Spain, the country of the latter's birth. He took out Spanish nationality. They lived in the Palace of San Telmo in Sevilla, where he held what he hoped would be an alternative court to that of Madrid. He never achieved his ambitions, and suffered further periods of exile in Portugal and the Balearic Islands, but did at least get his daughter Mercedes married to future king Alfonso XII.
Logo: the coats of arms of Orleans (L) and Borbon (R)

The Monpensiers found Sevilla unbearably hot during the summer months, and in 1849 visited El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar, and were so impressed with the latter that they decided to build a summer house there, complete with a 220 hectare sporting estate in Torre Breba where they could spend the summers in a more bearable climate. Since the wines of Sanlucar were very fashionable, the Duc planted some vines in the Finca Botanico, and a few years later he converted Torre Breba itself to vineyard, which he rented to an Englishman and important bodeguero of the day, Richard Davies.

The house they built  in Sanlucar was a palace, the Palacio Orleans Borbon, designed in the Mudejar style, surrounded by beautiful gardens and with a large stable block known as the Caballerizas de Orleans Borbon where many horses and carriages were housed. The upper floor housed the estate workers. The palace itself, which is now the seat of the town council, can now be visited and its many rooms and patios are used as wonderful venues for weddings and other such events.

The old stables, now the bodega
In 1943, the Duc's descendants, the Infantes de Orleans Borbon, Alonso (de Orleans Borbon), the Duke's grandson and Beatriz (de Sajonia Coburgo – or Saxe Coburg in English), granddaughter of Queen Victoria and of the Tsar of Russia, saw the potential of the vineyards and decided to go into the wine and brandy trade, and established the firm, always with quality in mind. The bodegas were situated in the old XIX century stables and now contain some 8,000 butts.

At first, the family had little to do with the making and marketing of the wine, which was left to Barbadillo, who owned 50% of the firm. In more recent times, however, the family has taken back control, and the vineyards are owned by Compania Agricola Torrebreva SA, a family-owned company, and they are making and marketing the wines themselves, aided by a fancy new website. Meanwhile, the Duke's great great grandson, Alfonso de Orleans Borbon established the successful motor racing team Racing Engineering in 1999, based in Sanlucar.

The caserio (vineyard house) in Torrebreba
The range consists of:
Manzanilla Torrebreva (5 years old); Oloroso Fenicio (15 years old); PX Carla (15 years old); Palo Cortado Virrey (15 years old); Amontillado Ataulfo (15 years old).

There is a Brandy Gran Reserva at about 20 years old, and a Peach Liqueur made from peaches steeped in the brandy to an old recipe brought by Beatriz from England.

Visits? Yes, by appointment
Address: Calle Baños,1, 11540 Sanlucar de la Barrameda, Cadiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 849 002


Sunday 23 February 2014

23.2.14 Thousands Toast Jerez

Brindis por Jerez (a toast to Jerez) took place yesterday in the centre of the city, with thousands of happy Jerezanos filling the streets and raising a glass to their city and their wine. Venenciadores from the bodegas dished out glasses of wine to the echoes of the buleria and the toast “Por Jerez”. This toast marks the beginning of the XVIII Festival de Jerez and the many activities connected to City of Wine 2014. Salud!

Venenciador in action in C/Larga (DiariodeJerez)

Thursday 20 February 2014

King Alfonso XIII Promotes Sherry in England

I've been delving into that wonderful old book by Jose de las Cuevas "Biografia del Vino de Jerez", which is full of fascinating anecdotes, such as that which follows:

One day in 1906, the following conversation took place between King Alfonso XIII and his majordomo, Don Joaquin Maria Rivero, a member of a very old Sherry family:

"I hear the Sherry business is going badly?"
"It has been for some considerable time now."
"Do you think that if Sherry were to be made more fashionable in England, it would remedy the situation?"
"Yes sir."
"Well, I shall take advantage of my next trip to do what I can for the wine of Jerez. I shall ensure that His Majesty Edward VII takes an interest in it, and that it appears daily on his table. That should do it, you'll see."

Earlier, in May, the King had married the Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, whom he had met on a state visit to England in 1905. Anyway, on the night of the 18th of July, five cars left the palace of San Ildefonso during the night. They left in stages, and at 2 am the first car left, carrying Sr. Palomino, sub inspector of Royal Palaces; at 3 am the next car left, with Count Grove and Mr. Bryden, the Queen's doctor; at 3.30 am la Duquesa de San Carlos, el Marques de la Mina and Prince Felipe de Borbon left in another car. At 7 am, the next departure was a huge powerful car, probably a Hispano Suiza, driven by the King wearing goggles with the Queen at his side, her large Edwardian hat veiled as was the motoring custom then. In the rear seats were Prince Ranier and the Duque de Santo Mauro. The final car was driven by the Duque de Arion with the Marques de Viana.

Alfoso XIII and Victoria Eugenia
All the cars drove to San Sebastian and on to Santander where they would catch the ship to England. The King, dressed in white and wearing an "empire builder" pith helmet, waited impatiently for the delivery from Sr. Rivero in Jerez of 80 cases of Sherry and 80 cases of Domecq Jerez Brandy.

When their Majesties arrived in England, home of the Cowes Regatta and clay pigeon shooting, Sr. Rivero set about the distribution of the Sherry and Brandy. Four cases for Lord Leith, four cases for Lord Lancaster etcetera. Later, with the agreement of the Marques de Viana, they prepared for the wine to be introduced onto the menus for royal banquets.

The menus below show where the Sherry and Jerez Brandy were placed in the order of the meals, though not precisely which dish was married with which wine, if indeed they were. It is not how we would do it now, but it is fascinating to contemplate those potential marriages. Still, Sherry was now, finally - and rightly - jostling with the most illustrious of its European counterparts.

Menu for 6th August 1906:                                                                     Wine:
Consomme with profiteroles                                                                Jerez 1849
Poultry soup                                                                                 Rhine Johannisberg
Pigeon a la Italiana                                                                     Jerez CZ - Vina el Barco
Turbot in sauce Dieppoise                                                          Mouton Rothschild 1878
Croquettes Victoria                                                                      Bourgogne Romanee
Beef stew a la Flamenca                                                            Champagne Ayala 1898
Cold ham Rocchel                                                                 Jerez Macharnudo Seco 1780
Quail in vine leaves                                                                   Moscatel Victoria Eugenia
Peas a la Francaise                                                                      Conac Domecq Jerez
Lily cake
Ice Cream Empress

Then, there's another menu hosted by Alfonso XIII for Edward VII and the Princes on the 10th August 1906. (Barely time to digest the first menu!):

Menu:                                                                                                     Wine:
Consomme three fillets                                                                        Jerez 1847
Fueldes soup (?)                                                                            Chateau d'Yquem
Salmon truffles with Mesalina sauce                                      Jerez Amontillado Alfonso XIII
Quails a la Turque                                                                      Mouton Rothschild 1878
Beef a la Chirry (Sherry?)                                                           Champagne Ayala 1898
Montes Frios Duck in Cumberland sauce                                    Jerez Macharnudo 1780
Salad Parisienne                                                                        Moscatel Viejo de Espana
Genova cake                                                                                Conac Domecq Jerez
Pineapple ice cream

These totally selfless efforts by the King to promote Sherry and Jerez Brandy paid off, and sales did begin to grow again in England. Conac was the word used for brandy then, but  is rightly no longer legal. Anyway, I do hope it helped their digestion!

I have done not a little research into some of these dishes, but unfortunately can come up with very little to explain what they were. Things have changed quite a bit in over 100 years - not least in the quantities eaten!!

Wednesday 19 February 2014

19.2.14 Iberoamerican Summit; VI Copa Jerez; Toast to Jerez

Beginning tomorrow, the Ibero-American Wine Summit will run in Jerez till Saturday. Wine professionals from all over South America, Spain and Portugal will meet with each other as well as representatives from the OIV (Office Internationale du Vin), Madrid’s Polytechnic University, the FEV (Federacion Española del Vino) and Jerez Council representatives.

The Summit is organised by the Council and the Consejo Regulador against the backdrop of the European City of Wine, and gives specialists from both sides of the Atlantic an opportunity to meet and discuss their various winemaking techniques. The Consejo emphasised the commercial importance to Jerez of having all these people in town.

VI Copa de Jerez, the prestigious competition for international chefs and sommeliers to match gourmet food with Sherry has begun. Firstly a team to represent Spain against the other six countries is being sought, then the international candidates will be considered. An elite panel of international chefs will choose the winner later in the year. This panel consists of restaurant greats such as Heston Blumenthal, Pitu Roca and Juan Mari Arzak. The candidates have to propose a menu of a starter, main course and dessert, all matched with Sherry. Should you fancy a go, visit the Consejo website for details.

On Saturday Jerez will be drinking a toast to Jerez, City of Wine. The event takes place at 1.30 at the famous central bar, the Gallo Azul as just one of the many events programmed. Previous to the toast there will be a “flash mob” event in the streets by the Flamenco Academy Maria Jose Jaen. Local media Onda Jerez Radio and TV will be broadcasting the toast live as well as the Flamenco which will accompany it. If you are unable to be there, you could – and should – raise a copita to Jerez!

18.2.14 GB is "Best Visitor Centre 2014"; XVIII Festival de Jerez Starts Soon

The UK drinks trade magazine Drinks International has chosen Gonzalez Byass as the best visitor centre in the world of wine for 2014. It is certainly popular, with 200,000 visitors annually being collected in the town by a little train which takes them on a trip round the bodegas, followed by a few nibbles and a glass or two of Tio Pepe.

The XVIII Festival de Jerez starts of Friday and runs till the 8th March. There is a huge programme of events planned, from Flamenco song, dance,ballet to a Flamenco & Sherry Experience at Gonzalez Byass. Various Flamenco clubs will be doing shows in memory of the great Jerez singer Juan Moneo "El Torta" who died recently. The town will be echoing to the strains of the buleria, and the taste of Sherry. GO! For all the information you need, go to the town council website.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Lost Bodegas: Croft

Unlike the history of many Sherry bodegas, that of Croft lasted only 32 years, but in that short time, a whole new style of Sherry came about. Croft was – and is – an important Port house, and one of the oldest, being established in Vila Nova de Gaia in 1678 (although established in York in 1588). The firm began in Portugal as Phayre & Bradley, two expatriate Irishmen, but as was the case in those days, the name changed fairly frequently as partners came and went. In the XVIII century it was called Tilden &Thompson when John Croft, from York, married Frances, Thompson’s granddaughter, and joined the firm in 1736. The first ever Vintage Port was produced by the firm in 1781. By 1827, the firm, now known as Croft & Co. was the 4th largest Port shipper, continuing to grow with the acquisition in 1889 of the Quinta da Roeda estate, which is still central to the firm.

Meanwhile, the Gilbey brothers, Walter and Alfred had come home from the Crimean War in 1857 and joined with their older brother Henry, a wine merchant in London. Together, they were extremely successful, shipping wines from South Africa, and expanding into many other styles of wine, including Bordeaux (where they bought Chateau Loudenne), Madeira, Port and Sherry. They were soon distillers as well, producing Gilbeys Gin and later acquiring two Scotch Whisky distilleries. In Jerez, they kept extensive stocks of Sherry, looked after for them by Gonzalez Byass. The connection between the two families was close, and various Gilbeys intermarried with the Gonzalez family.

Gilbeys had enjoyed great success with their Invalid Port brand, and later Triple Crown, which were supplied by Croft, and in order to guarantee future supplies, Gilbeys bought half the shares in Croft in 1892, and bought the rest in 1911 on the death of John Frederick Croft. As for Sherry, they marketed brands such as Gilbeys Listan Pale Dry Amontillado, and Bonita Medium-dry. They went on to merge with United Wine Traders in 1962, forming International Distillers and Vintners (IDV). Soon, they bought another old Port firm, Delaforce. The IDV brands are world famous: J&B Whisky, Smirnoff Vodka and Baileys’ Irish Cream Liqueur are amongst the best known. In 1972 the brewers Watney Mann bought IDV, and the combine was bought by Grand Metropolitan Hotels shortly afterwards. Then in 1997, Guinness, who had already bought the Distillers Company (DCL) merged with Grand Metropolitan to form what is now known as Diageo, the world’s largest drinks company.

During the IDV days, the firm was based at Harlow in Essex, where they had an office which spent its time thinking up new brands. In the late 1960’s, when Sherry was still selling like hot cakes, they had observed that Sherry drinkers erroneously assumed that dark Sherry was sweet and pale Sherry was dry. They also noticed that it was regarded as more up-market to be seen drinking dry Sherry. Following the notion that one should find out what the consumer wants and then make it, they therefore set about creating a pale sweet Sherry. This would become Croft Original Pale Cream. In order to do this, they needed to re-organise their Sherry interests and it was decided to use an existing well-known brand name, and so Croft Jerez SA was constituted on 25th May 1970.

Part of the Rancho Croft bodega complex

At first the firm rented bodegas near the bullring, close to Williams and Humbert in Calle Circo, until a top architect, Vicente Massaveu, was commissioned to design a new bodega complex, which was completed in 1979 just outside Jerez on a 300,000 square metre site on the Carretera de Circunvalacion. It was impressive, with all modern conveniences inside, while keeping a traditional appearance on the outside, and was christened Rancho Croft. It had two of the latest continuous presses, refrigeration and filtration equipment, as well as ranks of stainless steel tanks. No less than 50,000 butts were stored here, and yet the plant was so efficient that only 60 people were needed to run it. The company also owned 370 hectares of vineyards as well as buying in grapes from growers.

The wines came from three sources: the old Gilbey soleras, such as Doña Gracia, Picazo and Los Graciosos; wines which were bought in, some possibly from Diez Hermanos, who had a stake in the firm until 1977; and those they produced themselves. As to winemaking, the firm was progressive, introducing not only the first Pale Cream: Croft Original, but also the first Pale Medium: Croft Particular. They were made in roughly the same way, by blending Fino or young Amontillado with concentrated must which had been charcoal filtered to remove any colour. These wines were new and could be served chilled, and soon developed a huge market. Before long, nearly every other bodega felt the need to introduce a Pale Cream to their range. Croft Original soon became the world’s second best-selling Sherry after Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Croft did produce other Sherries, however. There was a very refined and elegant Fino called Delicado, Croft Classic was a traditional and very good Amontillado, a good Palo Cortado, and an old Oloroso from a 140 year-old solera. There was also a good brandy.

The end of the 1970’s saw the beginning of a long and painful decline in the fortunes of Sherry, and many multinationals began considering their position. By the end of the 1990’s, Diageo was known to be keen to divest itself of its fortified wine interests, and to raise cash for a deal with Pernod Ricard to buy parts of Seagram, and in September 2001 they sold Croft and Delaforce. The Port interests went to Taylor Fonseca, and the Sherry interests went to Gonzalez Byass, who felt the deal would help to increase sales in the UK and beyond. They paid 9 billion pesetas (54 million euros) for the bodegas and wines, which were transferred to the GB bodegas, with the exception of certain anadas which were bought by Javier Rivero for his Bodegas Tradicion. GB really wanted the Croft Original. They already had their own brand of Pale Cream, San Domingo, but Croft had a much larger market, especially in the UK, and San Domingo was quietly dropped. Of the original brands only the Particular and Original survive, now made in GB’s facilities, though they do market a Fino Delicado under the GB name. Croft Original is still, however, to be found in nearly every wine shop in the world, some measure of the brand’s success.

The magnificent Rancho Croft, also owned by GB was sold for 6 billion pesetas (36 million euros) to a property developer in 2004 but it was left abandoned till a plan to build 600 dwellings on the 30 hectare site was approved, and that only happened in 2009. It seems to have fallen through however as more recently there have been plans to use the site as a new location for the law courts, though that has also seen unproductive comings and goings....

Saturday 15 February 2014

15.2.14 Horse Events in Sanlucar

The annual Horse Fair in Sanlucar will take place on the 28th February, on Andalucia Day. The festivities begin at 11.00 when all the riders gather on the esplanade at the fairground. At 12.00 they will ride through the central streets and back to the fairground, where, at 14.15 there will be an exhibition of horsemanship. The proceedings will close at 19.00. In line with legal requirements, the local police and Civil Protection will be on hand, as well as a vet. This promises to be a great day.

Later in the year, the annual horse races will take place on the beach in two rounds; on the 7,8,9th of August and also on the 21,22,23rd.  The dates are carefully chosen to coincide with suitable tides, so that the purebred horses will have room to compete. Meanwhile, sponsors are being sought. This year will be the 169th year of the races, which have been declared as a festival of international tourist interest.

(Imagen ABCdesevilla)

14.2.14 Barbadillo Fine Reduced

The Spanish High Court has reduced the fine of nearly 1 million euros imposed on Bodegas Barbadillo by the Comision Nacional de Competencia (Office of Fair Trading) to 250,000 euros. This is the latest in a series of dramatic reductions by the Court of fines imposed by the body on bodegas for alleged price fixing on own label wines for export.

Nine bodegas, Fedejerez and the Consejo were together originally fined a total of 6.7 million. Some growers’ organisations were also implicated for agreeing grape prices, and fined 0.9 million. The court agrees there was an infraction (debatable), but considers the fines excessive, if legal.

A competition law expert says that neither the Comision nor the Court really understand how the wine trade works. The whole business was sparked by Nueva Rumasa denouncing the approval of allegedly discriminatory sales quotas. This led to a large scale investigation into trading practices. Barbadillo is considering whether to appeal.

Thursday 13 February 2014

13.2.14 Toast to City of Wine; GB Deal; Ruiz Mateos; US Navy in Rota; Weather

Festivities begin on the 21st with an official gala and a host of events with Sherry at the centre. Jerez city council’s tourism councillor, Antonio Real, and Beltran Domecq, president of the Consejo, yesterday presented the programme of events after a meeting of the organisation committee. Real remarked that the gala coincides with the I Ibero-American Wine Forum and the start of the Jerez Festival. There will be many events open to the public, such as the toast to Jerez City of Wine 2014, which takes place on Saturday at 1.30 in the Calle Larga, to which he invited locals and tourists alike to join in with a copita of Sherry.

The official programme begins with the signing, at the Atalaya, of the protocol of adhesion to the European programme “Wine in Moderation”, and those present will be the Jerez Council, the Ruta del Vino y Brandy de Jerez, representatives of RECEVIN (the European City of Wine people), The Spanish Wine Federation and the Foundation for Research into Wine and Nutrition.

On Friday afternoon, the Consejo is holding an event at their premises, and a visit and dinner at Gonzalez Byass can be enjoyed too, as well as the first spectacle of the Festival of Jerez: a Flamenco ballet at the Villamarta theatre. On Saturday at 10.30, the RECEVIN president, Pietro Ladanza, and the mayoress of Marsala (last year’s City of Wine) will deliver the City of Wine flag to the Council. Members of the European Cities of Wine Network will then have lunch at Bodegas Lustau. In the afternoon, they can see a horse show at the famous Real Escuela, and go to the Atalaya in the evening for dinner and a show.

Many bodegas are holding doors open days; there are guided city and vineyard tours, tastings in tabancos, while the Alcazar, the Archaeological Museum and the Cloisters of Santo Domingo have programmed events connected with wine, some aimed at educating children. There will also be an exhibition of old Sherry labels at Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, as well as an exhibition of the paintings of Jose Bastos at his studio in the Plaza Domecq.

This is only some of the programme planned for the year, and the full programme can be obtained from the websites of the town Council (Ayuntamiento), the Consejo Regulador and Turismo Andaluz. This is really a year to visit the Jerez area, and I urge you to go!

Gonzalez Byass has signed a 60 million euro joint venture deal with Philippines drinks giant Emperador for the production of brandy in Spain. Emperador will buy 50% of GB spirit production subsidiary Las Copas, which owns 275 hectares of vineyard near Toledo, a distillery in Tomelloso and brandy production facilities in Jerez, for 60 million.

Emperador Brandy is the second largest selling in the world with sales of 270 million litres, and could now get involved with Jerez Brandy production, as it only has to be aged in Jerez.

Jose Maria Ruiz Mateos (Nueva Rumasa) is to appear in court, yet again. He and his sons, Zoilo, Javier and Pablo – who have already appeared, are accused of paying large sums of cash under the table to a man to obtain them EREs (Expedientes de Regulacion de Empleo – a legal way of getting rid of workers when a company is in trouble). Nueva Rumasa collapsed and was sold off long ago, but its ramifications persist.

American naval ships are arriving at Rota as part of the Anti-Missile Shield. The first of four destroyers has already arrived, and these ships will be based at Rota, a joint US and Spanish naval base for the last 60 years, where, it is hoped, their crews and families will give a boost to the local economy – as well as protect it. Another recent arrival is an American ship loaded with Syrian chemical weapons, which it will destroy out at sea.

High winds and heavy rain have caused all sorts of problems in the Jerez area, especially towards the coast. One bridge is down, football matches have been postponed, trees down everywhere.....At least it should avert a drought such as that experienced in 2012.

Manzanilla Solear en Rama 15% Saca de Verano 2013, Barbadillo

Quite deep for a Manzanilla, clean light gold, some legs.
Full and quite intense, lots of dry bitter flor and olive brine and seawater with slight traces of autolysis - evidence of Manzanilla pasada, salty with traces of tarry rope, wood and oxidation, an absolutely classic nose.
Full and tangy, very dry with traces of apple along with the flor bitterness, bitter salted almond and dried flowers and always with the salty seawater in the background, deep complex and very long. Lovely.
After a cool spring, temperatures returned to being more temperate, leaving a decent layer of flor. As usual this eight year old wine was only bottled in half bottles from only about 10 butts, and sealed with a driven agglomerate cork. Each seasonal saca bears on the label a picture of a member of the wildlife to be found in the Coto Donana wildlife reserve opposite Sanlucar, over the Guadalquivir. This time it is a Milano Negro (black kite), a migratory bird of prey which hatches its chicks in the cork and pine forests of  Donana.
10,65 euros in Spain per half bottle.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Bodegas: Obregon

Established in El Puerto de Santa Maria in 1935 by Jose Luis Gonzalez Obregon (1905-95), this is a small, interesting, family run enterprise of fine quality. Jose Luis was a highly knowledgeable and experienced Sherry man, having worked for many years in bodegas, in different jobs, culminating in his appointment as Capataz at Bodegas Hijos de Jimenez Varela, now sadly gone.

His first bodega was set up in the Calle Ricardo Alcon, and soon another was set up in the Calle Zarza. Later, as business grew, he opened more bodegas in the Calle Arenas and the Calle Santa Fe, and this is where most of the brandy and Sherry soleras are to be found.

(Imagen Cosas de Come)
In 1947 he opened a bar, El Bodegon de Obregon in the Calle Zarza, which is now the oldest and most characterful taberna still working in El Puerto. There is a lovely vine covered patio and it is very old fashioned and traditional with old bullfight and feria posters on the walls, old bottles and barrels everywhere and Sherry available by the glass, by the bottle, or they will refill your empties. Great food is available too, in the form of tapas or bigger meals. Their chicken in PX or papas alinas (potatoes, egg, tuna, oil) are worth a detour. There is even flamenco at weekends. They have another bar, Taberna La Draga in the Calle Bizcocheros.

(Imagen Cosas de Come)
As to the bodegas, the firm has always been an almacenista, but in more recent times has also been selling its own brands on the open market. As almacenistas, they have a fine reputation, supplying three wines for Lustau's Almacenista range: Fino del Puerto, Amontillado del Puerto and Oloroso del Puerto. Today, the firm is run by the founder's great nephew, Manuel Gonzalez and his two sons, Jaime and Alvaro. The bodega is scattered with all sorts of barrels, all of which are still used; toneles of 1500 litres, bocoyes of 640 litres, botas of 500 litres, medias botas of 250 litres, cuartas botas of 125 litres, even octavas botas of 63 litres.

The bars and bodegas are all extremely interesting and really merit a visit, but what about the wine? Base wines are bought in, and from then on, the production is entirely in-house. They produce a full range of all styles under the name Obregon:
Fino La Draga, Fino en Rama, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Moscatel, PX, and Cream, then there is the Viejo range: Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, PX.
They also produce fine quality Crema de Cacao (as did Jimenez Varela), Anis and Brandy.

Visits: Yes if pre arranged, but you see plenty from the taberna.
Address: Calle Zarza, 53,  11500 El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 856 329
No website

8.2.14 Gonzalez Byass Turnover Up 10%

Gonzalez Byass has achieved a gross turnover of 259 million euros for the financial year to August 2013 versus 238 million in 2012, representing a rise of just over 10%. Sales in Spain were consolidated at 75 million, and export sales increased. On top of that, over the last three years, the company has managed to substantially reduce its debt. Not bad during a financial crisis, though it should be remembered that Sherry only accounts for some of this. The company produces many light wines, such as Cava, Rioja, various Vinos de la Tierra, Somontano, as well as a range of spirits.

Friday 7 February 2014

PX Nectar 15%, Gonzalez Byass

Very deep transparent blacky burnt umber through to yellow at rim, pronounced legs.
Very tangy and rich with raisins and lots of dried fruits, figs, dates, Christmas pudding, a hint of walnuts, then a savoury note and touches of coffee with milk, caramel and rum and raisin chocolate, not especially complex, but very good for its age.
Intensely sweet and fruity with lots of dried fruit texture, tangy dates and figs, and the more phenolic notes of mocha, chocolate, but less phenolic than older examples. This is exuberantly youthful, light, very smooth - almost creamy - with a long tangy finish.
Previously known as Nectar Cream, this is a classic young PX, and is the entry level PX from the firm, and contains about 370 grams per litre sugar (some contain nearly 500!) but this is fructose. Aged for 8-9 years this is a youngster, but one with immense potential. Some of the wine drawn from this solera then goes to other soleras, such as Noe.
 £12-15 UK Distributor Gonzalez Byass

Wednesday 5 February 2014

5.2.14 Even Locals Drink Little Sherry; New Bottles for Sanchez Romate

This is the cartoon in today's Diario de Jerez, the local daily newspaper. It highlights the fact that few people drink Sherry any more, even the Jerezanos, and that in this, the European City of Wine 2014, something needs to be done.

Customers are asking for gin and tonic, whisky, rum and coke, beer, Rioja, and just one asks for a glass of oloroso... if that's all right, and the barman is amazed.

Stunning new bottles have been announced for Sanchez Romate. They should be available soon, and certainly highlight the quality of their contents. These bottles are for the Reservas Especiales Range, which consists of Don Jose Oloroso, Palo Cortado Regente, PX Cardenal Cisneros, PX Duquesa, Moscatel Ambrosia, Iberia Cream, Fino Marismeno and Amontillado NPU. Let's hope sales take off!

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Fino La Ina 15%, Lustau

Bright pale lemony straw, some legs.
Fresh with floral - camomile notes, salted unpeeled almonds a trace of membrillo (quince) fruit and a little bitter flor, quite soft sophisticated and elegant. There's a trace of dry scrub in the background, but this is beautifully complex and balanced.
Good and dry, the flor is a little more obvious here, with some bitterness and a gentle tang, but it is still very smooth with a deliciously bitter finish balancing with that trace of almond and membrillo. Delicious.
Made from 100% Macharnudo grapes, and from a 1919 solera of some 4,200 butts, this was the flagship fino from Pedro Domecq. After the dismembering of Domecq by Pernod Ricard, Lustau (Caballero) bought the La Ina range of Sherries and their soleras in 2008. The wine is about six years old, and has never tasted better. The La Ina solera is still located in the old Domecq La Mezquita bodega, now owned by Beam Suntory, but the Lustau team are allowed to operate the solera there. The soleras of the other wines in the range were moved to Lustau's own bodegas.
@£10-12 in the UK where it is distributed by Fields, Morris and Verdin.

Amontillado Botaina 18.5%, Lustau

Pure amber with coppery gold tints, fading through yellow to the slightest trace of green, legs.
Toasted almonds and hazelnuts, traces marzipan, turron,wood, damp barrels and that glyceric implied sweetness along with a faint traces of cinnamon on toast, very complex and draws you in - willingly! You could just sniff this for hours.
Full and dry with a trace of wood astringency which is balanced by that glyceric feeling of roundness or even implied sweetness. Plenyt of nuts, mainly almond and hazel, but a hint of walnut too.
This is one of the classic old Domecq brands which were bought by Lustau in 2008. The Botaina solera was laid down in 1918, and the wine is about 18 years old. It is basically La Ina Fino allowed to age and lose the flor, thus developing amazing complexity. It is worth noting that the Lustau chief oenologist, Manuel Lozano, who looks after these soleras, has won the IWSC award for best fortified winemaker five years running. The name Botaina refers to Antonio Botaina, once the owner of the vineyard which supplied the grapes for this wine.
About 16-18 euros in Spain, around £15-16 in Britain. Imported by Bibendum

3.2.14 Manzanilla Slows Sherry Sales on Spanish Market

Sherry has missed a great opportunity to put an end to the prolonged drop in sales, but at least the volume lost has been compensated for by the recuperation of prices. In the Spanish market, poorer sales of Manzanilla brought down the good results of other wines because of the lack of agreement on the use of bag-in-box (BIB), which is not permitted in the Denominacion de Origen (DO), despite growing demand.
Everything was set to change in 2013 after long years of falling sales, but in the end another drop was recorded, of 7.56%, or 10% in exports and 2% at home, despite growing critical acclaim. Sales of Manzanilla – the best-selling Sherry in Spain - are down 5%, while Fino and Cream are up an average 3%.

The fall in sales of Manzanilla is a result of producers simply de-classifying their wine and selling BIB without the DO to the many fairs and festivals. The OIV (International Wine Organisation) has proposed a change to the tariff code for BIB, considered up till now as bulk wine for customs purposes, as this format is common in other DO’s and is very popular with consumers, especially in Scandinavia. The Consejo Regulador however, sees the BIB as inferior in quality to glass.

Nonetheless, increasing numbers of Manzanilla producers are prepared to forego the DO and sell at least some of their wine in BIB. At the end of the day, it is the same wine, however, but there is a risk that the DO might lose some of its brands, in a similar way to some brandy brands which chose to blend brandy with spirit and call themselves “spirit drinks”. Wines sold without the DO do not figure in the Consejo statistics, and could amount to hundreds of thousands of litres, distorting the figures considerably.

There is still work to be done in foreign markets, but at least prices are firmer, especially in Buyers Own Brand (BOB) and Distributors’ brands. A key factor in this is the disappearance of Nueva Rumasa, whose aggressive low-price strategy forced prices down to little above cost – as low as 70 centimos a bottle. Now, as prices rise, sales are dropping, but perceived quality is rising, especially in Holland and Germany, the two big BOB markets.

In the UK, the biggest export market, sales have also been falling - by a million litres, or 8.5% - especially with Cream and Pale Cream styles, mainly from a lack of special offers over the festive period by the two leaders, Croft and Bristol Cream. BOB sales have risen slightly, however.

Sales of Cream in the USA have also slipped, but those of the dry styles have increased markedly, especially Fino, Manzanilla and Amontillado. The Asian market has also seen a large boost, albeit from a small base. In conclusion, Jerez has seen smaller volume sales but is keeping up turnover.

Saturday 1 February 2014

1.2.14 Erotic Tapas Route!

We have wine routes, vineyard routes, tapas routes, and now we have an erotic tapas route! Yes, that’s right, and it is to be found/experienced/enjoyed in El Puerto de Santa Maria during the month of February. According to the tourism councillor, Raul Capdevila, this is a daring, innovative venture which shows off the local gastronomy with a varied and enjoyable range of tapas, menus, cocktails and desserts. He hopes it will attract people from all over Andalucia and farther.

This is not a totally new concept, however, as Fuengirola near Malaga has been doing this for at least four years now, not to mention La Palma and a few other places. Take a look online and see some of the tapas, there are some really silly ones!