Saturday 31 May 2014

Vinoble 2014

Having just returned from Vinoble, I feel in an optimistic mood. The show has been very successful with a large number of international visitors, from the wine and catering trade to the press and television. Everyone in Jerez has really made an effort, and it shows. As far as I could see, everything ran very smoothly. I came away thinking it is not about the price of Sherry, but its value, which is immense. It brings with it such a long tradition and exciting culture - and perhaps slightly overshadowed quite a few of the international wines present.

With the world looking on, after the cancellation of 2012, and Jerez being European City of Wine, things had to go well. Lots of bodegueros were on hand, and/or their oenologists or salespeople, the Consejo president Beltran Domecq was there, as was director Cesar Saldana. He pointed out that in the 4 years since the last Vinoble, Sherry has become fashionable again, and now is the perfect moment to reinforce its status. He also said that this is a unique forum for "noble" wines, sweet and fortified, which have somehow survived, and put quality before fashion. And the exciting thing is that people flocked to taste them. And no wonder!

Naturally, in its very heartland, Sherry was most obvious, but there were all kinds of interesting wines from Germany, Hungary, the USA, Italy, Georgia, France, Portugal, to name a few, and other Spanish wines from the Canaries, Montilla, Huelva... You could have had a really interesting visit without even trying a single Sherry. But that would have been a sin! Then there were olive oils, local (and superb) Payoyo cheese...

Everything was organised with very little time, and insufficient money, with lots of people and organisations involved, but it all seemed to go pretty well, especially with the addition of food in the form of Gastrovinoble with top chefs. Lessons have been learned. More time will be allowed next time. There is a real will for this event to take place again in 2016. And not just for Sherry. But that is not the end of it for now...

On Monday 2nd June there will be another whopping boost to Sherry's fortunes with the International Sherry Week celebrations. This event, organised as World Sherry Day for the first time last year,  and again with too little time, was a great success. This year there are no fewer than 6 times the number of events, and it lasts for a week. It is lovely to see just how many people want Sherry to succeed again. I should point out that World Sherry Day and International Sherry Week are two different things. It is the latter which is happening now. A week of Sherry will always be better than a day!

Let us hope that finally people stop saying that Sherry is SUCH amazing value but don't buy it. Let us hope that people get out there and enjoy this treasure with all sorts of food, and let us hope that - as good wine should - it brings people together, and that Sherry will, at last turn the corner and be recognised for what it is.

Fino Pando 15%, Williams & Humbert

Bright light straw with some legs.
Nose attractive, full, generous, very fresh and soft with a growing bitterness from the flor. It has a certain zip about it which makes it rather moreish, slight hints of green fruit, bread dough and olive brine.
Crisp, fresh, good and dry with lots of yeasty character. Lots of that dry scrubland bitterness yet impeccably clean. Not old enough to have much in the autolysis department, but old enough to be a serious contender. Long clean, dry, bitter finish. Very good.
Pando is an old brand of Fino from W&H, introduced in 1878 as a Fino-Amontillado which was very popular in the 1930s and which has been off the market for some 20 years. Now it is back, just released, and is as good as ever. It is so long since I tasted the old Pando, that I can't really compare the two versions. It is sold at about 5 years old, and there are 9 criaderas in the solera. It is said (and I heard this from someone at W&H) that its name originates from the steamship line which first brought it to Britain, P and O, but I find it a little hard to believe. More likely it comes from a Sr. Panadero in Montilla who supplied wine for the establishment of the solera. The Spanish word "pando" is an adjective meaning "bulging", so that can't be it. Who cares, it is lovely Sherry, and thankfully in a bottle which resembles the original. In the 1970s there was a famous advertising campaign for Pando starring two of Flamenco's finest: singer Fernando de la Morena and guitarist Moraito Chico. This new launch will feature another such campaign starring Fernando's son - and hopefully Moraito's too...
About 6 Euros in Spain, but not widely available yet. Presumably Ehrmanns, W&H UK agents, will have it soon, probably about the £10 mark.

31.5.14 International Sherry Week - Are YOU Ready?; Essential Tapas & Sherry

Sherry Fever is spreading round the world! The international calendar of Sherry events is rapidly filling up. From last year’s inaugural World Sherry Day of 200 events, this year has 1,200 events - so far -double what was hoped for!  It all kicks off on Monday, and there will be live tastings, open doors at bodegas, talks, tapas, seminars, maridajes (Sherry and food matching). Japan alone has 200 events registered, largely thanks to the great work of Tomoko Kimura, a delightful fellow Sherry nut!

So get your skates on! Don’t miss out, get in on the World’s largest Sherry event: International Sherry Week! It is easy, and all it will cost is a bottle (or 3!) of Sherry. Your event with friends, online, at home, in a bar or restaurant can be registered free on Also have a look at #sherrylovers on Twitter or and and #isherryw.

 No fewer than 82 bars in the Sherry zone are participating in the Essential Tapas and Sherry Route. This promotion begins on Thursday the 5th of June and covers the three Sherry towns of Sanlucar, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Jerez until the 15th. Participating bars will offer one of their star tapas and a glass of Sherry for just 3 Euros, and customers are invited to vote for the best. Some of the best bars/ restaurants in the area are participating, so this is a great opportunity to try some food and Sherry matching. And to see just how well they match. See for more information.

Friday 30 May 2014

30.5.14 Kids Learn Venencia; Orden de la Solear

Children in Jerez are being taught the art of the venencia. During the harvest festival (Fiesta de la Vendimia) there will be a venencia competition for primary 3 and 4 kids organised by the Consejo. It is felt very important that children grow up knowing something about the city in which they live and what made it so famous, and about potential jobs in the future.

Kids learning the art watched by Beltran Domecq (foto + Jerez)

 Barbadillo has chosen 12 people this year for induction into the Orden de la Solear. Every year this event recognises people who have done much to promote Manzanilla. The two most notable are the president/editor of the newspaper ABC, Catalina Luca de Tena and Peter Liem, who with Jesus Barquin of Equipo Navazos fame, wrote an excellent book about Sherry.

Peter Liem (r) being inducted (Foto Voz Digital)

Bodegas: Bertola

Bertola was established in 1911when the Port firm CN Kopke, the oldest Port producer (est. 1638,) decided to enter the Sherry business. The interest of Port firms dealing in Sherry or vice versa was common at the time, but while Kopke’s interest in Sherry did not last long, it lasted long enough for the firm to be known as Kopke Bertola for a while.

The Craven-Bartle family, originally from Birmingham, had come to Valencia to be involved in the engineering business, but William Craven-Bartle Wood (1879-1949) and his son Joseph Craven-Bartle Montagut, (1912-1978) both born in Valencia, moved to Jerez in the 1920s, taking over the business from Kopke towards the end of that decade.

William Craven Bartle Wood (Foto: Jerez Siempre)
The bodega was in the Calle Mendoza, later moving to Calle Canto. The firm was very successful, selling its wines under the Craven brand, later changing the name to the more Spanish-sounding Bertola, an approximate acronym of Bartle. Bertola began as Bertola & Co Ltd registered in England and Bertola SA registered in Spain. There was even a Bertola Mexico SA, which made brandies for that market and imported Spanish products. At around this time, Diez Hermanos had a stake in Bertola, but this did not last very long.

The Bertola complex as it looks today

A new bodega complex opened in April 1964, 6,500 m2 on a site of 14,000, as rapid expansion had been foreseen. It was situated near the start of the road to Sanlucar.  It was state of the art in terms of winemaking, yet all this was housed in traditional architecture. The neighbouring industrial estate was named after it: the Poligono Bertola.

The classic old Bertola Cream (ad from 1960's) ((Foto: Ebay))
Many members of the British wine trade were present for the opening, including the boss of UK importer Evans Marshall, along with members of the Jerez City Council, the Consejo Regulador, and board members of Bertola. It is not known if anybody was there from Peter Thomson, the Scottish agents based at Crieff Road in Perth, who had particular success with Bertola Cream.

The famous Lola Bertola featured in much advertising
Brands included Fino Canto, Las Indias, Oloroso Tom Bowling, Bertola Cream, Bertola Milk, Ponche Portobello and various brandies.
In 1972 the firm succumbed to Rumasa, and was merged into the giant Bodegas Internacionales alongside Misa, Pemartin, Varela, Diestro and Otaolaurruchi in a huge bodega complex of some 50,000 m2 (now Williams & Humbert). After expropriation by the Spanish government in 1983, Bertola, along with Diez Merito and Pemartin were bought by Marcos Eguizabal in 1985 and merged with his (also ex-Rumasa) bodega in Rioja, Federico Paternina to form Grupo Paternina. In March 2016 the Sherry division of Paternina was bought by the local family the Espinosas, who have since made great strides in promoting them.

Interestingly, one William Craven- Bartle is export director at Williams & Humbert. Daniel Craven Bartle Coll is head of the Juan Grande Hospital.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Manzanilla Juncal 15%, Garvey

Bright pale gold, some legs.
A very slight savoury edge from autolysis, then doughy, dry scrub, bitter olive brine, distinct flor influence, quite salty too, with traces of dried flowers and white wine coming through. An interesting nose.
Again that savoury note, very dry with a gentle tang, quite full and winey but finishes with the classic very dry bitter flor edge we know and love, good length and lots of character.
"Juncal" means ground covered in reeds (though it can also mean lissom!) in reference no doubt to the marshes at the mouth of the Guadalquivir. It used to be the Manzanilla of Jose de Soto, but that firm was swallowed up by Rumasa-owned Garvey, and Juncal is now part of the Garvey range. Interestingly, the latter did have a good Manzanilla of their own, "La Lidia", but that seems to have disappeared. Back in 2006 Garvey decided to experiment with a super-light Manzanilla under the "La Lidia" brand name and in a tall wine bottle, but it met with little success and as far as I know, it has now disappeared. It really makes you wonder!
5,95 Euros in Spain, but not imported into the UK so far as I know

29.5.14 London Sherry Dinner; Vinoble Results; Yet Another Medal for Lustau Oenologist

A gastronomic presentation with Sherry is to take place in London. The provincial government of Cadiz and Turismo Andaluz are behind the event which is timed to coincide with London Wine Week, and Jerez European City of Wine.

The idea is to promote Sherry and its suitability as a wine to accompany food. On Wednesday 5th June, chef Mauro Barreiro will present a dinner marrying Sherry with Atun de Almadraba (net-caught Atlantic Bluefin tuna, among other delights, at the prestigious Hispania restaurant at Lombard St. in the City of London.

There will be a tasting led by Beltran Domecq beforehand, and there can be no doubt that the event will be well attended by press, somelliers, restaurateurs, wine trade etc. Details can be found on this website:

Vinoble 2014 has been judged a great success by the organisers. A staggering 150,000 glasses were used during the 3 day event. The city of Jerez also benefitted, as hotels were approaching capacity and restaurants did well. It was great to see a buzz going through town. 98% of the 200 exhibitors will be back, and the other 2% will probably be back. 8,000 professionals came through the gates of the Alcazar. After the disappointment of the event’s cancellation in 2012, such is now the enthusiasm that the organisers are beginning to think of holding some event in the odd years as well as the even. They will also start work on Vinoble 2016 a bit sooner.

One of the tasting spaces at Vinoble
 Lustau oenologist, Manuel Lozano, has received yet another honour. He was awarded the Gold Medal for Oenological Merit by the Spanish Federation of Oenologists’ Associations at their recent congress held in Jerez. He’ll be needing a longer mantelpiece!

Manuel Lozano at another award ceremony

Monday 26 May 2014

26.5.14 Sherry Heads Andaluz Wine Sales; Vinoble; News from Osborne

The Sherry zone accounted for 86% of total Andaluz wine sales in 2013 according to newly published figures. 102 million euros was earned, 88 million of which came from Sherry. In the years 2009 to 2013, exports were up 5%. Principal markets were the UK with 38 million, the Low countries with 12 million and the USA with 10 million.

Vinoble 2014 kicked off on Sunday and runs till Tuesday, The weather is perfect and there are at least 160 Sherries to taste. There are wines from all over the world as well, so long as they are sweet or fortified.  Elena Viboras, the Junta’s minister for agriculture and rural development arrived to have a look and show support.  Lots of well-known bodega people were there, as were Beltran Domecq and Cesar Saldaña. It was really quite busy at times, but as usual the staff dealing with huge numbers of glasses were excellent. Let us hope this great event is back to stay.

Grupo Osborne has just opened the first branch of its tapas bar chain in Madrid, close to the Royal palace. It is called “Toro Tapas”. Osborne have also bought into the Brazilian spirit, Cachaca, an extremely popular spirit made from sugar cane.

Sunday 25 May 2014

The "Garvey Question"; British or Spanish?

An article published in El Diario de Jerez in February 2014 by Juan P Simo

Throughout its history, Sherry has had immense power, and the Sherry business has moved all kinds of mountains, has built entire cities, has controlled the lives of its people for centuries, ruined and swallowed up whole families, and brought prosperity to generations of others. For that alone, the history of Jerez could never be understood without its wine. And if many of those first captains of industry, the first Sherry barons, went bust in the attempt, many others built up fortunes enough to keep the next three or four generations going.

In Jerez there have been incalculable fortunes. Imagine the legacy of Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel, founder and patriarch of Gonzalez Byass, or of his son, Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez y Soto and of many other legendary names. Pedro Domecq Lembeye, the first of the Domecqs to come to Jerez, left the “trifling” sum of one million pounds to his brother Juan Pedro, not having any masculine heirs. {How things have changed, thank goodness!} Or Juan Pedro Aladro, Pedro Domecq’s adopted son, who died leaving a legacy of more than two million escudos.  We could get lost in a sea of unbelievable figures for the period.

William Garvey Power already came from a line of aristocrats when he came from county Waterford in Ireland to the bay of Cadiz in 1776. He set out with the idea of acquiring some merino sheep for his father, when his ship was wrecked and he was rescued by Captain Rafael Gomez, whose daughter he later married. Here he spotted the enormous possibilities of the Bay of Cadiz, and changed his plans to dedicate himself wholly to the wine business.

William Garvey, who started it all
The “Garvey Question” arose with his son Patrick (Patricio) Garvey Gomez, who married in 1826 Maria de los Angeles Capdepon y Lacoste, a young girl from a French family with a large fortune, who would bear him eleven children. Only seven survived; three boys and four girls. The sons were Guillermo, Patricio and Jose. Patricio went on to marry Consolacion de la Mota Velasquez-Gaztelu, but Guillermo and Jose remained bachelors.

Little is known about Jose Garvey, who was born in Jerez and dedicated much of his work to the family firm. On his death in 1912, and given his state of bachelorhood, he made his will in favour of his nephews and nieces, Luis, Angeles and Blanca Medina Garvey as well as to Angeles and Dolores San Juan Garvey, and on the other side to Jose Lopez de Carrizosa, Marques del Merito, another of his nephews.

What he bequeathed amounted to a fortune of 42,152,777.37 pesetas {have you noticed how the currency keeps changing?} which he possessed in English and Swiss banks, an almost unimaginable fortune, but there was more; his deposits in Spanish banks amounted to some 3,942,480.37 pesetas, a most respectable amount for those days.

The problem arose when Hacienda Española – the Spanish tax authority – opposed the legacy being governed by English law as opposed to Spanish law. The case was complex and certainly long drawn out, being published in El Parlamentario, which followed it step by step during 1916 in the book “The Garvey Question: A Case in Law”. Over three years, two hundred and fifty pages were filled, covering the ins and outs of judicial hearings until the case ended up at the Supreme Tribunal. Here, the Garvey case was corroborated, Jose Garvey was deemed to be a British subject.

This was not so much a fiscal case, but one of volition: the volition of a Jerezano, Jose Garvey, who felt that he was a British subject, not a Spanish one. The Spanish case was not unreasonable in that, unlike his father Patrick and his grandfather William, he was a Jerezano by birth, and by dint of that he had felt obliged to obey certain Spanish laws, including doing military service, and later, being included in the electoral roll, casting votes.

It might be concluded that these two matters would constitute overwhelming proof of his being Spanish, but the Spanish authorities had never precluded anyone of British nationality from serving in the army. The same authorities made a big mistake, however, by including him, as a British subject, in the electoral roll, meaning his votes were illegal.

Jose, just like his father and grandfather, were British subjects, and were registered as such at the British Consulate in Cadiz, the British Vice-Consulate in Jerez and also at the Civil Government in Cadiz. Furthermore, the three of them travelled on passports issued by British Consular agents, passports which had been authorised by Spanish diplomats who had recognised them as British subjects. At the same time, none of the Garveys had made any effort to become Spanish subjects, so three generations of Garveys scrupulously held on to their British nationality. They never renounced it nor made any effort to take Spanish nationality.

The court’s ruling was clear. The socialist MP Pablo Iglesias took it himself to the Spanish Parliament. There was no reason for Hacienda to tax the inheritance of a British subject. The Inland Revenue of Britain, however, was the winner, having received annual income tax from Jose Garvey, seen by them too, as a British subject. The Garvey legacy was paid out in England. Interestingly, the Garvey family came from Ireland, not really Britain.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Santa Maria Cream 19%, Osborne

Mahogany fading to amber with slight hints of red, legs.
Quite light and predominantly Oloroso, hints of Oxford marmalade, almonds baked in a cake with cherries, a trace of turron and of course, raisins or perhaps sultanas - not the deeply raisiny aroma of PX anyway. Then there are figs and dates, and maybe a hint of toffee.
Again quite light, very fruity; lots of fig, date raisin and yet also slightly grippy, some tannin there and a refreshing hint of acidity. There are hints of toast with marmalade and those almonds. Good length and quality, and is ideal for a long drink with ice and a slice of orange.
This is a classic Cream Sherry consisting of around 10% PX and the rest Oloroso. It is aged for about 6 years. It was, of course, originally a Duff Gordon brand which passed to Osborne when the Duff Gordons sold out. The wine still comes from the original soleras. I thought I would post it since it looks as if they have found the wreck of Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, which carried the first Sherry to the Americas.
About 7 euros in Spain. It doesn't appear to be available in the UK.

Friday 23 May 2014

Bodegas: Miguel Sanchez Ayala

Miguel Sanchez Ayala was established in Sanlucar in 1789. The historic old bodegas are situated in the Barrio de la Balsa (Barrio Bajo) between the streets Banda Playa and Divina Pastora, once an area surrounded by navazos. The bodega San Pedro, constructed in the XVIII C by the Arizon family of cargadores a Indias shows the early beginnings of bodega-specific architecture, and contains about 500 butts of Manzanilla. It was once used by the family as a warehouse for goods being sent to the Americas. It was sold by the Arizon family to the Vicario Inigo family, also cargadores in 1798 and the firm passed through the hands of various families till today. The bodega San Miguel is a mid XIX C Moorish-looking structure which started life as a tomato canning factory. In all, the firm has 5 bodegas holding some 6,000 butts.

Bodega San Pedro (Foto: Aula Gerion Sanlucar)
For a long time Sanchez Ayala was a traditional almacenista bodega, supplying bulk wine to local bars and the exporting bodegas, but has more recently begun marketing wines under its own brand names as well. There are some quite superb wines, and this is the way forward.

Bodega San Miguel (Foto: Aula Gerion Sanlucar)
Ayala owns some 200 hectares of vineyard in the Pagos Balbaina, Torrebreva and Martelilla, and produces about 5,000 hectolitres of wine, over half of which is Manzanilla.

In 1986 the entire business including brands, soleras, bodegas and vineyards was bought by a local businessman, Jose Luis Barrero Jimenez after the crisis began to tell. He has continued to run the business keeping everything immaculate and continuing to make Manzanilla in the classic way, and is producing fine quality Amontillados which are marketed in very small quantities, much to Equipo Navazos, who also buy their Manzanilla. Current cellar master is Luis Gallego. The firm is doing well and is about to expand with the purchase of a disused bodega, while stocks of wine and butts for it have been building up at the bodega at Las Cañas. Luis Gallego keeps the bodega nice and damp and small sacas and rocios are carried out frequently/

The firm’s main brands are:
Manzanilla Pipiola: a solera which was bought from the widow of Manuel Garcia Monge, not currently bottled but available on draught.
Manzanilla Gabriela: solera with 9 criaderas, wine aged about 5 years, grapes from Las Cañas. Gabriela is named after a famous dancer and singer Gabriela Ortega Feria, born in Cadiz in 1862. She married a bullfighter and her sons became bullfighters too, one was the legendary Joselito.
Manzanilla Gabriela Oro: en rama, solera of 9 criaderas, wine about 6 years old, grapes from Las Cañas
Manzanilla Las Cañas: (solera of 40 butts, 12 scales, refreshed monthly) Single vineyard - Las Cañas (50ha) in Balbaina
Amontillado NPI: Uncertain age but very old, no sacas between 1968 and 2007
Oloroso El Galeon: Youngish but extremely good
Palo Cortado Arizon: Not available yet
PX Ayala: A straightforward wine
Don Paco: Amontillado over 50 years old, 13 butt solera, available late 2017?

There is also a despacho de vinos next to the bodega.

Visits ? No, but you could try
Telephone: Office/shop: (+34) 956 384 387

Tuesday 20 May 2014

La Bota de Fino No 35 15% Equipo Navazos

Pale amber with gold reflections, quite plentiful slow legs.
Intense, dry bitter flor, traces wood, dry scrubland, that smell as you enter a bodega of damp wine barrels, fairly weighty, traces of olive brine and sourdough along with a little oxidation and nascent Amontillado notes of salted roasted almond. Approaching Fino-Amontillado, but you're not allowed to use that term now. Still lots of Fino characteristics and a savoury hint from autolysis. Fantastically complex.
Full, savoury autolytic hints, bitter, nutty, intensely flavoured, with that slight oxidative note giving it terrific length, very dry with a little acidity and just a hint of glycerol rounding it off. It really fills the palate with flavour and tantalises with the balance between the glycerol and bitterness. Superb.
Made from Macharnudo Alto grapes and fermented in barrel, this wine was drawn from the casks for bottling in June 2012, and is a blend of Valdespino wines from the Inocente solera, 1st and 2nd criaderas. It has an average age of about 10 years and is bottled en rama - with minimal filtration - or enough to remove any flor. It really demonstrates how much colour and flavour is lost in filtration, but the down side is the reduced shelf life. It has to be said, though, that I have tasted many en rama wines long after their "sell by date", and without exception they were still delicious, even though they had evolved in bottle. In fact Equipo Navazos recommend trying it over the next few years - as long as it is properly stored.
Drinkmonger £25.95 per 75cl bottle. UK importers Rhone to Rioja

Saturday 17 May 2014

Bodegas: Cuvillo y Cia.

Carlos del Cuvillo y Sancho was born in El Puerto de Santa Maria in 1869.  In 1908 he bought a bodega there called MM de Mora which had been established in 1783. It grew to become one of the town’s largest and most respected bodegas and also had premises in Sanlucar. The firm owned the El Limbo y Santa Ana vineyard in the Pago Balbaina.

Old advertisement (Imagen Gentedel Puerto)

Cuvillo supplied a lot of Sherry to Martinez Gassiot, the Port and Sherry shippers, and also to Harveys of Bristol, especially for their Bristol Cream. In 1961 Rumasa got the Harveys contract (not entirely fairly, it is said), but Cuvillo continued to supply wine via Rumasa till 1983 when the Rumasa crash left them with huge stocks they could not hope to sell, and they were bankrupted in 1985. By this time, Harveys had their own bodegas in Jerez. The old Cuvillo bodega in Calle Los Moros now houses the Municipal Archive, while the others now house the old De Bandera soleras of M Gil Luque, part of Grupo Estevez.

Old Cuvillo bodega now Archive (Imagen Diario de Cadiz)
Some of their Brands were:

Amontillado-Fino Basilio, Fino C, Amontillado A.XII, Corona Cream, Dulce 1a, Las Seis (Light, pale Cocktail Sherry), East India Superior (Full, rich), Solera Santa Isabel (choicest rich nutty Sherry), Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso, Manzanilla La Gineta, Jerez Naviero, Oloroso Fabuloso (reputedly over 100 yers old)

Carlos Gutierrez Colosia bought the Sangre y Trabajadero solera, which he had always admired, from Cuvillo, retaining the (virtually) original label. Trabajadero refers to the cooperage and Sangre to the street name where it was located.

Dry Sack 15 Years Old Medium Sweet Oloroso 20.5%, Williams & Humbert

Deep walnut mahogany with slight reddy tints fading through amber to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Quite generous and serious, lovely fresh old Oloroso (really expresses the meaning of the word - fragrant), hints of old barrels, walnuts in syrup, marzipan, then the figgy, raisiny PX appears, but without dominating the Oloroso and the two work together in perfect harmony, a delight just to sit and sniff!
Quite intensely flavoured, the perfect balance of Oloroso and PX, definitely quite sweet (quite sweet enough) and you can taste those PX raisins. Generous, tangy and textured with some slightly phenolic notes of chocolate and tannin from the barrels balancing the sweetness. A real winter warmer with terrific length.
Made from grapes from the Pagos Balbaina and Carrascal, this wine is a sweetened Oloroso, but not as sweet as a Cream. Its sugar content (from the admixture of PX) is 82 grams per litre (g/l), a little over half that of the average Cream, making it a Medium-sweet Sherry. The normal Dry Sack contains 28 g/l and is classified as medium-dry. The Oloroso and PX are blended at the sobretablas stage and the blend then goes to solera. Pre- rather than post- blending makes all the difference.

Sherry with a statement of minimum age on the label is strictly controlled by the Consejo, and a sales quota is fixed of 1/15th (in the case of a 15 year old) of the entire solera content. So for every litre sold, there must remain in the system 15 litres. Samples drawn for the Consejo will be tasted and analysed before permission is granted to bottle and label the wine. The process will be repeated for each saca.
Around £ 15.00 per half bottle. UK Importers Ehrmanns

Friday 16 May 2014

16.5.14 Oenologists' Conference in Jerez

The XVI National Congress of Oenologists is to take place in Jerez between the 22nd and 35th May. It is all part of the calendar of events celebrating Jerez being European City of Wine. The Congress programme contains many events such as conferences, technical lectures and bodega visits as well as various cultural activities. Also taking place is one of the two annual assemblies of the International Union of Oenologists, an opportunity for Spanish and foreign oenologists to catch up.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

14.5.14 International Sherry Week; More Medals for Lustau

The Tourism, Culture and Fairs delegate of Jerez Council, Antonio Real, along with Cesar Saldaña, director of the Consejo and Chelsea Anthon, promoter of International Sherry Week have made the official presentation of International Sherry Week (ISW), which will take place between the 2nd and 8th of June.
The event will be integrated with the wine tourism calendar of Jerez European City of Wine 2014. Sherry Week will see many events in Jerez itself such as tastings, bodega visits, Japanese food and Sherry matching at bodegas, seminars and debates about Sherry and its characteristics.

Antonio Real pointed out the importance an event has, whose object is simply to promote Sherry throughout the world. For her part, Chelsea Anthon emphasised the event’s objective is to promote the culture of Sherry, grow its consumption, and to awaken consumer interest in the Sherry area and its people.

She also underlined the importance of the digital media in this exercise, since “we are going to connect the Sherry community to the five continents via the website and share ideas and passions about the wines of Jerez.” This digital strategy will have a big impact at a local and international level and involves ambassadors in the form of sommeliers, journalists and chefs, among whom are Angel Leon, Jose Pizarro in London, Cristina Losada of”41 Grados” in Barcelona and Lucas Paya ex sommelier of El Bulli and now with Jose Andre’ “Jaleo”. Paya and Andres have designed an innovative Sherry matching menu for their restaurants in the USA.

(L-R: Cesar Saldana, Antonio Real, Chelsea Anthon (Foto +Jerez)

One ISW innovation is a worldwide Twitter tasting with the participation of 15 European bloggers, which can be followed on #SherryTT. Also there will be a live debate on the subject of “What is Palo Cortado?” via You Tube, presented by a journalist from New York who will debate the matter with wine journalists and various bodegueros from Jerez.

So far 300 events are planned in 20 countries. You could add yours to the website free!

Bodegas Lustau has done it again! They have won no fewer than 21 medals at the XXXI International Wine & Spirit Challenge. Gold was awarded to their VORS Amontillado and Palo Cortado, the Almacenista Oloroso del Puerto Gonzalez Obregon and Moscatel Emilin. The bodega came home with 5 golds, 9 silver and 7 bronze medals.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

13.5.14 Osborne Results; Feria in Jerez; New Manzanilla Initiatives

Bodegas Osborne has announced its results for the financial year just ended with net sales of 232 million euros, a rise of 5%. The wines and spirits division represents 74% of sales, while those of the Cinco Jotas Iberico pork business represent 26%, a considerable increase. Exports account for 20% of sales. The company has also managed to reduce its debt. All this in the context of difficult times for trade.

The Feria in Jerez is under way, with over 1 million bulbs illuminating the fairground. There, 205 casetas are open, offering food drink and music. Horses are everywhere, either being ridden or pulling carriages. Sherry is everywhere and the atmosphere is fantastic. The weather has been very hot, but luckily not oppressive.

Jerez fairground last night (Foto Diario Jerez)
 Two new Manzanilla initiatives have been announced by Sanlucar’s mayor, Victor Mora. The plan is to give Manzanilla more promotion by setting up a generic website and a wine fair. Representatives of 9 bodegas met with the mayor and have agreed to a wine fair called the I Feria del Vino de Sanlucar to be held between the 24th and 27th September. The website will give full information on Manzanilla, as well as links to bodegas and related institutions, with the aim of broadcasting the wine culture of Sanlucar. This is  an extra to the existing Dia de la Manzanilla.

When Horses Drank Sherry

This is a story told by Francisco Jose Becerra in his blog La Sacristia del Caminante, and with his permission I reproduce it here. It is a marvellous tale.

There are two very characteristic and established symbols of Jerez, two emblems closely linked to our idiosyncrasies; the horse, and our beloved Sherry. Nowadays the Jerez festival par excellence which unites these two symbols is the Feria de Mayo (May Fair) also known as the Feria del Caballo (Horse fair).
All symbols come from somewhere, and looking back a bit through history, or in this case legend which is not scientific history but certainly reflects part of it, I came upon the following amazing story.

Let us go right back to the Middle Ages, or more accurately to between the middle and end of the XV century, though other authors such as Jose de las Cuevas give a precise date of 1454. The frontier wars were a nightmare in the daily lives of those who lived in those baneful times. A Moorish army was advancing from Utrera towards Jerez, their raids and sackings were terrible; they burned fields of wheat ready for harvest, destroyed water supplies, vessels full of olive oil, they killed the animals, they took the women and cut the throats of or decapitated men with beards. An eye for an eye, since the Christians would do just the same.

The first to act were the knights of Arcos, but not without first covering their backs by calling on the knights of Jerez. In those days, honour meant the one and absolute truth: a Christian knight’s duty above all was to God and the Church. He drank a lot of wine (Sherry naturally) and ate, where possible, a lot of pork, an insult to the Moors, as the pig was the animal they most hated. In fact inns used to hang up a leg of ham – not to accompany a nice cool glass of Fino, but to show that they were purely Christian.

The battlefield at which they would give the infidel a hiding consisted of hilly land between Arcos and Espera. There, no fewer than 1,500 knights arrived as well as 6,000 Moorish foot soldiers. The Arcos knights were there first, naturally as they lived closer. They prayed then stood to face the Moors, subjects of the king of Granada. Battle commenced, but the Moors had the upper hand while the Arqueños (men from Arcos) held out heroically as they awaited the reinforcements from Jerez.

Thirty kilometres away, a badly wounded shield bearer came upon the knights from Jerez commanded by Pedro Nuñez de Villavicencio. His nickname was “El Bueno” (the good), though he was only good by comparison to his son of the same name, nicknamed “El Chiquito” (The Tiny), who was rather rough. It seems that he was a bit of a joker, however, and never shut up even under water, but was nevertheless a whirlwind with a sword, flaying left, right and centre.

Nuñez de Villavicencio sounded the attack, but the horses were exhausted and simply could not get up. Quickly, Pedro ordered that they be given a ration of bread and wine (Sherry, of course), and as this elixir spilled into their troughs they were soon revived. In no time they bolted into action, their knights astride, their raised swords flashing, slashing in all directions. Before long the Moors were forced to disband and fled, giving victory to the Christian knights.

As Alexander Fleming said: “If penicillin saves lives, Sherry can revive the dead.”  Don Pedro Nuñez de Villavicencio knew that centuries ago, and “In situ equus, ferus caballus” (roughly  “instead of a horse, a wild packhorse” ) showed Fleming exactly what Sherry can do.

Legends are just that, legends, but often details can turn out to be true, and it is certain that the knights of Jerez gave their horses bread and wine to invigorate them in battle. A blessed elixir, without doubt.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlucar 1/80 17%, Lustau Almacenista

Deep, slightly brassy/orangey gold, legs.
Big, complex and forthcoming, lots of savoury autolytic notes of Marmite, traces of wood, seaweed, salty, briney, and only the slightest hint of oxidation. Lots to occupy the nose here, big and aromatic yet has a crisp freshness.What a start!
Mid weight, a Manzanilla beginning to develop in the direction of Amontillado, some glyceric roundness yet bone dry and "punzante" (penetrating). Still pronounced Manzanilla character, strongly maritime, bitter autolytic flor, exuberant and unashamed, lovely.
The almacenista in question here is Manuel Cuevas Jurado, a wholesale grocer, whose bodegas are nicely situated just where the Guadalquivir joins the Atlantic. The firm was established in 1950, and is now run by his son Manuel Cuevas Galvez. They hold some 2,500 butts and are sole suppliers of Manzanilla in its various forms to Lustau. This wine is from a solera of just 80 butts.
Around £20.00 for a 50cl. bottle. UK importers Fields Morris & Verdin.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Goodbye Gaditano

This is an article by Francisco Jose Becerra Marin published in his blog La Sacristia Caminante. It is a lament for a wine no longer made by Gonzalez Byass, Fino Gaditano.

“Fino Gaditano. The back label states: “Fino wine of pale strawy-yellow colour made from Palomino grapes. Fino, aged in soleras.” There are few who remember you now.

Time was when people used to drink a less expensive wine known as “vino de medio tapon” in the tabancos. It was a Fino of good quality but younger, having gone through fewer criaderas, an easy wine to drink, and at the same time light, though it had the same strength as the more expensive brands.

(Foto Sacristia Caminante)
Medio tapon meant that as the bottles had no capsules they were only “half sealed”. There were famous brands such as those of MacKenzie, Hidalgo’s Tesoro, and the very well-known Mantecoso of Bodegas Rivero. El Puerto de Santa Maria also had its own versions: the well –known Fino Pavon of Bodegas Luis Caballero (which is now a proper brand), and the famous Fino C from Bodegas Cuvillo.

Just a sip of this elixir, well chilled, somewhere just off the Plaza de Abastos (the market square of Jerez) like the Bar Pampero, with some fried hake was a total luxury. Many a Saturday we would go in the early afternoon to try this precious Sherry. A Fino to be drunk from a proper Sherry glass, slowly, little by little like life itself… elegant and timeless as a close friend. It was a wine to accompany conversation, to get to the bottom of. A wine of memories, the same wine and flavour my grandfather appreciated, one of my father’s favourites, one which he taught me to enjoy at gatherings of family or friends.

So I say goodbye to you, Gaditano. I will only be able to see you now in the form of your bottle, the silence of time covering you with dust and fading your white and green label. I will not be able any more to sample your contents, which many now cannot even remember –and even less your name. So I pay homage to you in my memories, a special, natural wine, a “medio tapon” of whom a whole generation – mine – has barely even heard.”

I have to agree with every word of this article. It was my father’s favourite Sherry too, and I have tasted and enjoyed it many times. I can’t imagine why GB ceased production of such a popular wine, but I suppose they can’t have a marketing budget for every wine they make. It came from a 1947 solera. A Gaditano, by the way, is one who comes from Cadiz (from the Latin Gades), like my father.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Tio Pepe En Rama 2014 15%, Gonzalez Byass

Fairly pale golden straw, some slow legs.
Saline, briny, doughy, strawy, bitter almond, dry scrub, yeasty, all the hallmarks of flor. This wine positively reeks of it, yet you can still make out a hint of palomino wine behind. Big and assertive without any oxidative notes, but perhaps a slight savoury trace of autolysis. Considerable complexity.
Yeasty, winey, a very slight sweet note, yellow fruit, then the flor cuts in and the palate develops its drier, more savoury side, hints of olive, almond, fairly low acidity, but penetrating flavour and considerable length. This is lovely, and frighteningly moreish!
The first three editions were made from the classic Tio Pepe blend of seven soleras, but starting last year, it is now a blend from soleras in just two bodegas: Rebollo, a dark, humid bodega producing top quality concentrated Fino, and La Constancia, which produces crisp clean lemon tinged Fino. Antonio Flores, chief oenologist at Gonzalez Byass, chooses only a very few butts which he marks with chalk for his annual selection. The “puro zumo de flor” (pure essence of flor), as he calls it, was bottled on 21st April without fining or filtration, and transported to the UK in a refrigerated lorry. From an original selection of 600 butts, he chose only 60 for final bottling, those with the thickest flor. Only some 22,500 bottles will be available worldwide, so buy yours as soon as possible!
General retail about £ 15.00 UK importer Gonzalez Byass UK

Wednesday 7 May 2014

7.5.14 Hidalgo Tasting; Award for Beltran Domecq; New bodega for Tradicion; Antique Fino

A tasting of Sherries by Hidalgo la Gitana took place the other day in the Corte Ingles department store in Jerez. It was led by the firm’s PR director, Miguel Gutierrez, and was well attended by the public.

Beltran Domecq Williams, president of the Consejo, has been awarded the “Personality” prize for his dedication to the promotion of Sherry by the magazine Mercados del Vino y la Distribucion.

Juaquin Rivero Valcarce, owner of bodegas Tradicion, which contains an important collection of art, has set up a bodega for the ageing of Fino in old bodegas in Rincon Malillo, in which there is a collection of old photographs showing the history of Sherry.

Antique Fino by bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla has been highly recommended and given 95 points by leading British wine magazine “Decanter” in its May edition. The magazine said “Thanks to extended ageing in oak, this powerful Fino is darker in hue than expected. There are signs of oxidation on the pungent salty nose, while the intense palate has layers of flavours with fantastic body and smoky roasted almond notes.”

Monday 5 May 2014

5.5.14 Vinoble; Julian Jeffs; Feria de Sevilla; Moto GP Jerez

The VIII edition of the fortified and sweet wine fair Vinoble which takes place in the Alcazar of Jerez between the 25th and 27th May looks to be excellent. There will be 700 of the world’s best wines from 13 countries and 20 international wine producing regions being shown at 46 stands. There will be a further 10 stands devoted to Gastrovinoble which will involve internationally renowned and Michelin-starred chefs. No fewer than 12 Masters of Wine will be present, along with many experts from the producers themselves.
The programme for the event has just been released and includes many tastings, including one on Amontillado by Tim Atkin and Jesus Barquin; Vintage Palos Cortados; Flor, Solera y Caliza; and many others on wines beyond Sherry. There will also be Flamenco. This has to be the best event in the world!

Julian Jeffs, author of one of the best books on the subject of Sherry, is in Jerez preparing for the sixth, revised and expanded edition of his book “Sherry”. Originally published in English in 1961, the book is a marvellous, well-written volume, essential in the library of any Sherry lover. Every ten years or so he revises it, and it would be well worth obtaining an updated copy. Unfortunately the Spanish version which appeared in 1992 has never been updated.

The Feria of Seville, the first major Feria of the season, began today. It is expected that 1.2 million half bottles of Sherry will be consumed in Seville, and that over the whole Feria season, which ends in mid-August, some 12 million will have been sold. This constitutes about 36% of total annual sales in Spain. Why half bottles? Simple. Because they are consumed before they warm up too much! The Consejo Regulador is advising people to check that the guarantee seals are correct, as these occasions can produce some “unofficial” bottles.

Ham and Manzanilla, fare of the Fair (Foto CR Vinos de Jerez)

 Jerez has been playing host over the weekend to around 50,000 motorcyclists who came to watch the Jerez Grand Prix. Despite the numbers, there has been no reported trouble, and a good time was had by all. There were exhibitions of classic old bikes as well as the serious racing. Hotels were at capacity, and Jerez was congratulated on its organisation of the events. Best of all, the Spanish riders showed everyone the way!

Friday 2 May 2014

Fino en Rama 15%, Rey Fernando de Castilla

Bright brassy gold with amber hints,light legs
Quite a lot going on. Full and quite soft with hints of dry, salted almonds and dry scrub from the flor, some more umami-like savoury touches, sour dough and just the slightest hints of wood, autolysis and oxidation. There is a trace of fruit still (quince), behind the dry exterior, and it all balances up to produce a Fino as it should be - interesting and rewarding.
Serious flavour - it just shows how tasty Finos can be. Bitterness from the flor melds with the fruit and savoury flavours to produce a complex, nuanced whole. This is a serious wine deserving of respect, bone dry but rounded and almost tasting older than it is. Delicious and with considerable length.
Bottled in spring and autumn, when the flor is thickest, this wine was bottled in October 2013 without filtration or clarification and just a very gentle cold stabilisation. The bodega owns no vineyard and so buys in wines which it matures in its own soleras. The wine in the Fino solera averages over 4 years of age, and so only a little over 20% can be removed from the solera at each saca. Some butts were taken from this solera some years ago and aged an extra 4 or more years to eventually form the 4-criadera Antique Fino solera, the wine from which is fortified to 17% before bottling - the old fashioned way. Wine from this solera then feeds the Antique Amontillado solera.
About £9.00 per half bottle. UK importers Boutinot.

2.5.14 Obama Drinks Sherry with Emperor of Japan

President Obama is in Japan for an official state visit, and recently attended a state banquet in his honour, hosted by the Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace. For the starter, “Royal Consomme,” a Sandeman Medium Dry Sherry was served as its accompaniment. Sherry has long been in favour with the Japanese court - and Japan in General - having been introduced by the first Spanish ambassador in the XVI century.

The President and the Emperor (foto + Jerez)