Friday 27 June 2014

Oloroso Anada 1997 Abocado 20.5%, Lustau

Mahogany through amber to slightest green tinge at rim, legs.
Beautifully refined and elegant with that Lustau hallmark note of turron yema tostada. This is not your usual slightly unsubtle Oloroso, it is quite lovely. There is certainly sweetness there, which has been influenced by the wood, but there is little or no pasa (raisin) which you would expect in a sweeter Oloroso. There is a lot of nuttiness though, mainly almond and a touch of walnut, and a hint of brown sugar along with marmalade and some wood.
Medium to medium sweet with that beautiful grape pulp texture only sweet wines can offer, traces of wood are balanced out by that sublime nutty turron flavour and hints of caramel - even toffee. Marmalade and dates are there, as are dried figs. This is mouthfilling and beautiful, exactly as you would expect from the tech specs, but much better. Delicious!
Unusual in Jerez, this is a vintage wine, not having gone through a solera. It is only made in outstanding years, and is produced by only partially fermenting the must, thereby retaining much of the natural grape sugar. The word "abocado" means  smooth and pleasant to the palate, but in wine terms it means fairly sweet. The grapes are 100% Palomino - no PX in there -  and they come from Lustau's 170 hectare Montegilillo vineyard in the pago Carrascal, which is noted for Olorosos. Only a limited amount is made, and this was bottle number 5221 of 14,000. A quick calculation reveals that there must have been about 14 butts of this wine, which after ageing for 13 years, was released in 2010.
In Spain, around 25 Euros, and in Britain around £25 if you can find it. 50 cl. bottle. UK importers Fields, Morris & Verdin don't include it on their list.

27.6.14 UK Journalists in Jerez; Sherry Wins Gold

Two journalists from two British newspapers, the Financial Times and the Observer are coming to Jerez next week to report on the local tourism, culture and wine. The provincial tourist office will be providing informational support to them. Interestingly, they will be travelling by Harley Davidson motorcycles, on which they have already toured round western Andalucia’s best tourism areas.

A Harley in action (Pic: Vozdigital)

The Decanter World Wine Awards results have been announced, and needless to say Sherry has done well. Eleven gold medals were awarded as follows:

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana: PX Triana VORS; Faraon Oloroso VORS; Wellington Palo Cortado
Bodegas Gonzalez Byass: Matusalem Oloroso Dulce VORS; Amontillado del Duque VORS
Bodegas Osborne: Amontillado 51-1a VORS; Oloroso Sibarita VORS; PX Venerable VORS
Bodegas Lustau: Palo Cortado VORS; Oloroso VORS; PX VORS

Also The International Wine & Spirit Competition results are out and Sherry has done exceptionally well. There was a raft of Silver medals, and Golds were awarded to the following:

Bodegas Gonzalez Byass: Nectar PX; Amontillado Del Duque; Noe PX; Apostoles  
Williams & Humbert: Amontillado Colección 12 Years Old; Marks & Spencer Manzanilla;  Palo Cortado VOS Solera Especial
Lustau: Morrisons Fino; Almacenista Manzanilla Pasada Cuevas Jurado; Palo Cortado VORS; Sainsburys Taste The Difference Oloroso 12 Years Old;   
Osborne: Sibarita Oloroso VORS; Venerable PX VORS; PX Solera 1827  
Harveys:  Palo Cortado VORS; Rich Old Oloroso VORS     



Tuesday 24 June 2014

Pajarete (Paxarette) and Whisky

Pajarete is a colouring and sweetening wine consisting of sun-raisined Pedro Ximenez must boiled down in a bain marie by a fifth to produce Arrope and by a third to form Sancocho and blended with PX and maybe oloroso. It has been used for a long time in preparing the Sherry shippers’ blends. This style of very sweet concentrated must (without the Oloroso) was popular with the Moors who introduced it, and were forbidden fermented wine.

The name derives from the Castillo Matrera (known as the Torre Pajarete), a ruined XIIIC Moorish castle situated near vineyards between Prado Del Rey and Villamartin in the Sierra de Cadiz, not far from Jerez and Arcos de la Frontera. It is not officially in the Sherry zone, but was before the current zone was delineated. The wine was sold widely from the XVII C, and many authors praised its quality. In fact, wines called Pajarete won seven medals at the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1875.

The Torre Pajarete
The name Pajarete has also been – and occasionally still is - used on some Jerez, Malaga, Montilla and Huelva wine labels perfectly legally, as it more of a style and thus has no DO (except in Malaga), but there is a bodega producing wine still at Prado del Rey, called Bodega Rivero. They no longer make the Pajarete of the past (though there might still be the odd butt), but do make some interesting sweet Moscatel and dry red and white. There is also excellent cheese produced in Villamartin from ewes and goats, and called… Pajarete.

Bodega Rivero, Prado del Rey (Pic

The Rum, Spanish Brandy and Whisky Industries have used Pajarete for a very long time to season casks – or just add extra nuances of smoothness, colour and flavour to the whisky by pouring some in. The idea of wine seasoning of new casks due to shortages of Sherry butts is thought to come from William Phaup Lowrie, an important XIX century Glasgow whisky dealer and blender. He was also, incidentally, the first to import American oak in the form of “shooks” (dismantled barrels).

When casks are sent from Spain to Scotland they normally contain about 5 litres of Sherry/Pajarete to prevent the wood drying out in transport. Perhaps not all of it was once removed before filling with whisky in the past, but nowadays it is regarded as an additive unless absorbed by the wood, and any liquid must be removed. Lucky distillery workers!

In the more recent past, Scottish cooperages would put 500ml of Pajarete into a hogshead (@250L) or a litre into a butt (@500L) and pressurise the cask to 7 psi for 10 minutes to force the Pajarete into the surface layer of the wood. This would rejuvenate a tired cask, but at the most for one filling. Any unabsorbed Pajarete would have to be removed to comply with the law. Since 1982 any form of adding Sherry other than that absorbed into the wood has been illegal.

Nowadays, Whisky producers seem to prefer Oloroso casks to Pajarete casks, maybe because the former has a lower viscosity and thus penetrates the wood deeper, or maybe because it has more depth of flavour –or both. Anyway, Paxjarete is now banned. The major distillers all have serious and expensive wood programmes nowadays, not at all as simple as the Pajarete treatment of the past. As an alternative, there is of course E150 spirit caramel legally available to them, which is much less bother to use and gives the desired colour to whisky, if not that lovely flavour. Pajarete then, is only of historical interest now.

See also: 
Scotch Malt Whisky and Sherry Butts
Sherry Butts and Whisky

24.6.14 Sherryfest San Francisco Huge Success

The V Sherryfest in the USA has closed after enormous success. San Francisco hosted the festival between the 17th and 20th of this month, and was awash with seminars, tastings and food matching with Sherry at the heart, showing just how versatile it is.

Sherryfest began in 2012 in New York, the brainchild of wine writer Peter Liem, who said that the San Francisco event was an unprecedented success, the most successful so far and has awoken a real thirst for Sherry.

Beltran Domecq giving a seminar (foto Consejo Regulador)
The Grand Tasting hosted over 500 professionals who had the opportunity to taste 140 brands by the hand of their representatives or even oenologists. Such was the public uptake that pre-booking had to close long before the event. In the words of Beltran Domecq, president of the Consejo, who gave one of the seminars, “Sherryfest is a magnificent example of the interest that these great wines are inspiring in professionals from all over the world. It is very satisfying to have such a professional – and young – audience which feels true admiration for the quality we produce and for Sherry’s great worldwide gastronomic potential.”

Sunday 22 June 2014

Bodegas: Gaspar Florido

The Florido family has a long and proud history in the Sherry trade. They are first heard of in Rota in the XVI century, moving to Chipiona at the end of the XVII. They seem to have established themselves as producers in 1800 when Jose Maria Florido y Calderon de la Barca set up in business.

In 1880 the company was known as Florido Hermanos and grew to become one of the top ten exporters in the district, but was bought by Domecq.  Gaspar Florido’s father re-established the firm as almacenistas in 1942, supplying wines in bulk to the bodegas as well as to bars and restaurants. In 1997, conscious of the quality of their wines, they decided to create their own brands and sell them in bottle on the marketplace.

A view of the bodegas (foto:busKalia)
The firm owns 33 hectares of prime vineyard, Viña El Armijo, in the Pago Miraflores in which there is a beautiful XVI century vineyard house. There were various bodegas housing a total of 7,000 butts. They were diehard traditionalists, eschewing “modern bad habits” and while they did export a little to Germany, they preferred to deal with the home market. They described their work as “absolute artisanship” but nevertheless realised the importance of the internet.

Eventually they decided to centralise their operation on the Carretera de Trebujena, as they had bodegas all over Sanlucar, and then In 2007 the firm and its brands was bought by Pedro Romero SA for 6.5 million Euros, since the family had no children who were interested in carrying on the business and Gaspar was getting on a bit. This purchase made Pedro Romero the second largest bodega in Sanlucar after Barbadillo.

Most of their wines came from their own vineyard and some carry the name Viña Armijo, but they did also buy in must and wine to meet their requirements. Their best known brands are Manzanilla Pleamar and the GF range of GF AB Cream, GF Oloroso Muy Viejo, GF Manzanilla. The most outstanding wine is Palo Cortado 25 GF, originally a Rodriguez Lacave solera, which Gaspar never labelled as Palo Cortado but just “Jerez Viejisimo”, feeling that the lines are slightly blurred between styles with wines of this age. Pedro Romero continued to sell the Florido wines, thank goodness, and all the really old wines were in their sacristia until Romero went bust.

There is also a 30 GF, an outstanding Palo Cortado in very limited quantities, some of which was bottled by Equipo Navazos as La Bota de Palo Cortado No.41 Bota “No”. They bought the wine just a few months before Florido was bought out, and it is still available. After the bankruptcy of Pedro Romero, the old GF wines were bought by the Asencio brothers for their Bodegas Alonso which is located in one of the old Pedro Romero bodegas. They have relabelled the wines. Meanwhile the Florido family continue to sell tiny quantities of wine from Viña El Armijo.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Manzanilla Pasada En Rama Mons Urium 15%, Bodegas Urium

Deepish strawy gold with  the slightest haze - from lack of filtration, some legs.
Very attractive, yeast laden nose with real character. Lots of camomile and dried flowers, salted almonds and bread dough, as well as a briny bitterness which grows. There are aromas of dampness, humidity, and so the flor must have been quite thick. Despite the bitterness and dryness, there is a charming almost appley roundness as well, and not as much autolysis or oxidation as I'd imagined.
Fairly full, amazingly soft and yeasty with still a trace of fruit, low acidity compensated for by that saline bitterness. It is mouthfilling yet very (much too) easy to drink. For all that roundness, it has a very dry finish which lingers for some time pestering you to buy another bottle. Which you should, it's lovely.
Limited edition of 10,000 50cl bottles. This is from the 4th series. The solera is tiny, so the wine is not as widely available as one might like. The wine is 8-10 years old and is bought from an almacenista in Sanlucar. Strangely, the label does not indicate that it was bottled en rama, but it was. This is a serious bodega, and their Fino is also bottled en rama.
About 8-10 Euros in Spain for the 50cl bottle. Uk Importer Jose Fine Wines

Juan Haurie, a Smart Businessman

Jean Haurie Nebot (1719-1794) was the first Haurie to arrive in Jerez and founded what was to later become the most international of the Sherry houses, Domecq. Yet little was known about this Frenchman who left Bearn in France like his relations, the Domecqs, and appeared in Jerez in the early days of the XVIII century. It was known that he had a bakery in the Plaza Plateros where he also sold silks and linen. He was a friend of fellow bachelor and neighbour Patrick Murphy, an Irishman of poor health to whom he lent money and helped him with most aspects of his wine business.

Javier Maldonado Rosso, a doctor in History, has studied Haurie, who in a recent public exhibition is revealed to have had a privileged mind, an incredible eye for business, and more importantly he was the man who led the transformation process from traditional viti-viniculture of XVIII century Jerez into its modern form.

When Murphy died, Haurie inherited everything, and now found himself mostly in the wine business. He was very shrewd, and no business opportunity passed him by. He was a tenant farmer of fields of cereal belonging to the Jerez aristocracy or to the Catholic Church, and this was a gold mine as he practised a sort of agrarian credit, giving out money against the next harvest but at a lower than market price. He did business with Cosme Duff Gordon, the British Consul in Cadiz, whom he appointed as his agent in Britain.

Perhaps his principal contribution was to do with viti-viniculture. Haurie summoned from France his four Haurie nephews, Juan Jose, Juan Pedro, Juan Carlos and Juan Luis, as well as his Domecq nephew, Pedro Domecq Lembeye and together they established the firm of Juan Haurie & Sobrinos in 1791. The company progressed well until it later reached the hands of Juan Carlos, who not only brought the firm to bankruptcy, but brought shame and hatred on himself for siding with the French during the Napoleonic invasion.

Juan Haurie wanted for nothing. To complete his requirements, he acquired 70 hectares of fine vineyard, buying more year after year including some on a fine slope in the Macharnudo. He managed to integrate all the processes of production of Sherry with those of sales abroad, from growing the grapes to selling aged wine on foreign markets through his British agent. He was therefore a grower, bodeguero and exporter, something no one else had yet achieved.

It had not been easy, though. He was up against the Gremio de Vinateria de Jerez (Guild of Vintners) which fixed prices for grapes and wine, imposed export quotas and controlled wages, as well as prohibiting merchants from keeping large stocks. The idea was to keep profits in the hands of the growers, but all it succeeded in doing was to restrict the growth of trade until it was wound up in 1834.

Faced with this ridiculous system, Haurie proposed a new, liberal agro-industrial system: he defended and practised the production of finished wines, that is, wines aged and blended to the taste of the customer (which required large stocks). Furthermore he proposed the abolition of fixed prices, and the freedom to sell wine all year round – another Gremio restriction. The proposed new liberal system needed a new style of company capable of developing it. These were the almacenistas and the ageing and shipping bodegas.

Sharp as a tack, Haurie knew how to attract the support of others like him.  In 1772 he initiated the collection of signatures among the small growers who hated the Gremio. On the 5th of May the following year Haurie took the definitive step, presenting to the Council of Castilla (effectively the government) a formal request for the Gremio to be wound up. This engendered bitter argument between the two sides and became known as the “Haurie Case”, recognising him as the main promoter of the cause against the Gremio’s restrictions. This earned him some respect and he was seen as a leader giving hope to the Jerez wine producing bourgeoisie. He and his supporters were known as “Juan Haurie and his accomplices”, committed to political action and participating in economic societies, becoming almost a political party and gaining considerable influence as representatives of the people.

Slowly the Gremio began to lose its powers. Haurie moved on. As a representative of the people, he set about improving the upbringing of foundlings, the improvement of conditions for prisoners and the speeding up of their prosecution, the exemption of citizens of the requirement to lodge troops in their homes, among many improvements. His greatest achievements, however were in the fields of business and politics because the transformation of the traditional viti-viniculture of Jerez was a state-level matter with international importance.

Haurie came out on top. A Royal Decree of 1778 liberalised the production and commerce of wine throughout the whole country, invalidating the ordinances of the Gremio. Thus, the modernisation of viti-viniculture in the Jerez area advanced rapidly as did the demise of the Gremio system, which was abolished finally in 1834.

Interestingly, some of Haurie’s wine still exists in the ancient soleras held by Osborne, who bought them from Domecq who inherited them from Haurie. These VORS wines are Sibarita and Capuchino, and are available commercially in very limited quantities.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Oloroso Victoria Regina VORS 20%, Diez Merito (Paternina)

Deep amber/chestnut with hint of burnt umber fading through amber to yellow to trace of green at rim, legs.
Elegant, sophisticated,complex and immediately attractive. There is a lot going on here: lots of walnuts and toasted almonds with umami hints of meat broth and Marmite, traces of albero (earth floor) and wood from the barrels - you can smell the bodega atmosphere, and there is the implied sweetness there that you'd expect, wrapping everything up together in perfect harmony.
All of the above and quite intensely so. It has that character only offered by really old wines of total integration of all the various flavour notes where the glycerol makes it more than palatable balancing out the astringent wood notes adding to the feel and complexity. Lots of walnuts in syrup, traces of vanilla and dried fruits, but with a very slight tannic edge. A really refined wine, very smooth with terrific length. Textbook old Oloroso. Bring on the mature Manchego!
100% Palomino grapes grown in Jerez Superior albariza soils go to produce this lovely Oloroso. It comes from a solera of 27 butts plus 5 criaderas, more than average for this style, though I'm sure the scales are not run very often. The solera, which dates from 1906, was bought by Diez Hermanos from Ysasi. The wine was fortified to 17% and the extra 3% has been developed through transpiration losses over 30 plus years in solera.
This wine sells in Spain for about 85 Euros (including individual wooden box), but unfortunately seems to be unavailable in the UK. What a shame!

Wednesday 18 June 2014

18.6.14 The Mystery of Palo Cortado

A documentary film called “The Mystery of Palo Cortado” by Jose Luis Lopez Linares will show a debate on the subject which for some is the result of a mistake and for others an unrepeatable work of art.

A formidable list of top names in Jerez got together last week at Bodegas Tradicion in front of the cameras of the award winning film director to reveal the mysteries and secrets of this great Spanish treasure. The following debated the past, present and future of this wine, unique in the world:

Josep “Pitu” Roca, (Restaurant El Celler de Can Roca), Maria Jose Huertas (sommelier of La Terraza del Casino in Madrid), Antonio Flores (chief oenologist  of Gonzalez Byass), Eduardo Ojeda ( chief oenologist at Valdespino), Jose Maria Quiros (Bodegas Tradicion), Jan Petersen  (Fernando de Castilla), Jesus Barquin (Equipo Navazos), Adela Cordoba  (Perez Barquero - Montilla), and other experts like Alvaro Giron, Juan Manuel Bellver, Paz Ivison, Alberto Fernandez Bombin and Alberto Luchini among others.

Preparing for filming at Bodegas Tradicion (Foto Correodelvino)

The film sets out to be an oenological thriller at a time when Sherry is being researched, discovered, enjoyed and discussed along with the wonderful unknown world of its wine, its region and its people. The film will be made over the next few months, dissecting Jerez before moving on to London, Paris and New York.

Its director refers to it as a “tribute to pleasure by devotees of happiness”. It will defend the opinion attributed to Plato that “nothing greater or more heroic was ever offered by the Gods to Man than wine”. Wine is not only an object of pleasure but an object of knowledge, and that pleasure depends on that knowledge. Sherry is a distillation of a place, a time and a culture.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Ice Wine - From Jerez?!

Well, yes, and it was quite good. It was called Esencia de la Campiña and was made entirely from super-ripe Moscatel grapes which were then frozen by a firm called Viticultores del Jerez SL. This firm was established around 2002 with the idea of producing alternative products in the Sherry vineyards. This wine was made from grapes frozen not on the vine, like German or Canadian Ice Wines, but frozen artificially at specially set-up premises in Sanlucar. The small quantity of wine produced was bottled by hand.

The Ice Wine at Vinoble 2008 (Foto Diario Jerez)
The process is known as cryoextraction. Overripe grapes are frozen to around -7 degrees and pressed. The water content of the grapes turns into ice and the sugar-rich juice flows free. It is then fermented, but as there is so much sugar in the juice, the wine retains much of it giving concentration with a good acidity and balance.

The famous Cava producer in Cataluña, Gramona, is also producing Ice Wine by the same method, Gewurztraminer and Riesling, for instance, which they call Vi de Gel, but the Jerezanos were actually first with their Moscatel  – and then went on to experiment with Gewurztraminer in Jerez.

They then launched a product called Pepillo, which was popular for a while at the Feria.  It had been developed in collaboration with the Oenological Station of Cadiz, and was a wine based product with “all the characteristics of wine in terms of aroma, body and flavour, but only 6.5% alcohol” according to the firm’s manager, Jose Paz Ramos. It was aimed at the young and those who had to drive home, though naturally nobody was excluded.

Pepillo (Foto Diario Jerez)
It all seemed blessed by the stars, but the market is fickle, and the company only lasted about 10 years before being wound up. Interesting though they were, neither wine could ever expect support from the Consejo, or from ever-changing fashion. They were expensive to produce and required a large marketing budget. Anyway, Jerez is not exactly incapable of making outstanding sweet wine - without refrigeration.

Manzanilla Viva la Pepa 15%, Sanchez Romate

Very pale silvery strawy gold, some legs.
Light and fresh with saline seaside notes. Lots of camomile, bread dough and bitter-sweet flor, traces of almost candied fruit and traces of almost seaweedy brine.
Slightly fuller than expected, very fresh and racy with slightly more acidity than some. Very dry with floral almondy notes, its youth is there to be seen in that slight fruity character, but is part of its charm. Very persistent and far too easy to drink.
There can be no more Gaditano name than this! La Pepa was the familiar name given to the Constitution of Cadiz in 1812, and is, of course, also a familiar name for a girl called Josefa, who perhaps is the subject of the wonderful old label. {Fernando A de Terry also once had a Manzanilla Viva la Pepa, but we won't go into that}. This wine is bought in from Sanlucar almacenista Cuevas and bottled in Jerez. Most Jerez bodegas have pretty small sales of Manzanilla, but like to list it, so this is the one Romate sell. And it is very good, given that it is not much more than 3 years old.
Not shipped to the UK, but around 6-10 Euros in Spain.

Friday 13 June 2014

Amontillado Viejo Jalifa 18%, Williams & Humbert

Bright deep amber through golden yellow to trace green at rim, legs.
Full, broad, generous. Lots of nuts, mainly hazelnuts and almond but some walnut too, gentle glyceric sweetness, still some slight bitter traces of flor, oak, very slight vanilla and cinnamon notes along with a hint of turron yema tostada. Quite big, open textured and up-front, wears its heart on its sleeve.
Full bodied and dry with the glycerine almost balancing the oak and a certain tang of acidity. Hints of astringency from the long tears in oak, but very lively and honest - if very slightly leaning towards Oloroso with hints of orange and raisin. But then the hazelnuts kick in again. Quite a mouthful, big chewy and long.
This wine comes from a solera laid down in 1821 by Hijos de Perez Megia in Sanlucar, and is one of the oldest at the bodega. Originally the wine was sold as Manzanilla Amontillada. Incredibly it goes through 15 criaderas in the course of 8 years, and by the sixth it is Amontillado, where things slow down and it takes 22 years to get from there to this numbered bottle. While the wine is easily 30 years old it is one of the many which are not declared as VORS normally because it is too much trouble, and everyone knows the wine is genuine. It reaches its 18% naturally without further fortification.

In Spain around 25-28 Euros, in UK around £33. UK importer Ehrmanns

Thursday 12 June 2014

PX Vina 25 17%, Lustau

Very deep - almost opaque blacky burnt umber to yellow at rim, pronounced slow legs, viscous.
Deeply fruity and unctuous, lots of pasa (raisin) and dried fig, you can smell that texture. It smells of the pasas arriving at the bodega, of that miraculous juice which runs from the press, only more concentrated. It is at that stage where the wine is still fruit-laden and just not quite showing the more phenolic notes of coffee and wood that greater age would bring. I would guess it is about ten years old.
That texture is here in spades! You almost feel that you are eating those pasas, and their intense sweetness covers the tannin from the grape stems which cannot be removed. There is lots of treacle and cinder toffee, along with what one might call "proto coffee" notes, but overall, here is a really good, deep, fruity wine with all the hallmarks of a good PX. I love it!
This is one of the old Domecq brands which were acquired by Lustau after the dismemberment of Domecq in 2008. The odd name of the wine stems from the name of the vineyard (or "Vina") which consisted of 25 aranzadas, an old measurement of land area. 25 of these equate to 10 hectares, so 1 aranzada is roughly equal to 1 acre. The vineyard was particularly suited to growing PX due to its exposure, but unfortunately no longer exists as they built a motorway on it. The wine is aged in a solera founded in 1892.
I paid 11.30 Euros in Spain, but unfortunately UK agents Bibendum don't ship it.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Fino en rama Cruz Vieja 15%, Faustino Gonzalez

Pale golden straw with some legs.
Really interesting, there is a bit of sweetness there, balanced by loads of yeasty flor freshness, and a doughy bitterness follows, then there is a gentle savoury, autolytic note, hints of toast, presumably from the barrel fermentation, and more yeastiness, quite complex, and most attractive. This could age well for a bit longer... What about another solera where the wine is aged to say 10 years?
That sweetness continues though the wine is certainly not sweet - it is more soft, low acid, giving one quite the wrong impression and then the bitterness of the flor comes through like a grand finale, balancing everything up nicely. Idiosyncratic, characterful, and quite delicious.
This is the first official (bottled) release of this delightful Fino, specially for Vinoble 2014. It comes from a small solera of 62 butts, and most unusually, is fermented in butts. This is a saca limited to only 1,260 bottles. The wine has been sold for some time in bulk to tabancos, however. This small family business with its own vineyards and a beautiful old bodega right in the heart of Jerez really deserves to succeed, and I think they will, with wines like this and a little careful promotion.
Probably around 8-10 Euros in Spain for a 75cl bottle

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Bodegas: Faustino Gonzalez

This is a very interesting old bodega, still in family hands, and yet few seem to have heard of it. Doctor Faustino Gonzalez Aparicio, born in 1918 in Zamora where his family had vineyards, moved to Jerez in the 1940s and in 1947 married Carmen Garcia Mier y Zorrilla, daughter of a famous rancher who would later become the representative of Domecq in Mexico. They had 16 children and Don Faustino worked as head doctor for the Social Security. In the mid 1950s the family moved to a large house at Calle San Juan Grande, 7 which had once been owned by Felix Ruiz y Ruiz and one of the Domecqs.

Living in Jerez, he soon became attracted to the idea of owning his own bodega, and in 1970 he bought 220 butts including some small old soleras from Mercedes Aranda de Paul some over 100 years old and one dating from 1789 which had been stored in the Alcazar and moved them to the bodega  owned by his wife, Dna. Carmen Garcia Mier. 

The bodega, which was once stables, is in one of the most interesting old parts of the city, the Cruz Vieja in the Barrio (neighbourhood) San Miguel. Here flamenco legends were born and wines were aged, there is real atmosphere, and it is in the heart of the city. It likes to call itself the smallest bodega in Jerez and contains some 300 butts. After the death of the founder the firm, which was operating as an almacenista, was inherited by his 12 heirs who, in 2014 decided to sell 40% of their wine on the open market under their brand name Cruz Vieja.

The family also own vineyard containing both Palomino and Pedro Ximenez vines, and make the wines which they age through their soleras. The 7 hectare vineyard at 70m above sea level is called Viña el Carmen and is the last one in the pago Montealegre and in a good part of Jerez Superior for Fino wines with lots of white albariza soil. It was replanted in 1972. The firm pays a consulting oenologist called Manuel Torres, who worked for 10 years at Sanchez Romate. His experience helps the smaller bodegas to manage new legistation from the Consejo which covers hygeine, traceability and numbering of butts.

The wines are unusual in that they are fermented in barrel; hardly anyone does that any more. The bodega is very traditional in how it makes the wines, but forward looking as well, bottling all the wines en rama. They also have a very good wine (well, Sherry) shop called La Casa del Jerez in C/Divina Pastora, very close to the Sandeman bodegas and the Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre (Spanish Riding School). Here they have wines you can taste straight from the barrel, as well as a good range of bottled wines from other bodegas as well as their own.

The range on offer is called Cruz Vieja, named after the square near the bodega, and also the name of one of the old soleras. There is a full range of Fino Cruz Vieja (62 butt solera from 1900 with 4 criaderas and solera, 2 annual sacas), Amontillado Cruz Vieja (Solera 1925, approx 6 years under flor and a further 6 oxidative), Oloroso Cruz Vieja, about 20 years old,  Palo Cortado Cruz Vieja, about 15 years old, Cream Cruz Vieja and PX Cruz Vieja, and the bodega launched their range at Vinoble 2014, as well as participating in many events during the European City of Wine celebrations. They also make vinegar, and Palomino and PX table wines. In 2018 they launched an Oloroso Reserva Fundacional drawn from three butts dating from 1789. All the wines have scored over 90 points from the various critics.

Address: Calle Barja, 1, Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Telephone: 956 335 184

Visits? Yes, just get in touch and arrange something.

Monday 9 June 2014

Manzanilla Muyfina 15%, Barbadillo

Very pale silvery strawy gold, very light legs.
Young, fresh and quite fruity with lots of camomile, then the flor kicks in with its saline bready notes and slight traces of dry scrubland, slightly sweet (fruity) and slightly sour (saline): an interesting balance there.
Very slight tutti frutti sort of glace fruit and a little acidity give away the youth, but it still has some complexity when the more savoury notes join in and the two give a really charming balance. This may be inexpensive and young but it is very pleasant.
This is Barbadillo's cheapest Manzanilla at 3 years old and for the price it is really good.
About 3-4 Euros in Spain but not, unfortunately available in the UK.

9.6.14 Another Sherryfest

Another Sherryfest will be happening in California between the17th and 20th June. San Francisco is the chosen venue for this, the V edition of Sherryfest, in which there will be seminars, tastings and culinary experiences to show Sherry’s enormous potential as a food wine. The Sherryfest Grand Tasting scheduled for the 18th at the Bluxome Street Winery will feature 140 Sherries from about 21 bodegas. Sherryfest was the brainchild of Peter Liem and has been enormously successful, taking place in different cities in the US and Canada. Sales there are showing a 15% increase. To get involved, see 

Sunday 8 June 2014

Will Sherry Get a DOC?

The news that Jose Ramon Estevez thinks Sherry should be a DOC wine is a hugely interesting and very attractive idea. But there would be far-reaching implications, which he is obviously aware of.

Spain, like Italy, has a higher tier of quality than the standard Denominacion de Origen (DO): Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOC). Only two Spanish wine regions currently have a DOC: Rioja and Priorato. There is certainly a good argument to be made for more, and Sherry would be an excellent candidate.

The regulations for DOC are tighter, however, and certain perfectly legal practices in Jerez would need to be changed. As things stand, fortification alcohol nearly all comes from huge distilleries in Tomelloso (La Mancha), and is made from the local Airen grape. Presumably the spirit would need to come from Jerez for a DOC wine. Grape concentrates and Pedro Ximenez also often come from outside the region. To make these changes would inevitably incur large increases in cost, but it would create jobs locally.

Jose Ramon Estevez (Foto Diario Jerez)
Currently, 46% of the vineyards belong to grower cooperatives, and Estevez feels there are too many coops with too much capacity, and they depend all too easily on selling grapes or must to bodegas and on government grants. They should take more pride in their vines and produce better grapes and musts in lower volumes, and more precisely what is required by the bodegas and charge accordingly.

The bodegas too, would have to change their ways. Instead of pleading low margins for their lack of promotion, they should be increasing those margins. It doesn't matter how good your wine is: if people don't know about it , they won't buy it. The trade has to get off its proverbial and get cracking, especially now, when the whole world is looking on at this European City of Wine. Jerez should be dictating its price, not its customers.

There is another DO in the Spanish system which is one for a single vineyard: Vino de Pago. There are quite a few of these, where the quality of the wine from a single vineyard is deemed outstanding. Jerez has plenty of pagos, albeit rather large, such as Macharnudo, but within that is Inocente, a single vineyard which produces the excellent Fino of that name. Another example would be Pastrana in the Pago Miraflores. These vineyards would need to be certified, however, and that would take time, but a DO Vino de Pago could surely never harm sales.

So will Sherry get a DOC? Only if everyone gets together and sees past institutional interests towards a glorious future. It is good to know that at least one bodeguero can.

8.6.14 GB Opens Archives; Valdivia Still For Sale; Sherry Should be DOC

Gonzalez Byass is opening up some of its archives in recognition of International Archive Day. On Monday the public will be able to see some of the company’s historic records in two sessions, the first at 11.00 and the second at 13.00. These records show a fundamental part of the social and economic history of Jerez as well as the family and business legacy of the firm’s founder, Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel.

Bodegas Valdivia (Foto Diario Jerez)
No buyers have yet been found for Bodegas Valdivia. If times were less difficult it would make an attractive proposition. It is a pristine bodega attached to a beautiful old hotel, the Villa del Duque. The sale includes furniture and cars, the bottling plant, the brands, the vineyards, website, and the wine, which is being looked after elsewhere. It has all been divided into lots to try and facilitate a sale. The liquidators are hoping to raise 16.5 million, but are far from optimistic.

Jose Ramon Estevez (Foto Diario Jerez)

Sherry should have a Denominacion de Origen CALIFICADA, according to Jose Ramon Estevez, the president of Grupo Estevez. His is one of the leading firms in the area with turnover of 103 million Euros, 800 hectares of vineyard and sales of 30 million bottles annually.

In an analysis prepared for a forum sponsored by the Banco Popular and publisher Grupo Joly, and in the presence of other bodegueros, growers and cooperative members, he suggested this as a way to create employment, wealth and increased prestige for Sherry.

He used the model of the French growers who are prepared to sacrifice quantity for quality and many of whose vineyards are classified. The Sherry growers should be proud to be so.

Many changes would have to be made: everything that goes into a bottle of Sherry would have to come from Jerez like the fortification spirit, for example. A change of mentality from the growers is needed, and from the bodegas too. Sherry should be repositioned as a unique wine of top quality, rather than an everyday drink. Much more investment is needed in promotion, and margins would need to be increased to cover that. (See Opinion)

Saturday 7 June 2014

Sherry Bodegas Involved with Port

Sherry, wonderful though it is, is only one of many fortified wines, and in the heyday of this trade, many fortified wine producers or importers would seek to include other styles in their lists. Some were not above imitation, but many were genuinely involved in Sherry, Madeira and Port, as well as Malaga and occasionally Montilla. For some it was more of a dalliance, for others it was quite serious. Four white, the other red, they are in many ways complementary - and four of the greatest wines in the world. Most of these firms appear in separate posts concerning the Sherry. Below is a list of  those who are or were involved in both Sherry and Port, and you may be surprised how many there are:

FW Cosens (Da Silva & Cosens)
Frederick William Cosens was a long established Sherry shipper based in London, and from around 1848 also in Jerez, when in 1862 he went into partnership with london based John da Silva, a Port shipper established in 1798. The firm was joined by George Acheson Warre and later merged with Dow & Co. Andrew James Symington joined the firm in 1905, and his family took control in 1961. The Symington Group are now proprietors of Dow, Warre, Graham, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell, Cockburn and Quinta do Vesuvio Ports. The Sherry side of the business had been on the slide since Cosens' death in 1889, as his sons lacked interest, and it was bought out by Ivison in the late 1920s.

Dow 1983 Still bearing the name Da Silva & Cosens
Established in 1678, Croft was always a Port shipper, and only entered the world of Sherry in the 1970s, when International Distillers and Vintners (IDV) decided to use the old Gilbey soleras which had been maintained by Gonzalez Byass. A huge new bodega complex was built, known as Rancho Croft. They introduced a whole new style of Sherry: Croft Original Pale Cream, which was enormously successful. After various takeovers and sell-offs, Croft Sherry now belongs to Gonzalez Byass, while Croft Oporto was bought by Taylor Fladgate in 2001along with Delaforce. The port is currently on good form.

Diez Hermanos 
Diez Hermanos were involved with Port from 1924, and slightly with Madeira. Pablo Diez went to Oporto in 1929 to run that side of the business until he died in 1966. The Port business was then sold to Offley. The only vintage Port they shipped to the UK was the 1975, presumably shipped by Offley. (see Bertola/ Kopke/Offley Forrester)

Duff Gordon 
Duff Gordon were always more important in Sherry, but had some useful interests in Port. The firm was bought by Osborne (see below), who sold off all the Port side of things - except the brand name. From time to time, Osborne release Duff Gordon Port as a sous-marque, as well as their own brand. While they have lodges in Oporto, they own no vineyard, so grapes or wines are bought in. Osborne Port is of excellent quality, nonetheless. (See Osborne)

Forrester & Co (Offley Forrester & Co)
In the first guide to Jerez of 1882, Forrester and Co were present in the list of Sherry exporters. Their premises were in the Calle Cristal, 4, where they had a large and spacious bodega with excellent conditions for the crianza of wine. It was known as La Bodega de la Merced, doubtless because it was adjacent to the Convent of La Merced.
According to the guide, the entrance to the building was constructed in 1885, following through to an extensive patio with two rows of acacias which led to the offices. To the left was the bodega de extraccion, where the wines were prepared for their journey. Opposite the offices lay the sample room and various other rooms, and further on, the storage bodegas, a patio where barrels were cleaned, and a cooperage.
From the end of the XVIIIC, Forrester had premises in London and Oporto as well as Jerez. Towards 1887, they moved to the Calle Circo, 21 opposite the bull ring. There is no record of any activities in Jerez after about 1916.
This firm was related to Offley Forrester in Oporto. The original firm was Etty, Offley & Co. The Forrester family originated in Hull, England, and the first to Oporto was James Forrester in 1803, uncle of the famous Joseph James Forrester. The company owned the fine Quinta Boa Vista. In 1908 they faced difficulties and in the 1920s they were restructured. It could be this process which led them to abandon Jerez. Offley bought the Port interests of Diez Hermanos and were then bought by Sandeman, which now belongs to Ferreira.

Butler Nephew
John Nash, who had co-founded Burmester Nash & Co left the firm, and in 1789 started a new firm, taking James Butler into partnership. On Nash's death Butler took on his nephew John Tyndale as a partner, and later another nephew, Robert Butler. In 1845 Samuel Dixon joined the firm, which was later inherited by his three sons. The firm, small though it was, had a good reputation for quality. It was bought by Gonzalez Byass, and various vintages were shipped to the UK from the 1920's till the last one in 1975. Stephen Christie, who bought the GB Port interests, still sells Port under the Butler Nephew Label.

Gonzalez Byass arrived in Oporto in 1895 and bought wine from Hunt Roope until a disagreement led them to go it alone, and they opened up their own Port shipping business in 1896. They appointed Herbert Pheysey, son of the Army & Navy Stores wine buyer, to manage it. He was succeeded by his son Cecil, who retired in 1960. From 1901 till the mid 1930's, GB had an arrangement with the Van Zeller family to buy the entire production of their Quinta Roriz, marketing it under the Quinta name. They continued buying it till the early 1970's, while they also owned Quinta da Sabordela near Pinhao, and until 1958, the Quinta do Rei. After WW2 GB bought Butler Nephew. In 1979 GB Port (including Butler Nephew) was sold off  to Stephen Christie, and the stocks to Vasconselos, who were bought by Sandeman in 1989. The last GB Vintage was declared in 1975. Quinta de Roriz was sold to the Symington Group in 2009. Sabordela, which once supplied wines for Smith Woodhouse was sold, and was later acquired by Symington at the end of 2013, and now supplies wine for Smith Woodhouse again, it being part of the Symington Group.

While Harveys have shipped and bottled Port in Bristol for a couple of centuries, their most serious involvement with it came when they bought Martinez Gassiot in 1961 and then Cockburn a few months later. On the Sherry side, Harveys had always shipped wine for blending and bottling in Bristol, and their presence in Jerez came as late as 1970, when they bought MacKenzie (see below). Harveys were in turn bought by Allied, which merged with Domecq, and Allied Domecq was bought by Pernod Ricard who sold Harveys to Beam, who are now owned by Suntory (and that is an abbreviated version!). Cockburn now belongs to the Symington Group.

Bertola/C N Kopke 
Probably the oldest of the Port firms, Kopke was established in 1638. They decided to go into Sherry production in 1911 and set up a Spanish subsidiary, Kopke Bertola y Cia. Ltda. Later Bertola was bought by Diez Hermanos who were subsequently bought by Rumasa. After Rumasa's collapse Bertola was merged with the former Rumasa-owned Bodegas Internacionales by Marcos Eguizabal, an entrepreneur from the Rioja, and is now part of Diez-Merito, the Sherry division of his group. Kopke, was bought along with its Quinta de Sao Luiz, which it owned from 1922-66, by Barros in 1953.

MacKenzie was established as a Sherry shipper in Jerez in the late 1850s. In 1870 Kenneth MacKenzie formed a pertnership with William Minchin Driscoll, formerly with Sandeman in Oporto, creating the firm of MacKenzie Driscoll. They had a good reputation till late 1940s when post war difficulties forced a sale to Ferreira.They rented Quinta de Napoles 1953-61 though rarely used the wine. The last MacKenzie Driscoll vintage Port shipped was the 1966. Their lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia now belong to JH Andresen. The business in Jerez was bought out by Harveys in 1970.

Cuvillo/Martinez Gassiot -  Founded 1790 by Sebastian Gonzalez Martinez, whose business was Port, Sherry and cigars in London. John Peter Gassiot joined in 1822, and in 1834 they bought a lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia (Oporto) which was run by a certain John Fleurriet Delaforce. Their Sherry was supplied by Cuvillo in Puerto de Santa Maria, who also supplied large amounts to Harveys, who used to bottle Port and Sherry themselves in Bristol. In 1961 Martinez Gassiot was bought by Harveys then next year absorbed into Cockburn, also bought by Harveys, who were themselves taken over by Allied in 1971. Harveys acquired their own vineyards and bodegas (mainly from MacKenzie) and Cuvillo, left with huge stocks, went bust in 1983. Martinez Gassiot is mainly BOB Port business now, and Cockburn belongs to the Symington Group.

Morgan Brothers
Established in 1715 in London, they shipped Quinta de la Rosa's wine along with Feuerheerd, but only established bodegas in Puerto de Santa Maria and lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia in the mid XIX century. Morgan was always a small house but with a good reputation, and ultimately its Port business was taken over by Croft 1952 and its Sherry interests by Osborne. Croft was sold by Diageo along with the Morgan Port business in 2001 to Taylor Fladgate, on condition that the name Morgan was not used, to avoid confusion with Captain Morgan Rum.

Osborne already owned Duff Gordon (see above) when in 1967 they bought lodges from Quinta do Noval at Vila Nova de Gaia. They continue to produce Port of very respectable quality, having a winery in the Douro. In the past, they also shipped Madeira.

Of all the companies above, Sandeman were the most committed to both Port and Sherry. Founded by George Sandeman in 1790 in London,the firm had lodges in Oporto long before bodegas in Jerez, but these were acquired in 1879 with the bakruptcy of Pemartin. Sandeman has a long history as a family business, owning Offley, Robertson and Diez Hermanos (Port) until it was bought by Seagram in the 1980s. It is now owned by the Portuguese company Sogrape who also own Ferreira.

Williams & Humbert
For a while, W&H owned the Port firm Robertson Brothers, owners of Quinta Roncao and producers of vintage Port Rebello Valente. Robertsons was sold to Sandeman in 1953.

These are just the firms who took Port most seriously, but many other Jerez firms offered a Port, such as Garvey, Florido Hermanos, Manuel Gamboa Ramirez, Rafael O'Neale, Arturo D Williams, Valdespino, Conde de Morphy, Cayetano del Pino and Gutierrez Hermanos among many others.

Palo Cortado Peninsula 19%, Lustau

Deep amber towards chestnut with coppery tints and the slightest trace of green at rim, legs.
Full with lots of hazelnuts and almonds and just a hint of walnut. Refined and with a certain sweetness like turron yema tostada, and just a hint of oak, lively and fresh with just a trace of Oloroso there. There is a slight savoury note, too, no doubt from the fino origins, but everything is beautifully harmonised.
Definitely on the Oloroso side, fuller, fatter than an Amontillado with  more oxidative character, walnuts in syrup and a touch of date. While the wine is dry, it does have residual sugar of nearly 5g/l which is noticeable along with the glycerol, giving a very rounded feel. This is nicely balanced by a very slightly tannic wood note. Quite sophisticated, well made and interesting with good length, but I wouldn't go quite as far as Robert Parker - see below.
Aged about 12 years, this is a lovely Palo Cortado from the firm's Solera Reserva range, awarded 96 points by Parker, who described it as "mind blowing".
17.75 Euros in Spain for a 75cl. bottle but available in UK for @ £20.00 from good wine merchants. UK Importer Fields, Morris & Verdin.

Friday 6 June 2014

The First "Wine Tourists" in Jerez

Behind the wine of Jerez hides an immensity of stories. During the XVIII and XIX centuries many aristocrats, men and women, travelled across the Iberian Peninsula dazzled by the prospect of a “Paradise of the South”. They came from Germany, Holland, Ireland, France and Britain and found themselves in an Andalucia at the height of its depression.

For these romantic travellers, contrary to the spirit of the Enlightenment, Andalucia was the most different region of Europe, the most African, the most scenic, and culturally, thanks to the lengthy period of Arab influence, the most exceptional, the most unpredictable and the most picturesque.

It is true that Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, even Gibraltar were the preferred destinations of the Romantic travellers. But it is undeniable that a great legion of these “early tourists”, writers and artists, were attracted by the famous wines of Jerez and the many wonderful buildings, which would later appear in their accounts of their journeys – perhaps the first tourist guides.

La Cartuja de Jerez (Foto Gente de Jerez)
Jerez historian Jose Luis Jimenez has managed to unearth the names of some 140 of these travellers in the late XVIII and first half of the XIX centuries. Without going into all of them, let’s look at the most famous ones from the busier latter period.

One of these pioneering tourists, eager to get to know the countryside, the flamenco and the wine was called George Noel Gordon Byron, Lord Byron. He set sail from Falmouth in July 1809 with his old school friend John Cam Hobhouse, arriving after a four and a half day crossing at Lisbon, whence they sent their luggage ahead to Gibraltar. A keen sportsman despite his lameness, he would later emulate the legendary Leander swimming across the Dardanelles straits. He bought a horse, and with it he crossed into Spain – right in the middle of the Napoleonic Invasion – and headed for Seville, with which he was fascinated. He travelled from Seville to Jerez on horseback through beautiful countryside as he described to his mother in a letter of 11th August.

Lord Byron, dressed to pass unnoticed
Byron was well received by his relative James Arthur Gordon Smythe, who put him up in his house, the Atarazanas for a few days, during which time he had the opportunity to visit the family firm’s vineyards and the bodegas where he could see how Sherry was produced. He wrote the following to his mother: “In Jerez, where they make the Sherry we drink, I met a great businessman, a Mr Gordon, a relative of ours, who kindly showed me his bodegas. Thus I was able to drink this famous wine at its very fountainhead”. This is surely one of the more beautiful descriptions of Sherry. Five days earlier, he had written to Frances Hodgson: “I will come back to Spain before seeing England, because I have fallen in love with this country”.

Once in Cadiz, where he again arrived on horseback, Byron made friends with old Arthur Gordon, the founder of the Gordon Sherry business, and another distant relation Sir William Duff Gordon. Even today, many anglo-saxons come to the province to reconstruct Byron’s journey, for example the trip undertaken in 1977 by the members of the Byron Society of London.

Almost twenty years after Byron’s journey, the American Washington Irving arrived in El Puerto de Santa Maria. He soon made friends with Juan Nicolas Bohl de Faber, a German who was in charge of the Duff Gordon bodegas, and whose daughter was the famous writer Fernan Caballero. When Irving left Andalucia, he wrote to Bohl placing a wine order for the American Embassy in London. The order was somewhat unusual: “I have promised Mr McLane (the ambassador) to obtain for him, with your help, a butt of old Sherry which contains sound reason in every glass; some of that liquor with which Lady MacBeth intoxicated King Duncan’s pages. Would you help me keep this promise by sending me a butt of this full, old and choice wine?”

After visiting and dining at Domecq one hot August day, Irving wrote in his diary: “May God let me live for all of time that I may drink all of this wine and be as happy as it makes me.” There are many such eulogies to Sherry wine, which was by now well known to rich Europeans and Americans.

In his detailed book “Passionate Travellers: Testimonials in the Province of Cadiz 1830-1930”, Ramon Clavijo Provencio tells us of the flood of Romantic tourists who travelled throughout and reflected upon the province. He picks out one David Henry Inglis, a British gentleman who arrived in Jerez in 1830, when the city had over 500 listed bodegas. His book, “Spain in 1830”, was considered by his colleague George Borrow to be the best book ever written about this country. In it, he speaks brilliantly about the production process of Sherry, exports, the state of the business and much more, giving us an excellent picture of how the trade worked at that time.

A French traveller, a poet and novelist called Pierre Louys, marvelled at the city, which he describes in his letters of 1896 as “Dazzling, everywhere the aroma of wine from the bodegas, nowhere else is the white so dazzling to the sight as in Jerez.”

“I got it absolutely right! It is one of the cities I shall always want to lock in my memory. For it, I would give 2 Cadiz, 125 Malagas and even a little corner of Seville. Just imagine, it is an undulating plain which is green in springtime but like the Sahara in summer, a city which is entirely white – it could not be whiter (…) the streets are broad like avenues or narrow like corridors. There are very tall palm trees in the squares, and bodegas everywhere.”

George W Suter, an Englishman who visited the city in 1831 (and later a bodeguero and British Consul) described it less generously: “Before the elegant carriages were brought in, there were only three private coaches, and none to hire. One of these, an enormous old vehicle pulled by mules with decorated harness, is the property of a local Marquis. It was so high and so uncomfortable that a servant had to bring a stool so that his master could get in and out. The streets have no drainage, and are neither paved nor lit (…) When a family goes out at night to the theatre or a party, a servant walks ahead of them with a lit torch in one hand, and a stout stick in the other, while young men have lamps fixed to the crown of their pointed hats, and carry a sword or pistol.

When in Spain, the French adventurer, Josephine Brinckmann, a hardened traveller, always protected herself from assault by bandits with a pair of pistols. She found Jerez “boring”, yet in her book “A trip through Spain”, she emphasises the curiosity aroused by looking at the bodegas. “One needs to see this city, but one needs to take care of oneself and not stay longer than a day. It is deadly dull, dreary and boring. They say that a good third of the population are English, so it must be these insular English who have left their lamentable mark.”

There were plenty of French travellers: Theophile Gautier mentioned in his book “Journey to Spain” of 1845, his amazement at the bulls and thewine, according to research by Jose Luis Jimenez. “We passed along avenues of barrels piled four or five high. We had to try it all, or at least the better stuff, of which there is infinite supply. And Gautier’s equally famous compatriot, Alexandre Dumas, wrote in his book “Travels from Paris to Cadiz” the phrase “Jerez, symbol of joy and the Spanish spirit.”

There is more: in 1862, the hispanist Jean-Charles Davilier organised a trip to Spain with the artist Gustave Dore, who accompanied him with the idea of getting to know the country and producing illustrations for an edition of “Don Quijote”. In the book “Travels in Spain”, he includes the chapter “Cadiz, Jerez and Betica” in which he tells us of the countryside and people of the city. “What surprised us when we arrived at Jerez was the appearance of wellbeing of the place, its richness and cleanliness which are not found in all Spanish towns. Both men paid great attention to the artistic and folkloric aspects, as well as to the wine. The picture by Dore of the Cartuja, one of the great attractions to the Romantic tourists, is of great beauty, as were also the paintings and engravings of the fine Scottish artist and Romantic, David Roberts.

Jerez from the City Walls by David Roberts
Roberts arrived in Jerez in April 1833, where he produced five works: View from the city wall; interior of the church of San Miguel; façade of the church of Santiago; the Cartuja and views of the Arroyo gate. In a letter to his friend and fellow Scottish painter David Ramsay he writes: I was detained in Jerez for a few days as I had letters for Scottish friends {possibly the Gordons} who gave me a wonderful reception. After visiting one of their immense bodegas and trying their unbeatable wine, I decided to leave.”

The “Manual for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home” is one of the most creditable of the “guides” of the Romantic Movement. It was written in 1845 by the Englishman Richard Ford, who was quite a character, and who made the dandy style fashionable. He travelled throughout Spain dressed like this because “it shows all who look at you that you are not going to be pestered by beggars”. On one of his journeys, Ford arrived at Jerez in a chaise after taking a steamboat from Cadiz to El Puerto de Santa Maria. He demonstrated a perfect knowledge of Sherry production , but rather put his foot in it describing some of the Jerez buildings.

William Somerset Maugham, famous internationally as a writer, even spy, was born in the British Embassy in Paris in 1874, and his book “Andalucia, the Land of the Blessed Virgin” talks about his trip to the region. One chapter is titled “Jerez” where he defines it as follows: A small city in the middle of a fertile plain. Clean, comfortable and handsome. White Jerez has been forever the home of Sherry.”

“Home of Sherry” is a lovely phrase; maybe that is why it has always been said in Jerez that there is no need to leave as everybody comes to Jerez.

From an article in the Diario de Jerez by Juan P Simo

6.6.14 Sherry Week Huge Success

International Sherry Week just keeps growing. The latest figures show over 2,000 events worldwide in 22 countries all celebrating Sherry, far more than had been hoped for. Much of this growth is down to the social networks such as Twitter (1.2 million), #Sherrylovers  and #isherryweek  (2.7 million) and of course the isherryweek website. The world is waking up to this great wine!

There's still time to hold an event, you just need some friends and a bottle or two of Sherry!

Thursday 5 June 2014

Manzanilla La Lidia 15%, Garvey

Pale strawy gold, light legs.
Quite young and fresh, slightly floral, hints camomile, hints also of fresh flor, but none of the bitterness imparted by more serious ageing, some delicate salinity and yeastiness.
Reasonable weight, fresh, still some fruit there and a gentle tang, still that camomile-like flavour, but not particularly salty, doughy or remotely autolytic. This is quaffing Manzanilla, and nothing wrong with that, it is perfect for grilled or fried fish.
If you look at my post on Garvey's Manzanilla Juncal, there is a rant about what they have done to de Soto's Manzanilla. Well, this is a follow-up, as this bears the bodega name as not only Garvey on the capsule, but also Complejo Bodeguero Bellavista (or Garvey) on the label. Yet the label has a very slightly gaudy full-coloured rendition of the de Soto label! Also, the de Soto image is of a girl refreshing a cowboy with some Sherry. The original Garvey label for La Lidia was an image of the bullfight, (lidia = bullfight). So the label and the name no longer match. I think their marketing lot need to be put in the bullring!
For only 3,50 Euros you don't expect much, but this perfectly serviceable everyday Manzanilla. Not available in UK. Shame at that price!

Soto/Garvey La Lidia
Original La Lidia

Garvey/Soto La Lidia

5.6.14 GB Online Tastings; Sanlucar Horseracing

For International Sherry Week, Gonzalez Byass is organising 5 online tastings in 5 languages: German, Spanish, English, Swedish and Russian. All the tastings will be led by Antonio Flores, the bodega’s oenologist. These tastings can be followed live anywhere on the planet by simply connecting to

The famous horse races of Sanlucar are programmed to take place on the following dates: 7,8,9 August and 21, 22,23 August. This is the 169th year of the races which take place on the beach. The pure bred horses and their riders will be competing for 3 major trophies: The Andalucia, the Cepsa and the Ciudad de Sanlucar.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Bodegas: M Gil Galan

In the heyday of Sherry there was a proliferation of small bodegas, usually family run, and which contributed to the glory of Sherry. Some had two or three hundred butts, some were just almacenistas, and some were bigger with up to a couple of thousand butts. These latter were big enough to need coopers, administrators, maintenance people, and as such were a source of employment. In general they either marketed their own brands or supplied wine to the bigger firms. Many had to try and sell their produce in smaller towns as the big cities were dominated by the big shippers.

M Gil Galan was a small to medium sized family bodega founded sometime in the 1920s by M Gil Galan. It was certainly listed as a bodega by 1933. The founder left it to his two sons Francisco and Anselmo Gil Ceballos. Initially the bodega was situated in the Plaza de las Cocheras, but they later moved to Calle Ferrocarril, 14.

(Foto Jerez Siempre)
It was well equipped, and there was plenty of well-lit office space with views over the loading patio, in which there were also carpentry and cooperage facilities. The two bodega buildings formed an L shape, one for the bottling equipment and the other for ageing the wines. They exported a fair amount, principally to European countries but also further afield, sometimes under the sous-marque FG Ceballos. To that end they had a specific foreign trade department. Another sale technique was sending out letters, often in rather poor English, but they did secure interesting business in the Dutch Antilles, Curacao, South Africa, Canada, and the Philippines, for example.

Twenty employees – and a few extra at Christmas to help fulfil bigger seasonal orders – produced quite a variety of brands. Perhaps the most famous of these, because of its name and its label is that of Oloroso Falange Española. While M Gil Galan was still running the bodega, the Spanish Civil War broke out, and he felt it would be safer to at least appear to support the ruling Right by designing this label. It shows a young man resplendent in his uniform of the Falange, a right wing militaristic party founded by another Jerezano, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera.

By the mid 1960's the bodega had merged with a sister company M Gil Luque, and by the end of the 1980s, with over-supply and prices falling, this proud bodega – like so many others - was finally forced to close its doors, though M Gil Luque survives as part of Grupo Estevez.

Their principal brands were:

Various wines under the Gil Galan name, Fino Condesa, Oloroso Falange Española, Oloroso España, Vino de Jesucristo (a tonic wine with added iron), Solera 1890 Brandy, Coñac Formidable, Quina Santiago, White Rum, Anis La Sirena, and many more.