Wednesday 30 July 2014

Fino En Rama Vintage 2006 15%, Williams & Humbert

Yellowy gold, quite bright, light legs.
Intense, lots of flor, very yeasty with waxy straw notes and gentle hints of autolysis, generous, quite full and very dry, with traces of dry scrubland in the background. This is serious stuff.
Tangy and yeasty, full and bitter, not particularly salty, very Jerez, delicious feel and depth of flavour from autolysis, traces of wood and sheer intensity, with a long very dry finish, a lovely wine.
This is Fino Pando without stabilisation at 7 years old, (bottled 2014) and shows just how good it is. Also, as a vintage wine or "Añada" it is quite unique. Out of 25 butts filled for this experiment, only 2 developed into a vintage Fino as the flor died off in the sealed butts. Vintage Sherries must be sealed by the Consejo, and this usually kills the flor, but it can, occasionally, survive, and this is one of those rare occasions. It is of course very limited.Unfortunately Pando itself is not available in the UK. This Fino en Rama 2006 (IWSC Gold winner) forms part of the W&H "Treasure Selections" range which includes As You Like It and a 1982 Vintage single cask Oloroso. So lots of interesting things at W&H, especially as they are continuing every year with the vintage Fino!
Around £ 25.00 per 50 cl bottle and well worth it for its uniqueness.

30.7.14 Tio Pepe Roundabout; Sherry sales 1st Semester 2014

The new Tio Pepe roundabout is nearly ready. The work of sculptor Chiqui Diaz, selected from four candidates by 6,000 people online, is in place and work is almost complete. The roundabout is at the start of the Avenida Tio Pepe in Jerez leading out to the airport. The fact that the voting came in from all over the world shows how international the interest is in Tio Pepe and Sherry itself.

(foto + Jerez)

Sales of Sherry for the first 6 months of 2014 have not reflected the buzz of the European City of Wine status, at least not in volume. While there is stability in the Spanish market, exports are down 5.3%. Figures from the Consejo show that while volumes are down, average prices are up, which compensates in part for the drop in volume. 16.5 million litres were sold representing a fall of 1 million litres against last year.

Among the export markets the worst result was in Britain with a worrying fall of 9%, down 3.2 million litres in volume. European sales in general are a touch over 9.2 million litres, a drop of 6.6%. Holland imported 2.9 million litres, down 2.86%, and Germany 1.6 million, down 5.3%. The USA is down 18% on sales of 701,675 litres and Asia is down also, especially Japan with a drop of 35%, importing only 62,000 litres.

Public toast in C/ Lanceria (foto Diario Jerez)
The Consejo attributes the poor export results, particularly in the UK, to the increase in price and tha lack of the usual promotions by major brands of the sweeter styles of Sherry associated with the older generation. This mature market which represents some two thirds of UK Sherry drinkers has had it good for a long time, but now we are seeing the rise of new consumers, younger people with more disposable income and who are prepared to spend more on good wine.

The only good news is that the Spanish market only dropped 0.45%, and the 11 million litres sold in the last 12 months make Spain the principal market, ahead of the UK.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

PX 15%, Emilio Hidalgo

Almost black, deep burnt umber to brown-stained amber and a green-tinged rim, long slow legs.
Intense aromas of pasas and dried figs, very fruity and quite concentrated with the slightest savoury note and traces of American oak. You can smell the very pulp of the sunned grapes along with traces of toast, coffee, caramel and a bodega full of ageing Sherries.
Soft fruity and deliciously smooth at first, then the more serious notes appear: traces of tannin, coffee, toffee, creme caramel and a gentle grippy tanginess. It grows in complexity and texture on the palate into a wine with some body, and leaves a long-lasting memory of a good PX.
Containing around 430 g/l natural grape sugar, this wine sounds intensely sweet, and it is, but that level of sweetness is not unusual in PX. What is unusual is that this wine is aged in its solera outside, against the bodega wall under an extended roof. This way it matures more quickly and rapidly develops concentration. Obviously this process works, as the wine is excellent, but this is just the young PX; they also offer the PX Santa Ana from a solera dated 1861 with an average age of around 100 years! Needless to say that is very expensive and hard to obtain, but this "baby" is delicious and will keep us going nicely while we save up.
About £ 16.00 in the UK. Agents are Caves de Pyrene

29.7.14 I Tio Pepe Festival

Gonzalez Byass are launching the I Tio Pepe Festival. Subtitled “El Arte de las Musas”, it takes place at 20.30 on the 14th August at the bodegas and features music, dance and wine. Artists appearing will be the soprano Ruth Rosique, pianist Rosa Torres-Pardo, flamenco singer Rocio Marquez and dancer Leonor Leal. Dinner will also be served. For tickets contact

Sunday 27 July 2014

27.7.14 Table Wine Harvest Under Way in Jerez

The harvest is under way already in parts of the Sherry zone. This is the earliest start for quite a long time and the yield will be considerably down on last year. White grapes for Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz table wines are being picked now with the reds to follow soon. First to start at the beginning of the week, and picking at night, were Garcia Angulo Brothers with their Gewurztraminer, and they will soon be picking the Sauvignon Blanc, both grapes being used in their wine “Cortijo de Jara”. Before long they will be picking Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot for their red wine.

A few kilometres north, Barbadillo is picking Sauvignon Blanc in their Gibalbin vineyard, and before too long will be picking the red grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah for their “Gibalbin” red table wine.

The Palomino grapes from which Sherry is made are approaching the 10.5 degrees Beaume required by the Consejo before picking, but Barbadillo will be picking them soon for their “Castillo de San Diego” white table wine, the biggest-selling in Spain. Many white table wines in the area are made from Palomino, but there is a new tendency for the inclusion of other grapes to provide a greater range of aromas.

Another white grape, Chardonnay, is grown by Bodega Entrechuelos for their two white wines, Entrechuelos and Alhocen. This chateau-style bodega, run by Miguel Domecq has vineyards close to the XI century Torrecera. The oenologist Joaquin Gomez reckons picking will start on Friday, a good week earlier than normal. Barbadillo also use Chardonnay for their sparkling Beta Brut.

The early harvest has been caused by a very mild winter followed by early flowering, but the lower than average rainfall will not adversely affect the Vinos de la Tierra, as irrigation is permitted. The red grapes, which are planted ever more widely, look like being one to two weeks ahead of the usual, depending on location. They are ripe but not ready as their Beaume (sugar content) is still on the low side. Some white grapes have suffered from Oidium, especially Palomino, but that has been dealt with and they are healthy.

As Jose Maria Mateos of the Estacion de Viticultura put it: “It is more difficult to produce a white than a red. With whites, you need balance between aroma, acidity and alcohol, while with reds there are many more factors, most of which can be adjusted. Red is like an orchestra with 20 musicians, and white has only three.”  The Garcia Angulo brothers believe you can make good wine with hard work and sustainability.

The Sherry harvest should begin in the next 2-3 weeks, but things are looking good for the Vino de la Tierra wines of Cadiz. If you can bear to drag yourself away from Sherry, these are often excellent.

Friday 25 July 2014

Amontillado La Garrocha 18%, Bodegas Grant

Gold tinted amber, looks fairly young, legs.
Light nose, very slightly floral with definite traces of fino and hints of autolysis and oxidation. It has some weight, considerable charm and lots of all kinds of nuts, even turron yema tostada and some glyceric sweetness. Very attractive young Amontillado.
Quite full, nicely textured with  a trace of sweetness balanced by hints of oak. There are early oxidative notes, those which appear before the full nuttiness of older Amontillado, so this is quite a young wine and at an interesting stage, more of a Fino Amontillado, but that term can no longer be used.
La Garrocha (which is a dance performed on horseback with a stick) is only about nine years old, and thus has spent most of its life under flor, which certainly shows. They produce another older Amontillado as well, but this one is fun.
Not available in the UK, but half bottles sell at $14 in the USA.

25.7.14 Another Prize for Lustau Oenologist; Vuelta de Espana Starts at Jerez

Lustau chief oenologist Manuel Lozano has been awarded the Premio Ciudad de Jerez (City of Jerez Prize) by the council. These are annual awards, and are given to citizens or local institutions for outstanding contributions to public life that year. Manuel Lozano has been awarded “Best Fortified Winemaker” for the last 6 consecutive years.

The Vuelta Ciclista a España (“Tour de Spain”) starts at Jerez in this year’s 69th race. The cycles will leave from the Plaza del Mamelon, where wine, horses, flamenco and cycles will emphasise the city’s year as European City of Wine. This is one of the big three European cycle races.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Health Benefits of Moderate Sherry Consumption

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

The Spanish Government’s minister of health, Ana Mato, is drafting a new “Ley de alcohol” (Alcohol Law) which contemplates the restriction of alcohol to minors even with permission from parents or guardians, the restriction of alcohol consumed by adults in the streets, and its promotion. If it proceeds through negotiations without dilution it will be pioneering legislation in Europe by integrating under the same legal umbrella all the laws concerning consumption, labelling and advertising. There will be serious fines for any infringement. The implications are very worrying as the similar “Loi Evin” in France has had profound detrimental effects.

The intention of the law is to curb under-age drinking and the annoying "botellones" or street drinking parties the young so love. As usual with politicians, they can see no difference between people drunk on beer and spirits and civilised wine drinking, so there will be no exceptions in the law for wine.

The Spanish bodegas will fight this tooth and nail as it ignores the positive benefits of drinking moderate amounts of wine and demonises its consumption, a part of the culture, as mere alcohol. Besides, alcohol consumption in Spain is steadily falling anyway. So now would be a good time to show the positive side of alcohol. The wines of Jerez have a long anecdotal - and almost certainly genuine - history of health-giving properties, and perhaps the following will convince any sceptic.

There was the miracle of Manuel Maria Gonzalez Gordon (1886-1980), author of the book known as the “Sherry Bible” ("Sherry" in the English edition) and director of Gonzalez Byass. As a child he was sick and the doctors gave him little chance of survival, but regular doses of Sherry saw him through and he lived a long, productive and healthy life to the ripe old age of 94. 

Another miracle was that of the King Alfonso XIII, who at only four years of age proved to be a sickly child with weakness and fever. Various things were administered to him at all hours: soups, milk and even Sherry, but the latter ensured his health and survival. Yet another was a soldier of the second squadron of the cavalry of Santiago who was in 1854 a wreck of a man, suffering from pneumonia. They tried everything till his doctor prescribed a biscuit steeped in dry Sherry to be taken every three hours. In three months he was fit enough to leave the clinic.

So, what are the benefits of drinking Sherry which are not already well known? Well, for example, does our minister know of the home remedy of “candie” (from the English “candy eggs”), a glass of sweet Sherry with an egg yolk which is infallible against the flu or a cold? Or “chiribitas” (from the English Sherry and Bitters)? Or a small glass of Sherry with two eggs to ward off anaemia? Or that Oloroso Rio Viejo kills flu bugs?

If all the foregoing were not enough, there are millions of reasons confirmed by educated people such as historians, doctors, researchers and health organisations, who over many centuries have come to the simple conclusion that moderate drinking of wine is beneficial to the health.  From the long-lived Noah onwards, everyone praised the virtues of wine. Saint Matthew advised his disciple Timothy to drink a little wine instead of water for the sake of his stomach ailments. Hipocrates recommended wine as the ideal remedy for “the fever of the combatant”, while Homer reckoned it gave one strength.

In the classical pharmacopoeia Sherry was known as “Vinum Xericum”, recognising its tonic and therapeutic properties. One of the great surgeons and politicians, Fermin Aranda, from Jerez, who performed the first open heart surgery in the world, and whose daughter Pilar ran an outstanding almacenista business, was quite right when he said that Sherry is life-giving wine as it contains iron, nitrogen and vitamins, and sufficient alcohol to cool any fever.

Louis Pasteur called wine the most healthy and hygienic drink, while Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of Penicillin reckoned that while his discovery could cure the sick, Sherry could resuscitate the dead. Another doctor, Jose Luis Ruiz Badanelli, put to bed the notion that Sherry, drunk even moderately, could cause cirrhosis of the liver. He was quite clear: “Sherry has surprising qualities: it doesn’t irritate the stomach with acidic compounds like tannins and tartrates as happens in other wines. It is a nourishing and powerful remedy which, when administered at the right time to the patient, strengthens the cardiac muscle and speeds up the metabolism.” Sherry was regarded as wholesome enough by the bodega workers that it occasionally made up for the lack of lunch. Columbus drank more Sherry than he ate food on his journey to the Americas.

The great bibliophile Jose de Soto Molina described Sherry as a “vivifying tonic par excellence”, while the great XIX century novelist Benito Perez Galdos also described it as “vivifying”, and many of his works are impregnated with his preoccupation for exalting the medicinal virtues of Sherry. In the more recent past, the Nobel prizewinning author Martin Rodall came to Jerez to support the work of the Estevez family in reducing the histamine content in Sherry, and praised the wine as a “healthy drink”. Severo Ochoa, another Nobel Laureate and one of Spain’s most distinguished scientists, never stopped praising the health-giving virtues of Sherry.

Another great protagonist of Sherry was Gregorio Marañon, a famous doctor and scientist from Madrid, who in his lecture to the Fiesta de la Vendimia in 1955, defended moderate consumption of Sherry. “Let us reject the supposed dangers of wine to health. My colleagues and I have seen some hundred thousand patients with all sorts of complaints, and very few of them were caused by excess of wine.” He maintained that wine- in moderation - is inoffensive and often useful, as long as we stay within our limits.

Sherry is a powerful anti-oxidant which combats cancer and ageing. The anti-oxidant properties of Sherry are 100 times more effective than vitamin C, and 25 times more effective than vitamin E. These anti-oxidants are known as polyphenols, and attack free radicals and the effects of ageing.

Longevity is a well-established trait in Jerez. Remember Manuel Maria Gonzalez Gordon who lived to 94 after the doctors had given up hope. His father Pedro Nolasco reached 97, and his father, GB founder Manuel Maria, recognised the role of Sherry in his recovery from childhood tuberculosis, dying at 75, an advanced age for his time. His great grandson, Mauricio died quite recently at the age of 90.

As a final point, let’s remember Manuel Salido de la Cal from Jaen, a businessman in the graphic arts, father of Antonio Salido Paz, founder of the Jerez football team, Jerez Industrial, who, in various interviews explained how he reached his centenary. “Every day I had a glass of wine before lunch: a glass of Oloroso to set myself up, and maybe one or two glasses of Fino. I feel terrific.”

So there we are; in Jerez someone who doesn’t recommend Sherry either doesn’t like it – or they are mad. You are probably convinced by now – or always were – but just in case, there follow some even more convincing footnotes:

*30-50% reduction of risk of death by heart attack with moderate consumption as against abstention.
*Reduces arterial pressure and thereby arterial sclerosis.
*Stimulates concentration, reduces stress and is helpful against Alzheimers.
*Moderate consumption has no effect on the digestive and nervous systems.
*Facilitates digestion and stimulates appetite without causing weight increase.
*Fights osteoporosis.
*Delays ageing.
*Lowers cholesterol.
*Acts as a mineral supplement.
*Reduces allergic reactions.

(Legal disclaimer: Please remember that while moderate consumption of wine/Sherry does have positive physical effects, not all doctors see things that way. This is not intended to persuade you to drink anything other than moderate quantities of Sherry.)

Tuesday 22 July 2014

22.7.14 Harvest Festival Poster; Good Results at Williams & Humbert

The poster for the 2014 Fiesta de la Vendimia by Luis Gonzalo has been unveiled by the mayoress of Jerez along with the festival programme. The fiesta is dedicated this year to the venenciador, and will start with the traditional treading of the grapes at the main door of the cathedral at 20.00 on the 9th September. To include the kids, there will be a junior venencia competition, and for the adults there will be lots of tastings, food matching and grand tastings at the Alcazar.

(Foto: + Jerez)

Williams& Humbert has achieved double digit growth thanks to export markets. Sales have grown especially in Asian markets allowing the firm, controlled by the Medina family, to look at new projects. 75% of the firm’s 40 million euro turnover comes from exports to over 80 countries. The firm has always tried to offer a diverse range of products, from gin, brandy, rum, table wines to Iberian pork and, of course Sherry.

Jesus Medina (foto + Jerez)

Amontillado VOS Baco Imperial 19.5%, Dios Baco

Amber, polished old mahogany fading through yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs
Refined, tight nose with toasted almonds and hazelnuts mingling with the aromas of old barrels in a bodega. Not as apparently sweet as many, though there are gentle hints of sweetness, dried fruit and wood. It is a more serious nose than some, but with a most attractive deep old nutty core.
Quite intense flavour, dry with lots of nuts and wood, fairly tangy acidity and just enough glycerol to balance the wood tannins and give a really natural style. Some Amontillados seem really quite sweet but this one is drier than many so you can see exactly what is there, and it is a fairly lean, clean absolutely natural wine with great length and would be brilliant with food.
The solera is from the 1870's, and was bought along with others by Paez Morilla when they established Dios Baco in 1992, in some of the remaining old Palomino & Vergara bodegas. The VOS wines are a minimum of 20 years old, and this one tastes just so.
35 Euros in Spain. Not available in the UK, unfortunately.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Bodegas: Richard Davies

Richard Davies (London 1809 – Cadiz 1870) began by shipping Madeira. He did well enough to become the owner of the famous vineyard there called Ribeiro Seco, adjacent to which he also owned the villa and gardens of La Vigia, where the Empress of Austria once stayed.

He married Mary Ann Hobson (1814-?) with whom he had 9 children, many of whom died young. One son, however, continued in Madeira under the name Oliveira Davies, while another, Richard Henry "Harry" Davies (1840-1891) worked with his father at the bodega they established in Jerez in 1863, situated close to the bullring. Being involved with Madeira and Sherry was not uncommon in those days. He rented the fine Torre Breba vineyard at Sanlucar from the Duc de Monpensier.

In 1870, Richard Henry Davies, who lived at Calle Porvera, 3, took over the business on his father’s death. He married Clara Penfold (1840 – 1928). When Vizetelly visited at vintage time in 1875, R Davies was one of the bigger shippers. At that time, Torre Breba had 84 hectares in production, which required 200 men to pick, for which they received 8 reales per day. The vineyard yield was some 700 butts – or in modern terms, about 42 hectolitres per hectare - small by today's standards. The firm also owned the finca El Olivar de Buena Vista. Sherry was made in a bodega in Sanlucar and aged in Jerez, and it is possible they also had a bodega in El Puerto

Like many of the British community in Jerez, he was a bit of a sportsman and was involved with the founding of the Jerez Polo Club and Jerez Jockey Club along with Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez Soto (member of the Gonzalez Byass family and later Marques de Torresoto). Davies, along with William Garvey had excellent studs which provided fine thoroughbred racehorses. He was also the British Vice Consul till his death in 1891.

(Pictures Jerez Siempre)
Richard Henry and Clara had five children, of whom the elder, Ethel (1861-1941), married Robert William Byass, grandson of Robert Blake Byass, and a member of the firm of Gonzalez Byass. Their son, Reginald Cyril Byass (1887 – 1960) went on to run the London offices of GB. Clara (Penfold) Davies, who had  run the firm after her husband's death in 1891, transferred it to their other son, DH Seymour "Don Simo" Davies in 1897. He was British Vice Consul in Jerez from 1892-1900 and director of the Jerez Lawn Tennis Club.

After a fairly short but successful career, the firm was sold off in the 1920s. Seymour had lost interest after his only son, Richard Henry was killed at the battle of the Somme during WW1 in 1916.

Some of their brands were:
Amontillado La Novia, Finos and Manzanillas from Torre Breba and some very old wine from the Don Miguel Viton solera

I am grateful for much of this information to historian and researcher Jose Luis Jimenez, (a true Jerezano) and to Mark Davies, great grandson of Don Simo.

Friday 18 July 2014

Palo Cortado Cardenal VORS 22%, Valdespino

Deep burnt umber hued amber through to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Stunning. Intense, concentrated almond, hazelnut and wood, a little implied sweetness and a trace of salinity all beautifully integrated. It gives a strong sense of being in a bodega surrounded by barrels of Sherry, and there are woody, almost cigar box spice notes, balsamic hints and it evolves slowly and surely in the glass. Despite the age and concentration it is supremely elegant and refined.
A huge, powerful wine with a fair bit of wood tannin astringency just balanced by sufficient glycerol. Lots of nuts including walnut and a fantastic texture - you feel it as well as taste it and there are slight chocolate notes along with hints of wood spice. If anything, slightly more Amontillado than Oloroso. The length is almost interminable.
Scoring 99 Parker points, this exquisite wine is around 50 years old. It started life in the Macharnudo Alto vineyards, and the must was fermented in butt. It then went through the Inocente solera, followed by the Palo Cortado CP solera, followed by the tiny Cardenal Solera, so it has been well aged!
Expensive! A half bottle is 85 Euros in Spain, but it will be hard to find in the UK as agents Liberty Wines appear not to ship it.

18.7.14 Fernando de Castilla Award; Osborne in Chinese Deal

Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla has won a Wines of Spain award for the best dry fortified wine. Their Fernando de Castilla Classic Manzanilla is the wine in question. Over 700 wines were tasted in various categories by a panel headed by Tim Atkin MW.

The Bulls at Osborne's brandy bodegas (foto Cadiz Turismo)
Bodegas Osborne has signed a deal with the Chinese company Fosun by which the leading private industrial conglomerate takes 20% of Osborne in the form of new capital. The aim is to fund growth as well as to give Osborne a foothold in China, and makes Fosun the Sherry firm’s largest foreign investor. This follows two other Jerez/Asian deals: Gonzalez Byass’ alliance with the Filipino Emperador Distillers and Suntory of Japan now owns Beam Global, owners of Domecq.

The Osborne family still own 80% of their firm’s shares, and this new investment will help with growth and the purchase of new spirits brands as well as reinforce the Puerto de Santa Maria firm’s brands in China. It is a strategic market with annual growth potential of 20% in imported premium brands, making Fosun an excellent ally. Three quarters of Osborne’s business is wine and spirits, while one quarter is the 5J Iberico pork business.

The American Oak Bubble

The Spanish cooperage business is facing an unprecedented American oak supply crisis. On top of the national economic crisis, cooperages literally have to compete with one another to obtain their raw material. As a consequence of the oak shortage, prices have been forced up by 83% since 2012. There are various reasons for this phenomenon as follows.

The main reason is the boom in wood matured spirits. The big producers of Scotch and Bourbon foresee increases in worldwide demand for their products of over 10%. A good example of this would be Brown Forman who produce in their own cooperage 3,500 Bourbon barrels daily, and are building another cooperage to open in 2015 to augment their barrel production to 5,500 – 6,000 daily. This will increase their annual production to around 2,000,000 barrels, while the production capacity of Spanish cooperages is around 150,000 barrels annually.

This gives us an idea of the pressure on the supply of wood, and as a consequence the price of a Bourbon barrel has doubled in recent times and the entire production has been sold, not only for 2014, but for 2015 and 2016 as well. Recession in the US from 2008 caused a drop in Bourbon sales and by extension, bourbon barrels, and now US cooperages are working at full tilt to try and make up for the shortfall, estimated at some 130,000 barrels. This should only be a temporary glitch however.

The second reason is the increase in demand for oak as a building material. The economic crisis is ending in the US and there is a huge increase in house-building. The Americans build many of their houses from wood and sales are increasing in double digit increments.

The third reason is the poor climatic conditions in 2013. A long warm winter saw torrential rain making it almost impossible to get into the forests. The summer also saw torrential rain which resulted in many sawmills remaining closed for months for lack of tree trunks.

Tall and straight, perfect for barrels (pic UC Davis)
The fourth reason is that oak is in very heavy demand worldwide for other purposes. For example, it is very fashionable for home decoration in China. We are going to have to understand that it is now becoming a limited and over-exploited resource as it takes at least a century to grow suitable American oak trees, and longer still for European oak. As a result of the pressure on American oak, both on supply and on price, European oak is beginning to experience strong worldwide demand, with the price of French oak increasing 10% over the last five years.

The final reason is financial. American banks are reducing their exposure to risk by lending less, which restricts the growth of products. Oak suppliers who abandoned the business because of the crash in 2008 are now finding that they cannot obtain the finance to start up again.

The Sherry industry is comparatively lucky. While it uses American oak for its butts, it uses them for a very long time to avoid any wood flavours in the wine, thus there are few new butts being made for Sherry itself. The table wine business uses a lot of American oak as well, but not for as long as the Sherry producers, usually around three years. The American Bourbon industry must by law always fill new whiskey into new barrels, hence the pressure on wood supply, but while the other spirits producers of the world: the Scotch, Irish, Japanese whiskies, Rum, Brandy etc. can use second hand barrels – mostly ex bourbon barrels – they are increasingly interested in new barrels through sheer necessity.

It looks as if the American oak bubble is here to stay for the next 2 or 3 years. The whisky boom cannot last forever however, and after that the prices may go down, but never again to the levels of 2012. Soon, however we hope that there will be a Sherry boom!

(Based on an article in La Semana Vitivinicola, but with additions))

17.7.14 Lustau Oenologist Award; Balbaina Vineyard Walks; Tio Pepe Roundabout

Manuel Lozano has done it yet again! The Lustau oenologist is the winner of the International Wine Challenge best fortified wine maker for no less than the sixth consecutive year.

(Foto +Jerez)
The Historic Patrimony department of El Puerto de Santa Maria council has organised a walk through the rural roads and casas de viña (vineyard houses/presshouses) of the pago Balbaina at 8.00 pm on Friday. The walk of about 8 kilometres will show people their vineyards and their history. It will be repeated on the 22nd of August. This would be a great tourist attraction.

Work has begun on the new Tio Pepe statue to be erected on a Jerez roundabout. Preliminary works such as cabling and signalling are underway, and the new statue should be in place soon.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Amontillado VORS Fino Imperial" 18%, Diez Merito (Paternina)

Bright pure amber fading through yellow to a slight hint of green at the rim.
Very forthcoming and aromatic with a gentle sweetness wrapped around toasted hazelnuts and almonds and a definite hint of cinnamon, a little like lebkuchen. Traces of oak, gingerbread, dried fruits and a touch of alcohol add to the complexity. This is very attractive, fresh and fragrant, still with the very slightest hints as to its Fino background. It is all very subtle.
Quite light and fresh compared to many VORS Amontillados, incredibly elegant with a fair acidic tang which keeps it clean. Then the flavour floods in, again all those nuts and hints of spice, some glycerol to balance the tannins and acidity and make it really smooth. It is a kind of gentle giant: lots of character but (too) easy to drink yet has terrific depth of flavour and length. Sheer class.
Perhaps the name of this wine is confusing. How can a thirty year old Amontillado be called Fino? Well it started out as a Fino, and surprisingly still retains some Fino characteristics. It should be pointed out that the terms Fino-Amontillado or Amontillado-Fino are no longer permitted as, however accurate they may have been in describing the wine, they could cause confusion. So Fino Imperial is a brand name rather than a description. It is sealed with a driven cork, so can be laid down for years - if you can resist it!

Made from Palomino grapes from albariza soils in Jerez Superior, the wine spends its first 5 years under Flor and used to be refreshed from time to time with Manzanilla Pasada (helping slightly with the Fino characteristics) though now Fino is used. The next 25 years are spent gently oxidising. There are 5 criaderas and a 27-butt solera laid down in 1793. Over such a period, the wine reaches its strength naturally, and needs no further fortification. The solera was bought by Diez Hermanos, and predates that company's foundation in 1876. Even the wine from the last criadera is superb!
This isn't cheap at 93 Euros ex bodega, (but it does come in a wooden box!) It is a must-try wine, though. Unfortunately it is not available in the UK.

A Plea to Bodegas to Seek Better Representation on Export Markets

Something which strikes me as a terrible shame is that many Sherry brands are either not available or difficult to obtain in Britain which is one of the more important markets. Many bodegas are only poorly or partly represented, and this must surely have a detrimental effect on public familiarity with the bodega’s name and its brands. It certainly makes it difficult for retailers to assemble a cohesive range of Sherries from a variety of bodegas.

One problem is split agencies, where some brands from a particular bodega are distributed by one company and other brands by another. Possibly there may be too many brands for one importer to handle, but apart from that I find it hard to understand how this arrangement could possibly benefit the bodega, and it is certainly very irritating for a retailer who has to open accounts with even more suppliers, each one with a minimum delivery quantity.

Then there are regional agencies. For example a major London (effectively UK) importer might have the UK agency for bodega X, and to make things easier they appoint regional distributors, in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  These distributors have additional transport costs and therefore pay more and have to charge more, so there are at least two different UK prices for the same wine.

This can surely be resolved by working on the logistics such as parallel shipping and minimum deliveries to arrive at a single UK price. After all we are mostly talking about firms who have large lists, so a minimum delivery of say 25 cases is easy enough if they are mixed. Another consideration is the use of local, possibly shared, bonded facilities, where wine can be stored duty and VAT free till needed.

The third bone of contention is whom the bodegas choose to be their UK distributors. Some, it seems to me, are just glorified retailers or local wholesalers who lack a nationwide perspective. If a bodega is serious about selling its brands in the UK or any other market it must appoint a nationwide or regional distributor with a big enough list and sales force to actively and willingly sell all its agency wines.

One solution to the problem is self-distribution. An exporter simply needs to set up a UK company to distribute its own brands, and if there are not enough brands or they are too specialised, then they can act as agents for other complementary exporters and work together. Another possible solution is the French system where “negociants” handle lots of wines, usually but not necessarily from a given area, so an importer can secure a large range from one source.

After decades of decline, Sherry – quality Sherry – is beginning to turn the corner, but it needs much more professional distribution and always backed by a marketing and promotional budget, along with, ideally, generic promotion from the Consejo. Without these, it will simply not achieve brand awareness nor, therefore, sales. Many bodegas have good representation, but many do not.

As a retailer who would like to offer a generous and interesting range of Sherries, I find it almost impossible to deal with lots of small companies all over the UK who often only offer part of a bodega’s portfolio. Many of these small firms make little or no effort to sell their agency wines beyond their own locality. They do not advertise, and it is hard to find out who ships what. The Sherry Institute has a list of UK importers, but it is incomplete, and perhaps it could be doing more for bodegas wishing to export. Wines from Spain/ICEX could also help, being subsidised by the Spanish Government.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

15.7.14 Consejo to Open Visitor Centre

The Consejo Regulador is to open a visitor centre at its headquarters in Jerez.  The plan is to create an information and promotion centre, a place to start the wine tourism routes, where there will be tastings and seminars. Tourists will be able to learn how Sherry is made, its significance and how it should be drunk.

A promotional protocol has been signed between the Provincial government of Cadiz tourism department, Jerez council  and the Consejo whereby all tourism promotion will actively promote Sherry at provincial, national and foreign levels.

(Foto: Diario Jerez)
Present at the meeting held at the Consejo were the Mayor of Jerez, the chief of the provincial council, members of the Consejo and representatives of the various aspects of the Sherry trade. While the council and the Consejo have worked together before, what is needed is a common coordinated strategy. All parties are in complete agreement, as this is very important for local jobs.

Amontillado del Duque VORS 21.5%, Gonzalez Byass

Deep coppery amber with golden glints through yellow to trace green at rim, legs.
Full, intense yet a certain lightness and salty almost autolytic note betrays the faintest traces of Fino origins. The nose grows, however and develops some power and considerable complexity with hints of oak - almost cedar wood, and lots of nuts with traces of dried fruits, cinnamon  and walnut.
Big, crisp, obviously old and with some austerity. On the structural side there is lots of grip from the sheer concentration of the wine and also from wood tannins and a fair amount of volatile acidity. On the flavour side there are hints of oak, lots of toasted hazelnuts and almonds and a hint only of glyceric sweetness. Great length. It might be tempting to add a spoonful of PX to alleviate the astringency, but this has not been done, so we are left with a totally natural old very dry wine suitable for real connoisseurs or for matching with game or old cheese perhaps.
This magnificent wine comes from a very small 16 butt solera bought in 1835 (but already considerably older) by the Duke of Medinaceli and sold to Manuel Maria Gonzalez in 1857 (hence the name). The butts were originally made from cherry wood, but the wine was later transferred into the American oak it is in now. The grapes are from the Carrascal and Macharnudo pagos, and the wine from the Tio Pepe soleras eventually feeds this solera.
£25-27 in UK for a half bottle (it goes farther that way!)

Sunday 13 July 2014

Moscatel Promesa 17%, Valdespino

Deep amber, quite viscous in the glass, and yes, legs.
Gorgeous nose. Made from super ripe fat juicy Moscatel raisins with all sorts of things going on. Dusty traces of oak (even for its youth), honey, a fair bit of citrus - somewhere between orange and marmalade, also very grapey and raisiny, like all Moscatel,  and slight hints of tea, toffee and turron.
Big, soft, grapey, juicy and very broad. There is an attractive and refreshing acidity which goes some way to balancing the residual sugar, and a fantastic rich grapeskin texture. This wine needs to be rolled round the mouth while drawing in air to really get the feel. It is full, yet so light. Marvellous.
Made (like most Moscateles) from Moscatel de Alejandria grapes grown in Chipiona, famous for Moscatel, which are sunned for a week to 10 days - not as long as PX -  to retain acidity. The must begins to ferment and is soon fortified to 16% to retain the natural grape sugars (somewhere around 250 g/l - not much more than half that of PX). The wine is then aged in solera for around 8 years till required for bottling. Some of this delicious Moscatel (90 Parker) is sold as Promesa and the rest ages much longer to become the famous Moscatel Toneles (100 Parker) QV.
In Spain around 14.50 Euros. Liberty Wines are the UK agents, but don't appear to be listing Promesa.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Amontillado Muy Viejo del Principe 18.5%, Real Tesoro

Mid to deep amber, chestnut, legs.
Classic Amontillado, gentle, elegant, fairly light, complex and attractive with a certain glyceric sweetness - and yet there's a dry element there too - and lots of hazelnut. It is restrained, refined with traces of straw, dry scrub and turron de yema tostada.
Again fairly light and very elegant, fresh and clean. More straw and hazelnut notes with that gentle implied sweetness. There are traces of its Fino past in the form of a very slightly saline autolysis balancing well with the oxidative character. On the finish it is long, dry and very satisfying.
This 93 Parker point wine is made from Macharnudo grapes and is one of the very few fermented in barrel. It is aged as a Fino for about 8 years, then further fortified and put into the Amontillado solera. It is released at around 16 - 18 years old. The old Marques del Real Tesoro firm belongs to Grupo Estevez, and its bodegas are now in the same complex as Valdespino, on the outskirts of Jerez. This should not be confused with Barbadillo's Amontillado Principe.
Unfortunately not available in the UK, around 15-20 Euros in Spain.

12.7.14 Fiesta de la Vendimia 2014

This year’s harvest festival is very special, Jerez being European City of Wine. Preparations are already underway for the festival which takes place between the 9th and 14th of September and encompasses more than 50 events.

The first and most iconic event is the treading of the grapes at the Cathedral, after which there will be cultural and gastronomic events as well as opportunities to get to know the Sherry wine. Among these will be irresistible activities such as tastings led by experts marrying food, Sherry and flamenco at the Alcazar.

There will be concerts, junior grape treading, introduced last year and a resounding success, and the junior venencia competition, shop window competitions and many bodegas will be welcoming visitors. For the latest information visit the council website:

Friday 11 July 2014

The Glass factory

If you have ever been near the railway station in Jerez, you have probably wondered what the three very tall chimneys nearby belonged to. Well, they belonged to the Fabrica de Botellas, the bottle factory, known to all as “La Jerezana”. On the 28th November 2009 it closed its doors for the last time.

On the 22nd June 1895 two Frenchmen, Antoine Vergier Jeune and Andres Bocouze asked the Jerez council for permission to build a glass factory on that site. Permission was granted on the 25th June 1895. This must be one of the fastest planning decisions in history, but the council recognised the important creation of employment in very difficult times. Phylloxera was beginning to ravage the vineyards and people were starving.

La jerezana with its iconic chimneys
The plan was to make bottles and plate glass, for which would be required: ovens, chimneys of 30-35m height, forges, stores, metal workshops and the necessary ancillaries. The site was ideal being beside the railway, as goods could be easily despatched and coal brought in. The factory was built by the end of the same year by architect Rafael Esteve, and it conformed to all the regulations governing industrial buildings, especially in its distance from the centre of population in case of fire, explosion, noise, pollution etc. In only about a year from the proposal, the factory was up and running.

La Jerezana was not the only glass factory in the city. There was another called “La Constancia” which was located near the bullring close to the urban railway, and owned by Manuel Fernandez. It occupied the site of an older glass factory of the same name. Two glass factories underline the importance of the Sherry industry in the XIX and XX centuries. Sadly, with that very industry’s declining fortunes in the late XX and early XXI centuries, both factories are now gone. La Jerezana is still used for light industry, and the great chimneys remain as a reminder of a great past.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Amontillado VORS 21.5%, Barbadillo

Deep copper-tinted amber to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Aromatic and refined, with all the elegance of an Amontillado which began life as a Manzanilla, still some slight vestiges of Manzanilla pasada. Lots of hazelnut and traces of walnut and wood balanced by that apparent sweetness caused by glycerol. No obvious astringent wood notes, just extreme elegance and class.
Intensely flavoured, obviously old and supremely yet elegant. Quite tangy acidity (7.5 g/l) which recalls Manzanilla,  is balanced by a trace of honey, and while there is a hint of tannin, there is none of the astringency that some of these old wines can possess. In fact it is very smooth with a slight honey-nut feel and terrific length. Excellent.
This wine began life as a Manzanilla, ageing as such for about 8 years through 12 criaderas. It was then fortified to 18% and entered the oxidative phase of its maturation, where it passed through a further 7 criaderas, filled to the brim, over the course of 22 years.
Imported into the UK by Fells and should retail at between £60-£70

7.7.14 First News on the 2014 Sherry Harvest

Early predictions for the harvest show a fall in yield of as much as 40%. The various parties involved: the growers, the bodegas and the Consejo Regulador are agreed that a major reduction in yield as compared with 2013 will be anywhere between 30% and 40%. 2012 was also a very small harvest due to drought, but produced very healthy, if small grapes. 

Less than two months before the harvest begins, the main worry is that a shortage of grapes will mean lower incomes for growers from musts or grapes sold to bodegas. However the situation should be put into the context of last year’s exceptional harvest which produced 82 million kilos of which 63.5 million qualified for Sherry production, equivalent to 89,000 butts.

(Imagen: Reporteros Jerez)
This year the projected production will be between 50-57 million kilos, not far from a normal yield which, along with the high production of last year will be sufficient to cover the renewal of stocks in the bodegas. Although sales of wine continue to slow, growing sales of vinegar will partly compensate. In fact, the growers calculate that in the production bodegas there remain 15,000 butts of last year’s wine, much of which may be declassified and sold as basic wine outside the region.

Predictions must be treated with caution, however. It is the weather during the month of August which decides the course of the vintage. So far the weather has been good, but there has been little rainfall, and if the Levante wind predominates, it’s hot, drying effect will reduce the crop quite dramatically.

Another problem is the outbreak of oidium, fairly widespread but more so in coastal areas such as Sanlucar and Trebujena. Oidium is a dangerous mildew-like fungus which at worst can split the grapes and ruin the crop unless spotted early and suitable action (sulphur spraying) is taken. Recent rainfall has not only provided the humidity necessary for the spread of oidium, but has washed away some of the sulphur used for vine protection. Let’s see what August brings.

Monday 7 July 2014

Palo Cortado Solera 20%, Cayetano del Pino

Golden amber, legs.
Very pretty, gentle with a delicate honeyed sweetness and lots of toasted almonds and nut oil, hints of vanilla and very slightest trace of oak, subtle, delicate, refined and attractive.
Smooth and crisp, dry and round, very fresh with lots of nuts and a hint of walnut in syrup, generous with an attractive texture yet all the while quite delicate.
This lovely wine comes from a small bodega in the Plaza Silos next to Maestro Sierra in Jerez. Once bigger and more commercially oriented, they are now really just almacenistas, and their wines are contract bottled with minimal filtration by Sanchez Romate. This Solera Palo Cortado is around 15 years old and comes from a solera of 22 butts. This feeds their older 5 butt solera for the Palo Cortado Viejisimo.
£ 15 from the Wine Society. UK agents Ehrmanns.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Oloroso Dulce Matusalem VORS 20.5%, Gonzalez Byass

Very deeply coloured, almost black at the edges through burnt umber to old amber with a trace of green at the rim, slow legs.
Deep and quite intense, strong aromas of old butts in a bodega, perfectly balanced Oloroso and PX with lots of pasa, date, American oak, cinnamon and a trace of candied orange peel. There are also hints of freshly roasted coffee. Really complex and amazingly well integrated for a blend.
The concentration comes through first, old Oloroso, old butts and coffee, then the sweetness arrives but without going too far. There is so much flavour you hardly notice it, but it is full of pasa and date without ever obscuring the Oloroso, whose phenols neatly balance it. Beautifully textured and very long. Superb.
Matusalem is one of GB's Rare Old Solera Wines. It is a blend of 75% Oloroso and 25% PX from GB's own Macharnudo and Carrascal vineyards, aged separately for 15 years then blended and put into an 1847 solera where it spends the next 15 years. Sugar content is around 130 grams/litre. The wine is quietly called "Cream" on the back label in tiny lettering as the old term "Oloroso Dulce" has been prohibited since 2012. Producers of wines of this level of quality would prefer not to use the term "Cream" as it might be taken to imply a cheap sweet blend. Still, if Cream can be this good, they should be shouting about it! 93 Parker. It might interest you to know that the Scotch distillers Whyte & MacKay age some of their single Malt "The Dalmore" in Matusalem casks. Quite how these casks can be spared, I would love to know...
Per half bottle, around £17.00. UK distributors Gonzalez Byass UK.

Saturday 5 July 2014

5.7.14 Gonzalez Byass Tintilla de Rota Wins Award

The Ultimate Wine Challenge, an American wine competition, has awarded the Chairman’s Trophy to this beautiful wine. An expert and professional jury awarded it 98 points as the best sweet wine.

Tintilla de Rota was all but extinct till in 2002 Gonzalez Byass planted a vineyard at their Finca Moncloa at Arcos de la Frontera near Jerez.

The bodega also won good points (91) for Tio Pepe and Viña AB, and for various other table wines.

Sunning Tintilla grapes (foto+Jerez)

Friday 4 July 2014

Fino Coquinero 17%, Osborne

Deepish bright golden straw, light legs.
Most attractive and fuller than many. There is a yeastiness with traces of straw and some briny salinity too, all very polished, then you notice traces of almond and hazelnut and a very slight hint of apparent sweetness balanced by the bitterness of the Flor. This is older Fino with a hint of finely controlled oxidation giving it a little more weight.
For a Fino it is full and quite serious, plenty of complexity from the still present bitter Flor mingling with the nuttier notes of the early Amontillado stage. This is lovely, and it has that roundness of the Puerto wines which balances with a hint of Flor at the end, which lingers for quite a while.
This is a lovely Sherry of a style not seen much now, a Fino-Amontillado. It ages for 4.5 years as a Fino and then it is fortified to 17%, killing off the flor, and ages oxidatively for 2 more years. It used to be sold as an Amontillado, but is now called a Fino, and I'm not sure if it is now younger than before. Anyway, it is well regarded by the trade. FYI - A "coquinero" is someone who collects cockleshells and is also a slang term for someone from El Puerto de Santa Maria.
8-9 Euros in Spain. Hard to find in the UK, but has someone selling it for £12.99.

4.7.14 Gonzalez Byass Unveil New Kind of Whisky

The whisky, called Nomad,  will be distilled, blended and aged in Oloroso butts in Scotland, then taken to Jerez to undergo a further year’s ageing in Noe PX butts. The blend consists of 25 malt whiskies and 3 grains aged for between 5 and 9 years and is created by Whyte & MacKay master blender Richard Paterson. Once it arrives in Jerez, it is looked after by GB chief oenologist Antonio Flores. The whisky is expected to retail for 30 Euros or £25 and sounds quite delicious.

(pic: Drinks International)

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Bodegas: Cayetano del Pino & Cia.

This small bodega was established in 1886 by Don Cayetano del Pino y Vázquez (1835-1918 ) a native of La Carlota, Córdoba. By 1858, aged only 23 he was showing prowess as a salesman and worked for a brand called "Antón Pericón. In Sevilla, he became acquainted with important contacts such as Alberto Romero and soon after Manuel de La Calzada, son of a popular banker. With their help he was able to realise his dream of establishing a bodega. On the 19th November 1896 the company of Cayetano del Pino y Compañía was founded and registered at Calle del Rosario, 16, Jerez.

The bodega was located at Plaza Cocheras, 3 and only four years later the firm moved to the Calle de Armas de Santiago into much bigger, more comfortable and very picturesque premises opposite the Tempul gardens. There were three main bodegas in the complex: San Bernabé, San Vicente and Santísima Trinidad, the latter being the site of the bottling and despatch. There was also machinery, cooperage, printing and distilling with a workforce of over 150 people, including a sales force. The bodega even had TWO telephones! In only a few years Cayetano had turned a dream into a modern bodega company up there with the Sherry barons. By 1900 he had nearly 600 labels.

The bodegas in Armas de Santiago
In 1904 King Alfonso XIII visited the bodega which was an official supplier to the Royal Household.{He also took tea - yes, really! - at Domecq as well as visiting Gonzalez Byass}. In 1905 Cayetano's friend and fellow bodeguero Carlos Mauricio Morales Sevil proposed him for the Civil Order of Alfonso XII in recognition of his invention of the natural ageing of wines. (? I wish I knew!) The bodega was also winning medals for quality. It was also selling some brands from the defunct Bodega Cramp Suter & Co. under licence.

Cayetano del Pino Balbotin (Foto Jerez Siempre)
In the 1890s Cayetano married Bernabea Balbontín, born in Sevilla in 1869. They had two sons, and Cayetano del Pino Balbontin (1896-1935) ran the business successfully from the early XX century until his untimely death, when his brother Enrique, a noted footballer who played for Xerez Deportivo, took over. At this stage the bodega was still prominent with a considerable workforce. When Enrique died, his sisters ran the business with the help of an accountant, Jose Luis Sisto, and then in 1962, Cayetano’s children, Maria Jesus, Cayetano, Angel and Enrique del Pino Bohorquez took over.

By the end of the 1970s, the Sherry business in general had begun to contract along with wine consumption and many vineyards were grubbed up. That, along with management difficulties slowly converted this important firm into a much smaller almacenista, and it even closed for 12 years, but selling no wine for this period allowed it to age and it improved greatly which worked out well for the family. While the bodega is Registered at the Consejo Regulador as a bodega de Crianza y Expedicion, they operate principally as almacenistas, now from a smaller bodega at Plaza de Silos, 3, bought from Domecq in 1983. They also constructed a warehouse on the Carretera de Arcos. The firm remains in family hands: Cayetano del Pino Bohorquez is president, Gerardo del Pino Iñíguez is the manager assisted by his cousin José Enrique Otte del Pino who is the oenologist, and his brother Miguel Ángel as a director. Federico Merino looks after the accounts.

Racking around the turn of the century (Foto Jerez Siempre)

Some of their many older brands were:
Monja Quina, Ponche Pino, Coñac Pino, Manzanillas El Espartero and El Litri, Oloroso San Enrique, Amontillado Pasado Adela, Amontillado Fino Ladies, Amontillado Viva Sevilla!, Pedro Ximenez Extra Superior, Lagartijillo Palma Fina, and their special sparkling vermouth Santa Elena, all with beautiful colourful labels depicting either beautiful women or bullfighting scenes. They even offered a Port.

The bodega as it looks today in Plaza de Silos
Some of their wine is available through Emilio Lustau’s Almacenista range, indeed Lustau buy some of their Amontillado to refresh their Botaina. The other wines are bottled for them by Sanchez Romate. Unusually, they do not sell Fino or Oloroso.

Palo cortado 1/15 (@15 yo) and a Palo Cortado Viejisimo 1/5 (over 35 yo and an exclusivity of the Wine Society), Palo Cortado 1/10 at over 30 years old, Palo Cortado Solera Cayetano del Pino at over 20 years and Amontillado Solera aged for over 20 years.

Visits? By previous appointment
Address: Plaza de Silos,3 11404 Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz)
Telephone: 956 345 736

1.7.14 Feria del Brandy de Jerez

The I Feria del Brandy de Jerez starts tomorrow and runs till the 6th. There will be stands at the Alameda Vieja beside the Alcazar showing Brandy, cocktails and food matching. There will be tastings, music, barman demonstrations and even ice sculptures too.