Sunday 31 August 2014

31.8.14 Sherrymaster II; Tintilla de Rota

Gonzalez Byass is organising Sherrymaster II at their Bodegas in Jerez. The two day event taking place on Wednesday and Thursday next week is open to sommeliers, gastronomes, experts, and specialised journalists and guided by GB’s chief oenologist Antonio Flores. Firstly participants will have a tour round the viña Esteve vineyard followed by a look at the company’s historic archive. The first day concludes with two tastings conducted by Juan Ruiz Henestrosa, sumiller at the famous Aponiente restaurant in el Puerto de Santa Maria. The second day will start with a tasting in the bodega led by Antonio Flores about the differences between one butt and another, and will conclude with GB’s homage to the famous sommelier Custodio Lopez Zamarra.

The VI celebration of Tintilla de Rota got underway yesterday evening and runs till Friday. Organised by Bodegas El Gato, one of the few bodegas still producing this precious liquid, and one of the most active, there is a dedicated programme to show these wines and others from the area, along with local gastronomy. There will be conferences, a tapas route, an exhibition of art relevant to Tintilla, and a final tasting, all in emblematic venues in Rota.

Friday 29 August 2014

29.8.14 Harvest Approaching Completion

High temperatures (It was 40C in the shade in Jerez the other day!) are ripening the grapes quickly. All the 20 press houses are working hard and more than half the harvest has been crushed, over 42 million kilos. The expected yield this year is about 65 million kilos, a drop from last year’s 82 million, but last year had higher rainfall and was “abnormally abundant” in the words of the Consejo director, Cesar Saldaña, while this year is seen as about normal.

A harvesting machine in action (foto Voz Digital)
He says that the grapes’ sugar content is easily 10.5 Beaume, with Chipiona at an average of 11.97 and Jerez with 11.81. The coastal vineyards are a bit further behind but are still at well over 11 degrees. This suits the bodegas as they need less fortifying spirit. This year’s crop is one of the more advanced for many years, but the grapes are in a good state of health. Some bodegas, those with more inland vineyards, have actually finished harvesting, such as Gonzalez Byass, who were first to begin harvesting. 

Thursday 28 August 2014

La Bota de Manzanilla No. 42 15%, Equipo Navazos

Clean brassy gold, maybe a trace of green at rim, legs.
Most attractive with hints of wax, apple, dried flowers, dry scrub, lots of flor even a trace of wood. Dry fresh and zippy yet there is some autolysis. There is also a saline maritime hint and a poised elegance and intensity. Pure real Manzanilla.
Tangy and fresh, classic older Manzanilla going on pasada, fine, balanced and quite intense yet so very drinkable, it is delicious. Hints of dried flowers, herbs, salinity, trace mineral and yeast autolysis. This doesn't reach the dizzying complexity of some of the pasadas (though it would have), but is so much more approachable, "cheerful" as EquipoNavazos put it. And fantastic with food.
This is the 6th release of Manzanilla from 19 butts in the oldest Manzanilla solera at the bodega of Miguel Sanchez Ayala in the Barrio de la Balsa area in Sanlucar. It was bottled in February 2013 with the lightest possible filtration. 94 Parker Points.
Around £27 Importer Rhone to Rioja

27.8.14 Fiesta de la Buleria; Alcazar Tastings

The XLVII Fiesta de la Buleria will take place on the 6th September in the Plaza Mamelon in Jerez, at the spot where the Vuelta a España (Cycle race) started. It was originally to be at the bullring. This year’s event will be free, and is dedicated to the famous local singer Juan Moneo “El Torta” who died earlier this year. There will be leading flamenco artists playing, including singer Remedios Amaya and guitarist Diego Carrascal.

El Torta painted onto a house in an art project from a year or two ago (foto reporterosjerez)
Grand tastings are to be held between the 3rd and 13th of September at the Alcazar as part of the Fiestas de la Vendimia. Seven bodegas will participate along with the excellent catering of Alta Cazuela to create a fantastic marriage of food, wine and flamenco. The bodegas are: Emilio Lustau, Harveys, Estevez, Aecovi, Romate Gonzalez Byass and Williams & Humbert. Oenologists from the bodegas will show all the main styles of Sherry, and there are two different menus depending on the type of Sherry being shown. The tastings begin at 20.30 and tickets are a very reasonable 25 euros, available from Bar Juanito or the Tourist Office.

Alcazar tasting (foto +Jerez)

Tuesday 26 August 2014

26.8.14 Vendimia; Huge Bunch of Grapes; Vuelta a Espana; Horseracing Sanlucar

The harvest is in full swing with over 25 million kilos of grapes crushed already. The sugar readings in the grapes are averaging 11.7 Beaume. The crop will be smaller than last year, due to lack of rainfall, but the quality is looking very good. Meanwhile, many Spanish people have been heading off to France to help with the harvest as there is such a lack of temporary jobs in Spain. 80% of the Sherry harvest is now performed by machines. Once there were 20,000 pickers, now barely 5,000.

What 4.42 kilos of Palomino looks like (+Jerez)
Trebujena’s annual bunch of grapes competition has been won by Francisco Baez Caro, whose bunch of Palomino grapes weighed in at 4.42 kilos. Winner of the Pedro Ximenez was Manuel Gil Parra whose bunch weighed 3.97 kilos. The record so far is last year’s bunch weighing 6.845 kilos, but last year’s grapes were bigger.

(foto diario bahia de cadiz)
The Vuelta a España is also underway, and no fewer than 96,000 people were there in Jerez to watch the 12.6 kilometre timed event. The three venencias in the fountain at the Plaza del Mamelon will remain there, along with the stack of barrels, both of which were erected to form a departure point for the race.

(foto voz digital)
In Sanlucar, the famous horse races are under way at Las Piletas beach, with much exciting racing to be seen by the thousands lining the beach.

Friday 22 August 2014

Amontillado 18%, Dios Baco

Quite pale golden amber, legs.
Light with remaining traces of Fino such as hints autolysis, refined and elegant with lots of hazelnut and hints of vanilla - even pastry - praline perhaps, from the American oak. Traces of raisin, wood and some glyceric sweetness. Attractive.
Fresh, light and elegant, super smooth and grows on the palate with a gentle tang. A medium weight wine with lots of nuts and real character from those traces of Fino still there, quite classy actually with good length.
Aged as a Fino for 9 years, fortified and aged for a further 10 years in the Amontillado solera, this wine is remarkably light yet equally complex and very good value considering that the VOS Amontillado which only need be 20 years old (though is actually a good deal more) sells for 42 Euros.
A reasonable 8.76 Euros from the bodega, available from Twenty One Wines in Brighton

Monday 18 August 2014

Bodegas: Cesar Florido

This old and interesting family firm, in the trade since the XVIII century, was founded in 1887, being the oldest surviving bodega in Chipiona and is one of only two non-cooperative bodegas in the town. Once, Chipiona had dozens of bodegas but now there are two plus the Cooperativa Catolica Agricola. Most Chipiona wine – mainly Moscatel - is sold to the big bodegas, but Florido bottle their own, or sell in bulk. They specialise in Moscatel de Alejandria. Chipiona is the perfect place for the Moscatel which grows happily on the fine sandy soils close to the Atlantic coast south of Sanlucar. This sand has meant that the vines have not needed to be grafted against Phylloxera.

The firm, run by 5th generation Cesar Florido, buys in some grapes, but they mainly come from 21 hectares of family-owned vineyards whose vines are anywhere between 15 and 50 years old. Grapes which are to be sun dried are simply laid out on the sand without the usual esparto grass mats or sheets of plastic. The sand is dry enough to avoid any risk of rot.

They have three bodegas, all situated in the old centre of Chipiona: Calle Padre Lerchundi is where they have the winemaking facilities, offices and bottling; the bodegas in Calle Castillo and Calle Ladislao Carrascosa contain ageing wines. All have the traditional "patio bodeguero". One can buy wine at each of the bodegas at their despachos de vino. Sales are largely domestic, but they do export, principally to the USA but also to the UK.

The wines:
Fino Cesar: made from Chipiona, Balbaina and Miraflores grapes, at least 3 years old from 62 butt solera. All the other wines are aged in bocoyes - butts of 40 arrobas rather than the usual 30.
Oloroso Seco Cruz del Mar: made from pago Balbaina grapes and aged in solera for 12 years
Peña del Aguila Palo Cortado 20%: very limited quantities, solera aged for 38 years
Cream Cruz del Mar: at least 5 years old, blended with Oloroso and Moscatel
Moscatel Pasas: The top of the Moscatel range, made from Moscatel grapes sun-dried for 15-20 days (which means a 50% loss in grape weight) giving a huge increase in relative sugars, aged in solera for up to 9 years
Moscatel Dorado 15% (17.5 for export): Mistela made from super-ripe but not sun dried grapes aged for one year in wood
Moscatel Especial 18%: Mistela as above but with added arrope for complexity and aged for one year in wood

While Chipiona is in the zona de produccion it is not in the zona de crianza, so the wines don't qualify for DO Sherry, but they are still monitored by the Consejo. Moscatel de Chipiona has long had a fine reputation of its own, and this is THE bodega in the town.

Address: Calle Padre Lerchundi, 35-37, 11550 Chipiona, Cadiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 371 285
Visits? Yes, by previous appointment

18.8.14 Tio pepe Roundabout Inaugurated

The new Tio Pepe roundabout is finished and was inaugurated tonight by GB president Mauricio Gonzalez Gordon and the mayor of Jerez Maria Jose Garcia Pelayo. It is situated close to the Corte Ingles department store on the Avenida Tio Pepe, and is made from high-grade stainless steel, measuring 9 metres in height. Here is yet another reason to visit Jerez!

(foto: + Jerez)

Sunday 17 August 2014

17.8.14 Chiclana Salt Pans; Gonzalez Byass Night Harvesting

Chiclana is not only famous for wine, but for salt. A great deal was produced in the past, but the industry has declined for reasons of viability – or perceived viability. Now two young men, Adrian Sanchez and Antonio Jesus Rivero, are convinced that the three disused salt pans in Chiclana could be viable in this consumer age, and they are already in negotiations with the local council for permission to reopen them.

Salt pans at Chiclana (voz digital)
There is definitely a market for artisanal salt in Europe. Both men have degrees in Environmental Sciences from UCA (Cadiz University) and have specialised in marshes, wetlands and salt pans, winning prizes for their work. Some 25 hectares of salt pans could employ 30 people.  To Adrian and Antonio, all you need to succeed is to believe. Chiclana already has a museum of wine and salt, which shows the importance they once had. Let’s hope they succeed!

Gonzalez Byass is night-harvesting in their 15.5 hectare vineyard “Viña Racha”, part of the 120 hectare Finca San Antonio in the pago Macharnudo. The best musts will eventually refresh the Tio Pepe soleras. These grapes will be taken quickly to the GB vinification plant, “Las Copas”. These vines are being picked by hand, by 40 people wearing “hi-viz” jackets, in almost total darkness except for the lights from small tractors and those on their heads. They are filling plastic crates with a capacity of 15 kilos and are paid 25% extra for working at night. Many work in the vineyards during the rest of the year.

Night harvesting at Bonzalez Byass (diario de Jerez)
At night the temperatures are a good deal cooler, which is good for the grapes, avoiding evaporation and potential oxidation, but there is dewfall and this adds to the feeling of cold which the pickers feel.  The grapes go through a sorting table, and any which may be unsuitable are discarded. Viña Racha will take 3 or 4 days to pick.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Amontillado Viejo El Tresillo 1874 20%, Emilio Hidalgo

Bright gold-tinted amber, is that a trace of green at the rim? Legs.
Huge full and expressive, impressively fresh and laden with charm. Very fragrant and complex. Some American oak and a trace of exotic wood like cedar gives a slight edge to the sweeter side with its toasted hazelnut and pistachio praline and honey, as does a decent acidity and a mere trace of its Fino past. There are hints of cinnamon, cooked orange peel, caramel, beeswaxed antique furniture, all beautifully nuanced and integrated. It just keeps on opening out in the glass.
Sweetness: caramel and creamy nuts at first, which then disperses into lots of tangy nuttiness, traces of walnut, oak tannin - not much given the age, but along with that lovely tang it balances things and makes for terrific length. Super smooth, voluptuous, perfectly balanced and so, so good.
This wine comes from a solera dated 1874, roughly the foundation date of the bodega, and averages somewhere around 50 years of age. Only about 3,000 bottles are released annually. A younger wine called El Tresillo is extracted from the same solera at about 15 years old. The young wine entering the solera has already had extensive biological ageing which gives it suitable complexity to develop into one of the finest Amontillados in Jerez. It combines concentration and finesse, complexity and character. It is intensely beautiful! Wine like this requires to be drunk slowly on its own with no distractions while you commune with it, watch it open out and out...
About 60-70 Euros in Spain, probably @ £80 in UK, agents are Caves de la Pyrene

Friday 15 August 2014

Bodegas: JW Burdon

John William Burdon was born in London in 1782 began in the Sherry trade working as a clerk for Duff Gordon in El Puerto de Santa Maria. He eventually left to start his own business in 1821. Before long he was doing well enough to take over the old Harmony family bodegas. In 1854 he shipped more Sherry than any other shipper, and prospered. His firm was awarded the Royal warrant by King Alfonso XIII and allowed to use the colours of the Spanish flag on the decoration of his bottles.

He married one Carmen Borges, but there was no issue and towards the end of his life he returned to England, selling the business  to Luis de la Cuesta proprietor of bodegas Jose de la Cuesta (established in 1849 and producers of Troubadour Sherries). Eventually the combined business was sold to Luis Caballero in 1932. Caballero marketed some basic styles of Cuesta and Burdon Sherry into the late 1980s, the latter still with little tassles round the bottlnecks in the colours of the Spanish flag, but not any longer. They are preoccupied with Lustau, who now operate the Burdon soleras.

Burdon's house with his monogram and his magnificent Medinaceli bodegas in C/San Bartolome still stand, but the bodegas are now stables for the Terry horses. Caballero still possess Burdon's accounts and many letters, as well as his clock and an equestrian portrait.

Some of the brands were: Burdon Fino, Dry Oloroso, Moscatel, Manzanilla Don John, Medium Amontillado and Rich Cream, Don Luis Fine Old Amontillado, but the star was Heavenly Cream.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

La Bota de Palo Cortado Sanlucar No. 52 18%, Equipo Navazos

Pale amber with traces of copper, legs.
Big with lots of soft oxidative notes, quince, quite savoury, trace Marmite, quite yeasty and savoury yet some Amontillado notes such as that implied sweet nuttiness - hazelnut, almond and walnut, clean, fine and very complex for such a young wine,  it can't hide its youth but that gives added character - and versatility.
Really quite tangy, dry, quite light and very fresh, some delightful slightly sweet caramel and walnut notes, no wood, amazingly "grown up" for its youth, nutty oxidative notes balance beautifully with the freshness and there is the slightest hint of bitterness and still that tang showing Sanlucar origins at the finish which is pretty long and very clean.
This seriously interesting wine was made from Palomino grapes grown in the Pago Miraflores near Sanlucar in 2010. The must was fermented in steel tanks at bodegas La Guita, where it had only a little interaction with flor, so this is really more of an oxidative wine. It was fortified to 17.5% then aged in 600 litre Sherry butts and 225 litre Bordeaux "barriques" filled almost to the brim to avoid excessive oxidation. The contents of 6 botas cañon (butts sitting on the ground) were selected, these having been seasoned with old Amontillado, giving more complexity and depth. Despite the short interaction with flor, the wine still has noticeable minerality as it comes from coastal vineyards. It was bottled in April 2014 at a modest 18% vol.

This is a ground-breaking wine. Probably the youngest Palo Cortado ever, pretty well from the start, and a vintage wine to boot. Yet technically it satisfies all the legal requisites and is delicious as well- and perhaps more food friendly than the usual heavier, older style of PC. We have mainly Eduardo Ojeda's experience and sense of adventure to thank for this gem.
Around £36 in the UK (as always worth every penny), importers Alliance Wine

12.8.14 Chiclana Sherry Roundabout; Gonzalez Byass Harvesting

Chiclana has an amazing new roundabout. It is on the road to Las Lagunas opposite the inn “El Florin” and is dedicated to the local wine industry. It is a clever structure which shows a venencia filling a copita and is even fitted with a fountain and an anemometer to shut off the water if the wind is likely to blow it about, as well as being illuminated. It was designed by the Chiclana firm El Pincel.

(Foto: Voz Digital)

Gonzalez Byass has begun harvesting Sherry grapes in their La Canariera vineyard in the Pago Carrascal in what may be one of the earliest vintages in history. The first grapes picked by both people and machines arrived yesterday at the production plant “Las Copas” where the “pies de cuba” or primary fermentations are now under way.

Grapes arriving at Las Copas (Foto:Diario Jerez)
Grapes from the inland vineyards are always the first to be picked, but this year the ripening has been very uneven due to variations in the weather. A prevailing west wind, as happened throughout July, usually slows down the ripening and the temperatures have never reached 40C, yet the grapes are ripe enough at 11 Beaume. GB have been among the first to begin picking, and the grapes are in excellent health. Due to the uneven ripening, the harvest will certainly go on till the 3rd week of August, and will in all probability be finished by the start of September. Barbadillo have their primary fermentations going already and expect to start bringing in the bulk of the harvest tomorrow. Williams & Humbert and Beam (Harveys) will be in full harvest from next Monday/Tuesday.

11.8.14 Various Items of News

The cork harvest has begun in Andalucia, including in the Montes de Propio near Jerez. Total Andaluz production of around 3 million kilos of cork will provide temporary work for some 129,000 people. In the Montes de Propio, cork generates a fundamental economic base for the area, with a production of 650,000 kilos generating some 900,000 euros. Andalucia is the world’s second largest cork producer with 15% behind Portugal with 61%. Cork can only be harvested every 9 years or so, so this is not exactly a full time job, yet it requires skills with an axe.

(foto: +Jerez)

Famous bullfighter Fran Rivero and chef Jose Andres visited the bodegas of Luis Caballero in El Puerto de Santa Maria after the bullfight, where they were offered a glass of Sherry and the traditional opportunity to sign a butt.

(Fran Rivero 3rd left and Jose Andres 2nd right foto: +Jerez)
Jerez now has a tourist bus which takes visitors on a sightseeing trip round the city. The 45 minute tour takes in the Cathedral, the Alcazar, the Chuch of San Miguel, the Cloisters of San Domingo and various bodegas. There are 9 strategically positioned stops, and people can get on or off where they like. The service is run by City Sightseeing, an international company.

Jerez sightseeing bus (foto lavozdigital)
The XLVII Fiesta de la Buleria will be celebrated on the 6th of September at the Jerez bullring and will pay homage to the great Jerezano cantaor (Flamenco singer) Juan Moneo “El Torta”, a wonderful interpreter of the local Buleria, who died last year. There will be a fantastic bill with many top cantaores. Not to be missed if you are in Jerez.

(Juan Moneo Lara "El Torta" foto lavozdigital)

Sherry Vinegar is selling very well. While the first semester of 2014 has shown a 5% decline in sales of Sherry, vinegar has increased growth by 25%. Sales for the period were 2.4 million litres, a record, and much of the increase was in Spain.

Sunday 10 August 2014

La Bota de Vino Blanco No 44 MMX Florpower 11.5%, Equipo Navazos

Amber tinged gold, quite deep for a white wine, some legs.
Full, intense, traces of apple, oxidation, dried flowers, straw, quince jelly, some bitter scrub from the flor, slight traces of hazelnut in syrup and light saltiness. This is different, intriguing.
Almost like a mixture of Manzanilla and white table wine, gentle oxidative apply notes, trace brine, dry feel that's not quite tannic, strong flor flavours yet hints of orchard fruit, then that dry, almost Manzanilla finish. A totally different kind of wine, and not just delicious but fascinating.
This is effectively unfortified Manzanilla which has not undergone solera ageing. It is a table wine made from 100% Palomino grapes from the vineyards of Sanlucar (mainly Miraflores), aged for 24 months in stainless steel tanks then for a further 8 months in butts, all under flor. During this time the wine lost 1% of alcohol to the flor. MMX stands for 2010, the wine's vintage, which for some reason is not permitted to be printed on the label. The wine was bottled in July 2013 without filtration. It is an ode to the soil! It is intended to show how wines are born in the vineyard and not the bodega, and how wines were in the XVIII century before routine fortification and soleras. It is worth pointing out, however, that many wines of the past with flor were regarded as sick until it was discovered how good they were. This is a most unusual wine which should be approached with an open mind and a bit of knowledge of what it is intended to be.
Just over £20 at Drinkmonger. UK importers Rhone to Rioja

Moscatel Laura 19%, Barbadillo

Deep amber with reddy mahogany highlights, very viscous.
Beautiful nose, very fruity super-ripe grapey Moscatel, orejones (dried apricots) and other dried fruits yet with a more serious side born of age: trace oak, savoury, walnuts in syrup, soft and fat, enticing.
Unctuous and smooth yet has a decent tang if not much acidity, lots of dried fruits especially that most delicious of grapes: Moscatel, and notes of honey. It has lots of flavour and considerable length.
Made from 100% Moscatel grapes grown in the Barbadillo vineyards of Gibalbin and Santa Lucia, only 3 hectares of which is Moscatel. Residual sugar content is about 170 grams per litre. The solera has a total of 31 butts: 2 criaderas and the solera. The wine is at least 5 years old - could be more.
In Spain around 7-8 euros, somewhere about £15 in the UK, not widely available, UK importer Fells

Saturday 9 August 2014

Jesus Barquin in Scotland

Over the last couple of days we have had the privilege of meeting Jesus Barquin, who along with Eduardo Ojeda runs the amazing Equipo Navazos. Jesus was in Scotland for holidays with his family and kindly took the time to offer us a couple of incredibly informative and interesting tastings.

He brought with him some fabulous wines, not all Sherry, but fabulous nonetheless. It is worth pointing out here that Equipo Navazos is about much more than just introducing us to the finest, rarest and most interesting Sherries. It is not so much a producer as a project, a club even, run by two extremely knowledgeable mega-enthusiasts with inquiring minds who have day jobs but also lots of ideas about wine, and are prepared to show us just how interesting it can be. And not even for profit!

Jesus Barquin (
They are involved in all sorts of interesting things like working with bodegas to produce table wines in Montilla (OVNI) as well as the classic Montilla, and Sanlucar (Navazos Niepoort and the lovely La Bota de Vino Blanco “Florpower”), Cava of the highest quality (Colet Navazos) and also spirits - there is rum, whisky, and brandy as well. Many of these projects have common themes such as terroir, flor, oxidation or bottling without stabilisation, and the results are astounding.

The wines we tasted were:
OVNI: (Table wine from Montilla PX grapes)
La Bota de Vino Blanco No 44 “Florpower” MMX: (effectively unfortified Manzanilla)*
La Bota de Manzanilla No 42: (From Sanchez Ayala, approaching Manz. Pasada)*
La Bota de Fino (Que va para Amontillado) No 45: (From Montilla, PX grapes, a Fino-Amontillado)
La Bota de Palo Cortado (Sanlucar) No 52: (Really young, amazingly good)*
La Bota de Oloroso (Montilla) No 46: (Montilla PX between 15-20 years old

As this blog is really about Sherry, only the wines marked * will be found in the tasting notes (soon). I must admit I am tempted to include other wines from Andalucia – they are so good and not necessarily so very different. And they all need our attention.

Friday 8 August 2014

8.8.14 Documentary on the British in Jerez Being Filmed

Veteran Andaluz documentary filmmaker Nonio Parejo who is known for his histories of Andalucia, will be filming in Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and England in August and September for his latest work about the presence of the British in the Sherry trade. The announcement was made by Jose Luis Jimenez, president of the Cine Club Popular de Jerez, who will be collaborating in the project which was inspired by the election of Jerez as European City of Wine. Nonio Parejo has been making documentaries since 1976.

Nonio Parejo, Jose Alvarez and Jose Luis Jimenez (Diario Jerez)
The British have had a strong presence in the area since the XV century, but above all in the XIX century when they left a strong mark on the wine trade, but also established certain customs such as football, tennis, polo, clay pigeon shooting and horse racing among others. This community grew to have its own cemetery, an Anglican chapel, and from the XIX century, consular representation.

Many of their names are still alive in one form or another: Garvey, Sandeman, Williams & Humbert, Wisdom & Warter, MacKenzie, Ivison, Terry, O'Neale, Gordon, Davies, Gilbey... so it is surprising that there has yet been no in-depth study. This documentary will try to address this with information, new contributions from experts, researchers, historians and the bodegas themselves. Can't wait for this!

Thursday 7 August 2014

Types of Sherry: Moscatel

The Muscat grape has grown round the Mediterranean for millennia. Its name probably derives from the fact that its perfumed musky aroma attracted insects (moschaton in Greek, Musca in Latin). Such an old variety inevitably has different versions (at least 18) and different names which can cause confusion. Generally it is known as Muscat in France, Moscato in Italy and Moscatel in Spain and Portugal, but it has nothing to do with Muscadet, which is made from the Melon Blanc grape.

The principal variations of Moscatel include dark skins, pale skins, large grapes and small grapes. In Spain, by far the most important of these is the large, pale-berried Moscatel de Alejandria, which is thought to originate in Egypt and was spread round the Mediterranean by the Romans. This grape made Malaga famous and is also used as a table grape. It can flourish in hot climates, producing healthy yields of very sweet grapes. Luckily, it is not terribly fussy about the type of soil, making it extremely useful in the Sherry zone, as the Palomino insists on the best chalky albariza soils.

Moscatel (

Moscatel has made its home in the Sherry district at Chipiona (though it is also grown in Chiclana) where it is the only wine aged there which can carry a Denominacion de Origen. The town of Chipiona is on the coast, just south-west of Sanlucar, and has much sand and some clay in its soils. This suits the Moscatel just fine, and grapes or musts are bought in from here to supply the bodegas in Jerez, Sanlucar and El Puerto de Santa Maria. They either bottle it as Moscatel or use it in their sweeter blends. Known locally as Isidoro, the Moscatel de Chipiona has a pale skin and many bunches of large round juicy grapes. It likes to grow near the sea where it can benefit from the moist Atlantic breezes.

Moscatel vines at Chipiona and sunning grapes (Consejo Regulador)
Some wine is made from super-ripe grapes with the fermentation stopped by the addition of alcohol giving very fruity "Dorado) wine, but most is made from grapes which have been sun-dried  for between 15 and 30 days, depending on the weather, losing about half their weight through water loss, but retaining their huge sugar content, and notably, some acidity giving balance to these really sweet wines. The yield is, of course, considerably reduced, and huge quantities of sunned grapes are needed to make any worthwhile quantity of wine. The juice from these grapes is also fortified with alcohol, and sometimes some Palomino must is added to dilute the massive sugar content. The wine is a bright golden colour, and some "arrope" or"vino de color" (boiled down must) might be added to give it that familiar brown colour. Alternatively, lengthy ageing will do the same.

In the past this kind of wine was known as “Bastardo” because it was made abnormally - without fermentation, and it formed a notable part of the sack trade, especially with England, where the sweetness was prized, as very little sugar was available until the XVIII century. Chipiona has certainly been a part of the wine trade since the middle ages, and probably much longer. In the last few decades, however with ever falling sales of Sherry, there remain only three producers of this classic wine:

Bodega-Cooperativa Catolico Agricola
Bodega Mellado Martin
Cesar Florido

Part of the Museo del Moscatel, Chipiona
Should you be in Chipiona – which I would recommend, there is a very interesting Museo del Moscatel ( There is an annual Festival del Moscatel, which starts this year on the 14th August.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Bertola Fino 15%, Diez Merito/Paternina

Pale golden straw, light legs.
Lots of yeasty flor, bread dough, brine, almond, very clean well made Fino, very fresh and very dry with good depth and slightest savoury hints. Brilliant with olives.
Fresh, crisp and clean with those yeast notes and that slight savoury hint from autolysis. Really refreshing wine, good and dry with good length.
Aged for 3 years according to the company website, but 5 years according to the bodega, which is more likely judging by the quality, through 5 criaderas and then the solera. It's a very good Jerez Fino. Bertola was established in 1919, taken over by Rumasa then sold to Grupo Paternina, and was bought in 2016 by the Espinosa family, along with Diez Merito.
About 10 euros in Spain  Not widely available in the UK but imported by Peter Watts Wines of Coggeshall, Essex.

Paternina label

The Power of the Sherry Women

The great New York fashion designer Kenneth Cole maintains that it is better to be noticed for what you wear in your soul than what you wear on your body. Only this way can one of his latest creations be understood: the New York Women’s Sherry Dress, cut stylishly with touches of urban sophistication with a weave reminiscent of fresh greenery and joy.

Kenneth Cole's Sherry Dress (
The historic link between women and wine is forged by adventurers who worked hard and anonymously, by women who inherited bodegas and had the tenacity and capability to survive in a masculine and hostile territory. Jerez is full of examples from the past like la niña de la bomba, la reina del vinagre, Pilar Aranda or more recently Pilar Pla.

The journalist Juan Pedro Simo and the researcher Jose Luis Jimenez have analysed the sudden appearance of women managers, executives, oenologists, journalists, PR officers, venenciadoras and vine growers showing the social advancement of wine. Fatima Ruiz-Lassaletta, Paz Ivison, Victoria Gonzalez Gordon, Montse Molina, Maribel Estevez, Reyes Gomez are the magnificent pearls of infinite examples who reaffirm the pairing of women and wine.

In fact, this symbolic relationship began more than a century ago, according to the studies of  the historian Ana Maria Gomez Diaz in her well researched “La Manzanilla: Historia y Cultura de las Bodegas de Sanlucar”, which shows increasing feminisation since the XIX century. The aesthetic representation of wine is associated with the qualities traditionally associated with women such as paleness, delicacy, finesse and elegance. These attributes and their figurative representation can be seen in the brands. In 1927 in Sanlucar there were seventy brands, and half of them had feminine names, for example Manzanilla muy fina Pastora Imperio.

Wine is a sharing world which transcends its mere business and organoleptic aspects. In Spain we have needed to acclaim wine from multiple intellectual perspectives: musical, poetic, cultural. The culture and the soul of wine are civilising processes which make it great and which in the end produce sales, consumption and development of the industry.

In this context we remember an initiative born in Madrid which arose as a romantic necessity to evoke a love story: the Sherry Women. This desire to share inspired Sara Peñas to get together a group of women fiends linked to Sherry in the capital. Lovers of Sherry, these women see themselves as a round table with an absolute passion for discovering and enjoying soleras, and have become a lobby with the face of a woman. What began as a group of friends has grown to fifty women whose sole aim is to promote Sherry through a healthy, open, participative and modern network.

(@Sherry Women)
They could be surrounded by the sophisticated glamour of a wine shop in the Salamanca area of Madrid, or be at a journalist’s keyboard writing about the spirit of the Finos, or making the conscientious efforts of an oenologist, or be with the most charming “foodie”. We just need a Sherry Woman with her influence, conviction and passion to take on Manhattan, to spread the love of Sherry and fill Fifth Avenue with Amontillados. Not since Shakespeare mentioned Sherry in his works    giving it a place in international wine culture, has there been such an interesting and original idea, born of love, which could give Sherry a future and poetry, as that of these Sherry ambassadresses.

From an article in Diario Jerez by Jose Berasaluce Linares

Monday 4 August 2014

La Bota de Amontillado No 37 18.5%, Equipo Navazos

Light amber with coppery orange tints, legs.
Amazingly fresh nose with hints of saltiness and minerals, lots of savoury autolytic notes, a hint of Marmite and yeasty bitterness remaining. Then there's the oxidative side with  traces of quince, and the beginnings of the nuttiness and implied sweetness of an Amontillado. This is amazing: at 18 years you could still almost call it a Manzanilla Pasada - but for that hint of sweetness. Manzanilla Muy Pasada?!
Here the weight and strength of the Amontillado comes in at first, nutty with trace sweetness, but still there are those saline yeasty characteristics giving it a real raw tang which of course balances perfectly with the slight sweetness. A fascinating wine, bursting with flavour, very long and of a type almost unobtainable anywhere else. It is not cheap, but you should get some: it shows you exactly how Amontillados evolve from Manzanillas. A magnificent wine!
Another masterpiece from Equipo Navazos. 3,000 bottles of this wine (equivalent to @ 4.5 butts) were sourced from Hijos de Rainera Perez Marin (La Guita) in Sanlucar, and bottled in August 2012. When Grupo Estevez bought the bodega in 2007, there were various tiny "Manzanilla Pasada" soleras which had been laid down by a previous oenologist, and these were rationalised. {The term Manzanilla Pasada is used in Sanlucar to denote wines which could be anywhere between old Manzanilla and young Amontillado}. The finest and most complex butts were selected, and they were refreshed with selected unfortified Manzanilla, creating a very natural Amontillado solera of just over 100 butts. Throughout June 2012 Navazos selected a dozen or so of the butts for their freshness and complexity. The average age of this wine is 18 years, yet it is as fresh as a daisy - like an Amontillado Fino!
£46.00 from Drinkmonger Edinburgh. UK agents Rhone to Rioja.

4.8.14 More About Sherry in the Media

European City of Wine status for Jerez has had a major impact in the media.  Sherry has tripled its total media presence in the first half of this year and jumped from 5th place (in Spain) at the end of last year to 2nd now. There is no doubt that this status has brought benefits, and Sherry is being talked about more in the wine world as well as the media.

(foto: Diario Jerez)

Data from the consultants Castro Galiana, a Valencia company which specialises in auditing wine trade information across the media, shows that the Sherry zone closed last year with 3.11% of the media traffic, behind Rioja, Rias Baixas, Ribera del Duero and Cava. Since January, however, Sherry with 9.52% has overtaken all except Rioja which has 14%.

The activities of the Consejo occupy more than 10% of published information on Sherry, then the 34 bodegas, half of whom have a media presence in the context of wine information, are qualified by Castro Galiana as “notable”. The media monitored by Castro Galiana give plenty of column inches to wine, very important to the Spanish economy, as is the taste of the readers with respect to wine brands, enotourism, leisure and gastronomy. 

Sunday 3 August 2014

Fortified or Unfortified: The Past is the Future

Sherry is a fortified wine. Alcohol, which must be derived from grapes, and is in the region of 95% pure, is added at some stage or other, and in whatever suitable proportion, but the Reglamento (the rule book) does not actually specify this, only the minimum strengths required according to the style of the wine.

Wines from the region were not fortified in the distant past. It was not until the arrival of the Moors in AD 711 that distilling knowledge became available. Even then, it was used in attempts at medicine, perfume and alchemy. In fact the wines were never fortified until the growth of exports and the sack trade made it necessary - and more enjoyable to its markets - much later, in the XVI century.

Arab-style alquitara still (
In days of yore wines in butts were loaded into the holds of sailing ships, as often as not as ballast, for a journey which could easily take a week to reach, say, London. The rolling about of the ship and changes in temperature caused the wines to oxidise more, and on longer journeys, they matured more quickly, usually arriving in a condition quite different to that in which they had been sent. Hence the style of Madeira or the East India Sherries: deliberately taken on longer voyages for that reason. The use of fortification proved a very useful form of preservative in the wine, and in the past it was used less sparingly than now.

Interestingly, Sherry is fortified to different strengths for different markets, but this is due to those markets’ taxation regimes. As of 4/6/2014, the UK excise duty on a standard 9 litre case of Sherry is a whopping £32.79 (plus VAT of course), but at least that covers all fortified wines between 15% and 22% volume. In some countries there are multiple rates of tax. The UK duty on table wines up to 15% vol is £24.60 (+VAT).

Fortification is also used by Sherry producers as a tool. If, for example a wine has some fairly thin flor and apparently can’t make up its mind whether to be a Fino or not, then the producers will make the decision and fortify it up to 17 or 18% to be Oloroso/Palo Cortado.  Then there is Jan Pettersen of Rey Fernando de Castilla, who re-fortifies his Antique Fino to 17% vol as he feel it is better that way. I myself remember Finos in the 1960s and 1970s which were even stronger still – and not half as good. So fortification has been reduced generally, both for cost and quality reasons - and, of course, because wines reach their destination much more quickly now. With Finos and Manzanillas, fortification to15-15.5% is necessary, as the desirable yeasts (Flor) can stand it, but undesirable (such as vinegar) yeasts cannot.

But what about the viability of wines without any fortification? Nowadays, they are transported very much quicker, in refrigerated transport if necessary, and Sherry is exported in bottle without any lees to cause trouble. One wonders if fortification is still necessary. The answer to that is yes, but not always. As already mentioned, it is useful in the bodegas, and change would cause chaos, but some wines are now being produced without fortification, and give us a glimpse of how they might have been in the past. Innovation is not a great tradition in Jerez, but recent ideas such as Lustau’s Almacenista range, Barbadillo’s Solear En Rama, VOS/VORS, table wine and even sparkling wine have been noticed. Innovation is in and might well help in the revival of Sherry – by revisiting the past. (Remember Cayetano del Pino's Sparkling Sherry?)

Back in 2005, Equipo Navazos came about when two friends and Sherry lovers found an old unused solera of magnificent Amontillado and decided to buy some and bottle it for themselves. This has developed into a business, and the wines they bottle have won great praise. They have very enquiring minds, and have given immense thought to the wines of the past, which they like to call “Natural Sherries”, but they don’t qualify as “Sherry” officially, as they have lower than permitted alcohol contents.

First they came up with a wine called Vino Blanco Navazos Niepoort, first produced in 2008 with the winemaking skills of Port producer Dirk Nieport and help from Vilaviniteca owner Quim Vila. This is a wine with a natural strength of 12.5% made from Palomino grapes grown on pure Albariza soil near Sanlucar, fermented in butts with natural yeast and bottled after four or five months under Flor. It is an amazing wine with yeasty, slightly oxidative apply notes, very close to how one imagines wines were in the mid XVIII century.

Then they came up with the brilliantly named Vino Blanco MMX Flor Power (bottling No. 44). This is based on the same premise, but more intense, as it is aged longer – 8 months in 15 sherry butts then 24 months in stainless steel tanks – all under Flor, which reduces the alcohol content to 11,5%. It was bottled in 2013 and is now available. They also have a similar project in Montilla, called OVNI.

Another new project is under way at Bodegas Luis Perez in Jerez. This small family owned bodega, established as recently as 2002, is mainly involved with the production of high quality table wines. Their Petit Verdot is already acclaimed and they have just launched a Tintilla. This wine undergoes a second phase of ageing in an amphora 12 metres under the sea.

Last year the bodega bought the famous 30 hectare Viña El Corregidor vineyard in the Carrascal (once Sandeman), with the intention of also producing a vintage unfortified Sherry. The plan is to age it for 4 years under Flor. This means it will need grapes containing more sugar (16% alc vol in the base wine) to give it the higher strength needed as the Flor will reduce that strength. They will need to harvest 2-3 weeks later to achieve this, but experiments in 2013 achieved 16.3%. It will be fermented in 18 butts seasoned with Fino but cleaned of yeast sediments. After fermentation the butts will be filled fuller for ageing, leaving less than the traditional “two fists” of headspace, to avoid excessive Flor. All augurs well so far. Apparently the experimental 2013 is very good with good acidity, lots of bitter almonds and minerality, and very long.

Spectacular Bodega: Luis perez
Jerez’s most famous journalist, Paz Ivison, asked Cesar Saldaña of the Consejo Regulador what his view was on these matters. He was very interested personally, and pointed out that the DO Jerez should be what its producers want it to be, any changes, however, would have to go through endless bureaucratic processes as far as Europe, but it is not impossible.

On a slightly less spectacular note, there is of course, Bodegas Tejero Moreno who own 38 hectares in Jerez Superior. They make a range of basic Sherries but have also been producing Vino de Aguja (lit. "Needle Wine") which is a slightly sparkling wine made from Sherry grapes since 2004. Light and refreshing, it is an everyday drink of no great sophistication.

Not so long ago the Viticultores de Jerez produced not only an Ice Wine, but a low-alcohol wine, but these did not last long on the market. (see separate post) Over the years many ideas have been tried, and
no doubt there will be more interesting ideas. Let’s hope so, it is all to the good of the Sherry region.

{Some information gleaned from "Jerez se Mueve" by Paz Ivison in Planeta Vino (Proensa)}

Saturday 2 August 2014

Palo Cortado Viejisimo1/5 21%, Cayetano del Pino

Amber with copper traces fading to trace of green at the rim. Legs.
Most attractive, well developed, intense and forthcoming, fresh and incredibly refined. Lots of toasted hazelnuts and almonds, hints of wax, oak, walnut and old bodega barrels. Full and very complex yet fresh and clean.
Full, crisp and fresh, a hint of vanilla and intensely nutty with a certain walnutty bitterness and a touch of wood tannin countered by gentle glyceric sweetness which balances it out nicely. Full-on flavour and terrific length. A beautiful wine.
This is the older of the two Palos Cortados offered by the bodega. It is about 35 years old and comes from a solera of just five butts. This is fed from a 22 butt Palo Cortado solera from which some wine is sold at around 15 years average age. The wine is bottled with minimal filtration by Sanchez Romate. International Wine Challenge Gold Medal 2014
£ 21.00 per half bottle only available from the Wine Society.

2.8.14 Latest on 2014 Harvest; Ciclo Cultural Caballero

While table wine grapes are all but finished, the Sherry grapes are generally not ready yet. The Consejo requires a sugar level of 10.5 degrees Beaume, and grapes in the inland areas are nearing this, but areas nearer the cost are not yet showing enough ripeness. The earliest harvest date might be the 11th of August, but this remains to be seen. After last year’s record crop, many are foreseeing a drop in production of up to 40%, but the Consejo reckons 25% is more realistic. If the drop turns out to be 25%, then the harvest would be some 55 million kilos, sufficient to replenish stocks. Even if the crop is less, there remain stocks from last year at the cooperatives.


The XXIV Ciclo Cultural Caballero will take place on the next three Thursdays (7,14,21)at the Castillo de San Marcos in El Puerto de santa Maria. These are evenings of gastronomy and wine. On the 7th Manuel Lozano, Lustau oenologist, will give a tutored tasting of must right through to Fino, and on the 14th a tasting of Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso. These tastings start at 20.00 and cost 15 euros each. The big one is a talk by top chefs Angel Leon of Restaurante Aponiente and Mauro Barreiro of Restaurante La Curiosidad on how to marry the Caballero wines with their dishes – and of course, try them out. Tickets are 40 euros and it takes place on the21st at 21.00. A special price of 50 euros is available for all three events. Tickets are available at

Friday 1 August 2014

Interesting Interview with Jose Luis Jimenez on Sherry and Film

Domingo Diaz interviews Jose Luis Jimenez Garcia in Mas Jerez

Jose Luis Jimenez is a lover of the cinema and Sherry. He is president of the Cine Club Popular de Jerez, member of the Real Academia de San Dionisio de Ciencias Artes y Letras, member of the international network of Wine Historians, contributor to Mas Jerez, Gente de Jerez  and a whole lot more, but above all he is a Jerezano, and rightly proud of it. He studies the influence of Sherry on works of fiction and reality destined for the cinema and television. At the moment he is participating in a documentary called “The Mystery of Palo Cortado”.

Q – The appearance of Sherry in the cinema is a culture with a long history, isn’t it?

A – Yes. Not only in fictional cinema, of which I have studied more than 500 titles, but also in documentary cinema, television series, advertisements, etc. where Sherry appears often.

Q – Right now you are collaborating with the production of “El Misterio del Palo Cortado”?

A – Yes, the production company of Antonio Saura and Jose Luis Lopez Linares is working on a documentary which is going to have some interlinking elements which could be very interesting. At last somebody of the calibre of Jose Luis Lopez Linares, who has won a Goya as a director, and Antonio Saura, producer and son of Carlos Saura, are interested in the wine of Jerez. It is something really important.

Q – Have we known how to exploit the appearance of our wine in the cinema, here in Jerez?

A – I don’t think so. Publicity campaigns have done a lot of good for some of the biggest bodegas like Gonzalez Byass, Domecq or Williams & Humbert. And of course there were the campaigns only shown abroad, not in Spain, which we are now seeing occasionally on the internet. There were some strange campaigns in England, Holland or Germany, for example. But in exploiting the presence of Sherry in fiction, in movies, I feel we still haven’t known how to use that publicity they have given us for nothing.

Q – But the appearance of Sherry in the cinema shouldn’t be taken merely as an element of publicity?

A – You’re right, it should also be taken as an object of analysis and study. The study I am doing on Sherry in the cinema could reach some very interesting conclusions because nobody had thought to look into how Sherry has influenced the Spanish or Anglo-Saxon cultures, among others. It is the same in literature, where Sherry is often present, but again nobody has looked into it. The study should reveal how Sherry is perceived abroad. What we are seeing so far, especially from foreign films, of which we have looked at over 500, is who drinks it, where, what types and what they think of it. This combination of literature and film leads one to think that Sherry has enormous prestige, that it is one of the great wines of the world, and yet we don’t take it seriously enough.

Q – Do you think that will silence those who say that the appearance of Sherry is due to the influence of Sherry companies on the dubbing companies?

A – Exactly, this is an urban legend, it is not certain. Furthermore this can be refuted when the reference to Sherry is there in the original English. The dialogue can’t be manipulated when it is referred to in the original and especially when it is in the original literary source. It is possible there is some truth in it, in a Spanish film perhaps, but there is no record and I doubt it.

Q – To wind up, should we do more to protect the Denominacion de Origen?

A – Absolutely. We should all be doing that, not only the institutions: the Consejo, the bodegas… but everybody. We lost one great opportunity, and now we have another, a golden opportunity, and thanks to many people we are reclaiming the value of Sherry. If we don’t grab it we will lose this one too - and there might not be another. Now is the time to look after our wine and look to the markets with an exceptional product. Some bodegas are working to recuperate our wine, but this is work for everybody.

31.7.14 Great Sherry Tasting; Consejo Budget

The Great Sherry Tasting 2014 will take place in London at the 1st Floor Gallery, The Westbury Hotel, Bond Street London on Monday the 15th September. There will be two free tutored tastings, but this one is trade only. Time to get to know your wine merchant a little better!

The Consejo Regulador is expecting income of 285,000 Euros from a 5 centimo per kilo levy on grapes with the Denominacion de Origen from growers this season after an agreement was reached at a plenary meeting on Tuesday for the re-establishment of the so-called “grape tax”, on condition that it was only imposed on grapes destined for Sherry, and not on those destined for table wines. Fedejerez, (representing the bodegas), also agreed to a rise from 1 Euro to 1.25 Euros in the levy per litre of wine sold by the bodegas, which would amount to an estimated 500,000 Euros, assuming the crop is as estimated, 55 million kilos.

As a result, the Consejo’s budget for promotion in export markets has virtually doubled, to 785,000 Euros. Cesar Saldaña, director of the Consejo, hopes to double this latter figure with grants from the OCM which governs public institutions such as ICEX and Extenda. {It is worth pointing out that even if he achieved this, the budget would still be about one fifth of that of Rioja}.