Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Oloroso Solera 1842 VOS 20%, Valdespino

Deep transparent burnt sienna with ruddy tints fading to a yellow/green rim, slow legs.
Full, deep and most attractive, complex notes of muscovado sugar, toasted bread and almonds, dates, figs, old barrel wood, toffee, slightly burnt caramel, cinnamon and a slight rancio hint. Quite sweet yet serious, tangy and beautifully integrated over its 20 years. It is an Oloroso abocado perhaps but not quite as sweet as a Cream.
Super smooth entry then bursts out with fig and date fuelled tanginess, the sweetness follows, then it all balances up. The sweet exuberant start gives way to a more serious side where the wood and Oloroso come through. This has been more than teaspooned (adding a drop of PX to balance out the astringency of an old wine without obviously sweetening it), but it is less sweet than a Cream being medium to medium-sweet, but the important thing is the flavour, and there's lots of that. Tangy figs and dates, some walnut in syrup, a trace of coffee and an appealing texture. Delicious for sipping of an evening.
This is a lovely wine, well judged in its sweetness. It contains about 8% Pedro Ximenez yet it is not excessive, it just rounds off the wine nicely. The Macharnudo wine is fermented in butts and after a year the Oloroso is fortified to 17% and aged oxidatively in one of the Oloroso soleras which was, of course, established in 1842. The PX is blended in at around the half way point and the blend carries on through the solera emerging after about 25 years as a finished wine. The sugar content is about 50-60g/l, less than a Cream
About £32, but half bottles are available. I got this from Cornelius, Edinburgh. UK importers Liberty Wines.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

An Interesting Interview with Ramiro Ibañez Espinar

Ramiro Ibañez Espinar has degrees in agriculture and oenology. Born in Sanlucar, he began his career in the Sherry zone before going off to other wine producing areas of Spain and other countries. Now back, and after working for various bodegas he has decided to become a winemaking and viticulture consultant, doing much research, especially into vineyards. He has produced an interesting wine which he calls “Encrucijado 2012. His latest idea is looking for the “Real” Palo Cortado. Here is an interview with him in Mas Jerez with fellow Jerez oenologist, Reyes Gomez:

Ramiro with his Encrucijado (foto + jerez)
What exactly is Encrucijado 2012?
It is an artisan vintage wine aged under flor. It is made with Palomino Fino and five other native varieties which historically played a minor role and may have helped the natural development of Palo Cortado. Basically, it is a very young Palo Cortado.

It is Sherry, but outside the DO?
It cannot be a DO wine because it uses grapes which, although they are as old and historic as the Palomino, are no longer included in the Reglamento.

What are the Pros and Cons of going it alone?
The freedom gives one more knowledge, and access to different soils, grape varieties, wines, different vinifications, and the possibility of getting to know the great unknown personalities of Jerez vitiviniculture who have a treasure trove of wisdom. On the other hand, one’s diary is full and one covers considerable distances, but that’s fine.

You are committing yourself to the recuperation of the individual Jerez vineyards. Is that where the future lies?
For a very long time there have been Sherries on whose labels the Pago (vineyard area) or actual vineyard where they came from were indicated. Many others could have done this but chose not to. And of course these wines have an outstanding pedigree. Looking through the thousands of years of history of what is now the Sherry area, you can see that the one common denominator in all these thirty centuries is our soil, the albariza. During this time all sorts of grape varieties white and red have come and gone, dry wines, sweet wines, unfortified wines. Not even biological ageing, oxidative ageing and the solera system, which only appeared in the last couple of hundred years, could be considered indispensable. However much all the civilisations which have passed through here improved the wines grown on albariza, our soil will have something special independently of the grape and winemaking technique. So somehow some of us are trying to put the importance of the albariza area and its individual vineyards back on the map. At least some bodegas recognise this importance.

Now THAT'S Albariza! (foto + Jerez)
Are hand-made individual wines valued in the area?
Such wines are made by artisans all over the area, some are fantastic, some not so good, but they all have personality and express their origin. Hopefully we will see before too long lots of small, quality producers like in France.

With which dish would you match Encrucijado 2012?
Baked sea bass, shellfish soup, duck pate, gilthead baked in salt or any Asian dish.

Any future projects, or are your hands full with Encrucijada?
In a few weeks I’ll be releasing an artisan white wine from one of the oldest single vineyards in the area made from Palomino, but here there are still old pre clonal revolution vines.There is a lot to do, and many projects in the pipeline.

Friday, 24 October 2014

24.10.14 European Wine Tourism Day in Jerez

Jerez will be celebrating European Wine Tourism Day over three days: 6th – 9th November. It will be a great offer to tourists in the low season, especially as it will include the International Flamenco Day (which lasts for a week). They don’t do things by halves in Jerez!

The organisers of European Wine Tourism Day in Jerez
The Rutas del Vino y del Brandy will be involved as will the City Sightseeing Worldwide bus service. A total experience of Jerez is on offer here, including open doors to bodegas such as Díez Mérito, Cortijo La Jara, Fundador Pedro Domecq, Diós Baco, Garvey, Álvaro Domecq, Miguel Domecq – Vinos Entrechuelos, Sandeman, Williams & Humbert and Luis Pérez.

The councillor for tourism, culture and fairs, Antonio Real also pointed out the contribution of the tabancos, the Ruta de los Guisos (“stew route”), trips round vineyards in all-terrain vehicles and a sketching competition. Also there will be bus routes connecting the three Sherry towns. A walking tour is available too, round the city of Jerez with tasting at Domecq, Harveys and Terry. There will also be theatrical events. In short, every reason to be in Jerez NOW!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Fino En rama 15%, Bodegas Tradicion

Quite deep for a Fino, golden with the very slightest trace of amber, legs.
Huge, full, complex, assertive. Hints of straw, lots of flor and autolysis, salt and dry scrub, traces of nuts- bitter and even toasted almond, even a passing trace of glace fruit, not so far off Fino-Amontillado, yet there is not a great deal of oxidation here, just an appley almost cidery hint, but overall this reeks of flor, still very much a Fino, and one that could age further as such. No wonder the Amontillado is so good!
Serious, very dry at first but softens a little, very full with tons of bitter flor notes, nutshells, traces only of early oxidation in that cidery hint, bitterness replaces acidity giving great balance and a fair bit of body, that roundness gives way to a very clean bitter dryness and serious depth and length. This is one for aficionados, too extreme for novices, so let's keep it to ourselves!
Fino is a fairly recent departure for Tradicion, (the first release was spring 2013), who set out to deal exclusively in old wines, VOS, VORS and Vintage. Not that this is particularly young: it is over ten years old, nearer twelve. As the bodega owns no vineyards, the wine is bought in and put into 400 butts in a special bodega next door. There are two releases (sacas) annually, in spring and autumn. This example was bottled en rama in spring 2014, bottle number 1254 of 3,000. That is two annual sacas of 1500 bottles each, so bottle no 1501 onwards would be from the autumn saca, not yet bottled. Fino not bottled as such feeds the Amontillado solera. It is bottled, labelled and wax-sealed by hand and has a driven agglomerate cork with a spare stopper cork attached.
92 points from Parker's man in Spain, Luis Gutierrez. 90 from the Wine Spectator. If I believed in points, I would give it 98, it is quite magnificent.
£25.99 from Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh who are also UK agents.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

21.10.14 Ruta del Mosto; Sherry Lecture Cadiz; Consejo Budget

The tourism department of El Puerto de Santa María Council has organised the II Ruta del Mosto as part of the wine tourism programme. The event will take place from the 3rd till the 30th November. Participating bars will offer a glass of mosto (newly made wine) and a tapa for 1.50 euros. The timing of this event is designed to avoid the seasonality of the local tourism.

 On Wenesday 29th October the Atheneum in Cádiz city will play host to a conference hosted by Jose Luis Jimenez entitled “El Jerez, un Vino con Etiqueta”. It will begin at 7.00pm and is in the Calle Ancha, 20.

Jose Luis is a Jerezano whose heart lies in Sherry and film, and the connection between the two. He is president of the Jerez Club de Cine and has been involved in all manner of related projects including the new film “El Misterio del Palo Cortado”. He is also a regular contributor to Más Jerez.

The Consejo Regulador is sharing its promotional plans with the growers. Consejo executives held an informative meeting on Friday with them to explain the generic promotion plans for the key export markets. Aa a result of the agreement on the small levy per kilo of grapes or litre of must for this campaign, the Consejo expects to raise 250,000-300,000 euros for promotional use. The levy is calculated against the annual harvest declaration.

The bulk of the promotional budget will come from the bodegas, whose contribution has increased 25% to 1.25 euros per litre of wine sold, which translates into about 500,000 euros based on current sales. However the main objective is to somehow double the budget by obtaining public funding. This appears to be complicated by the lateness of the stage in the campaign, by cuts and the finance still available from public administrations especially the autonomous regions, which have reduced their budgets in this area considerably.

At Friday’s meeting, which was also attended by representatives of Fedejerez (the bodegas’ association), the president of the growers’ association explained that the purpose of the meeting was to get growers more involved in the use of their contribution and in how it is spent. He noted that it is much better used now than in the past when many growers were complaining.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Bodegas: Primitivo Collantes

The history of this bodega in Chiclana goes back to the end of the XIX century, 1889 in fact,  when the brothers Primitivo and Tomás Collantes Lloredo arrived there from the Valle de Iguña near Santander. Their first harvest was in 1903, and before long they bought from Don Manuel Lloredo, presumably a relative, part of a bodega in the Calle Ancha, 51, which remains to this day their headquarters. This bodega is known popularly as the “Bodega El Gallo” (The Cockerel) and is still run by the 4th generation of the family.

Over the years the brothers worked hard and the business grew. They went on to acquire a site in the Calle Arroyuelo, now the site of their bodega de crianza. In 1946 the company was registered, becoming a limited company in 1973 under the name Primitivo Collantes SA. The firm makes wine and vinegar from the produce of its own vineyards which are in the registry of the Consejo Regulador for Sherry production, along with the bodega de elaboración and the bodega de crianza.

The bodegas over the years
The vineyards consist of Pozo Galván (17.3 ha. of Palomino on albariza lustrillo), Matlián (19.53 ha. and including small plos of Moscatel and Uva Rey, a vine which was once fairly abundant here but nearly disappeared after Phylloxera) and El Inglés (18.31 ha.) totalling just over 55 hectares of long established albariza soils, mostly of the tajón type , but with a more coastal climate. All the vineyards are cultivated and harvested manually. Wines are fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks before being transferred to butts for ageing in criaderas and soleras. The firm is currently run by Primitivo Collantes who is one of the new generation of dynamic winemakers pushing the frontiers of wine in the province and has the well-known oenologist Ramiro Ibañez Espinar as a consultant.

Various very fine "Sherries" are produced and some table wines:
Fino Arroyuelo (5 years old, also available en rama)
Fino Ceballos (3 years old), Fino Arroyuelo (5 years old from solera with 5 criaderas)
Moscatel Oro Los Cuartillos and Moscatel Viejo Los Cuartillos  (Made from the Moscatel de Grano Menudo (smaller berries) as opposed to the more usual Moscatel de Alejandría).
Amontillado-Fino  Fossi (5 years old)
Oloroso Los Dos (7 years old and slightly sweet)
Cream El Trovador (Oloroso + Moscatel)
Viña Matlián (Table wine made from Palomino fermented in tank. They also make a slightly sweeter version of it, the Semi-dulce.
Socaire  (Palomino fermented in butt and aged 24 months without flor. There is a new slightly oxidised version

They also make very good vinegar aged in solera

Address: J. Canalejas, 51, 11130 Chiclana de la Frontera, Cádiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 400 150 and 956 400 767
Visits: Mon- Fri  07.00 – 15.00 by appointment

Friday, 17 October 2014

This is a Unique Time to ‘Take a Risk’ in the Sherry Business

Juan P Simó of Diario de Jerez interviews Jose Luis Torres Rodriguez de Torres, ex Osborne executive, now vine grower, about the Sherry district and its situation.

Jose Luis has been cultivating vines for the last five years in the vineyard “Las Conchas” in the Las Tablas area of albariza in Jerez Superior. His vineyard house, once owned by Rumasa, is called “El Paraiso” (paradise) and is surrounded by luxuriant garden and orchard.

JPS: How did you get into wine?

JLT: My grandfather had some bodegas in La Algaba, which my mother inherited. My father was a doctor who used to think – and I do too – that natural alcohol in moderate doses is healthy.

JPS: That’s been proved…

JLT: There’s a tradition that Sherry is a most agreeable wine which promotes conviviality, does not produce aggressiveness, forges friendship, and which seems to exercise us when talking about such an extraordinary and unique product. It hurts me deeply to see people linked to the Sherry trade drinking products from other regions.

Jose Luis Torres (foto:Diario jerez)
JPS: And do our politicians know this and spread the word?

JLT: Well, what do we need to do to get them to promote our product? I would tell them to stop taxing a healthy product, to stop considering it as a drug, and not to remove it from the Health Ministry’s list of alimentary products. They should be explaining how to drink it since we are talking about a healthy product, and promote Spanish produce, including wine.

JPS: Tell me, is trade healthy?

JLT: Better than ever in terms of product quality, thanks to technological advances in the production of grapes and in the ageing process. In commercial terms, however, things have been difficult, perhaps there has been a lack of confidence in the product from the commercial perspective, but I believe that this is a time of opportunity.

JPS: Is this a good time to invest in wine?

JLT: A great time, but not many have this faith. We need to take a risk – like a bullfighter!

JPS: Where have we gone wrong?

JLT: I think that historically, we arrived somewhat later than other areas with respect to professionalization. It is also true that we have lacked innovation. Those bodegas who have succeeded have done so by perseverance, good management and suitable strategic planning for the long term.

JPS: Tell me something about those euphoric nineteen-sixties, before the great crash.

JLT: That was somewhat illusory. In those days credit facilities were very important, there was a different financial culture, and we worked by imitation and improvisation. There was also that fraudulent demand: the “wine lake” in England, and production was in a few hands who allowed prices to collapse. That did great harm to the image of Sherry, and those same bodegas began producing non-traditional alcoholic drinks. Furthermore, strategic plans, if there were any, were managed rather than led, two different but complementary concepts. Management meant keeping history going where leadership looked towards the future. We were always looking to the past, not the future.

JPS: Go on.

JLT: There was money… so we planted. We had some 23,000 hectares of vineyard. Later distribution channels changed so they were in fewer hands distributing much larger quantities. Now only a few firms distribute some 80%. Sales teams were dismantled as buyers’ own brands (BOB) appeared. It saved us money, but we found ourselves in the hands of the distributors.

JPS: Later Rumasa burst onto the scene, one which was traditionally calm and friendly.

JLT: There were positive sides to Rumasa because they forced us to professionalise, but they brought down prices, bottled a lot of BOB, made well thought out strategic plans but implemented them in an improvised way in a difficult economic climate and employed people who did not understand the Sherry trade. This trade needs understanding, it is difficult and complicated.

Jose Luis Torres at his vineyard (foto:diario jerez)
JPS: What was Sercovisa?

JLT: Servicios Comerciales Vitivinicolas. It was a company born of the professional union of bodegas with the idea of rationalising the sector. It was established in the nineteen-eighties in a period of success and prosperity. This was Evaristo Babe’s (now president of CRDO Brandy de Jerez and Fedejerez) first contact with Jerez. Its president was Luis Ortiz, ex UCD minister, and its purpose was to unite professionals and facilitate intercommunication between managers and buyers, stock balancing, commercialisation, the protection of Sherry etc. Sercovisa organised the establishment of the Consejo Regulador for Brandy.

JPS: Later on, the big drinks groups enter the picture, de-localising the trade.

JLT: That’s what did it. We lost everything; multinationals are more interested in conquering the Spanish consumer than the expansion of their products. This did a lot of damage, but luckily there were bodegas who were prepared to diversify.

JPS: Where did that leave the producer?

JLT: In a difficult position the trade had everything to lose. Speculative manoeuvres left the growers in the hands of the bodegas. Growers had to invest 55-60 pesetas per kilo of grapes, but the bodegas were only paying 25 pesetas. Many were ruined. There was much indiscriminate grubbing-up of vineyard with little consideration of the consequences. I believe the bodegas and growers should stop speculating, get production and demand into balance, and that the bodegas should stop squeezing the growers, who should in turn stop trying to speculate with their principal customer. With these factors in balance, the trade could recover, and there should be inter-professional agreement between growers, bodegas - and why not distribution as well? Let’s not see ourselves as enemies, but as a continuity.

In a further interview, they discuss how to promote Sherry:

JPS: Tell me about the Consejo Regulador.

JLT: Well, the Sherry Consejo is the oldest in Spain, though I think that it is not really suitable for the actual circumstances because it is still an organ of control, which it does perfectly, and which watches over quality, but not so well. Just one example: In its organisational chart there is a section on the growers’ production, integrated in the Consejo itself, which is managed by the exporters. But where are the producers of the raw material, those who must guarantee quality? And where are the marketing professionals, those who should be dealing with these matters? I for one wouldn’t dare to be in charge of production quality. Do they have people in the trade who are truly specialised, with the capacity for this activity? In my judgement, not enough.

JPS: Where else are there failings?

JLT: I think there is a lack of communication. Jerez is important enough to have a media presence. I was following a leading radio programme in the mornings about the countryside which every year analyses every detail of the harvests throughout Spain, but Jerez wasn’t included, and was never even mentioned!

JPS: So they don’t do adequate promotion?

JLT: There has been promotion and it is still done, but I think it is very limited. It is fine at local level, much more than at the level of the Junta de Andalucia.

JPS: Then there is advertising.

JLT: When talking about this matter, many say: “It’s because there is no money”. But we must look after the media. If not, will they look after us? Look, the corporate promotional budget represents between a third and a quarter of that spent by a single bodega on its brands only a few years ago… There’s money here for lots of things! But when money is tight, the first thing they cut back is communication. Communication is as important as the voice itself! If I let the media understand the economic problems which I am experiencing, but I make an effort to invest, I’ll surely get a response.

JPS: What is needed?

JLT: I think that the organ of promotional structure needs further development along with vigilance and the regulation of quality. Grapes are still paid for by weight and not for quality. I’ve never seen this in any other product. Nowadays we need to love our product and not be mean with its production.

16.10.14 New Book on Sherry Published Today

That Sherry is back in fashion has been demonstrated once more by American journalist Talia Baiocchi. She has just released “A Modern guide to Sherry” (the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes), published by Ten Speed Press, New York.

The author moved to Jerez in spring to visit bodegas and do intense research, the result of which will highlight once again the fashion for and fascination with Sherry in the USA. Talia was born in Brooklyn and soon became fascinated with wine. For the last ten years, she has worked for specialist publications such as The Punch, and Wine Spectator. Time Out magazine referred to her as New York’s new wine prophet. The book is illustrated with the photographs of Ed Anderson.

(from an article by Jose Luis Jimenez in + Jerez)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Independent Sherry labels

There is a world of difference between independent labels such as those below and buyer’s own brand (BOB). The former labels are applied to wines which are skilfully and carefully sourced from the finest soleras at either bodegas or almacenistas and bottled in limited quantities with minimal if any stabilisation. The bottlers are quite happy to say where their wines are sourced.

The BOB label, on the other hand, tends to be applied to cheap supermarket blends where all that matters is the price. Most bodegas like to distance themselves from these labels and simply apply the minimum legal form of address to the label: the RE number, or bottler's registration number. This is understandable as such blends have done irreparable harm to the image and understanding of Sherry, and so we should applaud the proper independent bottlers such as those appearing below, who are doing wonders in promoting our favourite product and showing us new sides to it.

Alexander Jules:
Based in Santa Monica California Alex Russan came to Sherry from the coffee trade where he learned about blending. Then he began importing wines, and making them under the Metrick label. He scours the Sherry bodegas for interesting, exceptional wines and makes limited, minimally filtered bottlings, otherwise not available.  

He blends wine from the best butts in a solera, and they are labelled with numbers eg 22/85 which represents the number of butts chosen/the number of butts in the solera. These are seriously good wines, but unfortunately due to the small quantities they are only available in the USA, Japan and Spain.

Roberto Amillo:
Roberto is a businessman from Logroño in La Rioja who is a Sherry fanatic and collector with over 17,000 bottles of Sherry and brandy as well as related material such as old labels, posters and many other interesting objects.

Having decided in 2011 to market a range of truly exceptional Sherries and Brandies, he carefully selects them from the bodegas to bottle in his own unique way. The current range consists of Amontillado (from Hidalgo La Gitana), Palo Cortado, Oloroso  (both from Williams & Humbert) and PX (from Fernando de Castilla), all over 30 years old and Brandy Solera Gran Reserva over 20 years old, in smart 50cl square bottles with colourful caps. The bottles come in individual boxes and various gift sets, but are not available outside Spain due to very limited quantities. Roberto announced plans to open a "Galeria de Jerez" to showcase the greatness of Sherry in a bourgeois palace in the Plaza Rafael Rivero after the 2014 vintage, but so far there is no news. 

Antonio Barbadillo Mateos:
Antonio, a 6th generation member of that famous Sanlúcar family, left the firm and along with his wife, Angela Maria Galvez Lobato and their four sons, Antonio, Alvaro, Andres and Alejandro, he set up a company based in Sanlúcar to buy, bottle and market the finest wine treasures he could find from the DOs of Andalucia.
He started in 2010 with an excellent 8 year old Manzanilla pasada "Sacristia AB” sourced from Sanchez Ayala and sold in half bottles en rama, with various sacas since. The wines are sourced from various producers such as Yuste and annual output is around 6,000 halves of Manzanilla, but nothing seems to have yet materialised with the other Andalusian wines, but a superb Amontillado (2014), Palo Cortado (2017) and Oloroso (2015) are available. Of the Manzanillas, there was one release in 2010, one in 2011, two in 2012 and two in 2013, two in 2014, two in 2015, two in 2016 and July 2017.  

Mar 7 Despacho de Vinos:
Located in a pretty old house from 1820 which was once the head office of Pedro Romero in Calle Mar, opposite Bodegas Argueso in the Barrio Bajo of Sanlucar, this is a project begun in 2014. The adjacent bodega houses wines  which are bought in and further aged and sold either in bulk or in bottle. Run by the delightful and knowledgeable Maria Jose Romero Barrero, who is related to both the  Romero and Delgado Zuleta families, the range consists of Manzanilla Fina, Manzanilla Pasada, Oloroso, old Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Cream. It is hard to find the wines outside Sanlucar, so you'll just have to pay a visit, and it would be well worthwhile as this little bodega is really interesting and the wines well selected.

Equipo Navazos: Please see separate detailed post.

Balandro Vinos:
This enterprising wine business in Sevilla, established in 2015, is run by Cesar Velazquez and Raul Villabrille. They scour the bodegas in search of treasures and bottle them under their brand name Las Botas. They bottle wine from other areas as Balandro. The first release of Las Botas was extremely successful and deservedly so, and a second is on the way

Entrebotas Club de Vinos
Entrebotas consists of a group of experienced bodega workers and sommeliers with a passion for the fortified wines of Andalucía who make occasional selections from bodegas, mostly in the Marco de Jerez. They offer a bi-monthly Selección Entrebotas and a quarterly Selección Capataz which are sent direct to club members by their distributor Tierra Nuestra SL based in Sevilla.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

14.10.14 Tabanco San Pablo Celebrates 80 Years.

This great tabanco in the San Miguel area of Jerez has been open continuously since 1934. There others which have been there longer, but which have suffered periods of closure. This family business, run by Jesús Muñoz, has stoically survived periods of unfashionability, when the tabancos looked like being lost and there were only two left: El Pasaje and San Pablo. Luckily there has been a revival, and there are now many.

(article:Jesus Sanchez, foto + Jerez)
San Pablo has great atmosphere, and if the walls could speak they could tell all sorts of anecdotes about the characters such as actors, bullfighters who have visited over the years. In celebration, San Pablo has organised a tasting of the famous Jerezano dish Berza (a stew of cabbage, beans, chorizo etc) and a venenciador will dish out copitas of Sherry as befits one of the "temples" of Sherry.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

12.10.14 Decanter Magazine Sherry Recommendations

The current (November) edition of Decanter Magazine features the wines of Spain, and I thought you would like to know which Sherries are recommended. The following were chosen  for their quality, and availability in the UK, and given points by Sarah Jane Evans, a Master of Wine who knows a great deal about Sherry.
Sarah Jane Evans MW (foto: Decanter)
Antique Palo Cortado, Fernando de Castilla 19/20 points
Amontillado VORS, Bodegas Tradicion 19
PX VORS, Emilio Lustau 19
Manzanilla Sacristia AB 1ª Saca 2013, Antonio Barbadillo Mateos 18.5
Amontillado, El Maestro Sierra 18.5
Fino La Panesa, Emilio Hidalgo 18.5
Oloroso Faraón, Hidalgo La Gitana 18.5
Moscatel Soleado, Gutierrez Colosia 18
Fino Inocente, Valdespino 18
Palo Cortado Obispo Gascón, Barbadillo 17.5
Manzanilla San León, Herederos de Argueso 17.5
Amontillado Viña AB, Gonzalez Byass 17
Fino/Amontillado Coquinero, Osborne 17
Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Fino, Viniberia 17

All, or nearly all can be found in my tasting notes.

5.10.14 Jerez Now has More than 600 Sherry Educators

The Consejo regulador has concluded the 2014 Courses for Sherry Educators. It is eleven years now, since the educational courses began, during which well over 500 top level professionals of more than 20 nationalities have received this prestigious title which they use regularly in their educational work.

The objective of the course is to promote the title to educators who are specialists in the wines of the region and who act in extension to the work of the Consejo in different markets, imparting rigorous quality education which develops knowledge and understanding of the value of these special wines.

In order to receive accreditation as Sherry educators, participants attend an intensive course over three days and must pass a theoretical as well as practical (blind tasting) exam. This October, twenty-five leading professionals such as sommeliers, oenologists, distributors and journalists from eight countries participated in the seminars.

Sherry Educators and trainers at Vina La Canariera (foto reporteros jerez)
Those aspiring to the title of Sherry Educator received practical and theoretical sessions designed to deepen their knowledge of the history of Sherry, the role of the Consejo Regulador, the types of Sherry, as well as the production and ageing methods, keeping and enjoying the wines of the region. The castle of San Marcos in El Puerto de Santa Maria, which belongs to Grupo Caballero played host to the session on history, there was a visit to Grupo Estevez' vinification plant, and lessons in running the soleras at Bodegas Tradicion.

Vina La Canariera, belonging to Gonzalez Byass, was the host to the practical class on grafting and pruning in the traditional "vara y pulgar" (finger and thumb) method. Later, once the exams had been passed, the Consejo president, Beltran Domecq and director Cesar Saldana presented the certificates, after which there was a magnificent celebratory dinner at bodegas Williams & Humbert.

Friday, 10 October 2014

10/10/14 Beltran Domecq Tasting, New App at Tio Pepe

Beltran Domecq has delivered a tutored tasting as part of the celebrations of Semana de los Mayores (Senior Citizen Week). It took place at the Consejo’s bodega, San Gines, and has become one of the most outstanding events of the Semana de los Mayores programme. Most of those attending grew up with a close relationship to the culture and development of Sherry.

(foto + Jerez)

Bodegas Tio Pepe has incorporated an innovative new application called Guideo into bodega visits. The app uses the latest geo-positioning and augmented reality technology on mobile devices. It is the first app to do so and it offers a great service to tourism. During a visit to the bodega the tourist can access a lot of information such as images, anecdotes, curiosities and videos at any point which show what happened there. You can even put yourself in the picture to add to the experience. The app, which is available free at App Store or Google Play and works on iOS and Android works offline and only needs to be online to download the app.

An example of the sort of image which one can see using Guideo App (foto + Jerez)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

8.10.14 Awards for Fernando de Castilla

Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado was the joint top scorer at the Drinks Business Fortified Masters Awards, and one of only two wines to be awarded the coveted title “Master”, scoring over 95 points from a panel made up of master sommeliers, masters of wine and senior wine buyers tasting blind. The Fernando de Castilla Classic PX took a silver medal.

8.10.14 Jerez Benefits Most from Vineyard Grants

The Junta de Andalucia has approved two plans for vineyard restructuring which will benefit 108 growers on 968 hectares of vineyard with an investment of almost 15 million euros. This was explained today in a visit to the vineyards by the Junta’s minister of Agriculture, Fishery and Environment, Federico Fernandez.

Both plans, which have a duration of five years 2014-2018, are aimed at energising the development of the vitivinicultural sector and adapting production to market demand, thus improving the productive structure of the vineyards.

The minister in the vineyard (foto:reporteros jerez)
The minister visited two vineyards in Jerez, Sobajanera and Candelaro, which each received 10,000 euro grants in the previous plan to check progress, and pointed out that the previous plan awarded 6 million euros allowing the restructuring of 550 hectares. This money comes from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (FEAGA), and over 90% of it has gone to Jerez.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

6.10.14 Manzanilla Should be Served from the Bottle

Ferejerez has asked the Consejo for a campaign to inform the consumer that genuine Manzanilla can only be served from the bottle. The Manzanilla producers are facing the dilemma of either selling their wines in bottle, as the Consejo insists, or losing its support by selling in other formats such as bag-in-box (BIB), whereby their wines would be disqualified from the Denominacion de Origen (DO).

Many producers have opted for the BIB, particularly for the catering trade, and especially for the ferias, mainly that of Sevilla, where some Sanlucar firms prefer to sell their wines without a DO just to maintain decent levels of sales and not lose clients. It is a widespread practice which, according to the Consejo, has now reached hundreds of thousands of litres, predominantly in spring.

Look at that flor!! (
Up till now the bodega has been free to choose, but some are not happy to renounce either the DO or the packaging. Fedejerez has denounced bodegas who are members of the Consejo and are selling ten litre BIB’s with the names "Sanlucar" and "Manzanilla" on the label, names which are protected under the DO. What’s more, these BIB’s are being sold at ridiculously low prices like 2 euros per litre which undermines the trend for increasing prices and thereby value.

Manzanilla can be sold in bulk – under Consejo supervision – but normally must be sold in bottle in which case it can mention those two words on the label: “Manzanilla de Sanlucar”. Fedejerez has reported this fraudulent practice to the Consejo so that it can take appropriate action, which could include sanctions such as removing the product in question from the market.

Evaristo Babe, Fedejerez president, said that it is necessary to inform the public in a positive and clear way that Manzanilla is only Manzanilla if it is in bottle with the seal of the Consejo Regulador. Anything else is to deceive the consumer which must be stopped to maintain the value of the DO, especially in this, its fiftieth anniversary.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Pedro Ximenez El Candado 18%, Valdespino

Very deep blacky brown/burnt umber to yellow at the rim long slow legs.
Unctuous raisins, dates, figs, slight background hints of wood and coffee as well as very slightly burned toffee, but overall  pure raisin with a great freshness - the smell of pasas arriving at the bodega. Quite young but quite classy.
Intense toffee and raisin with all those date and fig flavours and a terrific texture of raisin pulp, really mouthfilling with a very long slightly coffee-flavoured toffee finish, beginning to develop some real complexity, and again quite classy for its age.
There are not many high-security Sherries about, but this is one! "Candado" means padlock, and apparently one of the Valdespinos once kept this solera locked as he wanted it for himself. It must be a Valdespino theme as their Moscatel Toneles solera (of one huge butt) also sports one. However the Candado solera and brand formerly belonged to Manuel de Argueso in Sanlucar, founded in 1822 (and from whom Valdespino used to source their Manzanilla before finally buying them out), and Valdespino are merely carrying on the tradition.The solera has three criaderas and the finished wine is about ten years old, with about 420 g/l sugar.
Available in 75cl and 37.5cl bottles at £18.50 and £9.95 respectively from Drinkmonger Edinburgh. UK importers Liberty Wines.

5.10.14 Bodegas Not Happy with Junta Proposals

The bodegas have rejected the Junta’s proposed limitation of their voices on the Consejo Regulador. (see post on 1.10.14) Fedejerez (the association of bodegas) talks of “discrimination” and “inopportune interference” which could spoil good relations in the trade. The institution which would be most affected by the draft proposals, it considers the Junta’s Consejeria de Agricultura proposal as “truly regrettable”.

According to the president of Fedejerez, Evaristo Babe, the Junta’s decision has a problem with the method and another with its background, against both of which they are preparing suitable arguments. The problem with the method is the lack of consultation and official communication with the concerned parties, in this case the various trade organisations, which only heard of the matter barely three days ago when the Consejo sent them a copy.

Although Babe does not think this was done with any malice, he says that the Junta’s clumsy “elephant in a china shop” approach could endanger good relations and certain projects which the trade is working on. As regards the background, he says that excluding 25% of the vineyards from the Consejo represents “unacceptable discrimination”, adding that limiting thus the bodegas’ representation would clash with the democratic workings and representation of economic and trade interests. It is thus “a grave distortion of the normal workings which, legally, could open up a front, and we will take the necessary steps”.

Beltran Domecq (l) and Evaristo Babe (foto Diario Jerez)
While for the bodegas, the change in the order of elections is of capital importance, the growers’ organisations are reacting more calmly as they have long thought the bodegas should only be represented either as bodegas or as growers, giving more equality at the plenary meetings.

Cristobal Cantos, secretary general of Asaja-Cadiz, which represents the interests of the independent growers of Asevi, holds that real equality among the various groups in the sector is “fundamental” and is conscious of the fact that relations have “advanced substantially” leading to “balance and a lack of tensions in the present legislature”. Cantos attributes this to the “magnificent management” of the Consejo president, Beltran Domecq, whom he considers the principal guarantor of parity, though this wouldn’t have existed among the voices had it not been for the intervention of public administration.

The proposed order will not directly affect the cooperatives of Aecovi, according to whose manager, Carmen Romero, it is a coherent and courageous rule and could be good for the working of the plenary. With better representation in the Consejo, the spirit of the trade should be to look for consensus and dialogue, and not impose one’s will because one has a majority. Recent elections were contentious, where the vote was weighted towards the vineyards giving the bodegas more power in terms of land held rather than number of owners. Let’s hope the new elections will run smoothly.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

1.10.14 Cesar Florido Wins Mezquita

The Premios Mezquita (Mezquita Awards) have just celebrated their XX anniversary. No fewer than 429 wines were tasted, from 202 bodegas, and for the first time non-Spanish wines were present in the shape of Portugal, who contributed 50 wines. Nearly all of the entries were table wines, but a Moscatel de Pasas from Cesar Florido of Chipiona won a Gran Mezquita de Oro.

1.10.14 Lots of News Today!

The Junta wants to limit bodega representation on the ConsejoThe draft order for elections in Consejos Reguladores, has set off alarm bells in the Sherry bodegas, as according to the text produced by the Junta de Andalucia, they would see their representation reduced at the Jerez Consejo.

Still at the discussion stage, the draft order incorporates important changes, among which is the equal number of women and men at plenary meetings. As there are many more women among the growers than the bodegas in which there are very few, this implies more grower representation than at present.
As things stand the bodegas have two votes: both as bodegas and as vineyard owners. The draft order, debated by the Consejo of Jerez yesterday in Sanlucar in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Manzanilla’s own DO, stipulates that bodegas would only have one vote, as vineyard owners or as bodegas, whichever represented the greater part of their income.

Beltran Domecq and Cesar Saldana of the Consejo greet the Minister (Diario Jerez)
The main consequence of this measure would be that a high proportion of the vineyard area, almost one third of the total, would not be represented at the Consejo. Although the producer sector and that of the bodegas would stay equal with ten votes each, Fedejerez, the bodega association would lose influence by losing two votes to the producers, leaving eight, two of which belong to Manzanilla and Vinegar.

The Junta de Andalucia agriculture ministry convened a meeting with the Andalusian Consejos Reguladores last Thursday to give them sight of the text, copies of which were sent out to other interested organisations. Certain other organisations only learned of it after being informed by the Consejo, losing two of the fifteen days allowed for discussion.

Two Ruiz Mateos Sons Sent to Prison. Pablo and Alfonso Ruiz Mateos, sons of the former Rumasa boss have been jailed for 6 months and fined 700,000 euros for defrauding Hacienda (the Spanish Inland Revenue) in 1996.

Barbadillo Nominated for Best Bodega of the Year in Guia Peñin. The XV Guia Peñin Awards, which celebrate the very best of producers and their products, will be held in the Alcala hall at the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid on the 16th October. Over 100 bodegas from all over Spain will be there, having gained a minimum of 93 points for their wine in the Guia Peñin 2014. Over 3,000 Sommeliers, buyers, distributors and members of the press from all over the world will attend.

DO Manzanilla Celebrates 50 Years. A separate Denominacion de Origen (DO) for Manzanilla was granted in 1964 and yesterday celebrated its 50th anniversary by holding the Consejo Regulador plenary meeting in Sanlucar. The Consejo has organised a promotional campaign for Manzanilla which will last until the April Feria in Sevilla. The main celebration will take place in Sanlucar on the 15th December, the actual day of the anniversary.

Manzanilla was given its own DO (Manzanilla de Sanlucar) as a result of confusion with a town called Manzanilla which is actually in the Huelva DO.