Friday 30 January 2015

Humphrey Bogart and Sherry

Sherry owes much to Hollywood. Numerous films produced in the capital of the seventh art have, over the years contained references to Sherry. No less important was the consumption of our favourite wine by the film stars especially in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.

One of the big screen’s most famous icons was Humphrey Bogart, whose happiest times of day were aperitifs at 5.30 with dry Martinis and dry Sherry, according to his wife, Lauren Bacall. This was confirmed by cinema director and friend John Huston at Bogey’s funeral in 1957: “There he was, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of Sherry in the other at half past five when the guests began to arrive.”

(Thanks to JL Jimenez)

Pedro Ximenez Viejisimo VORS10.5%, El Maestro Sierra

Intense burnt umber-black fading through various shades of brown to yellow, looks very old, long, thick, slow legs.
Huge intense nose, tons of pasa and wood, date, coffee, fig, rum and raisin and all beautifully integrated. Only age can do that. It is voluptuous, super-sweet almost honeyed, and very complex, bursting with raisiny fruit and there's an extraordinary freshness despite its great age.
Rich, intense, very sweet and velvety smooth, like chocolate, mouthfilling with all sorts of interesting toffee-like nuances. There's something new in every sip, and you can't stop sipping! Balancing some of that intense sweetness is a decent tangy raisiny acidity which helps give the wine incredible length. This is stunningly good.
An outstanding wine from an outstanding bodega. This is from a very old and tiny 14 butt solera and only 400 bottles are released annually. Interestingly, unlike the bodega's younger PX, this wine only contains 10.5% alcohol. The must is allowed to ferment a little and alcohol is added to bring it up to 10%, and no more is added. The extra half percent is achieved by transpiration. The younger wine by contrast has more alcohol added later on to bring it up to 15%. The VORS then ages for over 50 years through the solera to produce this superbly smooth, rare and characterful wine. It is bottled and labelled by hand.
Somewhere around £125 per bottle - though halves are available. UK agents Indigo Wine

(foto Migue Zayas/Maestro Sierra)

30.1.15 Guía Peñín in Jerez

Last Wednesday and Thursday the tasting team from Spain’s most influential wine guide, Guía Peñín, were at the Consejo in Jerez to taste some 200 wines for the 2016 edition. The tasters always start their season in Jerez, perhaps as an aperitif.  Peñín director, Carlos González, who is a self-confessed Sherry fan had this to say: “The guide has never in its 26 year history awarded 100 points, but If any Spanish wine merits 100 points, it is Sherry”.

The team’s short visit to Jerez was enough to create a “very good impression” and they commented that Sherry adds dignity to the entire range of wines produced in Spain. They attributed the decline in sales to changes in fashion, and ignorance of such a special and very old drink which many don’t dare to approach. “Many think that Sherry is for connoisseurs but there are styles to suit everyone, and if someone wants to drink it as a cocktail or with a mixer that’s fine - so long as they drink it”.

The tasters at work at the Consejo (foto diario jerez)

This year’s tasting looked at not only the classics, but also new releases and special releases, “in particular Manzanilla pasada and Fino en rama which is now an established thing. We tasted what was recommended and I am certain that the Consejo is giving it its all, although later on  it is up to the marketing people to  transmit the goodness, quality and complexity of Sherry, which has never really been out of fashion”.

29.9.15 Jerez World Capital of Motorcycling

The Consejo has set up the “Andana de la Fama”, a row of 40 butts opposite the offices in Avenida Álvaro Domecq, to be signed by famous motorcycle racers. Jerez is World Capital of Motorcycling 2015 – the first city to be so honoured by the FIM - and the circuit is particularly important for many motorcycle races as well as pre-season testing for both GP and Superbikes and formula 1 cars.

Hollywood-style commemorative plaques will be laid in the pavement of the “Paseo de la Fama” to the 40 greatest motorcycle racers starting with Ángel Nieto, 13 times world champion from the sixties to the eighties, and who is in Jerez to inaugurate the proceedings. Ángel has let it slip that the next bike legend will be Giacomo Agostini.

Angel Nieto & Cesar Saldana toast the signing of the first butt (foto CRDO)

Thursday 29 January 2015

28.1.15 The Bodegas Double Promotion Contribution

At the plenary meeting of the Consejo yesterday the bodegas agreed to double their contribution to the promotional budget, meaning 2.5 centimos per litre sold, or an extra 900,000 euros. The initial proposal by Fedejerez, the bodegas' representative body, was to quadruple their contribution to 5 centimos, however while a majority could have been achieved, Fedejerez chose to reduce it to 2.5 in order to guarantee consensus and thus demonstrate the commitment of the bodegas.

While this is a significant increase, it is still felt to be insufficient, but there are many loose ends to tie up. The idea is to raise the matter again before the harvest to keep raising the contributions from both the bodegas and the growers. The growers contributions, known as the "canon de la uva" re-started last year after some years of absence.

Fedejerez wants to see any increases in contributions to be in the same proportion for growers and bodegas, and asked the Consejo to draw up a three year plan to determine the precise budget requirements. As things now stand, the Consejo will have a budget of some 1.5 million euros for this season which will be augmented by the state and the OCM (a European fund for promotion in third - non EU - countries) up to some 2.2 or 2.3 million euros.

A Sherry promotional event in a specialist shop in Madrid (diario jerez)

However promotion in traditional European markets - the major markets - will prove more difficult as a fine line must be drawn between these markets where the quantities are sold and the emerging ones such as the USA and Asia. While this new budget is much better than that of last year, Fedejerez president Evaristo Babe made it clear that more effort is needed and that the matter will need to be looked at again. The increase to 5 centimos will be considered again later, and he said that everyone needs to contribute to the promotion of the wine to generate more addad value ans more profit. "When demand takes off Sherry, which is predestined to be a top level drink because it is limited, because it is a rare asset, will sell better and give more profit to us all including the growers".

Tuesday 27 January 2015

27.1.15 Manzanilla at Enofusion; Consejo Asks for More Money

Manzanilla celebrates 50 years of Denominacion de Origen with a superb tasting at Enofusion a big wine fair which will be held at the Palacio de Congresos Municipal in Madrid on the 2, 3 and 4 February. The tasting will have the hefty title of “Manzanilla or the Elegance of Ageing under Flor and the Atlantic Subtlety”, and will take place at the Centro del Vino at the fair at 12.00 on 2 February.The tasting will be led by Beltrán Domecq and César Saldaña of the Consejo Regulador.
The nine wines for tasting look fantastic, and they are as follows:

Palomino 2014, Barbadillo (winner of the first DO musts competition)
Manzanilla Gabriela, Miguel Sánchez Ayala
Manzanilla La Guita, Grupo Estévez
Manzanilla La Cigarrera, Pilar García de Velasco
Manzanilla San León Res. De Familia, Argüeso
Manzanilla en rama Solear, Barbadillo
Manzanilla en rama La Goya XL, Delgado Zuleta
Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, Hidalgo La Gitana
Amontillado muy viejo, saca especial, La Guita

At today’s plenary meeting at the Consejo, Fedejerez will ask the bodegas to contribute more than the current 1.25 céntimos per litre sold as their contribution to the Consejo’s budget in order to give more punch to generic promotion of Sherry. While there is a less defeatist air in the trade, it is felt that everyone should contribute a little more – the Consejo president would like to see the quota tripled – to capitalise on the European City of Wine and Vinoble last year.  

The budget has shrunk dramatically since 20010 – to as low as €600,000 – and while it is now around €1 million, there is definitely a lot of scope for improvement. The Consejo in Jerez could teach a master class in how to stretch a budget, but more money is needed, not just from the trade but from the EU and the Government.

Monday 26 January 2015

Oloroso Viejo Villapanés 20%, Emilio Hidalgo

Deepish amber with mahogany tints through to yellow at the rim, legs.
Lovely clean fresh Oloroso with a sweet aroma of garrapiñadas (almonds in caramel), hazelnuts, hints of walnut, autumn leaves, old moist barrels, dried fruits, some toasted notes with fine traces of citrus and cinnamon, damp esparto curtains (used at the bodega windows to shield the barrels from the sun). This is a complex wine which at first seems straightforward but just grow and develops.
Velvety, fresh and sweet at first developing nicely, then the drier notes of wood, nuts, mineral, earth, and dried fruits such as apricot, it is dry and there is a noticeable acidity giving the wine a lovely tang which balances the glyceric sweetness and carries across the flavour which has almost interminable length. Beautiful.
This magnificent wine is named after the XVIII century Palacio Villapanés in the Barrio San Miguel not far from this important old bodega now run by the 5th generation of the family in the centre of Jerez. Outside the Palacio is a statue of the legendary singer and actress Lola Flores. The wine comes from the same solera as the Oloroso Gobernador, probably established in the 1870s, which is bottled at about 12 years of age, while the Villapanés is sold at more like 20. Interestingly, some of the butts retained flor for a while before ageing oxidatively, and the bodega feels that it is this which gives the wine its elegance, and no doubt some of its crispness.
About 30 Euros in Spain, and probably about £30+ in the UK where it is imported by Les Caves de Pyrene - who don't seem to do much with it, more's the pity.

More on Parker Points

The influence of Robert Parker on wine consumers around the world is beyond any doubt. Perhaps the Wine Advocate has fewer followers in Spain, but it has a legion of faithful followers in the US and Asia, two of the world’s most important markets for wine, and also for Sherry which has seen itself spurred on in the little more than a year since Luís Gutiérrez joined Parker as his taster for Spain, Argentina and Chile.

Luís finds it hard to conceal his devotion to the wines of Jerez and last year he consecrated two wines with 100 points: Barbadillo’s Reliquia and Valdespino’s Moscatel Toneles. This year another Sherry won 100 points: Equipo Navazos’ La Bota de Amontillado No. 49 Bota AR. There are very few old wines like this in the area and according to Jesús Barquín, co-founder with Eduardo Ojeda of Equipo Navazos, it is a wine that speaks of history, it is a piece of history which took decades and decades, generations and generations to achieve this level of quality.

L-R: Jesus Barquin, Luis Gutierrez, Cesar Saldana (foto diario jerez)

Of all the wines awarded 100 points in the latest edition of the Wine Advocate the La Bota No. 49 is the most affordable at about €75 per half bottle, and Jesús says that he had no doubt that such an exceptional wine would score 100. He does not say this to sell the wine which is already hard to find, but to point out that there are collectors who buy up all the 100 point wines leaving very few bottles available – and the guide has been out for a month already.

Another Equipo Navazos wine, La Bota de Palo Cortado No. 47 (from the same source as No. 49) and a wine from Bodegas Tradición achieved 99 points in the guide. This success extends to Sherry in general. No fewer than 75% of the over 60 Sherries tasted by Luís were awarded 90 points or more, qualifying them as “excellent”, and that doesn’t include some local table wines.

Emilio Hidalgo’s Palo Cortado Privilegio scored 98; five Williams & Humbert wines scored 90 or more: Pando, As You Like It, Oloroso Añada 2001 and the Fino en rama Añada 2006 and Oloroso Añada 1982 both scored 93. Jesús believes that the arrival of Luís was providential for Jerez as he has a much better understanding of the wines and they are now more prominent than before in the Wine Advocate.

The Parker tastings will be centred on new wines, that is to say small sacas, special releases or new vintage wines rather than the same old solera brands which have been in previous editions. César Saldaña, director of the Consejo underlined that the bodegas are no longer limiting themselves to marketing their solera brands as has been the case until recently. They have taken account of the limitations to innovation inherent in the solera system, and though it will naturally continue, many producers are seeking differentiation in which they see many opportunities. He sees this as the right road to take with limited special releases, añadas, seasonal sacas etcetera, giving new challenges to the marketing people.


Saturday 24 January 2015

East India Sherry

This romantically-named wine is a form of sweetened Oloroso which once found great favour. The name comes from the fact that the East India Company used to carry Sherry on long journeys to the East Indies, and it was found, like Madeira to have improved en route.

The Sherry might have been cargo or used as ballast, but either way it improved. The tradition goes as far back as the early XVII century, in the days when Sherry was known as Sack. The constant movement of a ship meant that the wine also was in constant movement, and this caused slightly more transpiration and oxidation through the wood, giving a more mature, ”finished” character to it.

(Pic: historicalleys)
East India Sherry was very popular, despite its higher price, till the end of the XIX century. Charles Dickens mentions it in “David Copperfield”. The old clerk, Mr Tiffey, visited Mr Spenlow at Norwood and was given a glass of brown East India Sherry, “of a quality so precious as to make a man wink.”

In Jerez there is a saying: "Mareado el buen vino de Jerez, si valia cinco, vale diez"
                                      (Seasick, the good wine of Jerez, once worth 5 is now worth 10)

As sail gave way to steam, and wood gave way to steel, the practice slowly died out. It was also found that the conditions at sea could be approximately replicated on land. Probably the last to continue with it was the Scottish shipping company “Benline”, established by Alexander and William Thomson in Leith in 1825. The origin of this name is that they named their ships after Scottish mountains (Beinn in Gaelic, but pronounced “ben”). Nearly all their business was with the East, but their last shipment of Sherry was just after the turn of the XX century, though the company is still in buoyant good health.

East India being welcomed at Grangemouth (Pic: Scotsman Publications)
In the 1950’s, however,  they thought they might revive this idea, and a butt of Valdespino  Solera 1842 Oloroso was duly sent on a round trip of some 20,000 miles aboard the SS Benlomond.  On its return, the wine was bottled and then a tasting was held to compare the East India wine with one which had stayed at home. The experts present at the tasting (including Andre Simon) were unanimous that the wine (already excellent) had improved, being smoother and rounder, richer and with a more evolved bouquet.

Lustau East India solera (foto +Jerez)
The wine was sold by, among others, Edinburgh merchant Alastair Campbell at 19/- (19 shillings - or 95 pence in current money) a bottle, and was popular enough for a second hogshead, and maybe a few more, to be despatched to the East Indies. The last known bottling was done by Scottish wine merchant Peter Thomson of Perth in 1982. Occasionally a bottle comes up at auction. The only real option remaining, then, for fans of this wine is the example bottled by Emilio Lustau. This wine is entirely produced at the bodega in Jerez but in a selected bodega with higher than normal levels of humidity and heat. It is very good (see post).

(Much information gleaned from Jose Luis Jimenez)

Friday 23 January 2015

Oloroso Monteagudo 18.5%, Delgado Zuleta

Bright transparent mahogany amber with slight reddy tints to very slightest trace of green at rim, legs.
Forthcoming, generous, open, savoury and balsamic with salty hints, (this is from Sanlucar), walnut, developing notes of wood, cinder toffee and traces of cinnamon, candied orange peel and raisin. An interesting and attractive duality between sweet and savoury.
Nicely textured, plenty glycerol but dry and still very savoury if not particularly tangy. A definite bitter note, only partly from the wood - it's almost as if there were some autolysis there, an almost tapenade note, slightly salty with lots of walnut and a good long finish.
This lovely Oloroso is made from musts selected for their body, is aged for about 12 years, and is from the premium range produced by DZ. The range is named after the Conde de Monteagudo whose vineyards were acquired by the company. The title was created by King Carlos IV in 1794. The IV Conde, Jose Romero Moreno,  was one of the founders of the famous horse races at Sanlucar.
£19.00 at Goya 23, Edinburgh. UK importer: C&D Wines.

22.1.15 Feria Poster; Consejo 80th Anniversary

The poster for the 2015 Feria del Caballo in Jerez has been presented by the mayor, María José García Pelayo and the artist who designed it, José Manuel Reyes. They drank a toast of Tio Pepe. The poster is a photographic reproduction of a work he painted in oil and represents two of the things most dear to Jerezanos: wine and horses. Somewhere in the background there is also an allusion to motorcycling which is also very important to Jerez.  The presentation of this year’s poster is earlier than usual as the council is keen not to lose the momentum gained last year.

The 2015 poster (foto:diariojerez)

The Consejo Regulador will soon celebrate its 80th anniversary. It was established on the 19th April 1935 with the publication of the Reglamento (reglations) of the newly formed Denominación de Origen in the Gaceta de Madrid, now the Boletín Oficial del Estado, and was the first in Spain. The main celebration will not take place till May so as not to interfere with the 50th anniversary celebrations of Manzanilla joining the DO which themselves have been extended to cover the Feria in Sevilla, where so much Manzanilla is sold.

This delay will give the Consejo time to make some modifications to the headquarters building in Avenida Álvaro Domecq in order to make it into a showpiece for Sherry wine tourism. The idea is to use the lovely and well positioned building better and bring it into the XXI century by relocating departments and removing architectural barriers.

Cesar Saldana & Beltran Domecq toast the anniversary

The work, which will cost €400,000 and is 40% funded by the Grupo de Desarrollo Rural, will start next week, and the hope is that it will be finished in two months’ time. The ground floor will have a promotional centre and a multi-purpose room where tastings can be held. Visitors will be able to organise their visits to establishments on the Ruta del Vino y del Brandy de Jerez via an interactive system. A lift will be installed making it easier to reach the main debating chamber on the first floor. Despite all the disruption, work is under way to organise the anniversary festivities which will be put to a plenary in March. These include special labels and lots of tastings.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

21.1.15 Cadiz University; Jerez Euromillions Win

Cádiz University (UCA) is again running a Master course in tourism management at the campus in Jerez. Under the faculty of Social Sciences and Communication the course, which is centred on wine tourism, will begin in the coming spring under the auspices of Professor Paloma López Zurita.

The module will be centred on vineyard and wine terminology in English and different specialists will impart their knowledge to the students enrolled on the course. One of these specialists is Sherry lover José Luís Jiménez who will discuss Sherry in the anglo-saxon world in the contexts of culture, cinema, art, advertising, music and literature. I wish I could be there.

Jose Luis Jimenez (foto: + jerez)

Over €16,000,000 have been won by somebody in Jerez on the Euromillions lottery. That would be enough to buy Valdivia from the receivers and resuscitate the business. Or give the Consejo a proper budget to promote Sherry ¡Ojalá!

The announcement in the Jerez betting office which sold the winning ticket  (foto: reporteros jerez)

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Grupo Estévez Finances Old Vine Study

A very interesting article on an important subject in today’s Diario de Jerez

A team of researchers at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) will study the collection of vine varieties amassed by Simón de Rojas Clemente y Rubio (1777-1827) which has been conserved  for over 200 years at the Royal Botanic Garden in Madrid. The financing of the study is the result of an agreement between the CSIC and Grupo Estévez, owners of Bodegas La Guita, Marqués del Real Tesoro and Valdespino as well as some 800 hectares of vineyard.

Their collaboration in this project demonstrates the group’s business philosophy of backing the vineyard with the purpose of achieving a sustainable agro-alimentary chain and empowering the primary (vine growing) sector. It will improve conditions for the growers by re-investing some of the profits into the vineyards to improve the productivity and quality of the final product. This is an objective which Estévez shares with the supermarket Mercadona to whom they are major wine and spirit suppliers.

Statue to Simon de Rojas Clemente in Madrid's Royal Botanic Garden

The study will be led by the CSIC researcher María del Carmen Martínez, already in charge of the viticulture group at the Biological Mission of Galicia, and will identify the varieties of vine using ampelograpy (traditional study of vine varieties) and DNA. The vine specimens have been conserved since 1802 and the researchers hope to discover which varieties are still used and which have disappeared. Alongside the study team will be researchers from the Botanic Garden and INRA, the French viticultural station at Montpellier.

Maria del Carmen Martinez at work (foto diario jerez)
According to Martínez, this is the oldest collection of vine varieties in the world: the second oldest being a collection in France dating from 1870. The Rojas Clemente collection consists of 186 sheets, each with the dried leaves and buds of a specific variety. All the samples were collected in Andalucía, mostly around Sanlúcar, Trebujena and Jerez.

Simón de Rojas Clemente was the first to apply scientific method to the study and description of cultivated vine varieties and is thus considered to be the world’s first ampelographer. In 1807 he published a book, translated into various languages and later imitated, in which he established a method of description. Nearly all the parameters he established are still in use and form part of the official method used by the OIV (International Organisation for the Vine and Wine) which has 46 member countries.

Clemente (as he is generally referred to) includes in his book a description of the majority of the vines conserved in his collection, but his habit of giving them names dedicated to authors or just inventing them means that it is difficult to know which he is referring to with exactitude. Now that we can complete the book’s descriptions using ampelographical and molecular studies directly on the conserved samples we should be able to know which are still in existence and which are not, says Martínez.

From the point of view of Estévez, their collaboration with the CSIC is the beginning of a period of cooperation between the two entities with the common objective of being at the forefront of science, innovation and wine focusing on the wealth of the Spanish viticultural patrimony. Improved understanding of it and its improvement will be of benefit to all.

Monday 19 January 2015

19.1.15 Earthquakes and Bad Weather Hit Cadiz

An earthquake registering 4.2 on the Richter scale occurred yesterday at about 9.30pm 60 kilometres west of Cádiz Bay. It was not felt on land, but is the third earthquake to be registered in the area since December, and they are growing in intensity.

Torrential rain and high winds have also hit the province causing widespread flooding and bringing the reservoirs up to 70% of their capacity. Boat services between Cádiz, Rota and El Puerto have been suspended. Meanwhile Grazalema (Cádiz) had had snow.

Floods in Sanlucar (foto diariojerez)

Sunday 18 January 2015

18.1.15 Parker Points for Bodegas Collantes

Bodegas Primitivo Collantes in Chiclana has received 90 Parker points for both its Fino en rama Arroyuelo and its Amontillado Fino Fossi. Arroyuelo is aged under flor for five years while Fossi also ages under flor for five years and then ages a further ten years oxidatively. Congratulations to Bodegas Collantes and to Luis Gutierrez, Parker’s man in Spain,  for looking beyond the three main Sherry towns.

Chiclana mayor Ernesto Marin (r), Fino Arroyuelo and its makers (foto +Jerez)


Friday 16 January 2015

16.1.15 Equipo Navazos win 100 Parker Points

La Bota de Amontillado No. 49 "Bota AR" has achieved Parker Perfection. This over 80 year-old wine comes from the very old solera, established in the 1880s, Ansar Real from Gaspar Florido, now owned by Pedro Romero. Only 1,200 half bottles were released in January 2014. Parker’s Spanish expert Luis Gutierrez had this (and much more) to say about it: “This is truly World class: grab it while – and if - you can.” Expect to pay over £80.00 per half bottle and still feel that this is great value for money.

PX Alfaraz 16%, Aecovi

Dense black through brown amber to yellow rim, very viscous.
Cinder toffee, caramel and pasa, an interesting phenolic/fruity nose (remember the stems can't be separated from the sun-dried grapes) with some character and charm. Lots of dates and figs and intensely sweet.
Extremely viscous, cinder toffee and hints of syrup and molasses, very fruity pasa-laden wine with a trace of tannin and a little acidity, but overall extremely sweet with good length.
A good young PX made in Sanlucar. The Alfaraz range seems to have been replaced by the Santiago range which the Cooperative now makes in Jerez.
Not available in the UK.

Fino Valeroso 15%, Bodegas Grant

Pale strawy gold with silver glints, slight legs.
A classic Puerto de Santa Maria nose with some of the Sanlucar salty bitter zip but the roundness and slightly less wild character of El Puerto, young fresh and exuberant with soft fresh flor and a trace of fruit, very attractive.
Fresh clean and yeasty with a hint of fruit and a gentle texture, polished and well behaved, then a long dry flor finish but more yeasty than autolytic (well it would be) showing just a bit of wildness.
A young fresh Fino at about 3 years old, and remarkably good for its age, or remarkably good because it is young. I really enjoyed it.
6.65 in Spain but not available in the UK unfortunately. It seems to be available in the US however.

Thursday 15 January 2015

14.1.15 Faustino Gonzalez 91 Parker Points; Consejo Elections

Bodegas Faustino González of Jerez have received excellent points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate magazine. Both their Fino en Rama Cruz Vieja and their Amontillado en Rama Cruz Vieja were awarded 91 points by Robert Parker’s Spanish expert, Luis Gutiérrez, who remarked that this bodega is one to watch. All the more exciting, as these were the first bottlings for the open market after many years as almacenistas. They are to be heartily congratulated! UK importer: Jose Fine Wines in London.

The elections for the Consejo Regulador will have to be delayed until spring as the Junta de Andalucia’s Agriculture Department has yet to reply to  the allegations of Fedejerez (the bodegas’ representative body on the Consejo), which object to the draft order in which each body can only vote on one standpoint. Up till now the bodegas have been able to vote as vineyard holders as well as bodegas, but the Junta wants to restrict this to a firm’s main business only.

The Agriculture Department informed the Consejo of the bones of the order at the beginning of October hoping to publish it as soon as possible so that the elections could be held at the start of this year, but three months after Fedejerez presented its objections – in which they also complain about the lack of consultation and direct communication with interested parties other than the Consejo itself – there is still no reply.

The Junta hopes to publish its order in February, and thereafter there will be three months for the Andalusian Denominaciones de Origen to hold their elections, which could delay them till April or May. It is worth remembering that Fedejerez chose the contentious route in case the Junta went against them. 

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Book review: “Sherry” by Julian Jeffs:

Very few books on Sherry in English compare to this work. Now in its sixth edition and fully revised, it is still a pleasure to read and still essential in a Sherry lover’s library. The quality and clarity of the language is exemplary, explanations precise and clear, and now there are some colour photographs as well as a useful diagram of Valdespino’s soleras. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Really it is just an update of a classic. Much of the book is a history which naturally remains largely the same, but it has been extremely thoroughly researched, and one can easily see why Sherry has evolved as it has. The descriptions of winemaking, the solera system and blending are unsurpassed: he really understands it all in depth and explains it clearly and there is an excellent glossary of terms.

As an English gentleman, and one who worked for a spell at Williams & Humbert, there is a noticeable emphasis on the British shippers and market. Perhaps this is forgivable in a book aimed at English speakers, but the British play a very much reduced role in the Jerez of today, and perhaps more could have been said about the Spanish bodegueros of the present time.

There is a welcome new section giving information on the bodegas and their best wines, but unfortunately it goes into very little detail, something I for one was really hoping for. Many bodegas are simply mentioned, but with nothing more than their contact details, and not much is said about the almacenistas. Some in fairness have become shippers since previous editions of the book – but not all. In the section on Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo he describes Fino Panesa as “very good” – which is something of an understatement for one of the absolute treasures of Jerez.

The historical export statistics appear again, but fascinating as they are, they need qualification and I would be more interested to see the more modern, relevant ones - though they would, unfortunately, show how sales of Sherry have dropped over the years.  “The chemical effects of plastering” is another outdated inclusion. A welcome exclusion however, is the “padding out” of the book with food matching or cocktails. As the title suggests it is simply about Sherry itself.

Much is happening in the Marco de Jerez, such as a growing table wine industry, which though not “Sherry” obviously, has a direct relevance in terms of bodega profitability. Little is said of it or the “boom” in En Rama wines, or the likes of Equipo Navazos – though they are described briefly. A few words on the Sherry seasoning of whisky casks would also have been interesting.

In the end this book like any other has the odd small flaw, (a few spelling mistakes for example) but if one thing shines through, it is the sheer love of and deep understanding of Sherry and all it stands for. If you are not tempted to give Sherry a go after reading this, then Heaven help you. But if you are, and only buy one book on Sherry, then buy this one – it’s the only one you need - sit in a comfy chair and read it thoroughly with a nice glass of Oloroso.

Published by Infinite Ideas Ltd. and widely available.

13.1.15 González Byass Wins High Parker Scores

The latest issue of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate magazine has awarded excellent points to no fewer than six González Byass wines:

Tio Pepe en Rama – 91
Cuatro Palmas – 96
Tres Palmas – 93
Dos Palmas - 92
Una Palma – 91
Palo Cortado Añada 1982 – 96 (single butt, only 667 bottles)

The tastings were done by Luís Gutiérrez who is Parker’s man in Spain, and show how seriously Sherry is now taken.

Amontillado VORS Solera AOS 22%, Osborne

Copper tinted mahogany fading to yellow with a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Full, forthcoming and complex, obviously old yet still there are hints of a former life as a Fino: a trace of Marmite, a hint of salinity, olive brine. Overall, however, it is supremely refined and well balanced with sweet notes of cinnamon, marmalade orange peel, oak, vanilla and raisin as well as lots of hazelnut praline.
Crisp, tangy and dry with a hint of glyceric sweetness and raisin balancing the oakiness. Again lots of nuts: hazel and almond and the slightest bitter walnut twist. It is a very friendly wine which has a great presence, and the acidity gives it great length. Excellent.
AOS stands for the Antonio Osborne Solera which was laid down in 1903 by Tomas Osborne Guezala (2nd Conde de Osborne) to commemorate Antonio's birth. The solera was built up from the best Amontillados in the firm's La Palma bodega in Calle La Palma in El Puerto de Santa Maria, and not run until Antonio reached the age of 21, by which time the wine was already very fine. The grapes come from the Pago Balbaina. Only 750 numbered bottles are released annually at over 30 years of age. A tiny amount of PX is blended in at the start to avoid later astringency, but the wine still feels dry. It received 97 Parker points, and belongs to Osborne's superb Rare Sherry range which includes Palo Cortado Solera PΔP, Oloroso Solera India, Oloroso BC 200, Pedro Ximenez Viejo VORS and the never-released Amontillado El Cid, which comes from the original Duff Gordon soleras which are owned by Osborne.
This wine is not available in the UK unfortunately (but you could try or Longford Wines in Whitstable). It sells for over 190 euros in Spain for a 50cl bottle, albeit with an attractive box. The price seemed to rise as the bottle size fell.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Bodegas: Martínez Gassiot

Sebastián González Martínez was the nephew of Sabastián Martínez Pérez (1747-1800), a successful merchant from the Rioja who had established himself in Cádiz as an exporter of Sherry to Britain. He married Jane Gobbett, the widow of his partner Martínez de la Cuadra and had various children.

Sebastian Gonzalez Martinez (foto JL Jimenez)
In 1790 he founded his own company specialising in the export of Sherry, Port and Habana cigars from an office in Mincing Lane, London. In 1822 John Peter Gassiot (1797-1877) joined him forming the firm Martínez Gassiot & Co. Gassiot was an enthusiastic amateur scientist whose particular interest was electricity, and he did much work with James Clerk Maxwell. He and Martinez acquired a lodge (bodega) in Oporto in 1834, leaving its management to John Fleurriet Delaforce, who would go on to found the famous Port house of that name.

John Peter Gassiot Senior (foto JL Jimenez)
Soon they were joined by John Peter’s sons Charles Ware Gassiot (1826-1902) and John Peter Jr. (1820-?) who married María Manuela Moreno de Mora y Vitón whose family were important in the wine business in El Puerto de Santa María and had business connexions in England as well as Habana and Honduras. It is very likely that this was a source of both cigars and Sherry, though the firm did buy a lot of wine from Cuvillo, also in El Puerto de Santa María.

Label for the American market (foto JLJimenez)
Sebastián retired in 1849 when the firm was the largest importer of Port and Sherry to the United Kingdom, and its control passed into the hands of the Gassiot family. Charles really helped the business to thrive, and with no children he built a collection of art and contributed much to charity. On his death he left his art to the City of London and his money to St Thomas Hospital. John Peter Jr. also died childless, leaving a fine portrait of his father to the Vintners Company.

On the death of the brothers, and with no children from either, the firm became a public company in 1902 and was eventually taken over by Harveys in 1961 and merged with Cockburn, so there was no more Sherry. The old offices in Mincing Lane were destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the London blitz in 1940. The Martínez Gassiot brand is now more of a sous-marque, especially since the firm was acquired by the Symington Group in 2006, but there have been quite regular Martinez vintage port declarations since.

Much information from Jose Luis Jimenez
See also post on Sherry shippers who also dealt in Port

Thursday 8 January 2015

7.1.15 Sherry on Screen – Again

Sherry is in the cinema again, in two films. In the recent and excellent Mike Leigh film about the great English artist JMW Turner, “Mr Turner” drinks plenty of Sherry, sometimes with his friend, the famous English importer John James Ruskin, played by Stuart McQuarrie. In Richard Laxton’s film “Effie Gray” Ruskin is played by David Suchet.

Turner receiving Sherry
Ruskin, father of the famous Victorian writer, artist, writer, social thinker and philanthropist John Ruskin, was the leading shipper of Sherry in the early XIX century. Between 1805 and 1808 he worked for Gordon & Murphy shipping Duff Gordon wines, and then for Ruskin, Telford and Domecq shipping Haurie/Domecq wines, making a fortune (£157,000-in old money) selling fine quality wine and earning a reputation for honesty.

Turner at Ruskin's
Sherry is offered at his house at 54 Hunter Street, London when Mr Turner visits, and again at a dinner for Effie Gray, the fiancée of Ruskin’s son John (though he had always loved Pedro Domecq’s daughter Adele about whom he wrote lovely poetry).

(Info kindly supplied by José Luis Jiménez)

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Manzanilla Señorita Irene 15%, Bodegas Yuste

Very pale golden straw with a faint hint of green.
Soft and saline, gentle and fresh with lots of fresh yeasty flor. Quite young with a hint of Palomino fruit, but then the flor bitterness kicks in with traces of brine, a lactic note, hints of bitter almond and scrub, all nicely balanced.
At first soft, round and light, then the coastal flor exudes that classic yet restrained bitter yeastiness which again balances with a hint of fruit. Long dry finish with a slightly bitter twist.
A very decent Manzanilla. It is made from grapes grown in their own vineyards, the Viña Alamedilla in the pago Carrascal. I don't know anything about the solera yet.
Not available in the UK unfortunately.

Monday 5 January 2015

Bodegas: Francisco Yuste

Yuste is a comparative newcomer to the Sherry trade, the Sanlúcar family having made its money mainly in the transport and drinks distribution business. Over the years they have been involved in such activities as lemonade and groceries, and now, Francisco Yuste Brioso, the current head of the business, is involved with distribution logistics, property, publicity and graphic design, cash and carry - and Sherry. He is a real entrepreneur who has rescued soleras and bodegas from oblivion, creating a dynamic and very interesting family Sherry business.

Francisco Yuste in his bodega Miraflores (foto JC Sanchez)
The firm owns a 46 hectare vineyard, Viña Alamedilla, in the Cortijo de Espartinas in the pago Carrascal which was once owned by Domecq. They also own Bodega Miraflores, a modern bodega on the site of an older one on the road to Chipiona, where must is fermented (some in barrel) and sobretablas are stored. It used to belong to the Cooperativa de Miraflores till it was bought by Grupo Estevez.

Another is the picturesque XIX century Bodega Los Ángeles in Calle Luís de Eguílaz near the Castillo Santiago, which occupies a whole block. Yuste bought it in 2001 then had it renovated. Here there are four naves round a central patio, three of which are filled with barrels and the fourth is a bar called Mosto El Cuartel. There is also space for people to hold parties and celebrations.

Inside bodega Los Angeles
Stored here are the old soleras of the bodega Banda Playa, whose first proprietor was Don León Aldama Raspaldiza, the first Conde de Aldama. The old bodega has passed through various hands such as Antonio González Moreno, Valdespino and Manuel de Argüeso, and was in a dilapidated state, but Francisco Yuste managed to save three old soleras: Amontillado Dorotea (150 butts at around 200 years old – almost certainly the oldest wine in the region!), Moscatel IX Perlas and PX Corona. In total 840 butts are stored here.

The patio at bodega Los Angeles
There is a further bodega, Santa Ana with more wine, which like most of that stored in Los Ángeles is destined to be almacenista wine for trading to other bodegas. Yet another bodega was once owned by González Byass (presumably for their El Rocio which was once Viuda Manjon), and yet to house soleras. So keen on bodegas is he that Francisco actually lives in one and has his offices there in the Calle Regina, 49 which he renovated and which was once the bodega of Rainera Perez Marin La Guita. And in January 2016 he bought out the old firm of Argueso. He is not in a hurry. He wants to get his wines right and market them when times are better. As he puts it, now is the time to invest.

The wines:
Manzanilla en rama La Kika (Dedicated to Yuste’s mother, it is @ 8-9 yeras old).
Manzanilla Señorita Irene: A fresh fragrant wine from a fine solera
Manzanilla Aurora: Famous brand bought from Pedro Romero
La Monteria Range: More commercial but good, much goes to Japan.
Conde de Aldama Range: The oldest and finest Amontillado and Palo Cortado
Yuste also supplies small quantities of very fine Manzanilla Pasada seasonally to Antonio Barbadillo Mateos for his brand Sacristia AB.

Address: Bodega Miraflores, Carretera de Chipiona, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Cadiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 385 201
Visits: Yes but by prior appointment

Friday 2 January 2015

2.1.15 Death Announced of Zoilo Ruiz Mateos

Zoilo Ruíz Mateos Jiménez de Tejada who died on New Year’s Eve after a battle with Alzheimer was the brother of the founder of Rumasa, Jose María and the respectable face of the company. A great connoisseur of wine, he was the best oenologist Rumasa could have had, and it was he who secured the “100 year deal" with Harveys to supply them with Sherry. He was vice president of Rumasa, specialising in wine matters from his office at the Atalaya (a beautiful house in Jerez which was Rumasa’s local HQ), and was well liked.

Zoilo in the good days (foto diariojerez)

Thursday 1 January 2015

Bodegas: Juan Haurie

Jean Haurie Nebout was born in Villesegure, Béarn, in the lower French Pyrenees, in about 1719. He was clever and wise, and could spot a good business opportunity, especially if it concerned wine. In 1740 he came to Jerez. He lived in the Plaza Plateros where he ran a bakery/drapery/general merchant business –virtually next door to Patrick Murphy.

Plaza Plateros today
Murphy was an Irish farmer, born possibly in County Cork, who had come to Jerez in 1725 and established a timber business, having no doubt fled Ireland for religious, political or poverty reasons. He was a bachelor and of a slightly sickly disposition, but had a good eye for business and soon saw that the Sherry trade was more profitable. By 1730 he had established himself in the wine trade, having bought vineyards in Ramona, Prunes and Balbaína, and bodegas in the Calle Tornería, where he lived, and also Prado de San Sebastián.

Haurie and Murphy became close friends, and the former helped Murphy in his wine business until 1762 when he inherited it along with its vineyards on Murphy’s death. Murphy was a bachelor and had no one else to leave it to. Haurie was delighted to get properly into the wine trade, re-named the firm Juan Haurie, and abandoned his previous business. It flourished and he became well known and popular. He supplied the first wines to James Duff. But then his efforts collided with the restrictions imposed by the Gremio de la Vinatería (the powerful growers’ union), which would not let bodegas/exporters store the reserves of wine necessary for ageing (so they would have to buy more must from the growers). Haurie simply decided to take on all three sides of the business, and become a grower as well as an exporter and almacenista.

He binvested in spacious new bodegas and more vineyards. Like Murphy, he was a bachelor, and with succession in mind, he constituted a new company in about 1773 with his five nephews: Juan José, Juan Pedro, Juan Luís, Juan Carlos and Pedro de Lembeye y Haurie and named the firm Juan Haurie & Sobrinos.

He died in 1794, and his nephews continued with the firm, becoming the biggest exporters. Juan José had been longest in Jerez, and had many contacts and good knowledge of the industry, so his contribution to the company was decisive. Things did not go well, however.

These were difficult times, and Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808. With their French background, this made life very difficult for the sobrinos (and not a few other bodegas – French or not). Juan Carlos, who had really helped the firm to become the biggest exporter in Jerez, now faced a dilemma. Despite having always lived in Jerez, he still had French blood, and so opted to support the invaders during the War of Independence.

This provoked great anger and, on the 2nd of June 1808, a furious crowd assembled, baying for his blood. Priests did all they could to restore the peace and preach forgiveness, but the people weren’t in the mood to listen. So the mayor decided to let loose the bulls at the crowd – a more efficient remedy than today's rubber bullets and tear gas!

Juan Carlos now received “favours” from the French. In Napoleon’s name, Maréchal Soult awarded him the concession to supply the French troops. Farmers and bodegueros were forced to supply him with their wares which he then handed over to the French, but he was allowed him to keep the wine and provisions he wanted. Even worse, Juan Carlos shamelessly began to collect the taxes imposed by the French on the people to pay for the war. The first French troops arrived in Xerez (as it was called then) at mid-morning on the 4th February 1810, from where they initiated the siege of Cádiz. They left on the 26th August 1812. After two and a half years of occupation, endless looting, abuse and oppression, they left Jerez in total ruin and desolation. In 1811, Joseph Bonaparte (nicknamed unaffectionately “Pepe Botella”, or Joe the Bottle (who in fact was not a drinker) celebrated his Saint’s Day, in his requisitioned house in the Calle Francos, exactly one year before the “year of hunger”.

After the French had finally been expelled, Juan Carlos Haurie was totally ruined. He had to pay a fortune in compensation, and the French Government “forgot” to pay its debts to him. Haurie was left alone and penniless. He couldn't possibly pay his debts, and had to pay his capataz (cellarmaster) Juan Sánchez in brandy, wine, anís or even their containers. Things did not improve, and in 1815 he was declared fraudulently bankrupt, and jailed. By this time the other sobrinos had all died.

Pedro Domecq Lembeye (from Usquain, Béarn) was Juan Carlos Haurie's brilliant cousin and great nephew of Juan Haurie, Although born in Jerez, had been working in London with a firm called Gordon, Murphy and Co. who were Haurie's agents. He later formed a company called Ruskin, Telford and Domecq who for a while imported both Haurie and Duff Gordon wines. Eventually when Pedro Domecq returned to Spain, Ruskin (1785-1864, father of John Ruskin) acted as his agent and both prospered.

From 1822 the bodega del Castillo at the Puerta de Rota, the San Blas cooperage, 144 ares of vineyard in the Macharnudo and 22 in Parpalana were leased to Pedro Domecq, and he ended up buying the lot - and paying off some off the debt. He also re-purchased the Macharnudo vineyard Haurie had been forced to sell. As Domecq once rightly said “I managed to make my entire fortune in only two years of hard work”.

Pedro Domecq
Juan Carlos was a complete scoundrel. Despite his agreement with Domecq, in 1824 he founded a new partnership involving William Garvey, his nephew Juan Haurie and James Wilson using Domecq’s good name. Wilson came from Dunbar in Scotland, and his brother, a doctor, would do great work during the cholera epidemic of 1834. Haurie claimed to be the biggest shipper, but most of the wine was in fact shipped by Garvey and Wilson. Juan Carlos died in 1828. Haurie proceeded to go bust in 1841, again in 1855, stuttering on somehow till 1877, when Domecq took over entirely. According to Customs records, they exported 2,340 butts in 1870. Pedro Domecq meanwhile, was making a great reputation and becoming very prosperous, building what would become one of the great bodega firms.

See also the post: Juan Haurie, a Smart Businessman