Tuesday 31 March 2015

Top Chef Opens “Laboratory” in El Puerto

Ángel León, the double Michelin starred chef and owner of the legendary restaurant A Poniente in El Puerto de Santa Maria, has taken a 30 year lease on the a beautiful old tide mill (“El Caño”) in which he will set up a laboratory of gastronomical research. It will be a centre for experimentation, training and learning and also offer cultural events open to the public.

Molino El Cano (foto:lavozdigital)
The solid two storey flour mill is built over a channel which merges with the river Guadalete at its estuary. It is of XVIII/XIX century construction with the milling equipment on the ground floor and living and administration on the upper floor. The mayor of El Puerto, Alfonso Candón is delighted that this treasure will be well maintained, help environmental conservation and attract tourists.

Garvey “Regains” the Garvey Brands

The pieces of the puzzle of the receivership of the Nueva Rumasa bodegas are slowly coming together. In the case of the Complejo Bodeguero Bellavista – better known as Bodegas Garvey (and once the main activity of the Ruiz Mateos family in Jerez) - the recovery of the Garvey brands, whose registration runs out this year will smooth the way for the receivership which has been under way for 4 years.

Apparently a specially created company, a director of which is also a director of Garvey, has secured the principal brands, among them Garvey, Garvey BV, Bodegas Garvey, Grupo Garvey, the Fino San Patricio range of Sherries and brandy Espléndido. The Ruiz Mateos family kept the registered title to the main Garvey brands via a company in the name of third parties based in the tax haven of Belize, but the court embargoed them to the tune of €9m. The new company’s operation has the approval of the receivers and guarantees the use of the brand names for Bellavista and their inclusion in the receivership, which will make a sale of the production bodega easier and quicker, as this had long been a stumbling block. Maintaining the bodega and its workforce as a going concern is a priority for the receivers and naturally the bodega would be hard to sell without its famous brand names - especially with liabilities of about €90m.

31.3.15 Tradición Wins Gran Bacchus de Oro; Anniversary Manzanilla Tasting in Sevilla

The Unión Española de Catadores (Spanish Tasters’ Union) has announced the Premios Bacchus for 2015, and needless to say, a Sherry has won a Gran Bacchus de Oro, the top award for wines scoring over 93 points. 80 tasters including Masters of Wine, winemakers and Master Sommeliers tasted blind 1652 wines from 18 countries at the Casino de Madrid in March in this XIII edition of the competition, so it is quite thorough!

Luxurious tasting room: the Madrid Casino (foto UEC)

In continuation of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Manzanilla de Sanlúcar joining the Sherry DO, there will be a bigger than ever tasting at the Hotel Alfonso XIII in Sevilla. It will take place on the 13th April in the run up to the Feria de Abril, at which massive amounts of Manzanilla are consumed. Experts, winemakers and professionals will be able to share the new spring sacas. 

Typical Feria fare (foto sevilla.ABC.es)

Monday 30 March 2015

30.3.15 Sherry Boosts Promotion in Spain but Suffers Cuts in Public Funding

The generic promotion of Sherry will focus special attention on the domestic market this year, being the biggest market now, and practically the only one which did not register falling sales last year. The Consejo Regulador has already fine-tuned its promotional plan, basic criteria and priorities but is keeping in reserve €90,000 of its €1.5m budget for this fiscal year.

A further sum of around €300,000 of public money is being added, for the moment, but this is negligible when compared to that received in past campaigns in which grants would double the Consejo’s local funding. While staff at the Consejo are making every effort to obtain more grant money, they are up against public spending cuts, however there may be a ray of light from ICEX, the Government commercial export body. ICEX has money for promotion in Holland and Germany, two of the main European markets in which it wishes to make a push, and there will be a contest for agents to take charge of Sherry distribution in those countries.

The Consejo's generic labels (foto:verema)
Lacking the extra funding, the Consejo presented the basic thrust of the promotional plan to a plenary meeting on Thursday: €350,000 will be destined for the home market. Among the traditional export markets the UK, until recently the principal market, will still get a good chunk of the budget, as will the USA, a market which has shown strong growth in recent years especially for brands for which consumers will pay more. Holland and Germany buy more, cheaper Buyer’s Own Brands (BOB). Third countries, including Japan and Canada already have fixed budgetary amounts assisted by EU money.

It should be remembered that this year’s promotional budget has already increased thanks to higher contributions from the bodegas and the growers. The bodegas doubled their contribution to 2.5 céntimos per litre of wine sold, useful, but far from the 5 céntimos initially hoped for by Fedejerez. At the January plenary meeting at which this increase was approved, the Consejo was asked to present a promotional plan to cover the next 3 years, which if approved might lead to the 5 céntimos Fedejerez had hoped for.

30.3.15 A Brewery in Jerez; Unusual new Wine Bar in Barbate

“Catarte”, the Company owned by master brewer and winemaker Jaime Pindado, has opened right in the centre of Jerez, in the Calle San Marcos. This is the city’s first craft brewery. The beers will be branded “La Jerezana” and individual brews will be named after Flamenco styles such as Bulería, Alegría or Fandango according to the raw materials used. The brewery has space dedicated to education, talks and tastings for the general public and also for the sale of equipment for home brewing.

 “El Relojero de Jerez” is the brainchild of Jerez couple Juan Manuel and Nuria. He spent 18 years working with clocks and felt like a change, so they decided to open a wine bar in Caños de Meca, a popular tourist resort on the coast at Barbate, not far from Jerez. Despite the doubts of many, they converted a garage into a wine bar where you can buy a glass or fill a bottle, and in no time the locals and tourists found this to be a great regular meeting place.

Nuria & Juan Manuel: well-priced Amontillado! (foto:lavozdigital)

The barrels contain Fino, Mosto, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Vermouth, Cream and Pedro Ximénez. As many people try the wine before buying, they felt they should offer some food to avoid wine on an empty stomach and provide butifarras and morcilla (sausages and black pudding) as well as ham, tuna, cheese and mojama (cured tuna). Customers can buy wine to take away and or drink there in among the oak barrels and old clocks. The address is: Despacho de Vino El Relojero de Jerez, Avenida Trafalgar, 94, Caños de Meca, Barbate.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

24.3.15 Manuel María González Gordon’s Memoirs to be Published

The González Byass Foundation is to publish the memoirs of Manuel María González Gordon tomorrow under the title “Lo que diga Mimi…” (Whatever Mimi says…).  There will be a presentation by Beltrán Domecq and various family members as well as Antonio Flores at the firm’s bodega, Los Gigantes at 8.00pm.  A collection of hundreds of thousands of letters in brown ink becomes a treasure when it relates the story of a life, and it is hoped that this work will be the first of many on members of the firm or related matters.

The great man: Manuel Maria (foto: Gente y Habitantes de Jerez)

Manuel María González Gordon, Marqués de Bonanza, KBE (1886-1980) was the grandson of the founder, Manuel María González Ángel, and like him he wanted to dedicate his life to Sherry. He studied engineering in Germany as he understood that the future was mechanisation. He worked on the railway which runs the length of Chile and worked in London before returning to his beloved bodega. He played an important role in the “British Sherry” case, was active in the creation of the Consejo Regulador and many other things, such as the Jerez water supply and saving the Coto Doñana. Not only that but he wrote the classic book “Sherry” (known as the “Sherry Bible”).

He was a man who had time for everyone and everything. He had a long conversation with William Fifield (author of “Sherry Royalty”) and would visit employees who were ill. He had a wealth of anecdotes which he referred to as his “discos” (records) as he never tired of relating them. He knew all the latest dances, and the Queen, Victoria Eugenia loved to dance with him. His world had no frontiers.

Antonio Flores with members of the family (foto:Diario Jerez)

The book is illustrated with many pictures from the Foundation Archive, but since many of Manuel María’s adventures were not photographed, drawings were commissioned from the Madrid authoress, Ximena Maier. The bodega’s Capataz, Antonio Flores, said that the presentation will look at the professional and human sides to his life. “I knew him when I was a child, and I was 25 when he passed away. My father, Miguel Flores, worked at the bodega from the age of 14 and had a house there, so I was born in the bodega and have always worked here. I have always been made to feel like a member of the family. Manuel María was never distant, a delightful man who could talk with anyone. He always considered others and would try never to upset people, he was very diplomatic”. In fact he was nicknamed “Vaselina” for that reason.

The invitation (foto: tubal.blogspot)

A very well brought-up and educated man, he loved women and knew many. He would talk about the 32 who said “no” and the one who said “yes”. She was “Mimi”, Emilia Díez Gutiérrez, his beloved wife. The title of the book is taken from a sentence in his “discos”: “Whatever Mimi says..”. Manuel’s eyesight was not good so he compensated by working hard to develop his senses of smell, hearing and taste, not to mention studying. He wanted to get the most out of life, and spoke various languages, though sometimes, at meetings, he would employ the tactic of using an interpreter to give him more time to think of an answer. He did this, for example at the “British Sherry” hearing.

The presentation tomorrow is a fantastic excuse to talk about a man who was brilliant in every sense, and although there are few younger people who can remember him, he is still fondly remembered by the oldergeneration. He was an adventurer who revelled in life, with a frenetic youth and a pace which lasted throughout his life. He wouldn’t have thought twice about jumping onto Concorde, flying to New York, having a glass of Tio Pepe and flying back again, but it was just as well that Mimi kept him under some sort of control. He was from a family unified by Sherry, the wine which unifies Jerez, a city which is also plays a part in the memoirs in this book.

Monday 23 March 2015

The Bag-in-Box Debate

From an interesting article by Juan P Simó in yesterday's Diario de Jerez

The bag-in-box (BIB) is causing headaches for Fedejerez who defend glass as the only option.

How strange. Señor Fino's little sister Manzanilla is getting above herself. First, many years ago now, she outsold the all-powerful Fino San Patricio at the most profitable of all the Spanish ferias, the Feria de Abril in Sevilla. Now she is causing a stir over packaging and what is in that packaging. One is accustomed to opening the little tap on a BIB and seeing Manzanilla flowing out, but two days ago we came across a BIB whose contents were not Manzanilla, but mosto.

Manzanilla BIBs (foto: Diario de Jerez)

It doesn't stop there. Use of the new packaging also upsets the Consejo's annual sales figures by artificially reducing Denominación de Origen (DO) sales. In 2001 some enthusiastic Manzanilleros (Manzanilla producers) became interested in the new packaging. They de-classified part of their production which was therefore not DO Manzanilla and sold the wine in this package which is not permitted by the Consejo. Over the years, this initiative matured, like the wine and has now been very successful, really taking off in 2012 with a jump of some 500% to a million litres of de-classified "Manzanilla Type" wine. And all this because of the BIB, which other DO's had adopted without blinking for the increased sales against bottles. The Manzanilleros' gamble had been successful as the BIB is ideal for ferias and very popular in Scandinavia.

So what are the advantages of the BIB? They are many: they are more economical, more hygenic, conserve the wine better, keep costs down, are easier for distribution, are lighter and have a lower impact on the environment. Wine producers in Montilla and Huelva have adopted the BIB and now represent a potential threat to our little blonde Manzanilla. All this comes from a report to the Consejo itself which extolled the virtues of the BIB, but proposed its acceptance be restricted to the catering trade. A plenary meeting of the Consejo however knocked it back. Nowadays, BIBs of 3litres, 5 litres or more are to be found on sale in bodega shops, wine shops, cooperatives and even petrol stations at very accessible prices. They cannot, however use the word "Manzanilla" on the label even though it might be, and suggestive terms are used instead, such as "Hidalgo Fina", "Fina en Rama" or "Finísima".

Sanlucar Coop BIB (foto: solostocks.com)
Fedejerez president, Evaristo Babé, is sick of repeating the mantra that "Manzanilla is only Manzanilla if it is in a bottle which bears the seal of the Consejo. Anything else could deceive the consumer." And although BIB is in widespread demand, Babé maintains that its use poses a threat to the image of Manzanilla and represents the spear that could kill all the good promotional work. He has therefore asked for a change of mentality and for the abandonment of anything which lowers the image of Sherry, and to instead opt for quality: the glass bottle. Fedejerez sees the BIB as a factor which could unbalance the market, which is currently in good shape, with concurrent risks to employment and feels that all Sherry should be sold in bottle rather than bulk.

Sunday 22 March 2015

22.3.15 Williams & Humbert Completes its Sound Track

In the 1970s the famous Jerez flamenco singer Fernando de la Morena created a signature song for the bodega's Fino Pando accompanied by Moraito Chico on the guitar. Forty years later Williams & Humbert has made this piece more complete with the voices and accompaniment of of a younger generation of singers from Jerez. Juan de la Morena, son of the original singer, along with various other artists of today participated in the new production, which is a kind of brand sound track.

The musicians and brands in action at the bodega (foto: + jerez)

Not only that, but the bodega has gone a step further putting music to some of their other brands: Gran Duque de Alba brandy, Crema de Alba, Gin Botanic, Dos Maderas rum, Manzanilla Alegria and Canasta Cream. Eduardo Medina Garcia de Polavieja, the bodega's national marketing director commented: "These artists really knew how to transmit the essence of our brands in each of the songs, from the elegance of Crema de Alba to the carribean/jerezano character of our rum. We believe that a good way to enjoy a drink is with good music, and that is what we wanted to offer our consumers." All the songs have been recorded onto a CD which will enhance to perfection the enjoyment of each one of the Williams & Humbert brands.

Palo Cortado Wellington VOS 17.5%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Quite old-looking transparent amber to yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Very delicate but full with lots of Amontillado character, plenty of toasted hazelnut and almond, traces of vanilla and oak, still vestiges of its Manzanilla background in the form of saline and bitter hints from the flor, not a great deal of implied sweetness but some, in all complex and interesting.
Broadly similar; light and elegant with a good zingy tang to it, very Sanlúcar, hints of flor bitterness, walnut and still those almonds and hazelnuts, oak, all balancing out with a hint of apparent sweetness. A wine with great charm, dry with terrific zip and length, wonderful with food. Delicious.
This wine is made from  grapes grown in the firm's own vineyards in the pagos Miraflores and Balbaina and fermented using the natural yeasts. Fortified to 15% the wine ages for a while as a Manzanilla until its Palo Cortado properties are recognised, when it is fortified to 17% and made ready for the late XVIII century Palo Cortado solera. Just to confuse things, there is also a Palo Cortado Wellington VORS 30 years old, but at least they now have different labels. They also produce an Amontillado Napoleon VORS. Back in the early XIX century during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, there was doubt about which side would win, and in order to at least appear loyal or even stay safe, some firms labelled wines with the names of each of the two opposing leaders. Either way, hopefully, they could sell some wine.
31.75 Euros ex bodega per 50cl. bottle, around £25 in the UK, fairly widely available, UK importers: Mentzendorff.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Palo Cortado Reliquia 22%, Barbadillo

Black-tinged amber fading through yellow with reddy coppery tints to a pale green note at the rim, legs. Looks very old.
Intensely beautiful with an air of sweetness consisting of hints of toasted almonds and hazelnuts, garrapiñadas (almonds cooked in caramel), crema catalana (creme brulée), traces of linseed oil and honey. There is also a drier side with notes of oak and walnut shell, even some flor-related salinity, but everything is incredibly well balanced with a complexity that leaves you happy just to smell it for hours on end. What a fabulous nose!
Now it is drier, more concentrated - intense - with slightly more obvious bitterness from the wood, after all this is very old wine, hints of nuts and nut oil, more walnutty, much more about structure than aroma, there are still saline notes from the wines's Manzanilla past (believe it or not), but there are also lingering aromas from the nose which help balance things and which provide almost unbelievable length. This is wonderful!
Robert Parker's man in Spain, Luis Gutierrez awarded this wine 100 points and rightly so: it is as close to perfection as you will get. The wine's age makes a mockery of the VORS system so much older is it than 30 years, so it does not bear that label.

In the mid XIX century Barbadillo acquired some already very old wines from Manuel Argüeso, for which he paid way over the odds at 14,000 pesos per butt at a time when a butt of Manzanilla cost about 1,200 pesos. This gives us an idea of the age and quality of the wines. To these he added more old wines bought from the "sacristies" of other prestigious bodegas of the day and formed a Palo Cortado solera consisting of 120 butts in eight scales in his bodega La Cilla.

The firm markets three Palos Cortados, all from the same solera: Obispo Gascón, from the 5th clase or criadera, The VORS from the third, and Reliquia from the solera itself .The real reliquias, however, are the wines in a couple of butts kept aside and marked "NO" meaning for exclusive family use. They are only occasionally refreshed to cover losses and only with wines of a similar age, meaning that they are roughly 150 years old, and thus amongst the very oldest wines in Jerez.

220.00 euros about 4 or 5 years ago in Spain, but now almost unobtainable and will probably set you back over £600 (Farr Vintners). Bottled (very occasionally) in hand-blown decanters and packed in an individual wooden box.

Monday 16 March 2015

16.3.15 Terry Pratchett & Sherry; Problems for Joaquin Rivero

Another interesting snippet from Jose Luis Jimenez is the news that Terry Pratchett was a bit of a fan of Sherry. The highly successful fantasy and science fiction author of over 70 books, who died last week after a long battle with Alzheimer, mentioned Sherry many times in his books. His humour and fine sense of irony helped to link his characters with Sherry, and hopefully promote it to a wider audience. He sold over 85 million copies, and will probably sell even more now.

(foto: wikipedia)

Joaquín Rivero, billionaire owner of Bodegas Tradición, is facing a possible jail sentence and fine by a Paris court. The worst case scenario is at least 3 years in jail and a €200m fine, however a further appeal hearing is expected to take place in 12 – 18 months, and his lawyer says that various matters were not properly taken into account. The case relates to alleged misappropriation of funds during the take-over of a French property company, Gecina, by his company, Metrovacesa.

Joaquin Rivero (foto: lavozdigital)

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Old Sherry Labels

My friend Jose Luis Jimenez sent me these lovely pictures which show how art and Flamenco artists served as models for late XIX and early XX century Sherry labels. It is interesting how closely Romate's Dulce de Gloria label resembles the photo of Pepa Ruiz, a gypsy dancer. Romate still use such labels for Manzanilla Viva La Pepa and Fino Perdido. Fino Buleria was a brand from Palomino y Vergara, but the name (if not the soleras) now belongs to Dios Baco.

Palo Cortado VORS 19.5% Tradicion

Amber tinged old gold, legs.
Delicate and restrained at first but opens up gradually with lots of hazelnuts and hints of bitter almonds and very slightly salty, bitter, yet at the same time there is a suspicion of sweetness: turron, sugared almonds, and polished furniture, it is a very Amontillado nose, very complex, ever evolving and ever growing in intensity. Delightful.
Generous in flavour and texture yet fairly light and extremely elegant but still growing in intensity, a certain crispness even bitterness and saltiness from long lost flor give way to sweetish walnutty and savoury oxidative Oloroso notes which vie with hints of grippy oak to add complexity. So much is happening in the glass, nothing excessive, all in perfect balance with terrific length. This is an elegant beauty and a character at the same time.
At a mere 32 years of age, this is the youngest wine  Tradicion produce (apart from the PX, the Cream and the Fino). This was bottle no. 41 of the 2,500 released unfiltered in 2014.
£55-60 per 75cl bottle. UK agents Raeburn Fine wines.

Monday 9 March 2015

Bodegas: José Bustamante SL

José Bustamante y Sánchez was born in Málaga and moved to Jerez where he set up a small bodega in 1921 at C/San Francisco Javier, 3. He was essentially an almacenista but big enough to be selling his own brands of both Sherry and Brandy. 

Bustamante brands included:

Fino Betis; Amontillado Paso Doble; Fragata East India Medium Oloroso;  Reverencia Cream;  Special Solera Old Brown Sherry;  Calesa Manzanilla Pasada;  Polca Moscatel Viejísimo, as well as a complete range of spirits.

The bodega along with its soleras was bought by Sánchez Romate and sold in 2001 to Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla in neighbouring C/Jardinillo. These soleras - apart from the PX and obviously the Manzanilla which was bought in - now produce the very fine Fernando de Castilla Antique range.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

2.3.15 Aecovi in Receivership

The leading cooperative in Jerez established at the end of the 1980s with great hopes now finds itself in receivership owing over €1m, some say more like €2m. Aecovi consists of a group of cooperatives: Coop Las Angustias which is owed €200,000, Covisan €130.000 along with the Coops of Chiclana and Chipiona which are owed unspecified amounts.

Aecovi has been facing cash flow difficulties since early this year and is meeting with its creditors, mainly banks and public institutions, but so far without the desired result. It is trying not to involve the member coops in its problems, though more support from them would have been helpful. The administrators are trying to find a way to re-float Aecovi and avoid liquidation.

The cooperative has a large range of products: three ranges of Sherry: Alejandro, Santiago and Mira la Mar, Sherry vinegar, sauces and condiments. They have a modest modern office block, a laboratory, bottling plant and 17 “young and dynamic” staff. They already sell wine in Russia, Japan, Australia, the US and the UK, and were really going places, but the crisis caught up with them. Let us hope this enterprising group can be saved.

Sunday 1 March 2015

La Bota de Palo Cortado "Bota No" No. 41 22%, Equipo Navazos

Bright, fairly deep mahogany with slight reddish tints fading through yellow to a touch of green at the rim, slow legs.
Incredibly fragrant, complex and concentrated yet lively with sweet notes of cinnamon, caramelised orange peel, dried apricot, garrapiñadas, turron de yema tostada, toast, wafer biscuits, then saline hints, polished furniture, oak, cedar, leather, linseed oil, oil paint, very old yet very clean and fresh as a daisy. There are just too many nuances here to identify but they are all so exquisitely harmonised - honed into a quite beautiful and beguiling aroma which bursts out of the glass.
Powerful, tangy and dry, the structure is more obvious now and there's some tannin and acidity with traces of salinity and savoury walnut bitterness and wood. This is full-on and deeply tasty making one salivate. Yet quietly in the background there's that sweet side ready to help when the going gets tough, balancing things out to a perfectly balanced finish with interminable length. Superb.
This wine comes from a very small saca (hence half bottles) made in February 2013 of wine selected from the best butts of the centenarian GF 30 solera from Bodegas Gaspar Florido in Sanlucar. I gather that this solera once belonged to Benito Rodriguez La-Cave, whose family merged with Delgado Zuleta giving them the great Quo Vadis solera. The old firm of Gaspar Florido was bought by Bodegas Pedro Romero in 2007 and the GF 25 and GF 30 soleras were moved to Romero's "sacristy" which, by chance is not far from their original location.

The wines from these soleras were bottled by Florido as "Jerez Viejisimo" as in Gaspar's mind there is a blurring of style between Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado when they are extremely old. Equipo Navazos however, are convinced that this is definitely a Palo Cortado, and it scored 98 well- deserved Parker points from Luis Gutierrez.
About 79.00 per half bottle. Maybe 6 left in the UK from importer Rhone to Rioja who have just been taken over by Alliance Wines.