Wednesday, 29 April 2015

29.4.2015 González Byass Sherry Summit

The Edinburgh trade was honoured last night to welcome Antonio Flores, the firm’s chief oenologist, for the González Byass Sherry Summit. The event took place in the wine shop/bar/restaurant of Le Bon Vivant where they have an intimate basement tasting room.

Antonio led us through a wonderful tasting in his inimitable and charming andaluz manner, more than ably assisted by his thoroughly capable team of UK managing director Martin Skelton, GB’s man in North Britain, Paul Shepherd, and Peter Allison, GB’s international spirits manager.

The tasting was seriously interesting, and part 1 followed the development of the grape must through Fino to old Amontillado.  Part 2 took a look at the Palo Cortados and part 3 traced a path from sobretablas oloroso to the 30 year old Matusalem. Finally we arrived at the sweetened Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.

Here are some brief notes on the wines:

Mosto 2014 As yet unfortified at 11.9% with 7-8 g/l glycerol and about 1 g/l residual sugar. Fruity with notes of apple and fresh apricot, a slight hint of dissolved CO2. Effectively a young table wine.

Sobretablas Fino 2014 Now fortified to 15.5%, the wine is made and ready for the fourth criadera, with 7g/l glycerol and 1 g/l residual sugar. It is slightly fuller and ever so slightly more Sherry like but still tastes much like the mosto.

Tio Pepe Fino This is what the wine is like after 5 years under flor which has been busy consuming the glycerol (now down to only 2g/l) and residual sugar (down to 0.5 g/l). It is of course the finished Tip Pepe, much drier, less fruity and a lot more delicious. (See separate post).

Tio Pepe en Rama saca 2015 This is the unfiltered, straight from the solera version of Tio Pepe, rich in zippy flor notes with considerable depth of flavour. (See separate post).

Viña AB Amontillado  This is a further development of wine from the Tio Pepe solera which spent 8 years there followed by 4 years of oxidative ageing. Technically (but unfortunately not legally) this is a “Fino-Amontillado” which still shows many Fino characteristics but with attractive oxidative notes and a smoothness from the dead yeast cells in the butts. Lovely. (See separate post).

Amontillado del Duque VORS Viña AB with a further 18 years of ageing in the solera del Duque. This is a serious and totally delicious wine which is simply a (very carefully managed)development of the original mosto and shows the evolution of a Sherry and the effects of flor and oxidation. (See separate post).

Sobretablas Oloroso 2014 18% With an old gold to pale amber colour and a fruity nose with orange and dried fruit notes, traces already of oxidation, and a soft and fruity palate, this is made wine ready for the criadera.

Oloroso Alfonso 18% Here we see how a further 8 years in the solera system develops the wine, and how the absence of flor gives a completely different style. The residual sugar is 3.5 g/l while the glycerol is about 9 g/l. This is a typical oloroso, dry, well rounded and generous. (See separate post).

Palo Cortado Leonor Made from mostos which must be suitable for Fino and fortified to 15.5%, but which can’t sustain flor for more than a few months in the sobretablas stage. Once identified as Palo Cortado it is fortified to 18% ready for the solera. (See separate post).

Apóstoles VORS This wine starts out with 87% Palo Cortado from the Leonor solera at 12 years old then blended with 13% PX. The blend is then aged a further 18 years. It has 50 g/l sugars. What a wine! So refined and characterful – and quite unusual. (See separate post).

Oloroso Solera 1847 Dulce The wine is a blend of 75% Oloroso from the Alfonso solera and 25% PX and is a Cream Sherry with an average age of 8 years and 120 g/l sugars. (See separate post).

Oloroso Dulce Matusalem VORS This stunning wine is made from Solera 1847 and simply aged a further 22 years. Transpiration losses change the sugar reading to 130 g/l, but the attendant concentration balances this with intense flavour. (See separate post).

PX Nectar Produced from GB’s own PX vines, the grapes are late harvested then dried in the sun for a good 2 weeks before being fermented to about 5% then fortified to15% and aged for 8 years. The sugar reading is 380 g/l. (See separate post).

PX Noe VORS This is simply Nectar aged for a further 22 years which give it much greater concentration. It is immensely fruity, and despite the huge amount of sugar, has a delightful balance and lightness of touch. (See separate post).

After the tasting a selection of Sherry cocktails was available, but they weren’t for me (nor a few others). A wine as perfect as Sherry simply cannot be improved upon.

Such an interesting event does wonders for goodwill towards Sherry and has certainly fired up a deeper interest in this great wine. A larger venue could surely have been filled, cask samples permitting, but everyone there enjoyed themselves immensely and learned a lot. 

¡Muchísimas gracias, Antonio!

Monday, 27 April 2015

La Bota de Fino No. 54 15%, Equipo Navazos

Attractive deep gold, quite a lot of colour for its age, legs.
Full with intense flor, dry and bitter with hints of brine, bread dough and lightly toasted bread. Slight traces of oxidation and fruit give an amazing roundness which, along with hints of barrel ferment - ation contrast with the surface bitterness for a racy balance. Extremely attractive Jerez Fino.
Despite slight fruit notes, it is dry both in terms of the lack of sugar and in terms of feel with chalky albariza notes. There is plenty of delicious bitter almost saline flor, and yet there is this bready, slightly fruity roundness too, a very generous style, interesting and beautifully balanced. Fantastic on its own or with a great variety of foods.
This superb Fino was made from grapes grown in Valdespino's Inocente vineyard in the Macharnudo Alto. The must was fermented in butt and the wine eventually joined the Inocente solera. Inocente is normally just over 10 years old, but this bottling is a blend of wine from the solera and the second criadera and is a shade younger with an average of 10 years old. The wine was withdrawn for bottling in June 2014 and underwent a minimal filtration to clear it of flor but without losing any colour or flavour.
Around £29 retail. UK agents are Alliance Wine

Sunday, 26 April 2015

26.4.15 Barcelona to Host Sherry Festival

The Consejo Regulador will be hosting a Sherry Festival between the 15th and 23rd of May, when the capital of Catalunya will become the world stage for Sherry and Manzanilla with a wide range of activities to lure as many Sherry lovers and industry professionals as possible.

This is one way the Consejo is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Sherry DO which fell on 19th January and the 50th anniversary of Manzanilla's DO which was last December. The Barcelona Sherry Festival 2015 is the ideal opportunity for local residents and visitors to discover the virtues of these great wines, and to make it all happen, there will be tasting sessions, gourmet experiences, special promotional activities, exhibitions, etc.

Special mention goes to the Showroom which will be held on the 18th May at the Majestic Hotel, undoubtedly the place to be to learn more about the Jerez Region's best wines from the winemakers themselves, bodegueros and wine experts. Around 20 different bodegas will be represented in an area displaying over 200 wines, with the option to taste and attend master classes led by the experts. Over 300 food and wine experts are expected to attend, including sommeliers, chefs, restaurateurs, educators and members of the press.

The Festival will also feature activities at some of the city's best known bars and restaurants, offering gourmet experiences such as matching food with Sherry amd Manzanilla, served while wine experts comment on the pairing menu on offer. In addition, there will be special promotions on offer at wine shops, such as a free Sherry tasting kit with any 30 euro purchase of Sherry or Manzanilla.

The fine tuning of the Festival programme is still ongoing, but the details will be announced on the Consejo website ( over the next few weeks. Should you wish to attend the Festival, do bear in mind that some activities will require advance booking.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The Mirador de la Alameda

If you have ever visited the impressive Alcázar or the bodegas of González Byass in Jerez, you will almost certainly have noticed the Mirador which sits between them. A mirador is a place from which one can enjoy the view, and from the upper floor, accessed by a spiral stairway, there are excellent vistas in all directions, and can get a really good understanding of the lie of the land.

It was commissioned in 1903 by Antonio Paz Partida and stood at his small finca close to the González Hontoria Park. He donated it to Padre Damián of the Casa de Ejercicios Esprituales of the Cartuja in the parish of Las Nieves where it remained until 2009, when it was given to the Council who restored it and moved it to its present position in June that year. It was inaugurated by the mayor and three members of the original owner’s family.

(foto:gente y habitantes de jerez)
This type of cast iron construction was common in the late XIX and early XX centuries as the rising bourgeoisie wanted to display their wealth, but few such buildings survive.  The Mirador is of classic turn of the century design: Art Nouveau and Modernism, and all sorts of quiosks and bandstands were once abundant. These related in a way to other notable buildings featuring cast iron in Jerez: Bodega La Concha at González Byass (1869), the Mercado de Abastos (1885) and the Railway Station (1908). Cast Iron went out of fashion with the arrival of reinforced concrete in the 1920s (Teatro Villamarta 1927).

Thursday, 23 April 2015

23.4.15 Tio Pepe en Rama 2015 is Launched

The 6th edition of this outstanding Fino is now available.  The presentation was made by González Byass chief winemaker, Antonio Flores and the firm’s vice president Pedro Rebuelta, on Monday at the Casa Palacio Guardiola in the historic centre of Sevilla, and timed to coincide with Sevilla’s most important event: the Feria de Abril. He pronounced the wine “pura vida” (pure life).

Like last year, the selection was made from the two oldest Tio Pepe soleras. The Rebollo solera is in the cellar originally built to store wine for Tio Pepe (the founder’s uncle Joe) 150 years ago, and has a dark and humid atmosphere perfect for flor, giving an intense wine bursting with the acetaldehyde aromas of almonds and yeast. This was the original Tio Pepe. The La Constancia solera in the firm’s earliest bodega, dating from the mid XIX century, offers a more elegant style with texture and finesse. The two make the perfect blend.

From an initial selection of 600 butts, 100 were selected for the short list back in October. After constant monitoring over the winter months, Antonio Flores selected the 60 butts with the healthiest flor at the beginning of April. The winter was reasonably mild and so the flor was remarkably stable, making Antonio’s selection all the harder. This is the third year running when the bottling was carried out – en rama - in April instead of May, as there is still the freshness of spring. This year’s label comes, as usual, from the archives of the Fundación González Byass.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Oloroso Añada 1970 20%, Bodegas Tradición

Copper and mahogany tinted amber fading to a touch of green at the rim, slow legs.
Fresh, tight and clean with generous Oloroso character. Lots of dried fruits, cinnamon, orange peel and even hints of hand rolling tobacco and milk chocolate followed by very nutty aromas of walnut and toasted almond, traces of vanilla and resin from the American oak and a fairly penetrating tang. Complex and delightful.
Quite powerful and tangy with an attractive acidity which freshens things up, notes of marmalade raisin, nuts, sweet spices and oak - which is a bit more apparent but there is enough glycerol to keep it in check. This is quite a mouthfilling wine as the gentle tannin gives it grip and the glycerol and acidity give it a certain raciness. Lively and delicious, it would be amazing with old hard cheese or well hung game. Terrific length and constantly evolving open at least an hour before serving.
Effortless deliciousness! It shows how well and how long Sherry ages outside a solera with no refreshment, in this case 42 years. The wine was bought from Croft and has been sealed up since 1970, having been released in 2012. This was from butt no. 5 of 7 and one of 250 bottles, so either there was a considerable merma or there is more than one release from the same butt (possibly for sale in other countries). The image on the label is reproduced from "La Costurera" (the seamstress) by Domingo García Díaz, one of the works in the Joaquín Rivero collection housed at the bodega.
£125.00 from Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh who are UK agents.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

19.4.15 Potential EU Funding Cut Worries Jerez

Fedejerez flatly rejects the amendment to the funding of wine promotion abroad which will be put to the vote on the 27th of this month at the European Parliament. The amendment involves the strategy concerning EU alcohol, questioning the use of public funds to promote the consumption of alcohol in third countries. The beer and spirits industries also face this problem, and have joined the wine industry to present a common front.

The possibility of these European funds being spent elsewhere poses a major risk to Jerez, where many bodegas have enjoyed this important source of income to promote their wines outside Europe, mainly in strategic markets such as the USA or Japan. Despite the funding plan officially being in place till 2020, it could now disappear in 2018.

Fedejerez admits that the trade is nervous about the forthcoming vote and they are allying with the Federación Española de Vino (FEV). The latter is warning that this amendment puts at risk funding not only for the campaign for moderate consumption of wine but also for its promotion in third countries and the support plan for the wine producing sector. Further, the FEV says it will marginalise and demonise wine as a product which is so important as an EU export.

“Quien sabe beber, sabe vivir” was the slogan for the prominent campaign set up in 2012 for moderate wine drinking, to which the Consejo, Jerez Council and Fedejerez were all subscribed. Now it might disappear and there might be considerable harm to the wine producing culture and the agricultural industry and jobs which lie behind it.

But there is yet more to the amendment. It also proposes to revise the rules on labelling to include nutritional advice and a warning as to the poisonous nature of alcohol. The FEV is asking the Euro deputies to vote against this measure which directly attacks the specificity of wine. The Spanish delegation in Brussels is drumming up support for a “no” vote, insisting that products like wine form a part of the much admired Mediterranean diet, and if consumed moderately are beneficial to the health.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

18.4.15 27 More Sherry Educators; Giant Tio Pepe Bottles; Feria de la Manzanilla 2015

The XIII Sherry Educators course has come to a successful conclusion. Over the15th, 16th and 17th April, 27 people participated: restaurateurs, wine educators, sommeliers and wine journalists from all over Spain.

The title “Formador Homologado del Vino de Jerez” requires professional candidates who have a high level of wine knowledge, as in practice they are an extension of the Aula de Formación del Vino de Jerez, the education side of the Consejo Regulador in destination markets, and thus ambassadors for Sherry.

Some of the Educators doing the right thing (foto:+jerez)
An intense programme on winemaking with seminars, tastings and vineyard and bodega visits was undertaken to obtain this prestigious title. The course which takes place twice annually, is regarded as one of the best of its kind.

Two Tio Pepe bottles 2.58 metres high have arrived to greet travellers at the duty-free in Madrid airport terminal 4 and 4 satellite. The bottles are made from expanded polystyrene, wood and polyurethane resin and are unmissable.

Tio Pepe in action (foto:lavozdigital)

The poster for this year’s Feria has been presented by the mayor of Sanlúcar, Víctor Mora alongside the artist who created it, Mikel Urmeneta. The Feria will be celebrated from the 2nd till the 7th of June.

The mayor (l) with the artist and his poster (

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Oloroso Añada 1968 22%, González Byass

Light, bright copper tinted amber topaz fading through yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Fresh crisp Oloroso aromas, generous and quite "pretty" for an Oloroso, lots of toasted almonds and wine-soaked American oak with traces of cinnamon, polvoron, earth, marmalade orange peel and a little raisin sweetness rounding things off. Although the alcohol is noticeable, it is a slightly lighter more reserved nose than some, perhaps because it was a more rainy year albeit saved by later sunshine.
Quite assertively tangy, a definite note of acidity followed by an oaky texture though not especially tannic, lightish on mid palate, still that sweet cinnamon spice and trace of orange, dries a little at the end, but is very long leaving lingering spicy-orangey-almondey memories. This needs food, probably beef, mushrooms, blue cheese. Seriously interesting wine.
From 100% Jerez Superior Palomino grapes harvested in 1968. This wine was sealed in a butt and effectively left to its own devices until 1999 when it was pronounced to be an Oloroso with some 31 years of age. It was filled by hand into dark "Jerezana" style bottles of a style used in the mid XIX century and sealed with red wax over a driven cork. This was bottle number 117 of 432. By my calculations the merma (loss through transpiration) is about 35%. Interestingly, this wine has not only had 31 years in wood, but also 15 years more ageing in bottle, something which was allowed for by using a driven cork and wax seal, and something which has certainly improved an already superb wine. (See post on Añada Sherries)
A very reasonable £85 from Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Oloroso Añada 1975 20%, Bodegas Tradición

Deep, slightly red-tinted amber-mahogany fading through yellow to a touch of green at the rim, legs.
Harmonious, generous and fairly sweet aromas of dried orange peel, some dried fruits: sultana, apricot, and the slightest trace of cinnamon, then there is a nutty woody side: marzipan, walnuts and oak. Quite high-toned with a tangy, zesty, varnishy feel with some richness behind but not as fat as some Oloroso, complex and interesting.
Dry, tangy and sinewy with a fair acidity and a hint of bitterness mainly from the wood tannins, this is brilliant with food - I tried it. Medium to full bodied with a tension between that acidity and the round, apparently quite sweet Oloroso walnutty generosity giving a tangy balance and leaving the palate clean. Really long too. Racy and delicious.
This is bottle No. 104 from a saca of 200 (or only 150 litres) lot 1/10. As always, it was filled and labelled by hand with a driven cork and wax seal, along with a spare stopper cork and wooden gift box. This wine came from a number of butts of vintage wine bought from the old Croft bodegas. (What a pity Croft will always be remembered for Croft Original!) The grapes were harvested in August-September 1975 and the wine remained in a butt sealed by the Consejo until January 2010 (I'm guessing) making it over 34 years old. In that time the merma (loss by transpiration) was 70%, so you can easily see why these wines are expensive.

In the photo (below) of the butt it might have come from, you can see the Consejo seal over the bunghole; crossed red ribbons and four seals. This can only be removed by the Consejo.

The picture on the label is a reproduction of an incredibly realistic oil painting called "Guardacantón" (a sort of neighbourhood watch) from the collection of Joaquín Rivero housed at the bodega, and was painted by the Sevillano artist José Jiménez Aranda (1837-1903).
£125.00 from Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh, who are UK agents.


Monday, 13 April 2015

Types of Sherry: Vintage or Añada Wines

Vintage Sherry is exciting because of its rarity and variety, and unfortunately its price. Most bodegas do not produce any, and even the six who do generally only do so in better years and in small quantities. It will probably only ever be a niche wine but one which is very worthy of trying.

Until the early XIX century all Sherry was exported as a comparatively young vintage wine but inevitably there were variations in quality and style from year to year which led to complaints from foreign importers about lack of consistency. The solera system was therefore devised (probably in Sanlúcar) to ensure consistency by continually blending vintages. It thus offers a form of complexity not there before as the wines flow through a system which itself is constantly ageing. It is a system which takes many years to establish, but gives a great degree of homogeneity.

Theoretically due to the necessity of refreshing the flor in Finos and Manzanillas they, along with the Amontillados into which they develop, cannot become Añada wines as they would no longer be from only one vintage, but there are exceptions: Williams & Humbert’s Fino en rama and the Añadas from Callejuela). Yet occasionally Añada wines do still develop into Amontillados and Palos Cortados  - or at least something very similar - despite the lack of refreshment at the Fino stage.

The large majority of Añada wines are Olorosos however. These wines develop a different form of complexity to solera wines with a slightly “tighter” feel.  Contact with oxygen is mainly filtered through the pores and staves of the sealed butt, but as the wine ages the headspace grows ever bigger through transpiration meaning that the butt might contain as much air as Sherry after say 30 or more years, and a good 20% alcohol. These wines are thus quite concentrated, and of course they vary according to the quality of the vintage, and from butt to butt. Añadas will never be as old as the oldest solera wines since after perhaps 40 years there will be little useful wine left in the butt. Indeed it is estimated that the wine would evaporate completely in 70 years.

Butts intended to be Añadas may well have flor growing on the wine’s surface, but this will in most cases die off (albeit reluctantly) through lack of oxygen when the Consejo Regulador stoppers and seals them (with wax and ribbon), which they do to ensure no wine from other years can be blended in. From this point nothing is done to the wine at all and it is left to develop statically into whatever style it likes. If a wine falls short of the desired qualities it can be absorbed by a suitable solera, but care must be exercised as it will not closely resemble the solera wine. In the case of there being several butts of (for example Oloroso) of a given vintage, they will all taste slightly different, but they can – under Consejo supervision - be blended together, or simply released separately. This means that you can sell, say, five different 1982 añadas or one in greater quantity.

Levels of fortification vary depending on the desired result, but usually wines are only fortified to 15 -15.5% yet alcoholic levels of up to 22% are reached in the finished wine since transpiration losses of 2% to 5% per annum are not replaced as they would be in a solera system. As the years roll by, the level of wine in the butt gets ever lower and every so often the wines may need to be racked into smaller vessels. Alternatively – and under Consejo supervision – a butt may be topped up with a similar wine from the same vintage, or simply bottled. 

Never having been refreshed, these wines become increasingly concentrated and need to be drunk before they become excessively so, and accordingly they are now bottled very occasionally and usually at about 30 years of age to the delight of well-heeled connoisseurs. One point to note is that as some wines develop more quickly than others, vintages are not necessarily released in sequential order.  One other point is that these wines are built to last and can be laid down for many years’ further ageing and polishing in bottle.

Añada is unlikely ever to return as a full scale listed product, but will almost certainly become more widely produced as an upmarket (and profitable) line. Available bottles worldwide of each wine only number in the hundreds, so they are hard to come by. A special precinta (official seal) is under consideration by the Consejo for these vintage wines. These wines would easily qualify for VOS or VORS status as their precise age is known and they would only need to pass the tasting test, but nobody seems to bother with this.

Listed below are the bodegas which produce Añadas, and as much information as I have gleaned so far on them:

González Byass

The bodega has over 3,000 butts of vintage Sherry going back to 1834. When Vizetelly visited in 1875 there was a butt of 1809. In 1853 Manuel María González began setting aside a butt of the excellent wine produced from the vineyard of Sr. Romero Valdespino, whose entire production he bought. 

 Nowadays GB selects about 200 butts per year (from the 200,000 they produce) of fine quality must for the purpose of producing Añadas. The best of these will become Añadas, and the rest will find a home in the solera of one of the better wines or be used to create special one-off releases. The Añadas are released when master blender and oenologist Antonio Flores sees fit and are usually about 30 years old.

 The vintage wines were first released in 1994, the 150th anniversary of Tio Pepe first being exported to Britain. The vintages released since then have been:

1963 – Oloroso
1964 – Oloroso
1966 – Oloroso                 
1967 – Oloroso
1968 - Oloroso
1969 – Oloroso
1970 – Oloroso
1975 – Palo Cortado
1978 – Palo Cortado
1979 – Palo Cortado and Oloroso
1982 – Palo Cortado and Oloroso
1987 - Palo Cortado
1989 – Oloroso
1990 - Palo Cortado XC (Ida y Vuelta) 
1994 – Palo Cortado

GB also made a wonderful millennium blend of Oloroso Añadas, one from the best vintage of each decade of the XX century which consisted of the vintages: 1902, 1917 1923, 1935, 1946, 1957, 1962, 1977, 1983 and 1992. Only 2,000 (oddly enough!) numbered and signed bottles were released. They also produced a very small one-off release of the “Oloroso Añada 1913” in celebration of the centenary of the Cambridge English Language Assessment Department established in 1913, but it was in fact a blend of 11 vintages, one from every decade between 1913 and 2013. Occasionally GB  bottle a vintage wine of the birth year of someone famous, such as the 1921 for Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, 1938 to celebrate the marriage of King Juan Carlos I and Dona Sofia of Greece.

Williams & Humbert

A butt of Fino from the firm’s “Viña del Álamo” vineyard in the Pago Añína was laid down by Guy Dingwall Williams (affectionately known as “Don Guido”) in 1920 to celebrate the birth of a member of the Humbert family. Another birth in 1922 saw another butt laid down and in 1924 it was decided that it would be very interesting to lay a couple down from the same vineyard every year, fortified to only 15%, and that tradition remains. Only one year is missing, 1992, because of a pickers' strike. On rare occasions (1957 and 1987), the wines have been tasted and classified, sometimes being re-classified at the subsequent tasting. It is fascinating to watch evolution in progress – at least it is for those lucky people who have the opportunity! These genuine vintage wines are used by the Consejo Regulador to help certify the age of other vintage wines.

The bodega does produce a vintage Fino en Rama (2006) which is an extremely difficult thing to do as the flor has a job to breathe, but somehow they have nursed it for 7 years to achieve what might be called a "Fino Pasado". It is quite unique and quite delicious. Unlike González Byass, W&H only used to lay down one butt, latterly two, so their Añadas  were very much scarcer and rarely - if ever - bottled. Happily, in 1999 the auction house Christies came across these wines and persuaded the bodega to bottle some for sale, and they now fetch enormous prices especially for the older ones: £300 - £600 per bottle. This caused a change in policy at W&H and they now lay down 50 butts annually, meaning that they will now be (reasonably) obtainable for the average connoisseur once deemed mature. UK agents Ehrmanns don’t ship these wines so they are easier to find at the bodega.

Since the launch of the 2006 Fino, W&H have marketed several more vintage wines of a younger age: Fino 2009 and 2012 , Amontillado 2003 and three Olorosos from 2003, 2009 and 2012, all launched in 2016. These are truly fascinating.

 Bodegas Tradición

Tradición has a much shorter trajectory than GB and W&H being established in 1998. The soleras were based on wines from Agustin Blázquez which was owned by Domecq. They own no vineyard from which to select the must so all their wines are bought in. Among those they bought at the start were a few Añadas from the old Rancho Croft. Let us hope they are buying or laying down more wines like these. It will probably be quite some time before we see the ’91 and ’98 on the market. The following are what I know they had, but the older ones are in short supply:

1970 - Oloroso 7 butts, Palo Cortado
1975 - 10 butts Palo Cortado, 9 butts Oloroso, 9 butts Amontillado
1982 – Oloroso
1991 – 11 butts Oloroso, 9 butts Palo Cortado

Showing the Consejo seal over the bung

Bodegas Emilio Lustau

Lustau has a different take on the vintage wines. They make a rich Oloroso by fortifying the wine during fermentation so that there is residual unfermented sugar – rather than the usual addition of PX – leaving it medium-sweet. The wine is then released at the comparatively younger age of somewhere over 15 years old. The first release was in 1989, then the 1990 and the current release is the 1997.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana

1986 Oloroso 18% Grapes come from Hidalgo’s own vineyards in Balbaína and Miraflores. Only free-run juice is used and there is no flor as the wine is fortified immediately after vinification and sealed by the Consejo. It is aged over 20 years and sells for a little over £80 per 50cl bottle. This is the only release so far.


I hear Sandeman produced a foot-trodden vintage 1989 Oloroso, but have no more information.


Garvey sold the occasional Añada up till around the 1970s.
  Viña La Callejuela

This small bodega in Sanlucar produced such good wine in 2012 that the consultant winemaker, Ramiro Ibañez, kept 11 butts aside to sell as Vintage Manzanilla with one butt being bottled and sold in spring each year. It will be fascinating to compare one year´s release against another - if it can be obtained, as it is obviously a very limited edition. The first release was in 2015 and with each passing year it will be older and more complex, more Amontillado.


Pepe Estevez bought this venerable old bodega in 1999 and set about moving all the soleras from scattered bodegas to the one he had constructed specially, an immense task. He ordered wines to be selected for the production of a vintage 2001, and these were fermented in stainless steel and filled, after a time under flor and being fortified to 17%, into 23 butts previously seasoned with old Valdespino Oloroso. It was soon realised that 23 butts per year would, over time, amount to a huge amount of wine for which there would not be space, so Pepe ordered less wine to be filled into large toneles of 90 and 160 arrobas capacity (a normal bodega butt contains 36). The following vintages were barrel fermented, and 2002 spent 2 years under flor while subsequent vintages spent just one and were fortified to 18%. In May 2016 they bottled one butt of 2000 and some 2001.

Ximenez Spinola

Pedro Ximenez Añada is a vintage wine produced originally for the bodega by Ramiro Ibañez and made by an unusual method. The grapes were left much longer on the vine, picked at a high sugar level, macerated and fermented in butts on the skins and aged 4 months in the butts with lees stirring. It is released annually.

Bodega San Ginés

This is the private bodega of the Consejo Regulador, and among other treasures here are vintage wines made from the grapes trodden at the Fiesta de la Vendimia which began in 1948. The grapes are provided by various bodegas and the wines are sometimes made in different ways, such as late harvesting. The 1948 was made from grapes from Sandeman's vineyards El Corregidor and El Cerro and contained 15 g/l sugar. Unfortunately these wines are never put onto the market.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

12.4.15 Fedejerez Repeats Warning Against Bag in Box

With the start of the feria season and the traditional huge increase in consumption, Fedejerez, the federation of bodegas, is warning against the use of Bag in Box (BIB) packaging for Sherry. They have set up a campaign to warn consumers that Sherry can only legally be sold in glass bottles, and that in no circumstances can any other form of packaging carry the Denominación de Origen (DO).
Fedejerez is pointing out the misleading nature of BIB and the grave economic consequences for the image of the genuine products of Jerez and Sanlúcar. In the rules of the Consejo, section H.4, it is made quite clear that Sherry shall be sold for direct consumption in glass or any other material the Consejo might authorise. Only glass has been authorised.

Although those who sell BIB have declassified the wine (ie they are not claiming DO), confusion is caused among consumers as the BIBs carry words and pictures which have been used historically in the commercialisation of Sherry. Consumers assume they are buying a genuine DO product when in reality it is a declassified Sherry or a wine from somewhere else such as Montilla or Huelva, where there are no controls on BIB. Fedejerez considers this as little short of fraud and unfair competition, as BIBs do not undergo the rigorous checks that Sherry must and are taking advantage of its worldwide prestige, earned over many years of investment.

The low price of BIBs is also a cause of concern: young wine is sold in cheap packaging which makes the bottled DO product look expensive. If consumers then opt for the cheaper version, sales of proper Sherry will fall leaving less money to invest in research, vineyards, promotion or wages for example, and ultimately, jobs. Smaller resources would make it more difficult to promote to younger people, de-seasonalise consumption and recuperate Sherry’s prestige.

At the end of the day, use of BIBs will not impress markets such as Japan or the USA which want top quality wines, in bottle and well promoted, something which can only be achieved by promoting bottled brands which give Sherry its prestigious image.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Classic Oloroso 18%, Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla

Deep Brown mahogany with reddish coppery tints through yellow to slightest trace green at the rim, slow legs.
Forthcoming and deep with savoury walnut notes – even a trace of Marmite - and background hints of wood. There is a certain note of raisiny sweetness and the 18% is noticeable along with traces of autumn leaves. It is a serious full-bodied wine with some age, very Oloroso.
Full, quite big, assertive, yet smooth. Dry and mouthfilling with slightly dank damp barrel and deep walnut flavours along with a very savoury oxidative character. It has a gentle refreshing acidity, good balance and length.
A very good wine, benchmark Oloroso yet with its own style. The Classic rang is the bodega’s entry level at about 8 years old, but as such better than many.
£12,95 from Drinkmonger, UK agents Boutinot

Friday, 10 April 2015

10.4.15 Manzanilla Celebrations

Here is a Press Release about the Manzanilla Celebrations:


The Regulatory Council for Sherry Wines and Manzanilla has chosen Seville´s Alfonso XIII Hotel for the April 13th event where bodegas specialising in Manzanilla will showcase this gem of a wine.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda, March 27, 2015-  The Regulatory Council for Sherry Wines and Manzanilla continues its 50th anniversary celebrations of Manzanilla´s Designation of Origin. The next commemorative event on the agenda will take place on April 13th in Seville, a city where Manzanilla has historically had a major impact and, in the days leading up to the April Fair, is the ideal time for its consumption. The event will draw the largest number of Manzanilla producers and distributors to one of the most emblematic symbols of Seville´s vibrant tourism and social scene, the Alfonso XIII Hotel.

After the inaugural gala event in Sanlúcar de Barrameda last December 15, fifty years to the day after publication of the Designation of Origin´s regulations, the celebrations moved to Madrid Fusión and now, amidst other initiatives, Manzanilla will once again be in the spotlight, displaying its excellence, diversity and nuances in the Andalusian capital. Winemakers and bodegueros from Sanlúcar will join wine experts and industry professionals in a special edition of the traditional Spring extraction to commemorate this half-century of D.O. Manzanilla.

The campaign launched to celebrate D.O. Manzanilla´s 50th Anniversary included a special bottling of two carefully selected varieties (one fina and one pasada). Now, with Spring in the air, Seville provides the ideal time and place for enjoying Sanlúcar´s treasured wine in all its splendour. It comes as no surprise then, that Seville is Manzanilla´s major market and the perfect showcase. It is during Seville´s April Fair and many other Andalusian Spring festivals when Manzanilla consumption hits its yearly peak.

As the Easter holidays approach, more than 12 million half bottles (the traditional format at local celebrations) are distributed throughout the region for the festivities. This was the landmark figure reached last year, representing 36% of the entire yearly production of Manzanilla. The demand for Manzanilla is particularly high during Seville´s April Fair, which will take place just days after the Manzanilla Showroom hosted by the Regulatory Council in Seville.

A unique wine

Manzanilla is truly a special wine, the product of centuries of wisdom and tradition at Sanlúcar´s bodegas and of the unique climatic conditions that are found nowhere else but in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

A combination of exceptional factors that give Manzanilla its genuine character and distinguish it from any other Jerez Region wine and needless to say, from any other wine in the world.

Its dynamic ageing process, a system known as soleras and criaderas, is unique to this winegrowing region and leads to the formation of velo de flor, one of oenology´s greatest treasures—a layer of yeast that covers the wine and interacts with it during the ageing process; a distinguishing element that makes Manzanilla what it is. This velo de flor is like no other, created by the exceptional climatic conditions of the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, lending this wine its unique nuances.

Certified by the Regulatory Council

In order to enjoy Manzanilla with the maximum assurance of quality, the Regulatory Council insists upon the importance of verifying that the bottle you are served at these festivities has the official Designation of Origin seal of guarantee. So, whether you are having a chilled glass of Manzanilla or the popular rebujito or wine spritzer, it is always recommended that you see the bottle from which you are being served, no matter what well-known brand you order: Manzanilla from Sanlúcar de Barramada or Fino from Jerez or El Puerto de Santa María.

There are 60 different wineries that produce finos and manzanillas, offering a wide range of brands and varieties. Each one, however, is registered with the Regulatory Council and therefore, reflect a prolonged and genuinely unique process of elaboration, placing them amidst the most highly appreciated wines in the world.

Manzanilla, an iconic Spanish wine

Manzanilla is a world renowned wine and an ambassador of Spain to all five continents. Above all else, it is a wine that has been a favourite for centuries among Spanish consumers. Suffice it to say that, of the 9,5 million bottles of Manzanilla sold yearly, over 90% is sold for Spain´s domestic market.

Commonly associated with joyful moments of celebration, Manzanilla is truly a unique wine of extraordinary quality, a fact validated by experts and consumers around the world. Its versatility and rich nuances offer a world of possibilities for food pairing, making it hugely popular with everything from traditional tapas to the latest gourmet cuisine.

As a wine whose identity owes much to the sea, it is no surprise that its perfect companion is none other than fish and seafood, pairing perfectly with traditional seafood dishes of the much admired Mediterranean cuisine.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

9.4.15 VI Copa de Jerez Final in June; Hugh Hudson visits Jerez

Eight restaurants will contest the final of the VI Copa de Jerez having won their national finals. Spain, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the UK, the USA, Holland and Russia will all be competing in the final of the top food and Sherry matching competition on the 9th June. The competition attracts hundreds of professionals, chefs and journalists, from participating countries and is a fantastic showcase for the wines of Jerez.

For the first time, eight countries will compete, thanks to the inclusion of Russia due to its growing interest in Sherry not only in wine tourism in Jerez but also for its increasing imports. Russian cuisine will be another interesting Sherry match in this top level competition. Among the judges are such prestigious names as: Josep Roca, Heston Blumenthal, Juan Mari Arzak, Pontus Elofsson, Juli Soler, and Jancis Robinson.

British film director of Chariots of Fire (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan and The Revolution, Hugh Hudson paid a recent visit to Jerez and signed a butt at González Byass as well as tasting a few wines. During his visit to the bodega he was accompanied by Mauricio González Gordon and Carlos del Rio, both members of the fifth generation of the family.

Hugh Hudson in leather jacket at Gonzalez Byass (foto:lavozdigital)

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Tio Pepe Sails the Guadalete

From an interesting article in Diario de Jerez by A. Espejo

Downstream from El Portal, not far from the weir, there is an old disused wharf (the Embarcadero de la Marina) from which the Navy used to transport heavy armaments to the nearby Rancho de la Bola. Access is difficult but it is still in a good state of conservation except for the disappearance of the bollards which served for tying up boats, and which have been stolen and most likely sold for scrap.

The embarcadero before the bollards were stolen (foto:entorno a jerez)

At this point in the river a canal, which was planned many years ago (see post on canal), should have departed towards Playas de San Telmo at Jerez, where the Basque engineer Juan Machimbarrena planned to build a river port in what was the last, but frustrated, attempt to realise the long-held dream of giving the city direct access to the sea which would facilitate exports.

According to Agustín García Lázaro, professor and member of the Jerez Centre for Historic Studies, this dream of making the Guadalete navigable between Jerez and the sea goes back to the XVI century, and numbers as many attempts as failures, be it because of the opposition of nearby municipalities with long-standing sea connections or simply the high cost of such a project. He reckons that this challenge is all but ruled out, except for a possible recuperation of the river area as a recreational and leisure facility.

Rancho de la Bola today (foto: entorno a jerez)

Agustín and his brother José relate the history of the river and its current state of abandonment in the blog “Entorno a Jerez” which has served to inspire González Byass to take the first step towards its recuperation with an initiative which attempts to re-create the old “viaje de las botas” (journey of the barrels), the river and sea crossings which the wine made in barges via the Guadalete to the port of El Trocadero by Cádiz, where it was loaded onto ships for export. In those days, of course, the wine was taken to the river rather than the other way round.

“This project unites gastronomy, wine and history” explains the Tio Pepe representative, José Argudo, who explains that the trip down the river would be a homage to the journey the Sherry used to make as well as being a wonderful wine tourism experience which re-lives the history of the river journey and the many difficulties it presented to the bodegueros.

Train leaving a bodega (foto:jerez siempre)

The Embarcadero de la Marina will be the setting-off point for the expedition which José Argudo will make in the next few days with officials from a local nautical company which specialises in recreational activities and tourist excursions. González Byass is in talks with them to study the land, the navigability of the river and the general possibilities of the project.

“Jerez has made little use of the river for a long time, and the idea is to look at the Guadalete from the wine point of view”, says Argudo, who is keen to imitate the first embarcations of those who once opened a canal which joined the Rio San Pedro which offered direct access to the sea, avoiding the levies payable to the Duke of Medinacelli at El Puerto de Santa María. The Duke finally won a legal battle to have this blocked, though it took years to do so because the tide kept washing away the building work.

The idea of the Tio Pepe journey is that tourists will board the boat with expert guides and travel down to the marshes at Doña Blanca, one of the first places to be colonised and with its own castle. Here, in the XVIII century a large four kilometre excavation had to be made to straighten out the meanderings of this part of the river but boats frequently ran aground at low tide.

Interestingly, the Viaje de las botas was not the only viaje. The other was the “Viaje de los Cantos” which took place during the XVI century. It consisted of the river transport of rocks from the San Cristóbal quarry to El Puerto for onward shipment up the Guadalquivir to Sevilla for the construction of the cathedral.

Back to the Tio Pepe viaje. The journey will end in El Puerto where the first stop will be a wine and food experience at the salt pans by the old El Caño tide mill situated in the eco-system of the Parque Natural de la Bahía.  The mill is currently being restored by double Michelin starred chef, Ángel León, for conversion into a gastronomic laboratory and restaurant, though there is some opposition from ecologists.

After leaving behind the mouth of the Guadalete and the city of El Puerto, the planned itinerary will take the boat towards the port of El Trocadero at the bay of Cádiz where the old “tren del vino Jerez-Trocadero” used to arrive, and which alleviated most of the bodegueros’ problems with river transport.

The last stop of the Tio Pepe sea/river journey will be right in the heart of Cádiz itself at La Caleta beach, where José Argudo hopes to organise another banquet in praise of the marriage of Sherry with the local gastronomy in collaboration with the Córdoba family, owners of the restaurant El Faro. José says that Tio Pepe has already done other such “experiences” involving gastronomy and history, referring to event s such as fishing on the coast, looking at fungi in the Alcornocales or a marriage of Sherry with carne de retinto, superb beef from the local Retinto breed.

A view of the Parque de los Alcornocales (

The journey downstream, by which Sherry was sent out to the world, gave rise to some Sherry expressions, such as “Arrumbador” (men who move barrels and draw samples)which came from the word “Estibador” (stevedore), “Vinos Mareados” (seasick wines)meaning wines exported by boat and the “Toques Salinos” (hints of salinity)in Finos and Manzanillas” from their exposure to sea air.

There is still a lot of work ahead to turn this project into reality. Among the main obstacles, including anything turned up by the test journey, is the necessity to create access to the Embarcadero de la Marina which, after being silted up by the last floods, finds itself further away from the river course. Tio Pepe is hoping for the involvement of public institutions to help bring about this initiative which explores a historic aspect of Sherry and will open up Jerez to the rest of the province. Depending what happens on the trial run, an assessment can be made as to whether the project is viable and whether it might be possible to restore one of the old barges which transported armaments to the Rancho de la Bola, as abandoned as the river itself, whose Arabic name translates ironically as “the river of oblivion”.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Pedro Nolasco González Soto: Sherry’s Best Ambassador in India and Russia

Pedro Nolasco was the son of Manuel María González Ángel, founder of González Byass. In this family nothing happened by chance, much less the trajectory of a family blessed with the intellectual qualities to spark such exemplary commercial growth in each successive generation.

The father of Manuel María González Gordon and grandfather of Mauricio González Gordon, Pedro Nolasco was a man of singular personal characteristics, who, like his descendants, played a fundamental role in the firm while he worked there. He was born in Jerez on the 26th September 1849 at number 30, Calle Francos, and was baptised 3 days later at the Church of San Marcos. He studied in Jerez receiving primary education from private tutors.

Pedro Nolasco with Manuel Maria in the tasting room (foto:lavozdigital)
When he reached the age of ten years, his father decided he should receive a classical education and so he was sent to Tours in France in the care of Augusto Goupy, a French Presbyterian who gave classes in philosophy, Latin, Greek as well as French, which he was able to master. He accompanied his father on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in London in 1862 aged only 14 and was impressed by what he saw. Once in England, he was enrolled by his father at the famous Edwards College in Everton where he received an excellent education for which he received the Elocution Prize for his mastery of English after only 18 months.

From England he travelled to Germany where he stayed for a while, alternating between work and learning German. In 1866, aged 17 years he returned to Jerez to work at the family bodega. Given his linguistic skills he was put to work in the export department where he developed important business throughout Europe. He was a charming character with good conversation and good at business negotiation with his skills of persuasion. A story goes that given his love of art and antiques he was frequently contacted by antiquarians and dealers who came to offer him their wares, which he was nearly always able to purchase at the best price. If he was unable to persuade the dealer to sell at a good price, he would offer to toss for it: the dealer’s best price or his. For this he would produce a gold coin which was rumoured to have two heads.

Pedro Nolasco, Manuel Maria, Mauricio in the bodega (foto:diariodejerez)
He was an indefatigable traveller, criss-crossing Europe and visiting countries where Sherry had not yet arrived. Thanks to his language skills he had audiences with kings and princes and interacted with leading personalities and members of the European aristocracy with whom he maintained personal and business relations for years. This capacity made him the best ambassador for Sherry in countries as far away as India and Russia, and González Byass received orders for thousands of cases of wine which of course did no harm at all to the firm’s profits. Once delighted customers had placed a second order, he was quite capable of refusing it on the grounds that the soleras were exhausted, and the customers were willing to wait till the following year, placing even bigger orders and paying the new price.

Pedro was a great lover of sport and open-air activities, and it was he who introduced Polo and Tennis to Spain, constructing the necessary facilities in Jerez. He also introduced Clay Pigeon Shooting and occasionally participated enthusiastically along with King Alfonso XIII. Not only that but he was the Consul in Jerez for Norway and Sweden as well as vice-consul for Germany, Portugal and Brazil.

His house, located in what is now the Jesús María El Cuco School, was what we might call a hotel-residence since while Jerez had a prestige hotel to accommodate visiting personages, he would put them up cordially and without charge. In this house he put up people such as inventors like Marconi, writers, travellers and painters such as Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, who painted two canvasses of the vineyards which then surrounded the house, canvasses which can now be found hanging in Madrid in the museum-house of the painter. In gratitude to Pedro for his hospitality, Sorolla later painted a picture of an Andalusian patio which now belongs to one of Pedro’s heirs.

Pedro and Maria Nicolasa (foto:lavozdigital)
He was married to María Nicolasa Gordon, a distinguished and beautiful woman descended from the Scottish Gordon family, who of course had bodegas. As father of 13 children and with frequent visitors like family, friends and colleagues, the house was always full of people, above all at mealtimes, and being a man of order, Pedro laid down a few rules, the most important of which was punctuality. If somebody arrived late they were made to put a small fine into a box before sitting down at table, and the money collected was given to charity.

He was a restless man, intellectual, full of vitality, financial and commercial skills, and who at the age of barely 20 had travelled Europe selling Sherry, and for this he was recognised in 1919 by the king who awarded him the title Marqués de Torresoto de Briviesca. He was also a gentleman of his majesty’s chamber and held the Gran Cruz (Cross) de Carlos III, Cruz de Isabel la Católica and the Gran Placa of the Cruz Roja Española among other distinctions before he died, on the 3rd July 1946, fondly remembered.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

2.4.15 Probable New Owner of Garvey: Promontoria

The future of Garvey is still uncertain, but what seems apparent is that the investment company Promontoria BBE is interested in the brands and assets of the bodega. The latter has been a problem, however as ownership is scattered, and potential buyers would have to negotiate with all the individual owners to buy machinery, equipment, stocks (owned by the receivers) and the brands. Promontoria already have a mortgage on the buildings and land.

Negotiations are at an advanced stage, and the plan is to reassemble all the parts of Garvey under one owner and re-float it for its later sale as a going concern. If all goes well, this could be in about a month’s time.

The receivers also wish to sell off Zoilo Ruiz Mateos, another ex Rumasa bodega which is in receivership and which has the winemaking and bottling contract for the Sandeman brand. ZRM owns the Sandeman bodegas and vineyards.

The Complejo Bellavista, Jerez (foto:diariodejerez)

The whole affair is very complex and there are many questions in the air which are causing worry in the Sherry trade. People wonder what the Ruiz Mateos family might have gained from the sale of the brand names; why did Promontoria not negotiate directly with the brand owners and instead resort to an intermediary?

The Court embargo on the brand names prevented their use by anyone other than Bellavista (Garvey), thus tying the hands of the Ruiz Mateos so that sooner or later the brands would have become part of the receivership and the amount paid for them would go to the creditors. The Garvey executive who managed to secure the brands will be able to use them as a lever to keep his job with the new company.

Promontoria – which has some link to Banco Santander – could not really have negotiated directly with the Belize company about the brands because of the latter’s poor relations with the Santander who cut off funding, bringing about the receivership.