Sunday, 31 May 2015

Williams & Humbert Conference Cycle

Initiated in 2014, the Ciclo de Conferencias is an occasional series of conferences organised by the bodega in celebration of last year’s European City of Wine. Each features an invited guest with expert knowledge to discuss some aspect of the Sherry industry, building over time, a real picture of the world of Sherry from various perspectives. The lecture concludes with questions and answers and, naturally, a glass of Sherry. Events are held at the bodega, anyone can attend and there is no charge. If you are interested in Sherry in the real world, I would strongly recommend them.

Palma Flethes 2nd left, Jesus Medina of W&H 3rd left, Miguel Angel Moreno 5th left
5th June 2014 saw “La promoción del Jerez en el 2.0 y Nuevas Tendencias de Consumo Entre los Jóvenes” imparted by Palma Flethes and Miguel Ángel Moreno of Sherry and Tweets, a very worthwhile online blog and tasting group promoting Sherry. This was about how Sherry can be made to appeal to the young using social media.

25th September 2014: “Jerez y EL Jerez” by Luís García Ruiz, a profesor of Constitutional Law among many other titles and qualifications he holds, as well as being president of the Consejo Regulador from 1997-2004. Sr. García spoke about the mutual inspiration between Sherry and the city which makes it.

Jesus Medina 2nd from right and Marta Soler, far right
28th May 2015 Marta Soler Montiel: “La Incorporación del Vino de Jerez a la Globalización”. Dr Soler is a professor in Applied Economics at the school of Agronomic Engineering at the University of Sevilla. She won the top prize for her doctorate on this very subject. Here are some brief notes on it:

She focussed on the period from 1980, when Sherry began to experience a sustained drop in sales, above all in export markets, provoking the crisis and the re-structuring of the Sherry business in the new context of globalization. From that point on, new requirements from the global economy have been driving local changes in production, economic and socio-cultural spheres. This is particularly difficult for Jerez, and it is a question of adapt or die. Mechanisation is on the rise and many small family businesses have been swallowed up by bigger international concerns.

These changes have seen huge reductions in Jerez of lagares (vineyard press houses) - 86%;  production bodegas - 80%; ageing and storage bodegas - 72% and ageing and shipping bodegas - 48%, with the consequent reduction in vineyard and employment. Many producers have diversified into other drinks, or other lines of business altogether. Despite all this, Dr Soler feels that the future lies in the hands of small dynamic producers whose wines are linked to the land and are seen as exceptional Andaluz wines. Globalization affects the bigger more international companies while the small producers will uphold Sherry’s reputation.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

30.5.15 Consejo 80th Anniversary Programme; VI Copa Jerez Final

Sherry is experiencing a good moment as it celebrates 80 years of the Consejo Regulador, the oldest in Spain, which was established in 1935 to provide a framework of protection against the Sherry imitators, a major worry from the end of the XIX century.

One notable success was the end of British “Sherry”, a case (El Pleito del Sherry) won with the help of a Moorish map from 1154 showing that Sherry was a geographical area and therefore nobody else could use the word. Consejo staff have obtained permission to reproduce this map which belongs to an Oxford library and it will form part of an anniversary exhibition to begin on the 4th September at the Claustros de Santo Domingo.

Detail of El Idrisi map (drawn upside down)
Beltrán Domecq, Consejo president, yesterday outlined the programme of commemorative activities. The preliminary programme – still with events to be confirmed - will start on the 10th July with the presentation of wines selected for bottling  with commemorative labels, and will run till the end of November finishing with scientific days looking back at 80 years of Sherry history from the distinct perspectives of oenology, viticulture, architecture and more with the collaboration of the University of Cádiz and other institutions.

The logo for the 80th anniversary will be based on bodega cask markings – a horizontal arrow in black and white to resemble the white chalk on a black barrel, which, according to Consejo director, César Saldaña, signifies the future of Sherry. He said that the start of activities had been delayed a bit to avoid clashing with the 50th anniversary celebrations of Manzanilla which ended with the Feria in Sevilla.

Beltran Domecq makes the announcement (foto:diariojerez)
Samples have already been requested from the bodegas for the selection of wines to be bottled under the commemorative label which will be used for tasting masterclasses in the Alcázar and the Claustros as well as in the city of Cáceres which is Capital of Spanish Gastronomy 2015 and home to the restaurant Atrio which is representing Spain in the Copa Jerez.

On the 4th September, coinciding roughly with the Fiesta de la Vendimia (8-13 Sept)Detail of El Idrisi, the Claustros will see the inauguration of an exhibition of the 80 years of the Consejo’s history, and on the 12th there will be an 80th anniversary Gala with music from the sound track of the film El Misterio del Palo Cortado.

In October the Consejo will show the commemorative wines in Madrid and Barcelona and expects to also show them in Britain and the USA. César Saldaña said that with these events the Consejo hopes to recoup the deficit of the last 80 years, a period in which curiously, fewer historical, sociological etc. studies exist compared to the abundance of them in earlier times. The programme will be filled out with events both inside and outside Spain which will be announced when details have been finalised between the Consejo and the sponsors.

The final of the Copa Jerez VI edition will take place on the 9th June at the Hotel and Catering School in Jerez. Chefs and sommeliers from heat-winning restaurants in eight countries will contest the final with the finest possible food to match Sherry. The judges will be top level chefs, sommeliers and masters of wine. In parallel to the Copa Jerez, the Hotel school will hold an exclusive International Gastronomic Salon which will star the top chefs of Andalucía and offer the chance to taste Sherries from some 20 bodegas along with their dishes.

Friday, 29 May 2015

An Interview with José Luis López Linares, Directior of El Misterio del Palo Cortado

The first showing in Jerez of El Misterio del Palo Cortado took place last night at the Sala Compañía. This very successful film, directed by José Luis López Linares and produced by Antonio Saura, features leading chefs, sommeliers and many members of the wine trade in Jerez. Here José Luis is interviewed by A Cala of the Diario de Jerez.

How did Sherry inspire you to make this documentary?
When I arrived in Jerez I had practically no idea what a Palo Cortado was.  I saw that nobody could agree how it was made yet it had a clear definition, and I thought it would make a great protagonist for a film with all its possibilities: its history, its name…

The director on set 2014 (foto:diario jerez)
Once you had finished the film, was Palo Cortado still a mystery to you?
No, no, no, quite the opposite (he laughs). I like a good mystery and I like to discuss it, develop it but without revealing it. I wanted it to remain a mystery after the film, I think that is one of its great advantages: it is a mysterious wine, and if you take away the mystery you make it into just a normal wine. Wine should be a mystery, and this one even more, so the idea was to try to make it more so.

Were other Spanish wines more familiar to you?
Yes, and although I am a wine enthusiast, I had no idea about Sherry. A Fino occasionally, a Manzanilla, an Amontillado…, but it had never occurred to me to drink Sherry with food, and I hadn’t realised how great the wines could be. I think Sherry is somehow beyond the sphere of the wine enthusiasts, they know little about it which is a great pity. We tried to address this with the film, to enrich their knowledge and show that there is another wine which is not properly known.

Do you think that the word about Sherry is not adequately broadcast?
A lot is happening, and the wine has suddenly been discovered by the sommeliers in the great restaurants of Spain and most of the rest of the world. The word is getting through, and the film is part of this new way of focussing on Sherry.

What exactly is the film about?
It basically relates my experience in Jerez; it is very personal. I know that not all the bodegas which should have been in the film were in it, but then it would have been too long. The film tells of a visitor who has arrived in Jerez and met wonderful people and truly great wines. There are many things not included, but there was a time limit. What I think the film has achieved is to get across the fascination of Sherry.

Using a venencia, a shot from the film (foto:elmundo)

Filming must have been a real pleasure..?
A really hard pleasure! (he laughs). We filmed for long hours and every session brought some new discovery which we did not have time for. It was a fantastic experience because of the people in the bodegas, but it was one of the hardest in terms of hours – the harvest in the middle of it. Filming took from May to December.

And you also had great collaboration and participation from distinguished chefs, sommeliers, Sherry experts from prestigious restaurants like El Celler de Can Roca, Miramar, Mugaritz…,
Yes, yes, we really appreciated their support and knowledge, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Sherry bodegas: Tradición, González Byass, Rey Fernando de Castilla, El Maestro Sierra, Osborne, Barbadillo, Equipo Navazos, Harveys, Williams & Humbert etc., and the fundamental collaboration of the Consejo Regulador. And that of all the people of Jerez: oenologists, bodegueros, coopers, the people in the bodegas, in the vineyards, pickers, cellarmasters, all experts in their respective fields.

Do you think there might be a second part to the film? It has given you new ideas.
I don’t know, (he laughs), possibly. There are certainly other avenues.  Of course there are things we could not include in the film and I would like to do more. There are many possible themes in Sherry.

How was your partnership with Antonio Saura? You have worked together before.
We have been friends for many years and have already made “El Pollo, El Pez y El Cangrejo Real” about gastronomy and various television projects. We collaborate a lot.

Will you be visiting Jerez more often having made this film?
Well, not more often than last year! (he laughs).  I will visit when I can, I would love to.

What will this documentary do for cinema in general?
There are film makers who want to change the world, but I am less ambitious. What I want to do is find a subject I like and which merits being better known, and for me Sherry was a discovery which I wanted to share with as many people as possible.

Alceo once said “In Vino Veritas”. Is that true?
Yes, there is truth in wine, among many other things. Truth is complicated, where a lie is much simpler. The truth has shades, shapes, it can escape and you have to follow it. Wine helps one to find the truth.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

28.5.15 New Sherry Promotion Centre Opens at Consejo

The Centro de Dinamización Enoturistica del Marco – or the Consejo’s wine tourism centre – has now opened. With the Consejo turning 80 years old it was time for a facelift and to project a more modern image. The ground floor of the building will act as a great shop window for Sherry, Brandy and Vinegar where visitors can get the necessary information to plan visits to bodegas or the Rutas del Vino. All the Consejo leaflets and the tasting kit will be available for sale here.

The grand opening of the centre (foto: reporterosjerez)
On one wall there is a simulation of a stack of butts with glass touchscreens offering tourist information, and on the facing wall there are shelves laden with examples of the Sherries, brandies and vinegars available. There is another, similarly styled area, in which tastings tutorials and food matching can be done, a place for Sherry education. The adjacent bodega of San Ginés has seen improvements to its lighting and PA system and will serve to complement the new space with seasonal exhibitions and events. This is the ideal first stop for visitors to Jerez.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sherry Vinegar

Like the wine, the vinegar produced in the Sherry zone is the best in the world. Aromatic, varied and concentrated, it is highly sought after by top chefs.  While sales of Sherry stagnate, those of vinegar are rocketing – currently about 4,5million litres are sold annually. Beyond merely fine vinegar, many are producing outstanding sauces based on reductions of vinegar, must and PX.

This superb condiment is made exclusively by the acetic fermentation of young Sherry wines which give it its distinct personality. In the past, wines which became excessively acetic were kept apart and allowed to age separately to avoid the spread of the acetic acid bacteria to the rest. Solera age then concentrated them into wonderfully rich vinegars. From the XIX century Sherry Vinegar became the must-have vinegar and to avoid imitations a Denominación de Origen was established in 1995. This DO is now linked to those of Sherry and Brandy de Jerez.

Just some of the many brands available
Produced by no fewer than 59 bodegas, Sherry Vinegar is aged in the same criaderas and soleras system as the wines and there are some very old soleras to be found. There are two distinct types: those classified by age (Vinagre de Jerez, Vinagre de Jerez Reserva and Vinagre de Jerez Gran Reserva, all from Palomino), and those classified by the grape varieties (Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez).

Vinagre de Jerez: minimum 6 months and up to 2 years in solera system, maximum 3%/vol alcohol, minimum 70g/l total acetic acid content.
Vinagre de Jerez Reserva: maximum alcohol content 3%/vol, minimum age 2 years to 10 years, minimum total acetic acid 70g/l.
Vinagre de Jerez Gran Reserva: Minimum age over 10 years and minimum acetic acid 80 g/l.
Vinagre de Jerez Moscatel / PX: Minimum 60 g/l acetic acid, mínimum 60 g/l sugars.

While lots of bodegas produce vinegar, some are very much more specialised. Páez Morilla began a vinegar solera in Jerez in 1910 and bought more over the years from the likes of Williams & Humbert, Sandeman, O’Neale, González Byass, Alfonso Lacave, Ruiz Tagle and Osborne. Antonio Páez Lobato, known as “el rey del vinagre” (the vinegar king), has recently had a Jerez roundabout named after him. Top brands are Reserva 25, Adelantado Gran Reserva and Doña Pepa sauces.

Antonio Paez Lobato "Rey del Vinagre" (foto:masjerez)
Vinagres de Yema is another vinegar specialist in El Puerto de Santa María, established in the late 1990s by Fernando T de Terry and based on old soleras. Their best known brands are Bota Vieja and Cepa Vieja. Excellent vinegars and sauces are also made by El Majuelo in Jerez, a fourth generation family business which once grew vines.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Bodegas: Hijos de A Pérez Megía

Established in Sanlúcar in 1821, this old firm was into its fifth generation when it was bought out by José Medina via its subsidiary Luis Páez in 1979.

The attractive old bodega Reina Victoria built in 1891 was demolished in the 1990s. A protection order under the town planning regulations was not enough to protect it from speculative builders. It had an interesting roof construction whereby the beams supporting the two slopes were tied with steel rope rather than supported by arches.


Their brands included:
Manzanilla Alegría, now under the W&H label
Amontillado Jalifa,       “      “         “          “      (Foundational solera)

The name Pérez Megía is still used as a sous-marque in certain markets

Monday, 25 May 2015

25.5.15 Tio Pepe Festival 2015

The second edition of this music festival will take place in the gardens of the González Byass bodegas on the 13th and 14th of August. It promises to be a real treat for the senses with wonderful food, Sherry and music in a beautiful place. If you can be in Jerez, don’t miss this! Tickets are limited though, so book early.

On the 13th mezzosoprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera will appear, a fine opera singer known for her Carmen, she will perform a special programme titled "Carmen y Yo" with the choir of Jerez’ Villamarta theatre, the pianist Rubén Fernández Aguirre and the fantastic dancer Mercedes Ruiz.

The following evening will see a performance by Estrella Morente with her group which includes guitarist José Carbonell “Montoyita”. Estrella is a leading flamenco singer, daughter of the late great Enrique Morente from Granada, and offers a wonderful lyrical take on flamenco.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

24.5.15 International Wine Challenge Results 2015

IWC Gold Medal and Trophy:

Harveys: VORS Palo Cortado, VORS Pedro Ximénez, VORS Amontillado
Lustau: VORS Oloroso, Fino de Jerez 3 en Rama
Williams & Humbert: Dos Cortados VOS
González Byass: Tres Palmas, Cuatro Palmas

IWC Gold Medal:

Lustau: Amontillado Botaina, Amontillado VORS, Palo Cortado VORS, Very Rare Dry Oloroso (for Marks & Spencer), Dry Old Palo Cortado (for Marks & Spencer), Oloroso Emperatriz Eugenia, Pedro Ximénez San Emilio, Pedro Ximénez Viña 25,
Cayetano del Pino: Palo Cortado Solera
Williams & Humbert: Colección Amontillado 12 Años
González Byass: Palo Cortado VORS Apóstoles, Pedro Ximénez VORS Noé,
Fernando de Castilla: Don Fernando Oloroso (for Marks & Spencer), Palo Cortado Antique
Hidalgo La Gitana: Manzanilla La Gitana
Viniberia: Marks & Spencer Manzanilla, Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Palo Cortado (for Majestic)
Delgado Zuleta: Manzanilla La Goya en Rama Magnum
Luis Caballero: Amontillado Medium (for Morrisons)

IWC Silver Medal:

Harveys: Harveys Fino. Very Rich Old Oloroso VORS, Signature 12 Years Cream,
Lustau: Amontillado Los Arcos, East India Solera, Fino Jarana, Almacenista Oloroso Obregón, Rare Cream, Almacenista Fino Obregón, Pedro Ximénez Murillo, Fino del Puerto 3 en Rama, Very Rare Amontillado (for Marks & Spencer), Very Rare Pedro Ximénez (for Marks & Spencer), Signature Manzanilla (for Morrisons), Signature Pedro Ximénez (for Morrisons), Signature Oloroso (for Morrisons), Signature Palo Cortado (for Morrisons), Moscatel Emilín, Oloroso Don Nuño, Palo Cortado Península, Puerto Fino, Oloroso Río Viejo, Fino (for Waitrose), Solera Jerezana Rich Cream (for Waitrose), Taste the Difference Fino (for Sainsburys)
Hidalgo La Gitana: Amontillado Napoleon, Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, Pedro Ximénez Triana
Cayetano del Pino: Palo Cortado Viejísimo 1/5
Williams & Humbert: Colección Oloroso 12 Años, Manzanilla Alegría
Barbadillo: Manzanilla Solear
González Byass: Amontillado del Duque VORS, Oloroso Dulce Matusalem VORS
Fernando de Castilla: Oloroso Classic
Luis Caballero: Pale Cream (for Morrisons)
Delgado Zuleta: Palo Cortado Monteagudo
Valdespino: Pedro Ximénez El Candado
Viniberia: Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Amontillado, Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Oloroso (both for Majestic)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

23.5.15 Medals for Sherry; Palo Cortado Film

Here are the Sommelier Wine Awards Results for Sherry:

Hidalgo La Gitana: Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana won a Gold and  La Gitana a Commended

Grupo Estévez: Manzanilla La Guita won Gold and Leyenda PX won Silver

Fernando de Castilla: Antique Palo Cortado Gold, Silver for Antique PX Antique Fino and Classic Oloroso, and a Commended for Classic Fino

Sánchez Romate: Bella Luna PX won Gold and the Amontillado and Fino won Silver

Rodriguez La-Cave (Delgado Zuleta): Commended for Manzanilla Barbiana

Lustau: Commended for Fino La Ina

The documentary film El Misterio del Palo Cortado is to be shown at last in Jerez. After great success at the film festivals of Berlin, Sofia, Buenos Aires, Málaga, Barcelona and Madrid, the film will be shown at the Sala Compañia on the 28th and 30th of this month. Afterwards, the film will continue on its journey to film festivals at Seattle, Edinburgh and Montreal. The producer, Antonio Saura, said that it will help awaken the world to Sherry and that many more film festivals are interested, not only for the quality of the film, but that of Sherry itself.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Bodegas: José Medina & Cia.

This firm no longer exists and as such is a lost bodega, but it developed into another so maybe it is not lost. Anyway, it was established as late as the early 1970s by José Medina. He and his three brothers, Nicolás, Ángel and Jesús, were working at different bodegas and dreamed of establishing their own. José led the way and his brothers joined him a couple of years later. Using clever strategy and collaboration agreements with purchasing companies, they exported a great deal of bought-in Sherry to Holland. Other export markets were not ignored however, and a standard range of José Medina Sherries was available in the UK in the 1970s.

They bought the old family business of Luís Páez of Jerez in 1979 jointly with the Dutch company, Royal Ahold BV, owner of the chain of Albert Heijn stores, giving them great sales and distribution. In the mid-1980s the Medinas, by now one of the leading exporters, bought the old Sanlúcar firm of Pérez Megía and formed Grupo Medina.

The Medina brothers: Nicolas, Jesus, Jose, Angel

The next target was Williams & Humbert. This great firm had been taken over by Rumasa and like all the other firms in the group, had been expropriated by the government in 1983, but its sale back to the private sector was delayed by José María Ruiz Mateos claiming to personally own the Brand Dry Sack. The courts saw it differently, and it eventually re-joined W&H.

In 1988 Antonio Barbadillo bought the firm but in 1991 the Dutch Gin and Liqueur firm Bols bought 60%. The Medinas bought 10% via Luís Páez which was still 50% owned by Royal Ahold, and the Bols holding in 1995. In 2005 they were able to buy out the Royal Ahold interest in Luís Páez with help from a risk capital fund and consolidate all their interests under one roof as 100% owners of the business. The deal included a 25 year trading contract with Ahold.

From very small beginnings the brothers’ sales are now around 25 million bottles across all brands and they are currently exporting about 75% to 80 countries. There are other interests too: Medina del Encinar ham and cheese, for example, as well as all sorts of spirits and wines, and they own their own Spanish distributor, Sovisur. A true success story, but built on very hard - and clever - work.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

What Would William Shakespeare and Antonio Flores Talk About?

This is a translation of an interesting article by Javier Estrada in the Vida Vid Vino magazine kindly sent to me by academic and Sherry aficionado, José Luís Jiménez. Read on:

Without doubt it is a fantasy, an unrealisable dream, but one can nonetheless imagine the legendary English writer and the famous González Byass oenologist meeting here to talk about Sherry. It is well known that Shakespeare and his friend and fellow dramatist, Ben Johnson, used to go out to drink Sack (the old word for Sherry) in the London taverns back in 1590 where they fell into eternal discussions. Antonio Flores is not only a winemaker, but also a keen student of the wines he makes. 

Joining Antonio and William is José Luís Jiménez, from the San Mateo district of Jerez and leading world expert in references to Sherry in the life and work of the English poet and dramatist. The journey begins almost 200 years before Shakespeare arrives in London, when Sir John Falstaff, a character in Henry IV, ends a glorious monologue saying “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them is to forswear thin potations and addict themselves to Sack."

Falstaff with a jug of sack (
William Shakespeare was the greatest publicist for Sherry of the era. He mentioned it over 40 times in 8 of his works as well as drinking it enthusiastically in the London taverns. “Shakespeare would have to adapt his palate to the Sherry of today which has little to do with the wines he drank”, explains Antonio, “In the Jerez of today the Palomino Fino is the predominant variety, but in Shakespeare’s time many other varieties were drunk, mainly reds but also white wines and darker wines. We suppose that the whites would have been the equivalent of today’s Finos and that the darker ones would have been Olorosos. When Shakespeare refers to a Sherrish Sack, he probably meant Oloroso. At that time the solera system didn’t exist, so there would have been Oloroso and Fino style vintages.

Jose Luis Jimenez, Antonio Flores at the bodega(foto: vida vid vino)
José Luís Jiménez, a member of the Real Academia de San Dionisio de Ciencias, Artes y Letras is currently working in the municipal archive of the Jerez Council. “William Shakespeare moved from his native Stratford upon Avon to London in about 1590. Two years beforehand, the pirate Sir Francis Drake had raided ships in the port of Cádiz which had recently been loaded with food and wine and were ready to set sail to deliver it to the Invincible Armada which was waiting in Lisbon for the order to invade England. Drake stole no fewer than 3,000 butts of wine, so by the time Shakespeare arrived in London the taverns were awash with Sherry.”

In fact, he mentioned Sherry in his first work of 1589 – and titled it “Sherrish Sack”. There are documents, however, which show that were already English merchants based in Jerez who were selling the wine in the XV century. Indeed in the IX century the Vikings sacked Sevilla and got as far as Córdoba, so the route was known, and possibly the wine too.

Antonio & Jose Luis still at it! (foto:vida vid vino)
Antonio mentions the book written about Sherry by González Byass founder, Manuel María González Ángel, which explains the importance of the effect on wine of a sea journey, “since there are references to these almost from the discovery of America, and of course these characterful wines would have been drunk in London. They were very expensive and much appreciated.” They were loaded onto ships, crossed the equator, and returned untouched. They travelled as ballast in the lowest part of the hold where there was a suitable average temperature and came back worth more than if they had stayed in Jerez.

In the whites (Finos) biological ageing or submerged biological ageing took place. When the flor is submerged it accelerates the process, so this would happen naturally with the movement of the ship. With the dark wines (Olorosos), the ship’s movement would accelerate the oxidation.

Looking through the vast range of wines which Antonio makes at González Byass, he seeks out butts which he thinks might most resemble the wine Shakespeare would have drunk in London’s taverns. “I think they would have been similar to Pata de Gallina (super fine Oloroso), Palo Cortado, Amontillado or the Vintage wines, but if I had to choose one, it would be the very old Palo Cortado Apóstoles, or I might share with Shakespeare the Finos Palmas.”

It is certain that not only did Shakespeare like to drink Sherry but that he studied it. In order to write Henry IV he would have had to research what it had been like and its availability in England more than a century before he began to drink it. Shakespearian gastronomy went perfectly with wines which were strong in alcohol, powerful and structured. Antonio comments: “The playwright came from the country to a sophisticated London and encountered game dishes, Scottish salmon - perhaps breaded, food which was prepared for journeys, and which was perfect with Sherry.

Image of bas relief at Boar's Head, Eastcheap London (
Shakespeare found lots of ideas for his writings through meeting the literati of the day in the London taverns of the Boar's Head and the Mermaid - among others. Antonio closes his eyes and takes a draught from his glass to think on this impossible meeting. After a pause he says in a low voice “It would be very emotional.” Falstaff, played in the film by Orson Welles, who visited the bodega in 1961 and signed a butt of Fino, rallied prince Hal’s troops alluding to the power of Sherry. In much the same way, Antonio Flores finishes many of his tastings saying “Sherry cures the soul and delights the heart.”

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Oloroso Anada 1982 21.2%, Bodegas Tradicion

Bright amber to mahogany fading through yellow to a hint of green at the rim, legs.
Forthcoming and beautiful, stunningly fragrant with a real texture, archetypal Oloroso. Lots of nuts: toasted almonds, traces of turron yema tostada and walnuts, walnut shells too with a trace of bitterness, old polished furniture then walnuts in syrup, lots of implied sweetness for a dry wine, rich and appetising and quite concentrated. What a start!
Huge flavour explodes on the palate, big, dry and old yet in perfect shape, starts intensely then gets drier with hints of austerity from the American oak and those walnut husks, even hints of tannin, but that leanness is balanced out by glycerol giving not only texture but a certain implied sweetness that helps carry the flavour through. Everything is in balance and it has terrific length, this is a wine in its moment. Utterly delicious!
There are a lot of superlatives here, but they are more than deserved. Aged statically - no solera - and from a single butt, this is a vintage wine which has a precise age: 32 years. Every drop is 32 years old, not an average age. Bodegas Tradicion produce a few vintage wines, but they are made in very limited quantities and are really hard to find. Vintage Sherries are rare generally and there are rules and regulations. They tend to come from the best vintages and the best butts thereof. They can only be be topped-up with other wines of the same type and of the same vintage and must be sealed with wax and ribbon and can only be broached under the supervision of a representative of the Consejo Regulador. Without the normal topping-up offered by a solera, the losses in liquid quantity are quite something (around 4% per annum), and this barrel could have lost about 30% of its volume, luckily mostly water thus concentrating the wine. The 1970 and 1975, bought from Croft, are already gone, and this one, also Croft is all but gone too. These wines are very rare and expensive, and are absolute treasures. So not available in your corner shop then.
Not even Wine Searcher can find a price as it has probably all gone. It was a single cask. I got to taste it at Vinoble. I reckon it would have cost a bit over £100

Anadas stored at Tradicion

Monday, 18 May 2015

La Romería del Rocío

Every year this famous romeria (pilgrimage) to the Hermitage of El Rocío at Almonte, Huelva, takes place on the second day of Pentecost. It dates back to 1653 and nowadays attracts up to a million pilgrims. On Whitsunday a papal mass is said before the Virgen del Rocio is carried through the streets.

Typical Romeria scene (foto:lavozdigital)
The pilgrims come from all directions, but the most picturesque is the crossing by boat from the Bajo de Guia on the riverfront at Sanlúcar. From the 19th May onwards, brotherhoods of pilgrims will cross with their horses and caravans and even 4x4 cars into the Coto Doñana and on for over 40 kilometres towards Almonte, many spending the night in the open. The whole operation has to be supervised by the authorities as the Coto is protected national parkland.

The Ermita del Rocio (

Many years ago the Sanlúcar bodega Viuda Manjón sold a brand of Manzanilla called El Rocío which was sold to González Byass. Unfortunately in the last few years they too have ceased production of this very good wine.

The Gonzalez Byass label (foto:libreriaraimundo)

The original Manzanilla label (foto:+jerez)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

17.5.15 Sherry Sales Up 30% in Spain

While the heatwave which struck Jerez during the Feria saw people forced to drink more refreshing things than Sherry, the trade is happy with the 30% increase in national sales for the first quarter. It seems that Jerez is reaping the benefits of the European City of Wine last year, the 50th anniversary celebrations of DO Manzanilla, the 80th anniversary of DO Jerez and the general increase in awareness of Sherry. Also we are now well into the feria season.

3 million litres were sold in Spain in the first quarter, mostly Manzanilla (1.5m litres +22%) and Fino (630,000 litres +32%). Sales are up in all categories: Cream (+23%) Medium (633%!) PX (11.5%) and Oloroso (+14%). Export sales were poorer, however, bringing the overall increase in sales to a more modest 5.4%. The traditional markets of the UK, (still the biggest export market importing 10 million litres), Holland, Germany and the rest of Europe are still falling, yet there was some good news from the US - up 24% and Japan up 56%.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Sherry and Saint Bartholomew Fair

What with the Feria season under way in Spain, and lots of Sherry being consumed, here’s a look at one in London.  Like the Feria in Jerez (est. 1264), that of London had its origins in the middle-ages, beginning in 1133 as trade with Europe began to take off. The fair was sited in the shadow of the church hospital of Saint Bartholomew in Smithfield, established in 1123, which still operates as a hospital today. King Henry I granted the right to hold a three day fair to the guilds of shirtmakers, tanners and butchers to begin on the eve of Saint Bartholomew’s day, 24th August.

A beautiful 1808 watercolour of St. Bartholomew's Fair by Sir Thomas Rowlandson
The fair reached its apogee in the XVII century, being considered the most important, and attracted artists and writers such as Rowlandson, Haydon, Johnson and Heemskeerk among others. According to Peter Ackroyd, “London’s biographer”, social differences were forgotten at the fair, apprentices and their masters could enjoy the spectacle together and bet on the same tables. One custom was for the Lord Mayor, who inaugurated the fair, to visit Newgate prison where he was entertained by the mayor with a glass of Sack, followed, without doubt by a few more at the fair.

(foto: standrewsrarebooks)
The dramatist and poet laureate Ben Johnson who wrote the comedy Bartholomew Fayre in 1614 was quoted as saying “My God! Free me! Help me! Sustain me! The fair is here!” One of the interesting things to emerge from this wonderful period study is the copious quantities consumed of Sack, as Sherry was known then, though the name was changing as Ben Johnson quotes a conversation thus:

Cokes: Sack you said, but e’en now it should be Sherry?
Puppet Jonas: Why so it is; Sherry, Sherry, Sherry!
Cokes: Sherry, Sherry, Sherry, by my troth it makes me merry!

As the years went by, the middle classes began to desert the fair saying it was full of criminals and the last one took place in 1855.

With many thanks to Jose Luis Jimenez for such great research.

Friday, 15 May 2015

15.5.15 PX Noe Wins Gran Oro

Pedro Ximenez VORS Noé from González Byass has won a Gran Oro at the XI edition of Concurso Internacional de Vinos y Espirituosos 2015. Tio Pepe and Lepanto Gran Reserva Brandy won gold medals and a silver went to Palo Cortado Leonor. Not bad from a field of 640 wines and spirits from 13 countries.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

13.5.15 Estevez to Make 100% Jerez Brandy

While the vineyards of Jerez have been drastically reduced, producers are looking at them again as a decisive factor in the final quality of the wine, and indeed other products such as brandy. As things stand, 95% of the grapes for brandy come (legally) from outside the Sherry zone, from La Mancha, as Jerez can’t produce nearly enough, but it would add value if a brandy could be made from Jerez grapes.

Grupo Estévez is hatching a plan to do just that and is looking for trade support in the creation of a distillery. They have set aside a considerable quantity of Jerez wine from 2014 for distillation into a Solera Reserva brandy with plans to later produce a Solera Gran Reserva, and these would provide a market for any excess production.

There exists already the occasional 100% Jerez brandy, but Estévez wants to go a step further by certifying the use of 100% Palomino grapes qualified for Sherry production which will be traceable. According to José Ramón Estévez, group president, this initiative means that, like Cognac for example, every drop in the bottle would come from within the Denominación de Origen and would have the fingerprint of the vineyards of Jerez.

Jose Ramon Estevez (foto:diariodejerez)
This fits in with the Estévez philosophy of putting more value back into the vineyards, dealing with any over-production and guaranteeing the growers a sale for their grapes. However, with the reduction in vineyard a balance was achieved between production and sales, and bodegas have been able to reduce stocks considerably: from 1.2 million butts down to just under 300,000 in recent years. Indeed, some bodegas have not bought any grapes in the last 4 or 5 years, but will need to do so soon making excess production unlikely. This situation is likely to see increases in grape prices.

The brandy business needs to focus on quality, especially as many cheaper brands no longer have the support of the Consejo as they not only reduced the strength to below the minimum of 36%/vol, but blended in non-grape spirit. Estévez want to build a communal distillery – a first for Jerez – which would make quality spirit, 100% Jerez, and reduce costs. Currently the costs of producing spirit in La Mancha are rising due to more expensive grapes and transport, fiscal pressure and a reduction in EU grants, and demand is falling. Estévez therefore believes that this is the right moment to build a distillery and restore quality and value to JEREZ brandy.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Bodegas: Ysasi y Cia.

The name Ysasi originates in the north of Spain, in Vizcaya, the Basque country. The Y and the I are interchangeable, and confusingly you see both spellings on labels (as below).

Gregorio de Ysasi y Tricio was a bodeguero in Jerez, known for good Finos and Amontillados. He married Juana de Dios Lacoste y Biñalet (1792-1888) and they had 22 children. Manuel de Ysasi y Lacoste (1810-1854) was the elder of them. In 1850 he went to London to try and sell the family wines, and was named honorary Spanish Consul. His claim to fame is that he was instrumental in the establishment of the Universal Postal Union. He travelled a lot, but was drowned after giving a woman his lifebelt in a shipwreck.

Another son, Luis de Ysasi Lacoste, became a successful businessman and philanthropist. On his death in 1902, he left the Finca El Retiro to the citizens of Jerez to be used as a park with a library.
By the mid 1850’s Ysasi had a fine reputation but their fortunes were on the wane and the business had eventually to be sold. Some soleras were acquired from Enrique Ysasi by Wisdom & Warter in the mid-1850s and others by Diez Hermanos, established later in 1876, such as the Oloroso Victoria Regina, both of the latter firms were therefore established on XVIII C soleras.

The bodega was visited by Henry Vizetely in about 1875, and he commented “To reach Señor Ysasi’s bodegas one has to pass through some of the more curious among the old streets of Jerez, where elaborate escutcheons figure above the ornamental doorways of the principal houses, and stone pillars with richly carved capitals decorate many of their corners. The Ysasi bodegas, being somewhat old-fashioned, are in keeping with these picturesque surroundings, and Señor Ysasi’s wines, notably his Finos and Amontillados, if not of a like remote antiquity, are thoroughly well matured and of high quality.”

Enrique Ysasi e Ivison (1899-1983) was the son of Enrique Ysasi Gonzalez and Petronila Ivison Pastor. He was a writer and photographer as well as a bodeguero, and known for his book “Con Una Copita de Jerez”, as well as being a director of Wisdom & Warter from the time of its purchase by Gonzalez Byass in 1929. He was also an enthusiastic promoter of the Jerez motor racing circuit.

(foto:archivo Jose Luis Jimenez)
A central street was named after Juana de Dios Lacoste in 1888 for her tireless charity work. In this street once stood the bodega of Parra Guerrero and the (in)famous Tabanco del Duque, now in ruins. There is a good bar/restaurant here called Taberna del Segura. A street was also named after Luis de Ysasi Lacoste, Juana' son, a street formerly named Baño Viejo.

Monday, 11 May 2015

11.5.15 Feria del Caballo; 9m Lottery Win

The Feria del Caballo is under way! Last night there took place the traditional switching on of the lights (1,134,720 of them!) at the Parque González Hontoria, where the people of Jerez will celebrate with copious quantities of Sherry till Sunday.

Shedding light on the Feria del Caballo 2015 (foto:reporterosjerez)

Someone in Jerez has won €9 million on the ONCE lottery. The ONCE is the national organisation for the blind. That sum would be enough to buy Bodegas Valdivia…!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Bodegas:Eduardo Delage SL

Eduardo Delage Atané (1898-1953) was born in Jerez, the son of a French couple who lived in Seville. He married Pilar Ferraro Roquero and in 1919 founded a bodega in the Calle Clavel, 3, in the same street as Emilio Hidalgo. He was successful in business and he became president of the Provincial Union of wine, beer and alcoholic drinks. From 1941 – 1943 he was mayor of Jerez.

Eduardo Delage and his wife Pilar Ferraro (
The firm had a huge range and exported many wines. Their UK agent was John Martin of London who imported wine under the London Dry, London Milk and London Cream labels. Eduardo does not seem to have any connections to the famous Delage luxury sports car firm.

Eduardo’s uncle, Antonio Atané Palomino, was known as a spirits producer but was killed when a steam boiler in his new distillery exploded in 1907. Eduardo himself was killed in a nasty car crash on the road between Jerez and Cádiz. Two of his 10 sons, Rafael and Eduardo, took over the bodega. A district of Jerez full of decent blocks of flats was named after him.

Rafael Delage (foto:
Some wines and spirits were bottled as a sous-marque under the name RD Ferraro, the name of Eduardo’s wife, and also ED or Antonio Atané, providing  different labels for different importers. This practice is not uncommon in the wine trade where the same wine or a different blend is bottled with a different label so that various importers can offer it to their customers without competing over price. The bodega disappeared sometime in the late 1960s.

(from the archive of Jose Luis Jimenez)
Among the many brands were the Eduardo Delage range, Manzanilla Reina Mora, Manzanilla Olorosa Farolera, Manzanilla Predilecta, Gran Ginebra Holanda, Brandy Histórico,

The Delage bodega (foto:

Thursday, 7 May 2015

An Interview with Alex Russan of Alexander Jules

(Interviewed by Carmen Quignon in La Voz Digital, Cádiz)

He moves among the butts of Sherry as if he had been born among them. At first sight nobody would say he was a Californian Sherry lover, he could pass for just another local who enjoys the local wines.  But the passion for such an old tradition has a name which doesn’t sound local: Alexander Jules. This is the brand name under which he markets in the USA the wines which he selects and which he fell in love with during his trips to Andalucía.

How did you get into this business and decide to create your own brand?
I have always been very involved in the world of wine, studying viticulture and oenology, tasting, making and enjoying wine for over a decade now. I seek out soleras which I like, taste from every butt in them, marking the ones which are most complex, profound or have a solera profile I want to accentuate, and I bottle blends of the wines from the selected butts. I then import them to the USA. I have also started importing wines and ciders from other producers from regions which offer great quality which are rarely seen in my country, and rare grape varieties. Tasting from butts of Sherry has always been my dream, knowing that they have been used for so long and that each one has developed its own personality. I thought I couldn’t be the only person interested in trying something like this, so I decided to do it and so Alexander Jules was born.

Alex Russan in his element (foto:lavozdigital)

How did you discover the wines of Jerez and what do you most value in them?
While at university I used to go to tastings organised by a local shop on Saturdays. One day there was a California “Sherry” called Rancho Philo. It was the most complex wine I had ever tried, and from then on I started to explore Sherry. What I most value about them is their aromas, for me they have always been very penetrating, and you only find that in Sherry.

What differences do you see between Spanish wines and American or other foreign wines, are there similarities?
One of the beautiful things about the wines from Spain and the Old Continent is that they come from regions which have been cultivating the same grape varieties for centuries, identifying the best parcels of land, grapes and methods of production. In the USA and other parts of the New World we are always looking for which grape is best in which soil in which area, how best to make it etc. It is a labour of exploration and experimentation, both of which make me emotional.

How is Sherry consumed in North America?
The people who drink Sherry in the USA are the wine fanatics. They drink it on its own or with various, not necessarily Spanish, dishes: Fino with sashimi, Amontillado with Chinese food etc., or in fashionable cocktails. There are always more Sherries to be seen in restaurants, above all the most modern ones.

Do you think Sherry is well promoted in Spain?
My impression is that outside the big cities there is not much Sherry to be seen, or even wines from outside the region one is in. Over the three years I have been visiting Jerez I have noticed more promotion and wines from various bodegas - not always the biggest – in more areas of the city.  When I go out I always look to see what people are drinking, and most are drinking beer.

How does the American market receive Sherry?
Now better than ever, but it continues to be a minority market. The majority of Americans who drink wine are looking for international varieties and stay with that, however some are now exploring Rioja, Cabernet etc., but their sales are growing at a slow pace. That said, there is increasing interest in more diverse places and many expert wine journalists are writing about them. Only a year ago I used to have to explain what a Sherry was and its grape varieties, but in the short time since, I hardly ever come across people who don’t know at least something about Sherry.

Which bodegas do you usually work with?
During the first round in 2013 I produced a Fino with Sánchez Romate and a Manzanilla and an Amontillado with Argüeso. Last year I produced a very old Oloroso from an abandoned bodega in El Puerto de Santa María. Now I am working on some new wines, a Fino and a Manzanilla from Juan Piñero.

Do you make your own wine in California?
Yes, this year I am going to start making a Monastrell and a Chardonnay. I might buy some very old vine Palomino and start up a little solera of Californian Oloroso for fun.

What is your favourite Sherry and food match?
I couldn’t possibly choose! When I visit Jerez I just drink the one style, be it Fino, Amontillado or Oloroso, and change the next time I visit. The best Sherry-food matches for me are beef cheek in Oloroso at Casa Gabriela in Jerez or ox tail or a cigar each with Oloroso.

What do you think of the gastronomy of Cádiz? Would it match with Californian wine?
I love it! It is one of the best parts of being able to visit Andalucía regularly. The food would match with certain California wines. There is a huge variety there, not all overripe and heavy. It would depend on the dish – there is a huge variety of Cádiz food as well.

What future projects are you planning?

To keep on with Alexander Jules and increase the range of wines I am importing from Spain. I also want to make wine from more districts of California, look out for what most attracts my attention, and for fun I have bought various vine varieties to experiment with hybridisation to see if I can create a new and interesting grape variety.

7.5.15 A Beach - in Jerez?

A bitter row has broken out between Jerez ruling PP and the PSOE over the possibility of installing a beach – that’s right – in the Parque González Hontoria in Jerez.  The plan is to have sand, water and even chiringuitos (beach restaurants). The PSOE contend that this will not impress the 32,000 unemployed and is a sick joke and election gimmick. The mayor is out of touch with reality. Last Christmas season the park had winter ice installed and people could skate or toboggan.

Artist's impression of the beach (foto:reporterosjerez)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

6.5.15 Orson Welles; Bullfighting at Real Tesoro; Facelift for Tio Mateo

Today is the centenary of the birth of Orson Welles, the great American actor and film director. While many might recall the television advertisements he did for Domecq Double Century Cream Sherry, fewer might know that he loved Jerez, visiting many times, and was a great ambassador for Sherry.
He was a huge fan of flamenco and bullfighting and became a friend of the Domecq family, one of whose members was Álvaro Domecq, a famous rejoneador (horseback bullfighter). Welles frequently referred to Sherry as the “best wine in the world” and was inducted into the Order of Tio Pepe by the Marqués de Torresoto in 1961, signing a butt at the bodega. (From an article by R.G. in más jerez)

The famous Jerez torero Juan José Padilla has been giving a masterclass to the newly constituted Juventud Taurina Jerezana (Junior Bullfighting Jerez). Watched avidly by the youngsters and their families Juan José, along with some members of his team, explained and demonstrated the various moves in the beautiful surroundings of the events hall of the bodega Real Tesoro, producer of Fino Tio Mateo.

Juan Jose (L) with his muleta
Fino Tio Mateo from bodegas Real Tesoro (Grupo Estevez) has had a facelift. The old label, similar to that of Palomino & Vergara (who once owned the brand) has been revamped and modernised. The bottle has been changed too, from the standard Real Tesoro shape to a tall round style, now with a screwcap. Furthermore, the wine itself has been improved to achieve the maximum freshness and calcareous character of the albariza soils while maintaining the wine’s intense flor notes.

The new more contemporary version

Palomino & Vergara's latter label (foto:todocoleccion)