Monday 31 August 2015

Bodegas: Manuel Moreno de Mora

Manuel Moreno de Mora y Cabeza de Mier (Cádiz 1781-Cádiz 1861) was the youngest son of Juan Moreno de Mora from Santander who had married María Cabeza de Mier from Cádiz. He had established a wine business in 1783 with bodegas in Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlúcar, but on his early death Manuel’s older brother Pascual took over the business and became de facto head of the family.

Jose Pascual Moreno de Mora y Viton
 José, Manuel’s brother represented the firm’s wines in London, a major market. The Napoleonic War caused immense problems for the family with the Gibraltar border closed and a naval blockade which restricted exports to next to nothing. The actions of the occupying French army made things much worse. Pascual feared for the lives of his family, and like many other families, planned to leave, but his mother’s age and the thought of all he had worked for being confiscated changed his mind.

Manuel's business card (
Manuel married Rosario Vitón Santibáñez in 1818 and they had a son, José Pascual Moreno de Mora y Vitón (1825-1908) and a daughter María Manuela who married John Peter Gassiot. His firm, best known as Martínez Gassiot, bought their Sherry from Mora. In 1830 Pascual died without issue leaving everything equally to his brothers and sister, but it was Manuel who inherited the business. 
The Puerto de Santa María bodegas were in the Calle Valdés, Calle de los Moros and various other locations in the Campo de Guia area and in Jerez. He was intelligent and hard-working and built up the business considerably building a magnificent house in the Calle Ancha and many other properties.

Vineyards and caserio (foto:todocoleccion)
With the failing health of Manuel, José Pascual took over the running of the firm in 1857 being very successful in both the wine and other businesses. He was a well-known figure in the circles of the Cádiz bourgeoisie, and became a great benefactor. Manuel died in 1861 aged 79, a very successful and wealthy property owner and bodeguero. The firm was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1875 by King Alfonso XII who later visited with Queen María Cristina in 1877. 

Jose Moreno de Mora (foto:lavozdigital)
When Henry Vizetelly visited in 1876 he was impressed. He noted stocks of 10,000 butts and the use of wheeled platforms for the arrumbadores which avoided them having to climb up and down the rows of butts repeatedly. There were floral parterres, orange trees, steaming machinery for washing butts and moistening staves, cooperages and beautiful Moscatel at £300 the butt, expensive then.

The bodega La Mora in El Puerto (foto:Osborne)
José Pascual was getting old and as he had no children the firm was sold off to Cuvillo and Carlos & Javier de Terry except for one bodega which was bought by Osborne who named it bodega “La Mora” in honour of this respectable old firm. José Pascual died in 1908.

Sunday 30 August 2015

30.8.15 Napoleon’s Sherry Fetches £25,000 at Auction

At Christies recently the Stewart Shaw collection of Napoleonic memorabilia went under the hammer on the bicentenary of Waterloo. Among many items from a lock of the hair of his favourite horse “Marengo” and one of his bicorn hats with a bullet hole to a portrait, there is a bottle of Sherry dated approximately 1810.

It is in an unopened hand-blown bottle bearing Napoleon’s initial surrounded by victor’s laurels and was found in a wicker basket in the Emperor’s carriage after he fled the battle on horseback. It is ullaged to eight inches from the cork but was catalogued with an estimate of £10-20,000, making the price it fetched one of the highest ever for a bottle of wine.

Manzanilla Pasada en Rama Xixarito 15%, Bodegas Barón

Paleish flaxen gold with bright highlights, light legs.
Gentle bitterness, traces of wax and straw, almond and camomile, clean and polished with no rough edges and a nice balance between the floral and the bitter and only the slightest oak and autolytic notes.
Starts smooth before the bitter flor kicks in, still quite floral and round with fairly low acid, in fact it seems easy on the surface but has a definite serious side as well with the tangy bitterness of the flor. It doesn't display the full intensity of some Manzanillas Pasadas, but is super clean and smooth, and would be a brilliant wine to use to convert someone to Manzanilla.
This very old bodega in Sanlúcar (est. 1631) produces some excellent wines. The name Xixarito (pronounced "chicharito") is the nickname of José Rodriguez Jiménez who brought the bodega up to date. His sons José and Juan now run it and last year took a brave risk by introducing old wines never before marketed as well as a startlingly fresh and attractive presentation which was not a cheap investment. They really deserve for it to pay off. The Xixarito label represents all aspects of Sanlúcar life and more, and covers an up-market range of wines up to 15 years old. This wine is about 8 years old.
€9 ex bodega Not sure about UK prices but their importer is Morgenrot

Saturday 29 August 2015

29.8.15 Vineyard Tourism; More on Harvest

Jerez City Council has decided to take a step forward to empower the Sherry vineyards as a tourist attraction. It is well known that previous municipal efforts fell foul of the Junta in this respect so it will have to be seen how this will work in the future. On this occasion however, the council is aware that too much of the tourist offer is based in Jerez itself and that the vineyards offer the chance to discover the very roots of Sherry.

On Thursday the mayoress, Mamen Sánchez, and Consejo president, Beltrán Domecq and director, César Saldaña, accompanied by members of the relevant council departments visited the vineyards of the Castillo de Macharnudo, the Cooperativa Nuestra Señora de Las Angustias and bodegas Real Tesoro with the idea of promoting the harvest from the vine to the bodega.

Mamen Sanchez helping with the harvest (foto:diariodejerez)
The mayoress said that “Jerez is also about vineyards, not just towns and independent local entities but about the countryside which little by little we are going to make into a tourist resource.” She praised the work already being done by private enterprise as well as that of the Ruta del Vino y Brandy. One of the first things to be done is to produce a guide to the tourist resources the vineyards offer for promotion abroad. She also said that diversification is needed around the wine itself, opening the vineyards to visitors. As Beltrán Domecq said, “the vineyard is 50% of the wine, so it is hugely important for the quality of Sherry.”

The council noted that the Fiestas de Vendimia which are to be held from 1 – 20 September will be celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Denominación de Origen and of the Consejo, and numerous activities will be taking place in the vineyards.

It was an intense meeting which clearly demonstrated the tourist potential being wasted by not making better use of the vineyard houses, all standing in elevated positions with spectacular views and the cool interiors provided by their XIX century construction.

Rafael Rendón, director of Beam Suntory, explained at the Castillo de Macharnudo how the harvest progressed through to the favourite product of the Anglo Saxon world: Bristol Cream. At Las Angustias it was pointed out that they are one of the largest producers with 200 growers on 1,000 hectares of vineyard. At Grupo Estévez’ bodegas Real Tesoro, company secretary, Jaime Estévez and production director, Eduardo Ojeda, showed the visitors the technology at their production centre in Avda. Reina Sofía yet they still employ traditional harvest practices. Eduardo Ojeda explained the fine quality of this year’s harvest saying that the sugar levels, acidity and health of the grapes are excellent. The group is making great efforts during this summer to promote the vineyards.

The visit really showed the potential there is and how much benefit there could be. Let us hope it happens.

Harvesting (foto:lavozdigital)
The big three bodegas in Jerez (González Byass, Estévez and Beam Suntory) have nearly finished what has been a fairly short harvest but one of excellent quality which may exceed the Consejo’s predictions of 70 million kilos. The Consejo says it has been a “capricious” vintage with days with very high temperatures and others cooler. Over 45 million kilos are already picked with most of the rest in the cooler coastal areas starting to come in.

The first “mostos” or newly fermented wines will be ready inside a month, according to Eduardo Ojeda, production director at Grupo Estévez. They will be fermenting the “mosto yema” (the finest juice, pressed by its own weight) for Finos, some in barrel for Valdespino Inocente and the rest in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for Tio Mateo. Juice from the presses will produce other styles of wine, especially Olorosos.

Mechanised harvesting, meanwhile, appears unstoppable. According to Rafael Rendón of Beam Suntory, producers of Bristol Cream, 90% of the grapes were harvested by machine. González Byass used to employ about 500 pickers, but now it is more like 100, and mainly for the old vines which are not planted in a suitable way for machines.

Friday 28 August 2015

Bodegas: Herederos Nicolás Martín

Also known as Viña La Constancia, this firm was founded in 1969, and is one of very few bodegas where one can see the entire production of Sherry right from the vineyard to the bottle all in one place. It is also one of very few bodegas to be surrounded by its own vineyard and to have its own restaurant, Mosto-Bodegón, so it is well worth a visit.

It all starts in the vineyard, the 24.5 hectare Cerro Santiago, part of the Viña Constancia which belongs to the Pago Macharnudo Alto. This is Jerez superior with its white albariza soil. The vines were planted in 1969 and are 95% Palomino and 5% PX for the sweet wines. The traditional “vara y pulgar” pruning system is used and the grapes are hand harvested.

There are two adjacent bodega buildings: Santa Juana, with its earth floor and insulated roof where the biological ageing takes place, and Santa Isabel where the oxidative ageing takes place. Here also is the bottling line and stabilisation plant. The firm also makes Vinegar and moscatel pasa, as well as selling new mosto after the harvest.

There are two ranges of wines all called Cerro Santiago:
The standard Cerro Santiago range consists of: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream and PX
The premium Cerro Santiago Muy Viejo range consists of: Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Cream and PX

Apart from vineyard, bodegas and a restaurant, they have two despachos de vino (draught wine shops) in Jerez itself. One is in the Avenida San Juan Bosco and the other is in the Plaza Grazalema.

Visits? Yes by arrangement
Address: Carretera del Calvario (CA-3101), Km 1.8
Telephone: (+34) 630 010 089

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Oloroso Cuco 19.5%, Barbadillo

Attractive dark mahogany with red and gold highlights and a trace of green at rim, legs.
Rich, generous and fragrant, toasted almond and walnut with hints of American oak. There is a trace of salinity there too, betraying Sanlucar origins and a slight toffee note and a trace of bitter orange marmalade. It is tight and complex with considerable charm.
Fairly full bodied, dry and with a gentle acidity and trace of tannin from its time in wood which balance the glycerol. Tangy with that trace of salinity but without that Sanlucar savouriness. Very elegant with a really nutty character and penetrating flavour generous finish and terrific length.
The hand harvested Palomino grapes come from 30 year old vines in the Gibalbin and Santa Lucia vineyards. The wine is aged in 5 bodegas for 18 years according to the bodega fact sheet or 15 years if you listen to the bodega video. through 13 criaderas - a lot for an Oloroso even for Sanlucar. The result, however, is excellent, a classic Sanlucar Oloroso which takes its name from a vineyard once owned by Barbadillo.
Around £25.00 in the UK, importers are Fells.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Bodegas: AR Ruiz y Hermanos

Iñigo Ruiz de Villegas y Sánchez de Tagle was born in Ruiloba (Santander) and having moved to Jerez in about 1810 began working in the shop of his fellow “montañés” (one from the mountains of the north), José Pérez Pelos. In 1823, partly with his own capital and partly with a loan of 10,000 reales from his brother in law, Jacinto Antonio del Pomar y del Pomar, Iñigo began a career in the wine trade.

Iñigo Ruiz Tagle (foto col. JL Jimenez) 
On the 6th April 1836 he bought bodegas in the Calle Marqués de Cádiz at an auction, expanding them in 1839 with the purchase of some houses. In 1853 he was elected as the 6th Mayor of Jerez, and as a vineyard owner he was involved with the classification of the vineyards which was an official council undertaking. His son, Rodrigo Ruiz Pomar (1814-1899), married to Benita Pérez y Pérez, ran the bodega for a while changing the name to A Pérez Pomar or Ruiz Pomar Hermanos and leaving it to his sons to run while he continued the work on the convent of the Carmelitas Descalzas in Ruiloba which had been begun by his priest brother José, who had died young.

The bodega in C/Lechugas (foto: Jandalos/ MA Aramburu -Zabala Liguera y Consuelo Soldevilla Oria)
Iñigo never forgot his homeland in the north and was even elected mayor of Ruiloba and bought a beautiful XVIII century house there. His business was in Jerez, however, and he continued expansion with the purchase of more bodegas and houses between 1846 and 1861 in the streets of Marqués de Cádiz, Barreras, Guadalete, Luís Pérez and the Plaza Cadenas. Between 1861 and 1864 he bought the El Aljibe vineyard in the Pago Añina and also the Campo Real vineyard along with its attendant vineyard houses, wines, soleras and barrels from Diego Zurita y Negrete, Marqués de Campo Real. Here they made outstanding PX. In 1833 Iñigo and his wife Rosalía Pomar bought a house on the corner of Calle Pozo Olivar and Calle Ponce, rebuilding it in 1841. Iñigo died in 1866 leaving over 15 million reales de vellón.

When José Leña Rendon, already established in 1809 with interests in Malaga, Madeira and Port, joined the firm, a  modern and magnificent new bodega was built at 6 and 8 Calle Lechugas in 1873 and the business name changed in 1880 to Antonio Rodrigo (AR) Ruiz Hermanos. The firm would be the fourth biggest exporter in 1906. The name was changed again in 1894 to that of the firm’s principal shareholder Felix Ruiz y Ruiz (1852-1917), and there was a bodega in Calle Matadero on the site of what had been the San Juan de Dios convent, and business grew in northern Europe and South America. Felix Ruiz and his wife Rosario Romero Perez had no children and the firm began to languish in the hands of family members until ultimately it became the first bodega to be bought by Rumasa in 1963 and in 1974 it was bought in a run-down state by José Estévez.

Some brands were Palido Regente Macharnudo Fino), Oloroso Plus Ultra, Palo Cortado Anada 1750, Amontillado Lesseps, Fino carta Blanca, Anis Triana, Cognac Gayarre. Sales of their Xeres- Quina-Ruiz were surprisingly good, especially with the new label (below).

A member of another branch of the family, José Ruiz Rendón (Jerez, 1840), established a bodega in 1869, J Ruiz y Cia. SA. This bodega made a reputation with wines such as Amontillados Ena, Santa Barbara and Ruiz, Fino-Amontillado Don Félix among other wines as well as brandy, ponche and anís. They were one of the first firms to export Sherry in bottle and were awarded a patent for a process of cask seasoning. 


Some brands were: Amontillado Salvador Guardiola, Ponche Español, Fino Tio Enrique, Jerez Pálido, Manzanilla Leonora, Amontillado Casanovas, Don Iñigo, Tio Bernardo, Fino Julia and Amontillado Tocayo. Their brand Fino Isabelita was shipped by Harveys until the end of Rumasa. 

Monday 24 August 2015

More on Climate Change

An article by Paz Gutiérrez (EFE Cádiz) in today's Diario de Jerez

One of the unforseen – until recently - consequences of global warming is the accelerated ripening of the grape and the rise in sugar content and consequent alcohol level in the wine. This has forced producers to harvest earlier year after year, even as early as the beginning of August – over a month earlier than the historic norm.

The Centro Andaluz de Investigaciones Vitivinicolas (CAIV), a research institute linked to the University of Cádiz (UCA) and the Junta’s Economy, Innovation and Science Department, has spent three years testing on the ground for solutions to this problem which, beyond early harvest dates has devastating effects on the aroma and colour of a wine.

The more sunshine and heat the grape receives, the more it converts its acids into sugars. Over the last ten to fifteen years global warming has progressively increased the temperature by over five degrees explains Carmelo García, the CAIV director. The problem is less acute with Palomino destined to become Sherry, but it seriously affects grapes for table wines, especially red ones.

Harvested grapes (foto:diariojerez)
He says the accelerated ripening does not run parallel with the development of colour and aroma. In the young fruit the juice just smells vegetal and has not yet acquired the colour nor the aroma which characterise the wine. But if you let the phenolic ripening process take its course you will end up with a wine with 17% alcohol, something unthinkable until now, but which happened three years ago in the Rioja. It is a widespread problem affecting not only many parts of Spain, but also Italy and Portugal.

One of the solutions the CAIV is working on is de-alcoholisation equipment, a technology never before needed but which is giving good results and financed by the EU. This equipment allows you to extract the alcohol without extracting the aroma and colour. They are also working with the bodegas connected with the UCA “Interconecta” programme, bodegas such as Barbadillo, González Byass, Caballero and Manuel Aragón.

From July till September a dozen researchers are dedicated full time to the application of natural treatments to the vineyards, like providing more water or removing certain bunches from the vine, pruning leaves or supplying nutrients. As to the winemaking they are testing skin maceration, not normally used in the making of white wine, keeping the skins in contact with the must by mechanical means.

Given that every vintage is different, it is hoped that in three or four years it should be possible to see which treatment is most effective and economical, and to share the results with other Spanish or European universities who are also looking for solutions. Ideally governments would agree on how to tackle this problem, but in the meantime the search goes on.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Centenary of Orson Welles

Orson Welles (1915-1985) was a man of many skills, most especially radio, film and writing. He made his name with his dramatic 1938 radio broadcast of HG Wells’ “War of the Worlds” which it is said caused mass panic that Martians really were invading. He went on to produce one of the best films ever made “Citizen Kane” and “The Third Man” among many other successes.

Welles was a great fan of all things Spanish and aficionado of bullfighting. He was a frequent visitor to and was well known in Jerez where he was made the fourth member of the Orden del Tio Pepe by the Marqués de Torresoto, and his signed butt can still be seen at the bodega. In “Chimes at Midnight” he played Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff, an inveterate drinker of Sherris Sack.

 It may be for this reason that he was commissioned by Domecq in the 1970’s to make television commercials for their Double Century Sherry, a slightly sweetened Oloroso, introduced in 1930 for Domecq’s bicentenary and which became very popular. After his death, Welles’ ashes were buried in an old well at the finca near Ronda of his friend and bullfighting legend Antonio Ordóñez.

Now, on the occasion of the centenary of the great man’s birth the president of the Cine-Club Popular de Jerez, José Luís Jiménez, has proposed to the city council that a street be named in his honour in recognition of what he did to promote the city. What an excellent idea!

Saturday 22 August 2015

Brandy de Jerez

Most wine producing regions also produce brandy (distilled wine) or eau de vie/marc/grappa/orujo (distilled pomace) which are useful and profitable by-products. The art of distillation was brought with the Moors when they invaded Spain in 711AD, but they did not drink the spirits, preferring to use them for perfumes or medicines. The Arabic words used for stills: “alquitara” and “alambique” are still in use today, indeed the word “alcohol” is also Arabic.

An alquitara - very slow distilling..
Not much wine was distilled until the mid XVI century but this spirit did precede the birth of Cognac. The first Spanish tax on brandy was imposed in 1580. The Dutch were regular customers for the wine spirit which they used to compound their liqueurs or rectify into Genever, and it is to them we owe the words “Brandy” and “holandas.” The former is a corruption of the dutch “brandweijn” (or burnt wine), and the latter is the word the Spaniards used for spirit good enough for the Dutch.

Gonzalez Byass Lepanto Distillery Jerez: alembiques Charentais style.(
In 1850 Pedro Domecq was left with a large consignment which sat around so long in barrel that it improved dramatically and formed the basis for the Fundador solera in 1874. Until now, all brandy had been double distilled in alambiques and aged statically much the same as Cognac, but the second half of the XIX century saw brandy sales really take off led by Fundador, and the solera system came into its own.

Modern column stills at Altosa in Tomelloso (foto:altosa)
Producers were forced to find a more suitable source of wine as the vineyards of Jerez could not produce nearly enough. They chose Tomelloso in Castilla La Mancha which was surrounded by boundless vineyards (50,000 hectares!) planted to the Airén grape as opposed to the Palomino of Jerez. For a while Airén became the most widely planted grape in the world! Here they established large distilleries equipped with much more efficient column stills, Domecq being the first in 1890. As brandy is one third the original liquid volume of wine, it made sense to distil here and take the spirit to Jerez by railway tanker either for ageing as brandy or for fortifying Sherry. As far as I know the only brandy distilled in Jerez now is Lepanto from González Byass.

Interior of Alcomasa (

The heyday of Tomelloso was during the 1950s when there were no fewer than 60 distilleries. Their tall chimneys were a feature of the town, but from the 1970s, fuels other than coal began to be used making many chimneys redundant. Now there are only six distilleries, but they are much more efficient and their capacity exceeds the 1950s level. They are Altosa, Verum, Alcomasa (owned by Gonzalez Byass), Osborne, Fundador and DVT. Most Jerez bodegas  simply buy specific spirit for maturation in their soleras in the Marco de Jerez, though some send specific wines for distillation. The distilleries not owned by Jerez bodegas also make their own brands. Between Spain's accession to the European Union and the removal of distillation grants, an average of 5.3 million hectolitres was distilled annually, much for export.

It seems to go on forever...Domecq's famous brandy bodega: La Mezquita (foto:consejo regulador)
A Denominacion Especifica, rather than a Denominacion de Origen (which would require all the raw material to come from Jerez) was established in 1987 along with a Consejo Regulador in 1987 to enforce the rules and protect the interests of Brandy de Jerez, of which there are three categories:

Solera: (about 2/3 of total production) min 6 months solera ageing, min 50% holandas, min. volátiles 150 mg per 100cc pure alcohol.

Solera Reserva: (about ¼ of total production)min 1 year solera ageing, min. 75% holandas  min. volátiles 200 mg per 100 cc of pure alcohol.

Solera Gran Reserva: (about 6% of total production)min. 3 years solera ageing, 100% holandas, min. volátiles 250 mg per 100 cc of pure alcohol.

There is a fourth category known as “Bebidas Espirituosas” where brandy is blended with Destilado (which, while of agricultural origin, might not necessarily be made from wine) and sold at a lower strength (typically 30%/vol). This was introduced as a result of hefty tax increases in 2007-9 and reduced not only the price, but also the quality so it cannot be called Brandy de Jerez and is thus not supported by the Consejo Regulador Brandy de Jerez. A proper Brandy de Jerez will have these precise words on the label.

Unlike statically aged brandies, the solera brandies of Jerez require less ageing, but are nonetheless generally aged much longer than the minimum legal period. Butts for ageing must have a minimum of 3 years seasoning with Sherry or brandy and have a minimum capacity of 500l and max of 1,000l, and the base wine should be free of lees and sulphur dioxide (SO2). The angels’ share (loss to evaporation) is about 7% per annum.  Strength on sale should be between 36 and 45%/vol and ageing must take place, like the wines, within the Sherry triangle. Slight adjustments are permitted so the addition of spirit caramel (for colour correction) and sweetening with flavoured syrups are legal, often around 15 grams per litre (the legal limit id 30 g/l), but in the better brandies this is achieved by the use of choice Sherry butts and ageing.

This beautiful old still was stolen from Valdespino's old bodega in C/Ponce
Base alcohols used are as follows:

Holandas: Single or double distillation is normally carried out in a direct-fired copper pot still (alambique or alquitara) and produces the lower strength spirit known as Holandas from 40- 65%/vol (max 74%/vol), which are made from the best wine. Holandas can be produced in column stills but pot stills are better as the spirit retains more character.

A column still produces 3 types of spirit depending on the positioning of the interior plates:

Aguardiente: spirit from 74 –86%/vol., used for blending and liqueurs

Destilado: spirit between 94-95.5%/vol., used for blending and fortifying Sherry or making liqueurs

Alcoholes Rectificados: spirit at 96.5%/vol. This is used mostly for industrial purposes

It takes 4 Kilos of grapes to make 3 litres of wine which in turn make 1 litre of brandy. A total of about 95% of the grapes used are Airén and only about 5% are the Jerezano Palomino. No fewer than 100,000 hectares of vineyard are needed to produce the grapes for Brandy de Jerez (Jerez only has about 7,000 hectares which are needed for Sherry).

The quality of brandy is not necessarily a function of just age but of the original selection of wine for distillation, butts used and the proportion of holandas in the blend. So a Solera brandy cannot become a Solera Reserva simply by extended ageing.

While 95% of Spanish brandy is Brandy de Jerez, Spain does produce other notable brandies, particularly in Cataluña (eg. Torres, Mascaró), Huelva (Luis Felipe), Málaga (López Hermanos) and La Mancha (Peinado, Allozo). Jerez is the only Spanish brandy, however, to have a Consejo Regulador.

The biggest markets for Brandy de Jerez are Spain, the Philippines and Mexico

Just a few recommended Jerez Brandies:

These are all Solera Gran Reserva and not cheap so buy them in Spain!

Carlos I Solera Gran Reserva
Originally from a Domecq 1889 solera, now owned by Osborne. 100% holandas with a minimum age of 10 years in Amontillado and Oloroso butts.

Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva
GB began distilling in 1844 and Lepanto dates from 1886. It is 100% Jerez Palomino, 100% holandas and comes in 3 versions finished in Fino (Tio Pepe), Oloroso and PX butts, aged over 12 years in 15 criaderas and sold in a beautiful decanter bottle.

Barbadillo Solera Gran Reserva
100% Palomino, small batches, numbered bottles, over 20 years old, serious stuff.

Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva, Sánchez Romate
First produced in 1877 and named after the man who convinced the Reyes Católicos to back Columbus. 100% holandas aged in Oloroso and PX butts for 15 years. Romate also make the excellent Uno en Mil single cask brandy.

Fernando de Castilla Brandy Artesano Solera Gran Reserva
This bodega was established to produce the best brandy. They make an excellent standard range but the 3 Artesanos stand out for their originality. They are single cask Amontillado, Oloroso or Oloroso Viejo one-off bottlings, always different but excellent. They also supply brandy to Equipo Navazos.

Conde de Osborne Solera Gran Reserva, Osborne
Complex brandy made from 100% holandas and aged over ten years in butts previously used for PX then put in a bottle designed by Salvador Dalí. Osborne are famous for the massive bulls visible from Spanish roads which used to advertise their Veterano brandy.

Gran Duque de Alba Solera Gran Reserva, Williams & Humbert
Named after a descendant of the Jacobites, this fine brandy was launched in 1945 (the bicentenary of the Jacobite uprising in Scotland). There are 3 versions: fine holandas are aged 10 years in 15yo Dry Sack Oloroso butts for GDA, 15 years in Don Guido butts for GDA XO and 20 years in Dos Cortados butts for GDA Oro.

Coleccion Roberto Amillo Solera Gran Reserva
Fine independent bottling of old brandy from Hidalgo La Gitana presented in a beautiful 50cl bottle.

Less expensive but good are:

Osborne Magno Solera Reserva, González Byass Insuperable Solera Reserva

And out of interest:

Ximénez Spínola make a wonderful brandy Diez Mil Botellas and a liqueur called Liqvor de Brandy both from PX

Friday 21 August 2015

21.8.15 Harvest at Barbadillo and González Byass

Bodegas Barbadillo has begun harvesting and hope to pick 10 million kilos of grapes which they say are of excellent quality. They reckon the harvest will last till the first week of September. About 2.5 million kilos will come from the firm’s own 300 hectares of vineyard in Santa Lucía and Gibalbín. The rest will come from the 35 contracted growers’ vineyards in Jerez and Sanlúcar. They are picking about half a million kilos daily, split between mechanical and hand harvesting. The machines work at night till morning and the humans work from dawn till it gets too hot.

So far sugar readings are between 11.5ᴼ and 12ᴼ Beaumé and with the forecast cooling of temperatures the ripening will revert to normal. Much of th harvest will go for the firm’s top selling white table wine brand Castillo de San Diego which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. They also make a sparkling wine Beta, for which the Chardonnay was picked at the end of July. It is already fermented and awaits the Palomino to join it in the blend. Meanwhile with the red grapes they will pick Merlot at the end of this month and later the Tempranillo, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet.

Hand picking at Barbadillo (foto:diariojerez)
González Byass has also been harvesting at their 15.5 hectare La Racha vineyard, one of their holdings in the Pago Macharnudo. They have been picking by hand here and at night for the last four years. The 39 pickers are all men. They used to be mostly women as the men were working in construction, but the crisis put an end to that. Each worker picks some 600 kilos of grapes and the harvest will take two or at the most three days. The grapes go to a selection table where any bad bunches will be discarded. The pickers all have hi-viz jackets and lights on their heads and with the tractors’ headlights as well, there is enough light to see, but the noise from the engines makes conversation difficult.

Thursday 20 August 2015

20.8.15 Harvest 2015; Tintilla Festival

The 2015 harvest could be one of the longest in recent years, but as ever, it depends on the weather. At the moment it is practically certain that there will be vineyards which will not be finished harvesting till the second week of September, meaning the harvest will have taken six weeks, as the first grapes were picked in the first week of August.

The weather has slowed down ripening especially in vineyards close to the coast, while inland the grapes are pretty ripe already at about 11.3ᴼ Beaumé which will provide a similar and sufficient level of alcohol. Ripening in the coastal vineyards has slowed thanks to the Poniente (west wind) which has cooled things down a bit. Consejo director, César Saldaña, says that the harvest is going smoothly and as usual started with the inland vineyards around Jerez and certain areas near Trebujena and El Puerto de Santa María, but for the moment the coastal grapes are not yet ripe enough. They need to have 10.5ᴼ Beaumé to be ripe enough so it is best to let them keep ripening and form enough sugar to keep fortification alcohol to a minimum.

César points out that it is difficult to generalise in a year like this because of such variations in the heat and the wind. Instability in the weather causes oscillations in the harvest, but that doesn’t mean the high temperatures and the Levante, won’t be back next week and speed things up again. So far, nine of the thirty-one presses are in action, and 11 million out of the expected 70 million kilos of grapes have been picked. Initial calculations from the vineyards already picked show a yield of slightly more than expected, perhaps 3-5%.

The VII Tintilla de Rota Festival will take place between the 24th and the 29th August. It is organised by Bodegas El Gato, a prominent producer – and one of the few. The Torre de la Merced hall will be the venue for tastings, a conference and a concert, while there will also be a traditional treading of the grapes in the Plaza Bartolomé Pérez and a theatrical visit to El Gato bodegas. 

José Antonio Rodriguez Muñoz, the foremost expert on this rare wine and author of a book on the subject will be on hand and speak at the conference. If you are interested in cycling, the Vuelta de España will be in the Cádiz area at the same time. You could also take a look at the new bridge over the bay of Cádiz.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Bodegas: Sacristía AB Selección Antonio Barbadillo Mateos.

Antonio Barbadillo Mateos left the Barbadillo family bodega in 2008 with the idea of establishing a business sourcing and bottling the finest jewels of Andalusian winemaking. In Autumn 2010 he and his wife and four sons began Sacristia AB Seleccion. This is not a bodega, he simply sources the finest wine and has it bottled. Based in Sanlücar he specialises in Manzanilla but is not confined to it. 

Antonio with the then mayor. He's tall isn't he?! (
He is a large man, physically, personally and professionally, charming and with extraordinary skills such as being able to tell which neighbourhood a Manzanilla had matured in. He has, of course, an exemplary family background. For his Manzanilla he already had a shortlist of possible suppliers, finally choosing the iconic Sánchez Ayala. For the first release he tasted his way through 80 solera butts and chose 32 from which to make his blend. The quantities from each were not always the same and once the blend was made it was allowed to settle at 5-6ᴼ before bottling en rama.

Antonio Sr and Jr presenting the new wine (foto:cosasdecome)
He is also looking into Amontillados, Olorosos, Palos Cortados and both Jerez and Montilla PX, and has already launched A very old (@ 60 years old) Amontillado and a 50 year old Oloros from Jerez. The labels’ AB/barrel logo was designed by his son Antonio. At the start he had hoped to bottle Manzanilla in 4 seasonal sacas, but hasn't managed to achieve this so far. The wines he has released are of impeccable quality and character, however.

Sacristia was used at the Copa Jerez. Note the magnum labels!
Sacas to date:

Manzanilla (“La señorita de Sanlúcar” as Antonio likes to call it!)
2010: (October, Sánchez Ayala), 2011: (May, Sánchez Ayala), 2012: (April + September, Sánchez Ayala), 2013: (January, Francisco Yuste + May, Sanchez Ayala also in magnum) 2014: 2 sacas (June and      He filled 150 magnums but is only selling 115. The rest he will keep to observe how the wine evolves in bottle. It evolves more slowly in magnum. 2015: (September, Francisco Yuste)

2014 (from an ancient solera once owned by the Conde de Aldama, now owned by Francisco Yuste. It is around 60 years old and there are only 350 half bottles).


50 years old from Jerez but the bodega is a secret for the time being for some reason. Anyway it is his first non-Sanlucar wine.


Tuesday 18 August 2015

Sherry and the Social Networks

Domingo Díaz wrote an excellent piece in today’s Diario de Jerez about how in this day and age we are lost if we are not connected to the social networks. Some people of a “certain age” think that all this is for the youth of today, but it isn’t. While these forms of communication are fun, they have also become necessary, but we need to understand how to use them. We need to be out there in the real world and stay in touch with our friends, our family - and our business.

The electronic world is here, like it or not, and we have to make the most of it. There is much more to it than “selfies,” tweeting on the train, liking something on Facebook or just having a website. It is about communicating ideas, getting in touch with people – whom you might not even know – and it is immediate. Just walk down the street and look how many people are gazing at “devices.”

So this brings me to the point. If you have a website, it MUST be up to date. Any new products, gold medals won etc MUST be there. People wanting information will look at the website or at a Twitter/Facebook etc page and be disappointed and put off if the information is not there. This is, after all the "information age". Many products nowadays have QR codes on the label which take the consumer directly via their mobile phone to the producer’s website for more information – and hopefully this will attract a new customer. As long as the information is up to date.

Please, therefore, can some of the Sherry bodegas do something to update their sites? Some are excellent but many are either out of date or lacking information. It might  require a full-time person to do the job, but their salary could be covered by increased interest in the product - and sales of it. Let’s get Sherry into the XXI century. After all, the youth of today are our future consumers - and we need them.

Fascinating Old Price Lists

On clearing out a cupboard I came upon some old trade price lists from the early 1960s, and just had to share them with you. They show just how much the wine trade has changed since then! In Britain, of course, even the money has changed: these prices are wholesale and in pounds, shillings and pence. German wines still had a market but there were very few Italian wines. The only New World wines were fortified ones form Australia and South Africa. Unfortunately Spanish wines were restricted to imitations of big French names like Graves or Chablis, (bottled as such in the UK one must point out, as most wines still were) but a lot of fine French wine is listed.

“Empire Wines” were still available: mainly “Sherries” from Cyprus, South Africa, and Australia, whose Emu winery was producing something called “Sir John’s Sherry Sack.” Hmmm!  Another feature - or should I say horror - is “British Wines” which were poor imitations of Port and Sherry. Then there is Tarragona, a fortified (then) red from Cataluña which was popular till the late 1970s.

JG Thomson was an Edinburgh merchant established in 1709 and based in the ancient and beautiful Vaults in Leith (now home to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society). There are two pages of Sherry in the list which include their own brands, along with Bertola, Domecq, Duff Gordon, Findlater (a London shipper), Garvey, González Byass, MacKenzie, AR Ruiz, Sandeman and Williams & Humbert.  Now that’s a good list! MacKenzie’s Fino “El Catador” is priced at £0/19/6 (just under £1- but more like £18 at today’s value). It is heart rending, though, to see how many brands – let alone bodegas – which no longer exist.

Another list, that of D Cameron & Co (the long gone Scottish division of what was then Gilbey Vintners – now Diageo) from 1964/5, and it also contains some modern “no-no’s” like “Viña Paceta Rioja Claret” and “Emu Australian Burgundy”, however the (proper) Sherry is more interesting. Gilbeys had huge stocks of Sherry in Jerez, and owned brands such as Royal Tan, Aperitif, Bonita, Listan Pale and Rustan Brown. The list is padded out with wines from producers such as Harvey, Domecq, Osborne, Reál Tesoro, González Byass and Williams & Humbert. Again, a good list.

Ad from 1950 (
I myself had a modest wine merchant business in the 1980’s and we stocked a large range of Sherry from González Byass, Osborne, Bobadilla, Harveys, Williams & Humbert, Hidalgo, Garvey, La Guita, Barbadillo and the full range of Lustau Almacenistas. The most expensive Sherry was the Almacenista Amontillado de Jerez ½ from Rosario Benítez Girón at £8.99. Those were the days. Now It is a real hassle to find an interesting Sherry without going to the fountain head (as Byron put it) – Jerez.

Manzanilla en Rama Sacristía AB 15% saca junio 2014, Antonio Barbadillo Mateos

Fairly deep and very slightly dull strawy brassy gold with some legs.
Full on slightly saline beachy character, damp briny yeastiness coming through with a dry strawy scrubland note, damp barrels, seaweed, all sorts of coastal aromas yet not much oxidation or that more savoury Manzanilla Pasada smell. At this age it could be pasada but is fresher than that.
Starts full then relents, tangy, saline and bitter, almost a wild one but stops short - just. Intensely flavoured and complex with all sorts of nuances like membrillo, camomile, olive brine, bread dough and even a slight herbal note, just goes on and on.
This amazing wine is the "primera saca" for 2014 and one supposes/hopes there will be another - and something in the pipeline for 2015! This contrasts with what Antonio has said in the past, that he was going to do quarterly, seasonal sacas. Despite the label saying "Primera Saca" in 2010, there was only one that year, the first year. 2011 was the same story. Hopefully he will achieve the seasonal sacas soon, but it must be hard work doing what he is doing. Each saca is around 4,000-6,000 half bottles (except the Amontillado) and the wine is 8-10 years old. He started buying wine from Sanchez Ayala but has more recently moved to Francisco Yuste. As yet I'm not sure where this came from, but I suspect Yuste as it was contract bottled, and Sanchez Ayala have a bottling line. Anyway, if you can find it - BUY IT!
@ 15€ per half bottle in Spain. UK importer Ehrmanns

Monday 17 August 2015

Bodegas: Portales Pérez SL

Now in its fifth generation, the Portales family firm has always been in the wine business but only more recently, in 1997, did Maria José  Portales realise her dream by starting to commercialise their wines. Before that they were simply producers of wine which they supplied to other bodegas, but decided to market their own brand: Manzanilla Los Caireles, launched in 2002. A cairel is a little charm to decorate riding clothes or the reins of the horses Sanlúcar is so famous for. Maria Jose's niece Pilar is the oenologist while her nephew José  takes care of the despacho and the commercial side of things.

They have two bodegas, San Antonio, constructed in 1821 which houses the Amontillado, Oloroso and PX and the other is a wonderful casa-bodega built in the XVI century in Calle Carmen Viejo. It was once the house of a cargador de Indias, a merchant who sold goods to the American colonies. This beautiful old building is a conservation award-winning house with a central patio and an adjacent low-roofed bodega which is incredibly atmospheric.

There is a slight baroque air about it and it is right on the edge of the lower and upper areas of Sanlúcar with a great damp atmosphere in the bodega that the flor loves. This is the Manzanilla bodega containing over 300 butts. Everything is done the artisan way and they use the minimum of treatment so the Manzanilla can be as natural as possible. The wines have a real flavour of Sanlúcar.

The wines are:
The los Caireles range: Manzanilla(@4.5 years), Manzanilla Pasada (7-8 years) , Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream

C/San Francisco,23 corner C/San Antonio, 11540 Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz
C/Carmen Viejo, 30 (thecasa-bodega)
Telephone: 686 294 711
Web: no website.
Vists: Yes (in Spanish) but need to be arranged.There is a shop at Calle San Francisco.

Sunday 16 August 2015

16.8.15 Harvest Underway; Homage to Shakespeare

The harvest has started. A million kilos have already been picked in the vineyards further from the sea- that is the warmer áreas, where the grapes have ripened more quickly without the sea breezes and humidity to cool them. Harvesting began on Friday night with machines and floodlights. González Byass expect to start work in their own vineyards tomorrow, but have already done some harvesting in contracted vineyards.

Teams of people with harvesting knives toiling under the baking sun are nearly all gone now as the machines take over. They work at night as the grapes are cooler and less likely to oxidise and they work much quicker. The grapes have decent sugar levels, some reaching 12ᴼ Beaumé (a sugar level scale by which 12ᴼ Beaumé should equal 12%/vol alcohol in the must). The harvest will get under way generally tomorrow. The Consejo is hoping that each hectare of vineyard will yield 10,000 kilos which would give a harvest total of 70 million kilos. Last year 68 million were picked.

Machine harvesting at night (foto:diariodejerez)
Consejo director, César Saldaña, said that the weather this year had been very variable but that it had helped bring about healthy grapes without insect problems. The biggest enemy is persistent humidity which can set off grey rot and crops can be lost, but this has been a “magnificent” year. The growers are hoping to cash in on that: after a hard year’s work they are hoping to get 58-60 pesetas the kilo. The cooperative Nuestra Señora de las Angustias will also start picking tomorrow. All the “pies de cuba” have been started (small fermentations to get the main ones underway more easily).

The harvest should mostly be over by the end of the month, though there could be pockets close to the sea which will need to wait till the first few days of September, unless the Levante wind appears, something largely avoided this year – much to the gratitude of all.

One of the quieter events of the Fiestas de la Vendimia but no less important is the annual homage to William Shakespeare who did so much to publicise Sherry in his day. Enthusiasts meet at his memorial in Jerez, drink a toast and recite some of his works.

Saturday 15 August 2015

15.8.15 First Half Sherry Sales

During the first half of this year sales of Sherry in Spain have risen by 8.38%. Sales in export markets of the traditional wines continue to fall but there has been an increase in VOS and VORS wines. The traditional markets have seen some serious drops: Germany down 16.06%, Britain down 6.24% and Holland down slightly at -0.86%. Taking Europe as a whole sales were 8,310,021 litres, down from last year’s 9,217,881, a fall of 9.85%.

The Asian market has seen a big increase, up 31.76% or 84,656 litres mainly from sales in Japan. Spain saw an increase from 6,253,535 last year to 6,777,580 this year. The total worldwide figure, however is down 2.35% in the first half.

Study of the figures by the Consejo reveals that a big impulse to the first half figures is the number of ferias: sales take a leap in March, April and May. Fino, Medium and Cream saw the largest increase in sales with Manzanilla slipping slightly.

Friday 14 August 2015

14.8.15 Harvest Festval 2015

This year’s Fiesta de la Vendimia will be celebrated between the 1 and the 20 September. Those most Jerezano of passions will be at the centre of things: wine, Flamenco and horses, and it is the perfect time to also celebrate the Consejo’s 80th birthday.

San Ginés, the Consejo’s own bodega, was the scene of the presentation of this year’s more than ample programme of events, and it was attended by the media, the mayor and members of the organisation commission. Among the main collaborators in the fiesta are the bodegas, tabancos, rural and wine tourism entities and the equestrian organisations. The fiesta will cost the council very little as events are mostly organised by private enterprise. This is just as well, as Jerez is the most indebted council in Spain.

This is the longest, most event-packed Fiesta de la Vendimia ever, and is unmissable. For the events programme visit

Thursday 13 August 2015

13.8.15 New Ruta Website; Vintage Latest; Ruta Tabancos; World Venencia Record

The new Ruta del Vino y Brandy Marco de Jerez website is up and running. It is very impressive and using this site you can plan an amazing number of interesting escapades in Sherry country, and even book them. Every aspect of the area has been considered, from wildlife to cuisine, from horses to bodegas, from art to golf, from tastings to Flamenco. If you have ever considered visiting this lovely and fascinating part of the world, it has never been easier or more fun. The site is in Spanish, English and German. All you need to do is type into your browser and let it happen! 

The trade and the Consejo are still optimistic about the quality of the forthcoming harvest despite intense heatwaves and more forecast for next week. The hotter it is, the smaller the crop, yet so far it has not been dramatically reduced and is likely to be between 67 and 70 million kilos, unless the dreaded Levante wind appears which will certainly reduce the crop. The harvest commencement date looks like being the 20th August and everyone has their fingers crossed.

Another great idea is the Ruta de los Tabancos. You can pick up a leaflet at the Consejo or at the tourist office. Tabancos are the lovely old traditional bars with barrels of Sherry and tapas, and sometimes Flamenco. The leaflet gives a picture of each with details of what they offer, where they are and opening hours. These places have a wonderful atmosphere.

In Tokyo recently the world record for the highest number of people using a venencia at the same time was broken. It happened on the rooftop of a big store in Tokyo, Mitsukoshi de Nihonbashi, and 72 venenciadores recognised by the Consejo took part. Up till now the record has been held by 61 Andalusian venenciadores. All the participants were awarded diplomas. The event was organised by the Consejo and sponsored by González Byass, Barón, Hidalgo La Gitana and La Guita.