Wednesday 30 September 2015

30.9.15 Consejo Meeting on BIB; "Red Duchess" Archive

In a bitter debate yesterday at the Consejo Regulador, approval for the use of the bag in box (BIB) was again refused. Much of the three hours of the meeting was taken up with this highly controversial matter and another, proposed by Fedejerez, to restrict sales of bulk Sherry except in exceptional circumstances. The latter will be discussed at greater length at another meeting, but one wonders how this might affect tabancos. In a strongly worded statement Evaristo Babé, Fedejerez president stated that BIB is “manifestly illegal” and lamented the lack of “immediate measures” from public administrations against this “fraud which is going on every day.”

Some of the Archive of Medina Sidonia
Nicknamed the “Red Duchess” for her anti-Franco activities, the Duquesa de Medina Sidonia, who died recently, was a member of a very old and noble family in Sanlúcar. A previous duke led the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the family has built up a huge archive of great historical importance, consisting of over six million documents, some from the XIII century. It is one of the two most important in Europe. To conserve it the duchess established the Fundación Casa Medina Sidonia, to which she donated the archive which was declared a Bien de Interés Cultural, based in the Palacio de los Guzmanes in Sanlúcar.

The duchess died in 2008 and did not include the archive in her legacy as she had already given it away, but her heirs think differently and are disputing the will in court, and that could mean breaking up the archive which is priceless but has a notional value of €60 million. A large platform of citizens, writers, historians, the Junta de Andalucía, the Diputación de Cádiz and Sanlúcar Town Council has been established to try and ensure this doesn’t happen. The case begins today.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

29.9.15 Viticulturist Explains how to Make Unfortified Fino

Experiments have shown that it is possible in the Marco de Jerez to make Fino without the need to add alcohol. The key is to raise the sugar level in the must to a reading of 15-15.5ᴼ Beaumé, but this flies in the face of established custom whereby quantity is rewarded rather than quality, so it would be difficult to put into practice. To do so would require a change of mentality in the bodegas. Some are interested but until it is more general the growers will just keep on producing quantity which, according to the growers’ president, Francisco Guerrero, is to the detriment of quality.

Many growers but few bodegas attended a conference held on Wednesday, organised by Asevi-Asaja, the growers’ association, about improving the balance of the vineyards and techniques around which revolve a significant part of vineyard work being developed by professor José Ramón Lisarrague at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, who hosted the event. Various strategies were presented to the growers and to Consejo president, Beltrán Domecq who was present, for increasing sugar levels in the grapes.

Jose Ramon Lisarrague (
According to Lisarrague the character and quality of a wine depend on its different components and the balance between them. These components and their precursors present in the grape before winemaking are influenced by a series of factors which are difficult to change such as the climate and the soil, and by other alterable factors such as the hand of man. Varying the viticulture will produce different results in the same vineyard: leaf cover, ground cover, pruning, irrigation can all help to change the balance from quantity to quality in the grapes.

Monday 28 September 2015

Frasquito Reserva en Rama 15%, González Palacios

Quite deep brassy gold through yellow to pale rim, legs.
Intense with lots of flor and considerable depth, marine, saline and mineral elements and a suspicion of dried fruit and autolysis give it complexity, though predominantly sea and flor. Serious.
Full and generous with a certain roundness balancing the bitterness with gentle acidity, gentle salinity. It is a real mouthful on the palate, intense flavour and terrific length.
Known by the bodegas as "Flor de Lebrija" this delicious wine is made from Palomino grapes and aged under flor for five years in the bodega's best solera, bought from the Caro Salguero family. The grapes come from the González family vineyard "Abuelo Curro" NE of Sanlúcar at Lebrija, so it is not Sherry (though similar to Manzanilla) and carries the DO Vino de Calidad de Lebrija.
€ 9-10 in Spain but unlikely to be available elsewhere...pity..

Saturday 26 September 2015

Bodegas: González Palacios

This family firm in Lebrija was established in 1960 by Francisco González Palacios who, having grown up in wine country developed a passion for it and started the bodega as more of a hobby than a business. He bought a vineyard called “Abuelo Curro” in the albariza soils overlooking the marshes of the Guadalquivir and makes the wines from its grapes.

Lebrija is actually in the province of Sevilla, upstream from Sanlúcar, and has a long history of the production of clays for tile and brick making as well as “Lebrija clay” which is used in fining of wines. While the town’s wines have a different Denominación de Origen from Sherry (DOP Vino de Calidad de Lebrija) they are quite similar, being made by the same methods from the same grapes grown in the same soils, just farther away. One of the great gypsy Flamenco singers came from here, Juan Peña “El Lebrijano.”

The firm has two bodegas, Los Arcos where 600 butts are stored and the newer Abuelo Curro which is near the vineyard and houses 420 butts as well as the modern vinification plant. Here they have a stainless steel de-stemmer and fermentation tanks, a pneumatic press, filtration and bottling plant. It is run by Francisco's grandson, Felix M González.

The bodega produces a range of wines which consists of:
Three table wines: the White Castillo de González Palacios and Overo and the red Overo Crianza
Three Finos: M Fina, M Fina El Poeta and Frasquito Reserva en rama
Three sweet wines: Moscatel, Vino de pasas (Moscatel & Palomino) and Lebrija Old Dulce
Lebrija Old Generoso, a 30 year old dry Oloroso

Address: Calle Consolación, 60 41740 Lebrija, Sevilla
Telephone: (+34) 955 974 084
Visits? Yes, just get in touch

Friday 25 September 2015

25.9.15 Interesting New Sherry from Romate

Bodegas Sánchez Romate is launching a new and very different range of Sherries. It consists of three sweet wines with modern labelling and Burgundy-style bottles and is called “Unusual”. Each wine has an unusual name: Pedro Ximénez “Voy a Perderme” (I’m going to lose myself), Medium “¿Fuego? No Thanks” (Light? No Thanks) and Pale Cream “Mirame Cuando te Hablo” (Look at me when I’m Talking to You).

Pale Cream and Medium are styles which are not widely available on the Spanish market and the PX has a little Moscatel blended in so they are quite novel wines in Spain, but easy to drink. The labels carry the approval of the Women’s Institute and were designed by the well-known illustrator Lore Vigil-Escalera who worked with Romate before on promotional material for Fifty Pounds Gin. The attractive labels are aimed at supermarket shelves where some 40% of consumers buy wine because they like the label, and the bottle shape was chosen because there is more room for the label.


According to the commercial director of Romate, Marcelino Piquero, the aim is to approach a new, younger customer with an informal message, and not just in export markets. They are wines which can be taken in a large glass with ice and a slice of orange or lemon, and the Medium will take a splash of soda. First to be launched is the Pale Cream, the first 500 cases of which should be seen in local shops shortly. The bodega is thinking of extending the range to dry wines at some point, especially with a Fino, but it will also be unusual.

Thursday 24 September 2015

24.9.15 Guitar Made From Sherry Butt

The Gibson guitar factory in Tennessee established in 1894 has produced an electric guitar made from the wood from an old Sherry butt supplied by Osborne. The guitar, a model SG Custom first introduced in 1961, is similar to that once played by Frank Zappa, Angus Young, Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana among other legends and has a terrific sound – and even still a slight smell of wine.

More than a century ago the trunks of American white oak arrived from the Appalachian Mountains as ship’s ballast at El Puerto de Santa María. For a hundred years the barrels made from the trunks have stored and improved the Sherry, until three years ago someone had the idea of giving the old wood a new lease of life, and the project was born.

The wood was sent back to close to its Appalachian origins: Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Gibson Custom Shop, “the factory of impossible things”, where they faced the long and difficult challenge of straightening out the wood. The result is beautiful with 14 carat gold plating, mother of pearl and with the Osborne logo as well as that of Gibson.  Only two have been made, and they were extremely expensive. One will be kept in Nashville and the other will go to El Puerto as an exhibit in the future Osborne museum along with the family art collection.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

A Royal Visit to Jerez and its Bodegas

From an interesting article by Antonio Mariscal Trujillo in Diario de Jerez

Queen Isabel  II with her husband Francisco de Asis de Borbón and their children, Isabel, María de la Paz,  Eulalia and Alfonso undertook a state visit to the provinces of Andalucía in the autumn of 1862. At midday on the 3rd of October the royal train from Cádiz pulled into the station at Jerez greeted by the bell of the Madre de Dios convent which was soon followed by all the others. Amid cheers and marching bands their majesties were received by civil, military and ecclesiastical dignitaries as well as the most prominent citizens who awaited them at the end of the platform. After a few brief words of welcome from the mayor, José María Izquierdo, the tightly scheduled programme began.

Isabel II (
Before a huge cheering crowd which surrounded the station the royal party boarded a coach drawn by six handsome horses in richly adorned harness and set off for the Collegiate Church. They were followed by a cortège of no fewer than sixty coaches all beautifully adorned, and it was said that the scene of streets, public buildings and church towers bedecked with coats of arms, flags and other decorations was almost too impressive to describe.

The Queen entered the city by way of the Calle Porvenir, at the start of which had been erected an arabesque archway. Hundreds of flowers and sheets of paper bearing poetic compositions rained down on the royal coach, while thousands of doves with coloured bows flew above the procession. On arrival at the Collegiate Church the royals could hardly get through the crowd and the noise of all the bells, bands and cheers of “¡Viva la Reina!” was deafening. They were greeted by the abbot and the collegiate chapter who ushered them to the main altar where they gave prayers of thanks.

Next the royal party headed for the Alcázar and after greeting the multitude from a window of the Ponce de León tower, they proceeded to the dining room luxuriously appointed with fine paintings. Her majesty was joined for lunch by various dignitaries at a table laid with the finest lace cloth, candelabra and silver cutlery, and the most exquisite meal was served from the finest china and glassware. With dessert the Queen was given commemorative medals in gold, silver and bronze, struck for the occasion. Four thousand more – presumably bronze ones - were thrown from a window to the crowd along with poems printed on silk.

Commemorative medal (foto:todocoleccion)
After lunch her majesty went to the throne room of the beautifully adorned Palacio de Villavicencio where the great and the good could pay homage. She granted the mayor an audience where he begged her to become a patron of the company formed to bring a water supply to the city from the Tempul springs which she granted, instructing the minister of development to do everything necessary to this end. After greeting the cheering crowds at a window the royal party set off for González Byass (González Dubosq as it was known then).

At the entrance to the bodegas the firm had built a triumphal arch in stone, which still stands there to this day. The royals entered through it and were welcomed by Manuel María González Ángel, the founder and director of the bodega, who invited them to watch the treading of the grapes. Luckily he knew of the royal desire to see this beforehand as the harvest was long finished, so he had sent people out to buy as many grapes kept back by people for pasas as they could obtain. They obtained no fewer than 23,000 kilos!

The arch at Gonzalez Byass (foto:elperiodico)
Treading over, their majesties were shown round the bodegas where the finest soleras were kept and here a young venenciador filled two crystal glasses with very old PX from a silver venencia so they could taste the nectar of Jerez. On taking their leave the royal party thanked Manuel María for a wonderful visit and stressed how important the Sherry industry was. Poor Manuel María, however, was out of pocket to the tune of 30,000 duros. He was offered a dukedom by the Queen but he politely refused. The wine produced by such unusual means turned out to be excellent and he commissioned a massive barrel to contain the 33 butts worth of it. As Christ died at the age of 33 the barrel was christened “El Cristo” and still sits in the bodega alongside twelve others named the Apostles. Judas is kept in the vinegar store. Manuel Maria dedicated the bodega La Concha, built in 1869, to her majesty in honour of her visit.

The triumphal arch at C/Lenceria (foto:jerezintramuros)
The Queen and her party now set off to visit Garvey’s bodega in Calle Guadalete via the Calle Lancería where a triumphal arch had been constructed in the Doric style. Having passed by more cheering crowds they arrived to the sound of the royal march and were greeted by Patricio Garvey, son of William the founder, and his two elder sons. Here the royals tasted their wines which would include their famously fine Amontillados and probably their Fino San Patricio which was  quite new to the  market. They went on to enjoy a tour of the bodega San Patricio which was the largest single bodega in Jerez, before setting off again to Visit the hospital.

At the Hospital de la Merced, which was renamed Santa Isabel de Hungría in the Queen’s honour they met the senior doctor and the nuns while visiting the wards and chatting with patients. Then it was back through the cheering crowds to the station where the Queen thanked the mayor in words of real affection and satisfaction for the wonderful reception she had received from this “Most Noble and Most Loyal City of Jerez”. At five o’clock the train pulled away from the cheering crowds in the direction of Sevilla. For many days afterwards the royal visit was the only thing people talked about, after all it had been 66 years since the last royal visit, that of Carlo IV in 1796.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

22.9.15 Ruiz Mateos Will Embargoed, Paternity Suit

A High Court judge, José de la Mata, has placed an embargo on the inheritance from their father to six of his sons who are facing charges in the “Nueva Rumasa Case”. He has ordered the notary to send him a copy of the will as soon as it is opened. With this cautionary measure the judge is seeking to protect the interests of 4,110 investors in Nueva Rumasa whose shares are worthless. Not only have the six not yet paid €30 million bail, but the court is suspicious that those not already in jail are enjoying the use of property related to Nueva Rumasa companies in an attempt to hide its ownership.

Their inheritance will probably be worthless. Years ago the Nueva Rumasa founder gave his sons the companies belonging to it, and the only thing left is the €2 billion he had hoped to get from the government as compensation for the expropriation of Rumasa, but that is most improbable - he has been claiming it for 30 years already.

Adela and her mother, Jose Maria Ruiz Mateos (foto:elmundo)

Separately, the family of Ruiz Mateos has been legally prevented from cremating him until the result of a paternity suit is resolved. A girl called Adela María Montesdeoca, whose mother is Mexican and who lives in Chicago brought the case in the hope of recognition before Ruiz Mateos died. He had cut off all communication with them and they will presumably not inherit anything.

Monday 21 September 2015

Fino en rama Saca Noviembre 2014 15%, Gutiérrez Colosia

Mid gold fading to pale gold at the rim, legs.
Pure seaside, super fresh with lots of sea breeze and salt, trace olive brine then the flor comes through with its damp yeastiness, a slight floral note and a certain minerality, everything in harmony. It really has captured the riverside atmosphere of the bodega yet in a gentle way, not as raw as a Manzanilla.
Dry and fresh, still saline with a very light tang which along with the gentle bitterness and a trace of fruit keeps things beautifully balanced with good length. This is a very elegant wine, but still has plenty of character, it is most definitely a wine from a specific place, the one called El Puerto.
Juan Carlos Gutiérrez makes more than one Fino. There is the standard  Fino Colosia and the Campo de Guia (at least 3 years old according to the bodega), then there are export brands such as Juan Sebastian Elcano (4 years old) and Amerigo Vespucci (6 years old en rama apparently). So which one this is I don't know, but by jove it is good. It is a shame that this is the only bodega left at the river- side and close to the seafront.
€ 16.95 per 50cl. Not sure if this is available in the UK (it should be!), but try Alliance Wine

Sunday 20 September 2015

It's Time to Start Planning for International Sherry Week!

There are only six weeks to go! The 2nd - 8th November is fast approaching. Now is the time to organise your own Sherry festival. Thousands of people worldwide will be having tastings, food and Sherry matching, dinners, tapas, cocktails and a whole lot of other exciting Sherry-related activities. Check with your local wine merchant, restaurant or wine bar to see what's happening. To make it more special register your event, it's free at, #sherryweek or
But get your skates on!!

20.9.15 Putin and Berlusconi Criticised for Drinking 1775 Sherry

Last week the ex-prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin visited the Crimea which was annexed by Russia a year ago as part of its confrontation with Ukraine. The visit could cost especially Berlusconi dear. On one hand, Ukraine has declared him a persona non grata and prohibited him from visiting the country for three years, and on the other hand the Fiscal General of the toppled Crimea government has begun a grand theft prosecution against him and Putin for drinking a bottle of 240 year old Sherry.

During a visit to the famous Massandra winery which has the largest collection of wines in the world, many belonging to the Tsars, Putin and his guest tried the Sherry which had been brought to Crimea by the Count Michael Vorontsov during the reign of the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great (1762-96). The wine collection was established in 1894 by Prince Lev Golitsyn and now includes some 500,000 bottles. During the visit Berlusconi picked up a bottle of wine from 1891 and asked if they could drink it, but for some reason the director of the winery, Yanina Pavlenko, opened the Sherry. The Fiscal General claims the bottle had a value of €82,000 and is charging Ms Pavlenko with embezzlement, but it is very unlikely the two politicians will stand trial as Russia owns Crimea.

Saturday 19 September 2015

19.9.15 V Great Sherry Tasting

This outstanding event took place last Monday in London and was attended by over 300 members of the wine trade. Nearly 40 producers were represented by over 20 UK importers, so there was no shortage of interesting Sherry. Record numbers attended the three masterclasses: Biological and Traditional Ageing and En Rama Sherry both by Beltran Domecq, and Sherry, Chocolate and Cheese by Sarah Jane Evans who is chair of the Institute of Masters of Wine.

Beltran Domecq imparts his masterclass on En Rama wines (foto:drinksbusiness)

There was a tasting of Sherry cocktails which provided interesting twists on classic cocktails: Negroni, Bamboo, Bloody Mary and G&T showing just how well Sherry acts as a mixer. The same day saw the launch of The Great Sherry Festival which runs till the 27th and which entails all sorts of Sherry-based events promoted by over 40 UK wine merchants. Then from the 2nd till the 8th November there will be International Sherry Week, a worldwide celebration of Sherry. ¡ Salud !

Thursday 17 September 2015

Bodegas: Gordon & Co

Arthur Gordon was born in Beldorney Aberdeenshire in 1729, the fourth of eleven children born to James Gordon, Lord of Beldorney and Kildrummy, an area fairly near Huntly in Aberdeenshire, and Lady Mary Gordon of Wardhouse and of Law. The family were staunch Jacobites and as a result of the battle of Culloden in 1746 and the subsequent repression of Catholics, he fled abroad arriving eventually in Jerez in 1754 aged 25. He soon married María del Rosario, daughter of the Flemish Miguel Morrough and the Spanish Phelipa Navarro with whom he had a son, but who unfortunately died in infancy.

Wardhouse as it is today (it is a listed building!)
In Jerez he conducted various import-export businesses and prospered, but eventually chose to concentrate on wine. Starting with the lease of several small bodegas, he ended up building a large one of his own in 1787 as well as a very comfortable house next door. The house, known as Las Atarazanas, stands in the Plaza de San Andrés, once at the edge of Jerez as it was the site of an old arsenal. The area was remodelled in 1860 by the mayor - the Marqués del Mérito, no less.

Gordon was an innovator, improving vinification and ageing as he went along and building a very successful network of agents and distributors (one of whom was George Sandeman), but soon felt he could not manage the enterprise any longer on his own. Being childless he therefore summoned his nephew Robert, son of his brother Cosmo, and James Arthur (1759-1823), son of his brother John. They lived in Las Atarazanas while their uncle lived in Cadiz where he could oversee shipments.

In 1794 Arthur decided to semi-retire, and joined a friend and fellow Scot, William Dalry in a banking and investment business having become very rich. He left the business for his nephews to run, while always keeping close contact, and they formed the firm Gordon & Co, joined by Robert’s brother Charles and John David Gordon Boyd, who in 1820 would be appointed first British Vice-Consul in Jerez, and be followed by Charles Peter Gordon. By this time the company had bodegas in both Jerez and El Puerto de Santa Maria.

In 1809 James Arthur welcomed his relative the poet George Gordon Noel Lord Byron, showing him how Sherry was produced and letting him taste it "from the very fountainhead." Byron stayed at las Atarazanas while he visited old Arthur in Cádiz and another, more distant relative, Sir William Gordon who worked with Sir James Duff at Duff Gordon in El Puerto de Santa María. 

Las Atarazanas. The bodega was behind. (foto:google)
After the French invasion of 1808, the Gordons, like everyone else encountered many problems - especially when the French found out they had entertained the Duke of Wellington - but they survived. Old Arthur Gordon died in 1815 leaving a fortune. By 1840 Gordon & Co was one of the six biggest shippers. Despite being one of the big six however, the firm encountered grave problems beginning in 1856, and in an attempt to avoid collapse, Jose Carlos Gordon Villaverde, son of Jacobo Pedro Gordon, struck a deal with Larios Hermanos, the Malaga Wine producers. It evidently worked, as he was able to re-start the business in 1857, and in 1868 took on a new partner, William Mitford. The firm was now called José C Gordon & Co and re-commenced exports over the next five years. Mitford retired, Felipe Norman replaced him, but it was not to last, and the firm went under in 1878. Some of the stocks went to González Byass.

In 1877 a descendant of James Arthur, Nicolasa Gordon Moreno married Pedro Nolasco González de Soto, (son of the founder of González Byass) first Marques de Torresoto de Briviesca, and thus began the relationship between the Gordons and the González families. Nicolasa and Pedro lived at  Las Atarazanas, and their heirs still own it. Currently González Byass has no fewer than 5 board/family members with Gordon in their name.

Over the years the Gordons never forgot their roots and Arthur Gordon built Wardhouse Mansion in Aberdeenshire in 1757. He visited frequently, and throughout successive generations the family used the house, but many were visiting from Spain. They were known as the “Spanish Gordons” and Juan José Gordon, the 8th Laird even built a bullring there. King Alfonso XIII of Spain and his wife Victoria Eugenia spent their honeymoon at Wardhouse in 1906, far from the  assassination attempt they had recently experienced in Barcelona. The house was eventually sold in 1952, and is now a ruin, yet Gordons still occasionally visit. Beldorney Castle however, is still in good condition.

The Gordons were a very large family and there were various Gordon bodegas, principal of which was Gordon & Co.followed by Gordon Beigbeder and briefly Gordon Murphy & Farrell, Gordon Doz. 

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Bodegas: Carlos & Javier de Terry “501 Del Puerto”

The Terry family of Cork in Ireland were extremely successful merchants but problems with the English led some of them to establish themselves on the continent where much trade was already done, and others in the Americas. William Terry bought vineyards and olive groves near El Puerto de Santa María in 1762 and set himself up in the wine business, successfully exporting wine to the Americas. He also bred the famous Carthusian horses.

The bodegas in El Puerto (foto:
A number of branches of the family lived in Spain and Carlos and Javier de Terry were related to Fernando Ángel Terry del Cuvillo of Bodegas Terry. At about the end of the XIX century they bought some XVIII century soleras from Manuel Moreno de Mora and established the firm under the name of Carlos & Javier de Terry SL. Osborne meanwhile, bought one of the bodegas, which is still called “La Mora”. The firm prospered initially, and their Brandy 501 was a runaway success, but things became more difficult by the 1960s.

The sacristia at 501 (
In 1993 Pedro Torres, a director of the Banco de Andalucía, and a partner bought the firm which was re-named Bodegas 501 de El Puerto SA to avoid Confusion with the firm Fernando A de Terry. The firm was modernised and the classic brandy “501” was re-introduced. Later it passed entirely to the Torres family. Pedro’s son, José Carlos Torres Gázquez has run the business since 1998.

Interior of the bodegas 
An agreement was signed with Osborne in 2009 whereby the latter would make the 501 Brandy for an initial period of 3 years at their bodega El Tiro which is state of the art, but under the supervision of the 501 technical people. Interestingly El Tiro is so called because it was built on ground once used for clay pigeon shooting (in Spanish Tiro de Pichón). Brandy 501 is in the top 4 solera brandies in Spain and is widely exported.

Zurbaran was a famous painter (
Finding it increasingly difficult to operate profitably in an area which the council would like to see converted into flats, Bodegas 501 signed an agreement with Bodegas Sánchez Romate in 2010. This meant the latter would undertake, at their bodegas in Jerez, the production, ageing and bottling of all 501 products destined for export. All stocks now lie at Sánchez Romate.

Sherries include Fino Marinero, Fino Mariscos, Fino María Cruz, Cream Zurbarán, Oloroso Tercios, 501 Gades PX, Amontillado VOS and Viejo, Also Vinagre 501 vinegar

Tuesday 15 September 2015

New Consejo Website

The Consejo Regulador has gone live with a completely new website: It is extremely attractive, user friendly and packed with information. There are many innovative suggestions for “maridaje” or food matching as well as lots of cocktail ideas, while all the information on the history and production of this unique wine are still there. Blog posts, news and a link to International Sherry Week, it is all there and much more in such a way as to attract a younger generation to a totally relevant wine with ancient traditions. Do have a look, you’ll love it!

Sunday 13 September 2015

Pedro Ximenez Cedro 18%, Williams & Humbert

Almost opaque blacky brown with copper tints fading to amber at the rim, thick legs.
Strong and tangy notes of pasas at first followed by hints of damp barrels, dried figs and dates, fairly intense with a slight toffee note
Smooth, sweet, unctuous and broad with lots of dried fruit and a decent level of acidity, a hint of toffee and slight phenolic notes of coffee and wood. It has considerable length and is great value for money.
The brand name Cedro has had more than one incarnation. Once it was a Medium Dry and even a Manzanilla, but now it is a PX. I don't think it has any great age but is a textbook PX for a good price.
4.65 Euros from Aldi in Spain, I don't think it is available in the UK (check with UK W&H importer Ehrmanns) but it is in Holland and Germany - with a different label.

Saturday 12 September 2015

12.9.15 Fiesta Gastronómica; Sherrymaster

Starting on Tuesday the Fiesta Gastronómica de la Vendimia will take place on the Alameda Vieja, the jacaranda-lined area round the Alcázar in Jerez. It runs till Saturday the 19th inclusive and is open all day with live music at 23.00 each night, with the great Diego Carrasco playing on the last night. A tapa and a drink will be available for €3.50 and no fewer than 16 bars and restaurants will have a stand showing off their specialities.

At the III edition of González Byass Sherrymaster, Pedro Ballesteros MW (Spain’s first Master of Wine) gave an impassioned tutored tasting of Sherries going back over 100 years. He said that Jerez was in the middle of a revolution but not enough producers were taking advantage of their wines’ ageing potential or their terroirs. He said that they should move away from mass-market wines and concentrate on small batch wines from single vineyards or even parts of the vineyards, and not lose their intimate knowledge of them.

He said that en rama wines were now fairly common but he would like to see an unfortified Sherry and the wines recognised as “Fine Wine.” He said that González Byass were going about things in the right way, in fact it could be said that they were the “Silicon Valley of Jerez.” Regarding ageing potential, he said that there is a market for the older wines among the “frikis” or Sherry nuts, who will be delighted to know that GB has announced the forthcoming release of the Añada 1987. GB’s oenologist Antonio Flores said that vintage wines need to be bottled at 27-28 years of age before they become too woody and can continue development in bottle. 

Friday 11 September 2015

“Asoleo” or Sunning the Grapes

Before more scientific techniques were developed, the drying of fruit under the sun was an ancient technique by which the likes of dates, figs and grapes could be preserved. The history of this process goes back millennia but was probably introduced to Spain by the Moors who valued raisins highly as foodstuffs and used them in their cuisine.

Pasas or sun-dried grapes
In winemaking the technique was used to increase effective sugar content in the grapes thereby increasing potential alcohol, or simply producing much sweeter must.  It does, of course, reduce the amount of liquid. We all know that PX and Moscatel grapes are dried out in the sun- or raisined - to lose some of their water content and thus increase the proportion of sugars for sweet wines, but it used to happen with all the grapes as the Palomino produces a fairly low alcohol, low acid must. Indeed some Palomino is still dried, as in Lustau's Anada 1997.

A redor de esparto. Those used for pressing have a central hole. (foto:gentedejerez)
The newly picked grapes were collected in a canasta (a wicker harvesting basket) or a wooden pannier or nowadays in a plastic box but all with a similar capacity of 11-12 kilos (roughly one arroba) and laid out on “esterillas” or “redores de esparto” (esparto grass mats) of @ 80 - 100cm diameter in the sun of the “almijar.” This is an Arabic word meaning a large flat area of ground or yard suitable for laying out the grapes, usually in front of the vineyard building which housed the “lagares” (treading troughs) and overnight shelter for the harvesters. The time spent “asoleando” depended on the weather at harvest time. If the grapes were not ripe enough to produce enough sugar for @ 15%/vol alcohol in a dry wine, a day or two of sunning would correct that.  If it was intended to produce a sweet wine, a couple of weeks were needed to bring the sugar content up to the desired @ 500g/l.

The old way: sunning the grapes in the almijar of Palomino & Vergara
After one day the grapes lose about 10% of their weight (mostly water) and so the sugar content will be proportionately higher. Overnight the grape bunches are covered to avoid the risk of rehydration and potential rot from the dew, and the next day they are turned over to even out the sunning. The proportion of malic acid and, to an extent, tannin will be reduced, while that of tartaric acid will increase.

“Yeso” (gypsum =calcium sulphate) used to be added – and occasionally still is – perfectly legally, in the proportion of about 1-2 grams per kilo. This will help the wine fall bright and give the must a little more acidity. This ancient process is known as “plastering”, and while Victorian doctors ranted about its supposed deleterious effects on the wine, it is in fact perfectly harmless in reasonable proportions and is allowed under European law for wines produced in hot places where they have lower acidity. Most bodegas now simply correct the acid level with tartaric acid however, and no longer practise  malo-lactic fermentation.

The modern way: the hoops support overnight covering (foto: Consejo Regulador)
Using the asoleo method, the potential alcohol level in the grapes was sufficient for stability of the wine for domestic use, but export wines needed a bit more to withstand the rigours of a long sea journey, and were fortified as well. It was noticed that fortification killed off any flor allowing Amontillados to be produced more quickly, and that light fortification of Finos would save the labour involved in sunning grapes not destined for sweet wines. Accordingly only grapes for sweet wines are now sunned, and generally in the vineyard itself on long sheets of polythene which can be easily covered overnight.

Typical PX/Moscatel hudraulic press (foto:
After two weeks of sunning the grapes will appear much darker and will have dried out to half their original weight, making it impossible to extract the juice in a normal press. A purpose-built hydraulic press is therefore used onto which a “sandwich” of esterillas and dried bunches will be placed. The hydraulic ram exerts much more pressure, and eventually a thick, concentrated, syrupy aromatic juice flows out. This will be allowed to partially ferment before being fortified, and after years of ageing it will be more concentrated still.

PX oozing from the press (

See also: Vinification in Jerez

Thursday 10 September 2015

La Suberoteca - the Cork Library

An interesting article by María Santos and J Cabrera in La Voz Digital

An intense smell of Mediterranean forest is the first thing you notice when you visit the premises of the Suberoteca de Andalucía. (Quercus Suber is Latin for cork oak) Situated in Alcalá de Los Gazules, in the heart of the beautiful Parque Natural de los Alcornocales (alcornoque is Spanish for cork oak), a little south of Jerez, this library of cork stores 80,000 samples from 1,150 estates in Andalucía. Its function is to facilitate the forging of direct links between buyers and producers. As the director of the Parque, Juan Manuel Fornell says, “It is easier for a buyer to come here and get to know all the estates and the quality they produce as well as to cut out the middle man. Another purpose of the Suberoteca is to study and watch over the quality of this raw material, though the ultimate goal is conservation of the Park.”

Harvesting the bark in Alcornocales (
The evaluation of the bark is carried out entirely in this natural sanctuary to determine the quality from the hills analysed: each sample is classified by date and location. The Suberoteca was established in 2011 to improve the service offered by the Junta de Andalucía to the traditional cork industry, being the first in Andalucía and the second in Spain, but they also work with important industrial users, of which no fewer than 18 have paid a visit.

Cork samples hanging from the ceiling and a cork "saddle" for a mule to carry goods (foto:lavozdigital)
The high quality of cork from Andalucía contributes significantly to the guarantee of profitability to the sector, especially  given market demand. The cork has many uses beyond the bottle stopper. It is used for insulation in the construction industry, in the fabrication of synthetic fibre materials, surfboards, electrical insulators and even the fashion industry. It is a material with immense potential and one which nobody has managed to synthesise, and it is still the best seal for wine.

10.9.15 It's All Happening in Jerez!

De Copa en Copa starts today at 20.30 in the Claustros de Santo Domingo in Jerez and runs till Saturday. It is a wonderful opportunity to taste a huge range of Sherries as no fewer than 16 bodegas are taking part. They are Diez Mérito,  Estévez, Delgado Zuleta, Grant, Gutiérrez Colosía, Wiiliams & Humbert, Garvey, Coop Las Angustias, César Florido, Harveys, Faustino González, González Byass, Barón, Álvaro Domecq, Sánchez Romate and Dios Baco. Entry is free but there are various tasting tickets at various very reasonable prices.

Los Claustros de Santo Domingo
Also starting today and running till Saturday is the II Feria ConVinoJerez featuring cocktails based on Sherry. This is in the Plaza Canterbury and runs from 20.00 till late with drinks priced at €2.50. There will be live music, some bodegas will have stands, and an exhibition of photographs of winemaking by Mariano Cano. Tonight it is the turn of Williams & Humbert to hold the Cata Magistral at the Alcázar which will be led by their oenologist Paola Medina.

If that were not enough, there are visits organised to the La Mezquita bodega, Bodegas Tradición and Cortijo de la Jara. Then there are guided cycle tours of the historic centre of Jerez or all-terrain vehicle tours of the countryside, the Ruta de los Tabancos de Jerez y la Vendimia, and a tour of the traditional bodegas Cayetano del Pino.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Bodegas: Viña La Callejuela

After working in the Sherry vineyards for 20 years as his father had done, Francisco Blanco Martínez, fondly known as “El Blanquito” set himself up in a small artisan bodega in the barrio alto of Sanlúcar in 1980 to sell wine to the bodegas. During the next decade he gradually bought various parcels of vineyard in El Hornillo, Macharnudo, Añina, Las Mercedes, La Callejuela and La Casilla among others totalling over 28 hectares. In 1997 with his two sons Pepe and Paco already working with him, Francisco moved the firm to the elevated ground of the pago El Hornillo on the eastern outskirts of Sanlúcar, where they built two bodegas now containing 700 butts with pressing, ageing and bottling facilities among the vines.

They had only been selling in bulk till they decided to create their own brand “Callejuela” which was first bottled in 2005. Since then they have created a range of wines under that label, though 40-50% is still sold in bulk. The vines, all planted in albariza, were only Palomino until 2015 when they planted some Tintilla and, to ensure that all the wine in their range comes from their own vineyards, some Pedro Ximénez. They are also experimenting with some almost extinct vine varieties. Above all they believe in the vineyard, the vine and the land as being the key to a good wine and many of the wines are from single vineyards. This strictly family bodega is ably assisted in winemaking by the outstanding oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez. It is a marriage made in heaven: a combination of a gifted and imaginitive oenologist and highly skilled growers with interesting vineyards and open minds. They are all becoming real celebrities and deservedly so.

The range consists of:
Manzanilla Fina Callejuela, Manzanilla Madura Callejuela and the Manzanilla de Añada which was produced from 11 exceptional butts from the 2012 vintage, one of which is bottled and released each year, so there are very few bottles available and there is a lengthy waiting list for this limited quantity which is a year older and more complex with every annual release. Then there is the Manzanilla Pasada Blanquito and the new range of 3 single vineyard vintage Manzanillas.
Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream, PX
Older Wines: Oloroso El Cerro, Palo Cortado Quinario, Amontillado La Casilla. There is only one small annual saca for these.
Table Wines:
They make fine and interesting table wine in each of their vineyards by exactly the same method so the only difference is the vineyard itself: La Choza (Macharnudo), Las Mercedes (Añina), Hacienda Doña Francisca (Callejuela) and Blanco de Hornillos (Hornillos)

Address: Camino del Reventón Chico, 27 Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz
Telephone: (+34) 617 492 483/607 837 354
Visits? Yes, by appointment

9.9.15 Treading of the Grapes

The traditional treading of the grapes took place yesterday in Jerez as part of the Fiesta de la Vendimia celebrations and those of the Consejo’s 80th anniversary.  The event took place at the façade of the cathedral where the municipal band played and the Dean of the cathedral blessed the grapes in the name of San Ginés de la Jara, patron saint of vintners. Council dignitaries were present as were those of the Consejo.

Harvesters lined up with their baskets of grapes which they poured into the lagar where four men wearing “zapatos de pisar” (boots with nail-studded soles) began the age-old process of treading 1,000 kilos of Palomino. After about 15 minutes the lagar’s tap is opened and the juice runs into jarras (bodega jugs), through a sieve and into a butt. It takes an hour and a half of constant treading, back and forth to complete the exhausting job. The resulting wine goes to the Consejo’s own bodega San Ginés.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

8.9.15 Consejo Vintage Report 2015

With picking over but for a handful of coastal vineyards and the great majority of the press-houses now closed, César Saldaña, director of the Consejo Regulador reports on a problem-free vintage of high quality and higher yields than last year.

It could be said that the harvest 2015 is virtually finished. Of the 31 press-houses registered with the Denominación de Origen this year almost all of the few which are still working today are located in coastal areas where they are pressing the grapes from the vineyards closest to the sea. As is known, the Sherry harvest is a gradual process which begins in the interior vineyards and gradually extends towards the coastal areas as the grapes gradually reach the optimum level of maturity for picking.

This year the pressing of the first Palomino grapes – the predominant variety – began as early as the 3rd of August as a consequence of the extreme heat recorded in early summer. The relatively gentle temperatures in the second part of the month slowed down the picking while optimum ripening was awaited.

In general the grapes have been arriving at the press-houses in a very healthy state as a result of the exceptionally benign conditions provided by last spring. After a moderately rainy winter with average rainfall slightly below the normal 600 litres per square metre, spring was very dry which had a very positive effect on the vines, with an almost total absence of insect pests and diseases. Furthermore, the winter rains were spread out over a longer period meaning that the albariza soil was able to absorb it gradually without soil erosion and build up the water reserves in the subsoil necessary for the vines to develop adequately to face the summer.

Consequently we have a healthy crop with a very good balance of acidity and an average sugar level which at the start of the harvest was very high but moderated itself to a level of 11.3ᴼ Beaumé. In terms of quantity we estimate a medium to large crop and production per hectare at the end of the harvest will probably exceed 11,000 kilos. This will provide us with approximately 75 million kilos of grapes with which to make the wine necessary to re-stock the criaderas as well as supplying the raw materials to make other quality products made in the Jerez area. Among those a special mention for Sherry vinegar which also has a Denominación de Origen and which is seeing growing demand and ever rising sales.

Monday 7 September 2015

7.9.15 Ruiz Mateos Dies

José María Ruiz Mateos, founder of Rumasa, died this morning in hospital at 84. The funeral will take place tomorrow in Rota where he was born. He was probably Spain’s best known businessman and certainly its most controversial. Rumasa Holding consisted of no fewer than 230 companies employing 65,000 staff until it was expropriated in 1983 by the government of Felipe González for alleged tax fraud. In 1991 he started again with Nueva Rumasa but in 2011 that all began to collapse amid share and tax fraud allegations, and the only reason he did not die in jail was his health. Above all he was a character and a family man who did much to modernise the Sherry business, yet much of what he did had a negative effect as well. DEP José María.

Sunday 6 September 2015

6.9.15 José María Ruiz Mateos Very Ill

José María Ruiz Mateos, who has been in hospital for over a fortnight in El Puerto de Santa María after he fell and broke a hip, is gravely ill. Already 84 and suffering from Parkinsons, he has also contracted pneumonia. The doctors have managed to fix the hip without complications and are treating the pneumonia with antibiotics, but he is nonetheless very ill and his family are all at the hospital centre fearing the worst.

Ancient Civilisation Found at Sanlúcar?

The Sanluqueño researcher, Manuel Cuevas, has informed the Junta de Andalucía of the discovery, from satellite pictures, of an ancient city buried beneath the Pinar de Algaida close to Sanlúcar and the Guadalquivir estuary. La Algaida is an area lying NE of Sanlúcar which was once marshland but became dry land after the sand dunes grew into a hill. It is now mostly covered by pine forest and is a haven for varied wildlife.

A view of El Pinar de Algaida (
The pictures, which came from a satellite 700 km high, show buried structures not only here but also in the Doñana on the other side of the river, only 6 km from La Algida where the German archae - ologist, Adolf Schulten discovered the remains of the ancient city of Tartessos. Cuevas has made out 4 large buildings along with a village, all of which are at least 2,500 years old. One of the structures measures 360m by 180m and another 180m by 100m. In the Pinar de Algaida, which has an area of 8 square kilometres, Cuevas can see structures which look to be complete, perhaps preserved by the mud from a flood.

Some of the satellite pictures (fotos:efe)
Separately he has found the remains of other types of structure which are later but still pre-Roman and he thinks this may be a port with streets. Given the evidence, Cuevas has asked the Junta to help with geo-physical soundings on the site which would give an idea of the depth of the remains and hopefully lead to an excavation, and the participation of a local university. Ancient remains have already been unearthed nearby at El Tesorillo. There has been much movement of the estuary over the millennia, and the sea once covered what is now Sevilla. Cuevas is even daring to hope he has found a lost civilisation possibly predating the Pharaohs and that of Mesopotamia.

Saturday 5 September 2015

5.9.15 Soviet Satellites; Consejo Exhibition; GB Cata Magistral

During the Cold War Russian military spy satellites took high resolution images of Jerez and other cities in Andalucía because of their strategic, military and economic interest. From these highly detailed maps studies were created in the early 1970s which show the toponomy, classification of buildings and infrastructures, military installations, communications, transport, details of the Guadalete, geography, soil composition, water supply, commerce, population  among many other things. 

Part of an image created from satellite pictures (foto:diariojerez)
Jerez was regarded as strategically important as a hub of railway and road communications and food supply as well as being an important producer of wine and “its bodegas are enormous.” This was a staggering amount of detail, and no doubt the proximity of Jerez to Gibraltar was taken into account. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union the documents were bought by the Cartographic and Geological Institute of Cataluña who had them digitalised in 2014.

Los Claustros de Santo Domingo in Jerez has an excellent exhibition of the history of the Consejo Regulador which runs till September 27th. Entitled “80 Years Defending What Is Ours” it is part of the Fiesta de la Vendimia celebrations and highlights the definitive patrimony and identity of the city – “Nuestra tierra, nuestra gente y nuestra cultura” (our land, our people and our culture).

On show are photographs and curiosities of the wine trade, generic label designs, old documents from the gremios (wine guilds predating the Consejo), and the first Reglamentos (rules) of the Denominación de Origen from 1935 among many other things. “It is an entertaining exhibition and one which will appeal to anybody interested in the world of Sherry – our world,” said César Saldaña, Consejo director and organiser of the exhibition. This is well worth seeing if you can.

Antonio Flores, chief winemaker at González Byass, will lead a tasting at the Patio de las Armas in the Alcázar on Monday night as part of the Fiesta de la Vendimia. He will highlight the versatility of these unique Sherry wines and their compatibility with food. GB will also be participating in De Copa en Copa (from glass to glass) at the Claustros de Santo Domingo on the 10,11,12 of this month.

Friday 4 September 2015

La Bota de Manzanilla No 55 15%, Equipo Navazos

Lightly amber-tinged strawy gold with slight legs.
Intense, concentrated nose with plenty of flor, dry scrubland and olive brine notes with the slightest hint of wood and quite a sharp maritime character. Big, assertive and very Sanlucar.
Full big and tasty, very dry with a good fairly sharp tang which carries it through along with some flor bitterness and salinity giving it real impact and terrific length, but it cries out for seafood!
Another winner from Equipo Navazos, but I'm a bit confused. On the back label it says "Embotellado en origen: "Miguel Sánchez Ayala" (whose RE number is 38) and then gives the RE number for La Guita. Maybe it was bottled there. It also says "Saca de Noviembre 2014" yet the website says "Octubre 2014." Be all that as it may, this comes from 22 of the old toneles in the most mature Manzanilla solera at Sánchez Ayala which has 50 butts with twelve scales and small monthly sacas. The same solera produced Numbers 4,8,16,22 and 32. The wine is not much over 6 years old, but it is super complex.
About €20 in Spain, £35.00 from Berry Bros. in London. UK agent Alliance Wine

Thursday 3 September 2015

3.9.15 Gastronomy in El Puerto, Cork Harvest

Better known as “the chef of the sea”, Ángel León, who has two Michelin stars has opened his new restaurant in an old tide mill in El Puerto de Santa María. Famous for his previous restaurant, “Aponiente”, he has transferred the name to the new venture which employs 40 staff. He confessed to being a little worried that he could successfully transfer the soul of the old restaurant to the new, but at the same time is proud of the new premises. Bookings are already sold out till mid-October. Naturally the wine list includes a healthy selection of Sherries and the sommelier, Juan Ruiz, best sommelier of 2015, will be recommending them.

The chef of the sea in his tide mill (foto:lavozdigital)
El Puerto has another attraction coming up: Encuentro Gastronómico con la Sal y el Estero (gastronomic encounter with local salt and produce of the estuary). This takes place on the 12-13 September at the Castillo de San Marcos and eight restaurants will be showing their skills, including Aponiente, El Faro, El Bar Jamon and El Puerto. Tickets are €33 which includes both days at the show and a crystal glass with which to taste wines from Bodegas Grant, Caballero and Forlong. The local distillery Rives will be there with their famous gin, a bakery and even an artisan rooftilemaker.

The 2015 Cork Harvest in Spain has produced a very good yield of 90,000 tons, an increase of 5% on last year and of high quality, despite prolonged drought and high temperatures. Cork is mainly produced in Andalucía, Extremadura and Cataluña and some 80% will be used to seal wine bottles. Spain has 25% of the world’s cork trees and is the second largest producer after Portugal.

Recently cut sheets of cork bark (foto:efeagro)