Saturday, 31 October 2015

31.10.15 “No Wine in BIB is Manzanilla”

Fedejerez and the Consejo have responded to yesterday’s announcement by the Manzanilla producers saying they will denounce those who sell these products which cannot have the DO. They warned consumers that without it there is no guarantee of the wine’s authenticity and quality.

President of Fedejerez, Evaristo Babé, spoke yesterday of the unacceptable and outrageous provocation of the Manzanilleros as much for the content as for the menacing tone of the message sent out by the 10 bodegas who announced that they would be selling DO Manzanilla in BIB despite the prohibition of this container ratified by a plenary at the Consejo. He said their posture showed a complete lack of respect for the institution to which they chose to belong. Rules are there to be obeyed; they can be changed, but always with respect for the law. He urged the Junta to deal with this “attack” as it would be worse if the DO had to.

“They can put a DO label on a BIB, but it is still not Manzanilla.” Babé warned consumers not to let themselves be deceived, as the Consejo is the only institution with the capacity to certify genuine Manzanilla. Putting it in perspective, the bodegas which have subscribed to selling Manzanilla in BIB only represent 25% of the Manzanilleros, the big firms have not, and so this only represents 4-5% of total Sherry sales.

For its part the Consejo agrees completely with the position of Fedejerez. Its director, César Saldaña said decisions taken at plenary meetings are adopted by a majority and they should be respected; disobedience is not the best way forward. Packaging is a matter for the Consejo, where any rule changes can be debated, and in his view the decision of the Manzanilleros does nothing but aggravate the situation. He pointed out that to sell a wine the label, which states the liquid content, has to be registered at the Consejo, and since BIB is not authorised neither labels nor precintas (official seals) which prove authenticity can be issued.

The sale of bulk wine is only permitted by the DO in garrafas (large glass containers). These are primarily intended for the tabancos, though Fedejerez wants to see garrafas banned as well. The Consejo is keeping a look out to see if Manzanilleros try and use garrafa labels for BIB which would be illegal as the capacities of garrafas are 4,8, and 18 litres while those for BIB are 5,10,and 15. Any infraction would be reported to theJunta’s agriculture department. If the Manzanilleros continue with their plan to sell DO Manzanilla in BIB the Consejo could seek their withdrawal from the register of bodegas in the DO, an extreme action which it is not contemplating for now, preferring dialogue.

Thunderbirds Enjoy Sherry

Does anyone remember the cult 1960s TV series Thunderbirds? (Los Guardianes del Espacio in Spanish). They were heroic members of International Rescue catching crooks by land, sea air or space. The original was made by Gerry Anderson and his wife Sylvia using sophisticated puppets. 

They went on to make spin-off series Stingray, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Joe 90. Now the original series has been revived using digital animation. How appropriate then, that José Luís Jiménez of the Cine Club de Jerez should come across a clip of Lady Penelope being served a glass of Sherry by her butler Parker.

Friday, 30 October 2015

30.10.15 BIB Manzanilla?

In a direct challenge to the rules of the Consejo Regulador some bodegas in Sanlúcar are launching DO Manzanilla in Bag in Box. Deliberately flouting the law the bodegas, with the exception of La Guita, Barbadillo and Delgado Zuleta, have produced BIB Manzanilla with official labelling. Up till now they have only used declassified wine without official labelling. They are holding a press conference today to announce their aim of establishing  a new association of wine producers to defend their interests.

Some of the BIBs available (foto:diariodejerez)
The decision to produce BIB Manzanilla was taken after consultation with the Junta which seems to support this so long as it is not sold to the public. In article H.4 of the regulations governing Manzanilla de Sanlúcar which covers packaging of DO wine it says: “Vessels which contain DO wines for public consumption shall be made from glass or other materials which the Consejo Regulador might approve which do not impair the specific properties of the product.” The Manzanilleros, and apparently the Junta say that the sale of BIB is almost entirely to the bar and restaurant trade, and thus not for public sale. This confrontation looks like being a long one.

30.10.15 Sanlúcar Bodegas: “We Won’t be Trampled on”

At yesterday’s press conference in Sanlúcar the majority (10) of the bodegas announced that they will go ahead with selling DO qualified Manzanilla in BIB despite the Opposition of the Consejo. The event was held in the bodega La Gitana and the speakers were Fermín Hidalgo, Francisco Yuste, both with bodegas of that name, and Carlos Garrido of Argüeso.

L-R: messrs. Hidalgo, Yuste, Garrido (fot:diariojerez)
They made their position clear: “After the complaints made by Fedejerez against the Sanlúcar bodegas who use BIB as an alternative packaging in place of the old garrafa and the prosecutions instructed by the Junta for supposed infractions of the rules as the Consejo sees it, the wine trade in Sanlúcar has decided to continue with the use of this modern and practical container for DO wines for public consumption, a container which in no way harms the wines’ organoleptic qualities and at the same time fulfils the requirements of the regulations. This fact means that from now on the bodegas will no longer feel obliged to declassify wine in this shameful way in order to sell it in BIB.”

These bodegas, who will shortly announce the constitution of a new professional association, maintain that “Manzanilla can no longer remain in the hands of a Consejo controlled by bodegas who do not share the legitimate interests of the Manzanilla producers.” This was a thinly veiled reference to Fedejerez.

The decision to sell DO Manzanilla in BIB “is motivated not only by trends in the market and consumer demand which is causing ever more quality wine to be packaged in this modern and practical alternative to glass, but also by the search for innovative solutions to the stagnation and conservatism which the Sherry market suffers from and which is causing the constant degradation of the trade. Those who have been responsible for the continual disappearance of bodegas and vineyard do not have the moral right to talk about the image and future of the trade, those who by their mistakes have seen thousands of jobs lost, have been selling our wines abroad amongst the cheapest in the world, competing on price in supermarkets with other products like beer.”

Yuste asserted “We will not be trampled on,” and Hidalgo affirmed that “the Junta has expressed its total support against this flagrant attack which we are suffering.”

Thursday, 29 October 2015

29.10.15 Trafalgar Sherry 1805

Earlier this month Josep Roca, sommelier and co-proprietor of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, the best restaurant in the world, led a seriously interesting tasting at the San Sebastián Gastronómika Congress. There were only three wines but with a dimension that goes far beyond mere colour, aroma and flavour, wines which “help one to think and to live” as Josep put it.

The first two wines were from Catalunya. Carinyana de Capmany 2012 from the bodega Arché Pagés in Empordá, made from vines which had suffered in a fire years ago and which imparted amazing smoky aromas. Then came Pau 2008 from the Proyecto Ilusión+del Priorat, made from vines which had been attacked by ELA (a deadly fungal disease). Kept going by its acidity, it was lacking body but interesting nonetheless for its unusual balance.

Josep Roca with the ancient wine (foto:elmundo)
The third wine was the really interesting one: 1805 Sherry from González Byass, bought by the González family in the same year as the battle of Trafalgar, before the foundation of the bodega. Only a very few arrobas of this wine remain at the La Cuadrada bodega in Jerez. Josep pointed out that the wine, from a half bottle and served in drops on the hand from tiny plastic bottles, showed that Jerez is so much more than piles of barres; it is capable of making “immortal” wines. He described this intensely concentrated wine as “salty tears dressed in copper with a prickle of iodine, a long gone spring, a duel between earth, time and wood, a wine which has eaten away at the old seasoned wood. It grips like a knife on the palate a sea fossil sprinkled with sunshine.” Unusual tasting notes, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it myself!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

International Sherry Week - Only 5 Days to Go!!

The countdown has begun, the clock is ticking away! If you haven't organised an event there's still time - just! Alternatively you could join another - they're all listed on If all else fails, go and buy a really good bottle of Sherry, sit down and enjoy it - after all that's what all this is about: the sheer pleasure of a glass of Sherry.

28.10.15 The Mosto Season has Arrived!

Mosto is the newly fermented 2015 wine sold unfortified, and it is very refreshing. A group of eight bars in the Barrio Alto of Sanlúcar has organised a mosto and tapa route which will run from the 31st October till the 20th December. El Puerto de Santa María and Jerez also have such offerings, dates to be confirmed.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Mules and the Cork Harvest

A great article by Maria Santos & J Cabrera with pictures by A Vazquez in La Voz Digital

Muleteers and cork cutters are keeping alive a centuries-old tradition which is in danger of dying out. Between mid-June and the end of August the harvest provides 129,000 people with temporary work, mostly in the Parque de los Alcornocales in Cádiz. They rise at 5.00am and drink coffee while they prepare the mules and the tools, mainly axes, for another hard day. The man in charge, Lázaro Jiménez, has 50 years of experience and is a third generation muleteer. This year they are going to the Finca El Aljibe where the alcornoques – or “chaparros” as they prefer to call them –are ready to be harvested. They expect to produce 10,000 “quintales” (460,000 kilos) in 40 days.

Cork is a raw material which, due to the crisis and competition from other materials such as plastic, is gradually being devalued even though the methods of extraction and the exhausting work involved have hardly changed in decades. In the intense two and a half months of heavy labour the harvesters and muleteers are likely to lose some 7 kilos in weight. If the Levante (a hot dry east wind) blows hard it can dry the trees and make the bark stick. Once the bark has been taken it is important to have decent weather so the trees can re-generate and produce cork as good as or better than last time.

This job normally runs from father to son, and there are no schools so it is necessary to practise and learn the necessary skills, as in unprofessional hands the trees can suffer. With the loss of their jobs as a result of the crisis in construction many people sought work in the countryside, but with their lack of skill, climate change and pollution there is increased risk of disease in the trees, even death.
The Mediterranean climate is ideal for these trees so the Parque de los Alcornocales is the sort of nerve centre of the forests producing cork oaks in Andalucía. In fact it is the most important in Cádiz and one of the most important in Spain. Even though it takes 9 long years for the bark to regrow, the 170,000 hectares of the Parque are harvested in rotation, so there is activity every year which keeps industry supplied, mainly the wine industry, and of course employment.

Up in the hills everyone just gets on with the job at a frenetic rate without chit chat or getting in each other’s way. The quicker the cork gets to the weighing scale the less moisture it loses and the more it is worth so there men up trees, men collecting and piling up sheets of bark and men loading the mules from the piles. The muleteers take the bark to a “patio” (an opening among the trees) where the bark is unloaded for weighing. A simple but strong scale is employed which measures how many quintales (46 kilos) the cork weighs. Each harvester usually extracts about 25 quintales per day and earns between €90-150 daily depending on what his job is. The economic crisis hasn’t spared the cork industry and prices have fallen some 40% from €100 to €60 per quintal.

In the old days they used to work for two weeks of long days then take two days off. They would rise early and stop for lunch about 3 o’clock, sleep for an hour and finish up at about 7 o’clock. There was no time to go home so they would camp out in the hills for the season, but they would take with them cooks and helpers. Nowadays, what with scooters and cars they have an easier life: they work hard from 7 o’clock till 3 o’clock then go home returning the following day.  The muleteers are a bit more tied to the land, however as their working tools are mules, live creatures which require care and attention to be able to take heavy loads of cork to the patio. As Lázaro says, a real muleteer really looks after his animals.

For Lázaro, his son Alejandro and the other two muleteers, Rafael and Luís there is another hard job to do before their day is over. They must remove the paniers and backcloths from the mules, wash their backs with a saline solution and make sure they have no sores, then feed them and check that the backcloth needs no repair. The mules and their equipment must be in good condition to be able to work efficiently, cost effectively and healthily and Lázaro is a stickler for this. These hills in Cádiz can only be accessed by mules; there is no machinery which can do it, and while that is the case the hard work done by muleteers will survive. It should be remembered that they have to look after their mules all year round and that is costly what with vet bills, horseshoes, feed, saddlery etc., and there are no grants available.

All these jobs form part of an ancient tradition which still survives thanks to men like these who go up into the hills to cut the cork bark. They wish there were more interest in their trade and that there could be some training, even financial support offered. Let's all try and buy wine sealed with cork!

Monday, 26 October 2015

26.10.15 Junta Declares Bag in Box Illegal

Bodegas in Sanlúcar which continue to sell de-classified Manzanilla in BIB will be prosecuted by the Junta, which has noted that the sale of these products without a Denominación de Origen (DO) is illegal and has already been denounced by Fedejerez and the Consejo Regulador. At the last full meeting of the Consejo BIB was again refused authorisation. Now the Junta’s technical and legal people from the Agriculture Department have taken samples from the bodegas reported to it. They say there is clear infringement of the rules in terms of labelling and offenders could be fined between 3,000 and 50,000 euros depending on the seriousness of the offence.

BIBs for sale in a bar (foto:diariodejerez)
The Junta has already informed offenders that proceedings have begun and they have 15 days to answer the allegations and a period of 10 months for a resolution. Two types of offence have been detected: those which infringe the DO by the use of protected terms such as “fina” or “en rama” or protected imagery such as the harvest or rows of barrels which allude to Sherry, and those which infringe law 2/2011 with respect to the quality of agro-alimentary goods.

In the latter case the rules state that biologically aged wines with an alcoholic strength of 15% can only be sold under the umbrella of the authorised DOs of Sherry, Montilla and Condado de Huelva. By choosing to de-classify their wine to sell it in BIB producers are not covered by the DO and lose the right to sell it as wine. At the last Consejo meeting Fedejerez lamented the time it was taking for the Junta to act on its complaints against the Manzanilla producers.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

25.10.15 Gold Medal for Canasta Cream

Williams & Humbert Canasta Cream has won a gold medal at the 35th San Francisco International Wine Competition which is the largest and most influential in the US. Nearly 5,000 wines from 26 countries were tasted blind by a team of renowned professionals, so this is quite an achievement.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

La Bota de Fino 27 15%, Equipo Navazos (Re-taste)

Deep yellowy amber with a very slight greenish tinge, dark for a Fino, and noticeable legs.
Lots of damp flor and some slightly oily oxidative notes, brine, bread dough, traces of oak and a seaside note, smells tangy with considerable depth.
Full, assertive and slightly softer than expected, the tang is more flor bitterness than acidity, but it is as clean as a whistle, still very much Fino despite the slightly nutty oxidative notes. It just grows on the palate, it is very generous with great length, almost at the cusp of being Fino-Amontillado.
(Saca March 2011) Last tasted 2 years ago (see post 6.10.13) when it had about 11 years in solera and two and a half further years in bottle. Now after four and a half years in bottle  it was always going to be interesting to see how it had evolved after another two years. And it tastes remarkably similar to how it did then, with perhaps very slightly more oily oxidative notes towards Fino Amontillado, but then Inocente, which is what it is, has those notes direct from the solera which are largely lost in filtration. This is effectively Inocente en rama (albeit from selected butts) with four and a half years' bottle age, and it is still magnificent. I just wish I had more to try in another two years' time. Sherry does live and improve in bottle, and here is proof, but you have to accept that it will change - though not much in this case.
Very hard to find now, but probably much the same as before.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Día Europeo del Enoturismo

It’s actually more than a day – it runs from 5-8 November – and coincides with the International Sherry Week (2-8 Nov). There is a massive variety of activities, but unlike ISW you need to be in Jerez, and the city council hopes that these two major events will reduce the seasonality of tourism in the area. The council is working with the Consejo and the companies associated with the Rutas del Vino y del Brandy de Jerez. Many bodegas, the Alcázar, Archaeological Musem and the Palacio del Tiempo will offer open days. For the full programme see:

Meanwhile International Sherry Week has now accumulated over 400 events in 17 countries!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Oloroso Almirante 18.5%, Marqués del Real Tesoro

Bright deep amber mahogany with reddy-coppery tints fading to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Just what Oloroso means: fragrant. A full forthcoming and generous aroma bursts out of the glass, characterised by a certain apparent sweetness, traces of cinnamon, candied orange peel, hints of oak and walnuts in syrup, and a slight suspicion of Christmas cake.
Similar, full and well rounded. It is dry but you'd hardly notice with all that glycerol and flavours of sweet things, especially as there appears to be very little tannin, but it is beautifully balanced nonetheless and has a real charm to it and good length.
This attractive wine is apparently around 17-18 years old, a very decent age and worthy of 89 Parker points. The wine ages through no fewer than five criaderas plus the solera, which gives it its complexity. The perfect wine to sip while relaxing with a good book in the cooler seasons - but you might drink more than you had intended. I feel the label could be smartened up a little; it looks awfully plain for a wine which is far from plain, in fact it is excellent value.
8.50 -10 Euros in Spain, not available in the UK unfortunately

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Visitor's Guide to Jerez

Leading Wine magazine Decanter has published a visitor’s guide to Jerez by Sarah Jane Evans MW, who knows a thing or two about Jerez so if you are planning a visit here is the page in question:

If you were not thinking of planning a trip, this might change your mind!

The patio at the old Bertemati bodega, now Paternina

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

20.10.15 Williams & Humbert Logo

Recently a real photographic rarity has been found which shows a recreation of the painting by the famous English artist William Powell Frith (1819-1909) entitled “Sherry Sir?” The painting of the artist’s servant was so popular that it was recreated by the London Stereoscopic Company and used for hand tinted postcards which were very fashionable during the Victorian era. While the model for the postcard might lack the vigour and sincerity of the original it still has a certain charm. The original was later bought by Williams & Humbert, becoming famous as their logo “The Sherry Girl”.

(info+foto: JoseLuis Jimenez)

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Gallo Azul

Anyone who has visited Jerez will have seen this iconic building “the Blue Cockerel” right in the beating heart of the city. It was completed in 1929 and was a gift to the people of Jerez from Pedro Domecq to mark the Exposición Iberoamericana in Sevilla of that year, and has always been a bar and restaurant which could promote the products of the Domecq Bodegas.

The city council had wanted to improve the awkward corner of Calle Larga and Calle Santa María to provide more public space and demolished Calle Larga No. 2, a rectangular building. At a plenary council meeting on the 27th March 1927 it was agreed that building permission on this site should be granted by competition to whichever person or company could produce an important building in terms of its design and construction within a year. The price of the site was 6,000 pesetas.

The competition was won by Domecq who appointed Aníbal González Álvarez Ossorio from Sevilla as their architect. He was famous for the beautiful Plaza de España in Sevilla, built in 1928 for the Exposición, and was also involved in the Jerez railway station façade of 1927, both designed in a mix of Neo-Mudéjar and Art Deco styles with abundant tilework from the famous factory Mensaque & Rodriguez of Triana (Sevilla). The Gallo Azul, on the other hand, is constructed in brick and its design has a wonderfully simple classical Neo-Mudéjar elegance which fits beautifully on the site, yet the only tilework is the name of Pedro Domecq along with his coat of arms on a sort of cupola at the very top.

The Blue Cockerel (foto:gentedejerez)
The name of the building refers to a painting by local artist José Luís Torres as part of the decoration, and it still hangs above the bar counter. There are three semi-circular storeys but only the lower two are used for catering, the ground floor with its ionic marble columns being for drinks and tapas while the first is more of a restaurant, where from a window seat you can watch Jerez go by.

In 1934, five years after the Gallo Azul was erected, the council held another competition for a signpost to stand outside. Pedro Domecq again submitted the winning idea which was a tall twin-faced clock which you can’t miss, resembling a lamp post fitted with signs and three lights. After Pernod Ricard took over Allied Domecq they sold the Gallo Azul in 2008 to local man, Carmelo López who owns it to this day.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

18.10.15 Buyer found for Valdivia

A mercantile judge in Cádiz has accepted an offer for Bodegas Valdivia in Jerez from the Huelva bodega and cooperage company José y Miguel Martín SL based in Bollullos par del Condado. The business of seasoning rum and whisky butts is huge, estimated to total some 60,000 annually, and they are a leading firm in this trade. Glenfarclas is one of their customers. They had hoped to receive permission to use terms such as “Sherry cask” or “Oloroso cask” from the Patents Office but the Consejo Regulador put a stop to that as wine from Huelva is not Sherry.

Hotel Villa del Duque, Valdivia bodega in background (foto:diariodejerez)
The ex Nueva Rumasa complex sold as a (nearly) going concern, consists of three bodegas and the small Hotel Villa del Duque, and has been on the market for five years with just one employee to look after it. With the purchase Martín has acquired a registration with the Sherry Consejo. Naturally the new owners want to get started as soon as possible, and will take on a workforce, but not necessarily those who previously worked at the bodega. There is no mention so far of the price paid. An Israeli group made an offer of 3.3 million euros a year ago, but no more was heard from them. In any case the price paid will be a bargain, even though much of the stock and equipment has been sold off. It is thought that Nueva Rumasa originally paid 20 million euros.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Manzanilla Pasada Soluqua 15%, Bodegas Barón

Very pale for its age, strawy gold with light legs.
Lots of flor and seriously salty olive brine, yeasty and marine with the slightest suspicion of membrillo in there somewhere, bitter almonds and dried flowers, but overall zesty flor bitterness. Not much autolysis so pretty fresh and quite tight, but certainly appealing and quite complex.
Salty and seasidey on entry with a decent tang which matches the dank flor bitterness. Quite intense initially but really quite light. It could only be Manzanilla for its saltiness and dank flor, but it seems to be hiding its light under a bushel called "elegance". It does give more as it warms up though and has  terrific length. It is a lovely wine.
This is the firm's top Manzanilla which is around 10 years old. It is not cheap though, so the value for money question pops up. While it is excellent wine, typical Manzanilla, it is hard to credit its age, but then it has been at least lightly filtered, which is a shame as it will have lost some of those desirable characteristics of a Manzanilla Pasada.
€27 ex bodega. for UK price Morgenrot are the importers.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

15.10.15 Fino Imperial Best Generoso

Fino Imperial VORS from Diez Mérito has won the Best Vino Generoso in the “11 Magníficos” in the 2016 edition of the guide Vivir el Vino. A blind tasting panel chose the best 365 Spanish wines and the 11 Magníficos are the best in each of the eleven categories. The guide will be available next month. This magnificent Amontillado comes from a solera established in 1793.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Sherry Sales Figures January - August

Sales of Sherry are still subsiding except in Spain where they rose between January and August by 7% with a volume of over 8.3 million litres, more than the 500,000 litres increase of the previous year. This growth compensates partly for the drop in exports, some 2% down up till August at 21 million litres. The home market is the largest single market, up by the same margin as exports are down. 12.5 million litres were exported in January to August, almost 1 million less than in the same period last year.

The Consejo has discovered an error in its statistics, however, which will have to be corrected by the end of the year. It appears that some sales are being counted twice: as domestic and export sales. A considerable amount of wine produced by a reputable bodega for another thanks to an agreement between the two in which the first records production of the wine and the second that of the brandies. Without yet knowing the precise amount of wine involved, the sales statistics are prolonging the agony in traditional markets, in particular Britain which is down 4% with a volume of 4.2 million litres.

Holland is the second largest export market, up 2.15% at over 4.1 million litres, catching up with Britain, but Germany has dropped 18.5% to only 1.6 million litres. So far this year Jerez has exported 11,359,071 litres to Europe, a drop of 7.33%, with exports to the rest of the world of just over 1.3 million litres, of which the Americas took 1.2 and Asia 166,000. The Americas are down 6.7% despite a slight increase in the USA which took 866,000 litres. Japan grew 20% but from a small base taking 110,000 litres.

The annual figures from September 2014 to August 2015 show an overall drop of 3% with just over 36.2 million litres sold. Spain has taken over definitively from Britain as the biggest market with 12 million litres, up 4.1% last year as against the 10 million litres exported to the UK, a drop of just over 5%. The drop in exports for this period was 6.3% with Europe with most of the traditional markets down 7%. The Americas grew by 0.26% thanks to an increase in the US of 6.6% or 1.5 million litres while Asia is down 7.4%.

Sales Figures by Type

For the period January to August Fino remains the best seller at 5.1 million litres, a drop of 2.1% while Medium is just ahead of Manzanilla, both at about 5 million litres but Medium has grown 1.44% while Manzanilla has dropped 3.36%. For the last year, September to August, Medium has gained volume to 8.2 million litres, down 1% while Fino has dropped 4.55% to about 8 million litres. Manzanilla, now in 4th place with 7 less than million litres down 2.73%, has given way to Cream with 7.7 million litres, up 1.25%.

By market, although Manzanilla is still ahead in Spain with January to August figures of 4.8 million litres – down 3% - or 6.3 million litres in the last year – down 2.5%, Fino is catching up with 1.8 million litres January to August – up 14.36% - and 2.6 million litres in the last year, up 7.8%. It could be that sales of Manzanilla are being held back by the bag in box business. In regard to exports Medium leads the way with 7.7 million litres in the last year (-5.54%) followed by Cream at 6.6 million litres (-0.4%), Fino 5.4 million litres (-9.64%), Pale Cream 2.5 million litres (-4.74%) and Manzanilla at just over 630,000 litres (-5%).

We all need to do more!!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Amontillado El Carro Single Cask 18.5%, Lustau

Quite deep browny amber with coppery highlights fading to gold with a slight trace of green at the rim, legs.
Rich and full and complex with notes of honey glazed toasted almond, turrón yema tostada and slightly spicy notes of cinnamon, vanilla pod, oak and cedar. There are all sorts of nuances both sweet and phenolic such as burnt wood, bitter orange peel and caramel, and to round it off there is a noticeable glyceric sweetness which gives a winning charm.
Full bodied and opening out to a very toasted almond/hazelnut in fruitcake with caramel character. It has a lot of texture and the sweet glyceric side of the wine almost obscures its more phenolic side, where there is a little tannin. A very long dry finish  never loses that balance and charm. A Serious wine yet a charming one, for sipping of an evening.
Using the word "cask" rather than "butt" could Lustau be taking a cue from the Whisky industry? Probably not, but it doesn't matter as this is still a really good idea, and extremely good wine. Starting in 1995 Lustau, who have long bottled and marketed Almacenista wines, decided to bottle the wine of exceptionally fine individual butts of Almacenista Sherry which would otherwise have been lost in the final blend. Being a single butt from a small solera, each release is limited to 600 bottles, and there can be no more of that particular wine.

As to age it is hard to say but this is not a young wine, maybe around 20 years. From time to time the bodega offers a range of these single cask wines: Fino Amontillado, Amontillado Fino, Manzanilla Amontillada, Amontillado Viejo, Palo Cortado, Oloroso Seco, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez, but they are not always available. El Carro, by the way, means the cart, the sort of ox cart used formerly to transport butts - or perhaps casks - of mosto or Sherry.
€ 51.85 per 75cl bottle in Spain. Limited availability obviously. Try the internet.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

10.10.15 BIB Producers Seek Support from the Junta; V Most Wine Film Festival

After being refused authorisation for BIB at the last plenary of the Consejo Regulador, the Asociación de Vinateros de Sanlúcar which embraces a dozen small bodegas and which in this matter counts on the support of some Fedejerez members: Hidalgo La Gitana, La Cigarrera, Jose Luís Barrera (Sanchez Ayala) and Juan Piñero, is seeking the support of the Junta and other official bodies.

Some think they should go to the Competition authority which not so long ago imposed heavy fines on many bodegas and the Consejo for what it saw as discriminatory sales quotas, a Buyer’s Own Brand cartel and grape price fixing, but which was compelled to reduce them considerably. Most however believe that the way forward is debate and conciliation rather than more drastic measures which could have serious repercussions for Sherry as a whole.

Despite the consistent refusal of Fedejerez and the Consejo to allow what they see as fraudulent and illegal, the Manzanilleros say that it satisfies a growing demand especially from the catering sector which views it as convenient and more hygienic than re-fillable garrafas, which themselves are a target of Fedejerez. José Carlos Garrido, spokesman for the Manzanilleros, says that authorising the use of BIB does not imply the end of the bottle, but rather taking advantage of a niche in the market which could increase sales. It is not about a war between Sanlúcar and Jerez, it is about sitting down and talking with an open mind about opportunities.

The V Edition of the Most Festival, an international festival of films about wine, many not commercially released, runs 5-15 November. It takes place in the Penedés, a reference point for wine production in Cataluña, but Jerez will be strongly featured in the wonderful film El Misterio del Palo Cortado which will be accompanied by two Jerezanos: José Luís Jiménez, academic and president of the Cine Club de Jerez and Antonio Flores, chief oenologist at González Byass. If you are in the area, don’t miss this really interesting festival, and you can explore the Penedés vineyards and bodegas as well!

Friday, 9 October 2015

9.10.15 Today Anniversary of Jerez Liberation

751 years to the day have passed since the Battle of Jerez and its re-capture from the Moors by King Alfonso X “El Sabio” (the wise) and his knights from Castilla. They built the Church of San Marcos to celebrate. The Moors had been in possession of the city since 711 when Tariq Ibn Ziyad and 7,000 men took much of Spain from the Vandals. The word Andalucía derives from the Arabic “Al Andalus” meaning the kingdom of the Vandals. The Moorish defeat in the battle left them with the Caliphate of Granada as their only remaining possession, which was lost to El Cid’s forces backed by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.

Alfonso kitted out for battle (foto:drinksbusiness)
Alfonso was grateful to his knights granting forty of the bravest six “aranzadas” (@3 hectares) of land on which they planted vines. One of them was Fernán Yañez Palomino who would give his name to the Sherry grape, another was Alonso Valdespino. During the Moorish occupation wine had not been encouraged as it is forbidden in the Koran, but vineyards survived for the Arab love of pasas (raisins), and certainly some Emirs looked the other way. At this time distillation was introduced but more for the purposes of alchemy in search of cures and perfumes. We all owe a large debt to Alfonso for liberating Jerez and encouraging its vineyards. He certainly was wise.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

8.10.15 Four Sherry Bodegas in World’s 100 Best

Wine & Spirits magazine’s tasting panel which consists of some world experts has completed its 12th ranking of the 100 best wineries in the world. The respected American publication has worked its way through 15,000 samples from around the world to evaluate the best producers and has included four Sherry bodegas. They are González Byass, Tradición, Lustau and Valdespino. There will be a tasting in San Francisco of wines from the top 100 wineries along with an interesting array of food in a couple of weeks' time, on the 20th October to be precise.

Last year's tasting on a balcony overlooking Yerba Buena Park (foto:wineandspiritmagazine)

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

What is Manifiesto 119?

This communist-sounding title is that of a group of winemakers and bodegueros from Jerez, El Puerto, Sanlúcar and Chiclana, all with very inquiring minds. They have got together to do what they can to raise the profile of the wines of Cádiz by recuperating old vine varieties from the XIX century, making unfortified Sherry and giving more importance to grape cultivation in the vineyards. The title refers to the 119 grape varieties recorded in Andalucía by the eminent botanist and ampelographer Simón Rojas Clemente, who in the early XIX century noted 40 in Cádiz alone, as well as drawing a viticultural map of Andalucía.

On the 20th September last, the group celebrated their first public get-together at the legendary Er Guerrita in Sanlúcar where they offered a tasting of their wines and explained their plans. Members of the illustrious group are: flying winemaker Ramiro Ibáñez, Guillermo (Willy) Pérez of bodegas Luís Pérez, Armando Guerra of Er Guerrita, Primitivo Collantes owner of the eponymous bodega, growers and winemakers Rocío Áspera and Alejandro Narváez who run Bodegas Forlong and Francisco and José Blanco of Viña La Callejuela. They are not the only people experimenting and other inquiring minds are welcome to join them.

The group tasting at Er Guerrita (foto:cosasdecomer)
Primitivo Collantes has already planted 1,700 vines of the old variety Rey or Mantúo in Chiclana. Other old grapes being revived are the Perruna and the red Tintilla. The group feels that the Palomino itself could do better with more care in the vineyard and attention to the terroir. For the tasting Ramiro brought his Pitijopos (I think it means dragonflies), six different wines all from 2014 and all Palomino, but from different vineyards. Callejuela brought their 2012 vintage Manzanilla en rama. The group would like to see the recuperation of the casas de viña as this would help with vineyard work and offer a cultural and tourist attraction.

Unfortified Sherry is another of their ideas. Willy Pérez has already been experimenting and has shown it is perfectly possible by simply keeping an eye on the ripening of the grapes and what happens in the bodega. His wines are coming along nicely. The group plans to hold regular meetings to exchange ideas and keep coming up with new ones, and to work with anyone to restore the wine to its rightful place.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Manzanilla Aurora 15%, Pedro Romero

Pale strawy gold with very light legs.
Quite full with an attractive slightly savoury hint from autolysis. Lots of bread dough, flor and a trace of wood with a distinct dampness and strong briny maritime aroma. Complex and attractive with a classic Sanlucar character.
Full, assertive, multifaceted and serious, lots of flor bitterness still with that autolytic note. Very briny and quite saline with lots of character and excellent length. Delicious - real Manzanilla.
Launched in 1907 the brand was named by Pedro Romero in honour of his wife Aurora Ambrosse y Lacave whose portrait is on the back label. She assumed control of the bodega after his death in 1911, later leaving it to her sons. It was initially a Manzanilla pasada, but is now simply labelled as a Manzanilla though it is about 9 years old and certainly has some pasada characteristics, and there is an en rama version. The solera has 7 criaderas and the bodega is in the Barrio Bajo area of Sanlucar and one of the closest to the estuary of the Guadalquivir with all the concomitant fresh sea air. The bodega is currently in receivership which is a terrible shame as its wines are such classics.
About 7 Euros in Spain, in Britain try Robert Anthony Wines

Monday, 5 October 2015

Types of Sherry: En Rama Wines

En Rama wines are an absolute joy. The term means that a wine has been subjected to less “stabilisation” than usual, and thus is a closer representation of the wine as it was in barrel in the bodega: in its most natural state. It translates as "on the branch" i.e. still raw, and tends to be applied to Finos and Manzanillas – though not exclusively - which require the removal of flor yeast and any tartrate crystals before bottling as they can appear undesirable in the glass, and there is a (slight) risk of flor growing again in bottle, as well as potential bottle variability.

Barbadillo were probably the first to launch en rama wines back in 1999, and after trying to bottle direct from the butt they encountered flor problems, so now they fine with egg white and use a gentle filtration so as remove the absolute minimum. This is the general practice now, and most producers recommend the wine be drunk within a few months to be sure it is at its best. This certainly ensures it is as close as possible to how it left the butt, but ignores the fact that Sherry, like all wines, can develop spectacularly in bottle, particularly Fino and Manzanilla. It is always best to buy two or more en rama wines so you can drink one and compare the others with another saca: If one has developed a bit in bottle, so much the better. Many Sherry aficionados keep them for quite a long time.

Many finos and Manzanillas were, until some 30 years ago sold not only older and – at least for export - often fortified to 17% (not the current 15%) but also stabilised less intensely. The higher strength ensured there would be no risk of bottle fermentation caused by any yeast. Times have changed, however, and to extend shelf life and accommodate the (unfathomable) fashion for lighter styles, further cleaning up of the wines was deemed necessary. Some well-known Manzanilla brands, for example, used to be sold as Manzanilla Pasada, but are now called Manzanilla Fina, being not only younger but more stabilised, and less intense than their former selves.

So what is “stabilisation”, and how is it done? Wines are “cleaned” in two ways: fining and filtration. Fining involves the addition of certain substances which spread out over the wine’s surface and slowly settle at the bottom having collected any colloids on the way. The clean wine is then separated off. These fining agents are many and harmless, and include bentonite (a fine clay), casein (a form of milk protein), gelatin, egg white, isinglass (derived from sturgeon swim bladders, but now synthesised) or silica. Their effect is largely to do with the positive to negative charge and their weight versus that of the colloids, and different agents do different jobs depending on the type of colloids. Fining is almost as old as wine itself and it is also widely used in beer.

Filtration is a physical barrier to colloids over a certain size: the sieve effect. It is not only quicker, but more thorough – depending on the circumstances. Nowadays most filters are small sheets made from cellulose which, depending on specification (say 0.45 microns), can remove yeast, bacteria and even the colour of a wine. They do have a tendency to clog, however, and now the newer and more easily cleaned cross-flow filtration equipment is often employed. One micron is normal for en rama. Sometimes activated charcoal is used, which again can even remove colour.

Another widely used modern technique is chill filtration or cold stabilisation. The temperature of a large tank containing the wine in question is dropped to around 6-7C and held there till the tartaric acid starts to crystallise and precipitate, and the wine is then run off. This acid is natural in grapes and is perfectly harmless, but if consumers see it in a bottle they think it is glass. Both filtration and fining are almost universal practice, and a positive thing - with judicious use. The Consejo Regulador has been trying to get agreement among the bodegas for a precise definition of en rama wines, but so far without success.

However a wine is “stabilised” a certain amount of character is inevitably removed, so over the last 15 years or so Sherry producers have been looking at minimal stabilisation to increase flavour. A cynic might say that they are merely giving us back the wines they took away years ago, now re-named “en rama”. The filtered wines were a marketing success, and so now are the en ramas. Two for the price of one! But then there are still the age differences: the en ramas are still generally younger than the pasadas of the past which are now sold in limited quantities at higher prices. In fairness they were responding, like everyone else, to the market which can be very fickle.

The en rama wines are generally bottled in the spring and autumn when the flor is at its thickest and less likely to be damaged. It is worth remembering that many wines bottled en rama are not exactly the same as their filtered counterparts. They are often special sacas chosen to be more interesting. Many oxidatively aged wines are also bottled with minimal filtration and in the cooler seasons which allow natural decantation to take place in the barrel but they rarely say so on the label: it is less important as there is no flor concerned. So look out for the en rama wines, they are full of character, extremely expressive and utterly delicious!

Bodegas or bottlers which produce en rama wines:

Alexander Jules: All wines are en rama
Antonio Barbadillo Mateos: Manzanilla Sacrisitia AB, varies, about 2 sacas a year
Barbadillo: Manzanilla Solear, 4 sacas each year, spring summer autumn and winter
Barón: Manzanilla Pasada Xixarito
Delgado Zuleta: Manzanilla Pasada Goya XL
Elías González Guzmán: Manzanilla de la Casa
Emilio Hidalgo: La Panesa
Equipo Navazos: all wines are en rama
Faustino González: all wines
Fernando de Castilla: Fino en rama, also Antique range (en rama but not stated on label)
González Byass: Tio Pepe en rama and the Palmas range
Gutiérrez Colosía: Fino en Rama
Hidalgo La Gitana: La Gitana en rama
La Guita: La Guita en rama
Lustau: Tres en Rama range: 3 wines, 1 each from Sanlúcar, El Puerto and Jerez
Maestro Sierra: All wines
Pedro Romero: Manzanilla Aurora en Rama
Sanchez Ayala: Gabriela Oro
Sánchez Romate: Fino Perdido, Amontillado Olvidado
Tradición: All wines
Urium: Fino and Manzanilla Pasada
Valdespino: Manzanilla Deliciosa en rama, usually more than one annual saca
Vina La Callejuela: Manzanilla de anada 2012
Williams & Humbert: Fino Añada 2006 (and successive vintages)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Some Interesting Anecdotes Related to Sherry

* The founder of González Byass, Manuel María González Ángel, was a sickly lad but determined to make the most of what the doctors thought would be a short life. One of his first business ventures in which he had invested all he had - and more - was a disaster: he sent a cargo of potatoes from Huelva to Cádiz, but the ship sank. His mother, María del Rosario Ángel, was nothing if not resourceful and she was not going to let the mere sinking of a ship stand in his way. She quickly took charge of the situation with a bucket of seawater and some potatoes to check if they would float. They did, so mother and son hired a little fishing boat and using its nets managed to recover three quarters of the lost potatoes from the bay of Cádiz.

Pedro's Penny Farthing preserved in the bodegas (foto:jerezsiempre)
* Manuel María’s son Pedro was a great sportsman and imported a penny farthing velocipede from Birmingham, which can still be seen in the bodegas. One day one of his friends, Pedro Manjón, received a letter from him saying “Please forgive me, a few days ago I saw you in the street and I didn’t stop to chat. It was because when I get off the velocipede I am quite unable to get up again, and I hate making a fool of myself.”

* Julián Pemartín was a highly successful bodeguero, but an even greater spendthrift. He spent a fortune building the palatial house “Las Cadenas” which is now home to the Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre. The balls and receptions held there were of legendary extravagance and guests included all the nobility, even the king. On one occasion Pemartín asked the King, Alfonso XII, if there was anything his majesty found wanting. The King replied that there was all a King could desire. Pemartín replied “Your majesty is mistaken, one thing is missing: a rope to hang myself with, for I am a ruined man.” In 1878 he went spectacularly bust and Sandeman, his main creditor, took over the firm.
Recdreo Las Cadenas (

* Manzanilla is a word with more than one meaning. Outside Cádiz it can be camomile and it is also a variety of Olive. There is a story about a leading Sherry shipper who sent a small barrel of Manzanilla olives in brine as a present to one of his better customers. The customer seemed to misunderstand the gift, however, and complained that the wine tasted strongly of salt and was full of floating foreign bodies.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Oloroso Añada 2001 20.5%, Williams & Humbert

Quite pale, gold flecked amber fading to yellow at rim, pronounced legs.
Delightful nose, young, vibrant and quite intense, like walnut bread baking in a carpenter's workshop, sawn exotic woods, linseed oil lots of nuts: almond and hazel, slight hints of pork crackling and bitter orange marmalade peel with a glyceric sweetness. This is a wine in a comparatively early stage of oxidation, given that it was in a sealed butt and it is as fresh as a daisy if not exactly weak in alcohol. For a complex wine it has a remarkably easy-going nature.
Starts big yet mellows and shows off the remarkable complexity it has for its age. Broadly similar to the nose: freshness, woodiness but without the tannin, a trace of cinnamon, nutty, a hint of orange, long, dynamic, lively, a young genius setting out into the world. What a lovely, interesting wine!
This is a slightly unusual Vintage from W&H having been released in April 2015 at just 13 years old, (though there was a 2001 released in 2013) a much younger age than usual, but then they are released when deemed ready and their age does vary, as does the price. For example the 1975 (Amontillado) was released at 25 years old and the 1982 (Oloroso) at 18 years old, or at least some was. It should be borne in mind that the bodega releases more than one saca of the same vintage. They make 50 butts a year, so there will be various Olorosos of a given year. Any of them, however, would handsomely repay many years' further ageing in bottle, especially the younger ones. Following the very early (then) harvest of 2000, the 2001 was a very good year - throughout Spain in fact. Some of the añada wines are released labelled as a single cask.
€ 36.30 Limited availability naturally. Best to try and secure it online.