Friday 30 December 2016

Candela Cream 18%, Bodegas Lustau

Paler than many Creams, deep honeyed amber with coppery highlights, legs.
Plenty of Oloroso with background notes of walnut and pasas, even autumn leaves and honey, not over intense but subtle and elegant, perhaps fairly young.
Sweet but with a gentle balancing acidity, light, clean and fresh with an appealing texture. There is a slight rolling tobacco note along with hints of slightly honeyed raisins and a certain nuttiness and good length.
In 2008 Lustau purchased the brands and soleras of the Domecq La Ina range of Fino La Ina, PX Viña 25, Oloroso Rio Viejo and Amontillado Botaina, but the range lacked a Cream and the firm's oenologist, Manuel Lozano, was charged with producing one. Candela was launched in September 2010 and in December won gold at the Concurso Internacional de Vinos de España.
Around 8 euros from Licores Corredera

Thursday 29 December 2016

Amontillado Piñero VORS 19%, Juan Piñero

Deep amber with golden highlights and a faint trace of green at the rim, legs.
Fragrant and intense with a distinct salty maritime note with lots of salted almond balanced by sweeter notes of hazelnut, toasted caramel and hints of cabinet maker's workshop and bakery. A serious and complex nose but very beautiful.
Super elegant at the start with that attractive Amontillado implied nutty sweetness then the amazingly delicate structure comes through, round and balanced despite traces of tannin which are completely contained. That salinity is still there giving an almost sweet and sour effect which really stimulates the palate, and keeps doing so for ages.
This superb old Sanlúcar wine is between 35 and 40 years old and comes from a solera with 4 criaderas and was bottled as recently as August. It scored a worthy 92 points from Parker. It is a classic example of  Sanlúcar Amontillado which has a lightness of touch, an attractive salty - almost iodiney - maritime character which gives the wines a slightly crisper, nervier edge than that of Jerez, and there could be no doubt that this is simply very old and very well cared-for Manzanilla.
30.15 euros per 50cl bottle from Licores Corredera

Wednesday 28 December 2016

28.12.16 González Byass Joins Wineries for Climate Protection

GB has reinforced its environmental credentials by receiving WCP certification for sustainability. GB is the first in Jerez and among the first eight in Spain to receive this certification, though the firm has long been concerned for the environment with its own 5+5 policy and previous contributions to the protection of the Coto Doñana.

WCP was born in 2011 out of the worries of various institutions and bodegas about the need to act in the face of climate change. WCP offers the first winery specific certification of environmental sustainability once a winery has met various criteria which include reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, water management, waste reduction, energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. The certification is aligned with the Europe 2020 strategy and was established by the Federación Española del Vino (FEV) backed by the Asociación Española de Normalización (AENOR), a standardisation and certification organisation. If only more wineries would join up.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

27.12.16 UK “Save Santa’s Sherry” Campaign

In the run up to Christmas the Wine and Spirit Association has been running promotional campaigns in support of fortified wines whose UK sales have been plummeting. Along with the Sherry campaign, there were also “Keep Passing the Port” and “Value Vermouth”. Over half of annual UK sales of fortified wine are made in December, so these campaigns have been carefully timed. The figures are extremely depressing and most of the blame lies with excessive taxation.

In 2005 UK sales of Sherry were over 22 million bottles while in 2015 they had fallen to barely 10 million bottles, while the fortified sector as a whole has seen sales fall by 35%. At the same time steady increases in excise duty (53%) left Sherry at the point where 59% of the cost of an average bottle was tax. Half of Europe pays no excise duty at all, only VAT.

The UK Treasury operates an outdated and unfair taxation regime which particularly hurts fortified wines, and this not only penalises the consumer but also employment. Some 270,000 people are employed directly or indirectly by the UK wine trade which generates some £17.3 billion in economic activity. It has been proven that every tax increase brings with it a commensurate drop in Exchequer receipts, yet the Government seems incapable of leaving excise duty alone. Let us all hope these campaigns bear some sort of fruit. At least Sherry is still outstanding value for money.

Monday 26 December 2016

26.12.16 Bodegas Produce Sherry for Charity

Under the name “Capelo Selección” González Byass, Williams & Humbert and Grupo Caballero have launched a limited edition range of Sherries to raise money for religious charities. The idea came from a Jerez priest, Miguel Ángel Montero, in 2007, and working with Grupo Estévez oenologist, Maribel Estévez they sold 1,717 half bottles of sweet wine under the “Pelicano” brand. Later, in order to make the wine more attractive to purchasers and to promote Sherry, Montero changed the name to Capelo Selección and got more bodegas involved.

Now, GB are offering a 20 year old Palo Cortado medium (90% 12 year old PC and 10% 12 year old PX blended and further aged in solera) available for the first time. W&H are offering Canasta Cream and Caballero are offering Lustau Vermouth and also a special edition of Miura, a liqueur made from cherries steeped in anís. All the labels bear the Capelo logo.

An Interview with Francisco Yuste

This interview by Á Espejo appeared in today’s Diario de Jerez

Sanlúcar businessman Francisco Yuste made his fortune over long years in the distribution business as provincial agent for Pepsi Cola and Estrella Galicia beer as well as Barbadillo and Delgado Zuleta. He started out in the bodega business as an almacenista in the early 1990s inspired by a fascination for the world of wine. After the recent purchase of Bodegas Argüeso he has now accumulated stocks of some 8,000 butts, much of which is destined to be bulk Manzanilla, for which he is a defender of the BIB as against the “obsolete” reusable glass garrafa. After the court suspended the use of BIB, Yuste says he is not especially bothered by it, though he does say that it will never be possible to get rid of bulk wine for the tabancos - which he believes is the hidden agenda of the Consejo - as it runs against a deeply rooted tradition of the people.

He is convinced that Sherry has a bright future; in fact he thinks it has the brightest future of all wines as it is still a great unknown, but once it is properly discovered there won’t be enough mosto to supply the demand. This bodeguero from Sanlúcar keeps in touch with bodegas elsewhere, among them a bodega with the highest volume sales in Europe which is interested in investing in the Sherry zone in some way, and Yuste says the signing of contracts is just a matter of time.

It was inevitable I should ask you this: what is the solution to the BIB affair?
(He roars with laughter). Honestly I don’t like talking about it. I might appear to be a supporter of it, but I am not really bothered. I put the glass bottle first, and in fact I am innovating with it. The BIB is merely a medium of transport to get the wine from the bodega to the tabanco. It has to get there somehow, and if we can’t use BIB we’ll have to transport it like gas: in pipes!

What is behind the BIB controversy?
What is behind it is that they want to do away with bulk wine, something which will never happen as it is rooted in the people. It is a tradition and they will never ever be able to get rid of it. Anyway, it would be stupid as what needs to be done is to promote it in the tabancos where the young people go, and it is them whom we need to attract to our wines. That’s the way forward.

There is certainly a resurgence of interest in Sherry but no resurgence in its price.
This is the bodegas’ problem. We don’t know how to sell the wines at the price they merit. Sherry and Manzanilla have huge amounts of costly space dedicated to butts and all the other pertinences which other wines don’t have. But while these young wines sell at eleven or twelve euros, we are selling at the ridiculous price of below two euros, and in some cases below one. This is our problem; if we don’t sell at above six euros we will be ruined. We need to add value to the wine, not reduce the period of crianza to sell it younger, or bottle anything that is not Manzanilla. We must give status to our wine aiming for quality and a realistic price.

What would you say about bottling something that is not Manzanilla?
I don’t know what it is that some people are selling, but the sums are simple. If a bottle of Manzanilla is selling for below one euro, and one takes into account the cost of the bottle, the seal, the label, and then the tax and the distributor’s share, there can’t be any room for profit. So I don’t know what could be in the bottle, but even if it were water, it would not be profitable. Yuste has stopped selling to ferias and certain other customers because the price they wanted was too low. We want to give caché to our wines, and it can’t be done at those prices.

The BIB doesn’t seem to have helped prices.
The contents of the BIB are the genuine article, the same as has always been sold to the tabancos in bulk. We, and I am speaking for Yuste, are selling this wine for over three euros per litre while a bottle, in some cases, is selling for less than one euro. It would be interesting to do a comparative blind tasting. At the end of the day it is the customer who rules, and the BIB is in growing demand.

Why has the BIB affair been shut down?
Because of the commercial interests of some bodegas who want more of a niche market, but that won’t achieve anything. We have to aim for quality, sell more, know how to sell and not be distracted by these battles. It is not normal to waste so much time on such matters when what we should be doing is improving quality, which is what the Consejo should be looking at, so that we can sell a better product at a better price.

Now it is the BIB affair and before it was the Fino and Manzanilla affair. Are Jerez and Sanlúcar doomed to confrontation?
It is not a battle between Jerez and Sanlúcar but a battle between the big bodegas. The Fino and Manzanilla affair was a battle between Barbadillo and Estévez, and the BIB affair was a battle between the bodegas of Sanlúcar and the same big bodega in Jerez which is involved in all the battles because it wants to corner the market in everything.

But the demands of Fedejerez represent the majority of the bodegas, not just one.
There are many big bodegas in Jerez which don’t care much about the BIB affair and there were Manzanilla producers who didn’t care much about the Fino and Manzanilla affair. But we had to react because we understood that they were taking away a patrimony which was ours as well: Fino. It can be made anywhere in the area, while Manzanilla can only be made in Sanlúcar, yet some bodegas only make Fino. It is a question of biological or oxidative ageing. If the wine loses its flor at any time, then it is Fino, and if it doesn’t then it is Manzanilla. Everybody knows that, and it’s the same with the BIB affair; bulk wine is a long established tradition and the BIB is a more hygenic means of transport than the garrafa.

You entered the wine trade out of romance, but after your latest acquisitions (Argüeso and Pedro Romero) it could no longer be considered as just a hobby.
We are now the third or fourth largest bodega in Sanlúcar, although it is true that I entered the trade because I had always loved the world of Manzanilla. I started by selling it and my great dream was to live in a bodega, something I achieved when I bought the old bodega where the Pérez Marín family (former proprietors of La Guita) lived, a house with its own bodega. When other bodegas came up for sale I was unable to resist buying them because of my love for the world of Manzanilla.

Behind the buying fever there was a sentimental undertone.
Honestly it is a terrible shame that for a long time we have been losing our patrimony of bodegas in Sanlúcar, something which belongs to us all. I have bought a lot of wine and brand names from bodegas which were closing down or not doing well, such as Los 48, Sainz de Baranda, Carbajo, Valdespino in Sanlúcar, Pedro Romero….

Will Yuste continue growing?
For now, Yuste needs to consolidate what it has already, but should anything come up, some investment or other, I would look at it seriously, and I would like to buy something one day in Jerez. I would love to have a bodega there because I love the place. When I go there I feel transported to another time; that is the magic of Jerez.

Have you checked out any bodegas for sale in Jerez?
We have looked at a lot in Jerez but so far no suitable investment has cropped up.

Are you thinking of something substantial?
I would like something with a name, a reputation, a history, because when you sell Sherry you are selling history.

If I granted you a wish, what would it be?
The first thing would be to change the Consejo (more laughter). Representation there is not all it could be because the big bodegas dominate and look out for their own interests. But I don’t want to speak too loudly about that because every time I do I get an inspection!

Since it is Christmas I’ll grant you two more wishes.
Another wish would be that the grapes fetched the price they deserve. When I bought the vineyard they fetched 100 pesetas (0.60 euros) /kilo and now they only fetch 60 (0.36 euros) at a push. Obviously without grapes the will be no mosto and without that there will be no wine. My third wish would be that public institutions would help with the upkeep of the bodega heritage. We can go so far, but we need help.

One last wish, but not connected with wine.
I would improve the situation in Sanlúcar. It desperately needs industrial infrastructure as it has the most unemployment and poverty in Spain. This is often stated, but no investment ever materialises. The government should be helping to attract industry to the places which most need it, and Sanlúcar certainly needs it.

Sunday 25 December 2016

A Very Happy Christmas to All Sherry Lovers!

I hope you will all be enjoying a bottle of really good Sherry among friends and family this Christmas. After all, it is a very civilised wine which will match any Christmas feast.

But girls –for heaven’s sake don’t overdo it – this is what happened to a woman in Edinburgh:

After various bids from men like a highland drover (who took sheep and cattle to market), a pig jobber (a dealer in pigs), a brogue maker (maker of a particular kind of strong shoe) and a jack tar (a sailor), a farmer secured her purchase for two pounds and five shillings, but not before violence had erupted, with many women furious that a man could sell his wife. After the police had intervened, Mary rode off with the farmer on his horse. She should have stuck to a civilised glass of Sherry.

Saturday 24 December 2016

La Bota de Palo Cortado 62 21.5%, Equipo Navazos

Deep,fairly dark transparent amber with distinct copper tones and a touch of green at the rim, legs.
Intensely fragrant; you know at once that this is an old wine as all its nuances have developed into a serious bouquet, but one can still pick out toasted almonds autumn leaves, old polished furniture, tobacco and traces of oak. It keeps on giving and is incredibly well balanced and refined, with an attractive slight nutty sweetness which rounds off the intensity beautifully.
Intense and extremely complex on entry and that initial impact spreads round the palate stimulating every nerve. It is dry but not quite as tannic as one might have expected for its age but it certainly has grip, enough to give the wine terrific length and texture yet not enough to obscure its charm. It leaves an almost everlasting sensation of  nuts and barrels and a strong desire for another glass. Superb.
The label includes the words "Diez años despues..." meaning "ten years on...", this being a 10th anniversary release and the first ever from Chiclana, which is in the production but not the ageing zone and thus not DO. Had it been aged in a Sherry town it would certainly be DO - it is of supreme quality. Anyway it is from the approximately 200 year old bodega of Manuel Aragón. The wine is from a single "bota no" in Aragon's bodega Campano which had been sitting around for 50 or 60 years without any topping up and had naturally lost much volume to evaporation, in fact there were barely 300 litres left. The whole butt was bottled, so this wine can never be repeated, and only a little was put on the market. This ultimate contemplation wine scored 98 Parker points. Incidentally Equipo Navazos also bottled an ancient Oloroso from this bodega at the same time (La Bota 63) which scored 99 Parker points. What better wines to celebrate a decade of Equipo Navazos and just how much they have done for Sherry - and for those who love it.
80 euros per 50cl bottle from Er Guerrita

Friday 23 December 2016

23.12.16 Williams & Humbert Launch Canasta 20 Years Old VOS

Canasta is the leading Cream Sherry brand in the Spanish market and now there is a special version. The normal Canasta is made from grapes from Balbaina and Carrascal. The resulting wines are then blended and aged as a blend in solera for over 6 years. The new VOS is simply the same wine but aged for a minimum of 20 years and bottled en rama. The recommended retail price for Spain is 25 euros. The 50cl bottle is in the same style as the other W&H VOS and VORS wines and while the presentation has been simplified it is very stylish and elegant. There are very few old Cream Sherries around, so this one is well worth seeking out.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Rich Old Oloroso Royal Corregidor VOS 20%, Sandeman

Very deep yet transparent blacky brown fading through oak gall ink to amber at the rim, legs.
There is a distinct aroma of age here with considerable depth and complexity. The nose is dry and serious with lots of old oak and walnuts and even a hint of spice, yet traces of fruit and cinder toffee from the PX. There is even the slightest trace of licorice. Such complexity can only come from very old soleras, and indeed they are.
The first material sign of sweetness starts here with old PX richness but the wine is a good bit less sweet than a Cream. The PX is probably there to balance out any astringency from the very old Oloroso, and there is certainly not much astringency now; rather a hint of very slightly burned fruit cake, a delightful texture and almost interminable length.
This complex "Rich Old Oloroso" comes from a very old Oloroso solera bought from Antonio Bernardo Quirós as part of an 800 butt purchase of Oloroso in 1894. According to Jan Read the solera has 14 scales.  The Oloroso is blended with a little old Pedro Ximenez (10%) from the Royal Ambrosante solera which is also sold separately as a VOS. This gives the wine an attractive depth, richness and fruitiness without being over sweet; in fact it contains 90g/l sugars but, certainly on the nose, seems drier. It is named after the Royal Corregidor vineyard which Sandeman owned for some time, and the wine is released in limited sacas with numbered bottles.
22 euros per 50cl bottle from Licores Corredera

Wednesday 21 December 2016

21.12.16 Delgado Zuleta Release 2nd Saca of Entusiástico

Entusiástico is the first ever organic Manzanilla and has now spent three years under flor in its little solera in Sanlúcar consisting of butts previously used for Manzanilla La Goya. Both the wine and the fortifying alcohol are certified organic and the final product is bottled en rama. The grapes came from a one hectare plot in the Pago Burujena, owned and worked by Pepe Cabral, one of the founder members of Mostolé, a group of growers who produce small quantities of organic wine from their own vineyards.

According to José Federico Carvajal, commercial director of Delgado Zuleta, the wine is developing nicely and taking on some of the house style with more floral and yeasty notes yet retaining  a certain fruitiness as well, giving it freshness. The presentation has changed for this second saca with a new label illustrating a girl with flowers strolling in the countryside. Only 1,200 bottles have been released, so it will be hard to obtain, especially as DZ have received many pre-orders, but it can be purchased from the bodega and certain restaurants and shops in the Sanlúcar area.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Oloroso La Espuela 19%,José de Soto

Bright, fairly deep mahogany fading to amber at the rim, legs.
Open and generous with gentle texture and a variety of aromas including lots of walnut, oak, pipe tobacco, autumn leaves and traces of caramel and carpenter's workshop. There is a decent amount of complexity here for a wine of its price.
Mid to full bodied, dry and well rounded, classic Oloroso. There is a trace of volatile acidity which balances with a certain implied sweetness. Slight traces of cinnamon and orange work well with all those nuts and the result is a very easy going wine with real character.
This once great bodega, also known as Vinicola Soto, was established in 1771. It was taken over in 1989 by Nueva Rumasa and is now simply part of the Garvey complex, Complejo Bellavista, whose RE number appears on the label. The wine is produced at the Cerro Viejo winemaking complex out in the Macharnudo and is aged at Bellavista, and it represents excellent value for money. It comes from a solera established in 1870 and used to be sold at a greater age being labelled Oloroso Viejo. La Espuela translates as "the spur" and relates to the firm's trademark of a rider taking a glass of Sherry from a girl. The wine was bottled late 2013.
4.10 euros from Licores Corredera

Monday 19 December 2016


The word comes from Arabic into the Spanish “almacén”: a store or warehouse. An Almacenista, obviously, is one who runs it; a warehouse keeper. The words can be applied to the storage of anything, but in Jerez, why would you store anything other than Sherry?!

In the past, when Sherry was a much bigger business than now, there were many more producers, and only the big firms had international – or even national market penetration. The only market for small producers was other, bigger bodegas. It suited both parties well enough, however, as the big bodegas could concentrate on their markets and the small bodegas could avoid having to learn about marketing in other languages, and concentrate on making wine, with a virtually guaranteed market for it.

At one time there were over 130 Almacenistas, but as time went by, and they could see the value of marketing their own wines, some converted to shipping bodegas. Some of the big firms, meanwhile had been building stocks and no longer needed the Almacenistas. As Sherry sales slumped, some simply sold up.

Nowadays the Almacenistas are usually small family firms, who are connected directly or indirectly to the wine trade. They may be small vineyard holders who make their own wine, or they may be business people or just investors who, for the sheer love of Sherry buy wines in and operate small, often very high quality soleras of their own. The produce of these soleras has traditionally been sold to the shipping bodegas who used it to improve their soleras or for blending.

Few Sherry lovers ever got to taste these magnificent wines until Lustau’s MD, Rafael Balao, decided in 1981 to bottle and market them just as they were: the product of a single very small solera. It is worth noting that Lustau themselves began as Almacenistas. For the first time, the Almacenistas’ names were on labels, along with the very small number of butts in the solera. Lustau marketed wines from no fewer than 21 Almacenistas back in the 1980s, but currently from just 6 due to a change in the regulations mentioned later. These wines are necessarily expensive, but of such fine quality that they sell very well, being virtually the only examples of Almacenista wines commercially available.

Under the Reglamento – or rules – of the Consejo Regulador, there are three categories of Sherry producer:

Bodegas de Crianza y Expedición:
These are the shippers, bodegas who sometimes make and always age and market wine. Currently there are 42 of them, including all the big names and some cooperatives. They must be situated within the Zona de Crianza - that is in one of the three towns which form the Sherry Triangle where wines must be aged: Jerez, Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa María.

Bodegas de Crianza y Almacenado:
Bodegas who make and mature wine, including cooperatives and those Almacenistas with stock of less than 500 hectolitres and do not commercialise wine. They must be located in the Zona de Crianza and at the moment they number 9.

Bodegas de Producción:
These are bodegas and cooperatives located inside the production zone but outside the Zona de Crianza. They can sell bottled wine on the open market quoting its place of origin but without the Denominación de Origen Sherry. Currently there are eight of them.

Until 1996, bodegas with stock of less than 12,500 hectolitres were not granted a shipping licence but the Consejo changed the rules, reducing the minimum to 500 hectolitres (or 100 butts), allowing many small producers to bottle, commercialise and export their own wines, thus remaining “Almacenistas” and becoming Bodegas de Crianza y Expedición as well.  Most have no bottling or stabilisation equipment, so their wines are contract bottled.

Quite a few Almacenistas converted to shipping bodegas (albeit small ones) after 1996. One famous Almacenista, Pilar Aranda, the first bodega to join the Consejo in 1933, was bought out by Álvaro Domecq in 1998, and is now known as Bodegas Álvaro Domecq. The bodega no longer sells Almacenista wine, just very good Sherry. The bodega known as El Maestro Sierra, owned by Pilar Pla Pechovierto and her daughter María del Carmen Borrego Pla also once supplied Lustau with fine Oloroso (Viuda de Antonio Borrego), but now market their wines themselves. Another is Gaspar Florido founded in 1880 in Sanlúcar, and bought by Pedro Romero in 2007.

Almacenistas currently used by Lustau:

Manuel Cuevas Jurado (Sanlúcar) In 1950 Manuel Cuevas Jurado, who ran a wholesale grocery business and owned vineyards in Miraflores near Sanlucar bought a very small  bodega established in 1889 as Nuestra Senora del Pilar. Today his son Manuel Cuevas Galvez runs the business which consists of various soleras totalling over 2,000 butts, mostly Manzanilla of various ages. They supply Lustau with Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlúcar, over 7 years old (80 butts), and a rare and fantastic Manzanilla Amontillada de Sanlúcar (21 butts) of more than double that age.

Juan Antonio Garcia Jarana (Jerez) The owner of a very successful motorcycle dealership in Jerez, he started by buying a small bodega in 1979, where he makes very fine wines, many of which are used as gifts to friends and business associates. Lustau buy two of his wines: Amontillado de Jerez (51 butts), and Oloroso Pata de Gallina (38 butts). The bodega contains about 700 butts of Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso Viejo and very old PX.

José Luis González Obregón (El Puerto) This bodega was founded in 1935, markets its own wine brands and, since the 1950s has owned a bar in the actual bodega, and another nearby. Their food is famous. They currently supply Lustau with Fino del Puerto (143 butts), Amontillado del Puerto (10 butts) and Oloroso del Puerto (110 butts). {See separate post}

José de la Cuesta (El Puerto) La Cuesta was established in 1849. They took over the firm of John William Burdon, who died without issue, and in 1932 were bought by Bodegas Luis Caballero, who also, incidentally own Lustau. La Cuesta used to market their own brands, such as the Troubadour range, but these disappeared years ago. It would appear that their soleras are still being used as a sort of Almacenista supply to Lustau. Anyway, Lustau market a Fino del Puerto from a solera of 183 butts. {See separate post}

Miguel Montádez Florido (Jerez) Miguel is in fact, a pharmacist, but owns a small bodega behind his pharmacy from which he supplies Lustau with two wines: Amontillado de Jerez (30 butts) and an Amontillado Fino de Jerez (47 butts) which is exquisite.

Vides (Jerez) Established in 1958 by Tomás Domecq Rivero in the Barrio Santiago, this firm is now run by grandson Fernando León Manjón. They own the Esparto vineyard in Carrascal and make their own wine. They supply Lustau with a lovely Palo Cortado averaging 20 years old.

Rosario Benitez Giron (Jerez) Once supplied a 30 year old Amontillado (1/2)

Some other Almacenistas:

Ángel Zamorano (Jerez) Ángel, a businessman with interests in petrol stations, business management and horses, bought a small bodega in 1974, which now extends to some 700 butts. He has sold wine to Domecq and Lustau, and used the bodega to entertain family and business associates. He worries, however, that his children will not continue the bodega.

Ángel del Río (Sanlúcar) Ángel was studying chemical engineering abroad when his father died. He had been a winemaker selling mosto to bodegas. In around 1990, Ángel decided to become an Almacenista and bought a bodega right at the shore, next to the shipyards. It contains 1,139 butts, mostly of chestnut as he found oak hard to get and expensive. His wines are Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso. He is finding the current position very difficult and is thinking of opening a restaurant-bodega serving wine direct from the butt, or just selling up.

César Florido (Chipiona) Part Almacenista and part shipper, this old bodega (1890), is one of the three remaining of 83 in the heydays. It specialises in Moscatel, as is the local way. They sell it to Romate and Caballero among others, and market a range of styles under their own label. The Moscatel is lovely! {See separate post}

Gaspar Florido (Sanlúcar) Established in 1942, the bodega sold its wine from very old soleras to the trade. In 1997, the 4th generation, Eduardo Cotro Florido decided to bottle the wines, as he realised their enormous value. This he did with enormous confidence in his very old Amontillados and Olorosos. Being an Almacenista had condemned the bodega to obscurity, and he knew he’d have to use clever tactics. So he introduced a beautiful, very old Amontillado called 25GF which sold in limited quantities at an exorbitant price. It worked: the whole world took notice. The firm was bought out by Pedro Romero in 2007. {See separate post}

Cayetano del Pino (Jerez) This small firm was established in 1866 by Don Cayetano del Pino y Vázquez in the Plaza Cocheras, 3, where they were visited by King Alfonso XIII in 1904. They are now to be found at Plaza Silos, 3. While they are registered with the Consejo as bodegas de Crianza y Expedición, they are also still almacenistas. They currently offer a 15 year old Palo Cortado, a Palo Cortado Viejísimo at about 30 years old from a 5 butt solera, and the Fino Perdido 8 years old, all bottled by Sánchez Romate, but they make other wines. {See separate post}

Bodegas Arfe (Jerez) The original bodega dates from 1767 and contains some 200 butts and occasional small releases for a members-only Club Arfe. They have now released a superb Palo Cortado de la Cruz de 1767 for general sale, but in very small quantities.

Viña Callejuela (Sanlúcar) Famous for the first vintage Manzanilla {See separate post} and suppliers of mostos to Juan Pinero among others

Destiladores y Bodegueros (Jerez) Established in 1987 and the only almacenista with a cooperage, close to Fernando de Castilla.

José Alberto San Román (Jerez) Situated in the Viña Halcón in Balbaina. Some good wine.

José y Miguel Martín (Jerez) Have a lot of Oloroso and some is used for seasoning Whisky casks.

Mercedes Márquez Gómez e Hijos (Jerez) Small family bodega.

Bodega Santa Petronila (Jerez) Located in an old casa de viña in the Macharnudo surrounded by vines, this is probably the smallest bodega in Jerez. {see separate post}

Sunday 18 December 2016

Tosca Cerrada 2014 12,5%, Mario Rovira

Bright with some depth of colour and golden reflections, light legs.
This reeks of "terroir" with strong mineral and saline notes as well as apple - even a trace of cider - though it is not particularly fruity, and flor bitterness. It is forthcoming and fairly full with slight Manzanilla characteristics if not the alcohol. Really interesting.
Again quite full and assertive with the normal table wine acidity replaced by flor bitterness giving good balance and a fresh minerality. It is dry with a good clean finish, and not SO unlike an unfortified Manzanilla with traces of Palomino fruit, and with lots of flavour.
Mario Rovira Roldan is a dynamic young winemaker from Barcelona who fell in love with the Mencia grape in el Bierzo, where in 2010 he acquired 2.5 hectares of old vines and built a reputation as Bodegas Akilia. He is working on Palomino in Bierzo and makes a blend of it with Dona Blanca which should be interesting. This is a new project from vineyards in the Pago Balbaina supported by Delgado Zuleta, who also bottle the wine for him unfiltered. The wine is 100% Palomino Fino and is aged for seven months in ex Manzanilla butts, during which time flor is present for four months. Unfortunately there were only 456 bottles of the 2014 vintage, but with quality like this he should be encouraged to produce more. In fact I gather there were 4 butts of the 2015, so look out for it! Tosca Cerrada is a form of Albariza soil.
16.50 euros from Er Guerrita

Saturday 17 December 2016

17.12.16 Fedejerez Optimistic Despite Obstacles

2016 has been a good year for Sherry, if not entirely free of obstacles. There is a feeling in the air that the bodegas are convinced they are on the right path to restoring past glories. Things are changing for the better in the Sherry trade, which yesterday celebrated its unity and optimism in the face of various stumbling blocks at the traditional December meeting of Fedejerez at the Castillo de Macharnudo in the Viña el Majuelo.

The assembled delegates (foto:diriodejerez)

The bodegas are standing together with Fedejerez in a message of unity and president Evaristo Babé painted a positive picture for the year despite some difficulties such as the prolonged Bag in Box conflict, the recent strike and the 5% tax increase, which has been strongly criticised by the wine trade. Babé said that “while there is still a long way to go we are on the right road. The increase in value is promising but is still not quite enough to compensate for falling sales, yet we are confident of reaching the turning point soon”. Fedejerez is seeing out the year with a bold message of firmness and clarity of ideas for the immediate future of the trade.

Friday 16 December 2016

Manzanilla Pasada en rama Solear Otoño 2016, 15%, Barbadillo

Bright gold with a trace more intensity than a younger wine, light legs.
Forthcoming and very refined, subtle, the flor bitterness is more restrained than in some sacas - though certainly there - and it is gently floral, mingled with a hint of camomile as well as those normal marine notes. It is fairly soft and more passive than some sacas but just as complex. 
A little more intensity here; the bitterness of the flor is more pronounced yet the wine is well rounded and all the elements of cabezuela, flor and salinity are very harmonious and well behaved. The finish is long and dignified with a bitter edge. Classic quality Manzanilla Pasada.
Made in the usual way from the firm's vineyards with Palomino vines of over 30 years of age, this wine, which for the first time calls itself Manzanilla Pasada although it really always has been, is aged for an average period of 8 years. Its 550 butt solera is fed by 6 year old Solear, and goes on to feed the criaderas of the Amontillado Principe solera. As usual, this seasonal saca is taken from 15 selected butts. It was bottled with minimal filtration on 20 September during what was still a very hot summer which gives the flor a slightly creamier flavour with less dankness. It is very different from the Verano saca, and that's what makes these Solear en rama wines so very interesting.
15 euros per half bottle from Licores Corredera

Thursday 15 December 2016

Manzanilla Solear en rama Verano 2016 15%, Barbadillo

Bright pale gold with the slightest tinge of brass and light legs.
Intense and very dry with loads of bitter flor, hints of dried flowers and scrub followed by marine salinity and a slight trace of background cabezuela and dankness with a faint buttery rancio note, all perfectly balanced and it just keeps on developing. What a cracking nose!
Equally intense with a pronounced fresh seaside bitterness which gives way to a slightly fuller, fatter feel. This is a seriously complex wine with lots of pasada character yet fresh as a daisy and it has terrific length leaving a long memory of all that flor. This stuff is wild!
Made from manually harvestd grapes from Barbadillo's Gibalbin and Santa Lucia vineyards of pure albariza and aged for an average of 8 years. The 550 butt solera in the bodega El Potro has two "clases" as they call criaderas in Sanlucar, with the second (youngest) one being topped up with Solear which is already an average of 6 years old. Sacas are made every three months, or seasonally, and from 15 selected butts from each of which 100 litres is taken, giving a release of 5625 half bottles, each filled with minimal filtration or en rama. Or as Barbadillo put it "Como Dios la trajo al mundo" (as God brought it into the world). After a spring of variable temperatures, the late rains brought high humidity which the flor loves and gave the wine its exceptionally yeasty character.
15 euros per half bottle from Licores Corredera

Tuesday 13 December 2016

13.12.16 Great Idea from Sherry Boutique

One of the great joys of Sherry is tasting the wine bottled at different stages of development and observe how fascinatingly and beautifully it matures, gaining more intensity and complexity with the passage of time, without ever losing its identity. Well, Helen and Stuart of have come up with a brilliant way to do this with two special vertical tasting packs of wine from Viña Callejuela in Sanlúcar. The first consists of three bottles; Manzanilla Fina at around 3 years old, Manzanilla Madura at around seven years and Manzanilla Pasada Blanquito at around 10 years old. The second is the same but with the addition of the Amontillado La Casilla at around 20 years old. These packs will give you a rare and delicious opportunity to watch Sherry evolve.

13.12.16 González Byass to Open Hotel

A project to convert XIX century houses on the site of the Tio Pepe bodegas to hotel use, creating the world’s first “Sherry hotel”, was announced yesterday. The site lies in the Calle de la Rosa which runs down between the bodegas and the side of the Cathedral to the Plaza Encarnación. GB is thinking about an architectural competition and hopes the project will reach fruition by the end of 2018. The idea is that guests at the boutique hotel can sleep amongst historic bodegas, stroll through vine-lined streets and awake to the aromas of Sherry, thus offering an experience of total immersion in the wine, its history and its culture. There will be communication between the hotel and the Tio Pepe shop. This is not the first time the firm has announced this project; it was first aired in 2001 but for various reasons it was shelved. Previous plans contemplated a five star hotel Tio Pepe with 55 rooms at a cost of some 17 million euros. Jerez city council is pleased with the idea.


Monday 12 December 2016

Bodegas: Rafael García del Salto

This well respected but now lost bodega was established in 1837 by Salvador García del Salto who spent some of his wealth on developing extensive vineyard holdings in the pagos Macharnudo, Carrahola, Almenillas, Cerro de Santiago, Añina and Balbaina, as well as bodegas, and offices in Plaza de los Ángeles, Jerez. He built up a successful production, almacenista and exporting business with export markets, primarily in Britain and France where his brand was much sought after.

He was married to María de la Encarnación Valiente, and their son, Rafael García del Salto y Valiente, was born in Jerez in 1851. He studied first in Madrid, and aged only 13, enrolled in the military college of Segovia in preparation for joining the artillery. Four years later he abandoned this and moved to England where he studied commerce at Cheltenham College before returning to Jerez in the early 1870s. Here he spent a couple of years learning the Sherry trade with bodegas Juan Haurie & Nephews, where he acquired a profound knowledge of and passion for the Sherry trade, which stood him in good stead to take over the family business on the death of his father in 1874.

Rafael Garcia del Salto y Valiente

Rafael inherited a great deal of money and a thriving Sherry business, but rather than have an easy life, he threw himself into the business, ending up with ten bodegas and approaching 9,000 butts of wine in stock. Agents were established in Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and he had offices in Paris and London. His Amontillados Macharnudo and Non Plus Ultra were well known in up-market circles throughout Europe.

In 1889 he entered his wines in the Paris Exhibition and won prizes for them. The 1890s saw many such exhibitions and, believing in strength in unity, he entered the wines of various other exporters as well and they won many prizes and medals, especially in the Universal Exhibition of Bordeaux in 1895. The local press of the time said that this would have passed unnoticed in Jerez had it not been for Rafael’s efforts in creating a Sherry wines pavilion at the Exhibition. Having been appointed to the judging panel, and not for the first time, he had a certain influence which he used to the full.


The French press devoted much space to the banquets, meetings and tastings in which Rafael promoted his beloved Sherry and explained it in great detail. On arrival, visitors were given a leaflet listing all the Sherry producers and their products, and they were captivated with his gently humorous talks - accompanied by models of soleras, lagares and samples of albariza - on the production process of Sherry, which is nothing like what is done in France. He even had the illustrious French chemist Ulysse Gayon, regarded as one of the fathers of oenology, analyse samples of albariza, and he in turn recommended suitable vine varieties for it.

For his work in promoting Sherry, often at his own expense and his vast knowledge of it, Rafael was awarded all sorts of recognitions including the Legion d’Honneur and the Cruz de Isabel la Católica. He died in Switzerland in 1901 having achieved so much in his 50 short years, but the firm continued for a while as Rafael García del Salto & Cia, being run by one P de Lambarri.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Tintilla de Rota

Known to have existed in the vineyards of Rota for at least 500 years, the red Tintilla grape appears identical to the Graciano, a minor component of wines from Rioja. It was one of the 119 grapes recorded in Andalucía by Simón de Rojas Clemente, the father of Spanish ampelography, in 1806. The first mention of Graciano in Rioja was much later, so one might assume it originated in Cádiz, yet there is one difference: Graciano has four pips and Tintilla has only one. In Rioja it is said the word originates from “gracias, no” (no thanks) when they refused to buy the Rota grapes. It is most unlikely to be true but there are some very fine Gracianos in Rioja now. The name Tintilla is likely to originate simply from the fact that it is a little red grape.

Tintilla on the vine

Like any other grape, various types of wine can be made from it, and there is a variety of soil types in the Jerez area which can offer differences in style. Traditionally it was a fortified wine, but recently quite a few extremely good table wines have appeared, and it is really catching on. Its characteristics are low yield, decent acidity, deep colour, enough structure for ageing and great aroma.

Referred to as “Tent” or “Rota Tent” by Anglophones of past centuries, the fortified sweet wine was very popular in export markets, often being chosen for religious celebrations. The grape thrived in the sandy coastal soils which protect it from the Phylloxera aphid. Already in decline because of its low yields, it could not be protected from the construction of a massive joint Spanish and American military base in the 1950s, which saw the number of producers in Rota dwindle to one: Bodegas El Gato. This is the last bodega in the town producing the classic traditional fortified Tintilla de Rota.

Sun drying Tintilla grapes
The Vino de Licor, or the classic Tintilla de Rota, is made by a time honoured artisan process. The late-harvested grapes are sun-dried, de-stemmed and pressed. Fermentation takes place in tanks but is stopped by fortification to 17ᴼ. Some juice is then reduced to one fifth of the original liquid volume over a direct fire. The resulting “arrope” or syrup is blended into the wine and it is barrelled-up for ageing. The result is a wine with a tawny to mahogany colour, aromas of figs and caramel on the nose and very sweet on the palate, almost honeyed, yet with a slight tannic/acidic note which provides balance. It is a unique and special wine, and Bodegas El Gato even organise a Tintilla de Rota Day every August.

Classic fortified Tintilla de Rota producers:
González Byass (at Finca Moncloa, near Arcos)
Bodegas J Ferris (near Sanlúcar)
Bodegas El Gato (in Rota itself) They make 2, Joven and Noble
(Lustau were selling good old Tintilla from some bought-in butts a while ago, but it’s now gone).

Leading Tintilla Table wine producers:
Bodegas Luis Pérez near Jerez (Tintilla)
Bodega Forlong near El Puerto de Santa María (Tintilla)
Vinos del Atlántico (Atlántida, Vara y Pulgar made by Alberto Orte)
José Antonio Rodriguez Muñoz (Clérigo)
Ramiro Ibáñez (Arroyo Alquitón)
Miguel Gómez Lucas (Mahara)
Bodegas El Gato (Tintilla)

There are also many wines in which Tintilla is a component of the blend, for example Barbazul.

(There is a vineyard in Australia’s Hunter Valley called Tintilla, but it doesn’t grow Tintilla grapes).

Friday 9 December 2016

9.12.16 International Wine Challenge 2017 1st Tranche Sherry Results

In the following list I have included neither Bronze and Commended medals, nor the many non-bodega brands (read supermarket brands). Naturally it takes skill to produce good wine for a price a supermarket will pay, but a Gold for Tesco’s Finest, say, is of no interest to anyone outside the UK. And as usual the results show anomalies where a supermarket Amontillado gets equal billing with the great Fino Imperial (which surely merits Gold), for example. I have tasted both and they are not in the same league. While the wines listed below are impeccable, don’t take medals too seriously.

Bertola Palo Cortado 12 yo, Diez Mérito
Oloroso Victoria Regina VORS, Diez Mérito
Pedro Ximénez Vieja Solera VORS, Diez Mérito

Bertola Amontillado 12 yo, Diez Mérito
Bertola Pedro Ximénez 12 yrs, Diez Mérito
Fino Imperial VORS, Diez Mérito
Palo Cortado Solera, Cayetano del Pino
Fino Antique, Fernando de Castilla
Pedro’s Oloroso, García Jarana

9.12.16 Gallo Azul Sold; Zambombas

One of Jerez’s most iconic buildings, the Gallo Azul has been sold by its owner, Carmelo López, to a Málaga businessman who is big in the tourism and leisure business in Bali, where he has numerous restaurants, bars and discotheques. This is Gonzalo Assiego’s first such venture in Spain, but he is also indulging his passion for pure bred Spanish horses in a stud he has created near the road to Trebujena. The building’s façade is protected, but Assiego is allowed to spruce up the interior, for which he has already commissioned new furnishings from Bali, and he plans to spruce up and modernise the services offered as well. The Gallo Azul should reopen in the spring after renovations are completed.

Jerez is ringing to the sound of zambombas this month and this week in particular with two holidays: Día de la Constitución on Tuesday and Inmaculada Concepción on Thursday. The town’s hotels are at least 90% full as a result. The atmosphere is fantastic with villancicos or Spanish Christmas carols ringing out to the thrum of the zambombas and the rattle of tambourines. There is a certain clinking of bottles too. While zambombas are not unique to Jerez, many travel here to see them, especially since they were declared to be of Cultural Interest last year. Luckily the disastrous recent rainfall had stopped and the sun shone.

I was at this event in San Miguel by the statue of Lola Flores (zambombas beside chairs) (foto: C Garcia, diario jerez)

Thursday 8 December 2016

Blanco de Hornillos 2015 12%, Viña Callejuela

Pale silvery, strawy gold with bright golden reflections.
Fresh and zippy with pronounced and fairly complex notes of Palomino fruit, Atlantic seaside fresh air, slight salinity, chalky minerality, a hint of lemon icing sugar, straw and even a trace of honey. It is a young, vibrant, quite sophisticated, almost pretty sanluqueño.
Dry, with lots of that chalky minerality and gentle but sufficient acidity. Then the ripe Palomino fruit comes through with a gentle tang balanced by the slightest trace of sweetness and there is a really natural feel to the wine and good length.
The Blanco brothers have long sold this wine to local bars and restaurants as “mosto”, but this is the first release in bottle of a classic style of Sanlúcar wine, vino blanco. It is made from 100% Palomino from their own Hornillos vineyard in Sanlucar and blended with Palomino from their other vineyards in Anina and Macharnudo, co-fermented in tank and bottled young without flor. More of the same wine is made into Manzanilla. The vintage date is hard to spot and appears as a lot number at the bottom of the label.This wine is most attractive and is excellent value for money.
8.49 euros from Licores Corredera    

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Bodegas: Fuentes Parrilla/Fuentes Repeto Hermanos

José de Fuentes Parrilla established his bodega in Jerez in 1871 and before long he had built a reputation for quality. The bodega was situated in Calle Méndez Núñez close to the railway station where he had a modern bottling line, being the first to export in bottle. There were connected buildings in the Calles Argüelles and Madre de Dios for cooperage etc, and another bodega in Calle Ramos. The adjacent offices were in a grand building on Calle Ferrocarril overlooking the station, and which is now in a very poor state of repair thanks to various failed projects for it. 

The old office building (fotojerezpatrimoniodestruido.blogspot)

José also owned vineyards which produced around 700 butts of wine, so he acted as a cosechero, almacenista and exporter, though his principal market was always Spain itself, where he held a royal warrant. Not only was he a producer of Sherry, but he also dealt in wines from Málaga, Madeira, Oporto, Alicante and Valdepeñas, as well as producing a range of “grande fine champagne” brandies, Uno, Dos and Tres Brillantes. Always innovating, he even produced an Espumoso, a sparkling Manzanilla.

When José died in 1890 his widow, Mercedes Repeto Tobar continued with the business, now renamed Viuda de Fuentes Parrilla, assisted by her two sons, José and Julio de Fuentes Repeto who had been brought up in it. The business maintained its reputation until Mercedes decided to retire and in 1898 sold the bodegas, stocks and brands to Díez Hermanos .

Sparkling Manzanilla (foto:etiquetasrafamontano)

The Fuentes Parrilla brands included Espumoso, the Brillantes brandies, Anis Seco and Moscatel Predilecto de Damas (bodegas have always assumed that women only like sweet wine for some reason).


A year later Mercedes’ sons set up their own bodega, Fuentes Repeto Hermanos, in Calle Ferrocarril which produced some outstanding wines. There is a story that they were opposed to entering wines in competitions, but a customer in Cataluña entered their cheaper range in a local competition and they all won gold medals.  However despite their expertise, ample capital and soleras dating from 1750, the firm only lasted till 1906.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Esencia de la Campiña Ice Wine 2003, 16.5%, Viticultores de Jerez

Deep bright blacky browny mahogany fading to amber at the rim, pronounced legs.
Not particularly intense and perhaps slightly one-dimensional but plenty of Moscatel pasa with slight notes of toast and very rich with a hint of toffee.
Sweet but not unctuous, there is a gentle acidity which gives it a fresh tang and carries it through and amplifies the flavour of the dried Moscatel grapes, hints of date, but overall tangy Moscatel if not over intense, reasonable length though.
This interesting wine is no longer produced, however it was made by Viticultores de Jerez, a group of growers who tried to come up with something different using grapes which were excess to requirements.  It is made 100% from super ripe Moscatel grapes which are pressed while frozen. Being Spain's first Ice Wine it caused a bit of a sensation when they first showed it at Vinoble in 2004. I first tasted it in 2006 and it was more interesting than amazing, but a very decent wine nonetheless.

Then, in Sanlúcar recently, Manuel Fernández who runs the excellent Hostal Alcoba, very kindly gave me a bottle which he had found in his storeroom. From the lot number it looks to be from 2003, so I was interested to see how it had developed in bottle. And it certainly has. The colour has changed from amber to a much deeper blacky mahogany and the inside of the bottle is lined with sediment yet the wine pours clear. It has also developed some interesting toasty notes and a little more concentration. It is in very good condition. For more details see the post called "Ice Wine - From Jerez?!"
About 10-15 euros per 50cl bottle if memory serves correctly.

Monday 5 December 2016

5.12.16 Renaissance of Sherry Has Not Reached Vineyards

Many independent vine growers are making losses on their grape production and may be forced to switch to other crops. This is mainly down to the low price the grapes fetch. The best price fetched for this last harvest was 59 pesetas/kilo (they still talk in pesetas here) which is equivalent to 0.35 euros. In Champagne grapes cost over 5 euros/kilo. Such low prices are unsustainable, and this harvest saw no increase despite being very small. What is more, the growers have to pay a levy of 0.05 euros/kilo to support the Consejo Regulador. As Sherry moves into a mode of smaller quantities and higher value, the bodegas are making more profits from fewer grapes.

The leader of the growers’ union Asevi-Asaja, Francisco Guerrero, says that many are looking at growing wheat or beetroot instead as they are more profitable. EU funds to the tune of 4.2 million euros through the ITI scheme to promote wine tourism will pass the independent growers by as they have no funds to invest in related projects. They have neither the funds nor the will even to invest in the vineyards to modernise machinery and cultivation methods. Together they account for 27% of the vineyard, the cooperatives 49% and the bodegas 24%.

Sunday 4 December 2016

4.12.16 Results of the III Concurso de Mostos

Every year the wine producers of the Marco de Jerez enter their newly made wine into a blind tasting competition judged by the tasting panel of the Consejo Regulador. As the local saying goes: “Por San Andrés el mosto vino es” or by Saint Andrew’s day the must becomes wine. These are unfortified table wines, 100% Palomino. There are two categories: the bigger producers and the artisan producers, and three prizes are awarded to each. The names of non-winners are not announced. This year’s results were:

In the category of bigger producers:
First: González Byass (Jerez)
Second: Cooperativa Católica Agrícola (Chipiona)
Third: Covisan (Sanlúcar)

In the category of artisan producers:
First: Viñas “El Vínculo” – Ángel Gonzalo
Second: Viñas “Zorreños” – Rafael Rodríguez
Third: La Fama – Francisco Barba Lagomazzimi

A public tasting was held yesterday at the Atalaya accompanied by zambombas, and people could vote for their favourite and enter a draw for a copy of the Gran Libro de los Vinos de Jerez. The red flag will now be flying at the doors of many a bar where mosto is available. It is delicious!

The Consejo tasting room with mostos ready for examination