Monday 29 February 2016

29.2.16 Sherry Tasting in Cataluña

Famous though it is for wine and Cava, Penedés was impressed by the wines of Jerez. Held at the premises of top Cava producer Juvé y Camps, José Antonio Zarzana, ninth generation proprietor of the Jerez PX specialist Ximénez Spínola, impressed oenologists from the leading Cava producers with the latest innovations going on in Jerez, not only in the sphere of traditional wines but also in that of table wines. The tasting was in two parts: the dry wines then the sweet ones.

The Sherry tasting at Juve y Camps (foto:diariojerez)

The dry wines were supplied by Bodegas Faustino González: Fino en rama, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso. The two sweet wines were from Ximénez Spínola: one a classic naturally sweet PX and the other a new wine and much less sweet. It is late harvest PX from the Pago Carrascal fermented in French oak barrels leaving a residual sugar content of 25g/l, much lighter and less sweet than the traditional wine with around 400g/l. The first vintage produced only 2,900 bottles but this one produced 12,000 which will sell at about 28€ each. José Antonio concluded the tasting with Ximénez Spínola’s unique and spectacularly flavourful Licor de Brandy, made from PX and aged first in chestnut butts then in French oak butts.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Fino Camborio 15%, Juan Piñero

Pale to mid straw with golden highlights, legs
Forthcoming, almost pungent with plenty of flor but slightly drier than that of Sanlúcar, more scrub-like. There is some depth and body here with saline, olive brine, almond notes, and traces of dough and dried grass. A  really good nose, and good and fresh.
Full, weighty, assertive with an attractive flor bitterness, fresh, clean and briny, and very dry with a fairly low acidity, but that bitterness gives length in plenty. Hard to have just one glass...
Camborio used to be a very reputable brand of Fernando A de Terry in El Puerto. They were taken over by Rumasa in 1981 and sold by the State to Harveys in 1984. Harveys became part of Allied Domecq in 1994, and later part of Beam Global and now Emperador. The Terry wines now available from Harveys are just a basic range. Somewhere along the line this Fino was sold to Juan Piñero, who has treated it with the respect it deserves. For a start he has Ramiro Ibáñez as consultant oenologist. The 400 butt solera has 3 criaderas and there is only 1 annual saca. The wine is 8-9 years old and the mosto for the solera comes from the Blanco Brothers' vineyards in the pagos of Macharnudo and Añina.
7.85 Euros, great value

The original Camborio

Friday 26 February 2016

Fantastic Lecture at Williams & Humbert

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the latest lecture in the excellent series organised by W&H. Entitled "The Curious History of Fino" the lecture was imparted by Javier Maldonado Rosso, a local academic and historian of all things Jerez who has written or contributed to important books on the subject. Widely respected, he was introduced by Jesús Medina, managing director of the bodega.

The well attended lecture took place in the section of this vast bodega devoted to the famous Añada wines, and I am sure a butt from my birth year (which shall remain a secret) was smiling at me. Among the bodegueros and members of the public present were Beltrán Domecq and Evaristo Babé. Javier began by saying that Fino has a surprising history "as there is no other wine which has gone from being described as feeble and sick to being considered a jewel of worldwide viniculture."

Evaristo Babe, Javier Maldonado, Jesus Medina, Beltran Domecq

He then delved into the origins of a wine which apparently took as its name the highest quality description a wine can have: "Fine (Sp: Fino) Wine" but one which had a difficult time earning general respect. In Jerez the term Fino means light, elegant and sophisticated. From the earliest times until comparatively recently the appearance of flor yeast on the wine's surface was considered a defect and it took a long time to realise the beneficial effect it had on the wine. 

In the 1820s tastes in the British market, the most important at the time, were changing in favour of lighter wines, and there was an impetus to do more with Fino. The paler wines sold at that time were however closer to young Amontillado than the Finos of today. Therefore how long Fino as we know it has been on the market is hard to say as it depends on its definition. In conclusion Javier said "Fino is the work of growers, bodegueros, oenologists, arrumbadores (the men who positioned the butts and climbed up to get samples) and scientists, and the result of collective empirical and scientific knowledge.

The evening, which was very much enjoyed by all, closed with questions and answers which were followed by general conversation with a glass of Fino Pando or Canasta Cream dispensed by a very efficient young venenciador. Williams & Humbert did us all proud.

Thursday 25 February 2016

25.2.16 BIB Information Day; More on Versos 1891

The Professional Association of Artisan Bodegas of Sanlúcar has invited everyone in the sherry trade, producers, distributors, bodegas, Cooperatives, institutions such as the Consejo regulador and public administrations to an information day in Sanlúar entitled “Bag in Box and Quality Wine”. It will take place at the Castillo de Santiago in Sanlúcar on the 2 March at 19.00 and they expect a good attendance.

Francisco Yuste with his BIB (foto:andaluciainformacion)
There is a double purpose: partly to inform interested parties and public opinion about BIB which is seeing exponential growth in some markets, and in some European countries represents over 60% of sales, and partly to dispel any doubt about its legality in horeca. There will be a comparative tasting of quality wines, some from the bottle and some from the BIB and they will attempt to demonstrate the advantages of the BIB over the legal garrafa.

Barbadillo’s new launch, the £8,000/10,000€ Versos 1891 is selling fast. UK importer Fells received orders for 20 bottles before it was even released. So you had better hurry – there are only 80 bottles left and it will be many years before any more can be bottled. Here's a picture of it with its gift packaging. I just wonder what the Consejo thinks of having a date so prominent on the bottle. Obviously it is unlikely to be a vintage wine from 1891 and the word Vintage/Añada has not been used but someone might think it is...

And there's more: The bottle is "intelligent". It is sealed with a thin printed film called NFC Opensense Thinfilm which can distinguish between factory sealed and opened via an application in the cloud so the seal can transmit authentication data to any smartphone with the NFC app. and each bottle has a unique identification which cannot be cloned. If I could afford it I'd be scared to open it!

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Oloroso El Cerro 21%, Viña La Callejuela

Copper tinted amber to mahogany with a slight trace of green at the rim, legs.
Classic Oloroso with a trace of Sanlúcar maritime crispness, clean, generous and open with hints of nutty sweetness, walnut and toasted almond with a touch of cinnamon and vanilla, then traces of polished furniture, but always with just enough of that sweet glyceric note to balance.Very appealing.
Crisp, lively entry then it opens out into a generous glyceric nuttiness but which is always contained by gentle tannins and acidity. Tight and fresh and amazingly long, this is a perfect wine for food as well as  lively discussion.
Voted one of the three best wines in Spain and best Fortified by El Mundo Vino, this delightful Oloroso is at least 20 years old. It is bottled en rama and sealed with a driven cork. The solera originated with a purchase of a few butts of old Oloroso from the sale of Rumasa stocks when that huge firm went bust, and it has been refreshed since then with Oloroso from the Blanco brothers' own vineyard which surrounds the bodega just outside Sanlúcar.
Around 25.00 Euros per 50cl bottle

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Bodegas: Alonso

Fran Asencio made a lot of money as a construction engineer, investing some of it in an excellent bodega in Asturias: Dominio del Uragallo. Since they came from Sevilla, he and his brother Fernando were keen to invest in a project in the south and came across the tortuous demise of the great bodega Pedro Romero in Sanlúcar. Francisco Yuste bought the Manzanilla Aurora soleras, and Fran and Fernando bought one of the bodegas in Calle Rubiños known as Bodegas Méndez, an almacenista bought by Pedro Romero, the name being used as a sous-marque. Many of the 10,000 or so butts which were owned by Pedro Romero are now stored in other bodegas round the town.

The brothers want to retain the brand names of Pedro Romero and Gaspar Florido and intend to bottle a limited quantity of the GF wines to show the world that they still exist. However they have been inundated with retailer requests to bottle large – even ridiculous – quantities, like 3,000 bottles of solera GF25.
Fran Asencio posing with a rather good wine
The Asencios have bought 13 hectares of vineyards in the Pagos Balbaina and Miraflores, and these musts will be used to refresh a solera based on 40 butts of maturing "vino blanco" from Pedro Romero. This will be the upmarket Manzanilla with complete traceability from grape to glass, but unfortunately it won't be available for a while.

Meanwhile they have already bought Manzanilla from almacenistas to establish another solera and are buying grapes and making wine to feed it which will hopefully be profitable enough to pay for the upkeep of the old wines. This wine was launched  in early spring 2017 under the brand name Velo Flor. They are not in a hurry; everything will be done the artisan way. Other ideas are also being considered, such as unfortified wine.

The bodega, which is in a pretty poor state, is actually just below sea level in the Barrio Bajo with virtually perfect exposition to the west wind, and is thus perfect for Manzanilla. Luckily the sacristia is in better condition which is just as well as it stores the legendary soleras GF 25, GF 30 which consists of only 5 butts and Ánsar Real (2 butts dating from 1840) soleras, all kept under lock and key – wisely, as  Carbon 14 tests show its age to be 126 years.

Since the bodega is only large enough for ageing wine, they have had to vinify in rented premises and want to build their own winery, which will raise the question of whether to ferment in steel tanks or in butts, but not being in a hurry, they have allowed themselves 3 years to get this sorted. According to the capataz, José Antonio Palacios, who has worked at the bodega for the last 15 years, some of the soleras have not been properly run in 4 or 5 years except for tiny sacas and rocíos to maintain some sort of freshness, but he says that the bodega needs to be reorganised and some proper running of the soleras is necessary.

The Asencio brothers are acutely aware of the enormous scale of the work needed, and that they are now responsible for a part of the history of Sanlúcar but are dedicated to the task of keeping these wine jewels alive.

Manzanilla Velo Flor (9-10 years old), Amontillado from Gaspar Florido (90-100 years old), Palo Cortado from Pedro Romero (60-70 years old), Oloroso from Pedro Romero (60-70 years old)

Address: Calle Rubiños, 1 Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 360 266
Website: (under construction)
Visits? Not for a while

Monday 22 February 2016

22.2.16 Barbadillo Releases £8,000 Sherry

Manuel Barbadillo (1891-1986), poet, author and historian on Sherry and successful bodeguero was the director of Bodegas Barbadillo for many years. As a christening present he and his four brothers were given one each of a set of five butts known as “Las Botas de los Niños. Manuel’s butt contained Amontillado described as very old in 1891. As some of the wine was drunk the butt was occasionally refreshed with suitable old wine until the 1980s but it still shows massive concentration and is rich and nutty, given that some of it is 150 years old.

It is called “Versos 1891”, the date being a reference to Manuel’s date of birth, not a vintage date. ”Versos” (Spanish for “verses”) refers to Manuel’s poetic skills. It is presented in a high quality leather gift box made by expert tanners in Ubrique (Cádiz) and the bottle is a hand-blown crystal decanter made by Portuguese crystal specialists Atlantis. Only 100 bottles have been filled and no more will be forthcoming for many years so this is an extremely rare wine, the second most expensive Sherry ever, but it will no doubt sell quickly to collectors.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Manzanilla Pasada Maruja 16%, Juan Piñero

Mid depth strawy brass colour with golden reflections and legs.
Powerful flor at first mixed with that damp humid atmosphere of the bodega. There's a slight rancio note with a very slightly buttery oxidative hint, lots of salinity and a note of the smell that flowers have when they are finished. And there are traces of rope and nuts as well. Deep, complex, serious.
Quite intense, again flor up front, good and bitter, a slight over-toasted rancio almost buttery nutty note, but there's still plenty of tangy zip and a serious side too with very slightly earthy leafy notes, hints of autolysis and lots of flor on the long finish.
In a clear bottle to appreciate its golden colour and sealed with a 2 inch driven cork and red wax this is an interesting wine. It is calculated to be between 12-15 years old and the flor is now only appearing for a few weeks of the year in spring and autumn, so biological ageing is slowly coming to an end . Apparently a carbon 14 test put it at 20 years old, which is remarkable as it still has such strong Manzanilla characteristics, all be it aged ones. Definitely Manzanilla Pasada. The grapes came from El Hornillo and its 16% alcohol is natural. Two annual sacas. There are very few butts of this unfortunately so availability isn't great.
19,50 Euros per 50cl. bottle

Saturday 20 February 2016

Sherry is Digging Itself out of a Hole

This is a translation of a very interesting article in El Confidencial which outlines, at least in simple terms, the plight of Sherry and the beginnings of its resurgence.

Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Colosía was always there. When, during the 1960s Sherry sold half way round the world there was money in the Marco de Jerez, he was already working in the bodega bought by his grandfather. When, in the 1970s and early 1980s Ruiz Mateos dropped the prices and thus the prestige of Sherry, he suffered like everyone else. When, in the 1990s and 2,000s the majority of the 350 bodegas which existed then closed, he managed as best he could. And now, now that Sherry is beginning to sell again, Juan Carlos is still there to see it because Sherry, the wine of Churchill, the British Royal Family, Shakespeare and Nelson is back. In 2015, for the first time in 30 years sales in Spain actually rose, and we need to go to Jerez to understand what is happening.

Juan Carlos Gutierrez Colosia (foto:gentedelpuerto)

Helena Rivero is a good example of what is happening. She is the daughter of Joaquín Rivero, a Jerezano and ex-owner of the construction company Metrovacesa who, during the construction boom made one of the biggest fortunes in Spain. At the end of the 1990s Helena had decided she would return to Jerez. The Riveros had once owned one of the oldest bodegas in Jerez, CZ, founded in the XVII century and which, like so many others, closed down in the 1980s after problems with the bank. “Sooner or later I was going to return. A wine with 3,000 years of history couldn’t end up like this. Our generation could not allow ourselves to lose it”, explains Helena as she walks among the butts of the bodega in the centre of Jerez. It is a small, pretty bodega, in amongst the tiny cobbled streets which snake around the city.

So in 1998 Rivero founded Bodegas Tradición, now re-named CZ-Tradición after buying back the historic brand name. They started buying soleras at a time when everyone else was selling them. “In 1998 they thought we were mad, more so when we charged double the price of other wines and staked our reputation on quality. They said we would end up cleaning the windows with all the wine we had bought”, she remembers. Not only did they not want to clean windows, but they wanted to do something crazier still: produce Sherry: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream, PX and brandy of the maximum quality and sell it to the top end of the market. “Obviously there were better businesses than this but we didn’t only do it for romantic reasons: we wanted to make money”, says Helena, who is president of CZ- Tradición.

Helena Rivero (fot:bodega)
To consider the implications for this company at the end of the 1990s we need to go a few kilometres down to the coast to El Puerto de Santa María. There, at the mouth of the Guadalete river, sits the bodega of Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Colosía, the last Mohican of El Puerto. “In 1996 or 1997 I was at a trade fair in Flanders and nobody stopped at my stand. They didn’t even want to try it. Another time in London someone said “Sherry? No”. To understand why no one wanted Sherry and everyone thought Helena Rivero was throwing away the family fortune on it, we need to look further back.

“In the 1970s the area of vineyards was tripled and this generated vast overproduction, huge amounts of Sherry at low prices which was not up to the usual standard” explains Beltrán Domecq Williams, president of the Consejo Regulador. He is the classic “Sherry Gentleman” with an English surname, blue eyes, wearing a blue suit and a blue shirt with white stripes, a tie, a handkerchief in his top pocket and shiny tasselled shoes. He is a chemist who has worked in the entire chain of  Sherry production. He was director general of Williams & Humbert when it was taken over by Ruiz Mateos in 1972, and while extremely diplomatic, lets slip that he said “There’s not enough wine here”. Beltrán has his office in the Consejo Regulador, a fine building constructed in the 1950s resembling a Jerezano stately home.

Beltran Domecq

In 1964 during the good times, the Denominación de Origen had 7,666 hectares of vineyard. In 1978 it peaked at 22,097 hectares after which it slowly but inexorably declined to the present 7,000 hectares, back to a position of balance between supply and demand. Consumption declined with it. Juan Carlos is less diplomatic, and has no doubt who was responsible for the woes of Sherry: “Ruiz Mateos was our number one disaster. He ruined Jerez. His vision prostituted Sherry by selling poor wine at cheap prices so Sherry lost its prestige. He was bad, and worse still he had good pupils. He wanted to create an industry out of bodegas, but they are not an industry.”

Jerezanos remember that in the good times the streets would smell of wine, and older people have not forgotten the little train which used to transport butts between the bodegas. But after centuries it all came to an end. In one decade Sherry changed from being the wine of British high society, a wine mentioned by Shakespeare no fewer than 40 times, a wine always served at royal weddings and a favourite of the Tsar, to just one more wine on the supermarket shelves. Of course it still had its faithful following, but every time a British lord died Sherry lost a customer. Demography is a stubborn thing.

Then came democracy, a social change to which Jerez did not adapt well. It is not a city which likes change, but ownership of bodegas was being divided among families where often the less capable were left in charge while the more capable emigrated, leading to the end of many. There is nothing left of the bodegas of the wealthy Sherry branch of the Domecqs who took legendary excursions, spending a whole season playing polo in France. Other bodegas were taken over by multi-nationals and some carried on like zombie bodegas. There are now only some 40-50 bodegas where once there were 350.

Old soleras at Osborne (foto:bodega)

With this in mind, it is easy to imagine the expressions on people’s faces when Helena Rivero returned to Jerez to establish a luxury bodega. Further, Sherry has its own peculiarities which make it unique in the world like the solera system, with complicated notes written in chalk on the butts which only the capataz can understand. One single grape can produce all sorts of wine. “When people from other wine regions visit us and see what we do they think we are peasants”.

Traditions were maintained but there was ever less Sherry in the city. Jerez decided to position itself as the city of motorcycling. One can even see the Hollywood Walk of Fame style pavement devoted to famous motorcycle racers in the same avenue as the Consejo Regulador. Jerez also became a city of wastefulness getting into such debt it could not even afford to clean the streets. Corruption was rife; every mayor since Democracy has either been jailed for corruption or accused of it. The wine looked like a relic from the past until about five years ago something began to change.

High class gastronomy began to see Sherry as a wine to accompany a meal rather than just as an aperitif, and slowly, little by little it began to become fashionable. José Argudo López de Carrizosa (now there’s a Sherry name), marketing director of González Byass points out the landmark opening in 2010 of Bar Pepito in King’s Cross, London, the first of the Sherry Bars. Since then they have proliferated in many capital cities. “Sherry is cool, like the new vermouth bars. In London you can see girls sitting in a bar with a glass of Oloroso reading a book.” Then came the documentary film “El Misterio del Palo Cortado” and the novel “La Templanza” by María Dueñas set in XIX century Jerez, both have helped increase awareness of Sherry.

Maria Duenas studying (

González Byass is a good example of a big family bodega which has known how to survive. As well as Sherry they produce wine in other areas like Beronia in Rioja, but their star is Tio Pepe. José Argudo’s office is full of Tio Pepe symbolism; even the webcam is carefully fixed to a bottle of it. The bodega, which is the most visited in Europe exploits its history and shows off all its butts signed by famous people with great pride. Few symbols can compete with the illuminated Tio Pepe in the Plaza Puerta del Sol in Madrid, but it has one competitor: the Osborne bull. This famous old firm in El Puerto is now a multinational yet still mostly in family hands. Their communication director, Iván Llanza says that the trick to making a comeback is authenticity. “Some companies need to invent a history but we don’t need to. Here we have a 1792 solera which supplied wine for Tsar Nicholas II, and here is another from 1812.”

The Sherry trade looks at the improvement with palpable excitement. In 2015 domestic sales rose – very slightly, but they rose – from 11.343 million litres to 11.522. A rise of 1.5%, not much but in a period of economic stagnation and falling wine consumption it looks more than hopeful. Beltrán Domecq thinks it might be the first rise in 35 years. While export volumes continue to slide, it is felt in Jerez that it is the larger scale BOB supermarket wines which are sliding while the quality wines are actually rising. Helena Rivero agrees. Sales of CZ-Tradición have grown by 5% in Spain during 2015 and they even ran out of Palo Cortado having sold 2,100 bottles at 80€ each. The bodega produces about 20,000 bottles a year, mostly at 20-30 years old and exports about 75%. They also have a gallery with some great Spanish art. Another prized possession is the bodega’s historical archive which they are slowly digitalising.

Patio at CZ-Tradicion (foto:bodega)

Carlos Gutiérrez is also optimistic. “Sherry was at the point of dying out from its greatness. Ten years ago if someone had asked me I would have said there would be no one left. But now I see a future if we make quality wines worth a high price.” In the bodega he is investing in improvements like restoring old butts. He has survived because his costs are low and the family owns everything. “I do everything from winemaking to bottling, I’ve done it all my life, so I know something about wine…” Of course there is a long way to go before Sherry can recoup its former glory. Beltrán Domecq would like what he sees walking the streets of Jerez to change. “It hurts to walk down the Calle Larga in the very heart of Jerez and see everyone drinking beer or Rioja. It is very sad we Jerezanos are not setting ourselves a good example.”

Despite beer and Rioja in recent years there has been a welcome resurgence of tabancos. Here in these scruffy dives smelling of wine Sherry was traditionally dispensed straight from the butt, but they have cleaned up their act without losing their essential character. Last week in one of them they served the tapas on brown paper on the bar and wrote the bill in chalk on the counter as they always used to. There were the usual old men, but also young people and tourists ordering Oloroso and listening to a Flamenco group which was probably performing for drinks money. “Pa’ qué quiero más tormento que estar un año sin verte? “ (Why would I want more pain than not seeing you for a year?) lamented the singer who said after the applause “Welcome to planet earth, welcome to Jerez.”

Friday 19 February 2016

19.2.16 Matúsalem Best Fortified Wine in Japan

González Byass Matúsalem VORS Oloroso Dulce has won the trophy for best Fortified Wine in the Japan Wine Challenge 2016 which is regarded as the top Asian wine competition. Matúsalem was the only Spanish wine to win maximum points out of the 1,400 wines which competed from 28 countries, and only 12 gained maximum points. The trophy was presented by her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado at a gala dinner in Tokyo.

HIH presents the trophy (fot:vinetur)

Thursday 18 February 2016

La Bota de Amontillado 61 "Bota No" 18.5%, Equipo Navazos

Pure amber with coppery-gold highlights and a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Fragrant and refined, very Sanluqueño, slightly saline then plenty of hazelnuts and a turrón blando note. Deceptively light, there are traces of cinnamon, vanilla, caramel and American oak, and a gentle glyceric sweetness which develops a hint of honey.
Fresh and charming with a crisp edge on entry which develops into a delightful tanginess reinforcing the Sanlúcar origins and which balances with the roundness of age. There remains just a memory of flor which is overtaken by lots of nuttiness on the very long finish. Superb.
In 1980 La Guita reorganised their bodegas and the older wines went to a bodega on the Jerez road. This wine comes from there and from a solera known as Manzanilla Pasada Vieja 1/10. In Jerez this would be called Amontillado but in Sanlucar there are so many versions of Manzanilla before they finally call it Amontillado. The other soleras are called Manzanilla Pasada Muy Vieja and Manzanilla Pasada Viejisima 1/3, so this is not from the oldest but the wine still has an average age of about 22 years. From this same solera came the superb La Bota de Amontillado 31.
Around 50 Euros for a 50cl bottle

Wednesday 17 February 2016

17.2.16 New Jerez Restaurant; Antonio Flores Personality of the Year

A new haute cuisine restaurant is to open in Jerez staffed entirely by disabled people. Universo Santi will be sited at the Finca del Altillo, once the home of González Byass founder Manuel María González Ángel, and is named after the famous chef Santi Santamaría who died five years ago. His wife and daughter joined representatives of various foundations which support the initiative to present it at the Consejo Regulador yesterday. It is pretty certain that the restaurant will be open by the end of this year.

Yesterday's presentation at the Consejo
González Byass oenologist Antonio Flores has picked up another award: the Wine Up guide’s Personality of the Year in recognition of his professionalism and being one of those responsible for the #Sherryrevolution leading to the resurrection of Sherry to world status. Antonio gave a Sherry masterclass during the ceremony at the Museo Torre del Vino in Socuéllamos (Ciudad Real).

Tuesday 16 February 2016

An Equipo Navazos Tasting

Last night I had the great pleasure to attend a tasting by Jesús Barquín of Equipo Navazos at Bodegas Mar, their excellent Granada distributor, in Motril. Given the growing interest in Sherry and in Equipo Navazos who have done so much to develop it, the room was packed with Sherry enthusiasts. Jesús’ enthusiasm and sheer knowledge was infectious as we began with the exquisite La Bota de Amontillado 61 “Bota No.”

Then there was a vertical of the Navazos-Niepoort white wines, made in conjunction with Dirk Niepoort of Douro fame, from 2014, 2011, 2010 and 2009 (the latter showing really well from a magnum). These are Palominos from Valdespino’s Macharnudo Alto vineyard fermented and aged in butt for about 6 months under flor, but not fortified. They are delicious and the older ones showed really interesting evolution, edging slightly toward Fino flavours. They were followed by the Fino itself: the excellent La Bota de Fino 54 “Macharnudo Alto.”

Next came the Colet-Navazos sparkling Extra Brut 2012 made from Xarel.lo grapes in Penedés by Sergi Colet which, instead of a dosage had a touch of Amontillado and Palo Cortado added. Barely noticeable, this addition simply made this clean elegant dry wine more complex. This was followed by La Bota de Florpower 57 MMXII, a superb Palomino wine, not unlike the Navazos –Niepoort, but it is made from Sanlúcar grapes and aged there which really shows; there are more Manzanilla characteristics. Last in this flight was the La Bota de Palo Cortado 52 “Sanlúcar” which is a very interesting and unusual wine being a young (not quite 4 years old) Palo Cortado. Laden with Sanlúcar flavours it is amazingly complex despite its age and will surely improve over many years in bottle.

The last flight began with the zippy and complex sparkling Colet-Navazos Reserva 2011, again no dosage save for a few drops of Manzanilla and aged on lees for about 4 years. Then it was back to Sherry with the delicious La Bota de Manzanilla 55 from Sánchez Ayala, the amazing super complex La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada “59 Capataz Rivas” and the outstanding La Bota de Amontillado 58 “Navazos” from La Guita. The tasting finished with Pedro Ximénez Casa del Inca 2013, a young vintage Montilla from Pérez Barquero with open texture and delightful toffee flavours.

Jesus Barquin
A brilliant tasting! What really stood out were the distinct aromas and flavours imparted by different soils: inland vs. coastal albariza, the different microclimates in Jerez and Sanlúcar, the effects of flor and bottle age. Above all that there are people like Equipo Navazos who treasure these things over homogeneity. As the French say: “Vive la difference!”

(Tasting notes on the Sherries can be found in the Tastings section)

16.2.16 Prize for Josep Roca; Jerez to Visit Japan

Josep Roca, sommelier at El Celer de Can Roca in Girona, is to receive the prize of the Andalusian Academy of Gastronomy and Tourism 2016 for his promotion of Sherry internationally. The restaurant has three Michelin Stars and is considered the best in the world with a list containing well over 3,000 wines. Josep is a passionate connoisseur of the wines of Jerez and taking them on the first international Can Roca tour of America, and in a recent interview with news agency EFE he described them as a “patrimony unique in the world” which he is delighted to promote. The prize will be awarded on the 14th March at Bodegas Osborne in El Puerto de Santa María.

Josep Roca (foto:efe)
Jerez academic José Luís Jiménez is to give a presentation on Sherry in Japan at the invitation of the University of Shinshu. The presentation will be accompanied by Sherry from Bodegas Williams & Humbert. The two nations have long diplomatic relations and Sherry has always been enjoyed in Japan, where there is growing interest in it along with Andaluz culture. This has been ably promoted, especially through Sherry Week, by Tomoko Kimura, a Japanese Sherry Educator living in Jerez.

Monday 15 February 2016

15.2.16 Consejo Wants Technical Reasons for BIB Rejection

The Junta knows that sooner or later the majority will have its way, and the majority in Jerez is against BIB for use in horeca or otherwise as has been clearly demonstrated three times at the Consejo. But the Junta will take its time in replying to the proposal to modify the text of the regulations in support of glass as the only authorised container which vetoes BIB without even mentioning it.

The Junta has written to the Consejo asking for sound technical reasons justifying the proposal to insist on glass. Given that BIB is hygienically sound, the question of image will no doubt surface – the bad image projected by the most basic BIBs used by the Sanlúcar rebels. Once the Junta receives a reply from the Consejo, and given that it accepts the proposal, it will be made public via official bulletins thus opening a period for argument.

BIB in action (foto:diariodejerez)

Without any doubt the rebels will present theirs which the Junta will have to deal with as quickly as possible, but which could delay things indefinitely, as happened when Fedejerez presented arguments about the draft decree for elections to the Consejos Reguladores in Andalucía, delaying them for nine months. There is yet another step which the Junta has decided to take, but which the Consejo considers unnecessary. According to sources in the Junta, Brussels will be consulted on the proposal to ensure that the change of text works and that it would not interfere with EU rules. Once all these hurdles have been cleared the Junta will be disposed to give the green light to the change of text, but would prefer to postpone it till after the Consejo elections scheduled for the end of April-beginning of May.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Oloroso 18%, Juan Piñero

Paleish, amber with coppery gold highlights, legs.
Forthcoming, vanilla, quite nutty, turron yema tostada, hints of orange and warm spices, cinnamon, a hint of lebkuchen, American oak and the slightest savoury note balance with the glyceric sweetness, and there is an openness about it which shows maturity.
Generous, lively, open textured and very tasty. A sweet note at the start gives way to dryness with a trace of tannin and decent acidity which gives it amazing length. There are notes of bitter orange marmalade which, along with the spice, oak and nutty notes give it a lot of charm complexity and finesse. Delicious.
This wine is about 25 years old which makes it an absolute gift at the price. On the (rather boring) label there is no mention of its age, only on the website. What a missed opportunity! The grapes came from the Pagos Añina and Macharnudo and the wine, which is bought in, matures through 3 criaderas before reaching the solera from which there is one annual saca. There are 750 butts in the whole solera which is in the bodega in C/Francisco Javier, Jerez. The alcohol content might be expected to be slightly higher given the age, but it works really well at 18%.
10.91 Euros

Saturday 13 February 2016

13.2.16 Osborne Opens Restaurant/Shop

For the past few months Osborne has been converting one of their bodegas, the 2,000 square metre Bodega La Vieja, into a reference point for wine tourism in El Puerto with a shop, restaurant and space to hold lectures and tastings. They hope to open the new venture in time for summer and double the number of visitors. The firm feels that visitors to the bodegas can round off their visit nicely with a taste of local traditional gastronomy and to that end are employing well-known local chefs. The converted bodega will have access from Bodega La Mora but a separate entrance as well since it will be open longer hours. As Iván Llanza, communication director of Osborne, says proudly “when our visitor leaves, they will know about wine.” Restaurants are not new to Osborne, as they already own quite a few all over Spain promoting their wines and spirits and their famous Iberico ham, Cinco Jotas.

The old bodega at the corner of Los Moros & Comedias (foto:diariojerez)

Friday 12 February 2016

12.2.15 Important Debate on Sherry’s Position

Bodegas Williams & Humbert was the scene for yesterday’s forum on Sherry sponsored by the publishing group Grupo Joly. It was well attended by both the public and the trade, counting Beltrán Domecq, César Saldaña and Evaristo Babé among them as well as members of the city council. Jesús Medina, W&H managing director, spoke in positive terms about the situation in which Sherry finds itself before opening the debate.

He said that in the last 10 years Sherry had gone from excess production to a balance between supply and demand but the continuing slide in sales, which continues but which is slowing down, is limiting profitability. Yet Sherry is fashionable and has taken important steps towards profitability. It is on the right road though there is a long way to go and there remain important challenges. He made some suggestions for helping it on its way.

Jesus medina addresses the audience

Quality is the key, and he sees the example of Italy as one to follow, where after abandoning bulk, wine sales have increased by 15% in volume and by 20% in value along with a proliferation of high quality producers. “Profit is the result of quality, not quantity” he said, continuing that “in Jerez there is still much to do as sales are concentrated in mature markets which see Sherry as a mature product, there are too many BOBs and consumers are ageing and will ultimately be lost.” To turn this situation round he pointed out the need to diversify both markets and consumers by reinforcing the presence of Sherry in bars, hotels and restaurants and relying on quality.

The four main Sherry markets, Britain, Spain, Holland and Germany, account for 90% of sales, and all of them except Spain are in decline. He said it was not so much a question of abandoning these markets but of finding new ones like the USA, the world’s largest consumer of wine and with the money to buy it, and others with strong potential like Canada and Asia. Although Spain is now Sherry’s biggest market, it is largely because other markets are declining. Only 1.5% of the wine consumed in Spain is Sherry, and that is largely in Andalucía and at ferias.

Medina encouraged the trade to take advantage of the help it has had from its fashionability, being spoken and written about by experts and journalists, having been the European City of Wine. He also pointed out that what is fashionable is not the sweet and medium Sherry but the good and interesting stuff like Palo Cortado and unfortified Fino, yet innovation was not new, and he mentioned W&H Añadas, Barbadillo’s Manzanilla en rama, Lustau Almacenistas and the VOS and VORS wines. He continued “now is a very propitious time for innovation with young winemakers focussing on the soil and the vineyard who don’t use the traditional solera system as it masks these characteristics.

Cesar Saldana, Beltran Domecq, Luis Arroyo (Bodegas Arfe), Faustino Rodriguez (Bar Juanito)

Such wines are complementary to solera wines and there is much to be made from classifying the vineyards, like they now want to do in Rioja and they have done in France for ages. This would allow for better grapes to fetch a better price, something which can’t happen with the solera system where they are all mixed together. Then he called for a simplification of the types of Sherry to clarify wine which is difficult to communicate thanks to the huge variety of wines inherited from the history of making wine to suit each buyer. He said that the five main types: Fino and Manzanilla, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso should be kept and labelled as dry, medium and sweet as necessary.

His final point was that he felt Manzanilla should be brought back to the DO Jerez, back to the start with a single DO which could defend everybody’s interests without distinction and with unity in the trade. Before taking questions he called for unity instead of argument and for a greater effort to promote Sherry with the support of gastronomy and wine tourism, something for which he applauded the efforts of the Consejo.

During the debate Jesús called for a reduction of regulations which form obstacles to the generation of profit. He said that Spanish businesses were burdened with 28,000 of them, mostly national and regional, and that taxes on alcohol needed revision. Asked about BIB he said that he disagreed with the rebels and that BIB harms the prestige of the product and that rules are there to be obeyed, though he believes in dialogue.

Asked by a bodeguero about the fortification of Sherry with spirit produced in Jerez, if it could be produced at a sensible price, a project he was working on given that spirit and some vino de color came mainly from La Mancha, Jesús replied that he saw little point as there are insufficient vineyards to grow the necessary grapes and what happens now is legal. On a point about promotional investment he noted that “we are not nearly investing enough, and while it has increased a little it is far from what it once was, and far less still than other DOs”. As an example he said that three well-known DOs were investing between them 18 million in the USA while Sherry had little more than 1.5 million for the whole world.

In response to a question about his view of the arrival of the multinationals with the recent takeover of the old Domecq, Medina touched on Brandy de Jerez which he believes has a promising future, and he felt the Andrew Tang takeover was a good thing, an investment of 275 million euros in Jerez Brandy.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Amontillado Mons Urium VORS 18%, Bodegas Urium

Amber to light mahogany with copper tints, slight trace green to rim, legs.
Supremely elegant and fairly intense almost honeyed toasted almonds and hazelnuts, traces of oak, a hint of glyceric sweetness is perfectly balanced by a gentle sharp note from the crianza biologica along with a hint of tobacco. A serious yet charming Amontillado.
Reasonably crisp on entry then spreads attractive nutty, barrel flavours round the palate. There is some gentle tannin there but not enough to upset the equilibrium with the glycerine. Clean, complex, lively and precise, it has terrific length and isn't so concentrated as to dominate food. Lovely.
Certainly all of 30 years old, and I would venture to suggest a good few more. This is a classic old Amontillado which shows all its component parts yet they are perfectly harmonised with considerable age. It is bottled with virtually no filtration, and tastes exactly as it does in the bodega. Like we all wish we could do, it wears its heart on its sleeve and is ageing gracefully.
€ 33 per 50cl bottle in Spain. Available in UK from Sherry Boutique

Wednesday 10 February 2016

10.2.16 Consejo Elections to be Held 29 April

At this Friday’s extraordinary meeting of the Consejo it will be proposed that the elections take place on the 29th April, the day before the start of the Feria. Another meeting will be called in mid-May for the new representatives to take their seats and they will elect the president and inform the Junta. As things stand there are no other candidates, so unless he were to resign, Beltrán Domecq is likely to be re-elected for 4 years.

What with recent tensions over BIB he has demonstrated his flair for diplomacy and dialogue as well as his passion for Sherry, making him one of its principal ambassadors both in Spain and abroad. The equivalent meeting for Brandy de Jerez will take place in parallel with the Sherry meeting and it looks likely that current president Evaristo Babé will be re-elected. He is also president of Fedejerez, the association of bodegas, whose representatives can now only speak for their principal activity even if their bodega owns vineyards, thanks to new rules from the Junta.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

9.2.16 Tapateando! Pasarela Flamenca

The XX Festival de Jerez (26-29 February) has a new tapas route: Tapateando. Tabancos, restaurants and bars in the city centre will compete with tapas inspired by Flamenco served with a matching glass of Sherry. So far 16 have signed up with more expected:

Tabancos: Plateros, El Pasaje, Las Banderillas, El Telescopio, El Guitarrón, La Pandilla, San Pablo and La Bodeguita

Restaurant/Bars: Reíno de León, La Cruz Blanca, Cervecería Gorila, Bigote, Bar Cristina, Don Tapa, Tendido 6 and Bar Juanito.

And on the subject of Flamenco, from the 11-14 Feb the Pasarela Flamenca de Jerez takes place, sponsored by Mercedes Benz and at the bodegas of Gonzáz Byass. This is a spectacular fashion show, bursting with beauty and colour in all its Andalusian splendour.


Monday 8 February 2016

8.2.16 New Labels for Bertola

The labels of this famous old brand have been evolving, and indeed improving. When Bodegas Internacionales (including Diez Mérito, Pemartín and Bertola) was bought from the State from the ashes of Rumasa along with Rioja house Paternina by Marcos Eguizábal in 1984, he used the old Bertola labels at first, changing only the producer’s name to Federico Paternina. New labels were subsequently designed which had the producer’s name as Diez Mérito and were smart enough, but not eye catching. The latest ones are better as they highlight more clearly the wine’s age: 5 years for the Cream and Fino and 12 for the rest, and they look more “Sherry”. Now they just need to update the website...

Old label...

Next Label...

New label

Sunday 7 February 2016

7.2.16 Yuste Buys Argüeso

Transport and distribution magnate Francisco Yuste has bought Bodegas Argüeso. He already owns a lot of amazing wines such as Pedro Romero’s Aurora and the soleras of the Conde de Aldama, (which he intends to market as VOS and VORS in spring) so this deal will make him the second biggest bodega with some 10,000 butts in Sanlúcar after Barbadillo. Francisco is the leader of the Association of Artisan Bodegas of Sanlúcar, the BIB rebels, and despite the Consejo acceptance of a change to the wording of the rules, he hopes that it might trip up as it has to be approved by both the Junta and Brussels.

Saturday 6 February 2016

La Bota de Manzanilla 32 15%, Equipo Navazos

Fairly deep colour; amber fading through yellow with the slightest tinge of green, legs.
Minerality and sea breeze at first with a briny salinity and traces of flor. Add that to a slight wild rawness and a hint of rope, and it means this could only come from Sanlúcar. There are traces of apple and a slight oily nuttiness, both indicative of very slight oxidation (as is the colour), yet it is still fresh and this simply adds to the wine's now deeper complexity.
Quite assertive and crisp with a decent acidity balanced by a slight caramel note. There are some oxidative notes for sure, not so far short of Amontillado without so many nuts, but Manzanilla cannot become Amontillado in bottle, though this must have been a Manzanilla Pasada when bottled and it still has lots of zip. It is very dry with considerable length and frankly delicious.
It is great to be able to get hold of an older bottling of La Bota to see how it is developing, and this is doing exceptionally well. It stimulates not just the palate but the mind. The wine was selected from 20 toneles (slightly bigger than butts) of the oldest Manzanilla at Sánchez Ayala and 600 bottles were filled en rama in October 2011, but Equipo Navazos were certain it would benefit from longer bottle-ageing like certain other wines had, so didn't release it. In May 2013 they tried it again and felt it still needed more time, and it was not released until November 2014, meaning that it had 36 months bottle-age before release. Now it has something like 50 months in bottle, I shared it with another aficionado, Julián Sanjuan who runs the excellent Los Patios de Beatas in Málaga, who pronounced it a "vinazo" (a stunning wine) and with whom I totally agreed, and it went beautifully with his bacalao negro (a very tasty form of cod with slightly darker flesh).
28 Euros

Friday 5 February 2016

Manzanilla Gabriela Oro 15%, Sánchez Ayala

Brassy, strawy gold with bright reflections, legs.
Full attractive and complex, amazingly fresh with lots of salty olive-briney flor, slightest hints of esparto, cinnamon and umami, verging on pasada with a trace of autolysis, an almost cider note. Generous yet controlled and finely balanced, very Manzanilla.
Lovely. Bitter flor gives way to the fresh briney not quite fruity vinous character with beautifully balanced acidity keeping it fresh and very clean, then it mellows a little before it starts to build up to the flor-filled finale with a long dry slightly bitter and very satisfying finish.
Made with grapes from the firm's own vineyard Las Cañas in the Pago Balbaina and fermented with natural yeast at the vineyard. The mosto is transported to the bodega where it enters a solera with 9 criaderas and is aged for at least 6 years.
12.50 Euros

Thursday 4 February 2016

The Tabancos of Jerez

The word “tabanco” is thought to derive from tabaco/estanco meaning a wine and olive oil shop also selling tobacco, usually state run with profits going to the crown. The term is peculiar to Jerez and not used elsewhere, although similar establishments certainly exist all over the Marco de Jerez. Their history dates back over four centuries, with the word “tabanco” first appearing in municipal archives in 1592.
Tabanco el Pasaje as it was in the 1920s, Also known as La Fortuna
They began more as wine shops often related to a particular bodega, and some workers would meet here for a bracer before they began their daily toil, and many would meet there afterwards as well. Various types of wine were served straight from the rows of barrels. The floors were earthen and there were bullfight posters everywhere along with notices saying “Hoy no se fía, mañana si” meaning no credit today, only tomorrow (and tomorrow never comes), or “Prohibido el cante” meaning no singing. Women were not allowed except to get the family wine bottle filled, but had to use a side door or a window. Most were happy enough with this as the tabancos could be quite rough.

Tabanco La Pandilla
After decades of decline, the last fifteen years or so have seen these wonderfully old fashioned bars enjoying a well-deserved renaissance. No longer “spit and sawdust”, they not only allow singing but actively promote flamenco, Sherry tastings and the culture of Jerez. High quality food is available and while each tabanco has its own specialities, most also serve the traditional dishes such as berza (vegetable stew with meat), chicharrones (small marinated and spiced strips of pork) and papas aliñás (potato with spring onion, parsley, oil and vinegar). Luckily this has attracted some of the younger generation who see this as cool, and it will hopefully preserve the Sherry drinking tradition as well as the historic character and atmosphere of Jerez itself.

Tabanco San Pablo Really good chicharrones...
You will notice from the lists below how recently many were established, which is an encouraging sign, and while some are a bit more modern in appearance, many look as if they have been there for a century. In 2012 five tabancos got together and formed the association “Tabancora” to promote both themselves and Sherry traditions, and drew up a leaflet with a route map so people could follow it and try them out. They are all in the city centre, so one can enjoy a “tabanco crawl” on foot! Tabancora has the support of both the City Council and the Consejo Regulador, and the leaflet is available from the latter and the tourist office in Plaza Arenal.

The following are members of Tabancora:

La Pandilla C/Los Valientes, 14 (long established but closed for 20 years, reopened 2013)
El Pasaje C/Santa María, 8 (est. 1925)
El Guitarrón de San Pedro C/Bizcocheros, 16 (est. 2012)
Plateros Plaza Plateros C/Francos, 1 (est. 2011)
San Pablo C/San Pablo, 12 (est. 1934)
La Banderillas C/Caballeros, 12 (est. 2012)

The following are not currently in Tabancora but well worth a visit:

La Vinoteca Jerezana C/Arcos, 4 (est.1947 - no kitchen but good range of bottled Sherry)
Taberna La Sureña C/Puerto, 7 (est. 1993)
Mariñíguez C/Mariñíguez, 20 (est. 2013)
El Tabankino C/Idolos, 15 (est. 2014)
Cruz Vieja C/Barja, 16 (est. 2014)
El Telescopio C/Ávila, 16 (est. 2013)
Tabanco Romate C/Francos, 18 (originally est. 1997, converted 2012 by Romate)

Wednesday 3 February 2016

3.2.16 Graham Hines Retires

A delightful man, Graham was director of the Sherry Institute in the UK for 21 years and a past director of Wines from Spain in London. He is a member of the Gran Orden de los Caballeros del Vino and a Sherry Educator. Consejo president Beltrán Domecq sent his best wishes while recognising and thanking him for his significant contribution to the promotion of Sherry in Britain, one of its principal markets. He said “The last 8 years have been decisive in the recovery of Sherry in Britain and it has been an honour to count on Graham to preside over such an important period in our history. Under his direction we have achieved a more solid position in the market with a record number of importers and bodegas represented as well as a growing number of styles of Sherry hitherto not so well known there.”

Beltran Domecq and Graham Hines with proper Sherry glasses

For his part Graham said that “With mixed feelings I decided to retire after a challenging, but at the same time gratifying, period in which I dedicated myself entirely to Sherry. I shall continue to follow its from close by and wish it great success in the future.” Angeline Bayly, who will take over Graham’s role, said “It has been a privilege to work with him for the last 7 years during which we have done much promotional activity, and I am grateful to him for all I have learned. We will miss his extraordinary knowledge but I am convinced that we can count on a fascinating and innovative campaign during 2016 based on the projects on which Graham worked so hard.” Angeline, who is the director of Bespoke Drinks Media, will take over Graham’s role as of now.