Tuesday 31 May 2016

Antonio Páez Lobato

Born in Jerez in 1923 and now in his early nineties, Antonio left school at only nine years old and helped out in his father’s despacho de vinos, “Los Palitos” in the Calle Sevilla. Being so young he needed to stand on a wooden crate to reach the sink to wash glasses, but over time he quickly learned about the bodega business. Aged 23 he married Josefa Morilla Nuño and they had two sons and seven daughters during a very happy marriage which lasted 54 years till Josefa’s death in 2000.


The cooperage
After leaving his father’s business Antonio continued working in bars, first as an employee and later as the owner. His enterprising spirit saw him work also as a broker for all sorts of bodega-related businesses, and he travelled all round Spain on a Vespa scooter offering products such as parcels of wine or wine barrels. It was not long before he set up his own cooperage business, but at first this was very hard as it was difficult to finance the raw materials. By the end of the 1940s into the early 1950s however, he was already selling small numbers of barrels to various bodegas in the Rioja. Now the firm, Tonelería Páez Lobato, has all the best equipment and a prestigious list of clients including famous bodegas in various parts of Spain and distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, the USA and Japan.

The cooperage trademark

The “Vinegar King”
In 1945 he foresaw a commercial future for vinegar and embarked on another venture, Bodegas Páez Morilla. Buying parcels of vinegar from bodegas and putting them in a special vinegar solera. Some of these parcels were young and some very old. At the time vinegar was seen as just another product but Antonio felt that Jerez vinegar had the potential to be great since it was made from a base of Sherry. At the tender age of 22 he started to promote Vinagre de Jerez to anyone who would listen, gradually converting it into a product of exceptional quality and highly appreciated in international cuisine. Thanks to his efforts, most Sherry bodegas now offer their own Sherry Vinegar and a Denominación de Origen Vinagre de Jerez was established in 1994 with its own Consejo Regulador. Antonio was soon nicknamed “The Vinegar King”, and the firm now offers a range of top quality vinegars and Doña Pepa vinegar-based balsamic sauces.

One of the vinegar soleras

The table Wine
In 1976 he acquired a vineyard called Viña La Vicaria near Arcos with the idea of producing table wine, a product which would not have to compete with the established Sherry firms. The white wine he produced was launched in 1981 under the brand name Tierra Blanca, and a red wine soon followed called Viña Lucía. These were among the first bottled table wines from Cádiz, and though they were viewed with scepticism by the Sherry bodegas, most now offer table wines as well – and they too now have a Denominación de Origen: Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz, established in 2005.

A view of some of the vineyard

The Sherry
It was perhaps inevitable that Páez Morilla would enter the world of Sherry, and in 1992 Antonio's son Jose purchased the three surviving bodegas which once formed part of the complex of twelve owned by Palomino and Vergara. These used to be known as the “Apostles” since Christ had twelve disciples. The bodega is called Dios Baco after the statue on the apex of the roof, and was constructed in 1848. A range of very high quality Sherries is produced here, and there is also a despacho de vinos.

The Roundabout
Over the course of a long, productive, visionary and successful life Antonio has earned the love and respect of all who know him. He has an affable nature and as he sees it there are no people he doesn’t know; only friends he has not yet met. For as long as he is able he intends to go to the bodega every day. For his 90th birthday his family baked him a cake in the shape of a large vinegar bottle. In 2015, in recognition of his achievements, the City Council of Jerez dedicated a roundabout on the Avenida Reina Sofía to him, only the second bodeguero to receive this honour. The first went to Pepe Estévez.

Antonio with the mayor at the inauguration of his roundabout

Monday 30 May 2016

Some of the Best Sherry Bars in Japan

This is a translation of an article by José Luís Jiménez published in Más Jerez. He has been visiting Japan with Tomoko Kimura, a Japanese Sherry Educator who spends a lot of time in Jerez.

“Before describing this amazing tour of the most important Sherry Bars of Japan I would like to mention a cultural association which, in recent years, has played an active role in promoting Sherry in Japan. It is the Sherry Society of Japan.

Tomoko, Kumiko and Jose Luis Jimenez

This not-for-profit institution was created in 2007 and its president is a lady called Kumiko Nishimura. The Society has around 300 members, most of whom are in Tokyo where the Society is based. It could be said that the Sherry Society Japan has been an invigorating force for many of these bars which are dedicated almost exclusively to Sherry.

Our tour takes in cities like Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps, the traditional Kyoto, the lively and modern Osaka, and of course the mega-city of Tokyo. Our guide for this novel trip is a native of Tokyo with an in-depth knowledge of the wines of the Marco de Jerez, Tomoko Kimura.

I urge you to get to know these special places which ooze with love, respect and admiration for Sherry. These are places where Japanese Sherry lovers enjoy their Sherry with passion, forgetting for a while the straitjackets of formality and ritual which mark their everyday lives, even in a big busy city like Tokyo.
Cádiz Bar
Masaru Yokota is the manager of this elegant bar with such a singular name. It is right in the centre of the city at Hamamatsu-cho. Masaru san is an expert bartender who serves a variety of cocktails based on various types of Sherry. As an official venenciador he has travelled to Jerez many times.
Eiji Omori opened his Sherry and tapas bar in 2013 after working for a few years at La Venencia with Takeshiro Naito. The bar, which is situated in the Tanaka building, Gotanda, is named after the Calle Echgaray in Madrid, site of the famous tabanco La Venencia. Omori is also a great fan of flamenco and has visited Jerez a few times to learn more about Sherry and flamenco dancing.
La Venencia
Among the various objects which proudly decorate the walls of expert Takeshiro Naito’s Sherry bar are certificates of merit as a venenciador from the Consejo Regulador and Bodegas Osborne. The bar is named after the famous tabanco in Madrid in calle Echegaray and is a delightful place situated in the Kobayashi building in Nakameguro. This charming little corner of Jerez has been in business for 25 years and is a favourite for lovers of Sherry and Andaluz culture. An essential visit.

Takeshiro & Jose Luis in La Venencia
Bar Ollaría
Toshihiko Watanabe runs this bar and adds his own touch of Andalusian friendship – he has been there many times - to traditional Japanese courtesy. He is an official venenciador. In 2014 he won the Guinness book of Records title for being able to offer his customers the opportunity to try the most Sherries – 293 of them! The previous record holder was also Japanese. The bar’s name comes from the Spanish word “olla” or stew pot as its food speciality is stews. Among the staff are other trained venenciadores, two of whom are winners of the annual competition in Japan, where there are 150 to date. This charming little bar in the Ginza district was established in 2007.
Until a couple of years ago Aki Shimada worked at Ollaría till he decided to open his own Sherry bar. The name (Spanish for “clove”) refers to the aroma of Sherry which abounds in this bar along with its owner’s courtesy. Shimada is, like many of his colleagues in the trade, a Consejo-certified venenciador, but also has certificates from Williams & Humbert and Osborne. He has also visited Jerez on various occasions and really knows the wines.
Sherry Club
Michiko Takahashi could be considered the pioneer of Sherry bars in japan, a veritable “godmother” of Sherry. Her bar, the longest-established of them all, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. From 2005 till 2014 it held the Guinness Book of Records title for the biggest range of Sherry. Situated in the central district of Ginza, it has three storeys; the ground floor being a wine shop, the first floor being a bar-dining area decorated with barrel heads which customers can sign, while the upper floor is reserved for various types of event. Mrs Takahashi also owns the Sherry Club in Kyoto and everything is top quality in both.
Ricardo Bar de España
This is a restaurant specialising in Spanish food run by Nobuyuki Sasaki. It has a good range of Sherry, especially the wines of Grupo Caballero, and the tapas are varied and carefully made. While it is not particularly central, it is easy to find.

Nobuyuki and some of his Sherries

Bar Hemingway
No visitor to Osaka should miss Bar Hemingway. The well regarded bartender, Naoya Matsuno, greets customers in the Spanish he learned while qualifying with merit as a sommelier and venenciador at González Byass. He has visited Jerez and its bodegas many times and is very knowledgeable. The bar, established in 1998, is well situated in an area popular with locals and tourists alike and has been the subject of numerous television articles.
Bar Quinta
The name of this bar comes from Osborne’s Fino Quinta. Its young and enthusiastic owner, Tatsuya Mankawa trained as a venenciador there. He not only promotes Sherry at his own premises, but for the last two years has coordinated an important promotional event for Sherry in Osaka involving the participation of many other bars.
Sherry bar Venga
A venenciador certified by Osborne, Hideyuki Yamada, owns this bar in a quiet and peaceful side street off the main commercial centre of Kyoto. (“venga” is Spanish for “come on”) Hideyuki Yamada runs the bar and is a certified venenciador by Osborne. The spacious establishment is decorated with numerous posters and promotional items from bodegas which he brought back from Jerez.
Sherry Club
This is the highly recommended Kyoto branch of Sherry Club Tokyo run by Michiko Takahashi, located in the peaceful and charming area of Ishibe-koji. At the entrance customers are greeted by a statue of a venenciador, created by a Japanese artist.
Bar Oku
Not really a Sherry bar per se, this establishment nonetheless has a good range of Sherry on offer, and the manager Yoshimori Miyokawa serves his customers with typical Japanese courtesy. This is a beautiful bar in the best Japanese style and is well worth seeking out by taking a wander through one of the most traditional districts of the city.

Sherry Club in Kyoto has lots of props

Mona Chulos
The city of Matsumoto, in the prefecture of Nagano, is surrounded by mountains which resemble the Swiss Alps. Here, surprisingly, is a unique restaurant dedicated to Spanish cuisine in general and that of Andalucía in particular. Established in 2007 this large restaurant has a real Spanish atmosphere throughout its three areas and is hospitably run by chef Chinami Sakai and her husband Kenichi Sakai who is the bartender. Mona Chulos can be found easily right in the centre of Matsumoto. Some weekdays they hold Flamenco shows performed by students of the local dance academies. Great atmosphere, impeccable service and a varied menu of Spanish dishes with a local touch and plenty of Sherry.

Sunday 29 May 2016

29.5.16 Vinoble: New Wines from Harveys, Barbadillo; Corpus Christi

It is inside the Alcazar as well, everywhere

Jerez was alive today with visitors to the unique biennial wine fair Vinoble which covers sweet and fortified wines of the world. Needless to say there was a strong Sherry presence and a huge range of wines available for tasting. There were wine producers everywhere! Launched today was a new range of Sherries from Harveys (literally bottled yesterday!) and a couple of really interesting and delicious table wines from Barbadillo.

The Harvey wines were:
Fino: Fresh light and clean, about 5 years old, green label
Amontillado: Amber, dry, light and fresh, about 12 years old, orange label
Palo Cortado: Amber, very nutty and fairly light, about 15 years old, red label
Oloroso: Gold to mahogany fairly crisp, very Oloroso, aged about 12 years, maroon label
Pedro Ximénez: Deep blacky brown, lots of toffee, trace oak, aged 10 years, long, grey label
This is a really good range, I’ll post pictures as soon as I get the promised press release….

The Barbadillo wines were:
Mirabrás 2014: 40 year old Palomino vines from the Cerro de Leyes vineyard fermented in ex Manzanilla butts after a few days’ sunning and aged under flor in butt and tank. Delicious crisp apple and unripe apricot aromas, and might age interestingly.
Tintilla Nude 2015: “Insultingly young red” Tintilla grapes from the Gibalbín vineyard fermented using carbonic maceration. There is no front label, hence “nude”.
Again, these are just released so no pictures yet…

Jerez was also alive with people celebrating Corpus Christi, following the procession of the municipal band and members of the religious brotherhoods carrying altars through the streets in clouds of incense. This year the procession was shortened, but still covered 18 streets. Between the Plaza Arenal and the Plaza de la Yerba huge brotherhood insignias were laid out on the ground in coloured salt. Quite a spectacle, unless you wanted to cross the street.

Fino del Puerto 15%, Tres en Rama, Lustau

Strawy gold with a slight amber tinge, legs.
Terrific complex start, quite full and serious with a very slightly bitter edge of flor and dried flowers, the merest trace of oxidation, hints of straw, wax, dry scrub and minerality. There is also a slightly damp marine air to it and the faintest hint of autolysis.
Full-flavoured and very dry yet it has a lovely elegance and well balanced acidity, there is a trace of oxidised apple, a hint of dry bitterness and a slightly yeasty waxy autolytic note and a clean finish with terrific length and a lovely bitter twinge. This is very good and really shows what bottle age can do for the en rama wines.
This is the Spring 2015 saca, so it has had a year in bottle to develop, and how wonderfully it has done so. Manuel Lozano  reserved 347 butts and a highly qualified tasting panel including Sarah Jane Evans, chair of the Institute of Masters of Wine, selected the wine from only 2. The wine was released in April 2015 and there were only 1,000 50cl. bottles and all but 42 bottles were exported. Since Lustau make 3 of these wines, one from each town in the Sherry Triangle, it is always worth buying one (or more!) of each to compare, and compare again a year later - given availability.
Around 17 euros

Saturday 28 May 2016

Oloroso 18%, Viña Callejuela

Deep bright amber to mahogany fading to a burnished gold rim, legs.
Attractive and forthcoming nutty aromas with that slightly savoury edge so typical of Sanlúcar, there are hints of sweetness like glacé orange and vanilla yet there is also a salinity and traces of oak along with a bright freshness. No shortage of character here, and all well balanced.
Tangy, as one might expect, lively with a light cleanliness, racy for Oloroso, which is followed by a weightier, nuttier character which hangs on a balance with the sweeter hints of orange marmalade and traces of warm spice. There is a lovely tension here and good length.
From the excellent and comparatively new Sanluqueño bodega run by the Blanco brothers, this wine is between 12 and 15 years old and shows real Sanlúcar character.
9.50 euros

Friday 27 May 2016

Types of Sherry: Oloroso

The word translates as “fragrant” and a good Oloroso is certainly that. It is made only from Palomino grapes and it has been observed that with slightly harder pressing the incidence of Oloroso is higher. Also musts from hotter inland vineyards are more likely to produce Oloroso. In its youth the wine either develops very little flor or is prevented from so doing by fortification to 17-18 %/vol and allowed to age oxidatively. Its alcohol content will lie between 17 and 22 %/vol depending on its age.

With no flor to consume it there is a naturally high level of glycerine in the wine which makes it smooth and gives the impression of slight sweetness, though it rarely contains even 5 grams per litre of sugars. It is amber to mahogany in colour due to the oxidation, dry, full bodied, smooth and structured with an open texture, and often has aromas of walnut, dried orange peel, cinnamon and leather. Oloroso is the very pinnacle of the oxidised style of wine.

Butts in the sobretablas containing wine likely to be Oloroso are marked with two palos or rayas (//). Later they will be marked φ but precise markings tend to vary from bodega to bodega. If a butt contains exceptionally smooth Oloroso it will be marked with a ɺ or a raya with a foot. This is known as “Pata de Gallina” or hen’s foot and is quite a rare style of Oloroso. Butts containing less refined wine are marked /// (known simply as raya) and used for blending after ageing. In the past they were often aged in the sun outside to speed up the process.

As it ages the strength rises due to transpiration and the wine develops considerable concentration and complexity, and when it is older it can have a certain astringency, mainly from wood tannins and volatile acidity. Luckily Oloroso has an affinity with Pedro Ximénez, and a tiny addition of this can balance it out. Alternatively an addition of 10-15% can produce the attractively sweetened wine formerly known as Amoroso, Oloroso Dulce or Abocado till 2012 when the term Cream officially took over. Sweetened Olorosos are sometimes blended before bottling and sometimes blended before ageing, the latter being the better method, allowing much more time for the wines to integrate.

Until the mid XIX century, before Fino was properly understood, the majority of wine produced, particularly for export, was Oloroso. The grapes would have been sunned briefly in the almijar and foot-trodden, and thanks to its robust constitution the wine, usually a vintage wine, could travel well, being very suitable for the climate of northern countries. It was probably the principal type of wine known as “Sack” so beloved of the Elizabethans.

Despite the arrival of the solera system, some bodegas continued to produce small quantities of vintage or añada wines. These became more specialised over time (see post) with the majority of them being Olorosos as generally any flor would die off soon in a sealed butt. Due to their different ageing conditions they are not exactly the same as solera wines as the butts are never topped up, but they are not disimilar, and quite delicious.

Oloroso also has an affinity with whisky. Until the 1970s Sherry, much of it Oloroso in whatever form, was shipped to the UK in 500 litre “shipping butts”. These were smaller than the usual “bodega butt” of 600 litres capacity, but full to the bung. It was too expensive to ship empty butts back to Spain, so once the Sherry was bottled, they were sold to the distillers who gratefully used them for ageing Scotch Whisky. With its intense and particular aromas and flavours, the Oloroso more than any other type of Sherry, did much to enhance the final character of the whisky, whether it was aged full-term or even just finished in a butt, and this style of whisky became very popular. When Jerez bottling became the norm the supply of butts dried up and distillers were forced to procure new ones and have them seasoned with Oloroso at bodegas in Jerez, a system which works well but which is much more expensive. At least it has brought very welcome business to a depressed Sherry trade.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Fino Playa Regla 15%, Bodegas José Mellado Martín

Pale golden straw, very slight haze. legs
Saline with distinct seaside aromas, hints of Palomino fruit, straw, minerality and not a great deal of flor, young and fresh if not over complex.
Reasonably tangy and saline with a touch of flor bitterness, good and dry with a crisp minerally freshness this would be great with the local seafood.
Looks as if it was bottled en rama with only light filtration, but this is not mentioned. At a guess, the vines were grown on sandier soils which, while perfect for the famous local Moscatel, give slightly courser Finos. Being produced in Chipiona, which is in the production zone but not the ageing zone, this wine while controlled by the Consejo does not carry the official DO seal, but  rather a production zone seal. Playa Regla is a beautiful nearby beach overlooked by the tall lighthouse and the Nuestra Señora de Regla monastery.
3.50 euros, can't argue with that.

26.5.16 Chiclana Feria: Chiclana Wine

Chiclana’s annual Feria de San Antonio will take place 8-12 June at the Las Albinas del Torno fairground. There will be one unusual feature which is that the Town Council will give grants to those casetas observing certain local regulations and serving only wine produced in Chiclana, which is in the Sherry production zone. A formula has been established whereby 3 euros per litre, 2 euros per bottle and 1 euro per half bottle will be paid, but subject to a maximum payment according to the size of the caseta. Naturally proof will be required. The council says that “We are aware that we have excellent wines, and this initiative is the best way of defending and promoting our local identity.”

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Sherry: All Palomino, even the Alcohol

This is a translation of a thought-provoking article published 18/5/16 by Paz Ivison in El Mundo Vino.

“Back to the Future”: a paradox of great significance. Apart from being a film produced by Steven Spielberg in the 1980s, it is an interesting reflexion of the state of sherry today. If we could go back in time and look toward the future, surely things would be better, but it would not necessarily be easy, let alone profitable. Because nobody with any common sense or financial interest – like me - could begin to understand the complexity of a simple question: Why was the excess production of years ago, when there were far more vineyards than now, not distilled?

The uprooting of excess vines was subsidised, and considering the price the growers were receiving for their grapes, they chose to grub them up. I always remember my good friend, academic and bodeguero, Luís Pérez. Years ago now, I heard him on local television, and he said “If they took away the Giralda Tower from the people of Sevilla there would be a revolution, but they took away the vineyards from the Jerezanos and nobody did a thing.”

Talking about Luís Pérez, his bodega (Bodegas Luís Pérez) has a new project which is to distil brandy from only the best grapes from their Viña El Corregidor in the Pago Carrascal opposite the Pago Macharnudo. Here the vines are the old clone 84 of Palomino, planted before the invasion of the California clone which is more productive. In a previous report I spoke of Fino La Barajuela which is now a reality and furthermore accepted by the Consejo Regulador. Willy Pérez, Luís’ son and oenologist for the family bodega, worked hard to produce a Fino and Oloroso Sherry without fortification, made only from grapes ripe enough to give an alcohol level of at least 15.5ᴼ naturally, and after much grape sorting he achieved this.

The rejected grapes were not wasted however. They were simply sunned to achieve more ripeness, pressed in a vertical press and the first pressing was fermented in butts seasoned with La Barajuela. The wine was then sent to Tomelloso for distillation into Holandas of 65ᴼ. The first Holandas were distilled from the 2014 harvest, and after their return to Jerez they are now ageing in a couple of butts in a separate bodega, since they do not yet have the right documentation to be permitted to age it in their own bodega. The 2015 will be distilled shortly. Ageing is static, as opposed to the normal solera system, and anyway they have not decided yet how much ageing will be necessary or desirable, nor what exactly the end product will be, so long as it is 100% Jerez.

In the XIX century local grapes were distilled to make what you might call brandy, though the name Brandy de Jerez as such had not appeared yet. The first brandies distilled and aged in Jerez were sold in England by my great uncle, Francisco Ivison O’Neale, considered a great chemist in those times, and a bodeguero too– there were many bodegas then. He was restless, well -travelled and wise, with great knowledge of distillation thanks to his visits to Cognac.

He bottled them in 1880 under the brand name La Marque Spéciale and sent them to his agent in England without going into much detail. Although he was the first to export and the first to bottle, other much bigger bodegas were already ageing brandies, but Tio Paco Ivison, as everybody knew him, was also the first to dare take the risk – and deserve the merit - of bottling and exporting.

Holandas 100% from Jerez
Most people have heard of the prestigious Brandy de Jerez Lepanto from González Byass, which is distilled in spectacular old Charente-style copper pot stills in Jerez. While they are now using Jerez grapes, it will take a while for the older spirit in the criaderas and solera, distilled in Tomelloso from Airén grapes, to work its way through. Until that happens it cannot call itself 100% Jerez, but it will happen over the coming years.

Another firm which has begun to make brandy from their own Jerez-grown grapes distilled in Tomelloso is Grupo Estévez. The brandy could possibly reach the market by the end of this year, but I don’t know under which brand it will be (the firm owns several: Valdespino, Real Tesoro, Tio Mateo, La Guita..). Whatever happens, it will be released as a Solera Reserva.

It was Grupo Estévez who had the idea – now reality as of the 2015 harvest – of fortifying Sherry with spirit distilled from theirown Jerez grapes. It aroused quite a lot of controversy at the time since fortification alcohol has a strength of 96ᴼ and there are very few aromas left to distinguish Palomino from Airén. While this will make very little difference to the quality of the final Sherry but if all the raw materials come from the Marco de Jerez it will increase traceability enormously. Wine and alcohol from the same origin sounds good. It is a truth that is hard to argue with. It will, however, increase the price since alcohol distilled from Palomino costs more than that of the higher-yielding Airén, but Estévez are set on this idea.

The commitment of Estévez to the vineyards, of which they are the biggest owner with almost 800 hectares, is praiseworthy. We could say they have gone from silica to albariza, since it was the profits from a silica mine and the obsession of the founder José Estévez which recuperated many pagos of albariza and preserved the perfect condition of others, such as the Macharnudo, one of the best pagos in the Marco de Jerez.

Going back to the Vineyard
Juan Carlos Estévez is one of the heirs of the “Silica King” and is in charge of the vineyards of the bodega group which was founded in the 1980s with the purchase of the small bodega Félix Ruiz. He did not want to study and went straight to work with his father in the silica and sand business near Arcos de la Frontera. Wandering through the vineyards with him he tells me the first vineyard his father bought was 50 hectares from Félix Ruiz in 1985; the second, Lomo del Álamo in the pago Lomopardo; the third came with the purchase of the wines, brands and vineyards of Valdespino – 40 hectares in the mythical Macharnudo. Then five years ago they bought 400 hectares, originally Domecq, from Beam Global.

Even with approaching 800 hectares now, they do not have nearly enough as they sell huge quantities to big stores such as Mercadona (which has over 1,500 branches) for whom they are the main suppliers. In fact the 800 hectares covers only 15% of their needs and they are always on the lookout for more. Like any successful business, they are loved and loathed but their commitment to the vineyards is impressive. They are even restoring the ruins of some beautiful old casas de viña.

Juan Carlos is a great enthusiast for the vineyards, the countryside and the local vegetation to the extent that they also plant wild olive trees and cork oaks among many other trees and plants between the slopes of some of the vineyards. Although they are short of vineyard they still allow themselves the luxury of fortifying their wines with alcohol from their own grapes, all classified for DO Sherry, as confirmed to me by group technical director, Eduardo Ojeda who goes on to say that this way all the main brands such as La Guita, La Guita en rama, Inocente, Tio Mateo, Deliciosa, Deliciosa en rama, Fino Real Tesoro, La Bailaora, even Tio Diego are becoming more and more authentic being 100% Palomino from the Marco de Jerez. To achieve this we sent wine from our 2015 harvest to Tomelloso for distillation under the supervision of our technical department.

To raise the wine’s alcohol content by one degree 5 or 6 litres of alcohol per butt containing 500 litres are needed. Estévez has created new soleras, one in Sanlúcar and the other in Jerez, both based on the 2015 harvest fortified with Palomino spirit. This experiment is being conducted by the firm’s research and development department.

Figures and Words
The DOs of Jerez and Manzanilla sold jointly in 2015 35.5 million litres of wine, equivalent to 71,000 butts. The production of the 2015 harvest was 93,900 butts of DO qualified wine and 29,375 butts of unqualified wine. It could be said that if Estévez’ idea had been applied to the entire qualified harvest of 2015, nearly all the alcohol needed could have been distilled from the unqualified wine.

According to Grupo Estévez president, José Ramón Estévez, “This idea has a plus. It improves Sherry’s prestige and its image in the eye of the consumer, but in the longer term it will benefit the profitability of the whole production system of Sherry, starting in the vineyard, and it will put an end to the nonsense of disqualifying Jerez grapes while “importing” alcohol from somewhere else.

It is logical to imagine that there should have been a distillery in Jerez, above all when there was so much overproduction. Now paradoxically there is a shortage of grapes: the seasoning of whisky barrels and the distillation of Palomino for holandas and fortification alcohol leaves nothing left. José Ramón is quite clear: “We are happy to help, but it is really up to the cooperatives to organise a distillery, an initiative which would create wealth, satisfy the demand which I hope will grow for Jerez-made alcohol, and even lead to the planting of more vineyard specifically for distillation.”

Will more vineyard be planted? Will we go back to the future? The recent policy of grubbing-up of vines is difficult to understand from any parameter, even less when the economics concern individual interests. As always, money talks.

25.5.16 Distillery Proposal Gains Support

The Grupo Estévez proposal to construct a distillery in the Marco de Jerez is attracting support. The association of independent growers (Asevi-Asaja) has added its weight to the idea - which is not new - and the Junta’s agriculture department has even carried out experiments in the vineyard to determine its viability. The attraction is that it would generate more wealth in the area, which would stay in the area, and benefit all concerned in Sherry production.

The European Union has funded investment in Cádiz (ITI) and some bodegas and many growers would like to see some of it spent on a distillery. Such a project would not only reduce overproduction but would also require the planting of more vineyard to supply the distillery with raw material.

Currently the Marco de Jerez has 6,500 hectares of vineyard in production after the grubbing-up of more than a third of the vineyards in recent years to balance supply and demand. Most of the grubbing-up was financed by EU money in a programme to reduce overproduction of wine in Europe. Much vineyard was also abandoned as growers couldn’t make a profit. It is felt that the distillery would ensure that everything which goes into a bottle Sherry should come from Jerez and that it would provide jobs in an area particularly badly hit by unemployment.

Grupo Estévez is happy to help and feel that the cooperatives would be in the best position to operate the distillery. José Ramón Estévez, president of the group, feels that beyond just producing fortification alcohol, the distillery could go on to produce brandy as well, and that would mean more vineyard and thus more jobs. Estévez are already fortifying with spirit produced from Jerez grapes (though currently distilled in Tomelloso) and would very much like to see a local distillery produce the spirit for 100% Jerez Sherry which would bring with it the possibility of the higher DO level of Denominación de Origen Calificada.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

24.5.16 González Byass Launch Vermouth; Feria de la Manzanilla

Vermouth La Copa is produced according to a formula from 1896 which had been preserved for more than a century in the company archives. Even the label is a reproduction of the original, though adjusted to match the new bottle presentation.  In the past many bodegas produced vermouth till it went out of fashion, but thanks to a resurgence of interest they are re-launching it.

La Copa is produced from a blend of fine Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez of at least eight years of age with carefully selected botanicals including wormwood, savory, clove, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, angelica and quinine. The name La Copa is historical as it was the branding iron of the horse breeding ranch of the Marqués de Torresoto, son of GB founder Manuel María González. The new (?) vermouth has a very complex spiced aroma and on the palate it is smooth and elegant with a slightly bitter finish while its Jerez origins can be detected. Price is around 10 euros and it is 15.5ᴼ.

The 2016 Feria de la Manzanilla starts tomorrow. The mayor of Sanlúcar, Víctor Mora, will switch on the more than 400,000 lights at 23.00, and they will be switched off again at the end of the Feria at midnight on Sunday 29th. The avenidas Bajo de Guia and Las Piletas will also be brightly lit. There will be music aplenty, a parade of horses and all sorts of horse drawn carriages and a bullfight, not to mention feasting, dancing and the consumption of vast amounts of Manzanilla.

The portada (entrance gateway) foto:Raul J Bustillos/andalucia informacion

Monday 23 May 2016

Fino Arroyuelo 15%, Primitivo Collantes

Quite pale bright silvery gold, light legs.
Lively yeasty and fresh. There is a gentle salinity, and notes of sourdough, dried herbs and plenty of almondy bitterness from the flor and an overall light zestiness.
Dry and fresh with a slightly savoury note and more complexity than the nose was prepered to give away. The flor is noticeable from both above and below giving a lovely bitter kick. While acidity is on the low side it has considerable length, and considerable character.
This excellent Fino is solera aged for 5 years. It is their best Fino and there is also an en rama version of it (qv). The others are Ceballos and Ceballos Solera. It comes from their own 55 hectares of albariza vineyard at Chiclana which is in the Sherry production zone, not the ageing zone, and the wine is not therefore officially called Sherry, but is the equal of a good one. The vineyards and bodegas are close to the Atlantic which gives the wine its freshness.
6 Euros

Sunday 22 May 2016

22.5.16 Osborne Wins Prize for Bulls

The famous Osborne Bulls which adorn so many Spanish hillsides have been awarded a prize for Cultural Heritage in signage from Hispania Nostra, a non-profit-making public association for the conservation of Spanish cultural and natural heritage. The jury was keen to point out the conservation, restoration and maintenance work the bodega has been carrying out at its own expense on the over 90 iconic bulls situated strategically around the country. The prize comes in the same year as the 60th anniversary of the first bull and also the opening of the Toro Gallery at the bodega in El Puerto de Santa María.

22.5.16 Williams & Humbert in Japan

The University of Shinshu in the city of Matsumoto (Nagano Prefecture) recently hosted a tasting by Japanese Sherry Educator Tomoko Kimura and Jerez Academic José Luís Jiménez. Seven styles of Sherry from the Williams & Humbert Don Zoilo range including Manzanilla Alegría were shown and provided the perfect finish to this cultural/oenological event. The topic was Sherry in Japanese Culture and for many students and staff alike it was their first encounter with Sherry, and they enjoyed it very much.

Jose Luis and Tomoko (on right) during the tasting.

22.5.16 Amazing Parker Scores for Sherry

New Sherry releases are among those which have achieved amazing scores from Luís Gutiérrez, Robert Parker’s Spanish expert. Since his arrival in recent years Spanish wines have featured more prominently in the Wine Advocate, and especially Sherry. 90 points or more qualifies a wine as “Excellent” and in the latest issue there is a long list of high-scoring Sherries, 48 in fact with over 90 points. He scored many wines from Cádiz highly, but I've only listed the Sherries here. These results really show that the Sherries and table wines of the province are heading in the right direction.

The two highest scoring wines come from the bodega Manuel Aragón “El Sanatorio” in Chiclana, bottled for Equipo Navazos. They may not technically be Sherry but they are every bit as good as the scores demonstrate. La Bota de Oloroso 63 “Bota No” (easily 80-90 years old) scored 99 points while La Bota de Palo Cortado 62 “Diez Años Después“ (well over 50 years old) scored  98 points. This is the first time a bodega in Chiclana has ever achieved scores like this.

Here are some highlights:
Williams & Humbert scored well with their superb newly released Añadas. The Fino de Añada 2009 scored 93 points, the Amontillado de Añada 2003 scored 92 and the Oloroso de Añada 2003 scored 91. Dry Sack 15 Years Old scored 90 points.The Blanco brothers of Viña la Callejuela did very well: Amontillado La Casilla scored 94, Callejuela Amontillado 91, Manzanilla Madura 90, Manzanilla Blanquito 91, Oloroso El Cerro 93 and Callejuela Pedro Ximénez 93. González Byass got high scores for Cuatro Palmas 97, Tres Palmas 93, Dos Palmas 93, Una Palma 92 and the Palo Cortado de Añada 1987 scored 97 while Tio pepe en rama scored 91. And the tiny bodega of Conde de Peraleja got 93 for their Salto al Cielo Oloroso 1/5 and 93 for the Salto al Cielo Pedro Ximénez 1/5.

Other outstanding scores are as follows:
Barbadillo Manzanilla Pasada en rama Pastora 93, Solear en rama Invierno 2015 94
Luís Pérez Fino La Barajuela 93, Oloroso La Barajuela 91
Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Solera 93, Palo Cortado Viejísimo 1/5 95
Delgado Zuleta Manzanilla Barbiana en rama 91
Faustino González Oloroso en rama Cruz Vieja 91, Palo Cortado en rama Cruz Vieja 92
Hidalgo La Gitana Cream Napoleón 93
Emilio Hidalgo Pedro Ximénez Inédito 96
La Guita Manzanilla en rama 93
Juan Piñero Amontillado 91, Amontillado VORS 92, Oloroso 90, Oloroso VORS 94, Manzanilla Pasada Maruja 94, Palo Cortado 92
Sacristía AB Amontillado 93, Oloroso 91, Manzanilla 1ª saca 2015 91
Sánchez Romate Amontillado Olvidado 1/5 93, Fino Perdido 1/15 92
Tradición CZ Cream VOS 92, Fino Viejo 93, Palo Cortado VORS 96
Viniberia Pedro’s Almacenista Selection (PAS) Fino 90+, PAS Oloroso 92, PAS Palo Cortado 91

і Hay Caracoles!

Snail season is upon us and almost every bar and restaurant has them on offer and they match wonderfully with Fino or light Amontillado. Popular since palaeolithic times, snails are full of protein. Of the 125 species which can be found in Andalucía, 49 can be found in Cádiz. 

As available in markets or on the street

Both their popularity and the human population have grown to the extent that there are worries for their survival. Already some are imported from Morocco. Snails are fussy about the microclimate and are most easily found between April and July when the weather has improved and there is plenty of the vegetation they like to feed on. They are generally nocturnal but can often be found attached to wild olive branches, thistles or stakes which support vine trellising. They have many predators, but the most deadly are humans. Pesticides are a problem too, not only killing snails but potentially poisoning consumers, and there needs to be some sort of control over collection which is often done by the unemployed.

22.5.16 Luís Pérez Lecture at Williams & Humbert Ciclo de Conferencias

It took Jesús Medina, director general of Williams & Humbert, nearly ten minutes to run through all the qualifications and achievements of Luís Pérez in his introduction to the lecture, such is the greatness of this man, an academic, chemist, oenologist and bodeguero with vast experience in the Marco de Jerez, and yet down to earth and with ready humour. He is regarded as one of the fathers of the silent revolution which aims to reclaim the value and relevance of the vineyard. The Lecture was titled “Sherry: A look toward the future” and was very well attended by over 150 people in the exotic surroundings of thousands of butts of Sherry. Here is a brief summary.

Luis Perez (L) and Jesus Medina

Luís began by setting out the challenge: how to give Sherry more value and thus a brighter future. He asked which other place in the world has the volume of wine with the amount of ageing as our VOS and VORS? “Now is the time to consider what we should be doing, not what we should have done, “he said. He went on to make various important points:

 “A wine cannot be understood without the influence of its vineyard”. No other wine but Sherry evolves so much during its ageing so it is easy to think it is the product of the bodegas rather than the vineyards, and this has happened over the last 40 years, but the vineyards must be recognised. He also pointed to the standardisation of Sherry and the fact that Fino and Manzanilla are interchangeable so long as they are aged in the appropriate place – the vineyard doesn’t matter - and stabilisation doesn’t help. We need less industrialisation.

He sees the en rama wines as a positive step as they are better yet cheaper to produce. A specific vineyard origin gives further added value. He pointed out thata there are places where they value not only the vineyards but also the specific plot, and he would like to see wines where there is harmony between the soil and crianza. Sherry is now in a strategic situation for the remodelling of our 7,000 hectares to achieve higher quality permitting the recuperation of varieties of Palomino lost during the past century. This would bring with it the production of wine with real vineyard character.

“Wine: the result of Man working with Nature”. Luís said that wine is not a natural product as it wouldn’t exist without human intervention, yet humans could not make wine without Nature. Science has given us a more intimate understanding of Nature and thus a wiser and better balanced relationship. The more we work with nature the better and more individual the wine will be.

“The evocative power of wine, an icon of our culture.” Cultivating the vineyards so as to produce the best possible wine with marked personality is the aim. The better the raw material supplied to the bodegas the better the result. To achieve this, the grower should understand more about winemaking, and the winemaker should understand more about viticulture.

“When I look inside a glass of Sherry I think of it as the fruit of the light and heat of our sun, the water from our rain, the nature of our soil, the work, knowledge and love of our people. That glass of Sherry has everything to make us feel masters of our patrimony and is thus more than justifiably an icon of our culture.”

Friday 20 May 2016

Manzanilla de Añada 2012 1/11 15%, Viña Callejuela

Bright golden straw with golden glints, legs.
Forthcoming clean and lively with a fine balance of flor, dried flowers, a leafy, camomile note and a gentle fruity hint as well. It is classic Manzanilla with depth with lots of marine character and an attractive touch of wildness which add to the wine's very considerable complexity for its age.
Quite full with lots of nuances, principally flor bitterness and fruit but also traces of almond, brine, sourdough and the slightest lees note giving roundness and depth thanks to a comparatively low acidity. A generous wine with lots of character which I expect will develop beautifully in bottle. Can't wait for the next release!
This beauty is the first ever Vintage Manzanilla and comes from one single butt of the eleven best produced in the excellent 2012 vintage which were set aside to be released as vintage wines - and which are also from a single vineyard - Viña Callejuela. It was bottled from butt number eight, it being the most forward, on the 15th July 2015 and 700 bottles were put on the market, so it is just short of three years old and sealed with a driven cork. This first release sold out in a week. Every spring they will bottle another butt, so the wine will be one year older with each saca and progressively more complex. And no doubt every year it will be harder still to get hold of! The project was the brainchild of brilliant local oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez, and the plan is to repeat this project whenever an exceptionally good vintage is harvested.
25 euros per 50cl bottle from Er Guerrita

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Amontillado 12 Years Old 17.5%, El Maestro Sierra

Almost pure amber with brassy, coppery tints, legs.
Textured and fairly savoury with distinctly nutty oxidative notes of walnut and a hint of raisin, even a trace of mushroom and autumn leaves. There is a damp cellar note and the slightest traces of orange peel and warm spices like cinnamon. It is like an Amontillado-Fino, interesting and attractive.
The texture opens out almost immediately into a generous, smooth and quite gentle wine with fairly low acidity, those obvious oxidative notes and plenty of glycerine to round it off. Lots of soft nutty character and not lacking in flavour nor length with a clean finish.
Aged for about six years before being fortified to 17% for the oxidative ageing period which also lasts for about six years, this is a wine which appears very young for its age. It still retains Fino notes with a sort of surface oxidation which will develop over time into something tighter and crisper. The bodega's older Amontillado is over 30 years old, but it would be interesting to see something in between, say 20 years old, but one can certainly see the potential from this wine.
12.00 euros per half bottle from Licores Corredera

18.5.16 Trophy Results from International Wine Challenge

The  International Wine Challenge results come in three stages. The first is the awarding of medals, the second is the awarding of trophies and the final stage is selection from the shortlists of the overall Champions, which will be announced at the IWC Awards Dinner in London on 7th July. Meanwhile, here is a list of the Sherry Trophy winners for 2016:

Sherry Trophy: Cuatro Palmas, González Byass
Amontillado Trophy: Cuatro Palmas, González Byass
Fino Trophy: Dos Palmas, González Byass
Manzanilla Trophy: Goya XL, Delgado Zuleta
Oloroso Trophy: Oloroso 1986, Hidalgo La Gitana
Palo Cortado Trophy: Añada 1987, González Byass
Pedro Ximénez Trophy: Harveys PX VORS
Champion of Champions Shortlist: Harveys Amontillado VORS; Harveys Palo Cortado VORS
Fortified Winemaker of the Year Shortlist: Manuel Lozano (posthumous) of Emilio Lustau; Antonio Flores of Gonzalez Byass.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Amontillado Olvidado 1/5 20%, Sánchez Romate

Pure amber with old gold highlights and a faint trace of green at the rim, legs.
Aromatic and refined with lots of toasted almonds and hazelnuts and a gentle implicit sweetness balancing with hints of oak and traces of cinnamon. Very clean and elegant, this is obviously very old yet it has a trace of crispness from the volatile acidity which makes it fresh, and there's an almost complete absence of austerity. Everything is in perfect harmony.
Crispness and a gentle grip from the wood tannin are balanced by just enough glycerol to make it fresh, intense nuttiness, extremely elegant with a very long clean finish. Tangy and delicious, this is a classic Amontillado, perfectly weighted and balanced.
"Olvidado" means forgotten, and this rare wine comes from 5 toneles (double-sized butts of 1,000 litres) which are effectively "botas no" connected with the old Amontillado solera, and have not been refreshed for some 25 years, allowing the wine to develop much further. The result is a fabulous old Amontillado which would surely qualify as VORS if the bodega believed in the system. It was hand bottled en rama in October 2015, and another saca is not foreseen for at least two years, unfortunately.
Around 18 euros per half bottle, but almost unobtainable except from the UK Wine Society £16

Monday 16 May 2016

Oloroso 12 Years Old Don Zoilo 19%, Williams & Humbert

Bright amber to topaz with old gold glints, legs.
Fairly crisp with lots of toasted nuts with walnut overtones and a trace of American oak. Some Olorosos are big and powerful, but this is tight and refined, elegant. There are hints of autumn leaves, tobacco and a background suggestion of warm spices like cinnamon and clove backed by a trace of implied sweetness so it is not lacking in complexity.
Very fresh and lively with lots of flavour and length driven by a decent acidity which gives it an attractive tang laden with nuts and that warm spice. Very tasty with a long and immaculate finish.
It seems that the Williams & Humbert Colección 12 Years Old range is now the Don Zoilo 12 Years Old range, though the word "Collection" does appear on the label. Anyway the quality is excellent. The wine is named after Don Zoilo Ruiz Mateos Camacho, father of José Maria who founded Rumasa. The original Don Zoilo Sherry was a top quality but expensive Fino produced in honour of Don Zoilo, who was much respected as a bodeguero and much loved by his family. Now the range consists of Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Olloroso, Cream and PX. Twelve years is a good age for a Sherry, still full of zest and decent complexity, and not full of tannin.
8.00 euros from Licores Corredera

Sunday 15 May 2016

Amontillado VORS 1730 19.5%, Álvaro Domecq

Lightish copper-tinged mahogany through amber to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Most attractive start with the crisp nuttiness of toasted almond and hazelnut, traces of turrón yema tostada, caramel on toast and faint oak notes. It is aromatic and elegant, very Amontillado.
Lively and fairly crisp and tangy with volatile acidity and comparatively low glycerine, so it is very dry but balanced by the sweet aromas mentioned above and perhaps a slight tobacco note. Clean and refined with little or no aggressive tannin and an open texture, it is long and charming.
Just to avoid any confusion, this is not a vintage 1730 wine nor is it from a solera of that date. It is a brand name - more correctly Line 1730 - which refers to the date always given as that of the foundation of Pedro Domecq, an extensive family to which Álvaro belongs. Actually 1730 was the date Patrick Murphy established his bodega which was left to Juan Haurie and taken over by Pedro Domecq nearly 100 years later. Anyway, Álvaro bought the old Pilar Aranda bodega in 1999 and this is from one of her soleras. This excellent wine is over 30 years old with an annual production of 3,600 half bottles a year. 
20.50 euros per half bottle from Licores Corredera

Saturday 14 May 2016

Bodegas: RF Cárdenas

This small Enterprise in El Puerto de Santa María, also known as Tasca El Bodegón, really merits a visit. It really is a “bodegón” or bodega/bar run by Héctor Cárdenas, a fine flamenco guitarist, which of course attracts flamenco people to the bar who perform on Saturdays. The initials RF refer to the children of Héctor and his wife Macarena Gómez Feria: Reyes and Fernando.

Despite only being opened in 2010, this bar looks like it has been here forever. The wines in butts arranged in “altars” are Fino Pavón from Luís Caballero and Fino, Amontillado and Oloroso produced by his grandfather, Sebastián Monge Huerta, in his own little bodega. He also has Manzanilla from Barón and some Moscatel from Chipiona. A variety of good food is always available and they have a reputation for game.

The old building adjacent to the bull ring has seen a variety of uses: stables for the Civil Guard, bar, fruit store, parking for a beer distributor, tyre depot and plasterer’s workshop. The walls are adorned with bullfighting memorabilia obtained through his wife’s family connections. There are also shelves holding a collection of old bottles from El Puerto, many from bodegas now lost. Old bodega equipment and labels are also to be seen. Much of this comes from Macarena’s grandfather who had a bar El Refugio, now gone.

Hector Cardenas (R) with the mayor at the launch of Monge (foto:gentedelpuerto)

The bodegón, like Sebastián Monge has always sold wine in bulk, but has just launched a limited availability bottled Fino wine: Monge Vino en Rama, named after Héctors grandfather. It is presented in an old fashioned sand blasted short bottle sealed with wax and the flag of Andalucía. The label is a reproduction of an old print of the bull ring, completed in 1880. The wine cannot be called Fino as the bodega is not in the DO, but it is made from the same grapes and by the same method and is very good.

Address: Calle Pagador, 36, El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz
Telephone: (+34) 645 854 506