Wednesday, 31 August 2016

31.8.16 Latest on Harvest in Sanlúcar

Picking began in Sanlúcar on Monday. Traditionally it begins later than in Jerez because the vineyards nearer the coast ripen later. One of the most important cooperatives, Covisan, which has a membership of some 170 growers and sells mosto to bodegas like Argüeso, La Guita, La Gitana and Elías Guzmán has begun to press the grapes. They foresee a 25% reduction in quantity; last year they produced about 5 million kilos and this year the likelihood is 4 million as the grapes contain less juice.

The other Sanlúcar cooperative, Virgen de la Caridad, which has 340 growers, expects to start tomorrow, Thursday. Samples indicate a decent sugar content of 11-11.5ᴼ Beaumé but the hot weather and especially the Levante wind have conspired to reduce the juice content of the grapes, and they are expecting a reduction of 25-30%, though they can’t be sure about that or the effects of the mildew till the grapes are pressed. Last year they harvested 7 million kilos.

About 50% of the 800 hectares of vineyard in the Sanlúcar area were affected by mildew at the end of May and early June causing considerable losses. The drying effect of the Levante, which blew more than usual this year, stopped the mildew but also reduced the water content of the surviving grapes, reducing the final yield yet further. The quality however appears to be very good. Of the 31 press houses registered at the Consejo Regulador, 27 are now working.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Amontillado 17.5%, Bodegas Blanca reyes

Amber with gold and copper highlights, legs.
Very attractive mix of hazelnuts and dried fruits, youngish but beginning to show those delightfully aromatic Amontillado characteristics of toasted nuts in caramel (garrapiñadas) and a trace of oak, yet without completely losing background traces of Fino. There is a definite charm here.
Smooth and tasty on entry then some crispness comes through bringing with it lots of toasted nuts and a slight glyceric sweetness, traces of vanilla from American oak and a gentle balancing tang of acidity. There is a trace of residual sugar, less than 5 g/l which is very little but it does give the wine a desirable roundness which makes it (too) easy to drink.
This wine has an average age of 10 years, roughly five biological and five oxidative which is not a great age for an Amontillado, but it is delicious now. This small family bodega makes good wines for a very good price and needs to be better known. At the moment nearly all their wine is sold locally, mainly to the bar and restaurant trade.
7.95 ex bodega

Monday, 29 August 2016

29.8.16 Fiesta de la Vendimia in El Puerto; IV Edition Tio Pepe Sherrymaster

El Puerto’s harvest festival begins on Thursday 1st September at 20.00 and at 20.30 the traditional treading of the grapes will take place. There will be fairground attractions and brightly coloured casetas in the style of the normal feria and a wide selection of gastronomic delights as well as various free concerts. The fiesta will take place in the parking area of the bullring and will run till the 4th September.

The IV Edition of Tio Pepe Sherrymaster will take place on the 7th and 8th of September, led by the González Byass oenologist and world’s best fortified winemaker, Antonio Flores. The event will begin at Viña Esteve to demonstrate the importance of soil and climate, and then a visit to the firm’s archive. A food matching masterclass will be conducted by Guillermo Cruz, head sommelier at the famous Basque country restaurant, Mugaritz, and there will also be a Sherry and Andalucian gastronomy session followed by a Sherry tasting led by Antonio Flores. The second day includes a recreation of the trip the wines used to take down the Guadalete to the bay of Cádiz for shipment. Then it is back to the bodega for a tasting where Antonio Flores will show the differences in character of the wine in each butt and demonstrate the importance of classifying them.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Bodegas: Marqués de Comillas

Antonio López López, the first Marqués (1817-1883), was born in humble circumstances in Comillas near Santander, and at only 14 years old he left for Cuba in search of better opportunities. In no time he prospered in the shipping business and went on to make an immense fortune counting banking, tobacco and railways – and some believe transport of slaves - among his huge portfolio. In 1878 King Alfonso XII awarded him the honour of Marqués. He also became a Grande de España.

Claudio Lopez Bru, II Marques de Comillas

His son Claudio López Bru was born in 1853, and despite being the fourth son, he inherited the title on his father’s death. Claudio was every bit as skilled in business as his father and increased the portfolio dramatically. He set up a hugely successful shipping and shipyard business in Cádiz. A deeply devout Catholic he did much for the Church and religious politics and became a major benefactor.

The bodega in Pollero Alto days

Naturally the Sherry business seemed profitable and he bought the bodegas originally established by the firm Viña El Pollero Alto, established in 1837 right on the quayside at El Puerto de Santa María. Sherry was sold under the Marqués de Comillas brand name but for some reason – presumably the quality of its wine - the label made reference to the bodega previously having been Viña El Pollero Alto. This, despite the bodega having belonged in the interim to both AA Sancho and Pedro Domecq.

What with nearly a lifetime of legendary philanthropy (he was known as Spain’s greatest donor - and was even beatified), the Marqués was running out of money and had to sell many assets. One of these was the bodega, which was sold in the early 1920s to José Gutiérrez Dosal, the grandfather of Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Colosía who still runs the business today. Interestingly, Grupo Estévez now owns the Viña El Pollero Alto brand but doesn’t use it. The 2nd Marqués de Comillas died in 1925.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Montpensiers, Benefactors of Sanlúcar

A French prince and father of a queen, Don Antonio María Felipe de Orléans y Borbón Dos-Sicilias, Duke of Montpensier (1824-1890), was never able to achieve what most historians refer to as his obsession: to be King of Spain. The closest he got was his marriage to the infanta Doña Luisa Fernanda de Borbón (1832-1897) at the royal palace of Madrid in 1846, a double political alliance since Luisa’s sister, Queen Isabel II of Spain, married her cousin, Don Francisco de Asis de Borbón at the same celebration. Isabel continued to rule Spain, but Antonio would spend most of the rest of his life there, residing in Sevilla and their great discovery, Sanlúcar, where they spent long summer seasons and became symbols of prosperity for the town and its inhabitants.

Antonio, Luisa and Maria Isabel

Don Antonio was the tenth son of Louis Philippe I of France and María Amalia de Borbón Dos-Sicilias. He arrived in Andalucía in 1848 after a revolution which ousted the Orléans in France, and it was the Spanish government, rather than Don Antonio and Doña Luisa themselves, which decided they should reside in Sevilla, away from Madrid, as it was aware of his pretensions to the throne.

Doña Luisa took an interest not only in Sevilla and its surroundings but in the other towns of Andalucía. So on the 11th November that year they set off on a trip to Cádiz and its seaports, sailing down the Guadalquivir from Sevilla to Sanlúcar, where they were greeted with a spectacular civic reception. Since the local council could not afford this, funds were raised by popular subscription. Everyone contributed to the substantial costs, but it would prove to be an excellent investment as Don Antonio was much taken by the town, which became his favourite place for holidays.

Palacio Orleans Borbon (foto:minube,com)

In the summer of 1849 the Montpensiers stayed at finca El Picacho, and their influence and presence in the town were obvious from the start, creating a perfect symbiosis between the townsfolk and the royals. In times of unemployment they found ways to provide work like in the very hard winter of 1855, and also supported the poor, but above all they made the town into a summer residence for the aristocracy and bourgeoisie of Sevilla and Cádiz, putting Sanlúcar firmly on the map. In return the town was faithful to them and unshakeable in its affection. The Montpensiers’ greatest legacies were the Palacio De Orleans, a magnificent house they built in a marvellous mix of architectural styles with beautiful gardens, now the city council building, and the purchase of the botanic garden, for which they provided a water supply.

Sanlúcar benefitted in many more ways however. The transport service between Sevilla and Sanlúcar on the Guadalquivir increased greatly during the summer months, and this required works to improve navigability and the quayside at Bonanza which were carried out by the Guadalquivir Navigation Company, of which Don Antonio was a major shareholder. He was also involved in the improvement of the roads to Jerez and Chipiona and the arrival of the railway. He persuaded the government to extend the mail service to Sanlúcar, and this began in 1852.

Back in 1845 a group of distinguished Sanluqueños had created the Society of Horse Racing of Sanlúcar de Barrameda to promote the Andaluz breed of horse which was very useful in agriculture. Don Antonio, a consummate horseman, lover of horses and owner of one of the best stables in the south of Spain immediately joined up and helped to promote the society, which still holds the races on the beach to this day. He also attracted visitors from other royal houses such as Eugenia de Montijo in 1853, the King of Portugal in 1856 and Queen Isabel II in 1862.

In 1943 descendants of the Montpensiers established Bodegas Infantes de Orleans Borbón in Sanlúcar which are still in business though now owned by Barbadillo. Over the years the family had a profound and beneficial effect on the town, even though Don Antonio never realised his dream. Alfonso de Orleans Borbon realised his however, establishing a motor racing team in 1999.

Translated from an article by JM Aguilar in La Voz Digital

Friday, 26 August 2016

La Bota de Amontillado 23 "Bota No" 21%, Equipo Navazos

Deep amber with glints of copper and the slightest hint of green at the rim, legs. Wine stained bottle.
Needs a little time to breathe but it is worth the wait, this is extremely refined and sphisticated with all the complexity of age. Even at this age you can smell its Sanlucar origins. Crisp and dry with toasted almond and saline notes and the slightest traces of iodine, esparto and well integrated oak with hints of exotic woods and warm spices, yet there is just enough implicit almost caramelly sweetness to round it off. Exquisite.
Dry  and super elegant with a gentle acidity and perhaps slightly less wood astringency than one might expect for the age. Appears quite light at first yet builds up with a trace of flor bitterness and a gentle trace of tannin giving a dry, clean yet generous feel before the nuts kick in but while that glyceric caramelly sweetness is thinly spread  it is enough and lets the tanginess through. Terrific length and balance, top quality, a magnificent wine.
From the XVIII century Barrio Bajo bodega of Miguel Sánchez Ayala in Sanlúcar, the saca from two selected butts of this very old and powerful wine took place in May 2010. It is from the same solera as La Bota numbers 1, 5 "NPI" and 9 "Navazos". This solera of some 60 butts was already very old when the previous capataz started work at the bodega in the 1960s and it has hardly ever been run since,  certainly not for 20 years until Equipo Navazos happened upon it in 2005. They estimate the average age of the wine as 70-80 years, maybe even up to 100.
About 45 euros per 50cl bottle (trade price) sorry, it'll cost a good bit more but still worth it

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Machine Harvesting

 Mechanisation is everywhere. It has stolen the romance of the vineyards where once merry bands of pickers chatted and sang, drinking water spouting from a botijo, while they laboured under the blistering sun. Now, since the 1960s, the roar and clatter of diesel engines has taken over as the machines have evolved into an efficient and economical means of collecting the harvest. They are very expensive though; similar in price to a mid-range Ferrari, so most are hired since they are only needed for two or three weeks a year.

It is not only the machines which have evolved, however; the vineyards themselves have had to be altered to suit them. They can’t be too steep or the top-heavy machines could topple, and excessive mud can immobilise them. Vine rows need to be planted at a suitable distance apart to allow room for the machine to pass, say 2.5 metres, and while the machines are adjustable, the vines themselves need to be allowed to grow to a suitable height so the bunches hang 60-100 cm from the ground. This requires training the vines on an espalier system rather than the traditional vara y pulgar of Jerez.

Harvesting machines straddle the rows of vines and use a series of floating, oscillating, soft-faced finger-like rods which shake the grapes from their stems into a tray which catches them, and a cup-conveyor takes them up to a collection hopper, where a powerful fan blows away any leaves. There is also a magnet which picks out any metallic objects such as bits of wire or clips from the espalier. When the hopper is full the grapes are discharged into a waiting trailer and taken to the bodega.

The machines move slowly, at about 3.5 km/hour. This is the optimum speed as moving faster or slower can cause damage to the vines, but it is much faster than hand picking with secateurs or knives. Machines can pick about 200 tons per day, where an experienced picker can pick perhaps 2 tons, and the machine is equally efficient at night, when humans have difficulty seeing. With hand picking, whole bunches are picked, and when they get to the bodega they need to go through a “despalilladora” or de-stemmer to remove the stems, which would otherwise make the wine more tannic.

Advantages of machine harvesting:

The latest machines are pretty sophisticated, and their sheer speed outweighs their disadvantages. Once the grapes are ripe enough for harvesting, machines can pick them much more quickly and thus avoid over-ripe grapes, giving a more homogeneous crop. If for example heavy rain is forecast, a machine can bring in the grapes quickly before they become diluted. The machine’s driver usually comes with the machine and is much less likely than the hand-pickers to go on strike, which has happened before. Then there is cost; machines work out much cheaper than hand pickers, especially in very big vineyards.


These machines are very heavy and have a tendency to compact the soil. They can’t differentiate between rotten grapes and healthy ones, they just pick everything. There is a risk of yeast build-up on machinery setting off premature fermentation, so careful and regular cleaning is necessary. The mechanical nature of the machine can potentially cause damage to the vines and the espalier system.

So there is no doubt that machines are here to stay, so long as the vineyards are suitable, as they are in the Marco de Jerez, and where nearly all the grapes are already  picked by machine. It will be a long time, however, before vineyards in, say, the Douro, Mosel or Málaga’s Axarquía will be picked mechanically, and I for one am pleased about that.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Manzanilla San León Reserva de Familia 15%, Argüeso

Lightish yellowy straw with golden highlights, legs.
Forthcoming Manzanilla Pasada nose with notes of esparto, dried flowers, salinity, beach and of course, flor. There are slight traces of nutty butteriness from autolysis which round off the previous notes and add depth to what is quite a complex and very sanluqueño nose.
A decent acidity carries the flavour through, tangy, bone dry, slightly yeasty and still with a trace of fruit.It has good presence on the palate and really good length.
Precisely when a Manzanilla becomes Pasada is up to individual judgement. There is no mention of "pasada" on the label, but this wine is close to that point, where Manzanilla becomes really interesting. For that reason for a long time it was kept for family use, but it is now the bodega's flagship Manzanilla.  It is very good, with its own personality, but sometimes hard to get - even from the bodega, in my experience (twice). It is aged for about eight years.
13.50 euros from Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

23.8.16 Death of Antonio Páez Lobato; Harvest in Sanlúcar; Verema’s Best Sherries

The man who put Sherry vinegar on the map has passed away at the age of 93. From an early age he worked in his father’s despacho de vinos and later set up a cooperage, which is still working today, and from which he became involved in the wine and vinegar businesses. Bodegas Páez Morilla which he established in 1945 was to be a huge success, and it was the first time Sherry Vinegar became a commercial proposition. He began with his own solera “Los Palitos” and bought others, some of which were very old, from Williams & Humbert, Sandeman, Rafael O’Neale, González Byass and Alfonso Lacave Ruiz Tagle. No wonder he was known fondly as the “Vinegar King”; he virtually invented what is now a very important product for Jerez with its own DO. In the 1970s he bought vineyards and began producing table wines, the white Tierra Blanca and the red Viña Lucía crianza. Antonio’s son José bought what is now Bodegas Dios Baco in 1992. The Vinegar King had a roundabout named after him recently by Jerez City Council.

Antonio with vinegar in his own butts (foto:diariodejerez)

While the harvest is under way in the Jerez vineyards, those round Sanlúcar are still not ready. The two local cooperatives, Virgen de la Caridad and Covisan, reckon that picking will start at the end of August. The grapes are generally green and still contain high levels of acidity, and it is not yet time to take samples for the pies de cuba. The Levante wind, a feature of the 2016 vintage, has reduced the liquid content of the grapes, but despite widespread mildew in the coastal areas the surviving grapes are of excellent quality. The result will be a smaller crop.

Verema, the largest Spanish online wine community has chosen the best wines for the first half of 2016. Famous for its forums, this community numbers 47,000 enthusiasts and experts, so any wine chosen needs to be good. Their chosen Sherries in order of preference are as follows:

Manzanilla La Kika, Bodegas Yuste
Palo Cortado Wellington VOS, odegas Hidalgo la Gitana
Oloroso Añada 2003, Bodegas Williams & Humbert
La Bota de Manzanilla 55, Equipo Navazos
Fino Añada 2009, Bodegas Williams & Humbert

Monday, 22 August 2016

22.8.16 Jerez Pays Homage to Shakespeare

A special homage on the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death will take place at González Hontoria park in Jerez on the 3rd September. At the Shakespeare statue there will be a floral offering, readings of a selection of his work in both Spanish and English and a glass of Faustino González Sherry served by the Japanese venenciador, Momoko Izumi. Jerez will never forget how Shakespeare promoted Sherry (or sack as it was then) in his plays, and this is the XI annual homage to him. It would never have happened without the tireless work of the academic José Luis Jiménez.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sherry Grapes Nearly All Picked by Machine

Those days when teams of pickers went off to the vineyards on Monday morning - many arriving by bus from other localities - and went off home again on Friday having spent the week nights at the vineyard, are now a thing of the past. They are a distant memory. Only a few dozen agricultural workers from the Jerez area still pick by hand with clippers or knives in the traditional way. Gone too are the days when the teams started at nine o-clock and finished at six having had an hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks for a bocadillo, or “tabaco” in local jargon.

The years of boom, or economic madness depending on one’s point of view, drained the countryside of men. It was the women who took on the harvest shifts while their menfolk earned much more in the booming construction business. Times changed, and the men returned, yet now there is barely a trace of them.

Harvesting machine in action (foto:diariodejerez)

Now the grapes are harvested by machines from ten o-clock at night till half past six or seven in the morning. It is more efficient to pick at night as “temperatures are ten to twelve degrees lower and there is much less evaporation of juice, which can add up to a great deal over the course of the harvest” says Benito Vidal, the man in charge of Barbadillo’s Santa Lucía vineyard in the north of the Sherry zone, close to the border with Sevilla. All 211 hectares will be harvested by machine except a few which are in an area dedicated to experimental vines. Santa Lucía provides grapes for Spain’s largest-selling white wine, Castillo de San Diego, and Manzanilla Solear.

The huge harvesting machines are hired out for harvests all over Spain and arrive on the trailers of articulated trucks. The harvester drivers need to be experts in handling them as they are responsible for the condition of the harvest. It is hard for them, working when everyone else is sleeping, and it strains the eyes trying to see in the darkness of the night, even with headlights. On this occasion the machines are working in daylight for the first day in order to pick sufficient grapes for the first fermentations or “pies de cuba”, some 100,000 kilos. This is achieved in only four hours, and once the fermentations have begun, the machines go back at night to continue their work.

Harvesting machine unloading grapes (foto:en.wikipedia)

These monster machines can cost 240,000€ each, but they are well equipped. The cabin has cameras connected to a computer screen which helps with all round visibility in this delicate work, and the steering system is such that this seriously heavy machine can turn through 180 degrees, very useful on narrow sandy country tracks. It straddles the rows of vines, can be raised and lowered according to their height and a vibrating mechanism removes the grapes and collects them in a hopper. The efficiency of the machines has developed greatly in recent decades. In the early days they were accused of damaging the vines and shortening their useful lives. Now they even have powerful fans which blow away bits of vine leaf caught among the grapes. They are so powerful that if not used carefully they can create clouds of dust when used to clean the machine after picking each row, making it temporarily difficult to see.

It will take roughly a week to pick the Santa Lucía vineyard. A team of four people will go out and pick by hand any bunches missed by the machine so as not to lose any fruit. This process is called “rebusco”. Once the hopper on the machine is full, it tips the grapes into a truck which takes them the 14 kilometres to the winery at Gibalbín. The base and sides of the truck are sealed with rubber so no precious juice is lost, and the old sight of grape trucks followed by a stream of juice is rarely seen any more.

The grapes being harvested come from strong young vines which give the finest quality fruit, and have largely managed to avoid the mildew outbreak. The man in charge, Benito Vidal, says that prevention is the best friend of the grower. Vine treatments have been successful and he proudly shows a bunch of grapes in perfect condition. “The vineyard has been well cared for, even pampered. These young vines were planted in 2009 and it was decided then that they would be harvested by machine.” Their destiny was decided seven years ago.

Typically, the harvest has started in the vineyards of the interior, and Santa Lucía is one of them. It is 22 kilometres from the sea yet the breeze can be felt, but here the sun blazes down on the white albariza soil ripening the grapes earlier than in the coastal vineyards. The first grapes picked gave sugar readings of up to 12ᴼ Beaumé, one and a half degrees above the minimum legal requirement, and perfect for the production of that most noble wine, Sherry.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

20.8.16 Estévez Invests in Equipment; Barbadillo Begins harvest

Grupo Estévez has invested 1.5 million euros in state of the art equipment to improve production processes in the bodega. The number of self-emptying tanks and pneumatic presses has been increased while the fermentation plant has been re-designed and equipped with the latest software technology to better control fermentation allowing an increased capacity of 7,000 butts.

The firm, which comprises Valdespino, Marqués del Real Tesoro and La Guita, owns 800 hectares of vineyard, 12% of all DO vineyards, making it the largest grower in the Sherry zone – and the largest in Andalucía. All this demonstrates the importance the firm attaches to the vineyard as a fundamental part of its philosophy of highlighting the origin and singularity of the land which is unique in the world. Estévez is the only bodega in the area to use raw materials which are 100% local, those being the grapes and the fortification alcohol, and the firm says that this is helping to achieve a sustainable agro-alimentary chain in which the vineyard is perfectly integrated and which, unlike other vineyards in the area, is profitable, and helping to improve the image of Sherry.

New fermentation tanks at Estevez (foto:diariodejerez)

Estévez says that this investment not only increases the daily capacity for grape reception, but also offers the opportunity to start the process of traceability from vineyard to wine by classifying the mostos by their individual vineyard and improving grape selection. The health and sugar content of the grapes are key parameters for their destiny and the price paid if they are bought in. New paving has also been installed to improve hygiene at the plant. “This technological development is in response to our exhaustive and demanding parameters of control to produce wines of exceptional quality, the benchmark of Sherry.

With reference to the harvest, they are expecting a harvest of very good quality but with smaller bunches than last year with each grape weighing slightly less. This, combined with the losses due to mildew in Sanlúcar and Trebujena in spring, will produce a total harvest about 10% down on that of last year.

Bodegas Barbadillo has begun the harvest and they foresee it finishing on 9th September. Thy say the quality is excellent with potential alcohol readings of 11.5ᴼ-12ᴼ, and are hoping the temperatures will relent and allow a normal ripening. The Barbadillo vineyards, which extend to 500 hectares, make the firm the second largest vineyard owner in the area, and they were thankfully spared the ravages of the mildew outbreak in spring.

Of the 11 million kilos they hope to pick, some 2½ million will come from their own vineyards, Santa Lucía and Gibalbín, while the rest will be bought in from 35 growers on continuing contracts in the best vineyards. The harvest is being collected both by hand and by machine. Mechanical harvesting takes place during the night and early morning, while hand picking is done in the morning. This way the grapes arrive cooler and more controllable, and it is more comfortable for the workers.

Chardonnay and Palomino grapes for the firm’s sparkling Beta Brut were picked at the end of July as well as the Sauvignon Blanc for Blanco de Blancos and Moscatel for the semi sparkling Vi. Merlot will be picked starting on Monday and the other red varieties, Tempranillo, Tintilla, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot will soon follow.

Friday, 19 August 2016

19.8.16 Osborne Open Toro Tapas

El Puerto de Santa María has a fantastic new bar offering Osborne Sherry and local gastronomy. Although it is an old converted bodega at Calle Los Moros, 7 next to the Osborne bodegas, it is spacious, well-lit and modern. It forms a part of Osborne’s planned wine tourism centre along with the Toro Gallery and the bodegas themselves. A collection of around 150 old Sherries adorns one wall and there is a patio and a tasting room which seats 20 people. Every kind of food from the province of Cádiz is available and the selection of Osborne wines is large as they produce not only Sherry but wines from other parts of Spain. The firm owns one of the best ham producers in the country: Cinco Jotas. At the bar one can buy some very rare Sherries by the glass, wines which sell at up to around 200 € a bottle or try a Sherry cocktail. Contact: 956 905 020


Thursday, 18 August 2016

18.8.16 The Harvest Has Begun

The Consejo Regulador has declared the 2016 harvest open and picking has begun in the vineyards farthest from the sea where grapes are riper. Barbadillo was using harvesting machines yesterday in the Gibalbín and Santa Lucía vineyards to pick grapes for the pies de cuba. Some of these bunches were giving readings of 12ᴼ Beaumé, well above the 10.5ᴼ required by the Consejo.  Harvesting will also begin imminently in the pagos Carrascal and Macharnudo. González Byass, Fundador and Estévez asked the Consejo yesterday for permission to pick and are starting today. An organic vineyard in El Puerto, Sumariva Beato, supplying grapes to Williams & Humbert also asked permission.

Grapes arriving at the presshouse (foto:diariojerez)

It is generally believed that the harvest will be fully underway in a week to ten days when the vineyards near the coast ripen and all 30 press houses authorised by the Consejo will be working – though one or two may have finished by then. Last year the first grapes were picked on 3rd August while this year they were picked two weeks later, and the harvest is expected to finish in the second week of September.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Oloroso 20% Bodega Viña Santa Petronila

Deep amber with orangey-coppery tones, legs.
Attractive, light and sophisticated with hints of oak, pipe tobacco and a trace of cinnamon, all nicely harmonised with a gentle fresh crispness. There is a distant dried fruit note and a hint of guirlache (nuts in brittle toffee).
Mid weight but expressive with a gentle tang of volatile acidity and plenty of nuts, with a miniscule trace of tobaccoey sweetness and hints of orange peel and cinnamon which counterbalance a trace of tannin from the oak. Clean long satisfying finish.
Being from what is probably the smallest and almost certainly the prettiest bodega in Jerez, this bottle was number 17 of a saca of only 182. The bodega is a XVIII century casa de viña  surrounded by its vines planted in pure albariza soil 3 or 4 kilometres north of Jerez. For such a small operation the wines are excellent but unfortunately/inevitably not widely available.
19.00 euros per 50cl bottle from La Casa del Jerez

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Fino Jarana 15%, Emilio Lustau

Paleish almost lemony straw with golden highlights, legs.
Very fresh with a hint of straw, floral almost herbal notes of camomile and gentle flor. There is an apple note as well and there is a certain vivacity about the wine, yet in the background there is a slight savoury almost autolytic hint adding complexity. This wine is certainly not short of character.
Decent acidity lends a zestfulness to carry through the very slightly bitter herbal character. It is bone dry, fairly light and quite elegant with a remarkably clean finish. This really gets the taste buds looking for some ham!
Lustau is the only Sherry firm to make Finos in all three towns of the Sherry Triangle: Manzanilla Papirusa in Sanlucar, Puerto Fino in El Puerto, and Jarana in Jerez, and it is interesting and instructive to compare them. This Jerezano is aged for about 4 years in a huge solera in the Calle Arcos.
10.50 euros, widely available

Monday, 15 August 2016

A Sherry for the President

An excellent programme had been organised for President Barack Obama for his recent visit to Sevilla which he was forced to cancel at the last minute after the shooting of five police officers in Dallas. It consisted of local gastronomy and lots of Sherry, a drink which has found favour at the White House since the first President, George Washington.

In the XVIII century New England received a great many shipments of Sherry at its ports of Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore. It was often taken in the form of “sack posset”, a hot drink of milk curdled with Sherry and sometimes spiced, which fortified the body without coddling the brain. The puritans of the day drank it at weddings, baptisms and funerals having adopted Sherry drinking from their British cousins.

A posset cup

Spending Christmas at Mount Vernon, George Washington used to prefer an egg nog made from a quart of cream, a quart of milk, twelve tablespoons of sugar, a pint of brandy, half a pint of rye whisky, a half pint of Jamaica rum and a quarter pint of Sherry. He was also fond of his wife Martha’s Sherry crab soup. This dish would later be revived during the presidency of Gerald Ford.

Benjamin Franklin, considered one of the founding fathers, was able to give plenty of sage advice to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on European wines. Seeking French support for the young nation, Congress sent him as ambassador to the court of Versailles. One of his first preoccupations was to ensure a good supply of the best wines, and it is known that two years later his cellar contained over a thousand bottles, many of which were Sherry.

Before his tenure as second President, John Adams visited Spain, where he was well looked after en route to Paris, and wrote in his diary that of all the wines he tried, Sherry was among the best. Franklin was later ambassador in London which gave him the opportunity to familiarise himself with the wines drunk during the reign of George III, a great Sherry drinker. Just before his return to America, Franklin’s wife, Abigail, wrote to a relative asking them to pay the freight on a shipment of Sherry to share with him when he got home.

Benjamin Franklin

As we have seen with Martha Washington, the first ladies played an important role in the use of Sherry in White House cuisine. Abigail Adams’ beggar’s pudding with sack sauce is considered something special even now. Abraham Lincoln, while more moderate in his wine consumption, still loved two dishes involving Sherry sauce: chicken fricassee and escalope.

From the beginning of the XIX century the temperance movement grew, culminating in Prohibition between 1920 and 1933 and naturally presidential consumption declined, yet Warren Harding enjoyed a filet mignon in Sherry sauce prepared by his wife Florence. By the 1950s things were back to normal and Mamie Eisenhower served green turtle soup reeking of Sherry at state banquets, while Sherry was the aperitif for the visit of King Paul of Greece in 1955. Jackie Kennedy brought glamour to official dinners in the 1960s with her boula-boula soup, well-seasoned with Sherry.

Among his many other virtues, perhaps the most knowledgeable of US Presidents about wine was Thomas Jefferson, who knew about vine cultivation and a great deal about Sherry, which he loved. In a letter dated 10th May 1803 he confessed to the American Consul in Cádiz, Joseph Yznardi, how much he had enjoyed the Sherry the latter had sent him and that not having a glass every day would be a “privation”. Yznardi supplied Jefferson with important quantities of wine, among which were Pajarete, Tintilla de Rota, old Pedro Ximénez and exquisite Pale Sherries.

Thomas Jefferson

Other Presidents who succeeded Jefferson were also enthusiastic about Sherry, if less passionate. The fifth President, James Monroe, enjoyed a Sherry cobbler, while seventh president Andrew Jackson liked a syllabub infused with Sherry. Fifteenth President James Buchanan, however, was more passionate. One of his close friends wrote “the Madeira and Sherry he has consumed would fill more than one old cellar.” But the good image of White House Sherry would be marred by Jimmy Carter who used Californian “Sherry” from Paul Masson and Almadén, presumably for patriotic reasons, but by now Sherry was a DO wine.

This is translated from an article by Jose Luis Jimenez in today's Diario de Jerez.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Vermouth Revival in Jerez

Like Sherry, sales of vermouth peaked in the 1970s, and again like Sherry, it is making a comeback. Sherry producers have long produced a Jerez style of vermouth, however as sales fell many dropped it from their lists, but now that it is fashionable again, along with gin and tonic and cocktails, they are re-introducing it, often using the original secret formula and even label.

Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with herbs, flowers, roots and barks with various levels of sweetening. The idea of flavouring wine is ancient. It was done either to obscure a wine’s imperfections or to give it medicinal properties. One of the principal ingredients was wormwood, which gives the product its name; it derives from the German “wermut”, and was considered good for stomach ailments. It caught on at the end of the XVIII century when it became more of a drink than a medicine, and by the end of the XIX century it had become an important cocktail ingredient.

There are two principal styles: dry white and sweet red. Most vermouth is made from white wine and some contain ingredients which give the red colour. The Jerez vermouths are usually made from a base of Oloroso and PX which provide natural colour, sweetness and that unique Jerez flavour. Vermouth is now so popular that it is sometimes available in bars from the barrel. There follows a list of the current Vermouths from the Marco de Jerez.

Vermouth La Copa: González Byass From an original 1896 recipe, includes over 8 yo Oloroso and PX plus wormwood, savoury, clove, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, angelica and chinchona bark (quinine). Interestingly the La Copa symbol was that used to brand the horses owned by the founder’s son, Pedro Nolasco González first Marqués de Torresoto y Briviesca. 

Vermut Lustau: This was one of Manuel Lozano’s last projects; to resuscitate an old company formula. It contains Amontillado and PX both over 10 years old and over 10 botanicals including wormwood, gentian and orange peel. All the botanicals are macerated separately and later blended together. 

Duque de Diano: Genaro Cala: Based on old Oloroso and PX wines from the old family bodega of Francisco Cala, this excellent artisanal vermouth is made to an old XIX century family recipe with over 20 botanicals. The vermouth is then barrel aged in its own solera. Bottles are individually numbered.

Genaro Cala (foto:cosasdecome)

Vermout Amillo Roberto Amillo: Roberto bottles rare old Sherries and brandy under the name of Coleccion Roberto Amillo and his vermouth is made from 18 year old Oloroso and PX with over 30 botanicals including cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, wormwood. 

Canasta Rosso: Williams & Humbert Introduced in 2008 - before the others - it is based on Canasta Cream, which is, of course, a blend of Oloroso and PX with an average age of over six years. Botanicals in this complex vermouth are wormwood, sage, camomile, hops, elder flowers, saffron, clove, star anise seeds, bitter orange peel, cardamom, coriander, fennel, nutmeg, vanilla, angelica, sedge, enula campana, gentian, turmeric, astrantia, lily, cinnamon, croton bark, quinine, pomegranate bark and cassia wood. I don’t know how they get all that into the bottle! 

Vermut Sherry Cask: Fernando de Castilla: Made from PX and Oloroso macerated with 27 botanicals, where possible sourced locally. 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Oloroso 18%, Bodegas Blanca Reyes

Walnut tinted mahogany to amber at the rim with coppery glints, legs.
Fresh and very clean with hints of walnut, dried fruits and nuts, autumn leaves and a trace of oak barrels. It has an attractive roundness and completeness, properly mature without any rough edges.
Fairly full bodied and nutty but well rounded by glycerine, traces of wood only and a slight tobacco note. There is a seriousness and depth here but also lots of charm and good length.
Blanca Reyes is a small family bodega founded in 1884 in Jerez which ought to be better known as they are lovely people and have a good product, much of which is sold at the despacho or in bulk to bars and restaurants. This Oloroso has some 15 years of solera age and is very attractive and very reasonably priced.
7.95 euros ex bodega

Friday, 12 August 2016

12.8.16 Harvest About to Begin

The 2016 harvest will begin officially on Tuesday according to César Saldaña, director of the Consejo. Inspectors from the Casa del Vino, as the Consejo is popularly known, will be out checking sugar and quality levels to ensure the grapes are ideal for DO Sherry. Some grapes have already been harvested from the inland vineyards which are normally slightly more advanced, with the purpose of starting the “pies de cuba”, small fermentations at the bottom of the vat which will help kickstart the bigger fermentations when the harvest begins in earnest.


While picking will commence on Tuesday, it will not be at full speed as there is a slight lack of uniformity in ripening with variations of up to 2ᴼ Beaumé below the minimum required of 10.5ᴼ. César Saldaña says that the reason for this is the unusual weather conditions this year with an intensely dry spring followed by heavy rains. It looks as though the harvest will not be fully under way for at least two weeks. It will certainly be later than last year, and on the dates predicted earlier: towards the end of August.

The grapes have been plagued by episodes of the very hot Levante wind from the east which makes them lose weight in the form of water, but thereby concentrates the sugars and brings forward the harvest. Despite this, not all the grapes are ripe, especially those in the coastal areas where there is a strong influence from the nearby sea. The final yield is always difficult to predict, but thanks to the earlier mildew and the Levante, it could be about 20% lower than last year’s crop. The growers are thinking 60 million kilos compared to last year’s 72 million kilos.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Have You Noticed the Stork Nests in Jerez?

There are many interesting adornments to the rooftops in Jerez, but perhaps the most charming are the large nests of the white storks. These magnificent migratory birds normally arrived in Spain from equatorial Africa to breed in February and March as the weather begins to warm up again. Roman farmers took the arrival of the storks as a cue to plant their seeds. There is an old  Spanish saying: “por San Blas la cigüeña verás, si no la ves mal año es.” (By Saint Blas’ day (3 February) you’ll see the stork, and if you don’t it will be a bad year).


Global warming has rendered this saying outdated and going to Africa unnecessary in recent years, as the birds can find sufficient sustenance in Spain. Many still work their way north stopping off at the Coto Doñana for a rest and some food before going back to the nests they left behind which they reuse and often enlarge. Many however now stay in Andalucía. As storks are seen as bringers of good luck, some bodegas encouraged them by feeding them or building them nests, and certainly there are many nests to be seen on bodega chimney-tops.

Once a building project was underway which needed a crane, but in no time it was found that storks had started to build a nest on its counterweight. The men removed the twigs but in no time they were back again and then it was discovered that eggs had been laid and the job had to wait till the chicks were born. Later netting was put on cranes, but the tenacious storks sometimes managed to use it to help build the nest.


White storks are content near humans and nest on buildings, pylons and chimneys but the rare black ones prefer places more inaccessible to humans. The latter are listed as in danger of extinction though they are being helped to breed at Jerez Zoo, some of whose keepers even built artificial nests to encourage them. It is thought that there are now some fifty pairs in Jerez, and let us hope they can bring some much needed good luck to the bodegas.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Cream Solera 1847 18%, González Byass

Deep blacky walnut brown fading to amber at the rim, legs.
Quite serious old Oloroso at the core with some hints of dried fig and date fruit. It doesn't smell particularly sweet and there is even a slight umami, tobaccoey note, yet one can pick up the texture from the PX and a sensation of age.
Sweeter, fruitier and softer on the palate at first but stops short of excess sweetness, then the Oloroso comes through providing backbone before the two meld together to offer a fine quality harmonious wine with a hint of caramel which doesn't cloy and has considerable length. Proper Cream Sherry.
This classic Cream is a blend of 75% Oloroso and 25% Pedro Ximénez vinified and aged separately before being blended and going into the Solera 1847 where the wine is aged for a further 8 years. The Cádiz cheese producer El Gazul produced a fantastic organic Payoya goat cheese aged for 45 days in this wine. The brand is the sponsor of the Cádiz Carnival. I read somewhere that the brand was dedicated to the King, but the 2nd Republican government (1931-1939) disapproved and the wine is now dedicated to the first birthday of the founder's son, Pedro Nolasco.
7.25 euros from El Corte Inglés

Monday, 8 August 2016

An Interview with Antonio Flores, IWC Fortified Winemaker of the Year

Translated from an article by Á Espejo in today’s Diario de Jerez

AE – First of all, congratulations!
AF – Thank you!
AE – How did you receive the news?
AF – Well, in these International Wine Challenge awards which are considered the Oscars of the wine world, and work in much the same way as those in Hollywood, they make a shortlist of three which consisted this time of Manuel Lozano of Lustau, who died recently and won the award seven times consecutively, a Portuguese winemaker and myself. The names of the winners of the main awards are revealed at the Gala dinner at London’s Hilton Hotel, and it was there I heard my name announced as Best Fortified Winemaker in the World. It is a spectacular event, and was a super-emotional moment.
AE – A lot of emotion and I imagine a lot of nerves also?
AF – Tremendous nerves. I had already been nominated three times for Best Winemaker, but Manolo won, and whoever says they are not nervous at these moments is lying. You get very nervous and the heart beats faster. It has been a very special year for me.
AE - Was Manuel Lozano remembered?
AF – Definitely. I had – or rather still have - a great friendship with Manolo as I believe it continues from Heaven - where they now have a top oenologist. I would have loved it if he could have been present at the Gala, yet I felt his presence and even cried a few tears. I think the organisers did a fantastic thing, naming the award for Best Fortified Wine in the World after Manolo, and if my bodega wins this award, for the Cuatro Palmas for example, it couldn’t be more emotional. It was a full evening and definitely one to remember; all that was missing was Manolo.
AE – To whom do they actually award the prize?
AF – It was awarded to me, but it also belongs to the entire team at González Byass. We always say we are a family of wines and it’s true, we are a family of wines, so the prize is for all of the family, for those who are there now and those who went before. It is a prize for my father, for the capataces and members of the different generations of the González family who have managed to preserve a style and lineage in their wines – and it is also a prize for Jerez itself.
AE – As they say in Jerez you’ve been immersed in it since childhood.
AF – I was lucky enough to be born right above the foundational solera of Tio Pepe, the Tio Pepe Rebollo solera, and as I always say, it is not blood running through my veins, but Tio Pepe. These great awards for Manolo, for me, are very important for Jerez because they recognise the value of one of the world’s finest wines which is reclaiming its rightful place.
AE – Why did people lose interest in Sherry for so long?
AF – There were many factors in play. One is fashion, but also Jerez and certain bodegueros bear much of the blame. Making a great wine cheap means reducing its quality; and its recuperation means going back to its origins. I often say that there will be no future if we don’t take strength from the past; our predecessors did things well basing things on quality, the vineyard, the wine’s provenance. Now there is a move to return to the origins and doing so is allowing Sherry to recuperate its place in the world, something extremely important.
AE – The prizes are won, when will Sherry get the price it deserves?
AF - Little by little. What we call the Sherry Revolution is not the work of a day, a week or even a year. We cannot go back to the days of large volumes, days we must forget. We need to go for wines of quality and in reduced quantity, and the results will be apparent with the passing of time. It is unarguable that right now the consumer has a great opportunity with Sherry and is able to drink great wines at super competitive prices, and we ourselves need to believe it.
AE – This Sherry Revolution which everyone is talking about has an interesting mix of acclaimed winemakers and other young talents who are really pushing the boundaries.
AF – That’s the future. For me, one of the most interesting tastings at Vinoble was that of Pedro Ballesteros, Spain’s Master of Wine, about the “new avenues for Sherry” in which he sought to unite the present and future of Sherry. That there are highly educated oenologists who are well organised, have a vision for Sherry and are opening new avenues is very important, as is the way the Consejo Regulador positioned itself at this tasting in a very positive manner toward these new avenues. We winemakers in Jerez have always been very discreet people. In Jerez we don’t make “winemaker wines” like other regions; instead we have a much more important responsibility which is to be given wines of a particular style – and each bodega has a style – preserve these wines and above all, hand them over to the next generation in at least the same condition as we received them.
AE – Some of these new avenues include grape varieties which were cast aside for having lower production levels than Palomino Fino. Do you think the Consejo should authorise them once again?
AF – Here we chose the varieties which were most suitable and we should remember that a bodega is a business which has to operate profitably. But the diversity these varieties offer could be profitable with higher prices. At the moment we use three varieties: Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, but why not open the door to other varieties? But before that there is an easier job which is to recuperate the relationship with the vineyards, the pagos of Jerez, something which is already happening. Jerez forgot about the vineyards, but now they are being given much greater importance. I believe this is fundamental. People think that in the world of wine anything old is good, but I say it is not like that; I mean if an old wine is good it must have been a good wine when it was young, back when there was more care in the vineyards, respectful winemaking, and these virtues were able to be preserved. Now we can’t forget the bodegas either: Sherry is made great in the vineyards, and made inimitable in the bodega. These are the two great strengths of Sherry which must be preserved.
AE – González Byass is obviously investing in vineyards.
AF – The entire solera Tio Pepe Rebollo, which supplies Tio Pepe en rama, is from the pago Macharnudo, the Constancia solera is from Macharnudo and Carrascal, the two Jerez Superior pagos where we have our vineyards. And what’s more the Tio Pepe soleras consist of 20,000 butts comprising 21 soleras among which are the emblematic solera Macharnudo, solera Carrascal and solera Balbína, though we no longer own vineyard in the latter.
AE – It is noticeable that the oenologists are turning into the great Sherry communicators.
AF – It is one step further. The wine consumer wants direct contact with the winemaker and I believe that the communication course which Cádiz University is already doing in the oenology degree is very important in communicating what we do. We are in an area which has everything: tradition, history, quality, and we need to communicate this. I have conducted many tastings in the USA and Canada, and it gives me great pride to say that my bodega has a longer history than their city. The winemaker needs to get up from the table and get the wine across with passion and  belief in what he is communicating.
AE – Do you have new projects in mind that you can tell us about now?
AF – We have a wonderful project which few bodegas in Jerez could do. It is a big project, and like so many others, stems from the magnificent historic archive of González Byass. It consists of three grape varieties vinified sweet: Palomino – of which there are very few – Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez. We are one of the few bodegas in Jerez which has Pedro Ximénez and we hope to be self-sufficient in the future, without the need to buy in wine from Montilla. I hope these wines will be available to enjoy next year, but we are also working on new projects with old and young vintage wines, but they are still secret.
AE – Will the bodega continue using historic labels?
AF – We have been using these for the last seven years for Tio pepe en rama and for five years for the Palmas. The archive also provided a label for the new vermouth, and the majority of them are beautiful.
AE – What is the González Byass secret for staying at the fore-front for almost 200 years?
AF – The secret is that the family has invested a lot of love and dedication into the bodega. Capital which could have been invested elsewhere has been invested in Jerez and in quality. We never entered the buyer’s own brand market and suffered difficult times when everyone else opted to cut prices, but in the end we reaped the fruit. The González family is now into its seventh generation, and that brings complications. Having over 100 shareholders in a business in which not everyone can participate is very difficult but so far our president Mauricio González Gordon and our vice-president Pedro Rebuelta are managing to unite the family in the common project which is González Byass.
AE – A united family which maintains its links to Jerez.
AF – Absolutely. Jerez can’t complain about lack of support from González Byass and vice-versa.
AE - González Byass is also taking great advantage of wine tourism, so in vogue right now.
AF – We are pioneers in many things and we pioneered wine tourism when nobody else thought of it, and it is of great value to us now. We are the most-visited bodega in Europe and one of the most-visited in the world. Over 200,000 people visit every year and that’s very important as each one takes away a little of our history and culture and we’re putting Jerez on the map. It is one of the most visited monuments in Europe – well, I consider it a monument – and that is a source of economic wealth which is sowing the seeds for the future.
AE – It was inevitable that I would ask you about Bag in Box since the Junta has authorised its use.
AF – I don’t believe that is good for Sherry, and not because it has any oenological problem. It is a question of image. None of the world’s fine wines are packed in BIB. It is not good and González Byass will not be using it.
AE – What do you think about the resurrection of the old Domecq bodegas?
AF – It is very good for Jerez. The recuperation of Fundador, previously Domecq, is fundamental because it is one of the great bastions of Jerez. I Domecq disappeared from the wine map of Jerez it would be like Barcelona or Madrid disappearing from football.  That someone goes for Jerez, and not just for the brandy but also for the Sherry is a hopeful sign for Jerez.