Friday, 30 September 2016

Amontillado Solera 18%, Cayetano del Pino

Mid golden amber with brassy old gold highlights, legs.
Oxidative notes predominate with traces of implied sweetness, American oak, straw and lots of nuts. It has a certain bitter almond crispness attributable to its background in biological ageing balanced by a roundness from oxidative ageing and a sort of umami/vanilla note. Stylish and interesting.
Fairly light at first then grows as it warms on the palate, with a certain tang and full of flavour. There is a slightly open textured feel and a gentle grip without it being tannic, and it has terrific length.
This once famous bodega which supplied the royal household of king Alfonso XIII acts as more of an almacenista nowadays. They only make Amontillado and Palo Cortado, but they are excellent. Their Sherries are out there, and while hard to find, they are most rewarding when you do.This wine started as a Fino fortified to 15.5% and was allowed to age through the criaderas till it reached 17.5% at which point the ageing became completely oxidative, and the whole process took 20 years. What a bargain! Production is very small at 2810 bottles annually, and the wine is bottled en rama.
12.60 euros from Licores Corredera

Thursday, 29 September 2016

It's Time to Get Your Sherry Week Event Organised!

It is only 6 weeks till International Sherry Week (7-13 November) but there's still time to organise and event and register it free at It could be a tasting, food matching session, cocktails, anything as long as it is SHERRY!

29.9.16 Sherry Export Value Up 14%; Convenio Protests

The first seven months of the year have seen sales in terms of value grow by 14.3% to a total of 21.5 million euros compared to 18.8 million for the same period last year. This welcome development is largely thanks to the United Kingdom, consistently the largest export market, despite the worries over Brexit. Some non EU markets have shown impressive growth such as Norway, where export earnings tripled, and China, where they doubled.

Beltran Domecq and Carmen Ortiz (centre) foto:diariodejerez.

These figures which were extracted from statistics compiled by the Instituto de Comercio Exterior (ICEX), and show unmistakeable growth in Sherry sales were revealed yesterday by Carmen Ortíz, the agriculture minister at the Junta de Andalucía, during a vineyard visit with representatives of the trade. She encouraged producers to continue following the path of quality not only to increase sales in existing markets but to develop new ones. “With the efforts of growers and bodegas we can keep moving forward and realise our hopes” she said and pointed out that there is collaboration between the trade and the Junta “which we want to boost” because this traditional Andaluz wine has been the flagship of Spain and Andalucía throughout the world.

Protestors at Fundador (foto:diariodejerez)

More demonstrations about the Convenio de la Vid are being planned by the workers who are awaiting official permission to demonstrate outside Williams & Humbert, Estévez and González Byass next week. Yesterday they protested outside Osborne’s Bodega el Tiro. The mood is that if the peaceful demonstrations achieve nothing then strike action will be necessary, and they are quite prepared to undertake this.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

28.9.16 Celebration at Williams & Humbert; Salón Guía Peñín 2017

The Medina family, owners of W & H, recently held the first Asamblea de la Familia Medina at the bodega. The idea of the assembly is to safeguard cohesion and harmony throughout the three current generations of this large family. There is also a family council which discusses and makes decisions, and everyone signed a protocol which lists the positions members of the family occupy in the company in the hope of continuing the vision of the founders to whom homage was paid: the brothers Ángel, José and Jesús, who were present, and the late Nicolás.

The XVII Salón Guía Peñín de Los Mejores Vinos will take place on 27th October in Madrid at the Palacio Municipal de Congresos. The wines to be shown are those which scored 93 points or more in the tastings for the 2017 Peñín Guide, which will be launched at the event. Over 4,000 people from 17 countries are expected. The 2017 guide has broken its own record with over 11,500 wines tasted, including 174 which scored over 95. Only 3% of the wines tasted were fortified, but Sherry achieved the highest average score of all.

Bodegas Carmona y López

Juan López Campos established himself as an almacenista in Jerez in 1819. For more than half a century he grew very successful, due in a large part to the quality of his vineyards in the best pagos which he cared for assiduously. The bodegas were in the Calle Ávila and Calle San Francisco de Paula, the latter of which may be the bodega which is now the fine restaurant La Carboná.

In 1868 Vicente's successors, Vicente, Antonio and Juan López de Meneses joined with their cousin Antonio López de Meneses, Duque de Banos, who had established his own bodega in the Muro de la Merced, close to a park and the urban railway line.

In 1878 the firm decided to venture into the export markets with wines like: Jerez Doble Pálido, Pálido, Oro Oscuro, Oro, Oloroso, Pasto, Amontillado, Flor Fina, Pedro Ximénez and Tintilla de Rota. Before long they had earned a reputation for quality in America and Europe. They had a couple of brands specifically for Britain: Lunch Sherry, and Prince of Wales’ Feathers, while they sold a range of Soleras Finas in Spain. For a while they were suppliers to the Spanish royal household. 


The firm also launched a brandy “Cognac Fine Champagne” distilled from Jerez mostos in magnificent pot stills and its label carried the trade mark star which adorned all their labels. They also produced Quina, good vinegar and olive oil.

In the Bordeaux Exhibition of 1896 they won a diploma of honour, and won many other awards at other wine competitions. In 1909 the firm appeared as Carmona y López Sucesores at a different address: Calle Muro, and in 1911 the trading name changed again to A López de Meneses at the same address, but it seems they also had bodegas in Calles Colon, San Francisco de Paula, Lanuza, Arguelles, Circo, Ceniza, Horno and Huerto del Carmen. Between 1916 and 1932 the firm appears in Calle Cruz del Canto and later, Juan L López de Meneses appears in 1945 in Calle Zaragoza, where it remained until it closed down in 1954.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Why I List So Many Long Lost Bodegas

PARTLY it is because they arouse my curiosity since many of these old firms were the forerunners of the bodegas of today. Many of their soleras still exist but are now in different hands, often renamed, sometimes unused, but it is interesting to know how and where they ended up. Most of the family names still exist, but few of the original bodegas. As the firms grew they bought or built more, resulting in bodegas all over the place which was impractical. Recent years have seen firms consolidate in much bigger bodegas and sell off the old sites to the builders. Anyway, many of those old bodegas were no longer fit for purpose as surrounding modern construction had diverted their supply of Poniente wind and modern trucks could not pass down the narrow streets.

Luckily Real Tesoro was rehoused at Estevez (

PARTLY it is because the trade was different then. It was full of industrious and innovative people who, in the days before the Denominación de Origen, were also involved with other types of wine such as Madeira, Port and Málaga, which they either bought in for resale – though in some cases they actually owned the respective wineries - or simply made it themselves. There used to be “Porto de procedencia” (genuine Port) or “Porto de Jerez”. The same applied to spirits with, for example “Coñac” and “Ojén” (an anise flavoured spirit originally from Ojén near Marbella). They did all sorts of things which were perfectly legal then, including refreshing soleras with Montilla and making outrageous advertising claims.

PARTLY also because I realised it is almost impossible to find this information anywhere else and decided to offer what I could find. I have spent a great deal of time researching them in my own Sherry library (37 books - so far), on the internet, talking with people, and of course in the library in Jerez with the librarian, but there is not much there either. Naturally there are records of births, marriages and deaths, the padrón (a list of everyone habitually living in a municipality), planning permissions, council taxes and such like, but virtually nothing about individual Sherry firms. A whole team of researchers with plenty of time would be needed to piece all this together and match it up to any other extant information.

Interior of Jerez Library

As historians say, it is the winners who write history, or in this case the bigger, surviving bodegas. There is no shortage of information on them, but it is amazing how quickly information about even recently closed bodegas disappears. Rumasa certainly didn’t help; in its rush to buy up bodegas little thought was given to their records. Another point is that many of these old firms simply left less evidence. They would change the company name as directors came and went, making it very hard to trace their history, and most exported in bulk so the wine would usually bear the name of its importer in another land, meaning the producer often had no label; even less to remember them by.

Here’s to the hundreds of lost bodegas who helped create the wonderful wine we enjoy so much today.

Monday, 26 September 2016

26.9.16 First of Union Demonstrations; Latest Sherry Educator Course

The first in a series of trade union demonstrations took place today in front of Bodegas Fundador. Another is scheduled for Wednesday in El Puerto de Santa María. Despite Fedejerez responding to union complaints, the unions still feel there is a gulf between the positions of the two sides in the dispute over the XXV Convenio de la Vid. Both sides say they are happy to sit down and talk, but there is little sign of that happening.

The XIV Sherry Educator Course took place last week with 31 wine professionals in attendance from no fewer than 11 countries. The Consejo Regulador introduced the course 14 years ago to train these professionals as ambassadors who would promote and spread knowledge about Sherry around the world. During an intensive 3 days they visit vineyards and bodegas, attend high level lectures and tastings, and sit an exam. Since the course began nearly 600 people have become Sherry Educators and their names are listed on the Consejo website: through which local Educators can be contacted if the need arises for a Sherry tasting or advice.

26.9.16 New Sherry Restaurant in Madrid; Channel 5 Filming in Jerez

Paquita Espinosa hails from Barcelona but has always loved Cádiz and its wines. When she decided to open a restaurant she dedicated it to them naming it Palo Cortado. There is a huge menu of tapas and dishes with an Andalusian flavour and no fewer than 160 Sherries are available by the glass! she has organised food and Sherry matchings, tastings and visits from bodegueros, all of which quickly sell out. In recognition of her efforts, Barbadillo made her a Dame of the Order of Solear.

Open Tuesday – Saturday at Calle Unión, 5, phone: 915 472 500

The British television company Channel 5 have been in Jerez filming for a forthcoming TV series on Spain. Presented by Alex Polizzi, who has done excellent programmes on Italy and the Hotel Inspector series, the new film covers the whole of Spain, but in Jerez they have been filming the Real Escuela riding school, a bodega in Sanlúcar and an interview about Sherry at the Alcázar in Jerez. The serialised programme will be broadcast sometime towards the end of this year or early next year. Definitely something to look out for!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

25.9.16 Good News for UK Sherry Lovers!

Now that Sherry is beginning to recuperate its rightful position in the UK market, aficionados of the outstanding wines of Jerez will be pleased to know of a source of genuine “proper” artisan Sherry, produced by hand in small family owned bodegas and in very limited quantities. The wines range in style from bone dry Fino to the equally dry Oloroso VORS with an average age of 45 years. Most of them are dry but there are sweet ones too, and all are top quality. Currently the focus is on a range of wines from each of two classic bodegas; Urium and Faustino González, both in Jerez.

Sherry Educator and lover Helen Highley of the blog has for some time been importing these wines for the trade but is now offering them to the public as well through her website The online store launches on the 30th September with, amazingly, no minimum order. These wines are superb, so come Friday, your chance to order some of these amazing wines will be here!

25.9.16 A New Era for Sherry

This is an optimistic article by Á Espejo published in yesterday’s Diario de Jerez

The bodegas are leaving behind long decades of crisis marked by high volumes and low prices, and a new cycle of growth is underway with a return to the origins and with the premise of not repeating the mistakes of the past.

It can be felt in the atmosphere. The bodegas are getting back into their stride and looking forward eagerly and hopefully to a new era for the wine of Jerez which looks like being one of expansion. But unlike the boom of the 1970s, which was a period of massive production and unsustainably low prices, they are now focusing on quality and added value, boosted by wine tourism and gastronomy which are helping the renaissance of a wine which looks back proudly to the origins which gave it its unique identity.

This hopeful new dawn full of opportunity is also catching on in the areas of public administration and finance which are committed to the common cause of repositioning Sherry to the highest ranking after a long period lost in the desert, a prolonged crisis from which at last light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. However, great care must be taken to show that lessons have been learned for the avoidance of the mistakes of the past of which there only too many examples.

These are the general conclusions reached at the “Editor’s Breakfast”, a debate held this week at the offices of the Diario de Jerez titled “A New Era for Sherry” sponsored by Banco Sabadell. The highly qualified people present were the director of the Consejo Regulador, César Saldaña, two oenologists: Antonio Flores of González Byass and Manuel Valcárcel of Fundador, the Junta’s director general for industry and the agro-alimentary chain Rosa Ríos, the director of business banking at Sabadell, Mauricio González, and of course the director of Diario de Jerez, Rafael Navas.

During the debate it was pointed out that Sherry has reached a point where the increase in value has compensated for the fall in sales volume. This loss corresponds to the cheap buyers’ own brands (BOB) which do nothing for the reputation of Sherry, and which are being dropped in order to focus on the high quality bodega brands.

According to César Saldaña there is now a proper balance in production, fruit of the painful restructuring of the trade, and he stressed the need to understand the position Sherry is now in so as to make the right decisions and reinvest in the future. The oenologists agreed on the importance of the land, the various historic pagos, which are coming back into fashion but, as César Saldaña said, the trade had abandoned the quality they offered for the standard fare offered by the solera system. “Sherry is made in the vineyard, but for too long we have been selling wine made in the bodega”, he said, pointing out the fundamental role the vineyard plays on the stage of quality winemaking.

The winemakers agreed, but Antonio Flores made the point that while a return to focusing on the pagos is vital, the bodega also has a role: Sherry IS made in the vineyard, but it is made great in the bodega. Manuel Valcárcel agreed, saying that Sherry is really two wines: the one made in the vineyard like everywhere else, but also the one produced in a bodega over very many years.

The bodegas are well aware that BOBs will be scrapped, and in fact González Byass, later followed by some others such as Fundador, stopped producing them a while back. But some will keep on producing them until demand finally drops, when new, younger, better off consumers who can be courted in the social networks and are prepared to travel to the region overtake the traditional consumers. The latter are still quite numerous, usually aged over 75 and to whom Sherry is more of a drink than a wine, but their numbers are naturally in decline. There is a third type of consumer: the occasional one, usually linked to the ferias and pilgrimages. They are quite stable consumers and can be grouped with the younger ones, whose numbers are growing unceasingly and to whom the Consejo is directing all its generic promotional efforts.

The professionals in the Sherry trade also point out the essential role played by education, and both the bodegas and the Consejo are heavily involved with this, as well as wine tourism and gastronomy, the fundamental pillars of the resurrection of Sherry. And it is working: the Sherry and Brandy Route of Jerez is the second most popular in Spain receiving over 400,000 visitors annually.

Rosa Ríos mentioned that the Junta de Andalucía is working with the Sherry trade by sharing out up to 4.2 million euros of EU funds from the Integrated Territories Initiative in support of wine tourism, and underlined the Junta’s support for the trade, which also has some 2 million euros in aid for promotion in third countries. She made the important point that “there is room to increase value, but we must commercialise better”. She said “the Junta is here to help, because the trade is dynamic, unique and a leading exporter, a road which started here centuries ago.”

The topic of Vinoble was discussed. The biennial wine fair has rather lost its way in recent years for lack of political and public support, but Rosa Ríos is prepared to wipe the slate clean and start again. Also discussed was the dynamic young breed of grower-winemakers who are producing such interesting wines from classic soils in the area but for regulatory reasons cannot get the support of the Consejo. The Consejo is not ruling out their future incorporation, however. Rosa Ríos expressed her willingness to collaborate in eliminating obstacles saying “if the current law isn’t working, then it should be changed.”

Friday, 23 September 2016

23.9.16 TTIP Protection for Sherry Might Not Happen

There are many in Europe, especially in France and Germany who believe the TTIP treaty is dead. It had been hoped that the controversial and increasingly unpopular Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a trade deal between the European Union and the United States, would be concluded in 2014, but it is still ongoing and looks unlikely to be concluded till 2019, and even then maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction. One of the key elements for the wine trade is the protection of Denominaciónes de Origen, and if the deal fails, that protection will not be implemented. This is a worry for the Consejo, since there are many fake “sherries” available in the US, where Sherry, Port and Champagne for example, are considered styles of wine rather than individual wines from a specific place, and can thus be freely imitated in the US. Although the TTIP negotiations seem to be running out of steam they are not over, so the Consejo is doing its utmost to ensure the interests of Sherry are properly represented by keeping close contact with members of the Spanish negotiating delegation, the Ministry of Agriculture and the embassy in Washington.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Amontillado 17.5%, Viña Santa Petronila

Amber-tapaz with coppery tints, legs.
Quite a generous nose and fragrant with traces of nutty sweetness and some age with traces of spice; cinnamon and vanilla, an earthy note and American oak. Very attractive.
Fairly full with gentle traces of warm spices such as cinnamon interlaced with toasted almonds, hazelnut and oak. There is enough volatile acidity to give bit of bite and balance the glyceric sweetness leaving a  very classy wine with real character and length.
This is a really good wine and it is probably somewhere around 15 years old. It comes from the smallest bodega in the Marco de Jerez, an XVIII century casa de viña surrounded by its vineyard, with its tiny bodega where everything is done by hand. The wine is contract bottled en rama.
25.75 euros per 50cl bottle from Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

21.9.16 La Tapería Fundador; Fedejerez Responds to Unions

Bodegas Fundador has remodelled one of its bodegas as a gastronomic space, which opens today, with public access from Calle San Ildefonso. An inauguration event was held there yesterday, led by the bodega’s managing director Rafael Rendón and attended by Consejo director César Saldaña, president Beltrán Domecq and Brandy president Evaristo Babé. The tapería offers a wide range of tapas and menus matched to the firm’s Sherries and brandies; Harveys, Terry and Fundador, as well as an exciting range of cocktails. Fundador wants to promote the growing trend of accompanying food with brandy and prove that it is as versatile as Sherry, and they hope to attract the younger generation. This is only one of many innovations Fundador is working on in connection with wine tourism.

Fedejerez, the association of bodegas, has spoken out regarding the XXV Convenio de la Vid negotiations. They say they are quite open for discussion but that the unions have “distorted and manipulated” their proposals in the information given to the workforce and to the public. According to Fedejerez, far from suppressing length of service bonuses, they intend to consolidate them. They also dispute the union’s figures on part time workers, saying that over 80% of days worked were worked by people on fixed or stable contracts, and say that any part time work will be offered to those who have worked there at least 60 days in the past 2 years. Fedejerez denies wanting to reduce salaries for newly contracted staff but they will naturally be lower than those for experienced staff. No salary reduction will apply to part time staff. Work days and hours will be maintained and the bodegas will not impose working on weekends and holidays, furthermore they deny that they want to abolish leave for childbirth, deaths in the family, medical reasons etc. when in fact they have more generous proposals.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Royal Cream 17.5%, Marqués del Real Tesoro

Deep amber, mahogany with coppery highlights and fairly slow legs.
Quite a lot of PX on the nose with soft raisins soaked in brandy, traces of turrón and caramel with hints of walnut from the Oloroso. It is a soft, easy-going nose yet has depth.
Sweet and rich, again plenty of PX and theraisiny texture it brings, soft and smooth with a gentle Oloroso backbone, hints of vanilla, orange and walnut and good length.
A classic standard Cream Sherry from Grupo Estévez. It is decent quality, and is probably the fairly normal blend of around 75% Oloroso and 25% Pedro Ximénez. The old firm of Marqués del Real Tesoro was bought by José Estévez and installed at his purpose built bodega complex which also houses the Tio Mateo solera and Valdespino.
5.80 euros from El Rimero, Fuengirola

Monday, 19 September 2016

19.9.16 Death Announced of Joaquín Rivero; Harvest 2016 All But Finished

The real estate magnate and founder of Bodegas Tradición, Joaquín Rivero has died aged 72 in hospital in Jerez. Jerezano by birth and entrepreneur by nature, he started his career in the family business but soon founded his own, making construction materials. In the early 1980s he moved into real estate on an international scale and soon became a multi-millionaire.  This wealth allowed him to indulge his two passions of Sherry and art.

Rivero was a descendant of the famous old bodega family JM Rivero, and in the 1990s he bought an old bodega in the Plaza Cordobeses and had it renovated. He bought old soleras and some Añadas and established a Fino solera, quickly earning a reputation for quality. He also built the most impressive collection of Spanish art in Andalucía, amounting to some 300 works from between the XV and XIX centuries, and a selection of this is on display at the bodega. He was recently selected for the Premio Ciudad de Jerez 2016 in recognition of his achievements.

2016 is the second smallest harvest in the last decade with a fraction over 57 million kilos, 26% down on last year. Only 2012 was smaller with only 47 million kilos thanks to extensive drought. Yields this year have varied widely in the different areas with Jerez producing a little over 40 million kilos (70% of the total crop, but 19% down on last year), while Sanlúcar was 40% down and Trebujena nearly 50% down. Chipiona was down 34%, El Puerto nearly 50%, Rota 30%.

It all goes to show that while we have improved husbandry and winemaking dramatically, we are still at the mercy of the weather. An estimated 7% of the losses are attributable to the mildew outbreak which resulted from heavy rain (200 litres/square metre in some places!), especially in coastal vineyards. The main cause however, has been the almost endless Levante wind which takes moisture from the grapes. The poor growers who sell grapes to the bodegas are paid by weight, and have suffered financial losses. Also, Sherry grapes are ridiculously cheap at about 0.35 €/kilo. At least the quality is good.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

17.9.16 Impressive Sales Growth of Wines From Cádiz

Exports of wine from Andalucía are growing healthily with wine from Cádiz leading the way. The first 6 months of 2016 show a total increase on the same period last year of 21%, and wine from Cádiz – Sherry and the Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz - represent over 70% of this. Wines from the province have increased sales to 37.2 million euros or 12.4%. This is mainly the result of favourable conditions in export markets led by the UK with 26.6% of sales (up 35%), the USA 15% of sales (up 34.8%) and the Low Countries with 12% of sales. Sales to Russia have grown dramatically to 4.7 million euros which represents a growth of 950%! Japan remains a small market (in 11th place) but grew at 133% and great efforts are being made to promote the wines there. 

Friday, 16 September 2016

16.9.16 Union Protests Set for 26th September

After a fruitless meeting with Fedejerez yesterday over the XXV Convenio de la Vid, between 800 and 900 workers will mount protests at the entrances to bodegas starting on the 26th of this month. They accuse Fedejerez of wanting to get rid of worker rights accrued over decades. If the protests achieve nothing, then strike action will take place, but the unions will always be open to talks and hope the matter can be settled by the end of the year.

The union building in Jerez was packed for the decisive meeting (foto:CCOO)

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Pedro Ximénez Añada 2014 12%, Ximénez Spínola

Deep transparent coppery amber fading to amber at the rim with slow viscous legs.
Lots of caramel toffee and a slight butter note with attractive notes of raisin as it smells at the press - it is so natural you can smell the skins and stalks and even their texture. For a young wine at only 12% the nose is quite intense and has no distracting oak aromas, leaving the pure essence of  PX .
Rich, sweet and unctuous, very soft for a while till a certain level of acidity comes through. Softly chewy in texture with lots of creamy caramel and toffee, banoffee without the banana, very substantial yet remarkably elegant with considerable length. Young and fresh.
This is a special wine; the only vintage PX (except for Ramiro Ibáñez' Pandorga). It is made from their own 16 hectares of vineyard by a different process from standard PX which involves leaving the ripe grapes on the vine for three weeks after the normal harvest to develop more sugar and lose some water. The yield is inevitably tiny, and only some 200 litres of gently pressed must are produced from a ton of grapes. The super-ripe grapes are then hand picked and fermented in barrel on the skins for maximum extraction of flavour. After fermentation the wine is aged on its lees for four months with regular batonnage (lees stirring) to extract even more flavour, and gently filtered into bottle. No fortification spirit is added. The bottle is sealed with a cylindrical Diam cork. While the wine is superb, its method of production doesn't comply with the Reglamento, so it does not carry a DO Sherry precinta, but hopefully one day it will. This was bottle 03534 from a total of 11275 produced.
About 20 euros per half bottle

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

14.9.16 Premios Solera; Harvest Figures; Great Sherry Tasting

The best wine lists which promote Sherry are to be rewarded in a new initiative by Pepe Monforte of gastronomic blog Cosas de Comé and the Consejo Regulador. As well as the best wine list, there will be prizes for the best bar, the best wine shop and the person who has done most for Sherry and the wines of Cádiz during the course of the year. The announcement was made yesterday at the Consejo bodega San Ginés by Pepe Monforte, César Saldaña and Rafael Navas of Diario de Jerez. There will only be one prize per category but the ten runners-up will receive mentions of honour. A hundred experts in the field wine and gastronomy will be asked to vote by secret ballot.

Rafael Navas, Cesar saldan and Pepe Monforte (foto:diariodejerez)

“Sherry and the wines of Cádiz are featuring more and more on wine lists, and some young restaurateurs are even putting them at the top of their lists, and we thought we should encourage them,” said Pepe Monforte. César Saldaña said that the lack of this had long been a bugbear but that it is now fashionable to include Sherry on the list. “Let us hope this becomes the rule rather than the exception.”

Below are the Consejo figures for grapes picked up to close of play yesterday. The inland vineyards are all but finished, with only a few coastal vineyards still working.

The annual Great Sherry Tasting took place in London on Monday. Nearly 200 wines from nearly 30 bodegas were present as was Consejo president Beltrán Domecq who gave masterclasses. He said that Sherry is successfully gaining the respect of chefs and sommeliers and earning a place on their wine lists. Promoting Sherry as an ideal accompaniment to food has been very successful, and Fiona Becket hosted a masterclass on the subject. Now that the trade is convinced, there is a need to get the general public involved, and hopefully the restaurant trade will be instrumental in this.

Beltran Domecq and Patricia de la Puerta thank Graham Hines for his work for Sherry (foto:drinks business)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Buying Old Sherry

The amazing prices achieved by wines at the glamorous auction houses of Christies and Sotheby’s (among many others) are most often great vintages of Claret and Burgundy. Fine wines from other places are more of a second division, and Sherry is rarely seen. When it is, the prices are usually pretty reasonable by comparison.

There was one exception: “Massandra Sherry de la Frontera” 1775, sold by Sotheby’s for $43,500 in 2001, was the oldest and most expensive Sherry ever auctioned. The Massandra winery in Crimea which has the world’s largest wine collection has been planning to sell another bottle, hoping to raise a million euros. The wine was widely publicised and Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi widely criticised when they drank a bottle while visiting. There are those who dispute that the wine is really genuine Sherry, and not the product of Crimea itself. Maybe we could consult those politicians!

The Massandra Sherry

The Reliquia range from Barbadillo (Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado and PX) which are extremely old wines, sell at £500-700 a bottle and their oldest of all, Versos, sells at £7,000, all these in the UK trade. In 1999 Christies arrived at Williams & Humbert to taste their collection of vintage wines and persuaded them to auction some of these “Glorious Wines”, as Christies’ director Thomas Hudson put it. They sold for an average of 250 euros per bottle in 2006 and at up to 600 euros at later sales in London, New York and Los Angeles. So the value of old Sherry is in the low hundreds of pounds unless it is exceptional or extremely rare.

These Pemartin Berisford Solera 1914s bottled 1980s were sold as vintage for £120

These are all top notch Sherries, easily the equal of many of the record breaking Clarets and Burgundies in terms of quality, and often much older, so amazing value. But this age thing is a problem. Most fine wines carry a vintage date so one knows how old they are, but Sherry very rarely does, and one comes across it for sale with the solera foundation date mistaken for the vintage, and a price to match, even though the word “solera” appears on the label! A quick glance at the bottle would tell most people the wine could not possibly be that age – I saw an “1830” with a plastic top! I believe it is generally ignorance rather than dishonesty.

I have seen González Byass Solera 1847 (retail price @ 7 euros) for sale online at 1050.00 euros! Okay, it is an older bottling, but not more than 20 years old. Osborne PX 1827 is another example; retail price about 9 euros, and offered online (maybe a 30 year-old bottling) for 1030.00 euros! The same site has Williams & Humbert’s Dry Sack and Canasta Cream, both still available, and again older bottlings, at 810.00 euros. They are listed as 1877 – the year the bodega was founded. I got in touch about these – twice –but nothing has changed, and I only mention a few wines from the list. I would be interested to know what was paid for them.

Another problem is that some people seem unable to distinguish Sherry from Montilla (good though it is, Alvear PX Solera 1830 is not a Sherry – and it was also priced as a vintage). Neither is the excellent Toro Albalá, also Montilla, and De Muller Tarragona is not Sherry either. It is red for a start! If it is Sherry it will say so on the label, and if it doesn’t, then it isn’t. And worse, there are still websites selling imitations as “Sherry”, and some products from South Africa, New Zealand and the US still carry the S word on the label. There is a huge amount of work still to be done by the Consejo Regulador to protect the name Sherry, and as far as buying old Sherry online is concerned, be VERY careful and shop around, it is amazing how prices vary. Caveat emptor.

Monday, 12 September 2016

12.9.16 Industrial Action in Jerez? Global Fortified Masters

On Thursday the UGT and CCOO unions, representing workers in all aspects of the Sherry trade, and Fedejerez which represents the bodegas, will meet at the negotiating table to try and thrash out a new deal, but the workers are threatening strike action if Fedejerez does not soften the stance it has maintained since last month’s meeting failed to reach agreement. Strikes have happened before, like in 1982 and 1991, for example, but at least this time the harvest is done.

Every few years a contract, known as the Convenio de la Vid, is drawn up, and agreed by both sides. It can be varied by agreement however, and this happened in the last convenio of 2011-2015, when the workforce agreed to waive their annual pay rises as a gesture to help the bodegas through the world financial crisis. Now they want to reintroduce it but the bodegas are not keen, saying that some have gone out of business and that the crisis is not over yet.

Furthermore, Fedejerez wants to reduce starting pay for new staff and end extra payments for length of service, which could represent some 20% of the pay of a long-serving worker. The bodegas have also been accused of employing many more part timers. The unions say that the bodegas are making good profits and are in good shape, especially with all the recent Asian investment, and will continue to prepare for strike action while not abandoning the possibility of negotiation.

Drinks Business Magazine is seeking final entries for the III Global Fortified Masters competition. Wines will be blind tasted by a panel of Masters of Wine. They are encouraging small and medium-sized producers to enter and show how well they can compete with the big firms. The deadline for entries is September 30. Results will be published in the magazine, online, and in social media.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Bodegas: Ignacio Fernández de Castro

The youngest of the eight children of the merchant Simón Fernández de Castro and Manuela Gutiérrez de Castro, Ignacio was born in Comillas (Santander) in 1793. He worked his way up the family business reaching the position of captain and undertook many trips to the Americas, marrying Concepción de Bustamante y Padilla in Mexico in 1818. They had eleven children.

With the emancipation of the American colonies in the 1830s, he resolved that his trading future lay in Europe and the east and decided to relocate to Cádiz, the very epicentre of Spanish trade at the time. Then, the trade in wine was growing fast and in 1840 he established a family mercantile business in the city under the name Ignacio Fernández de Castro y Compañia with trade in the Philippines in mind. He soon integrated with local society and by 1849 was president of the board of trade.

Ignacio saw great opportunities: he used his ships to provide an infrastructure of maritime services, built a steam-powered slipway at the Trocadero and owned extensive warehousing, he set up a marine insurance company with Lloyds, and was a board member of the Banco de Cádiz. His principal interests however lay in marine transport of goods and passengers between Cádiz and the Philippines, and his preferred vessel was the clipper.

An amazingly varied list of goods shipped to the Philipines to subsidiary Bustamante

In 1836 he commissioned Vicente Pérez of El Puerto de Santa María to buy at auction an XVIII century bodega complex of 948 square metres in the Calle Aurora, 9, in the Campo de Gia district. Vineyards were also purchased so that Sherry could be produced from vine to bottle under the brand name Y.F.C. He then appointed Calixto García y Habea, an almacenista and wine expert from El Puerto, to manage the bodegas. This worked well, as Ignacio’s company had the means to transport and distribute the Sherry to its various markets. Calixto, along with his partner, Fernando Barreda, maintained their own bodega in Calle Santo Domingo and also used this system which proved very economical.

The business had grown immensely and Ignacio was well organised with various branches round the world, where possible run by family members who could report back. For instance Sherry was sent to the Philippines branch, Bustamante y Sobrinos, without necessarily having a firm order, but Bustamante could make the sales locally and report back on preferred styles. Since it took over three months to get there, the wine had to be well fined, and the local market preferred it no stronger than 18 degrees.

Things were to change, however. The arrival in the early 1850s of oidium, a fungal disease, drastically reduced yields and quality, and prices soared. Ignacio decided to act as an intermediary rather than sell his own wine. At the time Britain was becoming the largest market, and he turned his attention there. He organised routes from the Philippines to Britain with a stop-over in Cádiz, and invested in 55 hectares more vineyard.

By 1860, Ignacio was 67 years old and the problems began to mount. Two important relatives, one running Cádiz and the other running Manila, died, another who took over Manila was useless, and there were ever fewer family members to rely on. His wife was ill, the ships’ captains were no longer family or friends, Calixto García died and his son was difficult to deal with. Competition had increased and a crisis developed because of overproduction of wine and a fall in quality. Steamships were taking over the sea routes and the Bank of Cádiz went bust. Ignacio Fernández de Castro y Cia went into liquidation in 1867 and was bought by Cosens & Co. Ignacio, now an old man, returned to Comillas, his birthplace where he died in 1874 aged 81.

Most information gleaned from Maria del Carmen Cozar Navarro in the book Nueve Bodegueros

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Fino en Rama 15% May 2015, Fernando de Castilla

Fairly full brassy straw with gold highlights, legs.
Full, deep, very interesting and attractive with a savoury, distinctly nutty edge. There are some some dry scrub flor notes and traces of straw and polished metal along with slightly buttery hints of oxidation and cabezuela. This is really good.
Quite intense, almost concentrated, there is a lot going on here. It is very dry and there is a decent tang of acidity and plenty of bitterness, even a trace of salinity, all rounded off by a note of very slightly malic oxidation and contributing to terrific length and a very clean finish
This delicious wine is a blend of Finos from two soleras: the standard Fino Clasico solera at around 5 years of age and the Fino Antique solera, at nearer 9 years of age, which makes for a very interesting wine. Like all the bodega's better wines, it is entirely unstabilised. Bottled in Spring and Autumn when the flor is at its healthiest, under a screw cap. The firm's first Fino en rama, released in 2013, was for the popular London Sherry bar, Drake's Tabanco. It is nice to have the opportunity to taste the wine a year after bottling - 6 months after they recommend you to have drunk it - and see how well it is developing. I reckon this 6 months thing is just for consumers who might find the wine a bit too intense and not enough like the stabilised Finos they are used to. 
11.70 euros per half bottle from Licores Corredera

Friday, 9 September 2016

9.9.16 Latest on Harvest

With most of the grapes now harvested, a clearer picture of the harvest result is emerging. We have read of the disasters which have befallen some of the French vineyards this year with frost, hail and even fire, but the Marco de Jerez rarely encounters too many problems. This year, however, the weather has been more capricious than usual and the DO yield looks like being 20% down on last year. It began with a very dry spring followed by torrential rain causing the spread of mildew. The hot dry Levante has blown almost endlessly through July and August, and with almost record temperatures much water has evaporated from the grapes.

5 million kilos have already been picked and the Consejo is estimating that the total will amount to 55 million, far from last year’s crop of 76.4 million, and mainly thanks to a hotter and drier than average year. There are two sides to this however; the advantage is that there has been little trouble with insects, allowing very healthy grapes, but the disadvantage is that the Levante and the lack of overnight dewfall have left the grapes somewhat dehydrated. Still, the wind put a swift end to the mildew problem. The drop in production has been very unequal, with almost normal production in some places and large losses in others. Trebujena saw the largest drop.

It is not all bad news for the trade. Excess stocks of mosto at the cooperatives will be used up to balance this year’s shortage and that reduction in stocks will stimulate an increase in the value of Sherry and therefore its price, which will be necessary since the growers had already signed grape supply contracts with the bodegas before the harvest when the forecast was for higher production.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Fino Una Palma 15.5% González Byass

Bright yellowy gold with traces of gold and green, legs.
Fairly pungent flor with an attractive bitterness and traces of almond, sourdough, straw and a trace of dry scrub.The various olfactory components are beautifully h armonised yet it still grabs the nose and insists you drink it.
Quite intense with  a little more body and bitterness than Tio Pepe, being at least a year older, and very slightly leaner with a decent acidity and a very slightly salty tang which drive the flavour. There is the tiniest trace of fruit there too.It is good and dry with a long clean finish.
This is the 28/10/15 saca and the wine was selected by Antonio Flores and Michael Schachner, a member of the tasting panel of Wine Enthusiast magazine. It was said to have taken a lot of chalk and shoe leather to select the three best butts out of 142 (numbers 114, 78 and 10) but the result was most successful. 2015 was a fairly mild summer as the hot, dry Levante wind was balanced by the cool, more humid Poniente wind resulting in aromatic elegance in the Finos thanks to there still being a good level of flor. The grapes came from the pagos Carrascal and Macharnudo and the wine spent six years under its velo de flor, and has marked Tio Pepe characteristics, if more intensity.
13.50 per 50cl bottle at Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Irish in the Marco de Jerez

The legend that is Sherry was built not only by Spaniards but also by many foreigners who came here for various reasons, be they religious strife, oppression, war, famine or plain commerce. The Irish expatriates, who were known as the "Wild Geese", came for all of these reasons but mainly religious strife and oppression. The emigration started in the 1600s, and by the end of the century tens of thousands had left for a safer life in Europe or the Americas where they developed considerable influence. 

Irishmen occupied all sorts of positions in Spain: Richard Wall was secretary of state; Alexander O'Reilly re-structured the army; Henry Reynolds McDonnell was an admiral; Ambrose O'Higgins was viceroy of Peru; John O' Donohue was last viceroy of Nueva Espana; Leopold O'Donnell was a general and politician, and William Morphy was personal secretary to King Alfonso XII. Those who came to the Marco de Jerez also left a lasting legacy.

George Fitzgerald and his wife Mary Tray came to Jerez from County Kildare near Dublin. Their son, Thomas Fitzgerald, born in 1682 in Jerez, hispanicised his name to Tomás Geraldino y Crocquer and owned various vineyards and bodegas. During the reign of Felipe V, Tomás was appointed Spanish ambassador to London and took the opportunity to promote his own Sherry - and that of others - in his 30 years in the job there. Such was his success that Sherry sales increased dramatically. He died in 1755 and his Sherry interests were eventually bought by Manuel Gil Y Garcia forming later the foundation of Bodegas Carrasco Hermanos.

William Terry came from a large family with various branches in Limerick and Cork and their estates were confiscated by Oliver Cromwell around 1650 because they were Catholics. William arrived in the Jerez area close to the end of the XVII century and set up in trade. Before long he was prospering and owned vineyards, producing wine for export to the Americas. He was famous as a breeder of Cartujano horses and received many civic titles. The firm, based in El Puerto, was latterly known as Fernando A de Terry and lasted till the Rumasa takeover in 1981, later becoming part of Harveys, itself now owned by Emperador. Another branch of the family established Carlos & Javier de Terry, also in El Puerto and latterly known as Bodegas 501 to avoid confusion. These were great firms but not much is left of either of them now.

Felix Harrison arrived and settled in Sanlucar in the late XVII century and established the family as one of the leading cargadores a Indias, dealing in Sherry among other goods. The name was hard for the locals to pronounce and after a while the firm became the Casa del Marques de Arizón.

Henry O’Neale arrived in the area around 1712, having left Tipperary for the same reasons, and fought as a mercenary on the continent. He began a successful merchant business specialising in wine in El Puerto de Santa María which, through successive generations would last till 1983 though latterly based in Jerez, under the name Rafael O’Neale.

Patrick Murphy was of farming stock in the Cork area and arrived in 1725 intending to work with timber. Realising wine was more profitable he established a wine business in 1730. He was a bachelor and not particularly healthy so he was helped by his French friend and neighbour Juan Haurie, to whom he left the business on his death in 1762. Haurie became one of the biggest Sherry producers and the business would eventually become Pedro Domecq.

Richard Shiel began as a successful merchant dealing in Sherry in Cadiz, moving to Jerez in 1827. He was the uncle of William Garvey. For a while he was the partner of Nicholas Devereux in the firm Devereux Shiel & Co. He helped Garvey get started with modest employment at the firm and after its dissolution he helped him financially helping fund early purchases of wine, some from the Scots, Gordon & Co. His wife took over the business on his death under the style Viuda de R Shiel, later leaving it to her son Bernardo and his partner Enrique Ostmann who operated as Ostmann & Shiel until Bernardo's retirement in 1841 when  Ignacio de Urrutia became a partner till 1854.

William Garvey was not really a Wild Goose as he was not forced to leave Ireland. Instead the young aristocrat came in search of merino rams to boost his father’s flocks in 1776. After being rescued from the wreck of his ship and marrying his rescuer’s daughter, he was attracted to the wine business. Bodegas Garvey was established in 1780 and became extremely successful. It still exists, though it languished in receivership for some time thanks mainly to its takeover by Nueva Rumasa, however Emperador bought the firm in 2017 and it may well now have a bright future. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

6.9.16 La Pisa de la Uva 2016; Japanese Visitor

The most important and emblematic ceremony of the Fiestas de la Vendimia takes place today at 20.00 on the steps of the Cathedral, the building of which was paid for by a levy on wine. It is the traditional treading of the grapes symbolising the birth of the new wine. The event begins with the arrival of a group of young “harvesters” bearing baskets of grapes which they tip into the lagar. Here men who work for the Consejo Regulador will get to work rhythmically treading the grapes, supported by wooden spades. The juice flows from the spout of the lagar into jarras (jugs) which are duly poured into a couple of butts below. All this takes place to the sound of the municipal band playing the Harvest Hymn and the cathedral bells, while the Bishop of Jerez blesses the new must. It will be hot work; yesterday the temperature reached almost 45ᴼ and today will be about 38ᴼ (the all- time record is 45.1ᴼ from 2003). After fermentation the wine will go to the Consejo bodega San Ginés.

Japanese cocktail bartender, certified venenciador and owner of Cádiz Bar in Tokyo, Masaru Yokota, is visiting Jerez for the Vendimia celebrations in an intense tour organised by Tomoko Kimura, Jerez’ own Japanese Sherry expert. He has been demonstrating his bartending skills with Sherry and Jerez Brandy cocktails, his venencia skills at Lustau, picking grapes and tasting wines at bodegas La Gitana, Gutiérrez Colosía, Faustino González, Caballero, Diez Mérito and at the Consejo. Masaru has done much to promote the products of Jerez in Japan.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Rives Pitman: Gin from Sherry Country

This family owned distillery was established in 1880 by August Haupold, a very active businessman and German consul in Málaga as well as a wine and brandy producer. It is now run by the fourth generation and is based at the El Palmar industrial estate in El Puerto de Santa María. The firm moved here in 1978 after outgrowing the old installations. As time went by more products were produced and the wine and brandy were dropped. They are now producing a range of gins, vodkas (including the famous Caramel vodka VVH Vodk) and alcoholic and non-alcoholic liqueurs and syrups. In total they list 70 different products including Conde de Cuba rum.

The distillery in El Puerto with the column still tower
Equipment-wise they have a 30 metre high column still which produces very pure spirit from a base of locally grown beetroot. The spirit intended for gin passes to a pair of original copper gin stills, brought from the old distillery, with capacities of 5,000 and 8,000 litres.

The gin stills, botanical containers and condensers
Production of gin is currently running at 1.8 million litres annually. It contains 11 botanicals of which one is top secret. Concha de Antonio is responsible for sourcing botanicals and quality control for the gin and only she and the capataz, Francisco Cerecera know the formula. They recently launched a strawberry gin which is selling very well. The bottling line has a capacity of 18,000 per hour. Rives is now the brand leader in Spain, not only for gin where the market is growing at 6% per annum, but also for nearly everything they make. They also have a healthy export trade to 22 countries.

Some of the company's products
Various other companies in the Marco de Jerez offer a gin such as Botanic by Williams & Humbert, The London No 1 Gin by González Byass, but Rives is the only one distilled there.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Bodegas Fundador Museum

It is much more than just a visit for tourists; it is about submerging oneself in the history of how important the wine industry was for Jerez, from basic wisdom to anecdotes revealing the very soul of the trade. The museum, established in 2013 in the Bodega de la Luz, is packed with reminiscences of the great years in the history of Sherry. It was in this enormous bodega complex which spreads between the Puerta de Rota and the old convent of Espíritu Santo that Pedro Domecq built his empire and where Jerez brandy was born, in among the Sherries.

The exhibition, which is open all year round, begins with a homage to the El Majuelo vineyard in the pago Macharnudo and follows through to the effects of the industrial revolution on the evolution of Jerez, told through the histories of Fundador, Terry and Harveys.

It is not known exactly where in the bodega the original butts of Fundador were stored for the first five years or so, but they were stored here. In the late XIX century a large order for wine spirit for liqueur production was received from Holland, but for some reason the spirit never left the bodega and it was decided to store it in Sherry butts where it remained forgotten for some five years. A capataz happened upon it and thought he could use the spirit, but he discovered that it had absorbed flavour elements from the wood and the Sherry the butts had previously contained and developed into a beautiful brandy. This discovery opened up a whole new market, and Domecq organised a suitable solera to age it on the same lines as the Sherry, and the first commercial Jerez brandy, Fundador, was launched in 1874 and is now, nearly 150 years later, the firm’s most emblematic product.

A bust of Pedro Domecq greets visitors at the entrance in Calle Espíritu Santo, while homage is also paid to a more recent Domecq, the legendary oenologist José Ignacio Domecq who died some 20 years ago. Known as “la nariz” (the nose) his tasting ability was formidable, and the museum proudly shows the red Moto Guzzi motorcycle with a basket fixed to the rear on which he came to work with his beloved dog Paco.

The museum devotes a space to the firm’s achievements and recognition and here one can see all sorts of medals and prizes along with the bottles which won them, not to mention royal warrants and exclusive commemorative bottlings for the British royal family, including a special bottle for the wedding of Price Charles and Lady Diana, “the wedding of the century”.

Another impressive part of the exhibition is that devoted to the technical and business side of Sherry. There are old sales ledgers, XVII century bottles, all kinds of Sherry glasses and old bottling machines and, on entering the adjacent bodega, a huge majestic old copper still so tall it almost touches the roof. The next space is dedicated to Harveys and Terry and shows how things were done in the old days of commercial splendour and how Harveys began importing wine to Bristol and ended up exporting it from Jerez as one of the top names with the flagship brand Bristol Cream. The exhibition continues with Terry, famous for its Centenario, the brandy with the yellow net on the bottle, the legendary horses, coaches and riders’ clothing.

What looks like a normal staircase connects two bodegas at different levels, but there is a story. King Alfonso XIII was visiting Domecq and it was decided that for security reasons, an interior connection would be built to avoid the need for the king to be on foot in a public street. The glass from which Alfonso drank has been preserved in the bodega El Molino which contains a large number of butts signed by all sorts of famous people, right up to the present king, Felipe VI. These bodegas are steeped in the history and development of Sherry and Brandy de Jerez and it really comes to life in this museum.