Tuesday, 31 January 2017

31.1.17 Barbadillo Relaunch Old Treasures

Bodegas Barbadillo have relaunched their old brand Atamán, which has not been seen in over forty years. Atamán covers four traditional products, two wine-based and two spirit-based: vermouth and quina; ponche and cacao respectively. The brand was originally registered in 1943 and was discontinued in the mid-1970s as the tremendous popularity of these products waned.

In 2015 the firm established its “Departamento de Alta Enología” or specialist wine division, based on product innovation and headed by Armando Guerra of Taberna der Guerrita fame and a trained oenologist. Versos 1891was the department’s first launch followed by Manzanilla Pasada Pastora. A good many butts of the Atamán range have been relocated to what they call the “Espacio Atamán in the old Angioletti bodega, where they will begin the ageing of a new vermouth for larger scale production in the future, based on the original butts. Jerez has its own distinctive style of vermouth based on old Oloroso and spices.

One of the original labels (foto:todocoleccion)

Although made from a similar base to the vermouth, the bitterness of the quinine in the quina has become more concentrated over the passing years, and they have renamed it, partly humorously, “Inquina” (meaning aversion, dislike) almost as a warning. The vermouth and quina have been filled into demijohns which will stop them concentrating further and limited releases of 250 half bottles per season will be bottled from them. In the case of the ponche and the cacao, the extended ageing in butt has concentrated them much more than it would have done in bottle, so all stock has been bottled and will be released in tiny quantities of 80 and 40 half bottles respectively each season.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Tintilla 2013 14.5%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Dense opaque black cherry red tight to the rim where there is a hint of tawny, legs.
Full and forthcoming, with lots of red plum and black cherry in a perfect state of ripeness with traces of spice from the oak. There is a great balance between fruit and oak and a certain sapidity which imbues the wine with freshness. This looks good.
Quite full bodied with sapid black cherry bite, well structured and firm yet not tannic, clean and fresh despite a reasonable amount of extract. Clean, tight and tasty. The wine has real character with a certain minerality which may come from the albariza soil. Good length.
This excellent Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz red is made 100% from the bodega's 3 hectares of old vine Tintilla de Rota grapes grown in the Calderín del Obispo vineyard in their Finca Vista Hermosa near Jerez. Yields are kept low, and the grapes are hand picked at night and selected both in the vineyard and the bodega being de-stemmed before a pre-fermentation cold soak at 5ᴼC. Fermentation temperatures are varied between 15ᴼ and 28ᴼ and the process lasts about 20 days. The wine is aged for about 6 months in 1 year old French oak barrels and a further year in 4-5 year old French oak barrels and bottled without filtration. Only about 4,000 bottles were produced. The philosophy of Bodegas Luis Pérez is to recuperate the local grape varieties of Cádiz and to produce wines with minimum interference and allow them to speak for themselves, and the results are proving excellent, especially with Tintilla, which is so well acclimatised. A grape to watch out for.
16 euros from Licores Corredera

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The City Walls of Jerez

With a name like Jerez de la Frontera, the city naturally needed imposing defensive walls. These defences were constructed from around 1133, but during Almohade rule during the late XII and early XIII centuries they were radically strengthened. They were approximately 4 kilometres long, 2.6 metres thick and 9 metres high and mostly with battlements, to entirely enclose and defend the 46 hectares of the city. By the mid XVI century the city was bursting and began to expand beyond the wall, which now forms the perimeter of the historic city centre, and begins and ends at the XII century Alcázar fortress, and along their length there were 79 watch towers and four well defended gates. Many burials took place just outside the walls and the works in 2004 to build the underground car park in Plaza Arenal uncovered a "maqbara" or Arab necropolis.

An early sketch of the city showing the Alcazar, four gates, various churches and the Cabildo (council building)

Alfonso X “El Sabio” entered the city through the Puerta de Sevilla in 1261 after his re-conquest of it from the Moors. Sadly it was demolished in 1864. The Puerta Real, demolished in 1821, was situated on the edge of what is now the Plaza Arenal on the corner of Calle Consistorio. In 1477 the Reyes Católicos (Fernando and Isabel) visited the city entering by the Puerta de Santiago which was also heavily fortified. The Puerta de Rota was also heavily fortified with three watch towers, but was mostly demolished in 1787 after a fifth gate, the Puerta del Arroyo, the only old gate surviving, was constructed  later in the XVI century, and with far more traffic rendered the old gate virtually obsolete. The remains of one of its towers, the Torre Riquelme, are incorporated into the walls of the old Domecq bodegas, now Fundador.

The wall is clearly visible in this print from 1565 looking eastwards from the Ermita de Guia

The construction method of the walls is interesting. A technique called "tapia" (from the arabic "tabiyya) or "rammed earth" was employed. This is an ancient method which is simple and economical and uses easily obtained materials. It consists of a wooden framework into which is poured a mixture of lime, earth and mixed aggregates such as bone, stones, gravel, bits of ceramic and organic material such as straw. The mixture is then rammed down to compress it, and once hard enough, the framework can be removed and used again for the next layer. It is not so different from pouring concrete into shuttering, and in both cases the impression of the woodgrain can often be seen. In the picture below you can see all sorts of regular marks on the walls. These are holes where the wooden framework was anchored, and once it was moved they were filled in. The passage of time and insufficient maintenance have exposed them.

The octagonal tower at the Alcazar showing construction method (foto:Pascual/diariodejerez)

As the city grew, especially during the XVIII and XIX centuries, the old walls were no longer needed for defence, and they suffered at the hands of new enemies; urban planning and lack of space. More of the walls remain than it would appear in fact, as many buildings, especially bodegas, have been constructed against them over the centuries, thus obscuring them, yet at the same time protecting them. Just recently building work on a new bar restaurant El Chicharron in Plaza Arenal has revealed one of the long disappeared towers and barbican of the old Puerta Real, and it is hoped to feature it in the completed design. La Rosa ice cream and cake shop right opposite also contains interesting remains, while Bar La Moderna at the foot of Calle Larga has parts of the wall exposed at its rear. Examples can also be seen in Calle Muro (Wall Street) near bodegas Urium and Tradición. As the Sherry trade rapidly expanded during the XIX century, more and more bodegas were constructed leaving ever fewer sites available for housing so the city council encouraged their construction outside the walls. Ironically the sites of many of these old bodegas within the city are now being converted into housing after the long decline of the Sherry trade.

A mid XIX century view looking eastwards. The outline of the wall is still clearly visible

If you are visiting Jerez, a walk round the city walls is a fascinating and easy excursion which allows one to see many sights and get a real understanding of the city’s history and topography. The walls have disappeared in some places, but the following suggested route covers most of what remains.

Calle Ancha with houses built against the wall and the old railway track in the 1950s

Starting from the Alcázar, head NE along Calle Armas, across the Plaza del Arenal, along Calle Lancería, Calle Larga, Calle Porvera, left along Calle Ancha, left along Calle Muro past bodegas Urium, left along Ronda del Caracol, left along Calle San Blás through the Fundador bodegas, right down Calle San Ildefonso, along Calle Espiritu Santo. When you arrive at the Plaza del Arroyo at the bottom, look right to see the Puerta del Arroyo and the huge Tio Pepe bodega. Then cross the square and it is back uphill via Cuesta Encarnación and Calle de la Rosa up the side of the cathedral and at the top you will see the Alcázar again where the wall once rejoined it. If you head along the Alameda Vieja through the Jacaranda trees you will see on the other side of the road Taberna La Sureña where you will find a very well-deserved glass of Sherry.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Manzanilla en rama 15%, Viña Callejuela

Bright strawy gold with golden highlights, legs.
Fresh ozone and marked aromas of flor, straw, salt, camomile, grass and dry scrubland. This smells so natural and coastal with a slightly wild unrestrained nature, yet there is depth to it with notes of rope and a gentle hint of lees and autolysis. It starts innocently enough and then just grows.
A gentle acidity along with fairly powerful bitter almond flor notes make it assertive and lively from the start and then the complexity kicks in. There is a strong influence of yeast both from the wine's surface and from the bottom of the butt giving light bitterness backed up by almost oily autolytic flavours heavily influenced by the adjacent sea. Real character and terrific length.
Bottled on the 25th November 2016, this superb wine is made from a careful selection of the most interesting butts in the Manzanilla solera and is bottled with no clarification whatsoever. The simple presentation belies its sheer complexity. If "en rama" means "raw" then this wine is the epitome of that; it is full of life and character and is definitely a wine for laying down for two to five years. Some was bottled with a special label for the local charity AFANAS to raise money to help people suffering from mental illness and their families
18.50 from Licores Corredera

Friday, 27 January 2017

27.1.17 Guia Peñín Team Captivated by Sherry

The Guia Peñín team feel that Sherry is getting even better and speak of it in reverential tones. After the first of two days of tasting high marks have already been awarded to Sherry, which already has the best average Peñín score of over 90 and has done for the past decade. Team leader and director of Peñín, Carlos González, feels that the quality of Sherry is still improving and that is reflected in the higher marks awarded. He says that it is beyond doubt that Sherry for its difference and its sheer quality is totally unique. “It would be very hard to find a region so different and with such a high level of quality” he said, “its soul and magic are incomparable”. He went on to say that “we are aware of the mini-revolution Sherry is undergoing in the search for differentiation between the pagos” and he is encouraging the big bodegas of the region to follow the path already taken by small, young producers because “these wines need to be bottled”. Scores and tasting notes will not be available till the next edition of the Guide is published.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

26.1.17 Guía Peñín Tasters in Jerez; Fortified Masters Sherry Results

As is habitual the tastings for the guide’s next edition, the 2018, have begun at the Consejo in Jerez. It takes the team six months to get round all the Denominaciones de Origen so they have to start early. The last edition covered a record number of over 11,500 wines. They always begin with wines which are generally non-vintage –Sherry and Cava - allowing more time for some of the other wines which will be available in 2018 to be finished. In the 2017 guide these two denominaciones produced the two best wines: Amontillado Reliquia from Barbadillo and Cava Enoteca Gramona 2001, both scoring 99 points. Guía Peñín is THE guide to Spanish wines and is available in 20 countries in Spanish, English and German, both on paper and online.

The Fortified Masters is a competition run by Drinks Business Magazine open only to fortified wines. Four highly qualified and experienced judges tasted the wines blind and were extremely impressed with the general quality, awarding 20% of the entries a Master and a third of them a Gold. The results for Sherry are listed below:
Bodegas Osborne Amontillado Solera AOS VOS
Bodegas Osborne Pedro Ximénez VORS
Bodegas Arfe Palo Cortado de la Cruz de 1767
Bodegas Lustau Palo Cortado Almacenista Cayetano del Pino
Bodegas Lustau Oloroso Emperatriz Eugenia
Bodegas Lustau Manzanilla Pasada Almacenista Cuevas Jurado 1/80
Bodegas Lustau Old East India Solera

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

25.1.17 Delgado Zuleta Appoints New Technical Director; Latest from Osborne

Delgado Zuleta has appointed José Antonio Sánchez Pazo as their new technical director within a week of the departure of Salvador Real to Garvey. He is well known in the Sherry trade having graduated in chemical sciences at Cádiz University and started his career in 1988 in charge of the technical department at Wisdom & Warter. He went on to be production manager at Sandeman in 1993 and worked his way up to managing director. From January 2007 till February 2012 he was technical director at Herederos de Argüeso and at the same time represented Manzanilla at plenary meetings of the Consejo Regulador.

Jose Antonio Sanchez Pazo (foto:diariodejerez)

According to Delgado Zuleta he is a great connoisseur of Manzanilla and Sherry from both the organoleptic and production points of view. He will reinforce the firm’s structure and support its strategic plan begun just a few years ago during the presidency of José María Bustillo Aguirre. The firm also says that he has recently been involved in his own consultancy business Sherry-Gades, in which he has developed various successful projects launching new wine-based products and which is in line with DZ’s own diversification and new product development policy of recent years. José Antonio says that DZ has a long history (established in 1744)of producing consistently high quality products which is a great challenge for me but at the same time an opportunity to contribute my own experience. Also, it is an open and innovative bodega which will allow me to work on new ideas and styles in the world of drinks.

The Osborne directors, Fernando Terry Osborne on R (foto:diariodejerez)

In El Puerto Osborne has announced its new managing director will be Fernando Terry Osborne who will take over from Ignacio Osborne Cólogan when he takes over as president when Tomás Osborne Gamero Cívico retires in May after 20 years in the post. Over the last five years the firm has spent four million euros innovating in the area of wine tourism, which accounts for 12% of the tourists who visit Spain. Osborne themselves receive 80,000 visitors a year. In 2012 they set up a bodega for the 635 butts of the oldest wines, some of which date back to 1790. The brandy bodega El Tiro was reorganised and then they set up the Toro Gallery, a cultural area dedicated to the history of the firm’s iconic trademark, the bull. Next they converted the old Bodega Moro into Toro Tapa, and then opened a new shop. Lastly they established the Toro Club, modelled on a London Club but more vanguard, where they can attend to clients, the press and upmarket visitors.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

24.1.17 Sherry Sales Grow Over 3% in Spain

In a local Ondaluz television interview yesterday, Consejo president Beltrán Domecq said that sales of Sherry had increased by between 3 and 4% in the last year. Globally around 50 million bottles were sold with 70% going for export. Spain is now the largest market. Spain and Britain between them account for about 50% of all sales, but he was disappointed that consumption in Spain is mostly Fino and Manzanilla and sales of other styles are practically non-existent despite there being such a large range of wines of the highest quality and very special characteristics.

A still from the interview (foto:andaluciainformacion)

To deal with this he called on the bodegas to increase spending on promotion of their own wines as in his view they are not spending enough. He expressed delight however that Sherry is in vogue which means that it is attracting new consumers in the important markets such as Britain. Nevertheless he lamented the fact that too many Sherries are being sold at a price below that which they merit.

Monday, 23 January 2017

PX Tres Álamos 16%, Pedro Romero

Very deep blacky walnut through mahogany to amber at the rim, legs.
Sweet juicy sun dried pasas with notes of dried figs, black toffee and dates and the faintest hint of honey greet the nose followed by a certain well integrated complexity, but while there are not enough phenolic notes or depth of colour to presume it is of any great age, it is certainly good quality.
Intensely flavoured, very sweet and very smooth with a gentle refreshing acidity. It is at a point where it still retains youthful simpler fruity notes but it is developing more depth and complexity. There is a lot of highly caramelised toffee and early signs of black coffee. Good length, too.
This great family bodega, established in Sanlúcar in1860 went dramatically bust in 2012 and all the assets were sold off by the receivers. The soleras went to other bodegas, but wines already bottled are now rarely encountered. It is the rarity of this bottle rather than its age which accounts for the price, yet the wine is very good and almost justifies it, though it used to sell for more like 5 euros. The name refers to the vineyard the company once owned, Viña El Álamo.
25.00 euros per 50cl bottle from La Casa del Jerez

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Palo Cortado Conde de Aldama 21.5%, Bodegas Yuste

Walnut through mahogany to amber with faint green tinge at the rim, legs.
Super fragrant with pronounced toasted hazelnut and almond aromas, a slight trace of oak and exotic woods with a gentle impression of sweetness balanced by a fresh almost crisp salty air. There is a distant trace of cinnamon too, which together with the exotic woods gives the wine a slightly spicy edge to match the hint of nutty sweetness. What a good start.
Equally complex and expansive on the palate it opens with lots of nuts and still has that impression of sweetness, yet it is dry with barely discernible notes of tannin and volatile acidity. This wine veers more to the Amontillado end of the Palo Cortado scale with its sheer elegance and hazelnut flavours, but there is an Oloroso-like generosity which is reined in. There are no rough edges in this beautifully poised old wine which lingers cleanly on the palate for ages, and it is quite delicious.
This is a very old and rare wine from an XVIII century solera of only 8 butts which once belonged to the Conde de Aldama in Sanlúcar. He was a very quality conscious man and had the solera sealed with plaster for 50 years to ensure no inferior wines from grafted vines went into it. This aged the wine considerably making it exceptionally fine. It is now stored in Yuste's bodega Los Angeles and the wine is released in very limited quantities. It is much older than a VORS but what with all the attendant hassle some bodegas don't bother applying, especially if quantities are so limited, and can easily sell the wine on its quality and the bodega's reputation. Besides VORS only guarantees a wine is a minimum average age of 30 years and there is no higher category for seriously old wines.
75 euros per 50cl decanter from Er Guerrita

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Bodegas: Conde de Aldama

The family of León Aldama y Respaldiza 1781-1863 originally came from Álava, south of Bilbao. In 1823 León took over the bodegas of Aguilar y Cia, established in 1740 in Calle de la Plata in Sanlúcar and containing some very old wines. He initially lived in a house in the Plazuela San Francisco, now belonging to the Sisters of the Cross, and later bought the garden and house in Calle de la Plata from his parents in 1857. There was an impressive library here.

He was disappointed at how cheaply wine was sold and initiated a “pact of resistance” with fellow bodegueros Pedro Manjón and Fernando Mergelina by which they would agree a fair price and commit not to sell for less. They also committed to buying all Sanlúcar wine which was below their agreed price. This admirable idea had the inevitable consequences, however.

Tha San Jose bodega with vineyard

On his death in 1863 León, a bachelor, left his estate to two of his nephews, Pedro Aldama Gaviña and José Gabriel Aldama Camba (1850-1901), who became the first Conde de Aldama by concession of Pope León XIII aged 38. He had vineyards in the albariza soils of Pago Mahina and bodegas in the Banda de la Playa and Calles San Juan and San Antonio, where he built up great soleras such as Amontillado Dorotea, Moscatel IX Perlas and PX Corona. But he never sold the wine. In fact he ordered the bungholes of the butts to be sealed with plaster so that no-one, even the capataz, could know the value of these precious liquids or add anything inferior. This lasted for fifty years (1888-1927) giving the wines great maturity and immense value as almacenista wines. Even since then the wines have only been topped up to compensate for evaporation losses.

Phylloxera arrived towards the end of the XIX century destroying long established vineyards and putting many bodegas out of business. Those vineyards which were re-planted used Phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks, and the wine produced refreshed old soleras of pre-Phylloxera wine, but Aldama didn’t like it, considering it dirty on the nose. He stopped growing and making wine and only bought in pre-phylloxera butts annually to refresh his soleras. Like his uncle, José Gabriel remained a bachelor and spent his time building up soleras and making money.

Antonio Aldama

On his death he left his estate to his nephew Antonio Aldama Mendivil, Marqués de Ayala, born in 1867, who had trained in theology and for the priesthood, but was advised not to continue. Antonio arrived in Sanlúcar in 1899 and married Dolores Prueño Velarde with whom he had seven children, of whom two died young and the others joined the church. Antonio took over the running of the bodegas, building up working capital to 4 million pesetas and the value of just one bodega , bought from Ana Linares Paz (Viuda de Vila) to one and a half million.

Interior of the bodega San Jose

The firm supplied wine on an almacenista basis to JM Rivero, Moreno de Mora, Vergara, MacKenzie, Barbadillo and Pedro Romero, which demonstrates their quality. Just two sales of wine to González Byass raised six hundred thousand, while retail sales brought in seventy thousand duros (five pesetas) a year. Stocks now stood at about ten million litres and there were other soleras: Miura, Amontillado Ayala, Amontillado León, San Gabriel and Emperador. He had very lucrative interests in mining, banking and naval shipbuilding, as well as being much involved in religious affairs.

The bodega's list

Antonio had, however been too distracted by religious affairs, having spent a fortune on philanthropy and paid too little attention to the bodegas, and went bust in 1921 with debtors refusing to pay. The family sought refuge in religion, and Antonio died with the Jesuits at the college of San Ignacio de Loyola at Azpeitia, in 1930. The bodegas in Calle Banda Playa had been sold off in 1927 to Manuel Argueso Hortal, a firm which no longer exists, and the family house was bought by José Antonio Florido. The bodegas and wine were bought by Valdespino, but after the Grupo Estevez takeover they were sold to a property developer who sold the wine to Francisco Yuste, while flats now occupy the site of the bodegas. When they were dismantled, Yuste bought all the useful architectural components which he used to restore his bodega Los Angeles, where the Aldama wines are now stored. These are an Amontillado and a Palo Cortado and they form a top end range of wines labelled Conde de Aldama, probably the oldest wines in Sanlucar, being XVIII century soleras. Barbadillo own the Amontillado Hindenburg solera, also bought from Conde de Aldama some 200 years ago, which provides the Amontillado Reliquia.

Friday, 20 January 2017

20.1.17 Grupo Emperador Completes Purchase of Garvey

Andrew Tan, whose Emperador group already owns Fundador has paid 35 million euros for the ailing Sherry division of the defunct Nueva Rumasa which has been in receivership for more than five years. It guarantees the continuity of the business and security of employment for the 40 staff. The price was agreed last July with the administrators and the banks which hold mortgages, and with paperwork completed the deal was finally signed yesterday. It includes the Complejo Bodeguero Bellavista, Zoilo Ruiz Mateos (including the visitor centre), the Cerro Viejo vineyard and the bottling contract for Sandeman which is owned by the Portuguese group Sogrape. The deal also includes stocks and brand names for Sherries and brandies and Licor Calisay.

A view of the Complejo Bodeguero Bellavista (fot:diariodejerez)

The man in charge of Emperador operations in Spain, Joan Cortés, confirmed yesterday that he will be the director of Garvey and that Salvador Real, the innovative oenologist with Delgado Zuleta, will be appointed as technical director. Cortés explained that despite long years of administration and a considerable drop in sales, there is still a large stock of both old soleras and new ones. Since the purchase agreement last July, Emperador has been supervising the bodegas’ management and creating a business plan with the intention of keeping the business going and retaining the staff. The plan is now in its final phase.

Emperador is a multinational based in the Phillippines which bought the old Domecq business (Fundador)from Beam Suntory not much more than a year ago for 275 million euros and has demonstrated serious commitment to both Sherry and Brandy de Jerez as well as to the area’s wine tourism. Recently, in a joint venture with González Byass, Emperador bought back the rights to the Domecq brand name from Pernod Ricard. It is now the largest brandy producer in the world with total sales of some 360 million bottles and owns over 1,000 hectares of vineyard, two distilleries in Tomelloso and half of the González Byass production plant Las Copas, thanks to a strategic alliance with GB for whom Emperador was the biggest client before the purchase of Fundador.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Amontillado Royal Esmeralda VOS 20%, Sandeman

Deep bright walnut tinted brown with bright copper highlights fading through amber to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Intense and complex with interesting and unusual spicy notes of cinnamon and clove followed by hints of orange, praline, garrapiñada (toasted almond in caramel) and a certain implied sweetness. This is not a standard Amontillado nose but is very attractive nonetheless.
Full and intense, it is virtually dry but for a gram or two of sweetness which rounds off any austerity from the oak, yet leaves a dry finish aided by some volatile acidity. There is considerable mid-palate charm with a spicy orangey nuttiness which lingers for ages, reminding one slightly of Christmas. There is a gentle texture and very little tannin which is not balanced out.
This superb and very characterful old Amontillado is available in very limited quantities in numbered bottles. This one was number 2103. The RE number is that of Zoilo Ruiz Mateos who actually make the wine from the original Sandeman soleras. Esmeralda comes from an old solera bought by Sandeman in 1894 (along with the Oloroso solera known as Royal Corregidor and the PX solera known as Royal Ambrosante - in total, 800 butts) from Antonio Bernaldo Quirós who had inherited them from his father in 1855. It is not known precisely how old this solera is, but it is well over 150 years, which accounts for the wine's immense complexity.
22 euros per 50cl bottle from Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

18.1.17 Nueva Rumasa Fraud Case; High Court Upholds Ban on BIB

A High Court judge has concluded his investigations into alleged fraud by Nueva Rumasa concerning the issue of bonds and has accordingly indicted fifteen people including the six sons of the late founder José María Ruiz Mateos, Zoilo, Pablo, Álvaro, Francisco Javier, José María and Alfonso along with Ángel de Cabo. The latter, who posted the highest bail in Spanish history (50 million euros), specialised in buying up and re-floating bankrupt companies through his firm Back in Business, and bought Nueva Rumasa. They are all accused of fraud, concealment of assets and money laundering.

Ruiz Mateos and his six sons (foto:diariodejerez)

Nueva Rumasa (NR) raised almost 340 million by offering investors good returns in the form of bonds on minimum 50,000 euro investments in the more high profile NR companies. At least 4,110 people invested but the majority never saw their money again as it was spirited away in other countries to achieve maximum opacity. NR had various divisions: food, distribution, wines and spirits and a chain of 18 hotels. In Jerez it owned Grupo Garvey which included the Complejo Bodeguero Bellavista, Zoilo Ruiz Mateos, Valdivia and Teresa Rivero.

The Manzanilla rebels have suffered another reverse in their campaign to legalise Bag in Box. The High Court of Andalucía has rejected their written request to have the ban overturned on the grounds that they were not represented. The court, however says its ruling was against the Junta’s decision to allow them, not the Manzanilleros. Last October the court decreed a “cautionary suspension” of the sale of BIB pending a final decision on the matter. This strengthens the hand of Fedejerez which made a legal appeal against the Junta’s decision to allow BIB in horeca which was rejected by a large majority at three Consejo plenaries.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

17.1.17 Jerez Feria del Caballo 2017

The city Council has just announced that the dates for the Feria 2017 will be 13-20 May and it will be based as usual at the Parque González Hontoria. Like last year the dates run from Saturday to Saturday as this works better for those involved. Officially known as the Feria del Caballo, this year's event is dedicated to the honour of Lola Flores, the Jerezana who became an international star with her singing, dancing and acting and who died in 1995. The lovely new poster by Sergio Martinez Cabeza was presented at a press conference at the city chambers.

Monday, 16 January 2017

16.1.17 The Resurgence of Cayetano del Pino

This small and well respected bodega established in 1886 has a long and rather varied history. It was founded by Cayetano del Pino Vázquez and before too long grew to be one of the greats of Jerez, but a bad partner and bad advice following the premature death of the founder’s son cut short the success of this family business, and its founder’s dream, nearly finishing it off. After many decades in the shadows as an almacenista, getting by on infrequent sales of old wines and the occasional solera to other bodegas –albeit at a decent price – and what little can be earned from bulk sales, the del Pino family is back on the scene with renewed hopes and its own brands.


The bodega is owned in equal parts by the four grandchildren of the founder, though it is their children, Gerardo, Enrique, Santiago and María Teresa del Pino and JoséLuis Otte, the fourth generation of the family, who are running it – though they have other jobs. Cayetano del Pino does not produce Finos or Olorosos. In the bodega in Plaza Silos, which was bought from Pedro Domecq over thirty years ago, there is only room for the ageing of Amontillados and Palos Cortados. They are distributed roughly 50/50 among just over 1,000 butts including ten exceptional butts of Palo Cortado which have been kept separately for over twenty years for consumption by the family which has now decided they should be shared.

The “Palo Cortado 1/10”, which has only been topped up as necessary to replace evaporation over the last fifteen years - the time needed by the family to balance its stocks - will soon be put on the market. Sales have been put exclusively in the hands of Jaime Carvajal, a wine professional with many years of experience, who works with bodegas in the area to produce and launch new wines. For Carvajal, this agreement is a “gift from the Gods”; the aperitif for what he hopes will be a long and prosperous relationship, and which will help to re-launch a bodega whose prestigious wine is sold to Lustau for their Almacenista range under its own name.


Gerardo del Pino who runs the bodega, explains that the new wine will be available in limited quantities from a single annual saca which will produce 2,000 half litre bottles, a new format which the bodega is adopting for all its wines including another exceptional Palo Cortado, the 1/5, bottled at upwards of 35 years old. The selection for the 1/5 was done from butts in the old bodega Santa Ana on the Arcos road, where the wine was fermented in butt, the old fashioned way. The 1/10, on the other hand, was selected in the bodega at Plaza Silos and is ready to get cracking in the marketplace.

The presentation of the new wine, which will retail at around 40 euros, harks back to the firm’s old labels, of which there have been some 600 over the years, surely the highest number in Jerez, and some of the most beautiful. The large new label represents a harvest girl with a basket of newly-picked grapes on her shoulder, and the cork and capsule are of the highest quality. The founder’s great grandchildren believe that the renewed interest in Sherry is not a passing phase. They believe it has come to stay and this interest lies in the top end wines which are exactly what they provide.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

15.1.17 Sherry Making Headway Again in UK Sales; Prize for Tio Pepe En Rama

Sales of Sherry continue to lose volume but these losses are concentrated in the cheap own label or BOB (buyer’s own brand) markets, particularly supermarket chains in Holland and Germany. The majority of bodegas ceased supplying these wines some time ago. On the other hand the superior quality more expensive wines continue to grow and are slowly bringing the DO towards decent profit margins.

The Consejo’s figures for wines leaving the bodegas up to the end of November show sales of 31 million litres which represent an annual drop of 4.8%, but that comes down to 34.3 million litres or 4.5% over the last twelve months. It is not all bad however; along with the rise in sales value the other good news is that Sherry sales in the UK have fallen by only 0.34% or barely 0.5% for the twelve months, putting a virtual end years of decline in Sherry’s biggest export market and the second biggest after Spain itself.

Figures from the Spanish institute for foreign commerce (ICEX) confirm the improvement in the UK market showing that while volumes have fallen in recent years they have been cancelled out by a rise in value per litre sold and thus in quality. Sherry continues to be the UK’s leading fortified wine and despite a fall in sales to supermarkets, there has been a rise of 7% in volume and 9% in value in bars, restaurant and wine shops. This implies an improvement in Sherry’s image among younger consumers; exactly what the bodegas and the Consejo have long been hoping for.

According to ICEX figures, UK imports of bottled Sherry in 2015 came to 6.3 million litres with a value of £18.6 million (21.2 million € at today’s rates). The previous year imports were 6.6 million litres and the value was the same, meaning that the average price for a litre has increased by 4.6% or from £2.82 to £2.95. According to the Consejo, the UK is the only export market showing improvement. In the period January to November exports fell by 8.75% with a volume of about 20.2 million litres, but for the twelve months of 2016 they fell by 7.75% with a volume of 22.4 million litres.

With the exception of the UK, traditional European markets have seen Sherry sales fall by some 15%, so despite the improvement in the UK, the average for 2016 comes to about 7.2% or 20.3 million litres. The American market is importing around 1.7 million litres of which 1.25 million litres go to the USA after a recent fall of 13%. In Asia sales have dropped nearly 9% or 256,309 litres over the twelve months, however the Spanish market, now the largest, has grown by 3.65% or 10.7 million litres to November, or 2.3% with 11.9 million litres for the twelve months.

Good New Year news for González Byass: The Spanish association of journalists and wine writers (AEPEV) has announced its awards and picked Tio Pepe en rama as the best Sherry. The 1,055 wines and spirits submitted to the annual competition were whittled down to 143 and 41 respectively. AEPEV counts on much expertise and its aim is to promote wine, especially Spanish wine, at home and abroad. Meanwhile the bodega is hosting the X Pasarela Flamenca, a fashion show for designer flamenco clothes, starting on the 9th February. Thirty designers will be there along with top model Alba Carrillo, singer Juan Peña and bullfighter Juan José Padilla.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Alba Sobretablas 2013 11.2%, Alba Viticultores

Bright brassy gold with golden highlights, very light legs.
Fresh, zesty and slightly grassy with lots of fruity apple and grape aromas and a slight mineral edge. It smells very Palomino with background notes of wild herb strewn grassland and fresh air with character and generosity.
A tangy freshness leads in to an only just ripe fruitiness with those apple notes and a mineral backbone. Very clean, natural and refreshing with a slightly wild, zippy character.
Made from 100% Palomino from selected vineyards around the pagos Mahina and Miraflores in Sanlúcar. It was fermented in stainless steel tank and left on its lees till February before being racked into two 32 arroba butts which had previously contained Manzanilla for 50 years. Here the wine aged for 7 months. The butts were filled completely ("a tocadedos") to avoid the development of flor as they want the wine to express the vineyard character. The contents of each butt were bottled separately in August 2014 without any added sulphur and minimal filtration. Interestingly butt number 2 developed a little flor and so the two wines had clear differences. This was from butt number 1.
14 euros from Er Guerrita

Friday, 13 January 2017

13.1.17 Jerez Events Calendar 2017

Jerez city council has released the 2017 calendar for official events. The mayor says they have tried to make tourism less seasonal as Jerez has all the resources for a wonderful tourist destination at any time of year, especially Flamenco, wine tourism, horses and gastronomy. Throughout most of the year there will be a Lola Flores theme culminating in an exhibition of her life. Lola was a great singer, dancer and actress, of whom her home town of Jerez, is very proud. There has been some controversy about the image on the Events Calendar poster which shows Cartujano horses on a beach, something Jerez does not have. There is no shortage of images of Jerez which could have been used instead, and people are remembering with amusement the “beach” the previous mayor wanted to install at the feria ground.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

12.1.17 Sherry and Champagne to be Twinned

Jerez and the Champagne capital Reims have a great deal in common, most especially their historic and world famous wines. It is not surprising therefore that these two important wine capitals have set out on the road to twinning with academic cooperation in viticultural research as the main topic of a visit by a delegation from the Institut Georges Chappaz for wine and vine research which is linked to Reims University.

Cesar Saldana greets Reims delegation at Consejo (foto:diariodejerez)

This will be the twelfth time Jerez has been twinned with another city but the respective city councils have yet to make a date to complete the process which this time is starting with the building of institutional relations in a series of meetings to promote the exchange of ideas and collaboration agreements. The French delegation wants to start with getting to know Cádiz University and the Consejo Regulador with whom they had a meeting yesterday at which César Saldaña gave them an introductory  talk on the history and production of Sherry. They then paid a visit to the bodegas of González Byass. Tomorrow they will attend an official reception offered by the mayor, Mamen Sánchez, before taking a stroll round the historic heart of Jerez, finishing with an evening of Flamenco.

On Friday the delegation will meet academics of Cádiz University to learn about the work of the Andalusian Centre for Vitivinicultural Research and to develop exchanges between students and professors of oenology as well as philosophy and letters. It is hoped that cooperation between the Reims and Jerez institutions can help in the search for solutions to some of the problems which confront the wine trade such as vine diseases and climate change. The experience of two very different wine regions could reach some interesting conclusions. Wine tourism is also on the agenda.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Manzanilla 15%, Sánchez Romate

Pale strawy gold, light legs.
Lots of salinity and a real maritime air, this could only come from Sanlúcar. While it still shows some signs of youth, that slight fruitiness balances nicely with a hint of flor bitterness and wild herbs giving the wine a bit of character.
Light in feel but plenty of up front flor rather than acidity, though there is a touch, and a trace of that Manzanilla wildness, clean, dry and salty with a decent clean finish.
Sánchez Romate offer two Manzanillas, the up-market one, Viva la Pepa, and this more everyday yet very good version, aged for over three years. Being based in Jerez, Romate buy the wine in from an almacenista in Sanlúcar, as is the practice.
5.00 euros from Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Brandy Fernando de Castilla Solera Reserva 36%

Fairly deep bright amber with a hint of old mahogany, legs.
Fragrant fresh and crisp, the spirit has just the right amount of wood notes with traces of spice, and is not weighed down with excessive Oloroso and PX. Instead it is pure and refined with hints of wine to balance and slight Amontillado notes and only a trace of sweetness. It smells very natural.
Generous and beautifully balanced, it is medium bodied and elegant, and not as clumsy as some. There is a fresh liveliness and the flavour of concentrated wine rather than burnt wine, with a gentle natural sweetness which rounds it off nicely and great length. A serious brandy.
The Andrada Vanderwilde family has been producing grapes and wine in Jerez for about 200 years but it was only in 1972 that they established Fernando de Castilla with the intention of producing the finest possible Spanish Brandy - and they have succeeded. The range has grown and now includes some amazing single cask brandies. This is not the cheapest Solera Reserva, but it is excellent. It has a high ratio of holandas and is aged for about 6 years (the minimum legally required is 1 year) in butts seasoned with old Amontillado and Oloroso.
About 20 Euros, available in most good shops.

Monday, 9 January 2017

9.1.17 Sherry Firms Some of the Oldest in Spain

Forbes magazine has published a list of the oldest companies in Spain, and many are bodegas, including the oldest one, Codorníu, from 1551. In second place is Monte de Piedad, originally a form of savings bank, founded in 1702, and in third place is specialist papermaker J Vilaseca dating from 1714. Fourth in the list comes Bodegas Alvear in Montilla, established in 1729, while in fifth is the cutlery firm Arcos, established in 1745 followed by another paper producer, Goma Camps founded in 1758. In seventh place is Bodegas Osborne dating from 1772 and in eighth is copper producer La Farga Lacambra established in 1808. The next three are Sherry bodegas:  Barbadillo (1821), Caballero (1830) and González Byass (1835).

Thus, according to Forbes six of the top eleven oldest companies are wine producers and four are Sherry producers. However if we include Bodegas Barón (1631), Ximénez Spínola (1729), Domecq (1730), Delgado Zuleta (1744), La Cigarrera (1758), Garvey (1780), Sánchez Romate (1781), Hidalgo La Gitana (1792), Sánchez Ayala (1798) and Maestro Sierra (1830)which Forbes doesn’t mention, that would change things. It would make a more impressive list of the top twenty-one oldest companies containing sixteen wine producers, with fourteen of them Sherry producers, ten still in family hands. Now that is something to be very proud of.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sherry and Sherry Techniques Inspire Other Wines

Sherry has for long been used not only to improve spirits like Whisky, Brandy and Rum, but also other wines. The following is an abridged translation of an article on the subject by Amaya Cervera of the excellent website spanishwinelover.com

The famous Rioja bodega CVNE’s white wine Monopole, first introduced in 1915, used to have a small addition of Manzanilla supplied by Hidalgo La Gitana to give it more body. This practice, which was tacitly permitted by the Rioja Consejo, lasted till the 1980s when everything went into stainless steel. Now CVNE are producing it again under the name Monopole Clásico. The wine is fermented in stainless and racked along with the lees into various used barrels including Manzanilla butts, where it remains for eight months.

Frenchman Olivier Rivière, a member of the young dynamic group of winemakers Rioja’n’Roll, is another example. He makes a wine called Mirando al Sur which is fermented and aged for six months in French oak then aged a further year in two butts: one ex-Manzanilla, the other ex- Amontillado, before blending the wine, which has enormous complexity. Gregory Pérez, a winemaker in El Bierzo, has produced a wine on similar lines but from the local grape Godello, named Mengoba Las Botas.

Comando G demijohns (foto:spanishwinelover)

José Luis Mateo of Quinta da Muradella in DO Monterrei has produced something even more spectacular, a wine called Quinta da Muradella Crianza Oxidativa. First he allowed the must from Doña Blanca grapes to oxidise, fermented it in stainless, allowed the malolactic fermentation, then filled it into barrels leaving space for flor to develop. He has also produced a similar wine but from Treixadura grapes. Flor and oxidation make for seriously interesting wine.

Bodegas Comando G in Gredos have produced a wine named El Tamboril Crianza Biológica made from Garnacha Blanca and Garnacha Gris and aged in glass demijohns under flor. In Alicante, Bodegas Gutiérrez de la Vega are making a Moscatel, Tio Raimundo, aged for 18 months in barrels under flor, while in Rueda, Beatriz Herranz is producing Bruto, an old vine Palomino aged under flor. Palomino used to grow fairly widely in Rueda. It is wonderful to see how so many leading winemakers are so enamoured with and inspired by Sherry.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Manzanilla 16%, Alexander Gordon

Bright, fairly deep amber fading to gold, legs.
Very well developed and quite intense, this has been in bottle for at least a decade. It smells lovely nonetheless, and much more complex than it was originally. The extended bottle ageing has endowed the wine with an oxidised, very slightly oily, almost Amontillado character yet crisp Manzanilla shines through: salt, dried flowers, flor bitterness with a strong umami note along with faint autumn leaves, seaweed and tobacco notes. It does not have that slightly sweet aroma of Amontillado, and has a wilder penetrating character.
Full and intense, tangy, crisp and dry with a trace of bitterness. The most obvious flavour is oxidation, but it works so well with the wine's wild Manzanilla character. It is very clean and quite delicious with terrific length, but not for the faint hearted.
Lustau own the Alexander Gordon brand name which is  used as a sous-marque for export markets such as Scandinavia and Japan, so I was surprised to see it available here, though it is an old bottling. There is a whole range of these wines: Fino (at 15.5%) Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, East India, Cream, PX and Moscatel. The Gordon family has a long history in Jerez starting with Arthur Gordon and dating back to the XVIII century and there are various branches which have intermarried with other Sherry dynasties. Many people might think this wine is off, but it is far from off, it has simply aged beautifully (it has 16% alcohol to protect it) and provides a fascinating insight into how Sherry develops when well stored in bottle over long periods of time.
10 euros from Er Guerrita

Friday, 6 January 2017

Bodegas: Goytia Hermanos

This bodega was established in Jerez in 1834 by Francisco de Goytia, who came from the Basque country, and like many montañeses had made his money in South America. He began as an almacenista carefully building his stocks till in 1855 he was recorded as owning 177 butts. By the late 1870s those stocks had increased dramatically. He must have been doing well as in 1861 he paid for marble flooring for the parish church of San Miguel.

The main bodegas were in the Calle Arcos 44 with workshops, offices and gardens. There were also six warehouses in the Picadueñas area on the city outskirts, full of the produce of their vineyards in the Pago Balbaina. On the death of their father, his sons took the reins of the firm, renaming it Goytia Hermanos, and in 1885 they began to export and thus became known outside bodega circles, especially abroad. Many almacenistas did this around that time as they felt that some exporters were selling poor quality wines and harming Sherry’s reputation.

They were particularly proud of their Palma and Cortado soleras, both dating from 1840 and much admired in Jerez. In fact they were suppliers of Sherry to the Royal Household, and winners of medals for quality. To give their wines further gravitas they insisted that they be analysed officially in all markets to which they exported, and a certificate of their authenticity and thus quality be issued. Every wine passed with flying colours. No more is heard of the firm after 1912, when it must have been taken over by another firm keen to get its hands on those fine soleras.

Among their best known wines were: Palma Goytia, Cortado Goytia and their more commercial brands were Quijote, Figaro, Néctar and Amontillado Goytia.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Socaire N.V. 12.25%, Primitivo Collantes, Ramiro Ibáñez

Bright yellowy gold with golden highlights, legs.
Fresh and fairly full with lots of interesting nuances of apple, apricot, straw and mineral, and there is a dusty, chalky note as well as the faintest hints of salinity, Fino marzipan and oxidation which beautifully match the slightly tangy fruitiness. This certainly proves that Palomino can have character.
The wine is clean, dry and has plenty of flavour. The apple is more pronounced, appleskin perhaps, and there is a decent acidity and a certain weight. It has a slightly dusty texture with faint hints of dried herbs or scrub, a very clean finish and good length. It is a bit of a character.
This really interesting wine, which scored 90 Parker points, is a joint effort from Primitivo Collantes and Ramiro Ibáñez made from 100% Palomino grapes grown in albariza. It was fermented in used Fino butts and aged there for 24 months without flor, presumably in full butts, and is the kind of wine once exported before the days of fortification and soleras, simply known as "vino blanco". Primitivo and Ramiro have been exploring all the albarizas in depth in the search for the ones which would give the wine the most character. The wine has no DO and does not give a vintage on the label, but my guess is that it is from 2013 given that it was bottled in May 2016 and it has spent 2 years in butts. It was bottled by EMC3. The word "Socaire" means "lee" or the side sheltered from the wind.
12.50 euros from Er Guerrita

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Campo de Guía

The Campo de Guía is a central district of El Puerto de Santa María where most of the bodegas, though not all, have been traditionally located. It runs approximately from the bull ring (a later building, completed in 1880) down a gentle slope towards the river Guadalete between the streets of Los Moros and Valdés. This area was once closer to the open sea than it is now and provided good access for loading ships at the quayside.

The Ermita Nuestra Senora de la Guia is No.1 on far left in this early XVIII C engraving (foto:entornoajerez)

The land occupied by the Campo de Guía is named after the long disappeared hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Guía, (Our Lady of Guidance) a patron saint of seafarers, which was situated near the waterfront on the site of what is now Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía (built in 1838). The old plan from 1755 shows parkland planted with poplar trees where the cavalry could practice, and at top right the Ermita itself. The other buildings are the houses of local aristocracy and wealthy merchants, or cargadores a Indias as many were known. One of the grand houses belonged to William Terry. In that same year the area was hit by the tsunami resulting from the Lisbon earthquake and the old Hermitage was destroyed.

XVIII C tinted engraving showing land before building. Ermita is top right (foto:gentedelpuerto)

During the last third of the XVIII century plans were drawn up to redevelop this area into a sort of industrial estate for bodegas and, unlike Jerez where bodega construction was more random and where the council encouraged building outside the city walls, in El Puerto the precinct was very much planned. This was mainly due to conflicts between the wealthy people who owned the land and the council had to take control.

Aerial view of the area in the 1940s. Gutierrez Colosia top right (foto:gentedelpuerto)

This was the dawn of the age of the “cathedral bodegas”, the large airy buildings we know and love today, and they were endowed with patios and cooperages. Two well -known architects were responsible for much of the design; Torcuato José Benjumeda and Juan Daura, and the result of their work was a district with a degree of uniformity yet much personality. The classic bodega colours were used: green for the blinds, railings and doors; white for the walls and calamocha (yellow ochre) for skirtings and façade features.

Many look like this. Osborne's Bodega La Vieja now restored into restaurant/bar. (foto:cuartodemaravillas)

It was not until the late 1830s that the work was completed thanks to various wars in which Spain was involved. During this period the American colonies were mostly lost and many who had made a fortune there returned, seeing the Sherry business as a new way to make money.

This old bodega is now Bodegas El Cortijo used for weddings, celebrations etc.

Many handsome bodegas can still be seen in the Campo de Guía area but they are not all any longer full of Sherry. Some have gone, replaced by housing or used for other kinds of business, and some are left empty and likely to fall prey to speculative builders – a few already have. Luckily there are local people who are looking out for the protection of local patrimony but it can be difficult to find other uses for these buildings. One however, which once belonged to Manuel Moreno de Mora, in Calle Los Moros, now houses the city archive.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Brandy Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Sánchez Romate

Deep walnut brown fading to amber with bright copper highlights, slow legs.
Powerful and intense with distinct notes of wood, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez, but a subtle and complex combination of them which could only come from age. There is an attractive nuttiness and very slight traces of cinnamon, clove and orange balanced by a hint of caramel sweetness. This is a serious brandy.
Generous and nicely balanced between tanginess and sweetness. There are some toasted notes like flan (créme caramel) and even a trace of coffee along with the more phenolic wood and spice notes which give depth, structure and focus, and which balance out that hint of sweetness providing length.
In 1887 the Sánchez Romate family began producing brandy for personal use, but as word got out about its quality they decided to put it on the market. This naturally required dramatically increasing the size of the solera. The brandy is produced from Airén grapes and is blended from 100% holandas, spirits distilled in alquitaras, or pot stills. Like all the best ones, it is aged using the "mixto" system, whereby the young spirit is aged statically in 250 litre barrels for three years to lose some of its strength and to age it more quickly before it enters the solera, which has eight criaderas. In all there are over 3,500 butts in the solera system.The butts themselves have been seasoned with PX and Oloroso, and the final product has an average age of 15 years. This solera also feeds the Carta Real solera and it in turn feeds the Non Plus Ultra solera. The brandy is named after Pedro Mendoza, a XV century Cardinal who was a bit of a character, and  among other things was a great promoter of Columbus' voyage to the Americas.
21 euros, widely available in good shops