Tuesday 28 February 2017

Bodegas: Esteban Bozzano

Esteban Bozzano Tassara was born in Voltri, now part of Genova, in 1776 and arrived in Sanlúcar in 1803 where he set up a textile business. He married a local girl, Josefa María del Villar. Esteban invested heavily in the construction of a mass production textile factory and a large workforce to operate the latest technology in cotton production. He knew a great deal about this thanks to his study of the Industrial revolution in England and his English business contacts. Despite considerable success he decided to change direction and in 1831 he closed the factory and set up a small bodega. In 1842 he put his technology skills to work inventing a mechanical wine press which consisted of a normal lagar with a heavy roller to crush the grapes. It is not known how long that lasted…

His son, Francisco Bozzano Villar established a distillery with a small bodega in Calle Comisario. On Francisco’s death, his son, Esteban Bozzano Pastor took over the business and expanded it greatly with the purchase of the bodega of Luis Bache Domínguez in the barrio alto. This consisted of two warehouses known as the First and Second of San Fernando in the Calle Puerto. These bodegas are now known as San Luis and Santa Ana in memory of the original owner and his wife.

When Esteban died the business passed to his widow, María Luisa Prieto del Rio and her sons, and the name changed to Viuda Esteban Bozzano, and on her death to Herederos de Esteban Bozzano, and the name remained the same till the end. By the 1970s the old family business found it could not compete with Rumasa and was declared insolvent in 1976, and a year or two later it was acquired by the cooperative Caydsa, founded in 1969. The very tall distillery chimney still stands today, but the distillery itself, like all the others in Sanlúcar, has gone.

Among their Sherry Brands were: Manzanilla Pasada La Pinta, Manzanilla Olorosa E Bozzano, Solera 1888, Moscatel Superior, Oloroso Diplomado, Manzanilla Saeta, Manzanilla Bajo de Guia (these latter two are still produced today by Caydsa from the original Bozzano soleras)

The distillery produced fortification spirit and brandies Santo Grial, Tres leones, Rolando, Tres Diplomas (the latter two are still produced by Caydsa)

Monday 27 February 2017

27.2.17 Dock Strike Threatens Sherry Shipments

Stevedores at Spanish ports have announced three weeks of strikes to commence on 6th March in protest at changes to government legislation. The EU Court of Justice has obliged Spain to liberalise the monopoly held by stevedores or face heavy fines. The legislation has been approved by the Council of Ministers and only awaits approval by the Spanish Congress. Two hundred billion euros worth of goods pass through the ports and they account for 86% of exports and 60% of imports. There are well over 6,000 stevedores.

Stevedores at  Puerto Real (foto:diariodecadiz)

The strikes, which will be distributed round the various ports in the country, will have a very serious impact on transport companies, exporters of perishable goods and, of course Sherry. Consejo director César Saldaña says that any orders which cannot be fulfilled will be lost. Logistics are such that Sherry customers don’t hold stocks so if deliveries are not received there will be gaps on the shelves. While road transport would be an alternative, sea transport has always been the tried and tested way, so a strike would hit Sherry exports hard as some 68% of Sherry is exported. Stock up now!

Sunday 26 February 2017

26.2.17 New Range of Top Quality Sherry Launched

A new range of exclusive Sherries is about to be launched under the brand name “Las Botas”. It is the brainchild of sommelier Raúl Villabrille and César Velázquez, owner of wine distributor Balandro in Sevilla. The new wines, which have taken two years to organise, were presented on Friday at the Cádiz wine shop Baco, and represent great butts from small bodegas. The Manzanilla and Fino will be available from next week while the Amontillado and Palo Cortado will be available next month. Each wine has a registered name which refers to a geometric game which illustrates the development of the wine.

Manzanilla Apartada is described by Villabrille as very old, from 9 butts with wine between 12 and 14 years old, and comes from the San León Reserva de Familia solera at Herederos de Argüeso. It is so named as it has set itself apart from crianza biológica as oxidation has begun to set in. Fino Cruzado is the same idea but is a blend of wines from three small almacenistas in the Pago Balbaina with an average age of 10 years and notable oxidative nuances. The Amontillado Perpendicular results from the two men’s obsession with reflecting the two crianzas; extended biological and oxidative. The wine has an average age of 20 years and comes from four butts at Bodegas Urium. Palo Cortado Horizontal gets its name from the fact that this wine was classified as such from the outset. Again it comes from four butts at Urium averageing 21 years old. Initially 2,000 bottles of Fino and Manzanilla will be available and 700 of Amontillado and Palo Cortado. Such limited releases keep the meticulous selection of the finest wines sustainable. There are currently no plans for export. No point - they are almost sold out already!

Saturday 25 February 2017

25.2.17 Sherry Leads the Trend for Firmer Prices

It is an open secret. Sherry is quickly regaining its value and is building up its prestige as a direct consequence of , among other reasons, the rise in sales of the higher quality wines in place of falling sales of the cheaper ones, mainly buyers own brands (BOB). Although the bodegas don’t supply the Consejo with details of the value of their sales, this is the principal conclusion which can be drawn from the evolution of Spanish fortified wine exports. Sherry practically monopolises this category which last year saw a rise of 4% in value and a drop of 9.4% in volume.

According to figures prepared by the Observatorio Español del Mercado del Vino (OEMV) from national tax office data fortified wines, led by Sherry, closed 2016 with 18.4 million litres sold with a value of 68.3 million €. Despite selling 2 million litres less, the bodegas earned 2.6 million € more. This good performance from fortified wines and Sherry in particular, has resulted in an increase in its average price to become the highest of all Spanish wines, at 3.70 € for 2016. The average price for the DOP Spanish table wines was 3.35 € and 2.5 € for sparkling wines. The general trend is for lower volumes, especially in bulk, and higher prices, and it has to be said that Spanish wine has been far too cheap for far too long which does nothing for its image - or the livelihood of its producers.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Pedro Ximénez 15%, Viña Callejuela

Deep, dark mahogany fading to amber with bright ruby highlights, legs.
Intensely fruity with lots of pasas and dates with background hints of dried apricot and a very slightly spicey note like ginger, then there are notes of light toffee and everything is in perfect harmony.
It is viscous and very sweet (naturally) but the intensity of flavour distracts the attention with its dried fruits, brown sugar and that spice note, and it has a lovely fruit pulp texture and traces of tannin from the grape skins. Despite the sweetness its long finish is very clean, lingering for ages.
The Blanco brothers of Viña Callejuela produce two PX wines, this standard version and the 20 year old version which scored 93 Parker points last year. Like all their wines, both the PXs are produced from their own vines which they care for assiduously being staunch believers that the better the grapes, the better the wine. I think this wine is about 5 years old.
About 12 euros from Licores Corredera

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Bottle Ageing of Sherry

Many Sherries, particularly Finos and Manzanillas, carry a recommendation to drink them within a few months of purchase.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but without doubt these wines have the capacity to develop considerably more complexity in bottle, especially those bottled en rama. The recommendation on the label is really to avoid complaints from consumers who encounter  unexpected flavours  as they do not understand the effects of bottle age. In fact nearly all wines are better after a few months of settling in bottle after the shock of bottling itself, yet well over 80% of them are consumed within 48 hours of purchase. Such a shame.

Standard Finos and Manzanillas are filtered so as to be fresh and bright as the consumer expects, and they can develop well in bottle, however the all-but-unfiltered en rama wines have more substance, and that allows them to age better. All wines are living things and continue to develop in bottle, but the more that is taken out by filtration, the less scope there is for improvement. In fact some Sherries are bottled in magnum for the express purpose of ageing them in bottle, Equipo Navazos and Barbadillo for example, as wines age longer and more gracefully in magnums. In the end, the better the Sherry, the better it will improve in bottle. Equipo Navazos sometimes release wine which they have already aged in bottle for some time.

The bottle doesn't need to be this big...or does it?

One only has to taste side by side two en ramas of the same brand bottled a year (or years) apart to see how interestingly they develop. They are likely to be from the same vineyards and the same solera – virtually the same wines - the only important difference being bottle age. Depending on the age difference, the older one will have more intense, complex, subtle, nutty, buttery, bitter, oxidative characteristics and a slightly deeper colour, all of which certainly appeal to the Sherry connoisseur. These effects are brought about by reductive ageing; that is ageing in the virtual absence of oxygen, though it has been estimated that about 1m/g of oxygen per year can get into the bottle. 

With a vintage printed on the label one usually knows roughly when a wine was bottled, or at least how old it is. But Sherry is rarely a vintage wine. Being aged in wood for much longer than almost any other wine, one might reasonably consider it fully mature at bottling, yet it demonstrably continues to improve in bottle. This development is most marked in the younger, lighter Finos and Manzanillas. Naturally proper storage in the home will extend the life and enhance the enjoyment of these wines. The type of cork is a clue to how the producer sees the wine: if it has a cylindrical driven cork it is intended for longer ageing. So the question is how much bottle age is needed for the wine to develop the desired characteristics. This is really a matter of personal taste and the wine in question, but just one year can make a difference, but the more – within reason – the merrier. Experiment!

It would be very useful, therefore, to know how long they have been in bottle already, but bottling dates usually appear as impenetrable codes. At least with most en rama wines the bottling or saca date is stated on the label, but all Sherries really should carry a clear bottling date, or at least a common code which connoisseurs can understand. At the moment, the bodegas use many different codes. One does sympathise with them for not putting dates on the labels of more commercial wines, as the less well informed consumer might think the bottle is past its best.

This date is easy: Lot number: Year 2015 day 295 (October 22)

The other styles of Sherry are also capable of ageing well, but improvement is less dramatic as they are usually older already. All wines, including Sherry, will eventually throw a fine and perfectly harmless sediment over long periods of time, say five years or more, and sweet wines will eventually become a bit dryer. Harveys used to bottle some of their sweet Bristol Milk with a two inch driven cork specifically for laying down in bottle, and the result was marvellous, some of the sweetness drying out and giving way to texture and length.

Wine, like all things in life, needs understanding, and the best way to achieve that is to build up experience by tasting as many as possible at as many stages as possible. I would recommend you try ageing some Sherry in bottle. Buy two bottles of, say, a good Fino or Manzanilla, make careful tasting tasting notes on the first one, wait a year or ideally two, and do the same for the second. Comparing the notes will be fascinating, and you will have an even better bottle to enjoy than the first one. Then repeat the process.

Some Magnums to look out for:
Equipo Navazos: Amontillado 69 and Manzanilla Pasada 70
Barbadillo: Manzanilla en rama, Manzanilla Pasada Pastora
Delgado Zuleta: Manzanilla Pasada Barbiana
Antonio Barbadillo Mateos: Manzanilla Sacristia AB
Unfortunately releases are very limited.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Sólo 2013 13.6%, Bodegas González Palacios

Bright glistening gold with very light legs.
Fresh and different with hints of lemon curd, ripe appleskin, apricot and gentle flor notes reminding one of Manzanilla, unusual but attractive, especially as a more familiar dusty Palomino aroma comes through with the very slightest trace of oxidation. A real character which keeps evolving in the glass.
Fresh, tangy and fairly full with an interesting interplay between fruit and flor; the intense fruit is balanced nicely with the acidity and the flor. It is dry clean and interesting with a really long finish.
This wine is from the table wine Denominación Vino de Calidad de Lebrija. The town is actually in the province of Sevilla, but it is close to the Guadalquivir, upstream from Sanlúcar, and the vineyards share the albariza soils and maritime atmosphere with its better-known neighbour. Made from 100% Palomino grapes, the wine is fermented in butts seasoned with Lebrija "Sherry" (very good and very similar but outside the Sherry ageing zone) and aged in them for a year under flor. Wines have been produced this way for centuries.
9.15 euros from Licores Corredera

Monday 20 February 2017

20.2.17 Optimism in the Brandy Sector

Brandy has been in worldwide decline for some time. In Spain, the fact that it is no longer included in the “shopping basket” of the consumer price index demonstrates its falling importance in consumer preference. Fifty years ago Brandy de Jerez had 50% of the Spanish market. Declining per capita consumption of alcohol along with rising production costs and fiscal pressure explain the unease of recent years in the Jerez Brandy industry which has led to the conversion of many Solera brandies into cheaper Bebidas Espirtuosas and a drop to virtually nothing in promotional investment by the Consejo Regulador.

Things could be about to change however; worldwide, brandy is growing again. The recent purchases of the old Domecq and Garvey by Andrew Tan’s Emperador represent huge investment and faith in the sector inspiring some to predict that brandy could be the next fashionable drink after the gin and tonic boom both at home and abroad. According to Bosco Torremocha, general director of the Spanish federation of spirit drinks (FEBE), although all fashionable drinks run the risk of falling out of fashion again, brandy in general, and Brandy de Jerez in particular, with its quality and tradition, is growing again and this provides an opportunity.

After an era dominated by novelty, innovation and technology there is a move back to the roots, to the real thing, which will attract consumer interest. FEBE is convinced that it will not be long before the rewards for this will be reaped. Evaristo Babé, president of the Consejo Regulador Brandy de Jerez, feels the same saying that the world of spirits moves in cycles which repeat themselves and this happens in Spain just as much as the rest of the world. For a while a particular drink becomes the height of fashion and ends up being the drink of a generation - until the next one comes along - not out of some whim, but because of changes in lifestyle and consumer habits.

Sunday 19 February 2017

Oloroso Alburejo 18%, Bodegas Pilar Aranda

Deep dark mahogany fading to amber with the faintest trace of green at the rim, legs.
Serious, quite intense with tangy notes of volatile acidity with traces of raisin, oak, nuts, fallen leaves, tobacco and dried cereals. It smells quite old and complex yet is rounded off by a slight caramel note.
Full bodied with a very dry feel, not so much from tannin - though there is a little - but by the tangy acidity which also gives it zest. It has a little of the austerity and seriousness of the old wines, but not so intensely. That caramel note helps with balance to make a really interesting and rare experience.
While the label on this bottle bears the name of  the famous old almacenista Pilar Aranda, who was the first to register with the Consejo Regulador in 1933, it was actually contract bottled for Álvaro Domecq, presumably as he didn't yet have his own bottling registration (RE) number. He bought the bodega in 1999 and has since sold the wine under the Alburejo brand, named after his estate outside Jerez where he bred horses. This ties in with the coat of arms at the top of the label which shows two horses, spurs and a banderilla (a decorated barbed stick used by bullfighters) and a legend which says Nacer de Nuevo (to be born again). The coat of arms also appears on the cork. So this wine was bottled in the very early days of  Bodegas Álvaro Domecq and must have about 16 or 17 years in bottle plus its solera age which is given as over 7 years. It certainly had plenty of sediment and a thick plastic capsule of a type no longer used. I thought about marking these notes "retaste" but really the wine is different to the Alburejo of today (QV).
21 euros from Licores Corredera 

Friday 17 February 2017

17.2.17 Lecture on 1st Circumnavigation at Consejo

Much will be heard over the coming two years about the first circumnavigation of the world, the 500th anniversary of which will be celebrated in 2019. Since Portugal had reserved the eastern route to the Spice Islands and Columbus had failed to find a western route on behalf of Spain, Ferdinand Magellan left Sevilla and set sail in a fleet of five ships from Sanlúcar in September 1519 in search of it. The voyage was largely financed by King Carlos I of Spain, and was completed three years later by Juan Sebastian Elcano after the death of Magellan, most of the crew and the loss of four ships.

Luis Molla delivering his lecture (foto:diariodejerez)

The fleet loaded its supplies at Sanlúcar, and these included a lot of wine. In fact more was spent on wine than on weapons for protection. Sherry was therefore the first wine to circumnavigate the world, and yesterday a lecture on the subject was given at the Consejo Regulador by Luis Mollá Ayuso, a writer, naval captain and professor. During research for his forthcoming novel on the subject he came across the original 200 page ship stores book which lists 253 butts and 417 odres (wineskins) of Sherry enough for 246 sailors, and which cost the crown the modern equivalent of 60,000 euros.

Page 5 of the ship stores book showing references to Sherry (foto:diariodejerez)

About 25 years ago a replica of Elcano’s ship the Nao Victoria was built and was successfully sailed round the world. It is only 28 metres long and 7.5 metres at its widest point yet, if we do some sums, it carried some 50 butts and 83 wineskins – among all the other stores – and a crew of 42. The precise size of these containers, in days long before standardisation, is not known but the wine ration was one litre per day issued in four rations. The Nao is tiny, and it must have been incredibly cramped, I know, I’ve been aboard, but these sailors were aboard for three long years!

The Nao Victoria replica at sea 
During his discourse, Luis Mollá was rightly at pains to encourage the trade to take maximum advantage of this opportunity to promote Sherry during the celebrations. He said that Sanlúcar will be the capital of Andalucía for a while and that the Consejo should support initiatives such as special fifth centenary labels. 

Thursday 16 February 2017

16.2.17 Europe Prepares Strategy for Protection of Origin in US

The arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States has put the main sectors of the world economy on alert, among them the wine sector, whose alliance of leading denominations of origin led by Sherry, Champagne and Port see the progress achieved in reinforcing protection of origin in the USA being endangered. Signatories of the Declaration to Protect Wine Place Names and Origin, signed in the Napa Valley in 2005 (see it here: http://origins.wine/declaration/) are worried about the cooling of the free trade agreement known as TTIP between Europe and the USA since the arrival of Donald Trump. There will be a further alliance meeting at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in June.

The “post Trump strategy” took up a great deal of the debate at the recent meeting of the great wines of the world, held in Chianti in celebration of the tercentenary of Chianti Classico, and the alliance now has the support of twenty denominations of origin and geographic indications from all over the world. There will be a further alliance meeting at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in June.According to César Saldaña, director of the Consejo Regulador of Jerez the alliance is preparing a common strategy in an attempt to stop the global impact of the protectionist policies of the new president. He said that Trump’s arrival has confused the situation. One plan is to form a lobby group to ensure that the free trade agreement isn’t allowed to lose its teeth and that more attention is paid to European wines in the USA, where there has been no progress since the signing of the Wine Accord back in 2005.

The meeting in Chianti (foto:diariodejerez)

On that occasion the EU and the USA agreed to photograph the fake wines on sale at the time in the American market. The Accord fell short however; while no new brands were permitted, established ones could continue. In the USA it is considered that the names Sherry, Champagne and Port do not refer to their origin but to their production methods. It is expected that at the forthcoming meeting in Bordeaux new members of the alliance will be announced. Current members include Sherry, Port, Champagne, Burgundy and Chablis, Bordeaux, Rioja, Madeira, Chianti, Tokaj, Western Australia, Victoria and even a few from the USA: Long Island, Oregon, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Walla Walla, Washington State and Willamette Valley.

Meanwhile the EU has just voted to ratify a trade deal with Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Negotiations began in 2009 amid much controversy and once each EU member parliament has agreed to it, it should take effect in a matter of months.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Bodegas: Molina & Cia.

José María Molina y Lamata worked as an agronomist at Bodegas Misa in Jerez before leaving to establish his own bodega in 1870 at Calle Honsario. This was a very old street in the Barrio San Pedro which had once been the site of the Jewish cemetery in medieval times. With the knowledge and experience he had gained from Misa, his business was very successful, gaining an excellent international clientele.

In 1884 he moved to a bodega complex in Calle Clavel, 28 which had once belonged to Carlos Haurie and now belongs to Emilio Hidalgo. This was the result of forming a partnership with Servando Álvarez Algeciras, who had a bodega in Calle Carpinteros in the Barrio Santiago. Servando provided financial backing and commercial experience while José María ran the bodegas and provided the winemaking skills. Servando married the daughter of fellow bodeguero Pedro Beigbeder y Casenave.

The Calle Clavel complex consisted of three bodegas, two for storage and ageing and the other, which held 2,500 butts, was for preparing wines for export.  Here they had an impressive range of modern conveniences: a bottle washing machine, a bottling line, corking machine, cork-branding machine and capsuling machine. Not only that but they had a steam boiler for cleaning butts, a 10 horsepower steam engine,  a still for brandy production and a cooperage.

Together they successfully exploited many European markets like Germany, France, Holland and Switzerland as well as the transatlantic ones of the USA, Mexico and much of Latin America. The firm reached its heyday in the late XIX and early XX centuries, but the partners were ageing. After the death of José María Molina around 1908, Servando Álvarez bought over the firm but before long sold it to Emilio Hidalgo. His bodega in Calle Carpinteros was demolished to make way for a school somewhere about 1912.

Bodegas Molina had an ample range of wines and their Sherries included Palido, Oloroso, Amontillado, Fino, Tres Cortados, Manzanilla, Moscatel , Moscatel Quinado and PX as well as home-made Málaga, Madeira, Port, Tintilla, and of course, brandy “Cognac Fine Champagne”. Some other brands were Abuelo, Imperial Molina, Jerez Para Enfermos, Vino Para Consagrar.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

14.2.17 La Guita Launch 2017 Kit de Picoteo

In 2013 Grupo Estévez introduced the successful La Guita Kit de Picoteo (snacking kit) which consists of a box containing two bottles of Manzanilla La Guita and an assortment of up market tapas. Each year there is a new edition and for 2017 there is ham, cheese, hake roe, olives, piquitos (tiny breadsticks), stuffed chicken, red peppers and pâté, and of course the Manzanilla. According to the firm’s research 93% of La Guita consumers consider picoteo to be  their favourite food moment, ideal if friends come round or for watching a film or a match.

This is the 2016 kit

This clever idea is an exercise in co-branding with other products of excellent quality and over 1,000 kits have been sold each year. Promotion is done through social media and thus attracts the younger consumer. There is a draw to win a kit, and if you win one and send in a photo of it being enjoyed you can win a Super Kit with 12 bottles of la Guita and a load of snacks. To participate go to facebook.com/manzanillalaguita or vivaelpicoteo.com

Monday 13 February 2017

Brandy Carlos III Solera Reserva 36%, Osborne

Mahogany fading to amber with copper tints.
Forthcoming with notes of Oloroso and wood from the butts, vanilla and  traces of toasted nuts and pastry. Quite dry at the start but develops a hint of sweetness, clean and balanced with its production process clearly written on its sleeve.
A little sweetness gets it off to a friendly start then the distilled wine flavours come through followed by Sherry, a trace of dried fruits and vanilla. It is clean, fresh and moderately crisp while displaying a decent depth of flavour and good length. Tasty but not too intense, an excellent everyday brandy.
This is one of the old Domecq brands sold along with Carlos I to Osborne by Pernod Ricard after their take-over of Domecq and is one of the leading brands in Spain. The blend contains at least 75% holandas, the best quality spirit from pot stills as a Solera Reserva must. It is aged for about two years in a solera established in 1904 and consisting of butts which have previously held Oloroso. Two years sounds a rather short time, but the use of soleras gives more complexity than one might expect. Charles III ruled from 1759-1788 and was one of Spain’s better kings. He introduced the Spanish flag as we know it and the national anthem among many other things.

10.75 euros widely available

Sunday 12 February 2017

An Interview with José Peñín

This is a modest translation of an interview by Cristina Cruz with the founder of the Guia Peñín, Spain’s leading wine guide, published in andaluciainformacion.es on Friday.

We find him, caña (Sanlúcar venencia made from cane) in hand, enjoying a glass of Manzanilla at Bodegas Argüeso. A journalist by profession, he is making notes in his mobile about the differences between the Sanlúcar venencia and that of Jerez.

How would you define the situation of the wines of the Marco de Jerez?
It is one thing to talk about the Marco de Jerez and another to talk about the wines of Jerez and Sanlúcar; Manzanilla versus the wines of the big bodegas. There are situations and circumstances which have been further defining themselves over the passage of time. Sanlúcar – Manzanilla – is enjoying a boom, better sales because perhaps it is closer to the taverns, to the new consumer, that occasional consumer who is becoming interested in wines from small producers. What is happening with Manzanilla? It is produced by small family bodegas but if we go to Jerez they are big corporations, big bodegas and epic brands. I have proposed that they create a separate, independent Denominación de Origen because the wine and the business model are different. The climate is different and so is the crianza and even the yeasts. I don’t know if this would help the trade, perhaps it could be a subsector, and I believe the regulations would allow that.

What about quality and prices?
The quality of the average Sherry is far superior to wines from the rest of Spain, but one negative aspect is the ridiculously low price. This is because the Sherry trade has not done enough to defend a quality product and it has not done enough to resist buyers, mostly foreigners, dictating the price. When I go to the Marco de Jerez the impression I get is that bodegas are stagnating. If you go to Rioja you will see investment in tasting rooms and areas for wine tourism, but here such small profits don’t allow investment or even repairs.

Should the strategy of the bodegas in Sanlúcar be to modernise too?
I think it is still very difficult. The added value which the bodegas of Sanlúcar have achieved is very small. They have become dependent on the big firms which have bought at the price they wanted to pay, leaving no margin to invest in image. It is regrettable that, of the flagship wine producing areas of Spain, the poorest and the one with the most unfortunate bodega scene, is Jerez and in particular Sanlúcar. This stems not from neglect but from working in another way. Jerez and Sanlúcar owe their survival to emotion, to a love of something. Producers here ask less of their business than elsewhere. There is a certain magic, emotion, sensitivity which gives bodegueros here the capacity to do other work, but without abandoning the bodega. That wouldn’t happen elsewhere.

Are the low prices only due to interference from foreign markets?
It has certainly been the case. While Manzanilla has triumphed on the home market it has not done so abroad. This is because the bodegas have not been able to organise good marketing abroad while here, word of mouth has been effective, such that Manzanilla is no longer only consumed in Andalucía but throughout Spain.

Do home consumers put more value on the artisan product from these small bodegas?
To many of these occasional consumers, those with the money, it doesn’t bother them too much to spend just a little more if the product is good as they know it is an occasional purchase. The consumer is feeling more confident. They don’t mind paying 3 euros more because it is something different, albeit at a higher price.

Alongside prices, Sanlúcar is immersed in another polemic, BIB. What is your opinion?
I am against the traditional aesthetic. I have always defended the practical against the traditional. The BIB is much more hygienic. I am writing an article on the subject and I have a BIB at home which has been open for a month and a half. I have been checking and the wine is still the same so it would seem to be about image. If the powers that be at the Consejo Regulador and the big bodegas dislike the BIB it can’t be about hygiene so it must be about image. But what is image? I believe that if a screwcap or a synthetic cork can be used, why not the BIB which keeps wine even better? The Consejo arguments are weak and are all about image. What image? Let’s give it a try, let’s make the boxes better, prettier. People just want to stand still, keep the status quo.

What are your preferences among Sherries?
I have tasted excellent wines at tastings over the last 30 years when there were bigger differences between them, but now those differences are much smaller. As for types, I like a Palo Cortado – a real one – an Oloroso which has a balance between oxidation and the flavours accrued from time spent in wood, I like an Amontillado if the biological and oxidative ageing have been well done and it is not too old. I love biological ageing.

In the Sherry tastings you have recently done which wine stood out?
I loved La Kika, San León, Elías González, which I didn’t know, and I very much like the Manzanillas pasadas, wines at the limit of biological ageing which are mouthfilling and linger for ages on the palate. It is all about more ageing, more flor and more rotation. I’m not interested in a wine without biological character, the bitterness, the salty, iodine sensation.

What do you think about the table wines?
I’m very interested in the relationship between the people and their vineyards, their wine and their work. Now I’m familiar with Palomino table wines, wines of a given year sold young as opposed to a wine for dynamic ageing in the solera system. What with the minerality of the vineyards I think another grape variety would give better results for table wines. For me Palomino is for crianza.

Which wines achieve the highest points?
The highest are usually from Equipo Navazos. And that idea might be the future for the wines of Sanlúcar: a realistic price based on top quality. Although that would suppose a drop in sales volumes, higher income would balance it out. Some bodegas are already selling at a higher price and it works.

Saturday 11 February 2017

11.2.17 Sherry Casks now Used for Gin

Sherry casks have long enhanced the flavour profile of whisky, brandy and rum, but now gin as well! Master of Malt, an online spirits company which also acts as an independent bottler under the name That Boutique-y Whisky Company, has just launched two gins aged in Sherry casks under a new name of That Boutique-y Gin Company. Both are distilled by the Ableforth Distillery in Kent (UK), famous for their brand Bathtub Gin, and it is this gin which has been bottled from two different casks.

The first gin has spent six months in a first fill 50 litre Pedro Ximenez cask and this tiny release of just 105 50cl bottles has a strength of 43.4%. The second gin has spent six months in a first fill 50 litre Palo Cortado cask with only 100 50cl bottles available at a strength of 57%, known in the gin business as "navy strength". It would be very interesting to try them and see how Sherry affects gin, but it will not be easy with such small quantities available.

Friday 10 February 2017

10.2.17 Whisky and Sherry Come Together at González Byass

Richard Paterson noses a glass of whisky with his now famous words “hello, how are you?” He is the master distiller of Whyte and MacKay, a much loved character, and known in the trade as “the nose”. He is at the González Byass bodegas in Jerez with his Sherry counterpart Antonio Flores, IWC Best Fortified Winemaker in the World, tasting each other’s product. The two have known each other a long time and meet at least twice a year when Richard comes to select the Sherry casks in which most of his whiskies mature.

Commercial relations between González Byass (est 1835) and Emperador-owned Whyte and MacKay (est 1844) go back over a century, but the encounter between these two titans of the whisky and Sherry worlds is special, perhaps unique as it is the presentation in Jerez of the single malts Dalmore and Isle of Jura, for which GB have just been appointed Spanish distributors. Not only that, but this is one Richard's most important stops on the world tour W&M have organised in homage to his 50 years in the whisky business. He is now considered a member of the González family, and he and Antonio created a real pleasure for the senses at the gala dinner the bodega organised for him.

In the presence of GB president Mauricio González Gordon and vice president Pedro Rebuelta and a select group of journalists, Messrs Paterson and Flores touched everyone with their passion for their unique products, the secret of their excellence and the search for maximum quality which both firms share. The two men are an example of the long standing symbiosis between Scotland and Jerez, and GB still have the receipt of payment for Sherry butts by W&M dated 1915.

Dinner consisted of a menu maridaje (tasting menu) proposed by Richard and Antonio, each dish accompanied by a whisky and a Sherry, from structured, muscular Highland malts to saline nutty Sherries via lighter, elegant blended whiskies to the personalities of malts from Jura and Speyside. Paterson presented Dalmore 15 years old as the aperitif before sitting down to a piriñaca salad with monkfish and langostines accompanied by Speyside malt Tamnavulin and Fino Tio Pepe. This was followed by ravioli of mushrooms, ibérico pork and foie gras and accompanied by Palo Cortado Leonor and Isle of Jura 16 years old. The main dish was fillet of beef cooked in Alfonso Oloroso, and this was matched with Apóstoles Palo Cortado VORS. Dessert was chocolate mousse with mandarin ice cream and Oloroso Dulce VORS Matúsalem, and Richard offered Dalmore 50 years old, a super-exclusive limited edition in celebration of his 50 years in the whisky trade. This incredible whisky was aged in a variety of casks: Bourbon, Sherry, Port and Champagne, but sells at a staggering 57,000€. There will only be 50 decanters of this nectar available.

Both Richard and Antonio have a gift for communicating their passion and entertaining their audiences. For Richard, every visit to Jerez is full of new surprises and discoveries because “González Byass is like an Aladdin’s cave, full of incredible treasures”, some of which he had found the previous day, to the dread of Antonio, who said humorously that his links with Richard are a “love-hate relationship”. Love in the sense of sharing wonderful moments with someone who really understands these things, and hate because he wants to take every cask which catches his eye. The evening drew to a close with one last surprise; the presentation to Richard by GB of a bottle of the firm’s Añada 1966, now almost unobtainable. It was 1966 when Richard began in the whisky trade.

To see Richard in action see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW1te_miu5I
To see Antonio in action see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB2aLOUaTsU  (Spanish)


Thursday 9 February 2017

9.2.17 Consejo Seeks to Enhance Communication

The Consejo plenary has decided to boost its education and promotion strategy to try and squeeze more out of its budget, which is much smaller than that of many other DOs. Sherry is in good health with considerable growth in its global prestige and sales of higher value, a sign that they are doing things well. Unfortunately, roughly half the Consejo’s income, that which does not come from public funds, comes from a quota on the liquid volume of sales which is still in decline, and promotional funds have therefore declined in line with them.

This year’s budget is 1.372.000 euros, a 3% drop on that of last year, simply because of falling volumes. (Rioja’s total 2017 budget is 16.48 million) The bodegas pay a quota of 2.5 céntimos per litre sold while the growers pay 0.5 céntimos per qualified kilo, but the plenary has decided that the growers should have say in how the budget is spent. A committee consisting of representatives of bodegas and growers will be set up to examine existing strategy and study other possibilities. The committee will not devise strategic plans or campaigns, but will look at how existing ones can be tweaked to improve communication. 

Wednesday 8 February 2017

El Amigo Imaginario 2015 12.5%, Bodegas Forlong

Bright almost lemon yellow to amber with golden highlights, pronounced legs.
Very attractive - big, soft, generous, classy and open with detectable texture from the grape skins. It is not totally unlike a Meursault but has more tropical notes of pineapple and mango along with a gentle nutty and slightly mineral undertow. The Oloroso is notable more for its contribution to the complexity of the nose than for its aroma, but there is a tantalising something there. 
Every bit as sophisticated as the nose. There is a perfect and exhilarating balance of fruit and gentle acidity, with an easygoing texture and a delightful almond nuttiness with an intensity of flavour which lingers on and on. There is even a very slight trace of ginger or cinnamon like German Lebküchen on the finish. This wine is superb.
This innovative wine is made by inspired winemakers Rocío Áspero and Alejandro Narváez who have just released it. It is made by the red wine process in their small bodega near El Puerto de Santa María. It is made from old vine 100% Balbaina Alta Palomino grapes, grown organically in albariza. The grapes are picked and sorted by hand in the vineyard and, on arrival at the bodega in plastic boxes, they are refrigerated to around 3-4 C for 24 hours. They are then sorted again before being de-stemmed, and the whole grapes are put into a temperature- controlled tank where fermentation takes place with natural yeasts. During the 25 days of fermentation the wine is stirred daily for better extraction, and after fermentation the wine and skins go to the press. The skin-free wine is then transferred to a butt (yes, just one butt!) seasoned with Oloroso which is filled to the top to avoid flor and oxidation, and here it undergoes its malo-lactic fermentation, remaining there for 10 months before being aged in bottle for 4 months before sale. Only 612 hand numbered bottles were produced, all sealed with wax and a driven cork on which are printed quotes from Walt Whitman.
16 euros from Licores Corredera

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Palo Cortado Micaela 18.75%, Bodegas Barón

Deep amber with copper and brass highlights, legs.
Forthcoming and fragrant with lots of toasted almond, pronounced salinity and a slightly bitter edge presumably left by flor, though the contact must have been pretty brief, and background notes of cinnamon and oak. There is a lovely tension between the roundness of a fairly young but mature wine and the maritime notes of Sanlúcar. Good start.
Forthright crisp and saline start with gently bitter nutty oxidative flavours and a decent acidity. There are autumnal and slightly savoury notes of fallen leaves and tobacco and a sweeter hint of turrón huevo tostado giving it real character, and a very long finish.
This attractive wine, which could only come from Sanlúcar, is a special limited edition. It is perhaps around 12 years old and quite a serious wine. I feel that many Palos Cortados either lean towards Amontillado or towards Oloroso, and this one leans towards Amontillado. You can still clearly see the Manzanilla origins which give it that lovely maritime style.
19.90 euros from La Casa del Jerez

Monday 6 February 2017

6.2.17 Universo Santi to Open Soon

An outstanding new restaurant will open its doors in Jerez very soon. Its name is Universo Santi and it is located in El Altillo, a late XIX century house built by Manuel María González Ángel, in a beautiful finca in what is now fairly central Jerez. The restaurant is dedicated to the philosophy of the famous treble Michelin starred Catalán chef Santi Santamaría (1957-2011) who owned the restaurant Can Fabes at Sant Celoni (Barcelona). He wrote many best-selling books on cuisine and was a great supporter of charities. Without its driving force the restaurant closed in 2013. This commendable new project in Jerez combines not only the philosophy of Santi Santamaría but also some of his dishes and even much of his kitchen equipment.

Santi Santamaria
All 45 members of staff are disabled in some way, and it is hoped to help them towards better social and work integration. Their 3 year contract allows 6 hours work and 2 hours study each working day. The restaurant has a school of haute cuisine and an organic kitchen garden. The head chef is double Michelin starred Óscar Velasco and the sous chef is Semi García while the sommelier is José Antonio Barragán, president of the newly formed Association of Sommeliers of Cádiz which will be based at El Altillo. Naturally Sherry and local wines will be a major feature on the wine list. In an old estate worker’s house by a lake there will be a more casual dining space and in an old chapel they plan to hold celebrations and a Cuban cigar club.

The extensive family of Manuel Maria (centre with stick) at El Altillo

El Altillo was built by the founder of González Byass in a finca of 150,000 square metres surrounded by vines and orange trees, arboretums with a huge variety of trees, and gardens. It even had a small lake with an island. Over the years many family members lived here and as they married they moved on. The last of the family to occupy the house were the seven highly cultured Quintana González Gordon sisters known as the “niñas del Altillo” and devoted to animals and nature. Royalty and aristocracy were entertained here, yet they also had philanthropic leanings, and there was a bench in the garden where the needy could sit and wait to ask for help.

The only sister to wed was Casilda who married the bodeguero Enrique O’Neale Orbaneja, upon whose early death she took control of the bodega before selling it. Jerez city council, under the now jailed mayor Pedro Pacheco, managed to expropriate the property to sell most of it off for building as the sisters’ legal representation was very poor, but they at least managed to get permission to live there till they died. According to the González tradition of longevity the sisters all lived well into their nineties, and when Blanca, the last survivor, died in 2012 the property reverted to the council. Inside nothing had changed since it was built over a century before, and it looked as if time had stood still, but the finca is now considerably smaller. It is not open just yet, but is situated on Avenida de Andalucía, half way between Parque González Hontoria and the Corte Inglés. http://universosanti.com/

Sunday 5 February 2017

Bodegas: Manuel García Monge SA

This reputable bodega was founded in Sanlúcar at the end of the XIX century by Manuel García Monge (b.1862), and with help from his sons earned a good reputation for its Manzanilla Pipiola, among other wines. The firm owned vineyards at the Finca El Maestre in the Pago Mahina near Sanlúcar, and Los Espejos.

In 1918 they bought the old bodega owned since 1907 by Doña Carmen Giménez Flores (1867-1938). She was known as “La Infantona”, being the daughter of a shoemaker and a servant who became a wealthy viscountess being the lover of Prince Antonio de Orleans y Borbón. This bodega was originally the 1526 Hospital de San Juan de Dios in Calle Misericordia. After it ceased to be church property in the 1830s it had been converted for bodega use between 1867 and 1868 by the businessman and bodeguero Cipriano Terán Carrera who later sold it to Doña Carmen. Inside, there is a carved millstone set into a wall recording this. There was once an old chest here which had been used to carry gold from the Americas, and it had 14 locks and 14 bolts.

Manuel’s wife was María Gómez Porras, and after Manuel’s death in the 1940s she bought a beautiful house in 1947, along from the bodega in Calle San Juan, known as “Casa del Kilómetro 24”, once owned by the daughter of the bodeguero Carlos Otaolaurruchi. It was so named because it was 24 km from the Jerez Post Office.

María ran the business as Viuda de Manuel García Monge with her son Manuel García Gómez. He died in 1968 and his nephews Manuel and Diego García Olave took over as Herederos de Manuel García Monge. Diego was company secretary but died aged only 31 in 1978. The business was wound up with the bodega being sold to the owners of Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín, producers of La Guita, and it was later restored by the current owners, Grupo Estévez.  The Pipiola solera was sold to Sánchez Ayala who only sell the wine, now a straightforward Manzanilla, on draught. The La Montería solera now belongs to Francisco Yuste who sells a range of wines under this brand name.

The 18th July 1936 was the day the Civil War broke out. Best to be on the right side.

Some of their brands were: Manzanilla Pasada Triunfal “La España Nueva” (Civil War bottling), Manzanilla Pasada La Montería (now Yuste), Fino Mahina (single vineyard), Manzanilla Amontillada Pipiola, Amontillado Navazo, Jerez Oro, also Anis, Brandy, Vermouth, even Málaga Wine.

Finca El Maestre

Saturday 4 February 2017

4.2.17 New Brandy Research Project; Ruiz Mateos Mansion for Sale

2.5 million euros has been awarded to a research and development project called “Bestbrandy”, the aim of which is look into factors which influence the quality of brandy and new methods of production from vineyard to bottle. The proponents are González Byass, Fundador, their jointly owned bodega Las Copas and Agrovin, an oenological goods and services company, who want to add value to brandy with the introduction of new technology in the vineyard, winemaking and wood ageing and maybe create a new unique spirit drink with growing international demand.


They will look at cultivation methods and possible new grape varieties which might be more suitable for spirit production, new methods of vinification and distillation, different yeast strains which might offer higher spirit yields, and factors influencing the spirit during ageing. Hopefully new and interesting aromatic profiles will be created. Allied to this worthwhile project are various other relevant research bodies including the University of Cádiz. Sales of Jerez brandy have been falling seriously, so this project is well timed.

Part of the Ruiz Mateos mansion

The mansion in Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid) where the Ruiz Mateos family lived for 40 years is on the market. The owner, BNP Paribas, who provided the mortgage to Ruiz Mateos, is looking for 3 million euros for the property which extends to 1,700 square metres in a plot of 6,871. Here there are the offices which they used during the “glory days” of Rumasa and Nueva Rumasa, and accommodation for the entire family. A large pool, garage and chapel are also part of the enormous complex once valued at 10 million euros. The reason for the family’s departure are hotly debated: some say they feared reprisals from those they had defrauded of 290 million euros, and the family say it was simple economics, it was too expensive to run. 

Thursday 2 February 2017

2.2.17 Consejo to Ask Brussels About Unfortified Sherry; Sherry Week 2017

At a plenary meeting of the Consejo Regulador on Tuesday it was agreed to seek from Brussels an exception to the rules of the Denominación de Origen for the production of unfortified Sherry. Such an exception would cover Fino and Manzanilla but the Consejo is not ruling out an exception for Amontillado as well. The other styles of wine would continue to need to be fortified in order to remove the flor and thus propitiate oxidative ageing.

Luis perez with his son Guillermo, serious winemakers (foto:cosasdecome)

EU regulations have it that in order to be considered “vino generoso” Finos and Manzanillas need to be fortified (or contain a certain level of sugar, which is obviously undesirable). However experiments carried out at Bodegas Luís Pérez have demonstrated that it is quite possible to reach the required 15% alcohol naturally, without fortification, and so they suggested a change to the rules which was supported by Fedejerez.

To reach 15% naturally the producer runs certain risks as it would require over-ripening of the grapes by delaying the harvest and /or some sun drying, both of which expose the grapes to greater risk of adverse weather conditions and, of course, reduce the yield.

The dates for the 2017 edition of International Sherry Week have been announced, so it’s time to put them in your diary: 6th – 12th November. That gives you nine months to organise some spectacular events. Sherry Week is now a truly global event and a wonderful way to get together with friends, family and food, all with the fabulous link: Sherry.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

1.2.17 Consejo Introduces Minimum One Year Cask Seasoning

Demand for “Sherry casks” in the whisky and rum trades is so strong that there are many casks out there which are not genuinely or properly seasoned with Sherry. Both top malt whisky distillers and the Consejo Regulador have been worried for some time by spirits sold as having been aged in Sherry casks when in fact they were aged in casks which had been seasoned with other wines. The Consejo Regulador has since last year been using a new system to certify them as genuine and eleven bodegas which account for some 60,000 casks have signed up to the system. At the start no minimum time periods for seasoning were included in the system but the vast majority of certified butts were seasoned for about a year. At a plenary meeting yesterday the Consejo agreed that one year should be the minimum time despite petitions to reduce it. 

New casks undergoing seasonng

It was generally agreed that a butt needs at least a year to become impregnated with the Sherry aromas, but the Consejo, at the request of one bodega, agreed to study the possibility of an exception to the rule if it could be proved, as that bodega suggests, that seasoning with old wine can accelerate the process without altering the result. Until a study is completed of the effects on wood of old wines, the Consejo will only certify “Sherry casks” with a minimum seasoning of one year. This certification consists of a card attached to each butt with a QR code containing information on the traceability of the product in the butt and the time it has spent there. Only spirits aged in certified butts have the right to use the name “Sherry” on their labels.

A (genuine) Sherry Cask Matured Whisky

A reputable bodega in Huelva has supplied “Sherry casks” for years to the whisky trade, perfectly good casks, but naturally could not get certification, so they ended up buying Bodegas Valdivia in Jerez in order to get the necessary certification. Butts used for Sherry production are seasoned with fermenting must from the third pressing of grapes from three vintages. Due to the uptake of tannins and strong wood aromas it will later be distilled.