Friday 31 March 2017

31.3.17 González Byass and Fundador Close Domecq Deal

Control of the names Domecq and Pedro Domecq has returned to Jerez, where they began. González Byass and Fundador announced yesterday the completion of the 81 million euro deal with Pernod Ricard for the purchase of all Domecq brands and installations by Bodegas Las Copas, a 50/50 joint venture. The deal had been agreed back in November, but needed the green light from the Mexican competition authorities which has now been given.

The deal comprises the Mexican brandy distillery and the Casa Pedro Domecq wine bodega in Baja California as well as business interests in the United States, Brazil and Benelux. Just the three brandies produced in Mexico, Presidente, Don Pedro and Azteca de Oro, account for 50% (1.2 million cases) of the Mexican brandy market.

Back in 1994 Allied Lyons bought the Domecq business for a whopping 600 million euros, renaming itself Allied Domecq, but before long the vultures were circling in the form of Pernod Ricard and Fortune Brands who jointly bought the business and shared out its parts. PR got the brand name and the business in Mexico while Fortune (in the name of its subsidiary Beam) got the Sherry, brandy, bodegas and vineyards in Jerez. By the time Beam was taken over by Suntory it had divested itself of some of its principal assets: the La Ina range (to Lustau), the VOS and VORS Sherries and the Carlos brandies (to Osborne) as well as the Palacio Domecq and the Gallo Azul.

Thursday 30 March 2017

30.3.17 IV Tio Pepe Festival 2017

The Tio Pepe festival is a high point of the year in the cultural calendar of Jerez and this year’s event takes place between 10-14 August in various enclaves of the bodega complex. As usual there will be famous singers of a wide range of musical styles along with fine dining cooked by Michelin starred chefs matched with Sherry wine. The artists appearing have been announced and they are: Gregory Kunde, an American tenor who will sing arias from Verdi, Puccini and other composers. The wonderful Soprano Barbara Hendricks will sing jazz, blues and spirituals and the Dúo Dinámico, a famous Spanish group from the sixties will perform old hits in the indie style. Also performing are Miguel Poveda a famous flamenco “fusion” singer and Miguel Bosé, Spain’s best known popular singer. 10% of the profits from this unmissable event will be donated to the Spanish Association against Cancer. Ticket prices range between 35€ to 150€ and can be obtained online from

Presentation of this year's event and poster (foto:diariodejerez)

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Brandy Magno Solera Reserva 36%, Osborne

Chestnut to amber with coppery highlights.
Spicy American oak and Oloroso dominate the nose with dried fruit and a hint of vanilla following through. There are trace notes of brown sugar, mineralsfrom the aguardiente and orange peel.
There is a trace of sweetness there which is the Osborne style, then it opens out into gentle Oloroso flavours and a kind of orangey caramelly fruitness. It is not old enough to have much tannin so any sweetness is more obvious, but it has a dry finish with decent length.
Launched in 1955, Magno was the next brandy up the scale from Veterano which was Spain's biggest selling brandy at the time and whose name used to adorn the famous huge bull-shaped billboards dotted around the country. Veterano used to be a straight solera brandy but unfortunately they changed it to a "bebida espirituosa" to keep the price low, so it is no longer technically brandy. In fact Osborne no longer market a solera brandy, just solera reserva and upwards. Anyway, this is a blend of pot still holandas and column still aguardientes distilled from Airen grapes at the firm's distillery in Tomelloso. It is aged in solera in butts which previously held Oloroso in El Puerto for over a year. The firm also produce a solera gran reserva brandy called Alma de Magno.
10.25 euros widely available

Tuesday 28 March 2017

28.3.17 Ruta del Vino y Brandy de Jerez to Incorporate Vineyards

Ruta del Vino y Brandy de Jerez is one of the most visited in Spain with over 400,000 visits last year, but it is too focused on city centre bodegas with visitor centres, and very few visitors have the opportunity to visit the vineyards. To put this right, a new vineyard route project has been launched, with the hope of funding from European ITI (Integrated Territorial Investment) grants.

César Saldaña, director of the Consejo Regulador, was unanimously re-elected yesterday as president of the Ruta del Vino y Brandy association at an extraordinary general meeting and accepted the challenge saying “we have spectacular countryside and vineyards only a stone’s throw away and the boost offered by the ITI funds is fundamental, but we must do things properly, step by step.”

The project promises employment and involvement in the project, but a few already identified problems must be solved first. The main one is that to receive the funds, the case needs to be justified and the total cost predicted. Of the 4.2 million euros available for wine tourism, there will be some half a million for the design of the route and its definition which will be the association’s responsibility. Later some 2 million will be available for infrastructures, mostly repair of country roads, and the rest for individual projects.

Members of the association at the Consejo's bodega San Gines (foto:diariodejerez)

But there is another problem. While European funding for public administrations is 100%, private ones only receive 90% meaning that the association will need to find 50,000 to bridge the gap while its members only pay an annual subscription of 200.  It was details like this which occupied a large part of yesterday’s meeting, and the directors will need to tackle at a further meeting the possibilities there are to face a challenge in which “we have accepted that the design needs to be different from the Ruta del Vino y Brandy yet it should in some way amalgamate all the knowledge and experience from the wine tourism point of view, and for that we will need to be creative to get the maximum benefit from the grant”. They are not ruling out some sort of agreement with public administration which would allow them the full grant.

“We are fully prepared to work and to devote as much time as the project needs”. Meanwhile there will be an external audit as a step towards the renewal of the Ruta del Vino de España certification. If this admirable project works out it will be a significant boost to the quality and variety of wine tourism in Jerez.

Monday 27 March 2017

Bodegas: Juan P Marks

John Pickett Marks was born in England in 1834 and worked as a wine merchant in London. He was the son in law of Alexander Webber, also a London wine merchant, who had established Alexander Webber & Co, an almacenista and exporting business in Jerez in 1830. Webber had constructed the bodegas at Calle Pizarro, 10 and 12. John went to work with Webber and took over the business in 1888 on Webber’s death, renaming it Juan P Marks. He then dedicated himself to exporting on a large scale, not only in Sherry, but also in Port, having a network of agents in numerous countries.

(foto:la imagen del vino de jerez)

Juan formed a trading partnership with neighbouring Sherry and Port shippers Robertson Brothers who had bodegas at Calle Pizarro, 13, and who no doubt supplied his Port requirements. Robertsons pulled out of the partnership in 1893, and Juan carried on trading successfully. He acted as honorary American Vice-Consul in Jerez between 1909 and 1911, the year in which he died. The business ceased trading at about the same time and was possibly taken over by Sandeman, who had already bought the bodega we see today in around 1906. Interestingly, Robertsons themselves were eventually owned by Sandeman.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Manzanilla Fina 15%, Despacho Mar 7

Fairly pale strawy gold with bright golden glints, legs.
Pronounced maritime aromas; salt seaweed and beach are followed by a whiff of cidery fruit and plenty yeasty briny slightly bitter flor. There is an attractive fresh rawness about this wine, even a trace of cabezuela, but it is restrained giving it a delicate complexity.
Very dry with well balanced acidity and bitterness, giving a lively wine with a saline note yet there are still the slightest traces of fruit to round it off with a long clean finish. Good.
This attractive Manzanilla comes from a comparatively new company, Despacho de Vinos Mar 7 which occupies a small bodega, opposite Argüeso at no. 7 Calle Mar, Sanlúcar, which was where Pedro Romero started out. Interestingly, María José Romero who runs this great little bodega, is related to both the Romero and the Delgado Zuleta families, so Manzanilla is in her blood. She selects and buys in wines from the bodegas. and sells them in bottle or on draught. I have to say she has very good taste. The Manzanilla Fina, bottled like all her wines with minimal stabilisation, is at least three and a half years old and is delightfully fresh, as is the clean, clear presentation.
9.50 euros from Despacho Mar 7

Saturday 25 March 2017

25.3.17 González Byass Launch Fino La Cala

This new limited edition Fino is the result of a joint Project between Antonio Flores, oenologist at González Byass, and the team from the restaurant La Cala de Albert Adriá in Barcelona. Chef Albert Adriá and his brother Ferran Adriá established the world famous restaurant El Bulli. They closed it some time ago but Albert has various restaurants in Barcelona, where the new Fino was presented yesterday.

Antonio Flores with one of the Adria team (foto:diariode jerez)

It all began three years ago when the team visited the bodega and fell in love with Sherry. After many tasting sessions selections were made and the new Fino came about. The first saca is only 3,500 bottles whose design is completely new being a Burgundy style bottle with a driven cork and minimal labelling. It will be available in Albert Adriá’s restaurants and the Corte Inglés Club del Gourmet departments. According to the bodega the wine has “a clean, brilliant and intense gold colour with traces of green, a fine crisp nose with clear yeast notes and hints of almond, sea and dried seaweed , it is light and fresh on the palate with a rich bitter saline finish”. Apparently the bodega is also working with other gastronomic names…

Friday 24 March 2017

Margarito y Amapolo 2014 13.5%, Santiago Jordi

Deep, opaque blacky red with pinky purple at the rim, legs.
Quite intense and very slightly closed but with fresh, young but ripe black fruits of the forest, bramble jam and a slight balsamic note, a hint of oak and a mineral edge. It is quite complex but yet to put all its cards on the table, but it is likely to be impressive.
Full bodied and textured with good structure, the tannins are plentiful but ripe and there is plenty of fruit. All the hallmarks of a wine which needs two or more years in bottle to reach its peak. There is an attractive freshness and leanness about it, surely from the Tintilla, and it has great length, delicious now, especially with food, but ideally drunk in two or three years.
Like Santiago's other wines, this is a limited edition "vino de autor" or signature wine, different, innovative and well made despite its humble appellation of Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz, but there is currently no other appellation it could have. His vineyard extends to only 3,000 square metres and is situated some 500 metres from the famous Monastery of La Cartuja, just outside Jerez, where he planted it to 80% Petit Verdot and the rest Tintilla de Rota. He named the wine after two wild flowers which he allows to grow among the vines (Marguerite and Poppy, though why he made them masculine I don't know). Born in Jerez, he also acts as a consultant to other small bodegas and is president of the Spanish federation of oenologists. Anyway this wine is made from 50/50 Petit Verdot and Tintilla which are hand picked and de-stemmed before fermentation in wooden vats. The wine is aged in 75% French oak for 6 months. Quantities are limited; 2014 yielded just 2,763 bottles.
13.50 Licores Corredera

Thursday 23 March 2017

23.3.17 Osborne to Digitalise Archives; Growth in Premium Sherry Sales Predicted

The bodega has already begun to digitalise 20,000 documents, some dating back over 200 years, and some bearing famous XIX century signatures. One was Washington Irving, the American writer and diplomat famous for “Tales of the Alhambra” which he finished while staying with the Osbornes.  On his return to the United States he offered to act as an ambassador for the family’s Sherries. Another was Fernán Caballero, the pen name of writer Cecilia Böhl de Faber, whose father was capataz at Osborne, and Isaac Peral of the Spanish Navy who invented the first submarine to fire torpedoes. The archive also includes letters from European royal households, the Vatican and one from an English army captain in Jamaica ordering some Solera India.

The first step of the digitalisation project has been carried out using Telefónica’s Talentum programme by which a group of ten young students, carefully selected from various disciplines such as engineering, history and information technology have three months to delve into the archive, which also includes account books. So far 300 of these fascinating records have been digitalised, and can be seen on the Fundación Osborne website

Forecast volumes of Premium Sherry (source IWSR)

According to the International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR) volumes of premium Sherry could grow 18% by 2021. Speaking at Prowein, Germany’s major wine fair, González Byass president Mauricio González declared that “volume is dead” and that producers should focus on selling the more profitable, quality wines. He went on to say that consumer attitudes are slowly changing and there is more activity among younger people, especially in the drier and more upmarket styles, helped by the press and sommeliers. He noted that education is of prime importance, but rather than getting too technical it would be better to let people try the wines and how well they match food. The rise of Spanish restaurants, tapas bars and Sherry bars is helping a great deal.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

22.3.17 Fundador Goes Organic

All 200 hectares of Bodegas Fundador’s El Majuelo vineyard will be controlled by “sexual confusion” in an attempt to control Lobesia Botrana or vine moth, starting now. This moth is one of the major vineyard pests especially in southern Europe, and was first detected in Jerez in the early 1960s. Lobesia is capable of four generation in a year, but usually three in Andalucía. Eggs are laid in spring among the fine flower leaves of the vine, and the larvae damage the nascent grapes, then as the surviving grapes ripen, caterpillars feed on them, which is bad enough but these lesions leave the grapes open to the fungus Botrytis Cinerea which rots them, rendering the bunch useless.

Lobesia Botrana moth (

The sexual confusion technique works by using nature. At breeding time, the female moths emit pheromones to attract males, so the vine growers put little female pheromone diffusers all over the vineyard (350-500 per hectare) saturating the air and confusing the males. Some vineyards even have traps which consist of little glue lined boxes charged with pheromones. This process only attacks the Lobesia and dramatically reduces fertilisation without the use of insecticides, which attack all insects good and bad, and is permitted in organic vineyards. It has been in use in Jerez since 1993 but not particularly widely due to the cost.

Lobesia caterpillar (

Since 2004 Fundador has held the ISO 14001 environmental certification which insists on constant environmental control and improvement, and the company has already ceased the burning of vine prunings, reduced herbicide use and introduced sexual confusion techniques to reduce environmental impact and manage the vineyards organically.

Pheromone dispenser (

Monday 20 March 2017

Manzanilla Velo Flor 15%, Bodegas Alonso

Fairly deep brassy yellow with gold and bronze highlights, legs.
Deep, slightly brooding and complex with all sorts of aromas such as straw, camomile, yeasty flor bitterness, traces of nuts and butter from the cabezuela and a mineral salinity. This is a serious wine, definitely pasada and quite full, slightly concentrated Manzanilla.
Full and loaded with flavour. It has an attractive trace of oiliness and butteriness from the autolysis balanced by a vague whiff of cider, a gentle acidity and the bitter flor notes. This is lovely, more pasada than some yet the word doesn't appear on the label.
This is a new Manzanilla aged between 9 and 10 years in a solera  established by the Asencio brothers who fairly recently set up Bodegas Alonso by buying The old Mendez bodega and some very old soleras previously belonging to Gaspar Florido then Pedro Romero. To improve cash flow and expand the range they are working on two Manzanilla soleras; this one and another based on older pedro Romero wines which is not yet available. This one is based on wines bought in from almacenistas and will be fed from bought-in mostos, acquiring its own characteristics over time, while the other will be fed by mostos produced from their own 13 hectares of vineyard. One real key to the quality of these wines is the bodega. It might be in a dilapidated state, but it is so close to the Guadalquivir, almost at sea level, that it has perfect conditions for ageing Manzanilla. Meanwhile the brothers are working hard to restore it, while retaining a totally artisan set up. The wine is bottled in a unique shape of bottle for Sherry, en rama and sealed with a good quality driven cork and wax. Don't over chill. If this is the shape of things to come, I can't wait!
25 euros from Er Guerrita

Brandy Fundador Solera 36%, Pedro Domecq

Light mahogany to amber with golden highlights.
Nice balance between holandas and spirit, given that there can't be much holandas, with notes of oak, nuts, and hints of Oloroso, really quite attractive for basic Jerez Brandy.
Good start with well rounded traces of dried fruits and nuts then Oloroso and hints of oak come through, a trace of caramel sweetness balances it all and it has a good long finish.
This was really the brandy which started it all. For a long time Sherry bodegas had distilled wine for making fortifying spirit and/or ageing it into brandy. Production was quite small and most brandy was used for the personal consumption of the bodegueros, but occasionally it was sold. Pedro Domecq received a large order from a Dutch client for 500 bocoyes (large butts) of excellent brandy. This was duly distilled but after two years of ageing the client was unable to pay so Don Pedro ordered the spirit to be racked into used Sherry butts where it was slowly forgotten. 

Five years later the liquid was found to  be really special and he decided to produce brandy on a large scale. He imported extra stills and all necessary equipment and steadily built up a solera based on the original spirit and in 1874 launched Fundador, Spain's first commercially produced brandy, to great acclaim. One of the original butts is still kept in the bodega El Molino, signed by King Alfonso XIII in 1904. Domecq went on to produce more brandies: Carlos I, Carlos III and Marqués de Domecq. Eventually, after many corporate comings and goings, Carlos I and III were sold to Osborne and Grupo Emperador bought what was left of Domecq renaming it Bodegas Fundador. Currently they market various versions of Fundador: this standard Fundador Solera , Fundador Gold Reserve Solera Reserva, Fundador Exclusivo Solera Gran Reserva, Fundador Light and Fundador Ultra Smooth. They also produce the Terry brandies.
About 8.50 euros, widely available.

Sunday 19 March 2017

The Soils of the Marco de Jerez

It is common knowledge that the soils in which vines grow – not to mention the climate - make a huge difference to the character of the wine produced. Given the quality of the wines of the Marco de Jerez, the soils must be something special, and they are, but how did they come about?

We need to go back in time some 70 million years to the start of what geologists call the Tertiary period when the African tectonic plate started to shift north and by about 55 million years ago had pushed up and inverted sediments to form the rock of Gibraltar and other limestone outcrops. This had two effects. It caused a deep depression between the area to the north, behind the rock, and the Sierra Morena which is a much older and harder upthrust and runs on an approximate line from Huelva to Sevilla to Córdoba, or roughly along what is now the course of the river Guadalquivir. It also closed off what is now the Mediterranean causing it to dry up eventually, the modern Strait of Gibraltar only being created some 13 million years ago.

The Guadalquivir (or Betic) depression became an inland sea for millions of years during which time huge amounts of marine sediments were deposited consisting mostly of vast amounts of plankton and coral skeletons, shells and bones which were slowly compressed into limestone and chalk up to 100 metres thick. Continual tectonic pressure causing gentle uplift and rivers washing down vast amounts of sediment, along with falling sea levels from about 36 million years ago during the Oligocene period, caused the sea to gradually disappear. This left a clay and sand overlay which was gradually eroded over millions more years, helped by three tsunamis over the last 4,000 years, to form the varied soil and subsoil conditions prevailing today and expose the albariza. If the ice caps melt and sea levels rise again, the Jerez area may well disappear once again beneath the waves.

This chart shows the extent of Guadalquivir sedimentation (

The Sherry vineyards currently amount to almost 7,000 hectares in which there are three general soil types: albariza, barro and arena. Some two thirds of the vineyards are albariza with the barros and arenas making up the rest in roughly equal proportions, though albariza’s share will have increased a bit since the uprooting of excess vineyards. Only vineyards with enough albariza can be classified as Jerez Superior. Listed below are the more important soil types.

This is albariza (foto:Ramiro Ibanez)

Albarizas are without doubt the finest soils for Sherry production and are almost pure white as they contain up to 80% calcium carbonate, or chalk. They also contain clay, sand and silica as well as various minerals such as magnesium, iron, gypsum and of course marine fossils. These soils are low in nitrogen and organic matter making them less fertile, and yields are therefore lower. Various names are given to the albarizas according to their chalk content and composition:

Tajón (or Tejón): hard and compact with about 80% chalk

Tosca (or Tosca cerrada or antehojuela): contains at least 60% chalk and some fine sand and clay in thin layers, highly absorbent

Lentejuela: softer more powdery and absorbent with around 50% chalk and some clay and sand, very easy to work

Barrejuela (or Barajuela): around 50% chalk but streaked or even layered with ochre (ferric oxide mixed with clay) and easy to work

Lustrillo: chalk content of about 30-50% with some gypsum, sand and clay

Albarizas are the lowest yielding of the Sherry soils, but produce the best wine. They act like a sponge, absorbing huge amounts of rainwater, and during the hot summer months the surface dries over retaining the water below for the vine roots. The softness of this soil allows the vines to develop good root systems which can grow up to 6 metres deep, while the clay content ensures that the minimum amount of water can evaporate from the surface of the soil. Albariza is where the Palomino grape reigns supreme, though Pedro Ximénez is also grown in it, albeit usually on the lower slopes.

Barro means “clay” and is the main constituent of this soil which is mixed with up to 30% chalk and some sand. It tends to occur in dips in the landscape called “bujeos” and contains more iron, giving it a fairly dark brown colour, and more organic matter than albariza. It tends to crack in the heat of summer and is more prone to weeds, and while Palomino is grown here, the wines are coarser and fuller bodied, and the yields are higher.

Arenas means “sand” and this soil can contain over 70% of it, mixed with some chalk and clay, and the latter tends to bind it so the sand is not always loose. It is usually found near the coast and often overlies clay, and its content of iron oxide gives it a reddish yellow colour, while it has a fairly high content in aluminates and silica. The Moscatel grape is not as fussy as some varieties about soils, and is happy enough in most, but it has been very successful in the coastal sandy soils of Chipiona.

This map from the Consejo Regulador shows soil distribution. Marismas are marshes

Saturday 18 March 2017

18.3.17 Universo Santi Staff Sherry Training

Staff of Universo Santi, who all have some kind of disability, have begun their training with a visit to González Byass to learn about Sherry from that “master of jerezology” (as Diario de Jerez charmingly puts it), Antonio Flores. During morning and afternoon sessions he explained to them how to distinguish the different types of Sherry and how they match the different dishes on the menu. He stressed the importance of promoting Sherry in this restaurant saying “Sherry is at a unique moment and we must take advantage of it. Sommeliers, waiters and maîtres play a vital role in the work we do in the bodega, because we can spend thirty years ageing a wine, but it is they who present it to the diner, they who can make or break our work.

Antonio Flores shows the staff round bodega La Concha (fot:diariodejerez)

Restaurant staff face a total of 200 hours of training, or up to 800 hours if their disability is mental. Antonio Vila, president of Universo Accesible which is behind the promotion of the project, says the restaurant is 95% complete with only the decoration, gardening and completion of staff training remaining to be done, and will probably open towards the end of this year. The kitchen from the late, multi Michelin starred Santi Santamaría’s Can Fabes restaurant has already been installed so that cooking staff can get the hang of it.

Friday 17 March 2017

Bodegas: Alexander Webber & Co

Alexander Webber was an English wine merchant who imported the classic wines into London on quite a large scale. His premises there were at 36 Mark Lane and 55 Davies Street, Berkeley Square, London, and he had a Scottish agent, Alex Ferguson & Co, in Glasgow. He established a successful almacenista and shipping business in Jerez in 1830, constructing handsome bodegas at Calle Pizarro 10 and 12 close to Ivison (Pizarro,7) and Wisdom & Warter (Pizarro 15 and 17). Here he was furnished with offices and all the necessary equipment. He made a speciality of the Fino style which was now becoming popular in England.

He must have been well regarded as he was asked to write a book on wine by the Royal Society of Physicians. It was published in 1888 under the title “Wine: Notes on this Valuable Product” at two shillings a copy. It makes fascinating reading now. In 1867 Webber exported 9,630 arrobas (321 butts) and 21,255 (708 butts) in 1874. His son in law John Pickett Marks worked with him and took over the business on Webber’s death in London in 1888. Marks renamed the firm Juan P Marks and continued to trade until his death in 1911, though the bodegas at Pizarro 10 and 12 were acquired by Sandeman in about 1906, and in whose hands they remain to this day.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Selección de Don Antonio 2015 12.5%,Bodegas Páez Morilla

Bright deep cherry red with ruby highlights, legs.
The Syrah stands out with its leathery, very slightly smoky super ripe mulberry fruit and traces of olive and spice, probably from the French oak. There is a background note of blackcurrant, presumably from the Cabernet and the overall impression is one of  a lively wine made from very ripe grapes.
Medium to full bodied with lots of cherry and plum fruit and an attractive tang. Tannins are light giving it a pleasant sapidity to balance the fruit and making it very easy to drink. There is a rustic touch perhaps, but with a little food it works really well.
This is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz made from Syrah, Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Viña Lucía vineyard in Páez Morilla's Hacienda la Vicaria estate at Arcos de la Frontera. After being the first to commercialise Jerez Vinegar in 1945, the innovative Antonio Páez Lobato, the "Vinegar King", bought la Vicaria in the early 1970s and first commercialised a red wine, Viña Lucía, in 1977. This was one of the first if not the first commercial red from Cádiz in a very long time. The grapes are destemmed and given a pre and post fermentation soak, a bit of bâttonage is done after malolactic and the wine is then aged for three or four months in used French oak barrels before final stabilisation and bottling. This is good value for money, almost too cheap really!
3.82 from El Corte Inglés

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Entrechuelos Chardonnay 2015 13.5%, Miguel Domecq

Bright clean glinting pale gold, legs.
Very Chardonnay, gently generous with traces of almond, butter, apricot and yellow plum. Very fresh and nicely balanced by a noticeable minerality from the albariza.
Elegant and poised with a gentle texture and a certain richness counterbalanced by a slightly chalky minerality. Very Chardonnay, yes, but very slightly leaner thanks to that clean minerally albariza streak. It is a jolly good wine with decent length.
Having spent 25 years as an executive at his family's famous Domecq Sherry and brandy firm, Miguel chose another winemaking venture after the family sold out in 1994. He bought 32 hectares of land with albariza soil in the Torrecera area on the southern outskirts of Jerez, where in 2003 he planted vineyards with Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. He also has a little Tintilla de Rota, Sauvignon Blanc and Petit Verdot. With every vintage the vines are older and the wines better. The winery, which has all mod cons and uses exclusively French oak, is capable of producing 250,000 bottles, The Chardonnay grapes are picked at night for maximum freshness and the wine is aged in bottle for three months before sale. This is the standard Chardonnay with its new and improved label but there is an oak aged more upmarket version called Alhocen. All the wines are Vinos de la Tierra de Cadiz.
Around 6 euros

Tuesday 14 March 2017

14.3.17 Sherry Shines in Bacchus Competition

Of the 18 wines awarded Gran Bacchus de Oro medals at the XV edition of the competition, no fewer than 15 were Spanish and no fewer than 6 were from Jerez, showing how seriously experts now take Sherry. Bacchus is the only International Wine Competition in Spain recognised by the OIMV (International Organisation of Vines and Wine) and is thus very prestigious. At the competition held in Madrid over the past few days, national and international experts tasted their way through over 1,500 wines awarding Gran Bacchus de Oro, Bacchus de Oro and Bacchus de Plata medals to deserving entries. 

Spain did extremely well in general, but here are the Sherry results:

Gran Bacchus Oro

Tradición CZ: Oloroso VORS and Pedro Ximénez VOS
Fundador: Harveys Oloroso VORS
Lustau: Oloroso VORS
González Byass: Noé Pedro Ximénez VORS
Díez Mérito: Pemartín Amontillado

Bacchus Oro

Tradición CZ: Palo Cortado VORS and Cream VOS
Fundador: Harveys Palo Cortado
Lustau: Pedro Ximénez VORS
González Byass: Cuatro Palmas
Coop Católica Agricola: Moscatel Pasas Los Madroñales

Bacchus Plata

Tradición CZ: Amontillado VORS
Fundador: Harveys Fino
Lustau: Palo Cortado VORS and Fino La Ina
González Byass: Tres Palmas and Apóstoles Palo Cortado VORS
Díez Mérito: Fino Pemartín, Pedro Ximénez Pemartín  and Oloroso Pemartín

It has to be said that there have been a few raised eyebrows in Jerez that the Pemartín Amontillado (and indeed its stablemates) did so well. It is young and sells at around six euros and has outscored many a VORS. Still, this sort of anomaly seems to happen at all wine competitions, so congratulations to Díez Mérito.

Monday 13 March 2017

13.3.17 Good Wine Tourism Figures for Jerez

The city council has announced that in 2016 403,490 people came to visit the city’s 15 bodegas which offer visits and around half of those visited González Byass, Europe’s most visited bodega. The encouraging figures show an annual increase of 11% which is five points above the Spanish average. Of these visitors, 53% were foreign, mostly German, British and French, and of the Spanish visitors the majority were from Madrid, Cataluña and Andalucía. Bodega visitors spent an average of 23 euros while visitors to the city spent between 30 and 75 euros not including accommodation. Total spend was over 9.2 million euros.

Tourists in a nocturnal visit to the great Domecq Mezquita bodega (foto:pascual/diariodejerez)
Half the visitors were aged between 45 and 65 years with a third being between 30 and 44. 70% were employed while 20% were retired. 55% came by car and 32% by plane using Jerez La Parra airport. 83% organised their trip themselves. 58% stayed in city hotels. The figures for the Ruta del Vino y Brandy will soon be available and its president, César Saldaña, expects these to have risen too as it is one of the most popular Rutas in the country. Jerez has many attractions, wine being the principal one, and the trade is becoming ever more professional in commercialising itself and integrating with nearly 100 other organisations to offer the maximum to the visitor.

Sunday 12 March 2017

12.3.17 Bodegas Fundador, the First Year

A year has now passed since the “Emperor of Brandy”, Filipino Andrew Tan who owns the brandy empire Emperador, bought the remains of Domecq including its flagship brand Fundador. This was the first commercial Spanish brandy and it has saved the company twice. Launched in 1874, this new product provided profitability at a difficult time for Sherry, and it was the key reason for Emperador’s purchase - indeed rescue - of the ailing firm which had been languishing for twenty years in the hands of the multinationals Allied, Beam and Suntory.

Andrew Tan among his brandy soleras
A great deal has happened in the year since Andrew Tan announced the start of a new era and gave many positive signs of putting the bodega, which also produces Harveys and Terry Sherries, back to its rightful position at the top and giving one of its prestige bodegas back to Jerez. According to Rafael Rendón, the firm’s managing director, signs of change appeared in the first few days with the opening of the gates at the Puerta de Rota to the public. Fundador has signed up to the brandy research and development project Bestbrandy. The brands have been repositioned in the marketplace and brand names have been bought back from Pernod Ricard. A new range of Harveys Sherry has been launched and the excellent Tapería de Fundador has opened in a refurbished bodega in Calle San Ildefonso. The firm has also begun restoration work to the Torre de Riquelme, an old watchtower on the city walls at the now lost Puerta de Rota. Another project is the refurbishment of the Castillo de Macharnudo in the finca El Majuelo for wine tourism. All this and he has also bought Bodegas Garvey and Zoilo Ruiz Mateos.

Castillo de Macharnudo
Meanwhile sales of Sherries, which have recently won prestigious awards, are growing, and so are sales of brandy for which solera capacity is being increased to meet predicted demand. There will be new product launches too, such as Tres Cepas Light which has just been launched in the Phillippines. Rafael Rendón believes that brandy’s time has come, but it lacks support from the trade because individual companies don’t have enough clout. “We need to develop a strategic plan, challenging and risky though it may be, and Fundador will support any generic action in support of brandy and Sherry, even if it implies some detriment to our interests”.


Saturday 11 March 2017

Brandy 103 Etiqueta Negra Solera Reserva 36%, Osborne

Fairly deep amber with golden highlights, legs.
Nicely balanced aromas of Sherry wood and vanilla with a trace of spirit, a hint of dried fruits and nuts, well rounded and quite dry with traces of spice from the wood and a trace of tobacco.
A hint of sweetness rounds off the woodiness and emphasises the vanilla along with a trace of caramel and that hint of spice. This is a fairly light, crisp and reasonably young brandy yet it has some complexity of character with good balance and a long nutty Sherried finish.
The very successful 103 brand was originally produced by Bodegas Bobadilla which were bought in their entirety by Osborne in 1990. There were three brandies: 103 Etiqueta Blanca Solera, 103 Etiqueta Negra Solera Reserva and Gran Capitan Solera Gran Reserva. The latter has unfortunately disappeared as Osborne has so many brandies and can't promote them all, and the Etiqueta Blanca is now a "Bebida Espirituosa", a blend of brandy and other ("agricultural") spirit, so no longer worth bothering about. Anyway Etiqueta Negra comes from a 1903 solera and is a blend of lower strength holandas and higher strength aguardientes aged for well over two years in  a solera established in 1903 whose butts were previously seasoned with Amontillado. Considering its youth, it is very good, and just shows how effective solera ageing is.
13 euros from Roali Cash & Carry

Friday 10 March 2017

Sporting Sherry Labels

Designs for Sherry labels have often followed themes such as Flamenco or bullfighting, but many other themes have been explored, and in the late XIX century when all kinds of new sports were introduced they naturally appeared as a theme, with bodegas hoping that these new activities would help them sell more Sherry. Many of the new sports had been imported from England, along with English fashions for the new breed of “Sherry Gentlemen”, since ties were so close with this huge market. Jerez was the place where many sports made their first appearance in Spain.


The area has long been famous for horses and the famous beach races in Sanlúcar were established in 1845, but they are almost certainly older. The first racetrack in Jerez was constructed in 1868 though horse racing had been practiced since at least 1843.The Jockey Club was established in 1868 and became the Royal Jockey Club in 1929.


The next sporting innovation was polo, brought by the British from India. It was introduced to Jerez in 1870 by the great sportsman Pedro Nolasco González Soto, son of the founder of González Byass, who had studied in England. He imported all the necessary ponies, balls and mallets.


1868 saw the foundation of the Gun Club, later renamed Royal Pigeon Shooting Club, whose members shot both live birds and clay ones. Dead birds were sometimes given to the needy. Interestingly, Osborne’s bodega El Tiro in El Puerto is so named because its site is a former clay pigeon shooting ground (pigeon shooting in Spanish is “tiro de pichón”).


Towards the end of the XIX century hare coursing and greyhound racing clubs were established, but the big one was lawn tennis, also introduced by Pedro Nolasco González Soto who rode around Jerez on a penny farthing bicycle. With the advent of more practical bicycles, the Veloz-Club de Jerez was established in 1891 with its own velodrome. Much cycle racing took place on its track and there were many touring events.

Manuel Lacasa with the Veloz Club in the background (foto:coleccionrafamontano)

At the same time the public took to the bicycle as an economical means of transport, especially the upper classes. Near the velodrome some of the English bodegueros used to play cricket. Around 1870 football was introduced, but it would not be until 1907 when the Sociedad Jerez Football Club was founded by Sir Thomas Spencer of Williams & Humbert. Even “beisbol” (baseball) was introduced.

Many of these sports are still practised, but nowadays there are many more such as motor racing at the Jerez Circuit, rugby, water polo, swimming, golf, basketball and padel. There is a railway club and a cine club among many others. You'll never be bored in Jerez!

Thursday 9 March 2017

9.3.17 Jerez Cooperatives Discuss Integration

The seven Jerez cooperatives held a meeting today to discuss joining forces to save money and become more profitable, an idea which has wide support. They were previously integrated under the banner of Aecovi but that went bust after three cooperatives left it, so the idea now is to be a bit less ambitious with a simpler, cheaper structure which reflects the diversity and individuality of each cooperative. One plan is to have a central buying office which would simplify grape or must purchasing by bodegas and the purchasing of vineyard products.

Grapes arrive at the cooperative presshouse (foto:diariodejerez)
With growth in Sherry, the cooperatives see this as a good moment to join forces, especially as they have enjoyed two vintages without overproduction, meaning all the wine has been sold and none is sitting around waiting for a customer - and payment. But the priority is to get the coops together before exploring other possibilities such as joining the super cooperative Dcoop, the largest producer of wine and olive oil in Spain, which the Virgen de Palomares cooperative of Trebujena joined recently, much to the surprise of many. Another avenue is the seasoning of butts for the spirits industry which could be very profitable.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Sherry and International Women's day

International Women’s Day coincides this year with the 40th anniversary of Pilar Pla inheriting the almacenista bodega Maestro Sierra after her husband’s death. In those days it was most unusual for a woman to run a bodega, though there were some, but her mother told her there were only two paths she could follow: either hide away and grieve or face up and fight. Luckily for us all she chose the latter but in a very masculine world she was considered mad, then it was assumed the bodega was a hobby she would soon tire of, but gradually her persistence and hard work paid off and she earned the respect she very much deserved.

Doña Pilar and Carmen

It was very hard at first. Women were supposed to bring up the children and look after the house and were not allowed access to the various trade forums where business was transacted. Her female neighbours supported her however, and brought her food at the bodega and they discussed their problems. Even today, their children come by to say hello. She was also supported by her daughter Carmen Borrego, whose salary as a professor of history helped keep them going.  In fact the bodega is the only one run by women; the oenologist is Ana Cabestrero Ortega, and the quality of the wines is beyond doubt.

Ana Cabestrero

In the 1980s they supplied wine to Lustau for their Almacenista range which was very useful business, but in the early 1990s Lustau stopped buying the wine and so they decided to bottle it themselves, buying a second hand bottling line in Rioja. Now in her nineties – though she won’t give away her exact age – and a bit hard of hearing, Doña Pilar takes great pleasure in the fact that times have changed. While there is still some machismo, there are now many women working in the Sherry trade.

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Manzanilla Sacristía AB 15% Saca Diciembre 2015, Antonio Barbadillo Mateos

Some depth of colour, bright brassy gold with golden glints, legs.
Considerable depth and complexity: humid salty seaside air, straw, dried flowers and scrub, lots of flor bitterness and a distinct note of cabezuela, the yeasty sludge at the bottom of the butt. There is a trace of ginger somewhere in the background adding an exotic note to this classic Sanlúcar wine.
Intense flavour backed up by good acidity really carries it across; there are buttery, nutty notes from the cabezuela and bitter ones from the flor, there is a trace of apple from very slight oxidation and while there is a humid feel, the overall effect is very dry. It is packed with flavour and very long.
This outstanding wine was selected and bottled en rama in December 2015 as the year's second saca, it bears the hallmarks of a long hot dry autumn. This Manzanilla is a Pasada, with probably at least ten years' age, yet this is not stated on the label. It now has 14 months in bottle to add further complexity, and comes from Francisco Yuste' bodegas which contain some superb Manzanilla. If Manzanilla is the "señorita del vino", then this señorita is very well endowed!
15 euros per half bottle from Enoteca Museo del Vino, Mijas

Monday 6 March 2017

Gibalbín Tinto Joven 2015 14%, Bodegas Barbadillo

Very deep black cherry red with purply pink rim, legs.
Full and forthcoming with lots of fleshy fresh bramble and plum fruit from well ripened grapes. There are traces of spice and mineral too, and wood notes with a hint of liquorice. It is not shy.
Medium to full bodied with a chewy fruity texture and relaxed tannins, all those very ripe plums and brambles but also hints of spice and overripe red fruits and with a dry feel on the long finish. Real character for a young red wine.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz comes from Barbadillo's 120 hectares of albariza vineyards in Gibalbin and Santa Lucia, both in Jerez Superior, and is made from a number of grape varieties: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Tintilla de Rota all picked at night. Each grape variety is fermented separately in stainless steel tanks and a blend made afterwards. As a tinto joven, no ageing is done, so the wine has plenty of exuberant fruit.
About 4.00 euros, widely available

Sunday 5 March 2017

5.3.17 New Uses for Old Bodegas

During decades of decline in the Sherry trade a great number of bodegas have fallen into disuse and in many cases have been demolished. Some have been converted into parking, restaurants or supermarkets for example, but the inexorable disappearance of this historical patrimony - and to an extent identity - has been worrying many. The problem is finding a use for these industrial buildings which would be compatible with urban conservation. The Campo de Guía área in El Puerto de Santa María presents a particular problem as it is a whole urban district of bodegas, unique in Europe.

To this end the Osborne Foundation and the University of Sevilla have come up with an innovative proposal for Osborne’s XIX century Bodegas de Exportación in the Campo de Guía and have mounted an exhibition, “New Uses for 100 Year Old Bodegas” in Osborne’s Bodega de Mora. Eight models with explanatory panels show the conversion of the bodega complex into a school of horeca, school of oenology, study area and student accommodation. The Bodega de Mora itself has already been converted into a restaurant, gallery and shop.

Saturday 4 March 2017

4.3.17 Brandy de Jerez Shines in Madrid

Last Wednesday the Guía Peñín held its VIII Salon of Premium Spirits and its VI Salon of Cocktails in Madrid. Here, over 1,500 professionals were captivated by Brandy de Jerez at the stand organised by the Consejo Regulador which had some 50 brands of Solera Gran Reserva available for tasting. A Brandy masterclass was given by the Consejo director César Saldaña, followed by a masterclass in brandy based cocktails by the famous bartender Juan Valls. The event was a complete success according to César Saldaña, who said “it is time to recover our pride in the most important premium distilled spirit in Spain. Brandy de Jerez is demonstrating once again its enormous potential as it so captivates specialists in the sector, either as a traditional drink or as the most vanguard.

Cesar Saldana (L) showing just how good Brandy de Jerez is (foto:vinetur)

Friday 3 March 2017

3.3.17 Mundus Vini Sherry Results; New Tio Pepe Experience

Results are in for the Mundus Vini Wine Competition Spring 2017 which is set in Germany. Organised by Meininger, the publisher and event organiser in Neustadt/Weinstraße, over 6,000 wines were subjected to rigorous examination by professionals. Here are the Sherry results:

Gold Best of Show Sherry
Sandeman Royal Ambrosante PX VOS

Sandeman Caracter  Medium Dry
Sandeman Armada Cream
González Byass Cristina Medium
González Byass Néctar PX
González Byass Amontillado del Duque VORS
González Byass Palo Cortado Apóstoles VORS
González Byass Matúsalem Oloroso VORS
Barbadillo Gibalbín VT Cádiz

González Byass and cooperage Tonelería Vasima have got together for a new Tio Pepe experience. This great idea is designed to show the importance of the cooper in Jerez with a visit to the cooperage where one can see all the fascinating traditional processes of barrel production from drying the staves through to the finished product. This is followed by a visit to the bodegas for a tasting of wines and spirits at various stages of maturity to see how the oak interacts with them and their development over time.

Thursday 2 March 2017

Origins of Some Interesting Vineyard Names

Jerez is known as the “city of bodegas” but they would be of little use without the vineyards which supply them. In the past, when there was more value attached to the vineyards, many Sherry brands and soleras were named after the particular vineyard the grapes came from. Unfortunately there are very few left. Many vineyards have intriguing and historic names and here are a few:

Viña El Caribe is named after a former owner, one Francisco Ponce, a colonel in the Jerez militia who was nicknamed “El Caribe” for his terrible temper and aggression. This nickname originates from the Caribes, a tribe living on various islands in the Caribbean (which was named after them) who fiercely resisted the early colonists who accused them of cannibalism. The 40 hectare vineyard is in the Pago Añina and was sold by Ponce to A&A Sancho in 1886. Here they produced their Fino Caribe. It is said that some vines from the vineyard were sent to America, and that while they grew well there, the wine bore little resemblance to that of Jerez. Sancho sold out to Domecq in 1925. The vineyard now belongs to the Espinosa family, owners of Diez-Mérito.

Viña (La) Tula is named after María Gertrudis de Salas, Tula being an abbreviation of Gertrudis. She was the wife of José María López Martínez, a landowner, bodeguero, merchant and mayor of El Puerto, who bought the vineyard in 1820 and constructed the casa de viña. It has a rather idiosyncratic design, resembling a Moorish castle in places, and there were once even cannons at the battlements. The vineyard was first planted in 1752 and extended in 1765 by Crisanto Winthuyssen on land inherited from his parents in the Pago Balbaina – which is thought to be named after an old Cádiz family, the Balbos. The 25 hectare vineyard passed to Vicente Urruela Castrisiones and later to González Byass who used to sell Amontillado Seco Viña Tula as a single vineyard wine.

Vina Tula

Viña Campbell / Viña María Luisa. Charles Sutton Campbell, an English merchant of Scottish descent, grouped together three adjacent plots he bought from Juana Lynch, Francisco Martínez and María Dolores Vaca between 1844 and 1850. He named the vineyard, not far from El Puerto in the Pago Balbaina after his late wife, Maria Luisa Walsh Lynch who died young. Campbell made the wine here and it was transported to his bodegas in El Puerto for ageing.

Viña El Telégrafo in the Pago Capirete is named after one of the 59 optical telegraph towers – or more accurately signal towers - which provided visual communication, principally for military purposes, between Cádiz and Madrid. They were constructed between the end of the XVIII and mid XIX centuries, and there was one built in 1850 next to this vineyard, the highest in the pago, but by the 1860s the electric telegraph had superseded them. The site of the tower is now occupied by a bodega. The 55 hectare vineyard was owned by M Gil Luque who were taken over by La Guita which is now owned by Grupo Estévez.

Viña La Canariera is located in the Pago Carrascal and the casa de viña was built by González Byass in 1846. It is much used by the firm for social and educational activities. The name means “canary cage” because there was once a large canary cage here. The sound of birdsong must have been  wonderful during the stresses of winemaking.

Viña El Corregidor is a 60 hectare albariza vineyard in the Pago Carrascal, the pago farthest from the sea, and the casa de viña was constructed between the end of the XVII and beginning of the XVIII centuries. It was bought by Sandeman in the 1880s. The name Corregidor translates as “magistrate” and simply derives from the fact that this was once the local magistrate’s  house. Grapes for Sandeman’s Royal Corregidor and Imperial Corregidor Olorosos came from here. The estate passed through the hands of Nueva Rumasa before being bought by Bodegas Luis Pérez. Corregidor grapes now supply Willy Pérez’ Barajuela wines.

Pago de Ducha can be found not far from Jerez airport and has about 35 hectares. Its name (which means “shower” in modern Spanish) originates from the Arabic “Duyya”, a farm. Some of this vineyard was once owned by the monks of the Cartuja, Jerez’ beautiful Carthusian monastery. The casa de viña had a little oratory with a painting of the virgin and child, and the bell used to be rung to summon the workers to mass.

Viña de Dios is in the Pago de Ducha. It has a nicely built mid XIX century casa de viña with a lagar and a bodega, but it fell into disuse in the 1970s and is very dilapidated now and there is no longer any vineyard. It was named thus after the hill it stands on which was likened to Mount Carmel (which translates as “God’s vineyard”). Right next to Viña de Dios is:

(picture: entornoajerez)

Viña del Diablo, also in Pago de Ducha. It was one of the first to be affected by the arrival of Phylloxera in 1894. Even now much of the vineyard in the area is gone, having been replaced with other dry-farmed crops such as cereals, almonds, carob etc. It was bought by Garvey in the 1980s who upgraded the buildings and re-named it Viña San Patricio, and it now belongs to Diez Mérito. The reason for the name Diablo is no longer known but it has been suggested that phylloxera was the devil’s work. Unfortunately it is not known whether Dios or Diablo was named first.

Cantarranas is a pago in the Las Tablas area 4 km north west of Jerez with clay soil. Cantarranas means “frog song” and it takes its name from an adjacent cañada (gully) where frogs would gather for a singsong if there was any water, and there would certainly be moisture in the clay.

Raboatún (or Rabatún) is a pago just at the north western city limit of Jerez. The word could be translated as “tuna tail”, but in fact it dates back to the medieval Arabic word “rabita” or “ribat” which means a fortified building usually in a frontier area for religious and military purposes. This one has disappeared and its site is now occupied by housing, but the name is thought to stem from “ribat-al-Yun” a sort of watchtower associated with one of the access roads to Jerez in Islamic times. There are many place names all over Spain with a similar toponymy.

Anaferas is a pago just southwest of Jerez. Its name is Arabic and refers to “anafes” which were small ceramic ovens used for cooking in Moorish times. The vineyards here are “barros” with a lot of clay in the soil, perfect for making the anafes.