Friday 30 June 2017

30.6.17 Williams & Humbert Launch New Online Shop

The new shop stocks all the company’s surprisingly wide range of products from Jabugo ham, cheese and olive oils and vinegar to Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Sherry, Vermouth, liqueurs, rum, brandy, vodka, gin and a variety of gourmet gift packs. Delivery is only available in Spain however. Still, the site is well worth looking at as each product is listed in considerable detail.

Here is a nice little video about it:

Thursday 29 June 2017

28.6.17 iNNoble

One might call this a sort of counter culture event. The name is a play on the humorously irreverent “ignoble, let’s push the boundaries” attitude of the young winemakers versus Vinoble, the more staid biennial event in Jerez. It was a showcase of mostly small, mostly young and dynamic producers of the really interesting wines Cádiz is more than capable of. And they were not by any means only from Cádiz, though mostly from Spain. Organised by Armando Guerra and his chums Buena Uva, it was always going to be a brilliant event - yet very serious as far as the wine was concerned - and it was deservedly a huge success, full of lovely people.

The venue was the beautiful hotel Posada del Palacio right opposite the colourful palace of the Duke of Montpensier (now the city council) and a stone’s throw from Barbadillo. The rear of the hotel is a rambling array of patios, passageways and a huge hall, all in classic Andalusian architecture and a terrific place for the different wine stands. An excellent jazz band played discreetly and very competently as glasses were swirled and acquaintances made or re-kindled.

Paola Medina is a Sherry fan

As is often the case, it was an almost impossible challenge to taste everything and speak with people as well, and I only managed the wines from Cádiz, those closest to my heart and of which there was certainly no shortage. The quality of all the wines was excellent, as one might expect. There were three sessions; morning and afternoon, each with different stands, and the evening session was a team blind tasting competition.

The Blanco brothers (Callejuela) and Alajandro Narvaez (Forlong)

Viña El Armijo is in the pago Miraflores and belongs to the Florido family who sold Bodegas Gaspar Florido to Pedro Romero who later went bust. Some of the very old wine stayed in the family, and they are producing excellent Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso and also have tiny stocks of wine from the famous GF25 and Ansar Real soleras.

Viña Callejuela go from strength to strength. The Blanco brothers have quite a range now and were showing their single vineyard table wines Las Mercedes, Hacienda Doña Francisca and La Choza, Manzanilla en rama and the latest 3/11 release of their unique vintage Manzanilla.

Mayetería Sanluqueña is a group of three ”mayetos” or growers, who have been encouraged by Ramiro Ibáñez to make their own wine, rather than sell grapes. These new 2016 wines have the same label, Corta y Raspa, which is a kind of pruning cut and are great examples of how different vineyards give different styles even when all else is equal. They call themselves “titans of albariza”!

Williams & Humbert winemaker Paola Medina was enthusiastically showing a range of their amazing new añada wines as well as Pando, Don Zoilo and the classic Dos Cortados.

There was also a man making and selling the traditional venencia of Sanlúcar, made from cane.

Primitivo Collantes from Chiclana impressed many with their Socaire and Amontillado- Fino Fossi from magnums, among others.

Ramiro Ibáñez (Bodega Cota 45) skilfully explained his two (and the forthcoming third) Ube de Ubérrima wines, Encrucijada and the natural PX Pandorga. Ramiro is one for more soil and less flor...

Willy Pérez (“The Jerezano who always wanted to be a Sanluqueño”) was showing his lovely Tintilla, Marismilla rosé and the new Triángulo and Muelle de Olaso.

Barbadillo Armando was showing the Zerej range, Manzanilla Pastora from a double magnum, La Pastora, Mirabrás and Nude, the carbonic maceration red.

Forlong Alejandro Narváez waxed lyrical about their organic wines made in albariza near El Puerto de Santa María. Every one is delicious.

The other ten bodegas present were:
Niepoort (Douro, Portugal)
Justina de Liébana (Cantabria)
Daterra Viticultores (Galicia)
Quinta Milú-Casa Aurora (Ribera del Duero/Bierzo)
Arizcuren (Rioja)
Suertes del Marqués (Tenerife)
Chateau Paquita (Mallorca)
Julia Casado (Murcia)
4 Monos (Madrid)
Luis Seabra (Douro/Minho, Portugal)

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Recent Adventures in Sanlúcar

Just to give you an idea of how wonderful the people of Sanlúcar are, here’s what happened at the weekend. I had booked to attend iNNoble, an unmissable event full of small wine producers, and the Día de la Manzanilla in general. After hours trying to find accommodation I finally secured it at Hotel Barrameda, only to arrive and find I’d stupidly booked for July, not June. Marta, the receptionist, was extremely kind and phoned all the hotels, pensions etc. on my behalf, but without success. At least I have a room booked for July.

So I decided to go to Taberna er Guerrita (above) and consider what to do over a glass or two of their excellent Manzanilla. Having succumbed to the temptation of Armando’s little shop, I got talking to some local chaps and my predicament soon came out. After buying me another drink, Juan said not to worry, he knew of a chap who was installing a few rooms in his delightful bodega/bar, and in no time we were in his car en route to La Herrería (below) in the Barrio Alto. 

The owner, the charming Félix, did indeed have a room which, though not 100% complete, was more than good enough, especially at the price, and what’s more he could offer food and drink, even parking. He showed me a great bar called Ke Arte with lots of live flamenco, so I spent some time there and ended up going for a paseo with some of its customers! Back at Félix' bar we got talking and I mentioned I should really move to Sherryland instead of endless driving, hotels and speeding tickets. Then he introduced me to a man in the property business who might well have something suitable. A few drinks later and we’d arranged to meet up.

Fernando Angulo

Next day was iNNoble at the Posada del Palacio which was fantastic (see separate post), and after the morning session and an excellent lunch with Borja of the Tienda del Jerez and his wife, I returned to my room for a siesta. At around 6.30 I was awoken by my name being shouted from the patio. I rushed downstairs to find Fernando Angulo of Viticultores Alba waiting with a sample already poured. And what a sample – completely hand-made sparkling Palomino which was his best yet.

Amusing signs like this were everywhere at iNNoble

We hopped into Fernando’s car which took us to the second session of iNNoble, not slowly, but there was no time to waste. As we arrived we noticed the sky was a very odd colour and we speculated about everything from a storm to the end of the world. It was only later, over a drink with Borja that we noticed ash falling from the sky, and it turned out to be from a very serious forest fire in Huelva – some 70 kilometres away – but it was threatening the Coto Doñana. It destroyed 10,000 hectares in the end, but thankfully Doñana was saved.

Then there was a tasting of, you guessed it, Manzanilla, in the Plaza del Cabildo led by none other than Antonio Barbadillo, which was well attended and great fun. As the benefits of the siesta wore off I repaired to nearby Barbiana for a nightcap and some Ibérico ham before tackling the steep Cuesta de Belén back to the Barrio Alto, and an extremely sound sleep.

Monday morning, began with a visit to Covisan, one of the wine cooperatives where the capataz himself showed me round the bodegas. Unlike some bodegas they actually make the wine here using impressive modern equipment; a sea of stainless steel tanks, presses and filtration plant. They also have an ageing bodega with huge soleras mostly for Manzanilla, but also Amontillado Oloroso and PX. The coop supplies wine to many bodegas as well as having its own brands. We had a great conversation about BIB, the Consejo, the coming harvest and many other matters. Viva Sanlúcar!

Tuesday 27 June 2017

27.6.17 Williams & Humbert Launch a new Vintage Sherry

Having pioneered vintage Finos, the bodega is launching a new one, “Tiento”, a Fino en rama 2007. It will be the first in a new series of vintage Sherries which bears the names of different flamenco styles (palos) on their labels according to the style of the wine. The origin of Tientos is in risk taking, being adventurous, daring (the word translates as “care”) and that is what winemaker Paola Medina has been doing in her amazing work with biological ageing in vintage wines. Tientos are deep, majestic and slow and the Fino is like that; deep and majestic, to be appreciated slowly. This is a rare bird as somehow flor has lasted on the wine for almost a decade in a couple of sealed sealed butts, and that is almost unheard of. 

Interestingly it is not the first time the word Tiento has appeared on a W&H label. In the past they bore the old Andalusian saying “Para conserver el conocimiento, vete al vino con tiento, pero si el vino es de Jerez, perderás el tiento alguna vez” (To preserve your senses approach wine with care, but if it comes from Jerez, you can lose that care for once). And the flamenco connection goes deeper. Since the firm’s first vintage wine in 1920 there has always been a nod to flamenco in the shape of a flamingo (flamenco in Spanish), and that tradition lives on. Just this month Josep Roca chose a W&H Oloroso vintage 2002 to match a soleá at the Copa Jerez “Tal palo, tal Jerez” event. The bodega is even sponsoring the first “Ciudad de Jerez” prize for flamenco research.

Monday 26 June 2017

Palo Cortado Añada 1966, Williams & Humbert

Lightish much polished mahogany with golden, copper glints.
Incredibly fragrant and clean with lots of toasted almond and hazelnut, traces of exotic woods like cedar and faint traces of spice. It is on the light side but almost perfumed, and with a complex array of aromas all combined into a bouquet in which it is hard to pick many of them out. Magnificent.
The wine is powerful on entry and  dry and fairly crisp yet it opens out like a fan, softened by glycerine and then the flavour floods out; all those nuts, exotic woods and dried leaves, perhaps some of them Dutch tobacco leaves. Tannins are very fine and it has a forceful richness and elegance at the same time. What a wine, bursting with character, and very long. Superb.
After a butt was kept aside as a vintage for the birthday of a member of the family in 1922, the firm has laid down butts of vintage Sherry every year since 1924. The wines are only lightly fortified and gain their @22% through merma (loss of water through transpiration). Unfortunately they are rarely seen in bottle, and indeed this example was one of just four bottles hand filled without filtration for the Copa Jerez tasting.
It looks the same as this Oloroso 1966

Saturday 24 June 2017

24.6.17 Winegrowers Fear a Hot Summer; New Book on González Byass

It has already been the hottest spring in 52 years and the meteorologists are predicting a hotter summer than usual with daily temperatures likely to be around 40 degrees. This of course implies a small harvest. Even the sceptics are agreed that climate change is behind the situation and no one can deny that recent weather events have been extreme, like last year’s 40 days of incessant Levante wind, and when it rains, it is torrential. It seems we are losing spring altogether and going straight from mild winters to very hot summers.

Checking Macharnudo vines (foto:diariodejerez)

Growers are hit twice; by the change in the natural cycle of the vines reducing yields and by rising costs and the resultant drop in earnings. It is not only vineyards which are affected, but they are affected most severely as they are a summer crop and grapes are ripening quicker. Sunburned grapes have already been spotted in inland vineyards two months before the harvest and irrigation is not allowed. Growers can react to changes in the weather, but changing climate is another matter and government must do more. Naturally growers have insurance, but the insurer, Agroseguros, is a state monopoly and its policies not specific enough. For example they cover crops against hail, but not the Levante wind which does so much harm in in Cádiz, where nobody can remember when it last hailed.

Anew book on the history of González Byass is to be launched at the bodega on Tuesday. “González Byass: Historia de una bodega desde 1835” was written by Paula Fernández de Bobadilla and illustrated with watercolours by Ximena Maier. Begoña García González Gordon wrote the definitive book on the bodega some years ago, so this new book is more of a “greatest hits” as its author put it, having condensed much information into a more readable work.

Friday 23 June 2017

Ube de Ubérrima Miraflores 2016 12%, Bodegas Cota 45

Pale strawy gold with golden highlights.
Immediately attractive, interesting - unusual even - and fresh. Salty briny seaside notes with a gentle trace of flor mix with slight pork and cider cooking smells. Then there are some hints of apricot and quince along with bread dough, and yet it smells more and more of Palomino as it opens out in the glass. And some say palomino is bland...
Gentle grapeskin texture with notes of baked apple tart nicely balance the acidity and traces of flor, but it is more subtle than that; there is a dry chalky feel and a natural air about it. It is clean, very tasty and has very good length, delicious actually.
This wine is one of a very interesting pair - as you'd expect from Ramiro Ibáñez - though a third wine is to be released later. Both are Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz and made exactly the same way but the grapes are grown on different kinds of albariza in different pagos, Carrascal (QV) and in this case Miraflores, though the vineyards are all close to Sanlúcar. The grapes are 100% Palomino, and come from five different vineyards in the Miraflores Alta and Bajo with a mixture of albarizas: lustrillos, lentejuelas and tosca cerrada. The idea is to show the different soil characteristics as transmitted by the Palomino, which is so good at that. The must is fermented in butts which are full enough to prevent excess flor and aged there for 8 or 9 months. Some 3,500 bottles were filled. This is a classic "vino blanco de Sanlúcar" or unfortified Manzanilla and great value.
10,90 euros, La Tienda del Jerez

Thursday 22 June 2017

Glass of Sherry in the Vineyards at Sunset, Anyone?

Will you be in Jerez in July? Do you fancy a trip through the vineyards and a glass of Sherry at sunset? No problem, Rutasiete can organise all this for you at a very reasonable price. It is an excellent service which I can recommend and they can collect you and drop you off again afterwards. Here are the details:

Brandy Veragua Solera Reserva 38%, Álvaro Domecq

Deep walnut to amber with bright copper highlights.
Full, quite powerful and forthcoming yet serious and complex with a full array of aromas: wood, caramelised walnuts, toasted almond, old Oloroso, dried orange peel and traces of hickory, pasas and vanilla.
A gentle sweetness greets the palate followed by all the above aromas in  a lovely harmony which gradually opens out giving a full bodied, quite intense brandy with its own individual sophisticated character and very good length.
This excellent brandy is made from 95% Airen and 5% Palomino grapes and is aged for at least five years in both 250 litre barrels and 500 litre butts, all previously seasoned with mostly Oloroso and a little PX. It would appear to consist mainly of holandas, which would explain the quality. The bodega offers another brandy, the Duque de Veragua Solera Gran Reserva.
11.25 euros, Licores Corredera

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Williams & Humbert Lecture “The Wine Factories and the Construction of the Capitalist City”

“The wine industry of XIX century Jerez created an urban and rural model unique to Spain. “

This is a précis of the latest in the Williams & Humbert cycle of lectures given last Thursday by Manuel González Fustegueras, president of the Foundation of Contemporary Architecture. Under the title “The wine factories and the construction of the capitalist city” he analysed what took place in Jerez architecturally and urbanistically between the end of the XVIII century and the second third of the XIX, all linked to the world of bodegas, “converting Jerez into a unique city which would become the third largest contributor to the Spanish exchequer and in which the management classes became a part of the most influential political circles in the Spain of the time.”

Manuel Gonzalez Fustegueras with Jesus Medina

In view of the weakness of the industrial revolution in XIX century Spain which left Andalucia as an agricultural backwater, the speaker pointed out how the agro-industry of the wine of Jerez would become one of the first models of capitalist economic development in Spain during the second third of the XIX century. In its interaction with the city it would determine the unique development of the “wine factories” or bodegas and the spaciousness of their design. They were clearly constructed as industrial buildings for the specific needs of wine production, and duly built within the layout of the city – which was altered to suit as necessary - and thus determined the shape of future urban development giving a new image to the city: an industrial estate in which the footprint of bodegas came to exceed 40% of urban land. No other industrial city in Spain ever reached such a high percentage. This immense industrial estate transformed the old city of convents into a unique agro-industrial city affecting production and commercial structures, ownership of the land and agricultural techniques, right down to the urban plan of today.

Had it not been for a certain series of events, however, Jerez would never have become “the city of bodegas” which made it so uniquely different from others, but would likely have been limited to just being a vineyard city or wine city, with its enviable geography, located right down south, with magical spaces and amazing architecture, tiled rooves, patios, lanes and special streets. González Fustegueras outlined those main events which made Jerez become “the city of bodegas” as being the discovery and perfecting of a system which offered a homogeneous product – the solera system; the Royal Decree of 1778 which abolished the ordinances of the Gremio de la Vinatería restricting the storage of wine and which was the first victory for the bourgeois merchants over the growers; the fact that at the time Jerez was in a very scruffy state with rubbish dumps, slums and vacant sites which were cheap and perfect for reconversion into bodegas; the dispossession in 1836 by Mendizábal of Church properties which were snapped up by the ever expanding wine trade; and the lack of regulations relating to bodegas. He also noted that the birth of the capitalist city brought concomitant benefits such as the railway, electric street lighting, a Bank of Spain office and factories for bottles, gas and corks among other commodities.

21.6.17 Día de la Manzanilla

What is known as the Día de la Manzanilla is now a three day plus event and this year it runs from the 23 June till the 26 June in celebration of Sanlúcar’s finest product. Here is a brief resumé of the events, most of which are free:

Friday 23
Visit to Barbadillo 12.00
Saturday 24
Open day at Bodegas Covisan 11.00-14.00
Visit to Bodegas La Cigarrera 13.00
Open day at Bodegas La Guita 20.30-22.00
Tasting “De Sanlúcar, la Manzanilla" at Dealbariza wine shop 21.00
Sunday 25
Public Manzanilla tasting and flamenco, Plaza del Cabildo 20.00
Monday 26
Open day at Bodegas Covisan 11.00-14.00
Manzanilla tasting at Bodegas Delgado Zuleta 12.00
“Goyatherapy” workshop 12.30 (Spa treatment using vine products)
Visit to Bodagas La Gitana 19.30

Tempting, isn’t it! And there’s also Innoble on Sunday 25 Sanlúcar is where to be right now. If you can't make it this year, make sure you're there next year!

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Ube de Ubérrima Carrascal 2015 12.5%, Bodegas Cota 45

Pale to mid-depth strawy gold with golden glints.
Forthcoming and characterful, it could only be Palomino with its chalky mineral notes with apple and quince fruit and a trace of flor. It smells so fresh and natural - well it is - and there's a saline twist too. It really has its place of origin stamped upon it. 
Dry with a certain bitter crispness and a light texture, it is effectively unfortified Manzanilla only with a trace more fruit. It could not be said to be fruity as the purpose was to express the place, the soil using Palomino which has such a propensity for doing that. Still, there is an enticing balance between fruit and vineyard. The wine has a certain weight giving it presence on the palate and a long clean finish. Lovely.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz was made by Ramiro Ibáñez from 100% Palomino but of various types: Palomino Fino (73%), Palomino de Jerez (16%) and Palomino Pelusón (11%). The grapes came from the small finca Las Vegas in the pago Carrascal where some of these old varieties can still be found in its albariza soil of the lentejuelas type. The vineyard is close to both Sanlúcar and the Atlantic. The wine was fermented in butt and left there to age for 20 months or so, unfortified, with the butts full enough to keep flor at bay. The 1,000 bottles produced were released in May 2017. "Ubérrima" means fertile, referring to the albariza soil whose character he wishes to demonstrate through the wine, and Ramiro also makes another version of Ube de Ubérrima from grapes grown in the pago Miraflores (QV). There is also a third wine yet to be released.
21.50 La Tienda del Jerez

Monday 19 June 2017

Manzanilla Añada 2012 3/11 15%, Viña Callejuela

Pale gold with a trace of amber and bright golden glints.
Super fresh and almost wild with noticeable salinity, restrained flor and traces of apple and fresh sea air. It has considerable charm with notes of camomile and a meadow full of wild herbs, yet there is also a more serious side with yeasty hints and olive brine, and everything is in perfect harmony.
Good and dry, fresh, with traces of racy chalky minerals giving a dry texture with exactly the right acidity. It is at an attractive stage of development where it still has signs of youth but those of early maturity are beginning to show. It has a deep savoury flavour and almost creamy consistency. The wine is now five years old and extremely elegant, with subtle but growing complexities. Pure Sanlucar in a glass. Delightful wine.
This is the third butt of the eleven laid down as a vintage wine in 2012, and each annual release has offered a shade more complexity than the last. It is a really inspired idea, as every year it just gets better. The wine is nearly 5 years old now but one has to wait a whole year for the next instalment. It is an agonising wait, but worth it. This was a limited advance bottling for the Copa Jerez Forum tasting, the rest was bottled 16th June 2017 and it will be available very soon - but barely 1,000 50cl bottles.
Not released yet but will be about 20 euros per 50 cl bottle

(With GB's Jose Argudo in background)

Sunday 18 June 2017

La Charanga 2015 10.1%, Viticultores Alba

Mid depth strawy yellow with golden glints, very light legs.
Fresh and forthcoming with a slight rustic note at first but develops attractive gently fruity and floral notes even camomile with traces of cider, apple, mineral, orchard fruits, straw and a hint of Manzanilla. Neither Oloroso nor flor are obvious, but there is still real complexity of character.
There is a trace of flor now, but not the bitterness, plenty of apply, quincey fruit and an attractive minerality. It is terrifically clean and natural tasting with a very gentle apple/grapeskin texture, lots of flavour and very long.
Another gem from Viticultores Alba. It is made from 50 year old vines of an old clone of Palomino, or Listán as it used to be called, organically grown in the Viña La Charanga whose casa de viña dates back to 1794, belonging to Manuel Benitez "El Bolli" in the Pago Mahina at Sanlúcar. The vineyard soil is pure albariza "tosca", firm, layered albariza. The wine was fermented in an old Oloroso tonel (a butt of 50 or more arrobas) and aged for a year in an old Manzanilla butt under flor for 5 months or so. No sulphur nor any type of additive is used, not even in the vineyard, and neither is it filtered. Everything is done by hand. The 2014 got 90 Parker points.
29.75 Licores Corredera

Saturday 17 June 2017

17.6.17 Lots More Interesting News

Sánchez Romate are organising another music competition for young people who will play in various streets and squares of Jerez, either as soloists or in groups. It will be under the banner of the firm’s Unusual Sherries range, which is rarely seen on the home market, and it begins on 7th July and every Friday for the rest of the month. The final will take place during the Fiestas de la Vendimia (1-17 September) and the winner will record a mini concert at the Sánchez Romate bodegas.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana have launched a special Manzanilla in celebration of their 225th anniversary. Manzanilla La Gitana Aniversario makes a return to the original label and there are only 1792 bottles, one for each of the firm’s 225 years.

Viña Callejuela have launched 3 new table wines from different albariza pagos.They are Hacienda Dona Francisca (Callejuela), La Choza (Macharnudo) and Las Mercedes (Añina). A brief tasting showed them to be excellent. More later. They are also about to bottle the 3rd release of their vintage 2012 Manzanilla (3/11), the only one there is, but being from one butt there won’t be much…

Williams & Humbert’s February 2017 saca of the 2009 vintage Fino is now available in a smart new 50cl bottle which reflects the house style. It is lovely!

The Spanish Federation of Spirit Drinks (FEBE) has been holding its general assembly in Jerez along with the European Confederation of Spirits Producers, of which FEBE is a member. According to the latter’s figures, Spain produced 214 million litres of spirits in 2016, a good proportion of which was produced in Andalucía, and of which 60% was exported.

The Consejo Regulador has long been working on a definition for “en rama”. While use of the expression has been allowed on labels, different bodegas have different ideas, and some wines are bottled without any stabilisation whatsoever, while some undergo at least some treatment. Each bodega has its own way, and agreement is still not proving easy.

Bodegas Luis Pérez has released two new wines. El Triángulo is 100% Tintilla while El Muelle de Olaso is 100% Palomino. More later.

Armando Guerra of the famous Taberna Der Guerrita bar in Sanlúcar and Barbadillo has organised a great all-day festival of wine and music called Innoble. It takes place on Sunday 25th June from 11.00 am till 11.00pm at an old bodega belonging to Rodriguez Lacave which is the events space of the hotel Posada del Palacio at Calle Caballeros, 11, Sanlúcar. There will be many top people there like Paola Medina, Ramiro Ibáñez, Willy Pérez, Rocío Áspera and Alejandro Narváez of Forlong, the Blanco brothers of Callejuela, El Armijo, Mayetería Sanluqueña and Primitivo Collantes. Bodegas from other parts of Spain will also attend along with Niepoort from the Douro. The fun will include a blind tasting competition. Tickets are 50 € from

A new wine book has just been published called Los Nuevos Viñadores by Luis Gutiérrez, the Wine Advocate’s Spanish wines expert. It looks at 14 members of the new generation of winemakers around Spain and their amazing work in recuperating old grape varieties, focusing on the land and its history, and their imaginative and creative passion for expressive wines. Jerez is represented by Eduardo Ojeda of Grupo Estévez and Equipo Navazos. This really interesting book is in Spanish, but it is bound to be translated soon. Luis will be at Taberna Der Guerrita in Sanlúcar to talk about it and taste some wines on the 7th July at 20.30, see

Friday 16 June 2017

16.6.17 Copa Jerez Forum Report

So many exciting things have been happening in Jerez! It all began on Sunday with a screening of the film “La Guitarra Vuela. Soñando a Paco de Lucía” by Javier Limón and Jorge Martínez, about the last guitar commissioned by the great Paco de Lucía from Antonio Morales in La Palma de Mallorca (he also made a guitar for Paul McCartney). Paco had been planning a tour, but died before it could happen and before he could play the guitar he called “La Maestro”. Now the orphan guitar has toured 9 countries and been played by outstanding players of a wide variety of musical genres in Lisbon, New York, Boston, Habana, Mexico City, Bogotá, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Salvador de Bahía, Rio de Janeiro and  Almería. More on the guitar anon.

For the first time, the Copa Jerez food and Sherry pairing competition, now an important international gastronomic fixture and in its VII edition, has been extended into two days of action-packed food and Sherry -related events. Renamed the Copa Jerez Forum, top International chefs and sommeliers gave talks, demonstrations, lectures and tastings, including sessions on artisan cheeses, Almadraba tuna, a comparison of frying Spanish style versus Japanese Tempura and Sherry with Jamón de Jabugo, the world’s best ham. All of them are huge fans of Sherry for its quality, sheer variety and food matching prowess, and all are proud to include many Sherries on their wine lists.

Ángel León and Juan Ruiz from Aponiente at bodega San Gines

There was also a fascinating series of dialogues between Sherry oenologists discussing vintage Sherry, biological ageing and the importance of the vineyard. They were Eduardo Ojeda (Grupo Estévez and Equipo Navazos), Ramiro Ibáñez (Cota 45 and consultant), Montserrat Molina (Barbadillo), Willy Pérez (Bodegas Luis Pérez), Paola Medina (Williams & Humbert) and Antonio Flores (González Byass), and each one brought a really interesting wine to taste. Then there was a magnificent tasting at the Jerez Catering School where no fewer than 24 bodegas brought along all sorts of interesting and delightful Sherries. If only there had been time to taste more!

The tasting was well attended

The first day came to a fabulous close at the enchanting cloisters of Santo Domingo with a superbly conceived tasting/concert entitled “Tal palo, tal Jerez”. Top sommelier and co-owner of El Celler de Can Roca (twice voted best restaurant in the world), Josep “Pitu” Roca was joined by the brilliant guitarist Diego del Morao (son of the late flamenco guitar legend Moraíto Chico).  Pitu had selected ten highly interesting wines, most of which are not available commercially, to match ten styles of flamenco (palos), played on Paco de Lucía’s La Maestro guitar. This beautiful instrument shows incredible clarity of notes and depth of sound, especially in the wonderful setting of the cloisters of Santo Domingo, where the “duende” (muse) was everywhere in the sheer passion of the music and the wine. This was a huge success as each wine and each matching palo evoked different and profound sensations.

The wines and music began in a happy carefree mood, gradually becoming more pensive, soulful, passionate and complex. I can’t resist listing them.

Manzanilla selected from a butt in the middle of the bodega La Arboledilla, from the Solear solera at Barbadillo accompanied by “Manzanilla por Alegrías”.
Fino en rama selected from Bodegas El Maestro Sierra accompanied by “Jerez por Bulerías”
Manzanilla Pasada selected from a butt at La Guita accompanied by “Bulería de Lebrija”
Amontillado Muy Viejo, Solera Fundacional, Bodegas Alonso accompanied by “Fandango al natural”
Oloroso para Fino añada 2002, Williams & Humbert accompanied by “Soleá desafinada”
Palo Cortado Tradición VORS accompanied by “Soleá por Bulerías”
Palo Cortado Reserva de Familia, Gutiérrez Colosía accompanied by “Soleá por Bulerías añeja”
Oloroso Maestro Sierra VORS accompanied by “Soleá”
Moscatel Toneles (80-100 years old), Valdespino accompanied by “Tiento por tangos al estilo del Tío Manuel”
Amontillado “Partido Arroyo” solera pre-fundacional, González Byass (over 200 years old) accompanied by “Seguiriya en ré”

Diego del Morao and La Maestro

The Copa Jerez final itself involved seven international chef and sommelier teams each preparing a starter, main course and dessert, each one accompanied by a Sherry. The finalists were:

Ödenturm from Germany
Humphrey from Belgium
Falsled Kro from Denmark
En Rama from the United States
Casa Marcial from Spain
Podium onder de Dom from Holland
The Ritz from the United Kingdom

And the winners were:
Copa Jerez: Podium Onder de Dom
Juli Soler Award for best Sommelier: Juan Luis García, Casa Marcial
(The late Juli Soler was co-founder of El Bulli. 15% of their wine list was Sherry)
Best Chef: Leon Mazairac, Podium Onder de Dom
Best Starter pairing: Falsled Kro
Best Main course pairing: Ödenturm
Best Dessert pairing: The Ritz
Most creative pairing: joint winners En Rama and Humphrey

The Copa Jerez Winners from Podium onder de Dom: chef Leon Mazairac (L) and sommelier Goos van den Berg

After the prize giving ceremony there was a gala buffet dinner and flamenco spectacular, mostly in the form of Bulería, the flamenco palo native to Jerez, along with song and dance and a few more glasses of Sherry. Then it was time for a long well-earned sleep.

The Copa Jerez Forum was a huge success, very well thought out, and I can only wonder at the huge amount of work - and money - it took to organise so many people and events. Every year the Copa Jerez has been gaining in prestige, and now, as the Copa Jerez Forum, it has become an unmissable event. I am sincerely grateful to every Jerezano, from the waitresses to the bodegueros to the Consejo, who worked so hard, was so kind and welcoming and who provided such an unforgettable event. It was really heartening to see the world’s top chefs and sommeliers talk about Sherry with such passion and high esteem.

It is almost certain that the new Copa Jerez Forum format will be continued, and it is possible that more countries might be invited to participate in the XVIII edition, but the invitation is dependent on various factors like the Consejo having the necessary funds to cover the competition heats in more countries and the state of the market for Sherry there. It has traditionally been a kind of “thank you” to the leading export markets, and Russia competed in the VI edition and Japan in the I edition, albeit as an exhibitor, as the starter, main course and dessert format is not the norm in many Asian countries. Canada and Ireland are other possibilities.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Manzanilla Solear en rama Winter 2016 15%, Barbadillo

Bright, amber tinted gold, with golden glints, light legs.
Lots of fresh, clean yeasty flor with notes of bread dough, olive brine and seaside, more of those lovely bitter notes from the wine's surface than from the cabezuela perhaps, dried flowers, dry scrub, traces of bitter almond and a hint of dampness, but just enough from below the surface to give complexity. Tight and zippy.
Distinct notes of toasted bread along with the doughy nuttiness and traces of olive, there is a serious note here, the wine is less wild and more contained with a damper note than, say, the summer bottling. But it is very subtle and beautifully balanced, dry, natural and very long.
Excellent Manzanilla Pasada as always. The seasonal bottlings are all really different and it is a great opportunity to see how the flor changes the wine's character in the different phases of the year. It is so worth while to buy all four sacas of a given year and give them some bottle age and then taste them together to see the differences. This wine was selected from 15 of the best butts in the Solear solera on the 7th December and bottled on the 20th with an average age of at least 8 years and no more than the minimal stabilisation. Only 1,500 litres were released. The grapes came from the albariza soils of the bodegas's vineyards in Gibalbin and Santa Lucia with an average age of 30 years.
15.50 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Brandy Felipe II Solera 36%, Agustin Blazquez

Deep amber with golden highlights
Crisp and light in style yet reasonably aromatic with notes of cornflakes and wine, light on the oak - not the usual heavier Oloroso - more Amontillado with a light trace of honey and hazelnut. Really quite elegant.
Gentle caramel sweetness at the start then those corn and honey notes which balance with a hint of tannin giving character and good length. Open, straightforward and surprisingly easy drinking.
In the heyday of Agustin Blazquez, founded in Jerez in 1795, this was a leading commercial Brandy de Jerez. It was their basic brandy, above which figured Toisón de Oro and Anticuario, all of which, unusually for a Jerez based firm, were aged in bodegas in El Puerto. The firm was taken over by Domecq in 1973, and after Domecq itself was taken over, Osborne bought some of the brandies - Carlos I, Carlos III and Felipe II. In recent times this decent quality brandy has been converted into a "bebida espirituosa" sold at 30% and while cheaper, it is certainly not what it was. So it was sheer luck and a great pleasure when I chanced on this bottle of "real" Felipe II.
13.50 euros/litre from La Mantequería Jerezana

Tuesday 13 June 2017

3 En Rama El Puerto Spring 2016 15.5%, Lustau

Amber tinged gold with bright golden glints, legs.
Gorgeous deep, intense yeasty notes of thick spring flor. There are some attractive notes from the cabezuela coming through giving it a delightful richness and a gently nutty, buttery, almost toasty complexity with a hint of olive. You can really smell the humid sea air which adds a lovely freshness.
Fairly full with a perfect harmony between the bitterness of the flor and the more lactic flavours from the cabezuela. Low acidity is compensated by the bitterness and it is really well rounded, soft and deeply tasty, fresh without the  wildness of Manzanilla and the weight of Jerez. Lovely.
Having been bottled in April 2016, this wine now has a year in bottle. It is also the first anniversary of the death, at only 61, of the greatly missed man who made it, Manuel Lozano, and it really demonstrates his skill. The 3 En Rama range beautifully shows the difference between the wines of the three Sherry towns, and is bottled in spring every year at  about 5 years old and without any stabilisation.
15.25 euros, Licores Corredera

Sunday 11 June 2017

De Raiz Seleccion 2014 14.5%, Peter Maurer

Opaque black cherry red up to a pink rim, still with a trace of purple, legs.
Quite tight due to its youth, but it has a very attractive nose bursting with fresh jammy very ripe bramble and raspberry fruit perfectly balanced by toasty, almost smoky lead pencil notes of French oak. It smells quite powerful and full bodied and appears serious and sophisticated.
Spicy French oak up front followed by a trace of liquorice and that tight ripe fruit, all softened with a bit of glycerine. This is a very big generous wine with a big structure and plenty of tannin but it is reasonably ripe. What this wine needs is a few more years in bottle for all its many attributes to come together and develop into something special.
This delicious organic wine is made by German Peter Maurer from Merlot, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir (quite an unusual blend) grown on a double Guyot cordon on fairly saline calcareous clay soils near Trebujena on the left bank of the Guadalquivir. Harvesting is done by hand and the bunches are selected three times - both in the vineyard and the bodega - before fermentation at controlled temperatures. The wine is then aged for 16 months in medium-toasted mostly new French oak barrels and a few months in bottle in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. This could be enjoyed now with a nice juicy steak, but would be best laid down for 3-5 years.
13.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Saturday 10 June 2017

Amontillado 1/15 21%, Bodegas Alonso

Burnished old mahogany with copper-tinted amber highlights and a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Most attractive aromatic mature glyceric buttery caramel and almond notes with traces of cedar up front. There is a more serious side behind with traces of salinity, old oak and dried fruit, but it is all so well integrated that it has become a "bouquet". This is an old wine with all the grace and complexity you should expect - the more you sniff, the more you get.
Fairly crisp on entry thanks largely to volatile acidity, then it spreads out generously on the palate with notable glycerine and lots of toasted nuts before reverting to a crisper, tangier, saltier style yet always beautifully balanced and with a long, dry, remarkably tannin-free finish.
This wine is simply stunning. It was released recently along with an Oloroso 1/14 and a Palo Cortado 1/8 which, despite being from criaderas, are over 50 years old. These supply the much older solera wines which the Asencio brothers bought from the remains of Pedro Romero. It is bottled unfiltered.
120 euros per 50cl Licores Corredera

Friday 9 June 2017

Las Alegrias Ancestral 2015 11.5%, Alba Viticultores

Strawy gold with golden highlights, petillant rather than fully sparkling, legs.
Very attractive, delicate and refined yet quite complex and frank. Fresh with gentle candied fruit, even traces of aromatic soap, but overall that slight trace of very ripe apple from the Palomino.
Nicely balanced acidity and gentle fruit following through, there's a trace of salinity and a very slight chalky feel from the albariza along with notes of apple. well rounded. It is very dry, yet very well rounded, interesting - and extremely moreish.
Judging from the wine's apparent youth, the fact that they can sell every bottle of the few produced (around 1,000) and that "7/16" (the disgorgement date one assumes) is written in the bottle's punt, I am assuming this is from the 2015 vintage. Made from Palomino grapes - or more precisely, Listán Sanluqueña, the original clone - grown on fifty year old vines in the Las Alegrias vineyard in the Pago Carrascal between Chipiona and Sanlúcar. The must spends 10 days or so fermenting in tank with natural local yeasts and the wine is then bottled to complete the fermentation there, with no addition of anything, not even the usual yeast and sugar "licor". The wine then ages for a year or so before disgorgement by hand and as required for sale. It is not filtered in any way, and there will be a very fine, barely noticeable haze, but that's no problem, that haze has flavour. If you worry about the crown cap, don't. Most Champagne is aged with  a crown cap and only gets the cork at disgorgement. 
23.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday 8 June 2017

8.6.17 Latest Sherry Sales Figures

While the trend is in the right direction, total sales are down again. Less cheap wine and more good wine has been sold but not enough of the latter to compensate for the former. The first 4 months of 2017 saw total sales fall 8.6% (= 5% over last 12 months). January to April sales were 9.5 million litres as against 10.3 for the same period last year. This is mainly down to lower export sales for the period, down 13.4% (or 800,000 litres) especially in the traditional markets and BOB.

Germany was down 27%, Holland 17% the UK 14.5%, Spain 2.55% and Europe as a whole was down 16%. After recent growth in Spain, this fall can be explained by the later dates of Holy week and thus the ferias, so a more accurate reflection will be seen in the figures for May. Over the last 12 months total sales were 33.5 million litres, 1.8 million down on 2015, and this was entirely down to exports as Spain grew by 2.5%.

IWSR Premium Sherry sales forecast 

Sales of cheap, sweet “granny” wines are plummeting as their consumer numbers decline, while on the other hand, January to April saw strong growth in the dry styles, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Fino and Manzanilla, which together sold 5.2 million litres – a million more than the most popular sweet styles: Medium, Cream and Pale Cream. This change in taste is motivated by growing interest in the dry styles from wine experts and aficionados who are mostly younger and have greater purchasing power than the granny generation. Luckily it is much more profitable.

Wednesday 7 June 2017

7.6.17 Latest Williams & Humbert Lecture

Bodegas Williams & Humbert have announced the next in their excellent series of lectures which take place at the bodega. The title is "The Wine Factories and the Building of the Capitalist City" and will be imparted by the architect and urban planner Manuel González Fustegueras, president of the Foundation of Contemporary Architecture. He will talk about how, in the face of the disastrous industrial revolution in Spain, which particularly affected Andalucía, the wine industry of Jerez would become one of the first models of capitalist economic development in Spain during the second third of the XIX century, making way for the construction in the city of a huge industrial park which transformed the preexisting urban and rural model in such a short space of time and so potently that it was unequalled in Spain. This change of model brought with it certain decisive consequences which would be inexplicable elsewhere. A fascinating subject as always, and well worth going if you can, especially since a glass of Sherry is available at the end!

Monday 5 June 2017

Manzanilla 1a Saca 2016 15%, Sacristía AB

Bright, quite deep strawy yellow with brassy amber tones, legs.
Intense and super complex, this is a beautifully matured Manzanilla pasada. There are loads of yeast notes, not only the slightly bitter almond ones from the flor, but also strawy, buttery, nutty, almost cheesy ones from autolysis of the dead yeast cells at the bottom of the butt. There is also a notable hint of salinity and notes of dried flowers and damp bodegas. Impressive.
A rich palate of full-on aromas, textures and flavours. It is big, structured and generous with so many layers of flavour, much of it autolytic, and fairly low acidity yet perfectly balanced. If you hold it on the palate it just gives more and more, and for a long time after you swallow. An absolute classic.
This outstanding wine, possibly the best yet, was selected by Antonio Barbadillo in July 2016 after a mild wet spring. The selection was made from 30 butts in the soleras of Bodegas Francisco Yuste and bottled en rama with an average age of about 10 years. Before bottling the blend was allowed to settle and homogenise in tanks at a low temperature for a couple of months. Now with nearly a year in bottle it is really showing well, and demonstrating just how complex Manzanilla can be. 
15 euros per half bottle, Er Guerrita

Saturday 3 June 2017

La Bota de Fino 68 15%, Equipo Navazos

Bright gold with a hint of amber and golden highlights, legs.
Full and complex with intense yeast notes; bread dough and bitter almond from the flor and fuller, deeper more autolytic notes of straw, nut oil and butter from the cabezuela. Then there are very slight oxidative notes like bruised apple, which add to the large palate of aromas.
Full and bursting with flavour. It has considerable depth, and the delightful bitterness from the flor substitutes for acidity, giving it perfect balance. There is a wonderful melange of flavours: yeast, both alive and dead, a trace of oxidation and hints of minerality which work together make a wine which is very dry, very clean, very long,very jerezano and very good.
Another excellent Fino blended from the solera, 1st and 2nd criaderas of the Valdespino Inocente solera, like the last seven bottlings of La Bota de Fino. This saca is dated June 2016 and came to a total of 6,500 bottles. The grapes as always are from the Macharnudo Alto and the wine was fermented in butt as is the tradition at Valdespino. La Bota 68 has an average age of between 10 and 11 years. Being bottled en rama, it contains all the loveliness some of which is unfortunately filtered out of Inocente, and has nearly a year in bottle. Don't over-chill the wine; it is at its best at cellar temperature, especially as this is a particularly good bottling.
25 euros, Los Patios de Beatas, Malaga

Friday 2 June 2017

Brandy Independencia 40.5% Solera Gran Reserva, Osborne

Fairly deep chestnut mahogany fading to amber with bright copper highlights.
Full and forthcoming with toasted almonds, walnuts and hints of pasas and caramel offering a slightly sweet note, all well integrated with Oloroso and the oak of its barrels giving a distinct character.
Big and assertive with real character, and the classic hallmarks of Brandy de Jerez: nuts, oak and a hint of Oloroso-tinged caramel sweetness. There is also a trace of orange peel and that velvet gloved power from years of oxidative concentration and refinement.
The name of this fine brandy refers to the French occupation of much of Spain by Napoleon's armies and the installation of his brother Joseph Bonaparte as king (1808-13). Jerez itself was occupied for nearly three years between 1810 and 1812 and there was much abuse of power, leading bodegas to try and hide as much of their product as possible. If things were bad for the Spanish, they were worse for those French who had set up bodegas in the area. Osborne also used to sell an Amontillado called Independencia, and their Oloroso Bailén was named after a famous Spanish victory over the French in 1808. The faint image on the brandy label is reproduced from a painting of a Napoleonic battle by the famous Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla. For a while Osborne had a picture on the label of King Fernando VII who reigned after they got rid of Joseph Bonaparte. Anyway this brandy is made from holandas and aged in Oloroso butts.
15,95 Bodega La Latina Fuengirola