Monday 31 July 2017

Castillo de Argüeso NV 11.5% Bodegas Argüeso

Bright pale golden straw with golden glints.
An interesting mix of fruit and salt. Really salty and mineral with lots of fresh sea air and a raw young green Palomino fruit. Unusual but natural. No flor, no crianza, just a mosto cleaned up for bottling, but with some real Palomino character. Like Manzanilla without the flor.
Fresh, light and clean with comparatively low acid and a bit less salty than the nose, but that allows the grape itself to really comes through with gentle leafy appley fruit. It could only be Palomino and is all the better for that.
From the Manzanilla specialists Herederos de Argüeso, now part of Francisco Yuste, this is 100% Palomino grown in albariza soils in the Sanlúcar area. It is a straight Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz table wine at only 11.5%, possibly because the grapes were picked earlier to retain acidity, but it works well at what used to be a normal strength. I do wish they would put vintage dates on the labels, even if they were stamped on with the lot number or onto the cork. Obviously one wants to avoid having to print new labels every year, but the consumer needs an idea of the wine's age. This will be 2015/2016 and it is very good value.
4.85 euros, Licores Corredera

Sunday 30 July 2017

30.7.17 La Bodeguita to Open to Public

The town council of Jerez has decided to open its own little bodega, known as “la bodeguita” to the public, and work to repair some butts and smarten up the space is already under way in the hope that it will be ready in autumn. The plan is to open it during the Fiestas de la Vendimia, or at the latest on the 9th of October, the day of the patron saint of Jerez, San Dionisio.

The bodeguita was created in 1991 by Pedro Pacheco who was mayor at the time, and is in the town hall buildings in Calle Consistorio. The council has been in talks with various bodegas asking them to supply wine and butts since a dozen of these were past repair, but the heads have been retained so as to exhibit the signatures of various personalities. In fact, given the small size of la bodeguita (30 square metres) the barrels are half butts of 250 litres.

The oenologists Antonio Flores (González Byass) and Eduardo Ojeda (Grupo Estévez) have both visited the bodeguita to assess the condition of the wine, while the Julio cooperage has been working on the butts and running the scales at the request of Fundador. Estévez have sent a specialist to repaint the signatures and restoration of posters and paintings, some of which are fine works of art, is also in hand.

Still to be established are opening times, entry prices and whether a tasting should be made available. The idea is not to compete with commercial bodegas but to stimulate visitors to visit the commercial bodegas and buy their wine.

Many bodegas originally donated butts of wine to the bodeguita: González Byass, Williams & Humbert, Sánchez Romate, Domecq (now Fundador), Lustau, Fernando de Castilla, Osborne and Sandeman. Now there will also be wine from Grupo Estévez, Diez Mérito and Tradición. There is no Fino, but there is Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Cream, all of very fine quality, and the bodegas themselves will look after it as it is a shop window for their products.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Fino Añada 2009 Saca Feb 2017 15.5%, Williams & Humbert

Quite deep for Fino; mature amber tinged gold with golden highlights.
Full and developed, different and complex with a certain richness. There are fine notes of oxidation and apple, traces of tobacco and dry leaves as well as quince jelly and hints of flor which are noticeable if a little less pronounced than in some Finos. It is going towards Amontillado, but not quite on the same path as usual; the nose  is perhaps more like that of extended bottle maturation. It is lovely though!
Full and mature-tasting, low in acid and well rounded, yet there remains a hint of flor bitterness. Fino-Amontillado might best define it, though the term is no longer officially used, but being an añada it cannot be quite the same, though it is nevertheless extremely complex. It is virtually unique in style, fascinating and has great depth of flavour and considerable length.
Bottled in February 2017 at about seven and a half years old and already long sold out. The grapes as always are from the firm's vineyards in the pagos Añina and Carrascal and only first pressing must was used. The wine was fortified to 15.5%, casked up, sealed by the Consejo and left. There were about 20 butts of the Fino 2009 and the occasional saca, and another was done in April 2017, all in small quantities. If only one could reliably obtain them all and calmly observe the wine develop, but as it is, one just has to take what one can get. Still, even that is a treat.
20 euros per 50cl bottle, Er Guerrita

Friday 28 July 2017

Petit Verdot Tempranillo 2015 14%, Sancha Pérez

Very deep black cherry red with pinky red rim, legs.
Needs to breathe for a while and it evolves in the glass, but it has an attractive open textured style with plenty of ripe sun-baked red and black fruits, mainly cherry and plum, and traces of almost smoky spice and French oak mingle with the fruit, giving an interesting and characterful young wine.
Full bodied and tasty with that hint of spice; the warm climate really comes through giving it an open generous style with lots of fruit, a gentle and tangily refreshing acidity and low tannin. Dangerously easy drinking now but would benefit from another year in bottle.
Made from organically grown Petit Verdot and Tempranillo grapes from vineyards between Conil and Vejer which overlook the Atlantic. Petit Verdot has lost its place in Bordeaux as it needs more sun than the home of Claret can normally provide, but Cádiz has plenty so the wine is fully ripe. The two grape varieties are vinified separately and later blended together with the blend being aged about 12 months in French oak. The perfect everyday good red.
10.99 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday 27 July 2017

Palo Cortado Añada 1987 21.9%, González Byass

Beautiful bright clear deep mahogany with copper glints.
Impressive, very fresh, rich, full and extremely refined with a roundness that comes of  maturity. Lots of hazelnut and almond and hints of toasted bread, tobacco and subtle hints of oak and exotic woods. This is a complex and delightful wine which one could sniff for hours.
Full bodied, almost powerful, with a lovely nutty texture and deeply flavoured with those notes of tobacco and wood. It is beautifully balanced and despite its power, not over the top to drink. A certain glycerine content rounds it off beautifully and it has almost interminable length. A classic.
As its maker, Antonio Flores, puts it the wine "has reached its fullness and is one step from glory". And he is quite right, it is wonderful. Of the 200 butts laid down as vintage wine, only 987 bottles of this  Palo Cortado were produced. It was made from gently pressed grapes (using a Willmes hydraulic press) as only the finest must will do. It was aged in Consejo-sealed butts with a 100 litre headspace and bottled en rama. Butts not selected were either bottled for senior company staff or blended into soleras.
218.00 euros ex bodega

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Brandy Milenario Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Luis Caballero

Deep chestnut with copper highlights through amber to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
There is some age here with notable touches of wood and plenty of Oloroso, traces of cinnamon, caramel, vanilla and pronounced notes of walnut. It smells comparatively dry and is tight and quite complex yet well rounded.
Slightly sweeter than expected, quite intense but well balanced with traces of candied orange peel, Oloroso, vanilla and caramel, very slightly spicy with a hint of grip from the wood tannins. A serious and excellent quality brandy.
This fine brandy boasts soleras established in 1795 which predate the foundation of Caballero in 1830. In 1908 Caballero bought the soleras from Marqués de Misa and moved them from Jerez to the San Francisco bodega in El Puerto de Santa María. The name Milenario comes from the supposedly thousand year old Drago Milenario (Dragon Tree) which was long ago brought from its native Canary Islands and grows in a patio at the bodega. The branches are supported by chains in case they collapse from their own weight. This is Caballero's top brandy and its final solera consists of only 5 butts through which the brandy ages for 20 years. Just to confuse things there are also Milenario Solera and Milenario Solera Reserva
23 euros

Tuesday 25 July 2017

OVNI Palomino Fino 2015 12%, Equipo Navazos

Pale strawy gold with golden highlights.
Fresh and very Palomino with notes of apple quince and a certain very slightly saline chalkiness and something of fresh country air in a meadow as well as a trace of flor. There is an element of Fino about it, but not quite. It is very attractive.
Clean and tasty with chalky mineral notes followed by gentle fruit then traces of salinity and bitterness. It is well balanced despite comparatively low acidity and could only come from Jerez. Decent length with a very clean finish, and a little moreish.
OVNI is Spanish for UFO and is the name of a joint project with online food and wine retailer Coalla Gourmet. The grapes come from Jerez vineyards and before fermentation in stainless steel tanks some Jerez flor was added to the grape juice. After fermentation the wine was left in tank for six months under a thin veil of flor, but not enough to profoundly influence the wine's character. This is not unnatural as flor yeasts are everywhere and will settle on any wine not fortified to 17/17.5%. This wine is not intended to be laid down, but will develop interestingly over the next year or two.
9.50 euros, Er Guerrita

Monday 24 July 2017

Manzanilla Pasada Goya XL 15%,(saca 2016) Delgado Zuleta

Amber tinged strawy old gold with golden glints.
Delightful pasada nose, almost pungent yet complex and refined. Behind the full-on dried herbs and flowers and notable salinity of the flor, there are all sorts of nuances; apple, slightly toasted almond, olive brine, ozone, sea water and hints of oxidation and autolysis. Mature Manzanilla at its very best.
Full and super fresh despite its age thanks to the flor which leaves its trademark yeasty bitterness. Balance is perfect and there are wonderful buttery savoury flavours from the bottom of the butts as well as slightly oxidative notes. It is very dry with a gentle chalky mineral feel and very long. Classic.
I haven't tasted this superb Manzanilla for years - partly because it is so hard to get - being released only "when a series of exceptional circumstances comes about". The wine, which is the bodega's top Manzanilla, is from selected butts in the La Goya solera (marked with XL) and "reposed" a further 2 years, being bottled en rama at 10 years old. Not surprisingly it won the IWC Manzanilla Gold Medal and Trophy in 2016 and scored 93 from Robert Parker. The solera is very old and special, having once been stored in an old underground bodega close to the Bajo de Guia. This bottle is from a 2016 saca. If you see it, buy it!
18.20 euros per 50cl, Licores Corredera

Sunday 23 July 2017

Amontillado de Bandera VORS 18.5%, M Gil Luque

Burnished antique mahogany fading through amber to a trace of green at the rim.
Forthcoming and fragrant, textbook Amontillado and more; fresh and crisp with that enticing aroma of toasted nuts and a trace of almost caramel sweetness, notes of fine quality oak - even exotic woods and a faint hint of linseed oil and resin -  and none of it spoiled by excess alcohol, which is modest for its age of over 30 years. Enough tartaric/volatile acidity to give it the necessary bite.
On the full side at the start but opens out into an excellent, supremely elegant, dry, nutty characterful wine. Gently crisp acidity provides freshness and poise unhindered by tannin and balances beautifully with the glycerol and nuts. This is an outstandingly stylish Amontillado with amazing length.
The bodega dates back to the end of the XIX century and acquired its name when bought by Manuel Gil Luque in 1912. Shortly before it was taken over by La Guita in 1984, Gil Luque bought some very old soleras from Fernando Carrasco Sagastizábal, which may have belonged to Tomás Geraldino Croquer (the Irishman Thomas Fitzgerald) whose bodega was established in 1840. In 2007 La Guita was bought by Grupo Estévez, and the De Bandera wines have all but disappeared from the market, though the soleras are still looked after. The brand name De Bandera translates as flagship (not in the naval sense) and this wine certainly is. It is sealed with a stopper cork smothered in wax. I was rather lucky to get hold of this slice of history.
80 euros, Er Guerrita

Saturday 22 July 2017

22.7.17 Consejo Predicts Excellent Harvest

If the benign weather conditions persist between now and the harvest, the Consejo Regulador is optimistic of a larger harvest than last year and one of great quality. They estimate that if the Levante wind behaves as it has during this first month of summer, production could be at least 20-25% higher than last year.

Rainfall has been equal to the historic average (620 litres per square metre per year) with certain variations according to location as some vineyards are closer to the sea than others. Importantly the rain fell evenly and without storms, maintaining a good moisture level in the vineyards and not causing soil erosion which happens when torrential rain falls in a short time.

During spring 200l/m² fell in the form of various showers which allowed the soil to recuperate the water consumed by the vines and evaporation from the rise in temperatures. The summer has been very dry so far, but some morning dew has fallen after periods of intense heat and the albariza soil’s extraordinary capacity to retain the humidity from the spring rain and supply the vines with their needs has meant that they are not suffering any hydric stress.

Between January and the middle of May the Levante wind made its presence felt, even causing some damage at the end of spring, but it has moderated so far this summer, only bringing a couple of periods of intense heat, and this has been compensated for by a few days of the cooler Poniente wind and early morning dewfall.

The Consejo says that the health of the grapes couldn’t be better and there have been very few incidences of insect damage, while mildew, which caused so many problems last year is all but absent, along with oidium, and any incidences have been isolated to more humid coastal vineyards.

All in all the grapes have ripened very well and it looks as though the harvest will begin at the end of the second week of August, 7-10 days earlier than last year. It promises to be a great one - if the weather stays fair.

22.7.17 Fedejerez Celebrates 40th Anniversary

After nearly 40 years of the Franco regime’s state controlled single trade union, known as the Sindicato Vertical and to which both workers and bosses were obliged to belong, the new democratic government repealed it. This allowed the constitution in 1977 of Fedejerez, the association of bodegas. Many members of the trade attended the association’s 40th anniversary event at the Consejo’s Bodega San Ginés yesterday.

The last 40 years have seen massive change in the Sherry trade, and in his address to members, Fedejerez president, Evaristo Babé, said the next ten years will bring further dramatic change and this needs a “change of mentality” as well as unity and loyalty towards each other as well as to Fedejerez. He said “it is a critical moment and there is not enough coherence between what is said and what is done”, alluding to the inconsistency of price of certain Sherries.

After praising the work of his predecessors, he mentioned five decisive factors in the evolution of the trade over the last four decades. The changes in ownership of many bodegas, unthinkable forty years ago, such as Domecq, Garvey, Croft, Sandeman, Palomino & Vergara, Bobadilla… some now lost, but some” fortunately” absorbed by other bodegas.

Anniversary toast in the Consejo Patio, Evaristo Babe in front (foto:pascual/diariodejerez)

Spain’s joining of the European Union in 1986 had positive aspects, but also a negative ones like the disappearance of tax relief on exports and the “radical” tax increases which went with it. Thirdly he brought up the dreadful consequences of many bodegas’ obsession with quantity and the internal disputes to obtain maximum market share over competitors. Fourthly he pointed out the enormous difficulty of modernising labour relations, and lastly the “enormous collateral damage” inflicted on the trade by the rise and fall of Rumasa.

Looking to the future, Babé said that “the Sherry trade is enormously privileged for the excellent and unique quality of its wine, for the value of the brand, for its patrimony - both material and immaterial - and for its degree of internationalisation, something many others dream of”.

“Bodegas which have relied too heavily on trade and public institutions to solve their problems have the responsibility to make changes at this crucial moment to adapt as fast as possible, for the next ten years will pass very quickly. Unity and loyalty among bodegas and towards Fedejerez are essential”.

Friday 21 July 2017

21.7.17 Table Wine Harvest Already Underway in Cádiz

The hot weather of the last few weeks has ripened the non-Palomino grapes very quickly and they are being harvested now to conserve freshness and acidity. As global warming advances, harvests are ever earlier; in 2000 and 2014 the harvests were earlier than usual, but this year is earlier still, and most are harvesting at night, especially Chardonnay (the first to ripen), Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. Plantings of these are not huge, but these varieties of cooler northern origins need to be picked soon before they over-ripen. The red varieties are also ripening sooner than usual, but there is less pressure here and they will probably be picked starting in the third week of August at about the same time as the Palomino, which is, of course better acclimatised. The quality of the grapes appears to be very high and there are no signs of ill health. Much still depends on the weather over the next few weeks, however.

Night harvesting at Bodegas Luis Perez' Vina el Corregidor (foto:Pascual/diariodejerez)

Thursday 20 July 2017

20.7.17 Harvest Update; González Byass Best Bodega in the World

With approximately a month to go till the harvest the growers are in a much more positive frame of mind than last year when there were problems with mildew and the harvest was considerably reduced (62 million kilos) due to persistent Levante winds. So far, this year has been much better with high temperatures in June and enough nightly dewfall to give healthy grapes, so a “normal” harvest is expected of between 70 and 80 million kilos, provided there is no dramatic change in the weather.

According to the president of the growers’ association Asevi-Asaja, Francisco Guerrero, there is also better news on the trade front with bodegas buying more grapes and at a slightly better price. Everything depends, of course, on what happens between now and the harvest which is expected to start between the 20th and 25th August.

González Byass is the best bodega in the world according to an analysis of Spanish bodegas winning the most prizes in the last year by Meanwhile the World Association of Wine and Spirit Journalists and Writers has produced a ranking of the world’s 100 best wine companies according to prizes won which puts Spain in second place with 906 after France with 1,026. The top 50 includes 14 Spanish bodegas. GB won the most prizes of all putting it in 1st place with 121 prizes and Lustau in 5th place with 106. So Sherry is really punching above its weight.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

La Choza 2016 13.5%, Viña Callejuela

Bright pale golden straw with golden glints, the deepest of this Viña Callejuela triumvirate.
Fresh and classy with noticeable but not overtly bitter flor balancing a gentle richness with traces of quince jelly, apple, apricot and a trace of mineral. As it opens out it gains in presence and complexity with the richness and body of a fine Burgundy, yet it is 100% Palomino with that lovely flor edge. The aforegoing is in contrast particularly to the Hacienda with its zippier more maritime style.
Substantial and rich, beautifully rounded and a bit riper than the Hacienda and Las Mercedes. That is down to it coming from the Pago Macharnudo. It is perfectly balanced;  if you look in that plumpness you can still find the acidity. Lovely flavours of well ripened fruit, clean and long and stylish.
This excellent wine comes from the 4.4 hectare La Choza vineyard owned by Viña Callejuela in the Pago Macharnudo, often referred to as the Grand Cru of Jerez. The vineyard is pure albariza at an altitude of 74 metres and is the farthest inland and therefore warmest of this threesome. Like the others, this was fermented and aged 7 months in ex Manzanilla butts under flor. The intention of the project was to demonstrate the differences between different albariza vineyards, using exactly the same vintage, vinification and ageing. The results are twofold: firstly these are three outstanding wines in their own right which show just how good Palomino can be, and secondly they clearly show the differences between the vineyards. They also show what a potent team there is in the Blanco brothers of Viña Callejuela and Ramiro Ibáñez. These are some of the very best table wines yet from the Marco de Jerez, but only around 1,000 bottles were made of each.
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Las Mercedes 2016 13%, Viña Callejuela

Lemony straw with golden reflections.
Very clean and fresh with up front flor not quite obscuring tangy Palomino fruit notes of apple and apricot, with floral hints like camomile and the smell of a wild meadow. There is an attractive though unexpected Riesling note but that gentle flor and a maritime trace bring us back to reality.
Super fresh and open with lots of fruit for a Palomino - but that is tempered by traces of minerality and bitterness from the flor which substitute for the lowish level of acidity. The wine is really young still but absolutely delicious now - and very moreish - it is beautifully made and leaves a long clean finish. It is a little darker in colour than Hacienda and bigger and softer with a touch more flor.
One of the three single vineyard wines launched recently by Viña Callejuela, this 100% Palomino Fino wine comes from the 8.5 hectare Las Mercedes vineyard on pure albariza soil at 83 metres above sea level in the Pago Añina, closer to Jerez than Sanlúcar. In the tradition of the Vinos Blancos de Sanlúcar, it is unfortified and sold young with a little flor influence, making for delicious and versatile table wine. Like its sister wines, La Choza and Hacienda Doña Francisca (QV), it is made from hand-picked grapes and is fermented in and spends 7 months in used Manzanilla butts under flor and bottled in the spring following the vintage. The only difference between the 3 wines is the vineyard they come from, and the idea is to show the different vineyard characteristics using Palomino as a medium, and it really works; the three wines are very different. Fewer than 1,000 bottles.
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Monday 17 July 2017

Hacienda Doña Francisca 2016 12%, Viña Callejuela

Paleish golden straw with golden glints.
Very attractive and complex for its age with a perfect balance of flor notes and fruit. There is a distinct vineyard note of chalky minerality, a slightly salty maritime note and hints of orchard fruits with a serious slightly savoury note. 
Super fresh and gently tangy with salty and bitter notes from the flor competing with the apple fruit. There is a gentle chalky texture too. This is delicious and defies those who say Palomino has no character. It not only has character but that of a particular Sanlúcar vineyard. Long and clean.
This one of three lovely table wines launched by Viña Callejuela in the true Sanlúcar tradition of vino blanco. The principal difference between them is the vineyard, and they really show the difference between one and another, both in terms of soil and microclimate. They are all 100% Palomino from albariza soil, in this case that of the 16 hectare Hacienda Doña Francisca vineyard in the Pago Callejuela at 62 metres above sea level. The grapes were harvested manually, fermented in and aged for 7 months in ex Manzanilla butts under flor. Only 1,000 bottles were made unfortunately so let's hope they can increase production! See also posts on La Choza and Las Mercedes.
12.50, Licores Corredera

Sunday 16 July 2017

Amontillado "Sin Prisa" 1/42 22%, Alexander Jules

Fairly deep old patinated mahogany with copper glints fading through amber to a green tinged rim.
Forthcoming and super complex with all sorts of nuances. There are notes of oak butts, autumn leaves, toasted nuts and very Sanluqueño traces of seaweed and brine. As it opens out there is a hint of caramel which is checked by volatile acidity then more nuts come through, even walnut. There is a slightly lean edge which comes from age, but in all it is very fragrant.
Crisp and fairly powerful with an attractive very slightly bitter salty tang, again very Sanluqueño. For a wine of this age there is naturally a little tannin but it is remarkably un-aggressive. It has some slightly savoury flavours too and they mingle with those of the salted caramel and wood leaving a bone dry tangy wine of immense class which lingers on the palate forever.
This is something special. It comes from one bota punta in the 42 butt Conde de Aldama Amontillado solera bought by Francisco Yuste in 2001. There was more than one Amontillado solera, and it would be interesting to know which this one is, but it probably dates from the XVIII century. It is stored in Yuste's beautiful old bodega Los Ángeles in Sanlúcar. The Aldama soleras have changed hands more than once but have always remained in Sanlúcar and retained the style. "Sin Prisa" means without rush, and the same could be said for the Conde de Aldama and Francisco Yuste, neither being in any rush to sell this treasure, indeed Aldama sealed the soleras for years to keep any inferior wine out. Since then the solera has only ever been topped up to replace "merma" or evaporation loss and the wine has an average age of at least 70 years, probably more. Only 400 half bottles were filled in November 2016 with virtually no stabilisation whatsoever, and sealed with a Diam cork. Now there is a rush - to get hold of some of this rare nectar!
70 euros per half bottle, Guerrita

Saturday 15 July 2017

Pinot Noir 2014 14.5%, Peter Maurer

Transparent black cherry red with a hint of brick showing through, legs
Ripe and quite full with an attractive reduction of strawberry, even raspberry character up front, but there is more. This is Pinot from a warm climate with the attendant concentration, but it works. Slight balsamic, spicy notes along with hints of toast, licorice and well managed French oak (i.e. not all new) add to the complexity. It's a long way from Burgundy, but with a style of its own.
Pretty full bodied, gently tannic and perhaps a bit alcoholic for a Pinot Noir, but delicious nonetheless. Well structured with more pronounced notes from the French oak, and nice texture but still a bit young and grippy. It would be brilliant with a steak though.
It was a brave and ambitious idea to make Pinot in a hotter place like Cádiz, but Peter Maurer virtually created his own environment by desalinating a marshy area of  four and a half hectares near Lebrija where he grow his vines organically. A nearby reservoir adds moisture to the atmosphere and he has planted pines to help with shade and rosemary and lavender to repel certain pests. There are even holm oaks and olives. It is very likely that with some bottle age this wine will develop a subtler bouquet and more delicacy on the palate. It already has 14 months in French oak and a little over a year in bottle but needs more, say three years. Only 600 bottles produced.
18.90, Licores Corredera

Friday 14 July 2017

Amontillado Partida Arroyo, González Byass

Very deep, intense brown mahogany with a trace of green at the rim.
Outstandingly complex and extremely concentrated yet very alive and attractive with autumnal notes of pipe tobacco and licorice, a trace of coffee and, of course, oak, which surprisingly is not excessive. At this age the differences between say Amontillado and Oloroso become rather blurred, but there was a definite note of nuts in that super complex bouquet.
A complete contrast to the nose. You can instantly tell it is very old. It is very concentrated and very dry, with crisp acidity and is really quite austere, hard to take for many, yet once a sip is swallowed, it begins to reveal some of the character of the nose in the aftertaste and then lingers almost forever.
What an experience! This wine is from a parcel of Amontillado bought by Manuel María González Ángel, founder of González Byass in 1835, and is therefore older than GB itself at about 200 years. Needless to say there is very little left and it is highly concentrated. It is only used for the occasional special tasting.
As it is not sold, it has no price, so it is priceless in both senses of the word.

It was served from bottles like this

Thursday 13 July 2017

13.7.17 How about a Siesta in a Bodega? Manzanilla Served at Buckingham Palace

Bodega Viña Constancia (Hrederos N Martín) is offering visitors all sorts of activities including dinner among the vines, wine and flamenco and yoga in the vineyard, but a siesta in the bodega sounds great. The idea is to visit the vineyard and the bodega, taste some wines and then relax on a deckchair surrounded by butts of Fino Sherry while taking in all those wonderful aromas of a bodega and enjoying a Sherry cocktail. They will even collect you in Jerez. What better way to escape the heat of July and August than lounging in a bodega?  To book and for further details go to:

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain are currently in London on a state visit. Yesterday, at a private lunch held in their honour at Buckingham Palace they were served  Manzanilla Laureate's Choice, made by Delgado Zuleta. The tradition of the Poet Laureate's butt of Sherry goes back some 400 years and was revived in 1984 by the Sherry producers to mark 600 years of trade with England. The Manzanilla was chosen by the current Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Anne Duffy. With dessert another Sherry was served, PX Triana from Hidalgo la Gitana.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

12.7.17 New Look for Marqués del Real Tesoro

Grupo Estévez is re-launching the Marqués del Real Tesoro Range with very smart new slightly tapered bottles which more resemble wine bottles, and new labels which give the wines a more contemporary and more upmarket look. There have been one or two other changes too. The Amontillado del Príncipe and the Oloroso Almirante, have always been over 15 years old, but now bear the official Consejo Regulador seal of approval. These wines are of exceptional quality. Another change is that two brand names from the past have been revived: La Capitana for the Cream Sherry and Eminencia for the Pedro Ximénez, both of which are around 10 years old. There is no change to the Fino Tio Mateo.

The title Marqués del Real Tesoro was awarded to Don Joaquín Villena, a lieutenant general of the Spanish Navy, by King Carlos III in 1760 in gratitude for defending his ship from pirates by melting down his own silver to make ammunition and protecting the King’s treasure. In 1897 his grandson established the bodega which has belonged to Grupo Estévez since 1989.

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Lebrija Old Vino Generoso 18%, González Palacios

Bright, fairly deep amber with orange/copper highlights fading to a pale rim, legs.
Interesting, like Sherry but not Sherry. It is very fresh and there is a tangy, fruity very slightly appley oxidative Palomino note perhaps even a hint of cider, but there is much more to it than that; it smells of young, slightly sweet Oloroso with  traces of cinnamon and wax. It seems odd at first but really grows on you.
Medium bodied and fresh with that tangy apple fruit, there must be a hint of residual sugar since while it is dry there is a very slight sweetness not wholly attributable to glycerine. It has a gentle grapeskin-like texture and is low on tannin and volatile acidity. None of the foregoing would indicate a 30 year old wine, but it definitely is, and that's the difference between Jerez and Lebrija I guess.
This is something unusual. It comes from the DO of Lebrija which is virtually unknown, possibly because González Palacios is the only bodega in the DO, which was only established in 2010. Lebrija lies about 30 km north east of Sanlúcar and into the province of Sevilla, but sits on albariza soils and not far from the river Guadalquivir. It is said that the town was founded by Bacchus. The wine is made from 100% Palomino grapes grown in the firm's Pago de Overo vineyards and fermented in stainless steel tanks before ageing in very old (over 100 years) 500 litre butts for some 30 years.
14.70 Licores Corredera

Monday 10 July 2017

Amontillado VORS Prestige Don Pedro Romero 20%, Pedro Romero

Bright mid depth antique mahogany with copper glints fading through amber to a hint of green, legs.
Super fragrant, fresh and complex, bursting with toasted almonds and hazelnuts, praline, beautifully integrated oak and traces of orange peel and tobacco. There are background traces of salinity and bitterness which must come from the flor of all those years ago and the whole ensemble is held together with an attractive glyceric sweetness. 
Perfectly balanced between volatile acidity, the crispness of its Manzanilla origins and the sweeter nutty glyceric side. It is definitely a Sanlucar wine with its slightly wild side, and has has great finesse. Dry and intense, it has very little aggressive tannin for its age and has terrific length.
This stunning wine is way older than VORS, having more like 50 years' solera age. The solera itself was located in the bodega known as the Sacristía de la Cruz, part of the Müller-Ambrosse bodega complex built around 1837 and belonging to Pedro Romero. Here all the very old wines were stored for the Pedro Romero Prestige range, to which this wine belongs. The solera dates from 1860 and only 1750 bottles were filled annually. It was a terrible shame when this prestigious bodega closed down but at least its best products are safe in other hands, mainly Yuste and Alonso, even if some of the brands have been lost.
65 euros per 50cl, Er Guerrita

Sunday 9 July 2017

Mayetería Sanluqueña

One of the very many interesting stands at the recent iNNoble event in Sanlúcar was that of Mayetería Sanluqueña. The mayetos are growers who used to make their own wine and sell it – and/or grapes - to the bodegas, but in the last thirty years or so they have stopped producing wine because of increasing bureaucracy. Rafael Rodríguez, one of the mayetos, wanted to look again at wine production so he consulted oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez and thus was born this brilliant initiative which sets out to put them back on the map by working cooperatively under the name Mayetería Sanluqueña.

Three mayetos already have wine on the market and it is hoped that next year there will be five, and ideally ten in the next few years, along with a recuperated old bodega. The four wines all bear the brand name Corta y Raspa but the individual producers names are also on the label naturally. These totally artisan wines are all grown and made as naturally as possible, 100% Palomino, fermented in butt and with  little flor for good measure. Unfortunately production is limited to a total of just over 3,000 bottles and they are only available locally, but bigger national distributors have shown an interest.

Details of the wines are:
Antonio Bernal, Viña la Charanga (pago Maína) 2016 Antonio is the fourth generation of a family of mayetos known as Los Roteños who have lived in the area a long time and his father was the manager of a large part of the pago for years. Their vineyard is on barajuela type albariza with 30 year old vines. Production 1,000 bottles.
José Manuel Harana, La Atalaya (pago Atalaya) 2016 José Manuel comes from a long line of mayetos who have worked in many pagos and whose vineyard is in the upper (best) part of the pago, although it is under threat from urban expansion. Here the albariza is in the form of lentejuelas. Production 700 bottles.
Rafael Rodríguez, Viña de Morla (pago Añina) 2016 A long line of mayetos, Rafael’s family own some historic plots in Añina like Casabón, La Media Naranja, Morla or Las 40. The lighter of his two wines, Morla has clear biological character. Production 700 bottles.
Rafael Rodríguez, Viña Las 40 (pago Añina) 2016 Despite both vineyards being on tosca cerrada albariza and both having vines of between 20-35 years old, their wines are notably different, and Las 40 is fuller. Production 700 bottles.


I noticed that a crowdfunding project has been set up through to save a Málaga Wine vineyard in Manilva endangered by the spread of urban development and wonder if that idea would help the Mayetos of Cádiz.

Saturday 8 July 2017

8.7.17 Latest IWC and CIVAS Sherry Results 2017

The judges in the 34th edition of the prestigious International Wine Competition worked their way through 15,000 wines to arrive at the results and the following are the winners in their respective categories with reference to Sherry.

González Byass Fino Una Palma (Fino Trophy)
Francisco Yuste Amontillado Conde de Aldama (Amontillado Trophy)
Lustau Pedro Ximénez VORS (Pedro Ximénez Trophy)
Diez Mérito Oloroso Victoria Regina VORS (Oloroso Trophy)
Tradición Palo Cortado VORS (Palo Cortado Trophy and Manuel Lozano Champion Sherry Trophy)
Argüeso Manzanilla San León (Manzanilla Trophy)
Lustau Morrisons “The Best” Palo Cortado (Great Value Champion Fortified)
Sergio Martínez of Lustau (Fortified Winemaker of the Year)
González Byass (Len Evans Trophy for consistency over past 5 years)

Sergio Martinez

Meanwhile in the CIVAS (Akatavino International Wine Competition judged by sommeliers) the clear winner in the Sherry category was Delgado Zuleta. The five wines entered all won gold or better. The Gran Oro is only open to wines scoring over 95 points and Oro 90 points in the Guía Xtreme. Their results were:

Manzanilla La Goya (magnum) Gran Oro
Palo Cortado Monteagudo Gran Oro
Manzanilla Entusiástico Oro
Manzanilla Barbiana (magnum) Oro
Manzanilla Barbiana en rama Oro

Friday 7 July 2017

An Interview with Luis Gutiérrez, Wine Advocate Man in Spain

This is a modest translation of the interview with Ángel Espejo published in yesterday’s Diario de Jerez.

What brings you to Sanlúcar de Barrameda?
I’ve come to taste the wines of the Marco de Jerez and a few others from Andalucía, and while I’m here I’m going to present my new book “Los Nuevos Viñadores” (Planeta Gastro) as part of the series of tastings at La Taberna der Guerrita. But I’m usually here every year and combine work with sharing some wines and fun with my friends.

Luis Gutierrez with Robert Parker (foto:decantalo)

Awarding Parker points is a great responsibility and not devoid of pressure. How do you do it?
My job is to write articles but they have to be accompanied by tasting notes and scores. For me it is very important to understand what is happening, speak with people, visit the vineyards, the place… because in the end you understand the wines when you walk in the vineyard. In the end it all boils down to a number, the score, which for me is a hierarchy of how I see the quality of the wines. People think I make a list of numbers, but if I did that I would only be working a couple of days every couple of months, and it’s not like that. I’ve just been in Galicia, and only the tasting notes and explanations of the bodegas would fill another book.

When you started with Robert Parker Sherry didn’t exist in the guide…
When I started I saw that there had never been an article on Sherry in the Wine Advocate and I was the first to write one. A few Sherries had been tasted for the publication but out of context and without getting to the bottom of the wine which for me is important. I am an engineer so I am logical in my thinking and I like to understand the how and why of things. And wine is much more than what goes into the bottle. It is about traditions, culture, countryside, the place, the gastronomy… For me that is all information and the articles I write for the Wine Advocate are very similar to what I have written in the book. I believe people are much more interested in that than in numbers which are just a simplification in this hierarchy of wine quality.

Is it a job or a way of life?
Wine is not a vocation, it is a passion, it’s mad and takes up all your time, and those of us caught up in this madness are happy because we love what we are doing.

“Los Nuevos Viñadores” is a book about wine in which you talk very little about wine.
Yes. It is a book of stories, human stories, about people, about who they are, where they live and what they do, but the idea was that someone like my mother, who knows nothing about wine, zero, could read the book. I didn’t want to write a technical book because I think we put people off when we talk like that and make things too complicated and exclusive. It annoys me when people say they don’t drink wine because they don’t understand it yet they eat meat without understanding it.

Why this obsession with making the world of wine so complicated?
You either like wine or you don’t and you can complicate it as much all you like because it is a super- complex, infinite world. The more you learn the more you realise how little you know. It is important that we try to simplify it all and bring wine closer to the people because we are creating a sort of ghetto, a wine sect, we are isolating ourselves. We have the lowest per capita consumption in Europe and that is dreadful.

How do you feel when you come across a wine with 100 Parker Points?
I always say that it is a wine which accelerates the heartbeat, which really brings out your emotions, it drives you crazy, it sets your head spinning. And after trying it I get to searching everywhere to buy some, whatever it costs.

Armando Guerra, Luis Gutierrez in Guerrita shop (foto:spanishwinelover)

In your book the land obviously attracts you.
I believe that the diversity we have in Spain is very important and in the book I show that diversity and how the wines reflect it. Wines could all be made the same which I don’t like at all, and the more you get into it the more you want differences and personality, which is what the market wants right now. Spain has a tremendous advantage because we have so many indigenous grapes which we have been undervaluing and now we are recuperating them. Tempranillo was standardised in Spain and brewed up all over the place, but how are you going to produce a Ribera del Duero in a subtropical zone with white grapes? It’s been tried of course and was a disaster.

What do we lack?
We lack belief in what we have, and the big step forward is that we are beginning to believe. We have always had some sort of complex, like improver grape varieties. What happens if yours are worthless and you need something to improve them? It’s crazy. It’s about not making all wines the same but about making them different and adapted to each place. It’s happening in the Canaries, in Galicia and Jerez. Right now there is a tremendous acceptance of these different wines in Britain and the United States. What’s happening in Jerez is amazing, and for me Equipo Navazos has put Sherry back on the world stage. People wonder why what they are doing, something as simple as selecting wines and demonstrating how they really are, has not been done by anybody before?

Eduardo Ojeda (Estevez & Equipo Navazos) features in the book (foto:diariodejerez)


In his new book, “Los Nuevos Viñadores” Luis Gutiérrez (Ávila, vintage 1965) examines 14 Spanish wine regions to offer a human profile of the growers who, in his judgement are making some of the best wines in Spain. “Robert Parker’s Man in Spain” is presenting his book in Sanlúcar tonight at a tasting at Taberna der Guerrita along with a tasting of the wines of this new generation of winemakers, many of them young but some of retirement age, who share his passion for wine and understand it as a way of life. It is a passion born of a respect for the soil, the vineyard and its traditions which they are recuperating to show in their wines that the past is the future.

7.7.17 Early Optimism for Harvest

There remain only a few weeks till the 2017 harvest and things are looking promising for a good crop both in terms of quality and quantity. The season has been very dry and quite hot, leading some to speculate on a small crop, especially as there has been very little dewfall to fatten up the grapes. Still, this has helped stave off diseases of the vine such as mildew which was a major problem last year thanks to late and heavy rain followed by over a month of the hot dry Levante wind. It is still early to say for sure as much depends on what happens between now and the harvest, but for the moment the vines are very healthy.

Thursday 6 July 2017

El Pleito del Sherry “The Sherry Case”

“Good name in man and woman, dear my Lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls: who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing; ‘twas mine ‘til his, and has been slave to thousands; but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.” (Shakespeare, Othello, 3, 3)

With centuries of successful trade, Sherry had built up such an international reputation that imitation was inevitable. As long ago as the XVII century cheap imitations were being manufactured from raisins, and by the XIX century it was big business. One infamous concoction known as “Hamburgh” was reputed to contain no wine at all, let alone Sherry. Far from the quality of the genuine article, but at least made from grapes, were the British Empire wines from Australia, South Africa and Cyprus principally. Taking advantage of preferential duty rates, these imitations were far cheaper and had a patriotic cachet.

At the turn of the century one Mr Mitsotakis, a Greek living in England, came up with the idea of concentrated must, grape juice with most of its water content removed, which meant cheaper shipping. On arrival the must would be reconstituted with water, fermented and somehow manipulated to resemble Sherry. Known as “British Sherry” it was a great success and paid even lower duty than Empire wines, but as Jancis Robinson rightly pointed out, it was neither Sherry, nor even British. The Sherry producers had to do something about this blatant forgery and most began to produce cheaper wines, which inevitably did little for the real wine’s image.

By the early years of the XX century sales of real Sherry had declined dramatically and in 1910 the Jerez exporters who had offices in England formed the Sherry Shippers Association to protect their interests. In 1924 the Spanish government accorded the trademark “Jerez” to its producers and soon sellers of non-Spanish “Sherry” were being prosecuted in England. However wines sold with qualifying terms such as “British”, “Australian” etc. were still permitted, meaning that “Sherry” was considered a generic term in Britain. The Denominación de Origen was introduced in 1933, giving Sherry an identity related to its place of origin, and this would lead to long overdue change.

This is a 1935 advert for the Vine Products brand Whiteways. The box on the left reads: "Whiteways British Sherry is of full alcoholic strength - a wine of true Sherry character with special tonic properties for which Sherry is famous. It has the characteristic Sherry merit of keeping perfectly in a decanter, indefinitely, without forming a crust or sediment... (What a load of old.....!)

Civil war in Spain followed by the Second World War severely restricted Sherry shipments and allowed the imitators an opportunity to grow, especially during the post-war period of greater prosperity in the 1950s qnd 1960s. As imitators grew more provocative in their advertising – the South African KWV even claimed that one should drink their product “because it is real Sherry” – the Spanish shippers were getting cross. Finally, in 1961 the touch paper was lit ... by the French.

Exasperated by all the imitations of French wines Bollinger, supported by other Champagne houses, took the Costa Brava Wine Company, a British importer of Cava, to court for passing off the wine as “Spanish Champagne”. Bollinger won the case and the High Court ruled that Champagne should be defined as the wine of the Champagne district, establishing the principle that it was not generic but a place name. The Sherry Shippers Association was inspired and in 1966 the shipper McKenzie & Co, backed by the Association, took Vine Products to court for the use of the term “British Sherry”.

The victorious Sherry Shippers: L-R standing: David Sandeman, Salvador Ruiz Berdejo (Consejo President), Jaime Oliver Asin (Arabist), Mauricio Gonzalez Gordon. L-R seated: Jose Ignacio Domecq, Ian McKenzie, Manuel Maria Gonzalez Gordon and Charles Williams

The complicated case lasted six weeks involving the top lawyers of the day and mountains of papers, labels, wine lists, price lists, posters, books etc., even a XVII century English comedy. But perhaps the most persuasive document was the famous Al Idrisi map from 1154 which clearly showed that "Seris" or Jerez was most definitely a place. Vine Products’ defence was based on generic usage of the term “British Sherry” over a very long time. Manuel María González Gordon (1886-1980), author of the classic “Sherry the Noble Wine” and, aged 80 retired president of González Byass, gave his evidence to lawyers appointed by the court at the bodega as he was too old to travel. Half way through the questioning he offered everyone a welcome glass or two of (proper) Sherry!

The Sherry Shippers won the case in 1967. In his summing up Judge Cross acknowledged that the word “Sherry” used by itself could only apply in Britain to the legitimate product of Jerez, which like Champagne, is the name of a place. However, disappointingly he allowed Vine Products’ argument that since terms like “British”, “South African” etc. had been in use for so long, they could co-exist.

A detail from Al Idrisi's map. It is drawn upside down, so Spain is at the bottom and North Africa is at the top.

The subsequent promotional campaign “Real Sherry Comes Only from Spain” met with moderate success, but it would take till the 1st January 1996, with Spain and Britain now both members of the European Union, for the qualifying terms “British” etc. to be finally banned from sale in the EU. That ban, however does not apply to domestic sales in the USA or Canada, while in Australia the name was changed to “Apera”. Sherry had at last filched back its good name.

The Consejo Regulador is to hold its July plenary meeting at the Bodegas of González Byass to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the interview with Manuel María González Gordon which took place there. One of the Sherry Shippers' surviving lawyers and representatives from Champagne will be invited to participate in the celebrations as guests of honour.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Cream Isabela 17.5%, Valdespino

Deep blacky walnut mahogany to amber at the rim
Serious. Slightly savoury and while there are the expected notes of fruity pasas and caramel there is more of an aroma of old Oloroso with hints of oak, tobacco, toasted almonds, walnuts, figs, well used old barrels and traces of umami, and even chocolate. Most attractive.
Rich, structured and complex with a perfect balance of PX sweetness and serious Oloroso, seamlessly intertwined and in favour of the latter. There is an attractive lushness with a slight toffee note and wonderful texture, and even a trace of tannin. The wine has a tightly honed yet supremely elegant character and is not excessively sweet, it is all about flavour.
Isabela is a comparative newcomer to the Valdespino range. It was commissioned by José Estévez, founder of Grupo Estévez, as a tribute to his beloved wife, Isabel Puerto, not long after the acquisition of Valdespino in 1999, though it did fill a gap in the range. Being Valdespino it is of fine quality and comes from a centenarian solera which has always blended Oloroso with Pedro Ximénez. The ratio is around 75% Oloroso and 25% PX giving 130g/l sugars, and the wine really shows that being blended from the start in an old solera makes all the difference in terms of complexity and homogeneity. It has an average age of over 15 years. Cream Sherry might be regarded as the root of all Sherry's problems, but when it is as good as this, and it is really good, well one thinks of forgiveness. Proper Sherry, just a bit sweeter.
7.95 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Bodegas: Ágreda

Diego de Ágreda, Viscount of Casa Tejada, was born in 1719 and made a great deal of money as a merchant in Mexico. His son Diego de Ágreda y Martínez de Tejada y Cabezón (b 1755) was ennobled in 1811 as I Conde de Casa Ágreda and the title, and great wealth, passed down the family.

José Antonio Ágreda Ximénez Chantre was born in Cádiz in 1790, the son of Diego’s brother Simón, and in 1813 he married Francisca Dominé Mena. He also made money in Mexico before returning to set up in business in Sevilla from about 1829, moving to Jerez around 1864. Among his many business interests was a bodega in Plaza Atarazanas (now San Andrés) and at that time he was exporting between 1,500 and 2,000 butts of mature wine. The Ágreda family were keen promoters and investors in various good projects like the Gauadalquivir Navigation Company; bringing a water supply from the El Tempul spring to the city in 1869 and in the urban railway which was finally inaugurated in 1872. José Antonio was also a founding shareholder in the Bank of Jerez and dabbled in politics.

From about 1870 his son Diego de Ágreda y Dominé continued successfully with the family businesses, especially Sherry. He married Petra Pérez de Grandallana, and of their two children, María Josefa married Manuel Críspulo and José Antonio married Luisa, two of the nine children of Manuel María González Ángel, founder of González Byass and his wife María Victorina Soto Lavaggi.

The Ágreda house was on the corner of Plaza Atarazanas (now San Andrés) and Calle Collantes (now C/Compañía de María, renamed after the nuns who bought the house in 1889) and was a magnificent XVIII century building in Arabic style with a classic Moorish patio, fine gardens and adjacent coach house. It was bought in 1859 from the Gordon family who had lived there since 1820. Opposite was a large eight aisle bodega which housed between 8,000 and 9,000 butts, some of which contained very old wine from the 1770s. It was famous for its beautiful gardens but they owned yet another bodega in the Calle Antona de Dios.

The firm owned the Las Cañas vineyard in the pago Balbaina (now Sánchez Ayala) and their Fino came from there, along with very fine Amontillado. Henry Vizetelly describes tasting unfortified Fino "of great delicacy" at Las Cañas. The casa de viña, which had its own little oratory, was a two storey affair and the owners used the upper apartments as a summer residence while the ground floor was the bodega, used for pressing and fermenting, although latterly fermentation was conducted in Jerez. Ágreda was one of many firms which went out of business after the arrival of Phylloxera and had disappeared by the turn of the century.