Thursday 31 August 2017

Corta y Raspa Las 40 2016 12% Rafael Rodríguez

Bright clean light gold with golden reflections.
Full ripe and generous, Burgundy-ish at first with a fleeting aroma of toast, but there is no oak here, it is not necessary. Then the mineral and apple notes come through along with hedgerow grasses and faint floral and citric notes. What a good start.
Big, broad and fairly soft, the acidity is comparatively low, yet the wine is well balanced. It has a gentle texture and lots of flavour of ripe orchard fruit with faint traces of herbs all held together with a mineral backbone. It is really quite sophisticated  and super drinkable.
Rafael Rodríguez Jiménez is a 3rd generation mayeto (grower) and member of the group of growers which is Mayetería Sanluqueña, formed to produce quality wines from their albariza vineyards and make a better living than just selling grapes. They are backed by the oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez. The first release of Mayetería Sanluqueña wines consists of four 2016 wines from three growers, and Rafael Rodríguez produced two of them, from different vineyards in the Pago Añina. This one is made from 100% Palomino and comes from the tosca cerrada form of albariza in his vineyard Viña Las 40, and is bottled by EMC3 in El Puerto. Only around 700 bottles. It is a pity all the Mayetería labels are identical except for the information, but hopefully that will change. They have probably had considerable financial outlay, but made a very sound investment judging by the quality. This is great value for money.
9.95 euros, De Albariza

Wednesday 30 August 2017

30.8.17 State of the Harvest

The harvest is now beginning to come to an end with most of the inland vineyards finished. As of yesterday over 59 million kilos or close to 85% had been pressed with an average sugar reading of 11.78° Beaumé. Picking had been accelerated as rain had been forecast and that makes picking much more difficult as the soil becomes very muddy. Heavy rain also brings the risk of cryptogamic problems, but came too late to do any damage to the extremely healthy grapes, so it was more of an irritant than a problem. The grapes can absorb some of the rainwater which will reduce the sugar level, but that was high already and it simply compensates for any loss of volume from the high temperatures. Only Chiclana and Puerto Real, which are usually last to pick anyway, have not begun but will do so shortly. The total crop looks like being around 70 million kilos, fairly normal, but a big increase on last year, but that was a smaller than average crop. The Marco de Jerez is lucky, as many other wine regions both in Spain and abroad are reporting the smallest harvest for decades, as frost, hail and drought have really taken their toll, and harvests have generally been much earlier than normal. Yet some still deny climate change.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Fiestas de Vendimia 2017

The annual Harvest Festival gets under way on 1st September with a multitude of activities. Many are free as long as you book, but there are far too many to list here, so for more information go to:

Bodegas: Cramp Suter & Co

George William Suter Stevens was born in Malta in 1809. He went to Jerez in 1831 where he worked as a merchant specialising in Sherry, forming the firm of Cramp Suter & Co. in the early 1850s. Despite his initially unfavourable impressions of the town, he remained there for the rest of his life at Plaza del Mercado, 10 and was married to Candelaria Miramon Asencio. He was not only British Vice-Consul from 1869 till he died in 1887 but also Consul for the Ottoman Empire. His partner was Francis Cramp (1820-1875) who had been a partner in Port and Sherry shippers Offley Cramp & Forrester since 1846, and brother in law of Joseph James Forrester who made a famous map of the Douro. Cramp spent his time between Jerez, Oporto and London, while Suter ran the business in Jerez.

George William Suter Stevens

Suter bought wine, often from González Byass, for resale in Britain and Ireland, where he had various agents. He was more of a shipper and almacenista  but still produced various brands. Henry Vizetelly visited in 1876 and commented on the fine Fino soleras, kept in a very dark bodega and wine dating from 1812 along with some other very old wines which had been to Manilla and back, East India Sherry. The old wines were evidently highly aromatic but rather potent. Perhaps Suter’s main claim to fame was a map he drew of the Jerez viticultural districts, the first of its kind, with Miguel Palacios in 1857. It could be that he got the idea from JJ Forrester.

By 1877 Suter had bodegas at Calle Rincón de Malillo, 7 as well as two houses, one at number 4 of the same street and the aforementioned at Plaza del Mercado, 10, where he lived. The Cramp Suter Sherries must have been good as for a while Bodegas Cayetano del Pino sold them under licence. After Suter’s death the bodegas were bought by Bartolomé Benítez Lago, who sold them in 1931 to Fernando Carrasco Sagastizabal.

Pictures and much info: Jose Luis Jimenez

Among the Cramp Suter brands were:
Jerez Viejísimo Añada 1840, Oloroso Viejo, Una Raya, Tónico Reconstituyente, Málaga Blanco Dulce

Monday 28 August 2017

Fino en rama (Jerez) Spring 2015 15.5%, Lustau

Bright amber tinged strawy gold with golden glints.
Wonderfully fresh and nicely developed; quite intense with lots of almondy acetaldehyde and bitter flor but with subtler notes behind like faint traces of oxidation, toasted bread and oily, almost buttery notes along with a gently saline hint of dry scrub. Hints of cabezuela add even more complexity.
Equally intense; bone dry and fresh with full-on flavour and that bitter flor and the complexity of 2 years' bottle age distracting one from the lowish acidity. This is delicious and full of that almost sun-baked Jerez style as opposed to the racier brinier Sanlucar and Puerto styles, and has an attractive chalky mineral texture and incredible length.
Now that this wine has spent two years in bottle I thought it would be fun to try it - and it certainly was! It is in beautiful condition and could happily spend much longer in bottle. Each spring, only enough wine is selected to fill two butts, so there were only perhaps a couple of thousand bottles of this roughly 5 year old wine. It just shows how much is lost in filtration and how worth while it is to keep these wines aside for a year or two - or even more.
12 euros per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera

Saturday 26 August 2017

Brandy Marqués del Mérito Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Diez Mérito

Deep walnut brown with bright ruby/copper highlights and a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Intense, even concentrated, with lots of wood and Oloroso, this smells old and serious. There are also notes of caramel, vanilla, brown sugar,  and traces of coffee and pasas. 
Rich, generous and full bodied, this is a real after dinner brandy. For all the wood on the nose there is by no means excessive tannin and it is intensely flavoured, its generosity lingering for ages.
This must be one of the last bottles of the old design which has now been replaced by the Mérito 15 Solera Gran Reserva, which as far as I know is the same brandy. It is all a bit complicated as Diez Hermanos merged with Marqués del Mérito, then they were both taken over by Rumasa. They were then taken over by Marcos Eguizabal along with Zoilo Ruiz Mateos and thus used to make Gran Duque de Alba which went to Bodegas Internacionales which is now Williams & Humbert. The Espinosa family which now owns Diez Mérito have tried to simplify things and now offer a range of brandies which are all called Mérito, followed by their age and type. This solera was established in 1819 and the brandy is around 15 years old, distilled from both Palomino and Airén.
25.00 euros, Licores Corredera

Friday 25 August 2017

El Muelle de Olaso 2016 14%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Pale silvery strawy gold with golden reflections.
Full and inviting, charming, soft with apples and pears and a hint of flowers like camomile but behind that, and as it warms up, there are barely perceptible notes of straw and minerals giving it more of a Carrascal Palomino character. The charm slightly outweighs the origin but it is there.
Plenty of orchard fruit; apples pears even white peach, delicious with lowish yet perfectly balanced acidity and gentle texture. This wine is dangerously easy to drink and another example of how good Palomino can be in skilled hands.
This is the first release of this new wine, alongside its red partner El Triángulo (QV), both Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz. It is made from 100% Palomino grapes grown in the pago Carrascal and hand harvested in various passes over nearly two months to achieve perfect ripeness. 80% of the grapes are fermented at low temperature in stainless steel tank while 20% are briefly sunned before fermentation in seasoned Sherry butts, presumably Manzanilla or Fino. The finished wine is aged in tank for six months on its fine lees and without flor. At the moment the wine is delightfully fruity and fragrant but hopefully more of the vineyard will become apparent as it ages in bottle. The Muelle de Olaso was a pier built by the Marqués de Olaso in Sanlúcar in 1922, and notable for being constructed from reinforced concrete beams, designed for unloading fish and for passengers going to and from Sevilla. It was demolished in 2005.
9.00 euros, Er Guerrita

Official photo - looks red but is white

Thursday 24 August 2017

Manzanilla Deliciosa en rama Spring 2016 15%, Valdespino

Amber tinted gold with golden highlights, legs.
Big and well developed, lots of flor and some prominent oxidative notes. Clean dry nose with traces of olive brine, dried flowers, bitter almond, straw, autolysis and salt bringing a good deal of complexity and undeniable character. Perhaps the oxidative notes slightly obscure those of the wild yeasty beast, but look for it and it is there.
Packed with flavour, this is a classic. There is a delightful texture and flavour from the cabezuela with its nutty butteriness which balances beautifully with the lively acidity which gives it its yeasty salty zip. There is so much flavour it lasts for ages. Thank goodness for the en rama wines in which all that character is not filtered out.
This wine is a different selection from the Deliciosa solera at the Misericordia bodega which has 6 criaderas plus the solera. It is bottled at about 6-7 years old. Grapes are from the Pago Miraflores. It has a higher acidity level than standard Deliciosa which gives it more zip. And an extra year in bottle  makes it even better!
8.00 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Wednesday 23 August 2017

23.8.17 Williams & Humbert to Launch Organic Sherry

Sometime next year W&H will launch a three year old organic Fino from the 2015 vintage while an organic Oloroso is still ageing as it needs more time. These will be the first organic Sherries from Jerez. A couple of years ago Delgado Zuleta successfully launched an organic Manzanilla called “Entusiastico” and behind both projects is Pepe Cabral, a passionate advocate of organic viticulture and leader of Mostolé, a group of like-minded growers who supply the grapes for the organic Sherries. Having approached a few bodegas with the idea without success, the Medina family who own W&H immediately saw the opportunity and signed a contract with them in 2015.

Since the 11 members of Mostolé only own just over 20 hectares of vineyard between them, quantities cannot be large, but the quality is excellent, and W&H bought nearly all the grapes. The firm’s oenologist, Paola Medina, is delighted with the wines’ evolution so far and says that “the idea sounded good from the start since the increase in interest in Sherry coincides with increasing interest in organic wines”. While the Spanish market hasn’t yet shown much interest in organic wines, the northern European one has great possibilities. Nonetheless, the fledgling project has attracted considerable interest from the trade.

38 butts of 2015 organic Fino at Williams & Humbert (foto:AGonzalezdiariodejerez)

For the moment W&H are keeping the wines as añada but are not ruling out the possibility of starting soleras; it depends on how the wines develop. And of course some may develop into Amontillados, Palo Cortados… When the grapes were pressed the must was allowed to ferment spontaneously without any yeast inoculation. To gain organic certification, the fortifying alcohol also needs to be organic and the Comité Andaluz de Agricultura Ecológica (CAAE) must verify the traceability of the complete product from vineyard to bottle.

So far the firm has not come up with a name for the wine. One possibility is to use an existing brand name like Fino Pando Ecológico and the other, obviously, is to create a new one. Certainly a new name would avoid any risk of confusion, but would need time for design and registration.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

22.8.17 Latest on Harvest; Tio Pepe Sherrymaster

Due to a persistent Levante wind and the high temperatures it brings the harvest is being brought in as quickly as possible. These temperatures cause evaporation from the grapes reducing their weight and therefore value as they are paid for by weight. It looks now as if the 75 million kilo harvest predicted might be more like 65 million, but that is still 8 million more than the difficult 2016. Nearly all the lagares are now working with a few exceptions in coastal areas, but they should be working shortly. According to the Consejo, up to and including Sunday, 21 million kilos had been picked, or just under one third of the total, with an average sugar reading of 11.55° Beaumé.

The V edition of the Tio Pepe Sherrymaster takes place on the 6th and 7th September led by oenologist Antonio Flores. There will include visits to the vineyards, the bodegas and the firm’s archive as well as various tastings, one in the mosque of the Alcázar. Sherry will be matched to gastronomy at the hands of Andoni Luis Aduriz and Guillermo Cruz of the two Michelin star restaurant Mugaritz. This is a great way to learn more about Sherry and one can book here:

Monday 21 August 2017

21.8.17 Harvest is in Full Swing

Santi García and photographer Miguel Ángel González of Diario de Jerez shadow Manuel Valcárcel, oenologist at Fundador, as the grapes arrive at the lagares.

The lagares (press-houses) are working flat out as thousands of kilos of grapes arrive constantly from the vineyards. Fundador is processing six tons a day. Things have changed, and not only with respect to mechanical harvesting, but also in the lagares where spotlessly clean equipment can process the harvest more efficiently than ever before. Another advance is the speed of transportation as it is very important that the grapes wait the absolute minimum time for processing to avoid loss of juice and oxidation.

Before leaving the vineyard the grapes are classified into grade A or B and only grade A will be used for wine production. When they arrive at the lagar they are discharged into one of three stainless steel hoppers with Archimedean screws which transport them to the appropriate destemming and pressing plant. One hopper is reserved exclusively for grapes arriving from the firm’s vineyards in the Pago Macharnudo, while the other two receive grapes from their Pago Santa Barbara vineyards and those from contracted suppliers. Fundador has eight horizontal rotating plate presses, four of them exclusively for Macharnudo grapes.

Pressing takes about two hours and is divided into three parts. The first pressing (or yema) releases 60-65% of the juice and is the finest quality, destined to be Fino and perhaps fine Oloroso, the second pressing (segunda yema) releases a further 20-25% of the juice and will produce fuller bodied blending wine, while the third pressing is destined for the distillery and will never be used to make Sherry. Now the juice (mosto) is pumped to the temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks. The must ferments quite violently for the first four or five days, giving off lots of carbon dioxide and growing in alcoholic strength. As the fermentation slows, the mosto is racked into other tanks to finish the fermentation. This stage needs careful attention to temperature and sugar levels and once complete, the new wine can go to the sobretablas stage to begin ageing.

Manuel Valcárcel says that the grapes this year are very healthy with good sugar levels which average about 12° Beaumé, and some were as high as 13°. Fundador was the first Spanish bodega to win the IWC Best Wine in the World for Harveys very fine old Amontillado VORS, and the grapes came from the Macharnudo. Manuel says that this pago gives something special, something other pagos do not, the grapes give incredible structure. It is for this reason that Fundador makes such an effort to keep these grapes separate, and can assure the customer of the quality, flavour and essence of the Macharnudo.

Sunday 20 August 2017

El Triángulo 2014 13.9%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Dense plummy black red with purple-tinged pink at a tight rim.
Soft, fresh and just beginning to shed its most youthful fruit yet lots of brambles and plums and fresh forest berries. The grapes were obviously good and ripe and there is a hint of compote and a passing balsamic note. It invites you in, more than willingly. 
Medium to full bodied with an attractive texture and mid-weight structure with no aggressive tannins. It is very smooth and almost soft thanks to perfectly ripe fruit, though I'd imagined it would have had a touch more minerality, even acidity, but there is no shortage of character; you can easily spot mild French oak notes and the Tintilla siganature. It is dangerously easy to drink and deceptively complex.
This must be the little sister to the Luis Pérez Tintilla. It also comes from 100% Tintilla grapes, grown in the Pago Balbaina near the coast on tosca cerrada albariza soils. The vines are around 15 years old and are trained on espaldera (trellis). The grapes are harvested by hand at night and selected both in the vineyard and on arrival at the bodega. 85% of the grapes are de-stemmed, and a cold soak precedes a coolish fermentation at 22C in stainless steel tanks with regular pumping over. Malolactic fermentation takes place in used French oak barrels where it is aged for 5 months and 15 months in tank before bottling with no filtration at all. Great value and really versatile, works very well slightly chilled in summer.
9.00 euros, Guerrita

Saturday 19 August 2017

Bodegas: Miguel M Gómez SA

Don José Esteban Gómez y Gómez was born in Almendro (Huelva) and founded this once well-known firm in Cádiz in 1816. It was one of only three Sherry bodegas in the city, along with Abárzuza and Lacave, and the only one to hold a Royal Warrant from King Alfonso XIII.

Don José married María Luisa Aramburu Fernández who came from a banking family in Cádiz and was a grandniece of the bodeguero and benefactor Manuel Moreno de Mora of El Puerto de Santa María. They had nine children, three of whom married into other Sherry families. Always in family hands the firm also owned vineyard near Jerez, though it was latterly sold off.

In 1969 the firm needed to move its old soleras to modern installations in the Avenida de la Libertad, 15 not far from the Campo de Guia area of El Puerto de Santa María. This was due to a change in the DO regulations in that year which excluded Cádiz from the Sherry production zone.

In 1999 they moved again, to old, early XIX century bodegas at Calle Los Moros, 3 in the heart of the Campo de Guia. These bodegas were of the classic design of the day, with two 1,000 square metre main warehouses and a gardened patio between them.

The firm limped through the hard times after the 1970s and was finally dissolved in 1999, though the wine was available for a while longer. The bodegas, however, were restored and are now used as a venue for celebrations called Bodega Alameda in recognition of the firm’s well regarded Fino.

Main brands: Amontillado Fino Cádiz, Amontillado Viejo and Oloroso Hércules, Fino Alameda, Fino Arillo, Palo Cortado Gómez and the prize-winning yet strangely named Amontillado Fino Volapuk (Volapuk is/was an artificial language like Esperanto)

Friday 18 August 2017

Tiento Fino Añada 2007 16%, Williams & Humbert

Amber tinged straw - gold with golden highlights.
Rich, and more powerful than usual for a Fino and very clean. It is very complex with noticeable flor, hints of salinity, straw, dry leaves, a background trace of super ripe apple and its skin, and, well, concentrated Fino. It is a really sophisticated wine and you can smell the heat and dryness of the vineyards and even a slight oxidative note which fits in very well.
A serious wine, full and textured, dry and bitter. There is an attractive chalky feel in that body and a certain mineral salinity along with a real bitterness from the flor, helped by decent acidity. It has a rapier-like flavour; sharp and straight to the point, but if you roll it around the palate it shows more breadth with autumnal flavours and the faintest trace of tannin. It has incredible length, almost interminable. Superb.
This incredible wine comes from a May 2017 saca of 1100 bottles, all filled en rama. It comes from two butts (numbers 5 and 6 out of 20) which managed to maintain flor for ten years despite being sealed and having no refreshment, quite something. Grapes came from the Pagos Añina and Carrascal and the wine was made from the first pressing, whose must was carefully selected. It was fortified to 15% and has gained another degree despite the flor, though being statically aged there will have been some transpiration over ten years. This has to be one of the most interesting Sherries - or even wines - that I have tasted, and is a real credit to its maker, Paola Medina, whose experiments with vintage Sherry are producing some fascinating wines. W&H have decided to release a series of vintage Sherries named after Flamenco palos (or styles) which best suit the character of the wine. This first one is named after the Tiento, a profound, majestic and slow style which certainly suits this wine.
25.50 euros per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera

Thursday 17 August 2017

17.8.17 Lots of Interesting News

New Palomino White from Mahara – and new Bodega
The Gómez Lucas brothers, Miguel and José, have produced their first white wine, made from Palomino grown on albariza and arena soils in Chiclana. It is called Amorro and just over 5,000 bottles will be available. The name comes from the expression “beber a morro” meaning drinking from the bottle and was chosen as the wine is so easy to drink, and the word "amor" is in there too. Their new bodega is in the industrial estate of Polvorines de Fadricas in San Fernando which was once the site of the navy’s gunpowder stores. We can look forward to more interesting wines from this bodega in the future, as they now have the space to experiment.

Universo Santi Restaurant Set to Open Late September
This unique project is located in the Altillo, the former house of Manuel María González Ángel, and will be staffed exclusively by people with some form of disability. Employees have been receiving training in wine from González Byass. Jerez city council owns the building while the project is financed by various charitable foundations and supported by top chefs and sommeliers and is a not-for-profit enterprise, which means that haute cuisine can be offered at sensible prices. It deserves to be a great success as everyone wins – diners and the disabled.

Sherry Sales Surge at Majestic
The UK wine retail chain Majestic Wine has reported huge growth in sales of Sherry with an overall increase of 46% over the last 12 months and an amazing 71% for the dry, more up-market styles. The firm attributes this to “hipsters” who may use the wine for tapas or mixing and also buy craft ales and gins, proving that Sherry is finally moving on from the “drink for grannies” image. Meanwhile, the International Wine & Spirits Record is predicting growth in Sherry sales of 18% over the coming five years. іOjalá! as we say here (let’s hope so!)

Wednesday 16 August 2017

16.8.17 Latest on the Harvest

It is now a week and a half since Barbadillo kicked off the harvest and a few million kilos have already been picked. As from today picking will become generalised in the inland vineyards, while those near the coast will need to wait a further few days till the right sugar levels are achieved. A light Levante wind is forecast for the weekend and with sugar levels well over 12° Beaumé it is better to pick soon than take the risk of volume(and therefore financial) losses by waiting for even higher levels of sugar, as the price paid for the grapes is based on weight, not quality.

The biggest problem would be if any rain were to fall, which would make harvesting difficult in muddy conditions, and if the humidity were followed by hot dry weather there would be a risk of botrytis, though nobody thinks this is likely. The grape price has crept up to 0.36€/kilo which is good, but Sherry grapes are still among the cheapest around. If you are here during the harvest there is no better way to see it than with who offers personalised visits.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

15.8.17 International Sherry Week 2017

International Sherry Week 2017 will run from the 6th – 12th November, and is now in its IV edition.  It gets bigger every year as more people discover that Sherry is such a versatile wine that it is ideal for any kind of event and really brings people together. Now is the time to start organising your event and will give it free promotion. It could be any sort of event; a tasting at home or at a venue, online perhaps; a food and Sherry matching session; Sherry cocktails; in-store tastings at wine shops; comparative tastings - blind tastings even, it only matters that you enjoy some Sherry with your friends - and that’s not hard to do! Salud!

Monday 14 August 2017

Pedro Ximénez Duquesa 18%, Sánchez Romate

Almost completely opaque blacky walnut brown fading to intense amber at the rim, viscous.
Very fruity, mainly dried fruit of course, with raisins, prunes, dates and figs to the fore along with toffee, carob and a slight toasted note from the oak. There are traces of coffee and cinnamon too.
Full on the palate with lots of texture and those delicious dried fruit flavours. It is unctuously sweet with a hint of honey yet the oak and coffee notes and a perfect touch of very slightly citric acidity provide an element of balance. Fantastic length.
This excellent PX is, at some 8-10 years old, the younger version of the superb 15+ year old PX Cardenal Cisneros. Despite its comparative youth it has considerable class and density and is good enough to feature in the firm's Reservas Especiales range and scored 90 from the Guía Peñín and 91 from Robert Parker.
14.00 ex bodega

Sunday 13 August 2017

Harvesting at Grupo Estévez

Times have changed. Hundreds of people - mostly women, as the men were working in construction during the better years – used to form teams of pickers and arrived at the vineyards at dawn armed with knives or clippers. It was a long, hard job with pauses only to eat. Now the machines have taken over and there is barely a trace of the harvesting teams of old, who are now only needed in vineyards with difficult access for the machines or which contain old vines which have not been planted in a suitable way for machine harvesting.  This requires the rows of vines to be spaced to allow the passage of the machine and the vines to be trained on trellises at a certain height. The timetable has been reversed with the machines starting at ten at night and finishing at seven in the morning.

When darkness falls and while most people are sleeping the machines get to work, equipped with powerful headlights, cameras and various sensors so every detail of the ground is visible. Working at night has several advantages. It is better for the machines and their drivers to work at 22° than at 37° and the lower nocturnal temperature delays oxidation of the grapes or even premature fermentation. In the early days of machine harvesting much damage was caused to the vines which shortened their lifespan, but technology has moved on and machines are now more efficient and much faster than people.

Harvesting with Jerez in the background (foto:Manuel Aranda/diariodejerez)

Grupo Estévez is using a total of nine machines to cover their nearly 800 hectares of vineyard. Each one is different and adjusted for different vineyards but they function in much the same way. On the upper part there are two hoppers which collect the grapes, while on the lower part vibrating devices shake the grapes off the vine and collect them on a tray fitted with an elevator which takes them to the hoppers. There are powerful fans which blow away any dust, twigs or leaves. The process is fast and efficient but with all the shaking there can be a little loss of juice, and this calls for equally efficient transport to get the grapes to the bodega as quickly as possible. 80% of the company’s grapes are now harvested by machine.

Experts agree that no two harvests are the same; all sorts of factors affect the quality of the grapes, be they related to the climate, weather or environmental conditions. This year they look very good, and if they look good they usually are good. This year Estévez is predicting a 20-25% higher yield than last year, and of better quality. Eduardo Ojeda, the firm’s technical director reckons that the grapes are at about 12-12.5° Beaumé, almost two degrees higher than the regulatory minimum of 10.5°, which will of course require less fortifying spirit.

According to the Consejo Regulador, the harvest is inherently about logistics in which the efficiency of organisation will have both technical and financial consequences. In terms of costs machines are cheaper. Each one does the job of 100 pickers, and other processes are increasingly mechanised. In fact Estévez is only using 40 people for the harvest including truck drivers, machine operators and foremen. It requires only three people to maintain and operate each machine, taking turns during the working night, after which they need to degrease, disinfect and clean the machine ready for the next job. Since they cost 116,000 – 200,000 euros, maintenance of the machines is vital. They are hired, and the price is calculated in function of the area of land they will cover and the weight of grapes they will collect. Meanwhile the hand picking will start at the beginning of next week.

Saturday 12 August 2017

Viña Galvana 2015 12%, Bodegas Delgado Zuleta

Pale bright almost silvery gold with light gold glints.
Interesting and fruity notes of geranium, tangerine peel and sappy saline green herbs, camomile tea, with background hints of apple and barely ripe apricot, the Moscatel is notable on the nose but the Palomino is apparent in the background. Slightly unusual yet very attractive and characterful.

Fresh and crisp up front with all that tangy herbal fruit and a faint saline note then softens into a very gentle very slightly chalky textured finish with lingering fruit. Very drinkable yet it has a subtle serious side.
Made by Manzanilla specialists and one of the oldest bodegas (1744) Delgado Zuleta, this Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz contains 85% Palomino and 15% Moscatel. The grapes are from vineyards located near the coast between Sanlúcar (Palomino) and Chipiona (Moscatel). The musts were fermented separately at low temperature in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged on its lees and allowed to decant naturally before bottling, giving the desired young fresh fruity style and losing the minimum in stabilisation. 18,000 bottles are produced annually. The label shows horse racing on Las Piletas beach, Sanlúcar.
4.10 euros, Licores Corredera

Friday 11 August 2017

Alba Rosado Brut Nature 2015 13%, Viticultores Alba

Quite a full rosé colour, a sort of light slightly orangey red  fading to salmon pink, decent mousse.
Gentle, super fresh and attractive with notes of ripe red fruit like pomegranate, redcurrant and strawberry. There is a slightly mineral air and a certain crispness from the Tintilla, and the Palomino also makes itself apparent in a faint apple note.
Fresh, fairly crisp and good and dry. It is beautifully balanced and clean which helps drive home those fruit notes, and there is a gentle chalky texture and a mineral hint in the background. Soft ripe red fruits predominate and make it very moreish, and it has very good length.
Yet another winner from Viticultores Alba who are obsessed with their wine being as natural as possible. They don't interfere in anything and take what the vineyard has to give. This charming wine is made from a blend of Palomino (93%) and Tintilla (7%) grown organically in the albariza vineyards of Sanlúcar. It is fermented in a stainless steel tank using natural local yeasts and bottled while still fermenting to retain the sparkle. No SO2 (sulphur dioxide) nor any other additive is used and the wine is as natural as is humanly possible. It is disgorged to order, and this particular bottle was disgorged by hand in October 2016 having spent about 21 months en rima - or completing fermentation in bottle. Only around a thousand bottles were made. Brut Nature means no addition of sugar ("dosage"). With sparkling wines sugar is sometimes added to balance the tartaric and carbonic acidity of the wine (eg Brut Champagne contains between 6 and 12 g/l sugar yet still seems dry). The addition of sugar in Alba wines is completely unnecessary and is never done.
27.00 euros, Er Guerrita

Thursday 10 August 2017

10.8.17 Sherry Harvest has Begun

The Palomino grapes are already being picked in what is the earliest harvest anyone can remember, and it looks very unlikely that it will ever again begin in early September as it did before. The harvest has been getting ever earlier thanks to global warming, and recently it has been beginning in the second half of August, but this is unprecedented. Barbadillo began picking in their Gibalbín and Santa Lucía vineyards near Jerez on Monday having begun the pies de cuba at the end of last week. Grapes from the inland vineyards have easily exceeded the minimum sugar levels of 10.5° Beaumé required by the Consejo Regulador – with some reaching 15°. Much of the table wine harvest is already done.

A harvester drags a container of grapes in Barbadillo's Gibalbin vineyard (foto:MAGonzalez diariodejerez)

In its last forecast at the end of July, the Consejo predicted a possible increase in yield of 20% over last year, but it is still too early to be sure. Also it should be remembered that last year’s crop was quite small. Quality appears to be exceptional however, certainly better than last year. Grupo Estévez began harvesting last night and will be in full swing by the middle of next week, except for the vineyards at Sanlúcar which always ripen a little later, in about 10 days’ time. Williams & Humbert have begum picking their organic Palomino grapes and expect to begin the main harvest on Monday. For their part, some of the growers for González Byass will begin tonight while GB will begin on their own vineyards on Wednesday, and Fundador are carrying out checks to see how ready their and their suppliers’ grapes are.

Some 80% of the grapes will be harvested mechanically, but is some small vineyards or those with difficult access, hand picking will be necessary. The Cooperative will by contrast be picking 80% of its members’ grapes by hand which will require some 500 people, though they are not expecting to start picking before the end of next week. All the winemakers are in agreement that, even though the harvest is so early, the grapes are of superb quality.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Canasta Cream VOS 20%, Williams & Humbert

Dark mahogany with copper tones fading through amber to a green tinged rim.
Forthcoming and complex, there's a lot happening here. Figs, dates, raisins, traces of oak, even aromatic woods, brown sugar all wrapped up in caramel. Way beyond a normal Cream Sherry and way better and much more interesting.
Rich and sweet, with lots of caramel and dried fruits, a hint of walnut, yet the sweetness is beautifully balanced by acidity allowing the intense flavour to come through. There is an attractive texture and no cloying, and the flavours linger for ages. If only all Cream Sherry could be like this.
This is the extra special version of the best selling Canasta Cream. Standard Canasta is a blend of roughly 75% Oloroso from the pagos Balbaina and Carrascal and 25% PX, and the blend is made at the sobretablas stage, so the wines are homogenised throughout their ageing before the wine is bottled at about six years of age. This is the same wine, introduced in 2016, with an extra 14 years of solera which have given it considerably more complexity and created an absolute classic in which the sweetness is less accentuated and the Oloroso shines through. Brilliant gently chilled after dinner.
30.95 euros per 50cl, Licores Corredera

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Brandy Alma de Magno Solera Gran Reserva 36%, Osborne

Deep blacky walnut brown fading to amber with bright copper highlights.
Lively with quite a lot happening: notes of walnut, oak, fresh pipe tobacco and dried fruits: raisin, fig, quince jelly and perhaps a hint of orange peel. There is a faint background mineral trace I associate with column still spirit which is all but covered by the warmth and breadth and gentle sweetness.
Big, bold and generous, richly flavoured with a noticeable touch of sweetness making it incredibly smooth. There are caramel/toffee notes as well as Oloroso and orange and maybe a hint of nutmeg. No aggressive wood tannins and considerable length.
This is the better version of Magno Solera Reserva with an avarage age of five years. It is distilled at the firm's plant in Tomelloso from 100% Airén grapes, mostly in pot stills (holandas) but some column still spirit also forms part of the blend. The American oak ageing butts, which are of course located in El Puerto de Santa Maria, are mostly seasoned with Oloroso, (but there is something else there too) which gives it its distinct full bodied yet very smooth character. The brandy was launched in 2007 as a more affordable Solera Gran Reserva, filling a gap in the range. Alma is the Spanish word for "soul" and mine likes it very much.
15 euros, widely available

Monday 7 August 2017

7.8.17 Sherry Sales for the First Half of 2017

The existing trend continues with export sales down and domestic sales up. Total sales were 7.2% down with a volume of a little under 15 million litres, as against the same period for 2016 with a volume of over 15.6 million litres, and 2015 with 16.2 million. Exports are down by 13% and amounted to less than 8 million litres while sales on the Spanish market rose by 0.8% with sales of a little over 6.5 million litres.

Spain has now consolidated its place as the largest market, having knocked Britain into second place some time ago, and it is the bodega brands which are selling, while sales of the cheap BOB, which did so much damage to the image of Sherry, are plummeting. The good results in Spain are driven by gastronomy and Sherry’s amazing ability to match any dish, and are encouraging the bodegas to concentrate on quality.

Sherry is slowly shedding the “wine for grannies” image and playing a starring role in the fashionable bars and Sherry Bars which are proliferating in Europe, Asia and America. It is now quality wine which is selling as demonstrated by the falling sales of BOB in its traditional markets. In the UK sales dropped by 13.3% with a volume of 2.7 million litres, in Holland and Germany sales dropped by 16% and 22% respectively with a total volume of just over 3 million litres, as against 3.8 million last year.

The US market dropped by 10% to 573,578 litres and, despite its admiration for Spanish culture, its venenciadores and its Sherry bars, the Asian market remains to be cracked. Sales were very modest; not far over 100,000 litres, but at least they were up, by 2.6%.

Looking at the last twelve months, total sales were down by 5.7% with a volume of 33.3 million litres as against the previous year which saw sales of 35.3 million litres. During the same period the Spanish market grew by 3.4% with over 12 million litres, while exports fell by over 10% to a volume of just over 21 million litres as against 23.6 in the previous year. The vast majority of Sherry is sold in Europe which as a whole saw a drop of 10% with a volume of 19.2 million litres, while the US saw a more serious drop of 13.6% and Asia of 4.6%.

Sunday 6 August 2017

6.8.17 Fernández-Gao Launch De Ecclesia

The recently re-established firm of Fernández-Gao has launched a new high quality communion wine which is not only the first such wine with the Denominación de Origen Sherry but also has the approval of the Bishop. The idea was born of the friendship between the parish priest of Algar, Juan Antonio Vital, and the technical director of Fernández-Gao, Juan Carlos Sánchez. The Bishop had contacted the priest about establishing a new parish in Arcos, which naturally would need funding, and Juan Carlos offered to help. Juan Antonio thought up the wine’s name and designed the label, while Juan Carlos created the wine.

The bodega is not producing De Ecclesia for profit, but the parish priest feels the Church could sell the wine at 6-7 euros and has already obtained a domain name for this purpose. Production is unlikely to exceed 10,000 bottles however. Communion wine has traditionally been a fairly low strength basic wine gifted in garrafas to the priests by the bodegas, but not usually specifically made for the purpose. De Ecclesia, in contrast, will be fully bottled and labelled and the arms of the city will adorn the top of the cork. They are so confident in the quality of the wine that they are recommending people to take the host and the wine separately so as to appreciate its flavour.

Saturday 5 August 2017

5.8.17 The Great Sherry Tasting 2017

The GST is back for its VII edition. This is the world’s largest Sherry tasting outside Jerez and it will take place in London at Level 2 OXO Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London on Monday 11th September.  There will be at least 200 wines and over 24 bodegas, in most cases represented by their UK importers. Three masterclasses have been arranged; “Becoming a Sherry Sommelier” by two leading sommeliers, “Pairing Cheese with Sherry” by Susie Atkins and “The Nation’s Favourite Sherries: En Rama and Cream” by Beltrán Domecq.

Bodegas Alonso will be there for the first time as well as Garvey and there is a welcome return of Sandeman. Sherry cocktails will be available along with lots of people who can answer any questions about Sherry. So if you are in the trade, this event is unmissable, and you can book here:

Fino 15%, El Maestro Sierra (Re-taste)

Pale straw gold with brassy gold highlights.
Quite big and complex with all sorts of nuances. There is plenty of flor giving it lots of  surface almondy bitterness, hints of olive brine and bread dough, and  a noticeable influence of cabezuela giving it an attractive buttery -almost cheesey - seriousness. This is class.
Lots of character, a real demonstration of what flor can do both on the surface of the wine and from the bottom of the butt, all in perfect harmony. This is cracking stuff. Bone dry, bitter, balanced and complex, there is a gentle texture and considerable length. All you should expect of a Fino and more.
Always an excellent Fino, this wine was bottled in April 2017 at at least five years old and is super fresh and super expressive. It speaks volumes about the bodega's location and the skill of oenologist Ana Cabestrero. While it is not bottled en rama, it has not been subjected to excessive stabilisation leaving plenty of flavour, plenty. 
7.10 euros per half bottle from Licores Corredera

Friday 4 August 2017

4.8.17 Xeco: a new Fino is Launched

Using the strapline “XECO, a Sherry brand for YOU – not Granny!”  three self-confessed “Fino fiends”, Polly, Beanie and Alexa have crowdfunded the launch of a new Fino in ”disruptive packaging”. It is aimed at young people in wine and cocktail bars, and the girls are working with bartenders to develop more cocktails. The wine itself is a four year old Fino sourced from Bodegas Diez Mérito and will be available any day now in the UK from Master of Malt with an RRP of £15.99 - £16.99. The plan is to launch an Amontillado in the autumn and more information can be found at

Thursday 3 August 2017

3.8.17 Sherry Vinegar Sets Record Sales

While Sherry is beginning to make a comeback, Jerez vinegar sales are soaring, registering a 9% increase in first half sales over last year. This is all the more impressive when last year’s sales hit a record of 5 million litres, which was itself an 11% increase on 2015. The biggest market is Spain, closely followed by France and the two countries account for 80% of total sales, with the USA in third place with a spectacular increase of 71%. Sales are largely driven by gastronomy but domestic use also contributes greatly.  The recent recession saw sales levels wobble, but they have surged back as Spain’s economy begins to recover. Jerez vinegar is unique, being born of Sherry wine, which has a much longer history than most, and, of course, the solera system. It is also controlled by the Consejo Regulador.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Marismilla 2015 13.5%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Delicate, pretty very slightly orangey onion skin pink
Attractive, fresh, tight and delicate yet forthcoming fruity aromas like a fruit salad of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and, of course, black grapes - and a hint of their texture. Extremely inviting.
Super fresh and beautifully balanced with gentle, perhaps slightly chalky grapeskin texture, a trace of clean minerality and those delicious berry flavours. The depth of flavour and aroma belies the pale colour as it is made from the mosto yema or free-run juice. Delicious with a long clean finish.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz is quite unusual as there are few rosés produced here and fewer still from the Tintilla grape. The organically grown grapes come from the bodega's own albariza vineyards at Hacienda Vistahermosa in the pago Corchuelo. They are hand picked at night for maximum freshness and minimum oxidation and selected both at the vineyard and again at the bodega. They are 100% de-stemmed and given a four hour cold soak. The free-run juice is then fermented at low temperature in a process known as "lagrima" (or tears), giving a delicate but aromatic and tasty wine which is great value.
7.20 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Table Wine Bodegas: Forlong

Established by a young couple from El Puerto de Santa María, Alejandro Narváez and Rocío Áspera in 2009, this bodega has gone from strength to strength. It started as a passion, became a dream and later a reality, and all the more impressive in the depths of an economic crisis. Alejandro had studied marketing and Rocío had studied business, but their career path changed when Rocío’s father bought the land known as La Finca del Olivar in 2007 and planted a hectare with vines. They made the first wine in 2009 and fell in love with the idea. Alejandro then studied viticulture and oenology gaining further experience in Bordeaux, while Rocío studied viti-viniculture in hot climates and worked for a while at Bodegas Luis Pérez.

Alejandro & Rocio with their wines standing in front of the tinajas.

The vineyard is in the pago Balbaina Baja near El Puerto and once belonged to Charles Furlong, British Vice Consul and partner in the long gone Sherry producer Matthiesen Furlong. They have been farming it biodynamically and hold a certificate of organic agriculture for which they had to go through a three year conversion period. Inspectors visit every year to check that no chemicals are being used, and they are not as these two passionately believe that the vineyard should be reflected in the wine, and the better the grapes, the better it is. They now have two further vineyards; in Balbaina Alta between Jerez and Sanlúcar, and another, La Greduela, located four kilometres east of Jerez where they grow four hectares of red grapes. The Balbaina vineyards have albariza soils and La Greduela has more clayey soils which help to emphasise the fruitiness in the wine. A total of eleven hectares are currently planted, though they are not all in production yet.

(foto: Cristo Garcia)

Until finance could be raised to construct the bodega, Alejandro and Rocío made the wine using the facilities at Sancha Pérez at Conil before the first Forlong wines were released in February 2014; 2,000 bottles of Petit Forlong red and 1,000 of Forlong Blanco. One approaches the bodega, which is in the middle of the vineyard, down a track lined with mulberry trees, passing the small olive grove. Here, various winemaking techniques are employed including fermentation in steel tanks, barrels and eight tinajas (huge clay jars). Barrel ageing is carried out in a fantastically humid cellar. Innovation and experimentation are bywords here with, for example, Palomino made using the red wine process and aged in ex Oloroso butts, while they are also fermenting in tinajas and experimenting with different periods of oak ageing, and proportions of grape varieties in the blends, not to mention sparkling wine.

The vineyards are planted to Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tintilla, Merlot, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez. Grapes are harvested manually, selected and stored in a cold room at about 4-5 C for 24 hours and destemmed before winemaking commences. Only natural yeasts are used. Crianza takes place in the cellar below the bodega, and is kept to a minimum to allow wines to develop in bottle.

Production has grown from the initial 3,000 bottles to the current 60,000, with seven different wines on the market. A further two wines are made exclusively for the Michelin starred Aponiente restaurant in El Puerto run by Ángel León, one of which is sparkling and called simply Burbujas (Bubbles).  Thanks to the quality and innovative style of not only the wines, but also the lovely labels designed by Victoria Cerezo Doello, they have no trouble selling them and nearly all are sold locally, but they would like to grow and sell internationally. Given their varied and proven skills, this should not be a problem, and export success would be well deserved.

White wines:
Blanco Forlong
El Amigo Imaginario
Rose wines:
Rosado Forlong
Red wines:
Assemblage Tinto
Petit Forlong

Address: Carretera Jerez - Rota Km 6, 11500 El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz.
Telephone: (00 34) 620 211 203 (mobile)
Website: (still in construction)
Visits: would need to be arranged