Tuesday, 31 October 2017

31.10.17 Romate Launch New Labels; González Byass Launch 2017 Palmas

Despite having being established in 1781, Bodegas Sánchez Romate are always innovating and yesterday they presented the new bottle design for their standard range to 300 members of the Cádiz and Sevilla horeca sector at the bodega. The traditional tall round dark bottle has been replaced with a paler Burgundy style bottle and modern labels, and it is hoped that the whole package will have more appeal to younger drinkers as it looks less Sherry-like. As before the bottles are sealed with screw caps. The new presentation will be available from January.

González Byass have released the 2017 Palma Collection known as the “Ages of Tio Pepe”. As is customary, GB oenologist Antonio Flores was assisted in his selection by Pedro Ballesteros, the first Spanish Master of Wine. Selections were made from various of the older Tio Pepe soleras, the oldest dating from 1880. GB are now the only bodega to bottle wines labelled as Palmas, which are Finos of particular finesse, and the higher the number, the greater the age. As Antonio put it “we have bottled the power of the albariza and the magic of the flor”. The details are:

Una Palma: A blend of wines from 3 butts with an average age of 6 years, lots of flor.
Dos Palmas: A blend of wines from 2 butts with an average age of 8 years, a little less flor.
Tres Palmas: Wine from a single butt with an average age of 10 years, very thin flor.

Cuatro Palmas: Wine from a single butt with an average age of 52 years, an old Amontillado which still shows traces of its Fino background.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Brandy Mons Urium Solera Gran Reserva 36%, Bodegas Urium

Deep walnut mahogany with copper highlights fading through amber to a faintly green tinged rim.
Full and rich with distinct notes of vanilla and oak, walnut and toasted almond, all nicely harmonised with age. There is a hint of caramel sweetness balancing the spice from the oak and adding to the considerable complexity of a fairly powerful brandy.
Classic Jerez brandy; rich, full, characterful and round with plenty of oak yet not excessively tannic despite its age. There are distinct Oloroso notes and a faint rancio note along with nuts and a faint trace of dried fruits. The intense flavour lasts for ages and it takes a drop of water well.
Produced specially for Urium as this small bodega doesn't have the room for a brandy solera, it is occasionally bottled in limited amounts, and is an excellent brandy, though Urium don't make a big thing of it; it doesn't even feature on the website though it certainly deserves to.
21.10 euros, Licores Corredera

Sorry.....couldn't wait!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

29.10.17 Universo Santi Inauguration Ceremony

The official inauguration ceremony took place on Friday in the presence of the mayoress of Jerez, Mamén Sánchez, the president of González Byass, Mauricio González Gordon, representatives of the Junta de Andalucía and the 30 or so institutions which have supported the project. The haute cuisine restaurant is the first in the world to be staffed entirely by people with some form of disability who have been given a chance to show that they too can contribute to society. The Diario de Jerez reported the event noting that while independence was being declared in Cataluña that same day, the 30 disabled staff of Universo Santi were also being given independence - and without trampling on the Constitution. The late chef Santi Santamaría, himself a Catalán, was the first to win three Michelin stars in Cataluña for his restaurant Can Fabes in Sant Celoni (Barcelona). His widow, Angels Serra, who was also present at the event, said that Santi would be very pleased and would have agreed instantly to this project and wanted to be involved. It deserves all our support. The doors are expected to open imminently. http://universosanti.com/

The staff at Universo Santi

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Fino Cruzado 15%, Las Botas

Bright pale amber with golden highlights.
Fine and complex with plenty of bitter flor, notes of straw and gentle traces of oxidation. There are slight buttery, autolytic, rancio hints of cabezuela and a nutty toasted almond note, giving the wine a very serious Fino-Amontillado character and considerable depth. It is on that cusp - or at least approaching - it between Fino and Amontillado.
Full for a Fino, and very complex with an attractive texture and perfect balance between bitter almondy flor, correct acidity and the softer buttery notes. The flavour is intense giving a really long finish which is amazingly fresh and clean, a lovely wine.
Las Botas is a joint project between two young Sherry fans, wineshop owner César Velázquez and sommelier Raúl Villabrille who have spent a couple of years searching for amazing wines hidden away in the bodegas of Jerez and Sanlúcar (but not just in the Marco de Jerez) which they can bring to the public. They mark particularly interesting butts and make a very small scale blend of some of these wines. This Fino is made from grapes from the pagos Carrascal and Macharnudo and the wines were selected from the solera of Fino Señorita Irene at Bodegas Francisco Yuste. The wines have undergone considerable crianza and the scales have only been run occasionally giving a more mature style. In fact this en rama Fino averages 10 years of age, and comes from a saca of 2,000 50cl bottles. The name "cruzado" means the wine is right at the crossroads between Fino and Amontillado

15 euros per 50cl bottle, La Tienda del Jerez

Friday, 27 October 2017

Alba Rojo Pago Miraflores 2015 10.8%, Viticultores Alba

Bright light cherry red with a slight trace of orange at the rim.
There is a lot of lively ripe fruit as one might expect from the production method and a passing resemblance to red Burgundy, but the fruit is slightly blacker with cherry and plum notes. It is very fresh and clean and really encourages you to drink it.
Again lovely and fresh with those bright fruits to the fore. There is an attractive slightly chalky texture and perfect acidity giving it a gently tangy character with plenty of minerality and of course virtually no tannin. It is dangerously moreish.
This delicious red wine comes from sustainably grown Tempranillo grapes grown on 15 year old vines in the albarizas of the Pago Miraflores near Sanlúcar. The hand harvested grapes were not de-stemmed and the whole clusters were trodden by foot. They were fermented semi carbonically in stainless steel using natural yeasts and given 14 days of maceration, roughly half anaerobically and half aerobically without the addition of sulphur dioxide. After 8 months in the tank the wine was filled into only 400 bottles in May 2016 without any fining or filtration. No wood ageing - nor was it necessary. The idea was to produce a young fresh fruity wine of quality, and that's exactly what they have done. This is the perfect summer red, perfect slightly chilled, and surprisingly versatile with food. I just wish they would put some sort of indication of vintage on it.
29.95 euros, De Albariza

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Manzanilla pasada Solear en rama Verano 2017 15%, Barbadillo

Bright strawy gold with golden highlights.
There's a lovely dryness on the surface with straw and dry scrub baked in the summer heat and even a trace of that smell of just-ironed laundry. Yet behind there is a more humid feel with marine salinity and very refined traces of oxidation. It is very complex and really shows how the aroma of flor varies seasonally, and it is thinnest in summer.
Packed with flavour. Dry with a slightly chalky texture, a lovely bitterness and perfect acidity yet all those seaside characteristics are there, and those too from the bottom of the butt. It has the perfect balance between oxidative and flor notes, and is just delightful.
Delicious wine, and the only en rama which is regularly released seasonally. It has about eight years of average age and is selected from the best 15 butts out of 550 in two scales in the El Potro bodega. These are refreshed with Solear at six years old and each saca amounts to 1,500 litres or about 4,000 half bottles. The rest of the wine is aged further to feed the Amontillado Príncipe solera. What is lovely about this wine is that every release is different and you can follow the flor's activity in the butt all through the year and see how the weather affects it. This is just one of the factors which makes Sherry so unique and interesting. And then there's even more fun re-tasting it a year or two later to see how it develops in bottle.
15.25 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Table Wine Bodegas: Huerta de Albalá

This bodega was founded in 2006 by Vicente Taberner Carsi, from Valencia, on land he had bought in 2001 with the intention of producing great red wine. Vicente, whose family had been connected with wine, had been working in Germany importing Spanish wines but was determined to make his own, and after an intensive search he came upon just what he was looking for, the Huerta de Albalá.

The huerta is located near Arcos de la Frontera, in an area where the Romans made wine.  Here the microclimate is tempered by the Bornos reservoir and the Sierra Grazalema at an average altitude of around 150 metres. The finca extends to 91 hectares of which 75 are planted to vines on slopes running from 100 to 200 metres altitude and separated into different parcels according to soil conditions. The vineyards are planted roughly to 60% Syrah, 20% Merlot, 10% Tintilla and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. He is also experimenting with Pinot Noir.

The estate is designed on the lines of a French château, with the bodega surrounded by its vineyards, though the bodega itself is designed more like a traditional Andaluz cortijo. State of the art equipment is used to make wine the old way. Both stainless steel tanks and French oak vats are used for fermentation depending on the wine, and it is all aged in French oak, except the white and the rosé. A new departure was made in 2010 with the acquisition from Osborne of 160 hectares of albariza vineyards with the DO Sherry in the Pago Balbaina. Naturally Palomino was planted here, but Vicente has added some Chardonnay.

Currently the bodega offers six wines, all Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz: Barbazul red, white and rosé, Seleccion Especial, Taberner red and the flagship Taberner No.1 red.

Visits? Yes, by appointment
Address: Carretera de Cadiz 6105 km 4, Arcos de la Frontera
Telephone: (+34) 956 101 300
Website: www.huertadealbala.com

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

24.10.17 Official Spirits Figures

The Spanish ministry of agriculture, fisheries, food and the environment (MAPAMA) has announced the figures for spirits for 2016 covering the 19 Indicaciones Geográficas (IG, equivalent of DO) reporting a rise in sales of 5.8% to 19,597,482 litres. This increase is due to better sales on the home market while export sales dipped. Brandy de Jerez is the clear leader with 54.6% of total sales thanks to being by far the largest exporter. Total spirit sales value was 135,115,262€ of which 59.4% was Brandy de Jerez with a value of 80,254,298€. Of the 19 IGs in Spain, Brandy de Jerez is way ahead with production of 10.7 million litres of which 7.4 million were exported.

Traditional pot stills or alambiques

Monday, 23 October 2017

If We Break the Mystique of Sherry We Will Ruin It

An interview with Lustau’s oenologist Sergio Martínez in yesterday’s Diario de Jerez

Having already won the International Wine Challenge (IWC) World’s Best Fortified Winemaker in July, Sergio Martínez, oenologist at Bodegas Lustau, has now won the IWC Merchant Awards Spain Best Spanish Winemaker. Lustau seems to win so many prizes; Sergio’s predecessor, Manuel Lozano, won the former award no fewer than seven times consecutively.

You managed to win the award at first attempt.
Many might see it that way, but I’ve been working at Lustau since 2003 and since 2004 with Manolo (Manuel Lozano, Sergio’s predecessor. I am doing everything in practically the same way and the only real difference is that before, Manolo was in charge and now it is me. Given that he was 61, I was gradually working to take over from him when he retired, but unfortunately that happened sooner than expected when he died suddenly last year.

“Continuity and a new air”, I think those were the words chosen by the firm in the announcement of your appointment.
Continuity is logical because Manolo set the guidelines, a route which bore fruit, and we need to follow in the same direction. And a new air because I am younger and more into technology. Manolo followed a more traditional, more classical line. I believe Manolo was the only person in the whole of Grupo Caballero who still used a typewriter. I share the same philosophy as him but with more current ideas.

What do these awards mean?
For me it means enormous personal gratification and professional satisfaction and I am delighted for the whole team at Lustau because each member brings something to it, from the one who tops up the soleras to the one who decides on investment. It is a sign that all the cogs are working together.

Part of the awards belongs to Manuel Lozano.
Absolutely and I pointed that out at the awards ceremony in London, because he set the bar and it would be stupid to deviate from his roadmap.

Did you think beforehand that you could win?
Honestly, yes. All the time I saw Manolo, his career and how he worked every day and dreamed that one day I could win it, but I never expected it to be so soon. But that will not necessarily hold me to continue working the same way. Just the nomination was fantastic, but if I won it, so much the better!

Has someone with so short a career as an oenologist ever won the award before?
I really don’t know, but Lustau has won 30% of the World’s Best Fortified Winemaker awards; manolo won it seven times and Manuel Arcila and Juan Fuentes won it before him. I am very grateful to the firm for supporting continuity, for natural succession, and there is the result, a real success.

To what is owed the success of the Lustau wines in this competition?
The wines are very well looked after, pampered from the vine to the glass as Manolo used to say. We are right on top of the whole process and attend to every detail. We are always looking for quality – excellence – and that is what people want.

How did an isleño (someone from San Fernando, Cádiz) land in Jerez?
Although I am from San Fernando, my maternal aunt was from Chiclana; she had a vineyard and was a member of the local cooperative, and that world always attracted me. I was finishing my studies for a career in chemistry and six months of practical sessions cropped up at Lustau in the quality control department with a certain Manuel Lozano as tutor. When I finished they offered me the post of capataz as the old one was retiring. They gave me that opportunity, and I am still here.

Manolo wasn’t keen to leave his bodega, are you more of a travelling oenologist?
It’s true that Manolo didn’t like going anywhere; he was a real bodega man. I‘m not all that keen either as I am a little shy but little by little one gets moving, and I do understand that the figure of the oenologist offers great commercial support.

Lustau has a range of en rama wines; Finos from jerez and El Puerto de Santa María and a Manzanilla from Sanlúcar. So is there a difference between Fino and Manzanilla?
It is a delicate matter and one has to draw a fine line. By its location and definition Manzanilla can only come from Sanlúcar. What differentiates it from Jerez, for example, is that the flor covers the wine’s surface all year round thanks to the microclimate. So using the term Fino in Sanlúcar goes against the meaning of Manzanilla in my opinion.

So how do you know what you are drinking then, since a Consejo Regulador commission concluded that there is no way, divine or human, of differentiating between Fino and Manzanilla?

Strictly speaking, if there is a study which says not, then fine, but there is a clear organoleptic difference because Manzanilla grows more flor. There is a lot of legend around the wines of Jerez and if we go there we will break the magic, the mystique and ruin the Denominación de Origen.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

21.10.17 Sherryfest New York to Open to the Public; VT Cádiz in Peñín Shortlist

The VI edition of Sherryfest will take place in New York between 27-29 October, and for the first time it will be open to the general public.  This will be a great event with dinners, seminars, cocktail events and the Grand Sherry Tasting on 28 October. Twenty bodegas will be pouring 150 Sherries at the Astor Center and this is not to be missed. The event coincides on the 27th with the XII edition of the Sherry Cocktail Competition. Booking is vital and should be done as soon as possible at: https://www.sherryfest.com/events  where more details can be found.

The Sherryfest team

After long and intense rounds of tasting for the latest Guia Peñín, the tasters have selected the 10-wine shortlist for their “revelation” wines. These were chosen for their singularity and quality, and the only requisite for inclusion on the list is that they haven’t been tasted before. You won’t be surprised to learn that one of them is from Cádiz, and that it was made by Ramiro Ibáñez; his Ube Carrascal 2015. The Guia Peñín describes the wine as “a race apart, a vintage wine with a little flor, made by a young grower and oenologist who in recent years has set his sights, along with another group of rebels, on giving back to the wines of the area their sense of place. To achieve this he has simply revised and readapted the winemaking of the past, knowledge of which had been based until now on historic archives. His perspective goes back to times when wines were aged statically, when winemaking was not the most important aspect of the wine, when the vineyard character shone through and when extreme age was not necessary for quality.”

Rare Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva 42.5%, Valdespino

Light amber with bright golden highlights.
Fragrant and fresh with a slightly crisp and incredibly subtle almost Cognac character but with more notes of very fine almost dusty oak like a cabinet maker's workshop . It smells quite light yet quite intense with a hint of dried fruits, perhaps apricots and dates, and gentle Sherry notes, but this is unlike many Brandies de Jerez which have heavier Oloroso and PX aromas. Instead it has the elegance and grace only possible with many long years of ageing.
Light,crisp and very classy with notes of caramel, blonde tobacco and oak. Despite its age this brandy has comparatively little tannin - with just enough to  balance it nicely with a very gentle
sweetness giving it a drier, lighter feel than many. It is supremely elegant and lingers for ages on a very satisfied palate. A few drops of water can be helpful.
This very special Brandy de Jerez comes from a small solera laid down by the Valdespino family in 1842. It was intended as private stock for consumption only by the family and their friends, but some years after the sale of the firm to Grupo Estevez the latter decided to create the top quality Valdespino Rare Spirits range which includes an old Blended Malt Whisky and an old Rum, both also from Valdespino family stocks. The range was launched onto the market for the first time in 2016. The Brandy has an average age of over 30 years and was aged in hundred year old American oak butts well seasoned with Valdespino Fino and Amontillado. Availability is limited and this first batch consisted of 3,000 bottles. If you see it, buy it.
50 euros, Licoreria Latina

Friday, 20 October 2017

Oloroso 21.5%, Bodegas Fernández-Gao

Bright antique mahogany with copper glints fading to a hint of green at the rim.
Refined and fragrant, open and forthcoming. This is a classic mature Oloroso nose with nutty notes of walnut and toasted almond, cinnamon, traces of oak and a hint of dried fruits including a trace of orange peel. Pure and fresh, lovely, it defines the meaning of Oloroso.
Full bodied and generous, almost powerful up front, then it opens out and offers up those lovely complex nutty notes with a good texture and very little tannin for its age. It is very dry but rounded off by some glycerine and balances perfectly, so the serious becomes charming. The flavour lingers for ages with a very clean finish.
This is an excellent Oloroso. It comes from the newest bodega in Jerez - or is it one of the oldest? The original firm, whose origins went back to 1750, was bought out in the 1960s by McKenzie and the soleras absorbed into theirs. So the wines now available from the re-established company are not the same, but they are every bit as good if not better. They come, mostly from old family soleras of the Sánchez Gago family who are behind the new bodega. Anyway this wine has an average age of over 20 years and justifiably scored 94 points from Wine Enthusiast.
33.00 euros per 50 cl bottle ex bodega

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Manzanilla Arboledilla “Poniente” 15%, Barbadillo

Brassy gold with golden highlights, a shade darker than Levante.
Slightly fuller, fatter than the Levante, it has the herbs but is slightly nuttier with the faintest trace of cinnamon and a hint more yeastiness yet less bitterness and it is also ever so slightly sweeter and rounder in style (though still bone dry) and slightly more mature and perhaps a touch more complex.
There is a certain generosity here, the wine is not quite as lean as Levante, its features are a little more integrated, less wild, but a little harder to pick out. Behind the slightly more "hecho" nature there is an attractive bitterness, a faint trace of fruit and perhaps less salinity. It is clean and very long.
Being the biggest firm in Sanlúcar offers Barbadillo a huge range of possibilities for interesting wines. This is a limited edition of two wines, just 600 bottles of each, from exactly the same bodega (the famous Arboledilla) and exactly the same solera (Solear) and with exactly the same age, and the only difference between them is that they come from butts at opposite ends of the bodega. A mere 200 metres apart, the wines show distinct differences. One comes from the Poniente (west) side of the bodega and the other comes from the Levante (east) side. Named after the trees planted on the east side of the bodega which protect it from the heat, La Arboledilla has virtually no windows on this side, while the west side has large ones which allow in cooler air. It is the largest bodega in Sanlúcar with a huge airspace allowing the huge number of butts in the nine-criadera solera to breathe. The wines were bottled in June 2017 en rama. It is envisaged that they will be released occasionally, when oenologist Montse Molina sees fit, and while they are lovely individually, it is wonderful and instructive to compare them. The bottles are sealed with a driven cork.
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Manzanilla Arboledilla “Levante” 15%, Barbadillo

Bright brass-tinged gold with golden highlights.
Very Manzanilla, very fresh with notable saline, almost lemon notes and hints of wild fresh herbs like camomile, yet light. The flor yeastiness is not over pronounced and there is a slight mosto character with a trace of apple/apricot fruit. It smells slightly younger than Solear, but is still very attractive.
Bone dry classic Manzanilla, it is very light and super fresh with plenty of those saline bitter flor and herb notes, and extremely elegant. There are few if any pasada notes, but it is very sophisticated and has great length. Lovely wine, and a bit more zippy than Poniente.
Being the biggest firm in Sanlúcar offers Barbadillo a huge range of possibilities for interesting wines. This is a limited edition of two wines, just 600 bottles of each, from exactly the same bodega (the famous Arboledilla) and exactly the same solera (Solear) and with exactly the same age, and the only difference between them is that they come from butts at opposite ends of the bodega. A mere 200 metres apart, the wines show distinct differences. One comes from the Poniente (west) side of the bodega and the other comes from the Levante (east) side. Named after the trees planted on the east side of the bodega which protect it from the heat, La Arboledilla has virtually no windows on this side, while the west side has large ones which allow in cooler air. It is the largest bodega in Sanlúcar with a huge airspace allowing the huge number of butts in the nine-criadera solera to breathe. The wines were bottled in June 2017 en rama. It is envisaged that they will be released occasionally, when oenologist Montse Molina sees fit, and while they are lovely individually, it is wonderful and instructive to compare them. The bottles are sealed with a driven cork.
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Fino Camborio en rama Magnum 15%, Bodegas Juan Piñero

Gold with a faint brass tinge and bright golden highlights.
It has immediate appeal with considerable intensity and lots of lovely saline yeasty flor. It smells fairly concentrated and there are notes of straw, dried herbs, faint traces of oak and oxidation, blonde tobacco, almond and a hint of that aroma which can only be described as "bodega". 
The intensity continues on the palate; it is big with a delicious slightly almondy bitterness which substitutes for acidity and gives it perfect balance. It is bone dry and its 10 years or so of age and a  trace of cabezuela really show in its sheer sophistication, depth and length. This is a cracker.
This wine is superb. It is a saca from the best butt of twelve selected from the total of 300 in the Camborio solera which Juan Piñero keeps in a bodega in the Calle Francisco Javier in Jerez. The label charmingly calls it  "saca de floración" or late spring when the flor is at its best, or 27th May 2017 to be exact. Following the recent trend it is in a magnum and sealed with a driven cork and hand-dipped in wax. Wine ages better in magnum and the temptation is strong to lay it down for 2 or 3 years, but the temptation to drink it now was even stronger. This solera belonged originally to Fernando A de Terry who were taken over by Domecq and the solera languished till Juan Piñero bought it and got Ramiro Ibáñez to work his magic. This is a very limited edition unfortunately.
39.85 euros, Licores Corredera

Monday, 16 October 2017

Sherry Harvest Summary 2017

It has been a year of record summer temperatures. The Spanish state meteorological service AEMET reported an average of 35.1° - 1.3° above average since records began at the airport in 1952. Rainfall was scarcer with 93 litres per square metre less than average, but this year it came at the right time. The 2016 harvest was blighted by mildew which appeared in the more coastal vineyards as a result of humidity caused by late rainfall when temperatures were already high, leading to a harvest 25% smaller than 2015. This year everything went perfectly and despite the heat the harvest was considerably larger, close to the average, with perfectly healthy grapes, nearly 50% of which were harvested mechanically.

It was one of the earliest harvests on record, beginning in the first week of August and mostly completed, except for the later-harvested Moscatel and PX, by the first week of September. The 29 lagares, or presshouses, of the area pressed a total of 74,969,993 kilos of grapes with an average sugar reading of 11.8° Beaumé. Approximately 2/3 of this came from the vineyards of Jerez where the average sugar reading was 11.87°. A total of 6,989 hectares are in production, 6,362 of which are in Jerez Superior. Since the regulations permit a maximum yield of 80 hectolitres per hectare, a small percentage of musts will be disqualified from DO Sherry for overproduction, but can of course be used for table wines or various other purposes.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Manzanilla Deliciosa en rama Spring 2017 15%, Valdespino

Strawy gold with a hint of amber and bright gold highlights.
Serious nose; zippy, salty, maritime with notes of dried flowers, yeast, olive brine, traces of bitter almond, apple, butter and a light oxidative note. This is much more "hecho" (mature) than the standard Deliciosa and much more complex. Great start!
Very fresh, clean, mineral and saline with plenty of flor bitterness and moderate acidity. It is lively and tasty with an interesting mix of oxidative flavours and those from the cabezuela giving real depth, and of course length and a perfectly clean finish. Delicious.
Selected from the most interesting butts in the La Guita solera by oenologist Eduardo Ojeda at the Misericordia bodega in the Barrio Alto. There are 6 criaderas plus the solera. This delicious wine is approximately 6 to 7 years old. Grapes are 100% Miraflores.
5.00 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Francisco Yuste: Manzanilla Needs to be Better Known Outside Spain

This interesting interview with Francisco Yuste by M Gutiérrez appeared in Wednesday’s Diario de Jerez. 

Where and when did the story of Bodegas Francisco Yuste begin?
I have always been attracted to the world of bodegas since I started working as a very young man with my father. My dream was to one day live in a bodega and I have been lucky enough over the years to be able to realise that dream. My passion for Sanlúcar and Manzanilla drove me to buy up wines from bodegas which were sadly disappearing and to recuperate the bodega buildings which were and still are Sanlúcar’s heritage. What began as a hobby is now a business for which I have high hopes; our wines have a great future.

Francisco Yuste with his beloved La Kika (foto:Fito carreto)

When did you start adding bodegas to your business portfolio?
Since I bought the first bodega in Sanlúcar in 1989 I haven’t stopped investing in recuperating the town’s bodega heritage, both in wine and in bodegas. The first was the bodega Santa Ana in the Barrio Bajo of Sanlúcar, where I now live with my family, after a refurbishment which took over two years. After that I bought the bodega Los Ángeles in the Barrio Alto and the bodega Miraflores which is close to the Pago which gives it its name. These bodegas are all dedicated to the production of Manzanilla. In Miraflores we also have a brandy bodega where we keep the treasures produced by the lost bodega Pedro Romero, Punto Azul Prestige and Heritage as well as the soleras of Pedro I and the Ponche and solera rum.

In the bodega Los Ángeles we nurture some of the oldest wines in the world; the soleras of the Conde de Aldama which date back to 1740, and in my house, the Bodega Santa Ana, we nurture one of the Manzanillas with the longest ageing under flor in Sanlúcar; Manzanilla La Kika, named in homage to my mother, and which has consistently been winning awards since its launch.

It is not all bodegas though; 20 years ago I bought the Viña Alamedilla, 46 hectares of vineyard in the Pago Carrascal near Jerez which I look after like a garden. The last important investment was the purchase of the historic Bodegas Herederos de Argüeso in 2016, with soleras like Manzanilla La E, probably the Manzanilla most widely consumed in Sanlúcar and which for the moment is only available on draught. And of course the iconic Manzanilla San León, which won the Manzanilla Trophy at the International Wine Challenge.

Which would you say is your star product, the one most popular with the public?
The star product is Manzanilla. It is a genuine Sanlúcar product and there are very few bodegas which manage to produce this wine under constant flor all year round. If I had to choose between our Manzanillas Señorita Irene, Aurora or La Kika, I would choose all three, but the wine which is the greatest treasure of those I have rescued over the years is the Amontillado Conde de Aldama, voted best Amontillado Sherry in 2017 and of great pride to us for its Sanlúcar origins. It is a wine averaging over a century of age and represents the maximum such a wine can achieve, and well worth tasting at least once in one’s life. Many people come and visit the bodega from all over the world, attracted by its perfume. There is definitely a before and after when tasting this wine which is derived from Manzanilla.

Which are the most important markets for Manzanilla in the world?
Europe, the United States and Japan are our principal customers, however we have a long way to go with exports. In Spain, sales of Manzanilla alone exceed all the styles produced in Jerez, but this national trend is not reflected in the export markets.

Manzanilla, which has had its own Denominación de Origen for over 50 years, needs specific promotion so that more people outside Spain get to know it, but it is the Consejo Regulador in Jerez which decides on promotional funding. Personally I can’t remember a single promotional campaign abroad specific to Manzanilla, and as we all know, if it is not promoted it just doesn’t exist.

Despite all this, Manzanilla sales continue to grow year on year even though Sherry sales are declining, and this is due to the enormous quality of the wines of Sanlúcar, where biological ageing began.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Bodegas: Hermanos Bernaldo de Quirós

Manuel Bernaldo de Quirós y Portilla (1788-1855) was a well-respected and wealthy man who was mayor of Cóbreces, Cantabria, no fewer than three times among many other local distinctions.  He owned a bodega with a chapel and vineyards in Jerez as well as other properties, both in Jerez and in Cantabria. He married Antonia Pomar y González in 1818 and they had nine children, all of whom died young except Antonio (1825-1901), his older brother Manuel (1818-1893) and a younger brother, Valentín (b 1833).

Manuel (L) and Antonio Bernaldo Quiros

Manuel and Antonio left Ruiloba and went off to Jerez when they inherited their father’s properties there in the 1850s and proceeded to make a great deal of money by selling top quality Sherries. Antonio was the more committed of the two to the bodegas and effectively ran them. The family was devoutly religious and Carlist and gave generously to various religious institutions, even founding a new monastery in Cantabria as well as an agricultural institute which still exists. Manuel died unmarried in 1893, having returned to the north, and Antonio died, also unmarried, in 1901 in Jerez having sold their vineyard El Corregidor and the bodega’s best soleras, amounting to 800 butts, to Sandeman in 1894. These very old soleras produce Sandeman’s top wines: Royal Esmeralda, Royal Corregidor and Royal Ambrosante. The vineyard turned out to be a bit of a poisoned chalice however, as Phylloxera arrived that very year.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

12.10.2017 Beltrán Domecq Promotes Sherry in USA

At the recent XXII Spain-United States Forum which took place in Williamsburg, Virginia, Sherry president Beltrán Domecq presented a Sherry tasting for the delegates including both countries’ ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs as well as business leaders. The Forum covers common interests for a better mutual understanding in governmental, commercial, academic and cultural affairs, promoting investment in infrastructure, tourism and security among other things.

Beltrán Domecq was invited, as a representative of the Spanish wine trade, to participate in a round table on tourism and gastronomy where, along with the famous chef José Andrés he championed the important role of Spanish gastronomy as a cultural nexus between the two countries. He emphasised the role of Sherry in the Anglo-Saxon world and the strategic importance of the American market.

Afterwards he said: “It has been a great honour to place Sherry at the highest level representing Spanish wine at the most influential transatlantic forum. This unprecedented fact is one more sign of renewed interest in Sherry which finds itself in a good place, in that professionals worldwide are promoting its enjoyment at the table with the best gastronomy, both Spanish and international. It is worth adding that the Sherry bodegas are the most visited in Spain (over half a million visitors in 2016) and that wine tourism in the area is an industry in itself generating employment and wealth.”

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

11.10.17 Opening Date for Universo Santi Announced

The much anticipated restaurant, the only one in the world where all 45 members of staff are disabled in some way, will open on 26th October. It is situated in Jerez at the Finca El Altillo, former home of the founder of González Byass, and is surrounded by beautiful parkland, in some of which they will grow organic fruit and vegetables. The plan is to become a culinary reference point offering top level haute cuisine. It will also include schools of catering and gardening for the disabled. Antonio Flores, oenologist of González Byass, has been training staff in wine and there will, of course be a good list of Sherries. As to the cuisine, the idea is to follow the principles of the late great chef Santi Santamaría in using the best local produce and bringing out the best of its natural flavour without covering it up with extras and unnecessary technology. For more information: http://universosanti.com/

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Contratiempo 2016 12.5% Cuatro Ojos Wines

Bright pale gold with silvery gold highlights.
Fresh, clean and fruity with aromas of apple, and traces of lime peel and sweeties, floral hints of jasmine and lily backed up by a mineral, saline twist which means it could be from albariza. There is a natural air about it and and a delicate charm.
It tastes very much as it smells, with a slightly fuller rounder body than expected. It is good and dry yet there is a passing suggestion of sweetness and it grows on the palate, gives of its best and then leaves a gentle, clean, fuity, minerally and really quite long finish.
This very attractive dry Moscatel wine is very young, not long bottled, and is still finding its feet. It is made in El Puerto de Santa Maria from organic grapes sourced in Chipiona. They are partly de-stemmed and fermented at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks, and after malolactic the wine is left to settle on its lees. It only undergoes a very gentle filtration before being bottled and labelled by hand. This is only the second release and consists of just 1300 bottles. I couldn't find a year on the cork or the labels (I found out having done some research, and, of course tasting it) and I do wish people would put vintages on their labels or at least an understandable lot number. There are various sound reasons for doing so, mainly so you know how old the wine is. It does the producer no good if someone buys a wine which has declined after sitting on a shelf for years. Obviously with this wine and certain others from the area, quantities are so small that the wine should have sold out before the arrival of the next vintage, but it can't be guaranteed. Also, it might attract customers if the grape variety were on the label. People want detail nowadays, and an explanation of the philosophy behind the brand name is not enough.
12.45 euros, De Albariza

Monday, 9 October 2017

9.10.17 Fall in Sherry Sales Eases off Slightly

In the latest figures from January to August 2017 sales of Sherry are down by 4% overall, a great improvement on the first quarter figures of 8.6%. Between January and August 19.1 million litres were sold as against the 20 million for the same period last year. It is in the export markets where sales are still falling, following the trend for the last few years, with a fall of 6% or 11.2 million litres, down from the 12 million litres of last year.

Spain has been the biggest market since it unseated the UK in 2014 and here 7.9 million litres were sold including a slight 1% drop. Sales in the traditional European markets fell 5.6% in the UK, 7% in Holland, and 16.6% in Germany and average sales in Europe were down by 6.3%, with a fall of 675,000 litres to a total of slightly less than 10 million litres. In the Americas, traditionally a smaller market, sales were down by an average of 7% with the US down 2%. The Asian market is also small and showed a drop of 5.4%.

Looking at the figures for the 12 months of September 2016 –August 2017 sales decline has slowed to 3.2% with total sales of 33.6 million litres as against 34.6 the previous period. The home market has shown slight growth of 0.8% with sales of around 12 million litres, but the export markets still show decline of 5.3%, 1,2 million litres less than for the same period last year. It is worth pointing out that it is in the traditional European markets where most BOB or own label is sold and it is is this which is in steepest decline.

Looking at the figures by type of wine there is a clear reduction in sales of the vinos generosos de licor or blended commercial wines as well as the sweeter ones. In recent years sales of the crianza biologica wines have outpaced these, and in the figures to August Manzanilla has grown 0.5% selling just over 5 million litres though Fino has dropped by 8.6%. Over the last 12 months sales of Manzanilla were 7.1 million litres and Fino 7.2 million litres. Meanwhile Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado have grown by 31%, 11% and 26% respectively from January to August. While Cream is still the biggest seller with sales of 7.3 million litres over the last year, it was down by 7.3% over the previous year, and down 3% so far this year. Pale Cream sales are falling fast with a drop of 18% this year. The naturally sweet wines are also losing sales with PX dropping 5% and Moscatel 3% so far this year.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Brandy Gran Garvey 38% Solera Reserva, Bodegas Garvey

Deep mahogany fading to amber with bright copper highlights.
Forthcoming rich and full with lots of sweet notes of Oloroso, light toffee and dried fruit balancing a hint of walnut and aromas from the oak. Plenty of holandas with a slightly stoney hint of aguardiente as should be expected, and there is a certain lusciousness.
That rich sweetness is now balanced by some oak tannin giving texture which adds to the slightly pulpy dried fruit and gentle tobacco notes. Some sweetness must have been added (legally) but it rounds off what is quite a hefty full-on brandy with no shortage of character.
Garvey were among the pioneers of the sale of Jerez Brandy, especially William Garvey's son Patricio. There is an invoice dated 1825 in the firm's archives. The age of the soleras certainly helps with the quality of the product, and Garvey brandies were among the leading brands. For a Solera Reserva, this has real character and is good value for money.
10.89 euros from Licores Corredera

Saturday, 7 October 2017

La Bota de Manzanilla 71 "Navazos" 15%, Equipo Navazos

Fairly deep in colour with a distinct amber tone and bright golden highlights.
Clean and fresh with a certain wild saline maritime air yet at the same time quite serious with some pasada notes. There are hints of minerals and dried herbs as well as delightfully bitter yet restrained flor with a trace of nuts coming through. While definitely still a Manzanilla, there are faint oxidative hints of a maturity beyond its seven years. Wonderfully complex.
Magnificent attack with amazing intensity of flavour. A "Manzanillazo"! Bone dry, gently tangy and super fresh with a fantastic balance between the zip that carries it through and the sheer complexity of flavour and terrific length. Those slight oxidative notes really provide character. All that is wonderful about Sanlucar in a glass.
This superb and exciting wine was bottled in January 2017 with an average age of about seven years and comes from La Guita, though not from the soleras themselves. The firm's chief oenologist Eduardo Ojeda has been gradually putting aside a few dozen particularly interesting toneles and butts over the last ten years, and this is the eighth Equipo Navazos release from them. They were selected for being the most classic and authentic examples of pure Manzanilla. It was bottled en rama effectively but with the lightest possible filtration. Some 5,000 bottles were released.
24 euros Drinkmonger

Friday, 6 October 2017

Vino Tinto 2016 13%, Hacienda Parrilla Alta

Very deep black red to a tight purply pink rim, legs.
Young and tight, it starts with attractive spicy notes merging with light hints of oak then black fruits come through like bramble and damson and a trace of violet which balance nicely with the spice and oak. It comes from a hot place yet has good freshness.
Full bodied with a lively tang and all three grapes showing through, fresh, clean and well made with its own unique character. For all its intensity the tannins are unaggressive letting the fruit out to play, though it still needs a bit more time to reveal all.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz was made from hand picked Petit Verdot,  Tintilla and Syrah grapes grown at the beautiful hacienda's own vineyard on an elevated plot of albariza soil sloping towards the Atlantic. It was vinified and aged there too, in 225 litre American and French oak barrels for three months. It is an interesting blend and it really works, especially for the price, and will definitely benefit from a couple more years in bottle. Names like Ramiro Ibáñez and Juan Miguel Gómez have been involved with this project, so its quality is no surprise.
5,20 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 5 October 2017

La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada 60 Bota Punta 16.6%, Equipo Navazos

Light brassy amber with golden highlights.
Super fresh and intense pasada nose with inevitable flor influence but with a little more oxidation. It is not far off what one might possibly describe as a Manzanilla Amontillada as there are definite hints of hazelnut appearing but it is still very much a Manzanilla with all the lean maritime saline notes and there are traces of herbs, apple and autolysis to add to the amazing complexity.
Crisp and full with racy acidity at the start then it broadens out and shows its more mature side. It has some body and a rich almost creamy chalky texture with developing oxidation adding a certain apple flavour to all that saline yeastiness which, while a little less bitter from the flor, is replaced by notes of cabezuela from the bottom of the butt and traces of nuts. This is amazingly complex and elegant.
Wow! This is a stunning and seriously interesting wine. Look at the alcoholic strength. It comes from the La Guita solera and the same bota punta as the previous editions 20, 40, and 50 - and only 18 or so months after the last saca. It just seemed to be in amazing shape, having been replenished with wine from the solera rather than the first criadera. Because of this the wine has a higher average age than the other butts in the solera and demonstrates the direction it would go if it were not extracted for commercial bottling. In fact it has an estimated average age of somewhere between 14 and 15 years. More interesting still - and unusual - is the fact that the butt is filled almost full, so the surface of the wine is much smaller and there is less room for the flor, which though already weakened by less air, fewer nutrients and the strength of the wine, still does its best to survive. This does allow an element of oxidation however, and as the weaker flor can consume less alcohol, the strength rises. This is not a cheap wine, but is worth every penny.
50.00 euros per 50cl, Er Guerrita

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

3.10.17 More on the Sanlúcar Fino Saga

The Manzanilleros of Sanlúcar see the recent revival by Fedejerez of the proposal to prohibit them from producing Fino - which they view it as a historic right - as an offensive against them. The matter was a late addition to the agenda of last week’s plenary meeting at the Consejo Regulador. While Fedejerez president Evaristo Babé firmly supports the proposal, the representative for Manzanilla, Barbadillo’s Víctor Vélez was equally firm in his rejection of it.

The proposal was hotly debated back in 2013, but while Fedejerez could have carried it with a simple majority, it was felt that this was not the way forward for such an important matter, and it was shelved. After January 2016, when bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, Juan Piñero and Sánchez Ayala discontinued their membership of Fedejerez due to continued complaints and accusations of the Manzanilleros by Babé, both in the media and at the Consejo, the only remaining representative of Manzanilla is Barbadillo.

Without their opinions being taken into account or even consulted, the bodegueros of Sanlúcar decided to form their own representative body The Professional Association of Artisan Bodegas of Sanlúcar. Against this background, the Manzanilleros see the Fedejerez proposal as a “purely business” one, while Fedejerez defends its proposal saying that the uniqueness of the DO Manzanilla de Sanlúcar and its production being exclusive to Sanlúcar can only be protected if at the same time Fino production is exclusive to Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María. (which would make it a matter for the EU).

The Sanluqueños reject this, and point to the fact that the proposal was revived just days after the constitution of the Mesa de la Manzanilla at the behest of Víctor Vélez, which cannot be a coincidence. Tension between Sanlúcar and Jerez has returned, although on this occasion the Manzanilla sector is much more united in protecting its interests within the Consejo and it has the support of the Junta, a representative of which was present at the constitution of the Mesa de la Manzanilla.

Alhocen Chardonnay 2015 13.5%, Miguel Domecq

Pale gold with bright golden glints.
Big, soft and nicely balanced between French oak and ripe Chardonnay. Lots of fruity notes like banana and paraguayo then vanilla custard, butter and slightly toasty spice notes from the oak, but there is a refreshing hint of zippiness as well.
Again, big and soft, plump, those banana and vanilla notes carry through, but while there is no shortage of that fat clean oaky Chardonnay flavour, acidity is low and the wine lacks bite. Perhaps the grapes could have been picked a little earlier. Still, it has good length and is very honestly made.
This is the more upmarket version of the Entrechuelos Chardonnay (QV). The grapes were grown at Domecq's own Cortijo de Torrecera vineyard next to the bodega and were night harvested at cooler temperatures. This reduces the risk of fermentation starting to soon, especially useful for white wines as it preserves delicate aromas. They were then carefully selected and pressed. Fermentation took place in new low-toast French oak barrels, and the wine was aged in them on its lees for four months. After bottling, it was aged a further three months before sale. That means it now has over a year in bottle, the perfect time to taste it.
10.50 euros, Licores Corredera