Thursday, 30 November 2017

30.11.17 New Saca of Goya XL; Sherry Casks Big Business

This is only the 4th saca of this superb Manzanilla which is not released regularly but only when conditions are exceptional, and then only from very few carefully selected butts. It comes from the family reserve Manzanilla solera which was located in an old underground bodega called La Casa near Sanlúcar’s Bajo de Guia. When the firm relocated to the new bodega on the Chipiona road in 1989, the solera had to be moved and all the old butts were repaired, stave by stave, so it took a while for the wine to settle, but it soon returned to its former glory. It is a Manzanilla pasada with an average age of over 10 years, bottled en rama and in very limited quantities.

The multi million euro business of seasoning Sherry butts for the distilling industry is steaming ahead according to figures presented to the latest meeting of the Consejo Regulador. Since the Consejo established a voluntary certification system in 2015, some 50,000 butts have been seasoned officially, mainly for Whisky and Rum distillers. The Consejo has long been worried that many “Sherry casks” were seasoned elsewhere, illicitly using terms which are protected by the Sherry Denominación de Origen. Currently some 65,000 butts are being seasoned under Consejo supervision.

The Consejo issues traceability cards for those butts which have been seasoned by one of the 12 firms which have registered for the scheme. Each card, which is stapled to the butt, is printed with a QR code which contains information like the name of the cooperage, the type of oak, the type of wine used for the seasoning and the period of seasoning. The minimum period is one year, but the average is more like three years. Spirits aged in butts without the card cannot use protected terms such as “Sherry cask”, Manzanilla, Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado or Pedro Ximénez on their labels. A certain prestige is, of course, attached to labels bearing the words “Sherry cask”.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

29.11.17 New La Guita En Rama; Covijerez 50th Anniversary

The iconic Manzanilla La Guita has launched a second saca bottled en rama in October 2017. It follows the excellent 2015 saca, and like its predecessor, it is made from a very carefully selected solera butts from the firm’s two bodegas, La Misericordia and Pago Sanlúcar Viejo. The wine has not been subjected to any filtration or stabilisation, so it best reflects the character of the coastal vineyards of Sanlúcar and of La Guita itself. As with the previous saca, the label has a picture of a Sanlúcar landmark and this year it is the tower of the XIV century church of Nuestra Señora de la O.

The largest of the seven cooperatives in the Sherry zone, Nuestra Señora de las Angustias –also known as Covijerez - has been celebrating its 50th anniversary. The occasion was attended by the members along with many other members of the wine trade as well as the mayor and the agriculture minister of the Junta de Andalucía. Founder member and past president of the coop, Pepe Sierra was elected honorary president in recognition of all he has done for the institution. The event also saw the premiere of a lovely new film about the vineyards of Jerez and the coop itself, which was founded in 1967 and now counts 200 members with some 1,000 hectares of vineyard. Last year’s turnover was some 8 million euros and the coop has its own Sherry brands: Fino Sin Pecado, Mira La Mar and the Romerito range. The film is in Spanish and can be seen here:

Mayor Mamen Sanchez, agriculture minister Rodrigo Sanchez haro, Pepe Sierra, coop president Salvador Espinosa

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Bodegas: Internacionales

The modern golden era for Jerez lasted a little more than a decade from the early 1960s till the oil crisis of 1973 and during this time Sherry was virtually selling itself. Marketing had become lax and overproduction became a problem as demand fell, with stocks eventually reaching nearly 50% more than could be sold. Many bodegas were insolvent. During this period José María Ruiz Mateos, founder of Rumasa, began buying them up at rock bottom prices in order to have enough wine to fulfil his contract with Harveys, buying a total of 16.

Inevitably, these bodegas were in various locations, and it was decided that great efficiency savings could be made if as much as possible were in one place.  Ruiz Mateos was confident that  he could increase sales by cutting prices. To this end a massive 50,000 square metre (5 hectare) bodega was completed in 1974 to provide all the winemaking, bottling, office and storage facilities required. It was the largest bodega in Europe - and one of the largest in the world - and dealt with the wines of 6 subsidiary bodegas: Diestro, Otaolaurruchi, Misa, Varela, Pemartín and Bertola. Many soleras were consolidated and famous names became mere labels before disappearing altogether, but luckily those subsidiary bodegas with better facilities continued as before.

The building itself is cleverly constructed using hundreds of interlocking octagonal concrete cones on pillars which conduct rainwater down to underfloor drains. The radical design won the national prize for architecture but is not a million miles away from the concept of González Byass’ Las Copas bodega. One good thing to come out of Internacionales, or BISA as it was known, was the excellent range of Duke of Wellington Sherries created by Beltrán Domecq González, but unfortunately they only lasted as long as Internacionales itself.

Rumasa had a huge effect on Jerez and the Sherry business changed beyond recognition. The trade saw much modernisation and the vineyard area more than doubled while sales were beginning to collapse, so the firm began to cut prices more aggressively and worry less about quality, and were accused of dumping, which did great harm to Sherry’s reputation. The bubble burst in 1983 when the government accused the labyrinthine firm of not paying taxes and took it over, selling it off in various viable parts. In 1985 the Rioja magnate Marcos Eguizábal bought Internacionales, along with Diez Hermanos, expanding the former to almost 70,000 square metres. In 1994 Grupo Medina bought the bodega and installed Williams & Humbert there. Medina part owned the firm, which had also once belonged to Rumasa, and now own it outright. The bodega houses some brands inherited from Rumasa days such as Lacave, Don Zoilo, and Gran Duque de Alba.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Palo Cortado 21%, Fernández Gao

Bright chestnut - mahogany fading to amber with copper highlights.
Aromatic and forthcoming with beautiful faintly sweet notes of almost honeyed hazelnut and almond, turrón yema tostada, faint background notes of fine oak and even a trace of incense. This is an extremely refined and elegant wine which one could sniff for hours. Some Palos Cortados show a slight Oloroso tendency and others a little more Amontillado, and this one is more Amontillado.
Beautifully rounded on entry with sublime sweet nuttiness following through. It is fairly light and super elegant and complex with hints of exotic woods yet has no tannic rough edges and has a very long refined finish. Lovely.
This excellent Palo Cortado has an average age of some 20 years which is a lovely age where you can really taste what the wine is like before it takes on too much concentration and wood  flavours. This "new" bodega will surely be successful with wines of this quality. Juan Carlos Sánchez Gago is a very talented and keen young oenologist and the firm really deserves that success, and they are off to a good start. This wine earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast and a Gran Oro at the New Wines Competition.
30 euros per 50cl bottle ex bodega


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Palo Cortado DA 18%, De Albariza

Deep old burnished gold to amber with bright golden highlights.
Very attractive and interesting nose, still with some Fino characteristics like a hint of flor bitterness, salinity and traces of apple along with some oxidation, caramel sweetness, dried fruit and wax. It is still young but you can see where it is going, and it is definitely on the right road.
Medium bodied and quite tangy with a certain texture, traces of blonde tobacco, rancio and early signs of nuts. It is at a lovely stage between young wine with lots of appley oxidation, and a mature one with great refinement. It is really tasty and has great length.
This is probably the only organic Palo Cortado, and it comes from albariza vineyards in Trebujena, available exclusively, and in tiny quantities, from the great new wine and local produce shop in Sanlúcar, De Albariza, run by Antonio Peña. It spent just a few months under flor before being fortified and aged in butt for about eight years. It was made very well by someone extremely competent but who would rather remain unnamed. Naturally it has no DO having been matured in the production zone, but it is certainly a very good "Sherry".
18.75, De Albariza

Saturday, 25 November 2017

CJ Tinto Roble 2015 14%, Cortijo de Jara

Very deep black cherry red with the faintest hint of brick in a red/pink rim.
Well ripened black fruits, bramble and cherry with some ripe red plum, with slightly toasty smoky notes and hints of balsam and vanilla. It smells very ripe, from a hot place, with a hint of jam yet there is a note of freshness.
Full bodied yet the tannins are moderate and there's plenty of fruit and that smoke note. There is a decent acidity and it balances well though a few more months in bottle would round it off. A very decent wine, especially for the price.
Made from mostly Tempranillo with some Merlot and Syrah, this attractive wine belongs to the DO Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz. The estate grows many olive trees - and even chickpeas -  as well as vines and all are grown virtually organically. The grapes are fermented separately in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and the wine is racked off for "coupage" or blending and aged in barrels for 6 months before bottling at the cortijo. The term "roble" which translates as "oak" is used for wines between the "Joven" or the young, unoaked style and "Crianza" which has a minimum period of 1 year in oak.
5.00 euros, Licores Corredera

Friday, 24 November 2017

24.11.17 Peter Sisseck to Produce Sherry

Peter Sisseck, producer of the famous and expensive Pingus from the Ribera del Duero is to get involved with Sherry. Born in Denmark, Sisseck studied viticulture and oenology at Bordeaux, where he worked with various well-known châteaux. He also worked in California before coming to Spain and working as a consultant at Hacienda Monasterio in Ribera del Duero. He bought three parcels of old vines also in the Ribera del Duero and totalling five hectares, and in 1995 began to produce the now almost legendary Pingus, a wine which sells for over 1,000 euros a bottle. During his time at Hacienda Monasterio he became friends with its president, Carlos del Rio González Gordon, also a board member of González Byass, and now the two are partners in a new venture in Jerez.

(L-R: Peter Sisseck, Angel Zamorano and Carlos del Rio Gonzalez Gordon. foto el mundo)

Just a few days ago they bought a bodega from Sanlúcar bodeguero Juan Piñero, the one in Calle San Francisco Javier, Jerez, which houses Fino Camborio. The original solera belonged to Fernando A de Terry and disappeared via Rumasa, Harveys, Allied Domecq and Pernod Ricard and Piñero bought the brand name. He bought the bodega and its wines in 2006 from the almacenista Ángel Zamorano who had built up his business from scratch since 1974. Zamora had some 200 butts of good Fino and Piñero contracted Ramiro Ibáñez to improve it. He separated the best 65 butts and a new Camborio was launched. From then on, all the butts were refreshed with wine from Viña Callejuela in Sanlúcar.

Peter Sisseck and Carlos del Rio González Gordon have also bought 10 hectares of albariza on high ground in the pago Balbaína which will supply mostos for the criaderas, and over the years the resulting wine will become a single vineyard Sherry. Sisseck considers that good Fino is the best white wine in Spain and the plan is to produce an outstanding example, perhaps two. It is still too early to speculate on wine styles or brand names, but this is a venture to watch out for.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

23.11.17 La Guita in Wine Spectator World Top 100; Aponiente Wins 3rd Michelin Star

The prestigious American wine magazine Wine Spectator has awarded 91 points (“outstanding”) to Manzanilla La Guita from Grupo Estévez. The magazine, which sells some 2 million copies and is considered one of the most influential, edits an annual list of the 100 top wines of the year based on their scores. These take into account quality, value, availability and the pleasure they evoke. La Guita was one of only nine Spanish wines in the list – the only Sherry - and came in at number 30. Naturally, Grupo Estévez is delighted and points out the wine’s 100% Sanlúcar character being made from Sanlúcar grapes grown mostly in the famous Pago Miraflores La Baja and aged in the town’s Barrio Alto.

The restaurant Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa María has been awarded a third Michelin Star, making it the only 3* Michelin restaurant in Andalucía. Owner and chef Ángel León, known as the "chef of the sea" created the restaurant by refurbishing a XIX century tide mill. He also owns a restaurant called Alevante in Chiclana, which was awarded its first Michelin Star. Both have extensive Sherry lists.


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Fino en rama 16% May 17, Gutiérrez Colosía

Bright amber tinged gold with golden highlights, a shade deeper than the 15% version.
Fuller, more complex and intense with stronger flor and salty, briny, sourdough notes and less fruit. There is also a hint of seaweed and dried flowers. A couple more years of crianza has allowed the wine to soak up more of the quayside atmosphere in El Puerto, and it really shows.
Full and deep with lovely flor bitterness and all that brine, perhaps olive brine, and slight traces of oxidation, all in perfect harmony. This is a serious Fino with hints of straw and dry autumn leaves yet it is very fresh, with perhaps a slightly higher acidity which helps it to produce a very long, super clean tasty finish. This is a lovely wine, intense and natural.
Gutiérrez Colosia have done a very interesting thing and released two Finos en rama, both bottled at the same time, May 2017. This one, with the yellow label, is a shade over five years old and contains 16% alcohol, while the other wine, with a white label is a shade over three years old and contains the standard 15% alcohol. So here are two very different versions of the same wine from different stages of development, and they are both lovely but in different ways. It would help consumers considerably if these subtle differences were made clear on the back label, but they are not. 
17.30 euros per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Fino en Rama 15% May 17, Gutiérrez Colosia

Bright pale gold with golden highlights.
Fresh and light with delicate traces of meadow herbs and faint apple, patisserie and lemon peel notes. There is not a great deal of that bitterness imparted by flor but there is a hint of fresh sea air and a suggestion of almond. This is a light young Fino, elegant and most attractive.
Light and dry retaining a hint of the fruitiness which will be lost to the flor. Acidity is low with only a hint of flor to provide balance and the wine lies somewhere between a Palomino table wine and a full blown Fino, a delightful and very interesting stage of its life, and it has a good long clean finish.
Gutiérrez Colosia have done a very interesting thing and released two Finos en rama, both bottled at the same time, May 2017, but with different ages and strengths. This one is a shade over three years old and contains the standard 15% alcohol, while the other is a shade over five years old and contains 16% alcohol. So here are two very different versions of the same wine from different stages of development, and they are both lovely but in different ways. Some explanation of this great idea on the labels would help consumers, but, well...
12.60 euros per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera

Monday, 20 November 2017

Manzanilla la Guita en rama Autumn 2015 15%, La Guita (Retaste)

Old gold, fairly deep pasada colour with brassy highlights.
Showing some bottle age now with slight oxidation-like aromas and butter yet it is surprisingly attractive with some faint nutty Amontillado and dry scrub characteristics, even a faint trace of cheese. It still retains its mineral maritime verve however, and is simply more concentrated than before - and it is certainly more interesting.
Full, tangy and zippy with all the bottle age characteristics mentioned above which give it extra layers of flavour. It resembles a young Amontillado in some ways but hasn't lost its wild Manzanilla character. It has a long clean tasty finish. This stuff is amazing.
This was the first - and indeed only - saca of La Guita en rama, and it was a real character. I gather there will be another saca shortly which will be very welcome, so it seemed opportune to take a look at the original again after two years in (half) bottle. Wine matures a little more quickly in this format. Two years in bottle has evolved the wine a good deal and it is not for the faint hearted, but as with all things Sherry, it needs understanding, and the only way to get that is to taste as much as possible. It was very lucky that my local cash and carry was selling off the wine at such a good price. I'd love to know why. Either they think it is over the hill - which it most certainly isn't - or they are making room for the next saca. 
6.50 euros, Roali Cash & Carry

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Brandy Capa Negra Solera Reserva 36%, Sandeman

Mahogany tinged amber with bright coppery golden highlights.
Brown sugar and plenty of vanilla from the American oak with hints of caramel, chestnut and Oloroso combine in a lightish fairly crisp style with a hint of spirit. 
Smooth, fresh and fairly light, very much like the nose with a fairly crisp clean caramelly vanilla flavour. Very easy drinking and perhaps just slightly simple, but certainly very pleasant.
Capa Negra translates as the black cape, the famous Sandeman logo, better known as "the Don". The brandy was a later addition the the Sandeman range as they only began selling Sherry in Spain in 1958, and their  distributor suggested they also sell brandy. A major solera was duly established in 1964. The Capa Negra Solera Reserva is a blend of aguardientes aged for one year and the older holandas which is solera aged till it reaches an average age of three years. Like many Jerez brandies it has a trace of sweetening, in this case <8g/l.
14.30 euros, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 18 November 2017

18.11.17 Fantastic Sherry Week Results

In only its 4th year, International Sherry Week has grown from some 200 worldwide events to over 2,500 in over 30 countries in 5 continents. Furthermore it received over 50 million hits on the social networks, especially on Twitter – where it became the trending topic for an hour - Facebook and Instagram. As Consejo Regulador director César Saldaña put it, “it is about sharing a passion”, and the social media are perfectly suited to this, especially among the younger generation, the very people Sherry would like to attract. The wine’s sheer versatility with food helped as well, with many of the events focusing on matching.

Sherry Week has the added attraction of almost running itself, needing only a degree of central coordination, and this level of promotion would cost a fortune through normal channels. Events fell into three main types; those centred on gastronomy (65%), tastings and promotions in shops (23%) and cocktail events – an ever growing category – (17%). Of the 30 participating countries Spain, now Sherry’s largest market, held the most events, numbering about 1,000, a 15% increase on last year. So has Sherry Week increased sales? It is too early to say, but it is certainly laying the foundations for steady growth by increasing awareness and enjoyment amongst the target audience. Roll on next year!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Raya La Barajuela 2015 15%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Bright mid amber with golden highlights.
There is sweetness and richness here as one would expect from a late harvested wine, with traces of mature Auslese and cider as well, yet there is also a hint of crispness. Distinct notes of well-ripened apple, citrus and dried apricot blend with the familiar but light oxidative notes of Jerez. You can even detect the texture of the grape pulp.
Fairly sweet on entry and lightly textured but then there is a distinct tartaric acidity, much more than one would expect in a late harvest wine. There are overripe, very slightly rancio, not yet pasa flavours and those appley ones of oxidation too yet the classic Oloroso nuttiness is not quite there yet. The finish is very long and clean, and virtually dry.
This is an interesting and rather unusual wine, and the only one of its type on the market as the term Raya had disappeared. Willy Pérez is a great experimenter and wants to recreate the Sherry of the past with as much vineyard character as possible. Raya used to be a slightly inferior style of Oloroso often fairly sweet through late picking and used for blending, but this is something else. It is a vintage "Sherry" made the old fashioned way, reaching 15% without fortification, from late picked Palomino grapes in a particular 40 year old parcel of the El Corregidor vineyard in the pago Carrascal, where the soil is the barajuela type of albariza. Harvesters picked the ripest grapes on five occasions over two months, from the start of August to the end of September, providing grapes for various different wines, and the last grapes went into this wine, so they were super ripe. This, along with a short (36 hour) period of sunning the grapes, brought the sugar/potential alcohol readings to a point where 15% could be achieved. After pressing, the juice fermented in butts at ambient temperature and the wine was allowed to age oxidatively. Of the 10 butts produced only one had this particular style, so there were only 550 bottles available, all filled en rama.
40 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 16 November 2017

16.11.17 González Byass Releases Ancient Moscatel

Thought to have been made in the 1850s or 1860s this ancient Moscatel was made before Phylloxera ravaged Jerez in the 1890s. It comes from a single butt laid down in honour of the appointment of Pope Pius X in 1903, and who went on to be canonised in 1954. The wine is made from the Moscatel Menudo grape which was one of 40 permitted in those pre Denominacion de Origen days, but has long been superseded by the Moscatel de Alejandría, and has an alcoholic strength of only 9°. After well over a century of ageing there only remained some 90 litres of wine in the butt which was enough for 120 bottles. Of these, 100 will be sold at £1,000 each, while the rest will be kept at the bodega. Naturally the wine is amazingly intense, but apparently has a remarkable freshness nonetheless.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Manzanilla Predilecta 15%, Bodegas Carbajo Ruiz

Bright pale lemony gold with golden highlights.
Quite floral with notes of meadow flowers and camomile along with saline marine notes and  nicely balanced flor. There are slight fruit notes as well with hints of apple and apricot. It is all nicely balanced, fresh and open.
A yeasty flor start opens out allowing the fruity floral character to come out but the flor is there throughout. It is very dry and light with average acidity and an attractive minerality and really quite complex for its age and has very good length with a lovely bitter flor twist at the end.
This attractive Manzanilla is made from grapes grown in the firm's own vineyards, all on Jerez Superior albarizas, while the bodega is located in the Barrio Alto of Sanlúcar. Despite being in business since the dawn of the XX century, the firm is not particularly well known outside Sanlúcar and its wines are not seen around very often. That in no way implies that their quality is inferior however. This Manzanilla is aged for an average of three years and is at that attractive stage where there are still traces of fruit to balance the flor.
6.50 euros, De Albariza


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Beta Sur NV 12.5%, Bodegas Barbadillo

Bright pale gold with golden glints and a persistent bead of very fine bubbles.
Clean and super fresh with apples, apple tart, yeasty bakery aromas with a mineral edge and traces of crystallised fruit and flowers. The Palomino gives it the apple and the Chardonnay gives it a bit more breadth and seriousness and a buttery hint, but there is still a trace of wonderful Sanlúcar wildness.
It starts out fresh and crisp with a faintly saline mineral note and plenty of apple, then the Chardonnay comes through with more weight and with an almost toast and butter flavour. Acidity is perfect giving it an attractive tang, and the lack of any dosage means the wine is very dry and elegant without sugar obscuring the flavour. It is beautifully balanced (or poised, even) and much more complex than Beta Brut and more intense with a long super clean finish.   
This is a new version of the well-established and successful Beta Brut which was the first traditional method sparkling wine produced in Cádiz. Beta Sur is made from the same Palomino and Chardonnay grapes hand-harvested from the firm's own albariza vineyards, and is fermented in stainless steel tanks at low temperature for 2 weeks before bottling for the second fermentation. It is then allowed to age on its lees in bottle for 20 months rather than 9. This allows the wine to absorb more flavour from the lees and develop an even finer mousse. After ageing, the lees are disgorged and the level in the bottle is topped up with the same wine rather than a mix of wine and sugar (dosage) allowing it to be categorised as brut nature as it contains under 2 g/l sugars. While the label does not declare a vintage it is almost certainly 100% 2015. The blend works really well, and the wine is delicious.
8 euros ex bodega

Monday, 13 November 2017

Table Wine Bodegas: Cortijo de Jara

Cortijo de Jara is the Brand name for the agricultural products produced by the group of businesses Puerta Nueva SL run by the García Angulo family which grow various crops like chickpeas and olives as well as wine. They started out more as farmers, but as agricultural produce fell increasingly into the hands of multinationals they felt they had to change, so in 2002 they planted olives and vines on the land once used for wheat and sunflowers.

The cortijo (or farmstead) is an XVIII century, typically Andaluz set of farm buildings, and the name Jara derives from Xara, an piece of land awarded to the area after its reconquest from the Moors by Alfonso X in the XIII century.  The buildings were restored and the cortijo now has full modern bodega facilities neatly fitted into what were once granaries around a central patio. These include grape reception equipment, de-stemmer, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks, temperature controlled barrel warehouse, laboratory and a bottling and packaging plant. They also have a shop located in a beautiful old house at Calle Medina, 79 in Jerez.

The estate is very large and includes 130 hectares of Arbequina olives which make outstanding Extra Virgin oil. The vineyards amount to 14 hectares and, like all the cortijo’s produce, are virtually organic. A nearby lake helps moderate the climate. They are planted mainly to reds: Tempranillo (60%), Merlot (20%), Syrah (20%) and include 2 hectares of whites: Sauvignon Blanc (20%) and Gewürztraminer (80%), the latter being the first to be planted in the province. Harvesting is done at night where necessary. While the red wines belong to the DO Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz, the white does not as Gewürztraminer is not authorised. The family has invested huge sums and is prepared to wait for any profits as their philosophy is quality above quantity. A number of medals has proved that the quality is certainly there.

White Wines:
Cortijo de Jara Blanco: Gewürztraminer with a dash of Sauvignon

Red Wines:
Cortijo de Jara Joven: Tempranillo, no oak
Cortijo de Jara Roble: Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah aged 6 months in oak
Cortijo de Jara Crianza: Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah aged 12 months in oak

Visits? Yes by appointment, also celebrations catered for
Address: Carretera Estella del Marqués-Gibalbín, km 5.2
Telephone: (+34) 956 338 163

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Manzanilla Pasada La Gitana Edición 225 Aniversario 15%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Amber tinged gold with golden reflections.
Complex and attractive with lots of yeasty sourdough, brine and butter dominating rather than the more usual bitter almondy flor - though it is definitely there. This is a fresh yet serious wine with background notes of scrub and dried flowers, and a slightly humid saline feel. There are only very faint traces of oxidation and there is a delightful balance of all those classic Sanlúcar elements.
Full and very generous, a mineral, very saline backbone supports intense flavours of straw, brine, bitter almond, butter and flor. A little more oxidation on the palate and hints of cabezuela. Acidity is low but there is so much flavour you wouldn't notice. This is absolutely delicious, classic Pasada.
Having been established by José Pantaleón Hidalgo in 1792, the firm naturally wanted to celebrate eight generations and 225 years in the Manzanilla business, so what better than a limited release of special Manzanilla. And it is special - very special. It is classic old style wine with an average age of around 15 years and very pasada. The most outstanding wines from the finest old toneles gordos - or 1,000 litre butts - in the Bodega san Luis were selected and a blend was created sufficient to fill 1,792 heavy old fashioned Jerezana bottles which bear the old version of the iconic label, and are sealed with a driven cork and wax. You'll need to be quick to get a bottle of this masterpiece.
27.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Overo Crianza 2015 14%, González Palacios

Dense blacky red with a fairly tight deep ruby rim.
Full and obviously made from super ripe grapes, it has lots of spice notes both from those extra ripe grapes, especially Syrah with its slight hint of smoke, and from the oak. Behind all that spice there is a tight blackcurrant bramble fruit and there is an overall element of polish.
Full bodied and super ripe with a firm structure both in terms of alcohol and of tannin. There is also a decent acidity which imparts some much needed freshness to balance the heat that emanates from the wine. There is something wild and untamed about it yet it has some charm, and that will develop with a couple more years in bottle.
This wine comes from the leading bodega in Lebrija and is made from70% Tempranillo and 30% Syrah grown on albariza soils. Overo is the name of the place they are located and is a gentle hill looking over the Guadalquivir marshes and open to the Poniente winds. It is aged for 12 months in a combination of French and American oak and is one of a handful of wines which belong to the Denominacion de Origen Lebrija, the town which legend has it was founded by Bacchus.
8.95 euros, De Albariza

Friday, 10 November 2017

Oloroso VORS Solera de su Majestad 21%, Valdespino

Very deep walnut tinged mahogany, bright copper glints fading through amber to a hint of green at the rim. It even looks old but is very bright.
Forthcoming and profound aromas of walnuts and toasted almonds with balsamic hints and traces of roasted coffee, chestnut and fragrant almost spicy exotic wood notes from the oak. All of these are beautifully harmonised giving an intense bouquet which age alone can achieve. It is full but elegant at the same time, and one could sniff away at it all night.
Full bodied and intense on entry, then it slowly opens out to reveal its considerable splendour. The spice, nuts volatile acidity and surprisingly gentle tannins are all superbly balanced by a gentle caramel tinged glycerine and there are slight traces of dried fruits, even smoke. It is rich yet dry with almost interminable length and is quite outstanding.
This is Valdespino's oldest Oloroso, and is over 50 years old. It comes from a solera of only eight butts established towards the end of the XIX century. The grapes came from the pago Carrascal. It is not cheap, but when one considers how beautifully it has developed over so many years - a period that would kill most wines - and how much work and skill have gone into its production - and the sheer quality, it is very good value for money indeed.
85 euros per half bottle, Er Guerrita

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Bodegas: JB González y Cia.

Juan Bautista González y Villar was born in Jerez in 1846. His father, who came from the north of Spain, was a rich landowner and his mother was Mexican. Juan established his bodega in 1870 in the C/Arcos, 55. He bought soleras, some dating back to 1780, and also owned extensive vineyards in the Pago Macharnudo which he tended with great care.

Don Juan (foto:JLJimenez)

With such fine soleras he quickly earned a reputation for excellent quality which won him many international awards. The firm expanded considerably, having to move to larger premises in the old Orrantia bodegas in nearby Calle Matadero, 7 near the railway station in 1896.

González owned a much reputed brandy distillery within the bodegas where he produced a “Cognac-style spirit with a degree of quality and finesse which competes with the most accredited French spirits.” In 1907 the trading name changed to Juan Bautista González and remained as such till the firm ceased trading in 1933. Juan lived in a palatial house at Calle Corredera, 35 with his wife and daughter Juanita.

Their most memorable brands were: Amontillado Fino El Conocedor, Fino Viña del Pleito, Doble Palma, Ambrosía, Solera Palo Cortado Superior, Amontillado Néctar de Ángeles, Manzanilla Mariloli, Brandy Las Meninas, Brandy El Coloso.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

8.11.17 Barbadillo Launches New Sparkling Wine

A new versión of Barbadillo’s Beta Brut has been launched: Beta Sur. Like its sister wine, it is made from Palomino and Chardonnay grapes grown in the firm’s own vineyards and made by the traditional method with a second fermentation in bottle. Unlike its sister wine, no dosage is added, making it a brut nature, and it spends 20 months rather than nine ageing on its lees in bottle. The Beta wines are not covered by the Cava regulations, but if they were, Beta Sur would be a reserva. The wine was launched at the Flamenco Dance Museum in Sevilla and served along with good music and food specially chosen to match Beta Sur.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Oloroso Los Buhos 18%, Wisdom & Warter

Chestnut mahogany colour fading to amber with copper highlights.
Fresh and soft, with a light dried fruit note, traces of oak, not particularly old, somewhere between five and eight years perhaps, but has character with dried fig and walnut and an open friendly style and a faint wax note. 
Attractive smooth, open textured, fresh young Oloroso. The dried fruit notes follow through and balance beautifully with the oxidative character making it a very versatile everyday Oloroso which is very tasty and has really good length.
Wisdom and Warter were two Englishmen who in 1854 established a bodega in Jerez and earned a good reputation. The firm was bought out in the 1960s by González Byass and quietly disappeared, but GB still use the brand name for a standard but good quality range of Sherries mostly for export, but they can occasionally be found in Jerez, especially at GB's shop. Los Buhos was the W&W trademark featuring a pair of owls representing wisdom.
6.65 euros, Licores Corredera

Monday, 6 November 2017

Manzanilla Solear en rama Autumn 2016 15%, Barbadillo (retaste)

Brass tinged gold with bright golden highlights.
Full with lots of lovely bitter flor and notes of dry scrubland and briny seaside air with faint traces of pine and butter. It is a little more concentrated than when tasted a year ago and a little more complex. 
Quite intense with a decent acidity and that flor making it tangy and fresh. It is slightly more buttery than before, slightly more pasada, better integrated, and is as clean as a whistle with great length.
This delightful wine is still pristine, indeed much better and more evolved after a further year in bottle, with more concentration and intensity, and clearly demonstrates the value of  bottle age. I greatly look forward to tasting it again in another year or two if I can get hold of any more, but there were only 2,500 half bottles in the saca. It comes from 30 + year old vines and the wine has an average age of 8 years in solera plus one in bottle. This saca took place on 20th September 2016 and came from 15 selected butts.
13.90 euros per half bottle, De Albariza

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Barbazul 2014 15.5%, Huerta de Albalá

Dense, deep blacky red with a trace of orange in the ruby rim.
Full, ripe and slightly spicy. It speaks of heat with 15.5% alcohol, a trace of volatile acidity and a trace of jammy dried fruit. There is plenty of black fruit like plum and bramble as well as gentle aromas of the Allier oak and perhaps a trace of smoke.
Quite a powerful wine with lush super ripe black fruit verging on over-ripe. Luckily there is a decent level of acidity which provides a little freshness, and the tannins are ripe and not excessive. It is still fairly young though, and could do with a couple more years in bottle.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz is made from a blend of Tintilla de Rota (10%), Syrah (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) and Merlot (15%) grown and hand picked at the 75 hectare Huerta de Albalá near Arcos de la Frontera owned by Vicente Taberner. This area has seen vine growing since Roman times. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged for six months in 225 litre third year French Allier oak barrels. The wine then spends some time in bottle before sale. Barbazul translates as "bluebeard" and is certainly assertive enough for a pirate.
6.60 euros, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Lost Styles of Sherry

Sherry is a highly complex wine and is forever evolving. In the past, wines were described as accurately as possible according to their type and stage of development. But this can never be a precise art, and one bodega’s Manzanilla Pasada could have been another’s Manzanilla Amontillada, yet these decisions were made by highly skilled tasters and were pretty accurate. Nevertheless one can see that consumers would be confused, and the labelling regulations were simplified in 2012 as it is of course easier to simplify nomenclature than educate consumers. Some of these styles are still produced of course, but are sold using the simplified nomenclature. Anyway, here is a list of these "lost" styles with brief explanations.

Entrefino is a wine which lies between Fino and Amontillado. The term was mainly used in El Puerto de Santa María and the closest Jerez equivalent would be a Fino Amontillado or perhaps a Fino which was a bit fatter in style. Osborne’s Coquinero is the only commercial example from El Puerto still available.

Amontillado Fino Lies between Fino and Amontillado but closer to Amontillado than Fino Amontillado. It is a youngish Amontillado, perhaps 15 years old, which still has some Fino characteristics. Emilio Hidalgo’s El Tresillo is a rare and delicious example while Viña AB from González Byass used to be labelled Amontillado Fino, now just Amontillado. Cayetano del Pino once offered an Amontillado Fino Oloroso, presumably a fragrant Amontillado Fino. 

Fino Amontillado is the Jerez equivalent of Manzanilla Amontillada or El Puerto’s Entrefino, an older Fino which retains only very thin flor if any and thus shows signs of oxidation. Bobadilla's Victoria (below) changed to Fino in the late 1970s.

Amontillado Pasado is a Jerez style and is a mature wine between Amontillado and Amontillado Viejo. A middle-aged Amontillado perhaps. Not seen nowadays - at least under that name.

Manzanilla Amontillada  Is a stage between Manzanilla Pasada and Amontillado. By the Pasada stage the flor is getting weak, greyish and thin allowing a certain degree of oxidation, yet the wine is still recognisably Manzanilla, just older and more complex usually with over 10 years of average age. Amontillada is older and more complex still, yet not quite full Amontillado.

Manzanilla Olorosa Is a Manzanilla Pasada which over time has developed a particularly pronounced nose which slightly resembles an Oloroso, but still retains the hallmarks of Manzanilla on the palate. Both Barbadillo and Pedro Romero used to offer Manzanilla Fina Olorosa which must translate as “Fine Manzanilla Olorosa”, as Fina is young Manzanilla and as such can’t be Olorosa.

Palma is essentially the proper name for Fino, or at least particularly fine Fino, and its name derives from the chalk mark on the butt which vaguely resembles a palm frond. If a horizontal line is crossed over the mark it is called Palma Cortada and this signifies its suitability to become fine Amontillado. 

As the wine ages the palma can be crossed again. Tres Palmas is Fino at the limit of the flor while Cuatro Palmas will be an old Amontillado. La Riva, Blazquez and Cayetano del Pino used to sell “Fino Tres Palmas” but the only firm using this system commercially today is González Byass.

Oloroso Dulce/Abocado These are terms for Oloroso sweetened with Pedro Ximénez or occasionally Moscatel. They have been replaced by the term Cream.

Amoroso is an Oloroso with a particularly smooth character and more or less sweetness which may come from its high glycerine level or more likely the addition of a little PX.

Pajarete Once beloved of the whisky distillers, this very sweet wine was named after the place it was made in vineyards close to the old tower of Pajarete near Prado del Rey. Thanks to Phylloxera mainly, it has all but disappeared now, though Bodegas Rivero still make tiny quantities. A wine called Pajarete is made in Malaga but while sweet it is not the same.

Raya Is an inferior quality Oloroso, known as Raya macho if full bodied and a bit rough or Raya hembra if  light. They were sometimes made from grapes picked towards the end of the harvest. If it is not too inferior it is known as Raya Olorosa. Butts of Raya often used to be placed in the sun to age them more quickly and concentrate them and they were generally only used for blending. The name had died out until Luis Perez launched an unfortified example in 2017 called Raya La Barajuela. It is not DO Sherry, however.

Vino de Pasto is a modest Amontillado which has been slightly sweetened. Lustau used to offer an example till comparatively recently.

East India was generally a full, rich, sweet Oloroso which had been further aged in butts used as ballast in ships crossing the equator to the East Indies. It is thought that the wine spending months slopping around inside a butt which was not quite full had more effect than the temperatures, but while necessarily expensive, it was popular and many bodegas produced it. Lustau is the only one left and the wine no longer sails the seas but is aged in a warmer bodega.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Table Wine Bodegas: Finca Moncloa

Having successfully experimented with table wines using Syrah at the family owned viña Casa de Postas since 1972, González Byass took the plunge and bought the 45 hectare finca near Arcos de la Frontera in 2000. The climate is tempered by the Guadalcacín reservoir and sheltered from the Levante by the Sierra Valleja, and there is a long tradition of vine growing in the area, going back beyond the XIV century. Soils are chalky limestone and low in organic material, and excellent for making fine red wines. Careful studies were made of soil composition and microclimate and individual parcels established. Vine varieties were then selected for their suitability.

The intention was to recuperate the virtually lost tradition of red wine making and also recuperate the all but lost local grape variety, Tintilla de Rota which had given way to Palomino for Sherry and brandy production. The finca is now planted with 3 hectares of Tintilla, 2 hectares of Petit Verdot, 3 hectares of Merlot, 4 hectares Cabernet Franc, while the rest is Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tempranillo.

Three wines are produced by oenologist José Manuel Pinedo: Finca Moncloa, Colección Barricas and a traditional sweet Tintilla de Rota which was launched in 2009, being the first time the bodega had produced this wine since the XIX century, though no longer in Rota. Grapes of the different varieties and parcels are vinified separately and a coupage is made after ageing, normally in 1st or 2nd year French oak. The bodega has a capacity for 20,000 cases but is only producing about half of that at the moment. Since 2014 Finca Moncloa has been a member of Grandes Pagos de España, an association of single vineyard wines with indisputable expression of their terroir.