Saturday, 31 March 2018

Fino Alexandro 15% Bodegas Yuste

Slightly brassy, strawy mid gold with golden highlights.
Some depth here with fairly intense notes of straw, minerals, a little flor bitterness, faint oxidation from bottle age and some hints of fallen leaves and wax. It smells very natural and very Fino.
Full and characterful, clean and tasty and better than I remember it - not there was anything wrong with it before. Some bottle age has made it slightly more serious and it is nicely balanced with a gentle bitter flor edge and a grassy strawy roundness with a long clean finish.
Alexandro was a good quality range of Sherries bottled by the "cooperative of cooperatives" in Jerez, Aecovi, which amalgamated four smaller ones in 1989. Unfortunately the crisis hit it hard and it went into receivership in March 2015. So I was surprised to come across this Fino bottled by Francisco Yuste in July 2016. The original was just over 3 years old and it now has a screwcap rather than the old stopper cork. The approximately 20 months in bottle have rounded it off nicely and added a little complexity, so it was a very good buy.
7 euros Pura Cepa

Friday, 30 March 2018

Tierra Blanca 2017 11%, Bodegas Páez Morilla

Bright, very pale with silvery golden glints.
Lightish but quite fragrant with both floral and fruity notes. Although in a minority, the Riesling is noticeable for its aroma of pear and grape while the Palomino adds apple and the result is quite attractive with slight hints of petals.
Again fairly light but gently tasty. It is very nicely balanced with plenty of that pear fruit and some almost sherbety confectionery notes. Clean and fresh, but not particularly long. It is a very easy- drinking commercial wine of decent quality at a good price.
Páez Morilla dates back to 1910 and originally specialised in Jerez Vinegar, being the first to bottle and promote it, leading to a DO in 1994. In the 1940s they established a successful cooperage and in the 1970s they decided to produce table wine. A vineyard, Viña La Vicaria, was bought near Arcos in the Sierra de Cádiz at some 350 metres above sea level and Tierra Blanca was launched in 1981. It is made from Palomino and Riesling which are fermented at low temperature in stainless steel and the wine is rested on lees for three months before stabilisation and bottling without any oak ageing. It became very popular and semi sweet and red versions followed.
3.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 29 March 2018

29.3.18 Great New Book about Sherry

An excellent new book on Sherry has been published entitled “Sherry, a Life’s Journey” by Philip Rowles. Philip has spent over 50 years in the wine trade working exclusively with Spanish wine, having started his career at Williams & Humbert, later working with various other Sherry bodegas and subsequently with other Spanish wines. A member of the Gran Orden de los Caballeros del Vino he lectured on Sherry, his first love, and Spanish wines for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and worked with the EU on wine related matters. Up to date and informed with clearly written explanations, this well illustrated book is an essential part of everybody’s Sherry library.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Fino L&B 15%, Bodegas Lorente & Barba

A little deeper than some, bright brassy strawy gold with golden glints.
Deep and complex with lots of character. This is a Fino aged towards the limit with quite intense aromas of maturity; straw, hints of oxidation, bitter flor, sourdough, toasted bread, dry autumn leaves, the very smell of a bodega, blonde tobacco and hints of the Amontillado it could become. Lovely.
Full, clean and packed with flavour. It has a subtle balance between the bitterness of the flor - which must be pretty thin by now - with the roundness born only of maturity, a buttery hint of cabezuela and those tantalising hints of Amontillado. This wine has reached its moment, it is magnificent. A Sherry connoisseur's Fino.
This bodega is new on the scene but, as is the norm in Jerez, the producers have a long family history in the trade and the wines come from old soleras. Another novelty is the way they bottle the wine; instead of the usual system of blending the wine taken from each solera butt to achieve homogeneity, they bottle the wine from each butt separately and write on the label which butt the wine came from and which saca, even numbering the bottles individually. Now there is traceability for you! Within reason, no two bottles taste the same - and that is one thing that is so exciting about Sherry. They try to age the Fino to the limit of the flor and it has an average age of around twelve years in a 500 years  old bodega with perfect conditions which really helps. Naturally it is bottled en rama. This bottle was from the 2nd saca, butt no.7 and bottle number 125. Only about 225 bottles are taken from the butt at any one saca. The wine is sealed with a driven cork with the year of the saca (2016) printed on it.
14,50 euros, La Tienda del Jerez

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Cabeceo or Blending of Sherry

For a very long time Sherry has been greatly misunderstood, and most of the blame lies in the perception of it in its export markets. Here, merchants have traditionally sold blends of different types of Sherry, rather than the unblended product of a particular solera, to match their idea of the public taste and pocket. The results tasted different from the wine in its natural state - which most people had never tasted - and led to widespread assumptions that, for example, Amontillado is medium and darker wine is sweet – indeed many often thought that all Sherry was sweet. As tastes moved towards dryer wines this misconception was an important contributory factor to Sherry’s plummeting sales.

The huge sample room at Domecq
Blending was usually, but not always, carried out by the Sherry bodegas who were asked to make up blends specified by merchants who then shipped and sold them under their own mark or brand name, (marcas blancas or BOB) and were entirely free to call the blend whatever they liked. Some bodegas in Jerez were owned by foreign wine merchants who shipped their wines, sometimes exclusively to their home market, where they bottled and labelled them as they saw fit. Some blending was done by the wine merchants themselves in their own cellars, Harveys for example. Terms like “Milk”, “Cream”, “Brown”, “Pale Cream”, “Pale” and “Golden” were British not Spanish inventions, and all were blends with more or less sweetness. Cream alone currently accounts for about 50% of Sherry consumption in Britain and about 20% of total consumption. Such blends still exist today, but in much smaller quantities and mainly in supermarkets, and are thankfully giving way to the natural solera wines which are at last taking off.

Blending at Gonzalez Byass in the 1950s (foto:charleshewitt/gettyimages)

Natural Sherry is a “vino generoso” and blended wines are known as “vinos generosos de licor” with a minimum alcohol content of 17ᴼ and a minimum sugar content of 5 g/l. In response to a petition by the Consejo Regulador to improve labelling nomenclature, the Junta de Andalucía published a directive in April 2012 which put a stop to the likes of “Medium Amontillado” which tended to contain very little Amontillado, and “Sweet Oloroso”. It stipulated that mention of the names of the traditional styles (Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso) could only be used in the labelling of blends with a minimum content of 85% and then only with qualifying expressions like “made from a base of” or “a blend of” printed in lettering of the same size as that of the name of the traditional style. Some chose then to simply use expressions like “Medium” or Medium Dry”.

Blending vats at Gonzalez Byass

Bodegas traditionally had large rooms dedicated to reference samples of shippers’ or indeed their own blends. These were used as a guide for the next batch of a particular blend along with notes from the sample book, which held details of which soleras and precise quantities, so as to avoid any difference to the previous batch. The 12½ litre jarra or jug was the tool usually used to measure out quantities of wine needed for a blend. It takes forty jarras to fill an export butt, so blends were made in divisions of forty.  A glass measuring cylinder graduated with forty marks, each representing one jarra, was used in the tasting room to create the original blend and the numbers were duly noted in the sample book. Larger scale blends were also made up in the same fashion using arrobas (@), an old liquid measure of 16.66 litres, 30 to a 500 litre shipping butt.

Arrumbadores making up blends at Sandeman 1920s

Here is an example (from Pedro Verdad’s book) of a blend in jarras for a late XIX century Brown Sherry, which might seem pretty unpalatable today, and also a little strong:

Pale Solera …………………….....23 (young Oloroso or possibly Raya)
Oloroso…….………………………4 (older Oloroso)
Vino de Color……………………...5 (Colouring wine: boiled down must with a little oloroso)
Vino Dulce………………..……….6 (probably Pedro Ximénez)
Aguardiente……………………......2 (fortifying wine spirit)
Total………………………………40 jarras

Julian Jeffs quotes the following cabeceo in arrobas of a commercial “Amontillado” blended some time ago for a well-known merchant. It contains only about 8% Amontillado.

Fino Fuerte………………………13 ½ (slightly rough full bodied Fino)
Amontillado Dolores………… ......5     (already a blend of @ 50% Amontillado)
MZA puro…………………………2     (Manzanilla)
Chiclana Fino……………………...7    (Fino from Chiclana, obviously)
Dulce…………………………...….2 ½ (Sweet, probably PX)
Total………………………………30 arrobas

The wines would be carefully drawn by taking measured amounts from all of the solera butts so as to minimise any change in them, and then, for small scale blending, filled into export butts previously rinsed with spirit. Next it was fined, first with egg whites and then with Spanish earth from Lebrija, a powdered silica clay which was whisked into the wine with a switch. Once the wine fell bright it was racked into a clean export butt, sealed and branded with the customer’s name and order reference ready for shipment. The blend would marry en route. For larger scale blending huge oak vats were used in which the component wines could marry. Some blends however, are made up at the sobretablas stage and age and marry in their own solera, for example Dry Sack and Canasta from Williams & Humbert.

In addition to a number of different solera wines of varying types, ages and quality, the blender's palette consisted of many types of wine  which were produced specifically for blending, and there follows a list of the main ones:

Vino de Color: Used to darken a blend, it is made by simmering must over a fire  for a day or more to obtain a very dark, very sweet syrup. Once cool, more must is added and fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged and is very dark and aromatic with toffee aromas.
Mistela: This is basically juice from super ripe sunned grapes to which alcohol has been added so it retains all the sugars and is intensely sweet. Normal PX and Moscatel lose some during fermentation.
Dulce Pasa: A pale sweet wine made from late picked sunned Palomino grapes where the must is added to butts containing alcohol. As little or no fermentation or ageing takes place it is quite fruity. It has replaced Dulce Apagado.
Dulce Apagado: Similar to Dulce Pasa but made from a variety of grapes, and as it usually came from outside the Jerez area it is no longer allowed.
Dulce de Almíbar: Once used for sweetening pale wines, it is made from a mix of glucose and fructose (both found in grapes) and Fino. The mix was then briefly aged. It was banned by the EU.
Pajarete: Named after the old Moorish tower of that name, this was an intensely sweet wine made, usually from PX, and not unlike a Brown Sherry where intensity of sweetness and colour was the object. It was this that attracted distillers who wished to "improve" their product.
Rectified Concentrated Must (RCM) This is a more modern, ingredient, and  is simply grape juice which has been concentrated by other means than heating, which darkens the wine and intensifies the flavour. Colour can, of course, be removed by activated charcoal filtration, but concentration can also be achieved by vacuum distillation, which involves just a little heating, or reverse osmosis which doesn't. The resultant sweet viscous liquid is blended with Fino to produce Pale Cream. It is a bit of a juggling act as obviously the RCM will dilute the Fino so it needs a bit more alcohol. The result can be a little crude, and a better alternative is to blend in young Moscatel.

Nowadays blending is much simpler and less common, due largely to the steep decline of this kind of wine and the growth of the real thing. So the moral of the story is that this wonderful wine is best in its natural state, sold for what it is rather than what people think it is.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Brandy 1850 Solera Reserva 38%, Valdespino

Bright chestnut to mahogany with coppery highlights fading to amber.
Clean and expressive with hints of aguardiente amongst the aromas of holandas, as one would expect. It seems quite dry without any added sweetness and there are gentle wood notes with hints of toasted nuts and Oloroso.
The palate is a bit more generous with a gentle and probably natural sweetness, traces of caramel, nuts and Sherry with an attractive spicy hint balanced by a touch of dried fruit. Long.
Since I can't find much information about this brandy, I'm assuming it comes from a solera which dates back to 1850. It is certainly possible. It is obviously a fairly young brandy, and is at the entry level, at least by Valdespino's high standards, and a very decent brandy it is too. It used to be sold with an average age of 10 years solera age but probably has an average of around 3 to 5 years now.
14,90 euros, De Albariza

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Cream Flor de Jerez 19%, Garvey

Very deep black-brown with ruby highlights fading through mahogany to amber at the rim.
Full and slightly tight with hints of oak and pronounced date, fig and raisin and hints of toffee and walnut. It doesn't smell particularly sweet but you know it will be from the dried fruit notes, yet there are also some drier toasted notes like a faint trace of coffee giving some complexity.
Quite a serious wine, rich and full bodied, and while the PX is the standout flavour, dominating the Oloroso, it is not excessively sweet, and there is a light fruity texture, all nicely balanced by a decent acidity. It has lots of walnut, dried fruit and a full backbone along with very good length.
After years under the yoke of Rumasa this historic old bodega was close to being lost. The oenologist, Luis Arroyo Felices, left to start Bodegas Arfe and large quantities of wine were sold off by the administrators to cover costs, but the recent acquisition by Fundador offers hope (though if the new website is anything to go by, it will take a while). At least they appointed the very able Salvador Real (ex Delgado Zuleta) as oenologist, and hopefully with sufficient funding he can restore the wines' reputation. 
8.50 euros, La Casa del Jerez

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Palo Cortado Monteagudo 19%, Delgado Zuleta

Bright chestnut to mahogany with coppery tints fading to amber.
There is a hint of umami along with a savoury, salty, very slightly bitter note from the flor one imagines, and a trace of olive followed by toasted nuts and a trace of autolised yeast. It has lots of character and could only really come from Sanlúcar. There is also some body with notes of walnut and a trace of caramel mingling with the oxidative notes.
Similar, smooth - despite a slightly higher level of acidity than a Jerez, yet not quite crisp - with that savoury umami note carrying through. It is salty with a hint of caramel giving a very slightly bitter-sweet note blending in with the nuts. This is good, fairly light but very tasty.
Monteagudo is the upmarket range from Delgado Zuleta, named after the Conde de Monteagudo who once owned the vineyards from which the grapes for this wine come. This fine Palo Cortado, which is very good value for money, has a good but short time under Sanlúcar flor before oxidation sets in and has a total of about 12-14 years of ageing in solera.
12,50, Licores Corredera

Friday, 23 March 2018

23.3.18 Anthology of Sherry Stories Published.

A new book has just been published titled “Si mil hijos tuviera” (If I had a thousand sons) which is an anthology of stories and anecdotes about the world of Sherry, memories and historical texts written by fifteen authors closely related to it. The presentation took place yesterday evening at the Museo del Enganche (carriage Museum), a former bodega building next to the Spanish Riding School in Jerez, sponsored by Banca March and the Consejo Regulador followed, naturally, by a glass of Sherry.

The authors, whose names read like a who’s who of Sherry, are: Antonio Díez Romero-Valdespino, Lorenzo Díez Romero-Valdespino, Beltrán Domecq Williams, Maribel Estévez Puerto, Paula Fernández de Bobadilla González, Begoña García González-Gordon, Rafael García de Angulo de la Calle, Enrique García-Maíquez, Bibiana González-Gordon López de Carrizosa, Guadalupe Grosso Romero, Nhean Haynes Domecq, Javier Hidalgo de Argüeso, Carmen Oteo Barranco, Fatima Ruiz de Lassaletta and Myriam Soto Díez. The foreword of the book was written by the famous wine critic, producer and author, Victor de la Serna, while the title refers to a wonderful heartfelt soliloquy recommending Sherry (or “sack as it was known in England then) by Falstaff in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV. Illustrations are by Ximena Maier.

Since 2014 the authors have been getting together twice a year to celebrate all things Sherry, and so the “Brotherhood of the Sons of Falstaff” was born and the idea for the book came about. The brotherhood has a website: in which the statutes are listed, and membership is restricted to one thousand. The name of the brotherhood came from an article by Enrique García-Maíquez.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Cortijo de Jara 12 Meses 2013 15%, Cortijo de Jara

Almost opaque blacky plummy red to youngish ruby rim.
Attractive aromas of ripe plums and cherries nicely balanced by restrained American oak. There is a slight balsamic note and a hint of spice, partly from the oak and a certain ripe jammy character from the ripeness and a little maturity, but it is fresh and characterful
The spice and oak are more evident now but not excessive giving plenty of upfront appeal followed by fresh fleshy ripe black fruits, vanilla, even a hint of toast. There is a refreshing and perfectly proportioned hint of acidity to balance the ripe fruit and fairly gentle tannin. After three and a half years or so in bottle it is pretty close to its ideal drinking moment.
Made from hand picked Tempranillo (roughly 50%, Merlot and Syrah (roughly 25% each) from a 15 hectare vineyard and aged for 12 months in American oak barrels in a picturesque old bodega which was the original house of the cortijo which is located a few miles northeast of Jerez. This is a go-ahead business run by the Garcia Angulo family which also produces white wine, olive oil and chickpeas among other things and has a car concessionaire business. This is the second release of the wine and it can only improve further as the 5 hectares of recently planted vines begin to age.
8.50 euros ex bodega

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Amontillado Principe VORS 21.5%, Barbadillo

Antique mahogany with bright copper glints fading through amber to a hint of green at the rim.
Packed with toasted nuts and a hint of marzipan, old oak and a trace of "bodega" with saline notes balancing tantalisingly with hints of slightly caramel-like sweetness. It is extremely refined, fresh, lively and intense with considerable charm and sophistication, always backed with gentle oak notes.
Concentrated and full yet elegant at the same time, there are faint traces of smoke, beaches, hints of oak and lots of nuts. Suggestions of nutty dried fruit and almond in caramel sweetness balance with hints of unaggressive tannin and an element of salinity, and the whole is very generous, a wine to really get your teeth into! And very long, superb.
The wine began life as a Manzanilla in the Solear solera where it spent six years before spending two more years in the two-scale pasada solera. With eight years under flor, it was then re-fortified to 18° to begin the oxidative period and entered the Amontillado Príncipe solera, gaining another seven years and then entered the VORS solera in the bodega El Potro where it spent over twenty years in butts filled  “a tocadedos” (to the top) before bottling, having passed through nineteen scales. It must be exhausted! But it doesn’t show. Things used to be nice and simple; Príncipe was the superior Amontillado and the VORS was the top one, but Barbadillo have changed things so that now there are two versions of it: Príncipe 12 years old and Príncipe VORS. The same applies to the rest of the superior range and the VORS wines are now in half bottles sealed with a driven cork and wax and packed in a little black gift box, and it is more expensive than before. Still, I thought it would be worth another look. A total of about 2,000 half bottles are released in one annual saca.
44.80 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Table Wine Bodegas: Cuatro Ojos Wines

Olga Sánchez, Lucía Fuentes and Desirée Rodríguez began realising their dream of making wine with their first release in 2015. Now known as "Las Chicas del Moscatel", they met while studying viti-viniculture and now work from a 90 square metre bodega in the Las Salinas industrial estate in El Puerto de Santa María where they try to produce innovative wines in a completely artisan way, always looking for a gap in the market. So far total production is around 5,000 bottles but that is very likely to increase.

The 4 Ojos girls (L-R Olga, Lucia and Desiree)

Their first release was Contratiempo, a dry wine made from Moscatel grapes from the Blanquita vineyard in the pago Balbaína, something unusual as Moscatel is usually made into a sweet wine in the Marco de Jerez. It caught the attention of Ángel León, "the chef of the sea" who owns the triple Michelin star restaurant Aponiente and his team, which includes Lucía. In fact he asked them to make him a wine to be served exclusively in the restaurant; quite an honour.

The names of all their wines have a reason behind them. With Contratiempo it goes against the times and there is always some vinification problem, yet problems are overcome and the wine gets listings in the best restaurants. Molinero is also a Moscatel, but this time with 3 months on lees and is named after their tutor, Araceli Molinero. The other white is Desvelao which features 3 months under a veil of flor, hence the name. Then there is the red A Pulso, made with organic Syrah grapes from the vineyards of Hacienda Parrilla Alta, and innovatively, by carbonic maceration.

Other projects are always on the cards. They are thinking of a Tintilla de Rota, since Lucía comes from Rota, and even fortified wines, though for the time being they have many avenues still to explore with table wines.

Address: Calle Arquimedes, Nave 5
Pol. Ind. Salinas del Poniente
El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz

Monday, 19 March 2018

Vermut Antonio Pedro I 16%, Bodegas Yuste

Deep mahogany with coppery highlights.
Attractive balance of the Sherry with the botanicals and reasonably light, elegant and not as intense as some nor as apparently sweet, yet well rounded. There are notes of wormwood, naturally, and other bitter herbs as well as a hint of orange peel and slightly toasty savoury hints.
Sherry up front then the bitter herbs follow quickly through giving a nice bitter-sweet tension and great balance at  the same time. Its elegance gives one the choice of drinking it straight from the fridge or with ice and a slice. It is not too sweet and is quite fresh with a good long slightly bitter finish.
This classic and very complex Vermouth is made by macerating no fewer than 41 natural botanicals with old Sherry in ex Manzanilla Pasada butts. The botanicals include wormwood, gentian, elderflower, coriander, quinine and centaury. The brand name is interesting, and refers to the rather bizarre story of José Antonio Hurtado who, during the 1980s as Antonio Pedro, was a Spanish singer and actor who made a living by impersonating the great Mexican singer and actor Pedro Infante who had died in 1957.
12 euros, Er Guerrita

Sunday, 18 March 2018

18.3.18 Wine Origins Launch DO Protection Campaign in US

The Consejo Regulador and Wine Origins (of which it is a member) have spent the last week campaigning to increase protection for Denominations of Origin in the United States. There, many European wines, such as Sherry, Port and Champagne, among others, are considered “semi-generic” and these names continue to be used legally for imitations produced in America. On 1st March 2016 the European Union and the United States signed the Wine Accord in an attempt to deal with this, but unfortunately American producers with labels already registered with these names were allowed to continue to use them.

Representatives of the various Wine Origins Denominations. Cesar Saldana from Jerez is at back centre (foto:CRDO Jerez)
The problem is that American consumers have to try to distinguish between the real thing and locally produced imitations which give a false impression of the real thing. Wine Origins is an alliance of classic wine production areas in Europe, the United States and Australia which is campaigning to protect the names of their wines’ origins. Many American producers have joined the alliance, and research shows that 94% of American consumers support the idea. Thecampaign involved much lobbying of senators, congressmen and the media, and the results have been very positive - with the help of the occasional tasting. Only the large corporations which are members of the California Wine Institute stand in the way, but it was felt that their armour had been breached. Most of the world’s great wines are named after their place of origin, and the real thing can only be produced there, so it is vital to protect them.

Friday, 16 March 2018

16.3.18 Success for Sherry in Bacchus Awards

The following Sherries have won awards at the XVI edition of the Bacchus International Wine Competition. Only Gold and Silver are awarded at the only competition held in Spain (Madrid) which is recognised by the OIV (International Organisation for the Vine and Wine). More than 100 international tasters, including Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, winemakers and specialised journalists, worked their way through over 1,500 wines over four days, so it is certainly thorough.

Gran Bacchus de Oro: (only 10 wines are awarded this)
Lustau Oloroso VORS
Tradición Palo Cortado VORS

Bacchus de Oro:
Fundador Harveys Bristol Cream
Fundador Harveys Amontillado
Fundador Harveys Oloroso
Osborne Coquinero
Díez Mérito Amontillado Pemartín
Lustau Palo Cortado VORS
Lustau Pedro Ximénez VORS
González Byass PX Noé VORS
Tradición Cream VOS
Tradición Amontillado VORS
Tradición Oloroso VORS

Bacchus de Plata:
Díez Mérito Oloroso Pemartín
González Byass Tio Pepe
Coop. Católico Agricola Moscatel Los Madroñales

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A Pulso 2017 12%, Cuatro Ojos Wines

Light, transparent young ruby red with a pink tinge to the rim.
Fresh and bursting with forest berry fruit and faint background traces of tea and licorice, open and light, full of youthful exuberance with a passing resemblance to Beaujolais primeur, but different grapes.
Again lots of fruit, berries plums, cherries, and pretty light with only gentle structure and depth. It is a pleasant red wine which would match white meats, perhaps lightly cooled, but is for enjoying now as it is not very suitable for bottle ageing.
Much of the lightness, freshness and fruitiness can be explained by the fact that the wine was made by carbonic maceration, like Beaujolais primeur. The grapes are destemmed and placed whole in a sealed stainless steel tank where some grapes are crushed under the weight of the rest. This releases juice which begins to ferment emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide causing the other grapes to ferment intracellularly - from the inside. This gives a wine which is low in tannin and structure but soft light and fruity. After fermentation the tank is emptied and the solids trodden by foot for more extraction. The wine was bottled in early December. It would be helpful if they would include on the label grape variety/ies (in this case, I believe it is Syrah) and vintage, which is information the consumer would probably find more useful than the winemaking process.
12.45 De Albariza

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

13.3.18 Very Special Tasting to be Included at Vinoble

At each edition of Vinoble, one of the most eagerly awaited tastings is the one conducted by the Consejo Regulador of Jerez. In previous years these tastings have focused on wines like VOS and VORS or Vintage Sherries or Noble Blends, but this year the Consejo has come up with another brilliant idea which will maintain Vinoble’s capacity to offer wine professionals a unique opportunity to try real wine treasures which would be practically impossible to find anywhere else.

The Consejo’s proposal is titled “Treasures of San Ginés” and will consist of a tasting of the truly unique wines stored in the commemorative butts in its own bodega of San Ginés at Consejo HQ. These butts contain the vintage wines which result from the traditional treading of the grapes which takes place at the main door of the cathedral during the annual Fiesta de la Vendimia. Since the first Fiesta in 1948, the must has been fermented, decanted and fortified and then aged statically in butts in San Ginés.

Some of the butts at San Gines (foto:ABC Sevilla)

As well as the symbolic value of this traditional winemaking method, these vintage wines have great importance in the recent history of the Consejo. In the year 2000 they became an essential element in establishing analytical reference points - especially in terms of carbon 14 - in the determination of a reliable curve of values to guarantee the veracity of the age certification system for VOS and VORS.

The specific vintages to be tasted at Vinoble have been personally selected by Consejo president Beltrán Domecq, who will also conduct the tasting, aided by director general, César Saldaña. The organisers of Vinoble hope to finalise the complete tasting programme in early April, when tickets will be made available.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Brandy Solera Gran Reserva 38%, Fernando de Castilla

Fairly deep antique mahogany with bright copper highlights fading to amber at the rim.
Exudes class with all the classic characteristics of Brandy de Jerez but in top form. It is crisp with an excellent balance between dried fruit, mainly dates and raisins, and fresh clean oak in which the Sherry is notable but not predominant leaving room for all sorts of nuances like toasted bread and nuts and traces of caramel and aromatic woods. Tight and fresh.
Crisp, full, generous and clean, it makes quite an impact and shows just how good Brandy de Jerez can be. There is no sweetening making it quite dry and there is a hint of tannin - to be expected for its age - giving a hint of grip but not at all aggressive, and there is a roundness which carries it through to impressive length. The quality of the casks is evident and it is beautifully made.
This superb brandy is made from selected pot still holandas - the firm only uses holandas - and aged primarily as añadas and then in solera, in butts previously seasoned with Oloroso and Amontillado, for a total of 15 years. As his family had been involved in the Sherry trade for a couple of centuries, and having worked for Gonzalez Byass, Fernando Andrada Vanderwilde y Contreras decided to set up a firm to produce the finest possible Brandy in Spain. He started out buying brandy from Real Tesoro, eventually buying the Gran Reserva solera, a bodega in Calle Jardinillos and the almacenista Bustamante. The brandy was highly successful and the firm is now run by Jan Petterson, who has added various amazing single cask brandies to the range.
44.50 euros, Birdie Vinos

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Entrechuelos Rosado 2017 13.5%, Bodegas Miguel Domecq

Very pale, bright faintly copper tinted wild salmon pink with pinky gold highlights.
Fresh and fruity with hints of raspberry, strawberry and a trace of peach and gently tangy with a slight floral note and some white wine character and confectionery following through.
Beautifully balanced, clean and elegant, very refreshing with great depth of flavour with lots of soft berry fruits. Attractively tangy, subtle and decently long.
While this most attractive wine is made in the currently fashionable very pale style,what it may lack in depth of colour it certainly does not lack in flavour. It is made from night harvested Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot grapes grown on the firm's own vineyards at the Cortijo de Torrecera. Each variety is harvested separately when it is perfectly ripe, and on arrival at the winery the grapes are put in stainless steel tanks and the juice is allowed to drain under gravity, without pressing. This gives very fine juice with very little colour which is fermented slowly at 15C over three weeks before spending a few months on lees before bottling. I am presuming this is from 2017 as a vintage is not stated. If it were older the colour would be more orange. It would help shops rotate stock if a year or clear lot number was stated, not to mention consumers.
4,50 euros, Licores Corredera

Friday, 9 March 2018

Palo Cortado "Saca Única" 22% Sacristía AB

Beautiful bright clear deep mahogany with copper glints and a trace of green at the rim.
Extremely aromatic yet serious with clear notes of toasted almond and hazelnut and a trace of orange tinged caramel. There is a hint of oak and a sensation of exotic wood like cedar along with a trace of toast. It is hard to identify some of the many nuances as time has melded them into a harmonious and very charming bouquet. A very serious wine.
Intense and concentrated. There is a distinct saline note behind and salted caramel perhaps, a hint of bitterness and inevitably a certain amount of tannin and crisp acidity, much of it volatile, but it is very old and that is to be expected. Once past the structural elements, it opens out and offers lots of nuts, a hint of rolling tobacco and various woods, before fading gracefully and with incredible length.
This is the first Palo Cortado in the Sacristía AB range by Antonio Barbadillo Mateos, who sells limited amounts of top quality old wines, and it is very special. It comes from the bodegas of Juan Piñero in Sanlúcar and 500 litres were contract bottled, giving a saca of 1,000 x 50cl numbered bottles. The wine is somewhere between 90 and 100 years old and is thus pretty rare and proves that there are still a few ancient treasures to be found. This stunning wine is definitely a Vino de Pañuelo. The yellow symbol on the label looks like that for dos cortados, but on its side, yet this wine is surely a cuatro cortados as more cortados are added according to age - as long as the wine is in good condition of course.
110,65 per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Ponche Santa María 20%, Osborne

Chestnut brown fading to amber with coppery glints.
Distinct aromas of orange, both juice and peel and perhaps a hint of lemon, followed by herbal and spice notes predominantly cinnamon with hints of brown sugar and caramel. It is very fresh and light with a certain complexity and all is nicely integrated.
The sweetness has a certain viscosity which is cut by the citrus giving it a gentle tang which balances with caramel and herbal notes. It is light, clean and fresh with a lively fruity character with decent length and no cloying.
Made from selected spirits distilled at the firm's own distillery in Tomelloso and infused with fruits such as orange, plum, raisin and various spices like cinnamon, many in the form of essences  according to a secret formula. While all the formulas are secret, most Ponches taste fairly similar yet there are subtle differences. Unlike some, Osborne seem to be doing little to promote this product.
8 euros per litre, Roali

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Vino Blanco 12 Liños 2016 12.5%, Viña Armijo

Mid strawy, brassy gold with golden glints.
Lovely and fairly intense Palomino nose with lots of slightly herbal and floral wild meadow aromas especially camomile and even a faint hints of honeysuckle, followed by some apple and apricot fruit. It has a certain weight, perhaps from the old vines or lees stirring or both and it is complex and charming, and speaks of soils exposed to fresh Atlantic air.
Beautifully balanced, it has breadth as well as an attractive mineral and very slightly saline backbone with lots of apple, quince and perhaps a trace of apricot and apple skin. Is is super clean and fresh with a gentle tang, good length and undoubted bottle ageing potential.
This cracking wine is made from Palomino grapes from just 12 rows of very old vines in the Armijo vineyard located in the pago Miraflores Alto at Sanlúcar. This is the origin of the great Gaspar Florido wines. This is the first release of 12 Liños and it is a great example of the classic "Vino Blanco de Sanlúcar" with lots of vineyard character showing through. It is aged with minimal flor in an old former Manzanilla butt and winemaking is supervised by Ramiro Ibáñez. The wine is contract bottled en rama by EMC3 in El Puerto and sealed with a driven cork and wax seal.
15 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Oloroso L&B 18%, Bodegas Lorente & Barba

Deep old mahogany with copper highlights fading through amber to a trace of green at the rim.
Attractive, full, fragrant and forthcoming, it has an air of age and class. It is complex with interesting nuances of oak, cinnamon, walnut, vanilla and traces of pasa, orange peel and burnt sugar, but they are all well harmonised into a wine with great character and individuality.
It is full bodied at first and very well rounded with a slight and surprising hint of raisiny sweetness as if just a drop of PX had been added. If so, it is a traditional practice with old wines and perfectly legal. A delightful generous mellowness then follows as it opens out, richly nutty with that trace of brown sugar, beautifully controlled oxidation and very little tannin and the wine finishes slightly lighter than expected yet it has considerable length, and dangerous drinkability. It is quite delicious.
Mauricio Lorente and Julio Barba have established their own bodega based on stocks of wine which have been in the family for a long time, so their wines are new on the market, at least in bottled form. Everything is done by hand by the traditional methods; no pumps, filtration or bottling line here. The bodega building itself is over 500 years old and provides the perfect conditions for ageing. Wines for bottling are taken from the individual solera butts only when they are deemed to be perfect. They are not blended together, so any differences in the wines from each butt are celebrated, and the numbers of the saca, butt and bottle are written on the label. These are single barrel Sherries and there is only ever a maximum of 225 bottles from each butt. This delightful Oloroso has about 18 years solera age, and it comes from saca 2, butt 26 and Oloroso bottle 39. Naturally it was bottled en rama (unfiltered) by hand and has a driven cork.
27.90, La Tienda del Jerez

Monday, 5 March 2018

Bodegas Viña el Armijo

The Florido family have been involved in the wine trade since the XVIII century and became exporters at the start of the XIX. Another branch of the family is that of the famous Bodegas César Florido in Chipiona, who buy grapes from Viña el Armijo. In 1880 the firm of Florido Hermanos was established in Sanlúcar, but was later bought out by Pedro Domecq.

In 1942 Gaspar Florido Cano founded a new firm with his own name having purchased some very old Amontillado soleras from Bodegas Rodriquez La-Cave (which later merged with Delgado Zuleta). These soleras would later form the famous soleras 25-GF, 30-GF and Ansar Real (dated 1840). The numbers refer to the number of butts in the soleras. He worked as an artisan almacenista supplying wines to the best bodegas and also to local bars and restaurants.

Florido owned the 33 hectare Viña el Armijo in the Pago Miraflores with its lovely XVI century casa de viña which supplied most of its musts. It also owned over five bodegas with a total of some 7,000 butts, but later consolidated into one bigger one on the road to Trebujena. In 1997, aware of the prestige of the wines Eduardo Cotro Florido, from the fourth generation, decided to bottle them and sell them on the open market. He asked extremely high prices, but it worked as the whole world took notice.

Without any heirs interested in taking on the declining business Florido eventually sold out for 6.5 million euros to Pedro Romero in 2007, but he didn’t sell everything. He retained the Viña el Armijo and some butts of his old wines, GF-25 and Ansar Real (GF 30) no less. The rest was later bought by Bodegas Alonso. Not only that but soon after the sale a new company was formed, Gaspar Florido e Hijas SL with an office in the Banda Playa, and these lovely wines plus a Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso of very fine quality are available in very limited quantities. It is run by Isolina Florido Escriva de Romani and José Manuel Gaona. In 2018 they launched a white Palomino table wine called 12 Liños, made with the help of Ramiro Ibáñez.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Moscatel Pico Plata 15%, Bodegas Yuste

Deep mahogany fading to amber with coppery highlights.
Fresh, fruity and juicy with pronounced raisin and date character along with gentle and very slightly floral notes of honey, citrus, tea, oxidation along with a faint trace of oak and some age.
Viscous and very sweet yet as is usual with Moscatel, there is a decent level of acidity to freshen it up. It has that lovely tangy, super ripe fruitiness and pulpy texture from the sun dried grapes and is quite full yet it has a light, clean non-cloying finish which lasts. Good.
The grapes for this classic, full Moscatel come from the home of Sherry Moscatel: the sandy coastal vineyards of Chipiona. They are sun dried for a week or so and the wine is partially fermented before fortification and ageing in solera. It should not be mistaken for a Malaga Moscatel of the same name made by Malaga Virgen which, while delicious, is a little younger and not solera aged. The name Pico Plata translates as "silver beak" and there is a South American bird of that name, but here it refers to the original source of the grapes: a pago a little east of Chipiona. The brand was originally owned by Florido Hermanos but made and bottled for them by Domecq. Then, it was sold at a greater age: añejo. Florido was taken over by Pedro Romero and when they went bust Francisco Yuste bought various wines and brands along with that of Pico Plata. Some original (now very, very old) wine is now in the hands of Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Pérez who are selling it under the revived brand M Antonio de la Riva which they bought from Beam, then owners of Domecq who owned it. Anyway, while this is not the original añejo wine, it is very good.
14,20, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Winter Pruning and the State of Things

I came upon this interesting article by Francisco Romero with photos by Juan Carlos Toro and thought it would interest you too.

The sky is heavy with cloud but the rain hasn’t yet arrived. Until it does, activity doesn’t stop in the Calderín del Obispo vineyard which lies in the pago Balbaina, west of Jerez close to the Jerez - Rota, road, and here one can see a dozen workers busy pruning the vines with shears. Juan Cabrera is one of the longest serving. Juanín, as his co-workers know him, has been doing this job since 1993. “I learned it from two veterans, one on my right and the other on my left”, and he remembers them saying cut the dead stick and leave the green. He is one of twelve pruners in the team which works for about 70 days a year. It used to be more, but there is less manual work now as vineyard husbandry becomes ever more mechanised. “A few years ago there were 70 of us to do the harvest, and now there are ten” says Juanín who, while he talks, doesn’t stop cutting off branches which will later be collected by another team armed with rakes.

One of these is Juana Vázquez who has worked in the vineyard since 2006 and who works fewer days as time goes by. “Before, it was nine months non-stop, last year it was 38 days, just enough to keep me going for six months” she says. I only have this work, the rest of the year I don’t work, there is nothing out there. The pruning season coincides with other agricultural activities, she says, and in her native Espera (Cádiz) there is little chance of finding work. Still, she considers herself privileged. “At least I have this but friends of mine are looking for any opportunity to work. This year she hopes to at least equal the number of days she worked last year.

The 45 hectares of this vineyard are planted to three vine varieties: Tintilla de Rota, Tempranillo and Palomino, though the latter predominates. “The Tintilla is good but is more expensive and has lower yields” explains Diego Vázquez, Juana’s brother, pruner and team leader, and for whom the vineyard has become his passion. “Every day you learn something new” he says, “you go shaping new vines, and it is wonderful to shape a vineyard right from the start from the grafting through to a productive vine”. It was his father who introduced him to this world and since then he has continued to progress in an environment he now knows intimately. “I knew a few days ago that it would soon rain; when you can hear the aircraft from the Rota base, you know rain is on its way”, he says with conviction, repeating a piece of wisdom he learned from the veterans.

The casa de viña (vineyard house) is located at the top of the slope from where you can see half the province. To the east lies Jerez with the sierra in the distance, and to the south, the Bay of Cádiz. The building was constructed in the XVIII century and originally belonged to the Dominican monks who left their legacy here in the form of art, paintings mainly, and a chapel which the Guerrero family has preserved in perfect condition. According to Francisco Guerrero, one of the brothers who run the estate, it was his grandfather who began to exploit part of the land to provide a school to teach the workers’ children to read and write, a small bodega and a home for the vineyard manager in his forebears’ former residence, though this is hardly used now.

“I had thought of organising some sort of activity to develop wine tourism, but now at the age I am…” says Francisco, wine grower and president of Asevi-Asaja, the association of independent growers. “The vineyard is getting more and more mechanised because skilled labour is too expensive” he explains, since “the wine doesn’t sell for the price it should”, which produces a cascade effect forcing growers to reduce costs. He lists the vineyard practices which have been lost over time: “Now the vine bark is no longer peeled back to clear it of insects, pruning cuts are no longer painted with iron sulphate and citric acid, even the kind of pruning has changed from vara y pulgar to double cordon, which is more suitable for mechanisation”.

Guerrero comes from a family with decades in the world of wine. His grandfather founded Bodegas Soto which sold a famous ponche of the same name. It was he who added the “del Obispo” to the name of the estate which his grandchildren now run because that was the nickname of an old friend who used to complain that there were ever fewer trades (the word “oficio” also means a church service)  in the vineyards and that the growers were ageing. Guerrero says that “the vineyards of Jerez need more work than in other parts of Spain because the type of pruning is costlier”, which, along with the low price of a kilo of grapes (in Rioja the price is around 2 euros a kilo and in Jerez 0.35 euros) means that profits for growers are ever leaner. “It is not enough to cover costs” he points out, adding that “we are not paid for the quality of the grapes or the sacrifices we make”.

The pruning work, which started in December, is coming to an end.  The pruning team will be swapping their shears for other less physical work, but just as important. Soon they will be lowering the wires to allow the plants to bud and then raising them again in a few weeks to allow them to stand straight and for the grapes to grow properly towards the beginning of summer, although there is still plenty of time for that. Juanín is one of the survivors. “There used to be 20 of us but now we are barely ten or twelve” he says, letting it slip later that he wants to retire. He doesn’t have many years to go but he will have to wait till he is 65 since “in the countryside there is no early retirement”. When he and his co-workers retire, who will there be to do their jobs?

Friday, 2 March 2018

Zerej II Palo Cortado 20%, Barbadillo

Bright clean amber tinged chestnut to mahogany with coppery gold glints, fading through amber to a trace of green at the rim.
Attractive start with plenty of toasted almond and hazelnut, faint buttery and bitter orange notes along with a certain crispness and faint bitterness, from its Sanlucar origins presumably. There are suggestions of salted caramel and just a hint of oak. It is very much Amontillado in character, yet there is a certain weight in the background. Subtle, nuanced and appealing.
It is definitely fuller on the palate with more Oloroso character showing through yet remains extremely elegant and there is a perfect counterpoise between Amontillado and Oloroso. It is beautifully rounded with an attractive open texture, now with hints of walnut, leather and tobacco, very faint hints of tannin, and the whole comes together with delightful complexity. This seems to be a wine one could enjoy at any stage of its production. Superb.
This delightful wine is one of four magnums in the second release of the Zerej and is the oldest wine in the set. After ageing briefly under flor the wine was re-fortified and aged oxidatively for an average of 25 years in a very old solera. The Palo Cortado is bottled at various ages, the youngest being the 15 year old Obispo Gascón, followed by the VORS (now also named Obispo Gascón) which is well over 30 and the rare (barely 40 bottles a year) Reliquia at around 100 years. It is interesting to see the wine in a roughly half way stage between two younger bottlings, and it comes from one butt laboriously selected by Montse Molina and Armando Guerra, bottled without any filtration or stabilisation in March 2017.
180 euros for the set of 4 magnums, no individual price but excellent value.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Mirabrás 2016 13.5%, Barbadillo

Deep bright straw gold with golden highlights.
Serious, with  lots of nuances; fruity ones like apple - even a faint cider-like hint, herbal ones like camomile and fresh straw, traces of flor and a gentle sweeter, almost honey-like tone possibly from the asoleado. Not far removed from Manzanilla with its light marine notes, yet fruitier and with less flor and alcohol. And there is a certain weight to it. Very attractive.
Tangy apple,bitter hints of flor and a saline note instantly give away its origins and grape variety. There is also a slightly chalky mineral feel and a decent level of acidity which give it a decent bite and some of the classic Sanlucar wildness and probably some bottle ageing potential, especially if the 2014 is anything to go by. Both delicious and interesting.
The wine is named after the Mirabrás which is a style of Flamenco associated with Sanlúcar, hence the label design. The wine itself is even more interesting, however. It is made the old fashioned way from 100% old vine (45 years old) Palomino grown in the firm's Cerro de Leyes vineyard which is part of their larger Finca Santa Lucia. The grapes are sunned briefly before fermentation using natural yeast in toneles seasoned with Manzanilla. It remains for some 14 months on its lees, without batonnage, in a mix of the same toneles and some tanks where flor is allowed to develop, but to a small extent as the toneles are filled "a tocadedos". It was bottled without filtration in December 2017 and a total of just over 5,000 bottles were available.
16,95 euros, De Albariza