Monday, 30 April 2018

Navazos Fino en rama June 2017 15%, Equipo Navazos

Very slightly dull brassy amber gold.
Full and slightly saline with a dry, gently bitter edge and a trace of overripe apple. There is the slightest oxidative note giving it depth and presence with notes of dry scrub,wax, bitter almond and straw, and some development has certainly taken place during its 10 months in bottle giving a well evolved wine with real character. 
Again, full, verging on intense, with a very slightly higher acidity than expected, but that keeps it fresh and balances those oxidative, slightly nutty notes. It is very dry and has a slightly chalky texture along with hints of olive brine and sourdough. Super complex and very long, it evolves well in the glass.
This is not from the La Bota de series, but rather bottled specifically for certain markets on request, in this case for Alliance Wines in the UK. Quantities are usually around 2,500 half bottles and filled approximately seasonally. The wine is a  selection from the Valdespino Fino solera and has an average age of well over 5 years.
£10.95, Drinkmonger

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Dr Borrego Pla's Lecture on Sherry's links to Three Continents

This is an abstract from the lecture Dr María del Carmen Borrego Plá gave at Williams & Humbert the other evening. Her topic was “Return Traffic: the links between three continents” and one she is uniquely expert on, having a doctorate in history and being part owner with her mother of Bodegas El Maestro Sierra.

Dr Borrego focused her lecture on the exceptional “network of interests and exchanges” which was created from the start of the XVI century between Spain, the “Indies” and Asia. These interchanges, which have rarely been studied in depth, have been mainly centred on luxury products and those relevant to nutrition and the pharmacopeia. Many of our modern day customs have derived from these connections between the three continents without us being aware of it. This was the earliest economic globalisation and it is very similar to current globalisation theories.

Dr Borrego addressing over 80 people in the area of the bodega where they store the Anadas

She stressed the “luxury mentality of the Renaissance” and the nature of the products involved, which were considered to be of high value, and which arrived in Castile mainly via Venice and Constantinople. The fall of the latter into the hands of the Turks, who decided to cease trading with Europe, was the turning point where Spain and Portugal decided to search out their own products. Dr Borrego explained how Spain and Portugal in the days of the great navigators also decided to go to China following the papal allocation of their own new Atlantic shipping routes, through which Spain would go on to discover a new continent.

Commercial efforts in the Indies as well as China and the Philippines as strategic enclaves of the Spanish trading network are some of the historic milestones she addressed, as well as the route of the well-known “Manila Galleon” which gave Spain entry to the Philippines and vice-versa.

Studies of the products traded reveal a wide range; imported from the Indies were maize, potatoes, cacao and tobacco, to mention just a few examples, and exported from Spain; livestock, various crops, and of course wine, while from Asia, lacquer, silk and spices were imported.

Dr Borrego with Jesus Medina Garcia de Polavieja, director of Williams & Humbert

In the end we would find that Sherry would become one of the central threads in this network and exchange of trade routes and cultures. It was transported by ship in containers made of wood, ceramic or leather and mostly sent to Mexico since winemaking was difficult there on account of problems with pruning techniques. Sherry was already highly valued and was even used as a means of payment with the older wine having a higher commercial value than the younger.

These wines from Jerez arrived in the Philippines by the route of the aforementioned Manila Galleon (also known as the China Ship or the Acapulco Galleon). This route would link Spain with the Philippines and connect the ports of Seville, Veracruz, Acapulco and Manila. It was a complicated route, a mix of land and sea crossings. In the case of the Philippines it involved sailing from the Atlantic into the Pacific, the ocean they referred to as the Sea of Silk and Silver for the huge quantities of these goods which crossed its waters.

Dr Borrego also described how the tobacco pouches from the Indies came wrapped in Chinese silk. This silk, then so cheap that tobacco was wrapped in it, was used by the girls in the tobacco factory in Seville to make their own shawls. This unprecedented exchange of culture and trade also affected Sherry labelling (especially Manzanilla) which frequently used representations of these women in their shawls, thus reflecting the links between these three continents through three products; tobacco, silk and wine.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Amontillado Perpendicular 22%, Las Botas

Attractive antique chestnut fading through amber to a green tinge at the rim, copper highlights.
It immediately smells old and complex with traces of oak along with some real refinement. There are lots of toasted nuts made crisper with a hint of volatile acidity, traces of tobacco, aromatic woods, incense and of course a hint of salinity, all balanced up with a gentle hint of almond in caramel. At this age many of the super subtle nuances have harmonised into a classic and charming bouquet.
The opening gambit is crisp and zippy with a refreshing acidity which helps accentuate the bones of the wine; nuts and salinity on a faintly oaky background. There can be no doubt this intense wine is from Sanlúcar. While assertive, it is fairly light and as it opens out more of its subtleties show themselves; faint notes of spices like vanilla and cinnamon with faint notes of toast and turron yema tostada. The finish is characterful, clean and almost eternal. Magnificent.
This is the second release of Perpendicular bottled (en rama) in December 2017 for Balandro Vinos consisting of 900 x 50cl bottles, and it is amazing. It comes from a selection from 6 butts which were originally in the bodega of the church of Santo Domingo, on the corner next to the Argüeso bodegas of Calle Mar in Sanlúcar, and was incorporated into the latter in the XIX century. Argüeso now belongs to Francisco Yuste. The wine has an average age of some 70 years and began life as Manzanilla, with no doubt many years under flor, reaching its alcoholic strength entirely naturally by concentration, without re-fortification. This release is a very different style from the first which was a superb 20 year old Jerez wine from Bodegas Urium.
39 euros per 50cl bottle, La Tienda del Jerez


Friday, 27 April 2018

25.4.18 Great Success for Sherry at VinEspaña Awards

At the first edition of the VinEspaña wine competition, run by the Spanish Federation of Oenologists’ Associations (FEAE) and held at the Alcázar in Jerez on 19th and 20th April, 40 expert tasters who were also oenologists and members of the FEAE organised themselves into six judging panels which examined a total of 380 wines from all over Spain, notable among which were those of Galicia and Andalucía. The event was sponsored by the International Union of Oenologists (UIOE), the Ministries of Agriculture of both the government and the Junta with collaboration from the Jerez City Council.

Of the 30 Sherries presented 23 won medals, 10 won the Gran VinEspaña de Oro for wines scoring over 92 points, 11 won the VinEspaña de Oro (88-92 points) and 2 won the VinEspaña de Plata (84-88 points). Two VinEspaña de Oro went to the Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz: Finca Moncloa 2014 (González Byass) and Taberner 2014 (Huerta de Albalá) while a VinEspaña de Plata went to Barbadillo’s Blanco de Blancos 2017 and Cortijo de Jara Roble (6 meses). The award winning Sherries were:

Gran VinEspaña de Oro: (24 winners - 10 of them Sherries)
Palo Cortado de la Cruz de 1767 (Bodegas Arfe)
Palo Cortado (Harveys)
Oloroso (Harveys)
Fino Pemartín (Díez Mérito)
Noé 1988 (González Byass)
1750 Palo Cortado (Fernádez Gao)
Oloroso Bertola (Díez Mérito)
Amontillado (Harveys)
Palo Cortado Leonor 2006 (González Byass)
Pedro Ximénez Oxford 1970 (Diós Baco)

VinEspaña de Oro:
Pedro Ximénez Duquesa (Sánchez Romate)
Palo Cortado Regente (Sánchez Romate)
Tio Pepe (González Byass)
Fino (Harveys)
Oloroso Ochavico (Garvey)
Moscatel Reserva J Martínez (El Gato)
Amontillado Tio Guillermo (Garvey)
1750 Medium Sweet (Fernádez Gao)
Pedro Ximénez (Harveys)
Amontillado NPU (Sánchez Romate)
Moscatel Dulce Flor (González Palacios)
Pedro Ximénez (Fernádez Gao)

VinEspaña de Plata:
Manzanilla Juncal (Garvey)
1750 Oloroso (Fernádez Gao)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

26.4.18 Seville Feria Breaks Sherry Sales Record Again

This year’s Feria de Abril, Seville’s annual festival and one of the largest in Spain, has broken the record again for consumption of Sherry. Sales during the feria season in Andalucía account for approximately 38% of total annual home market Sherry sales. The vast majority of feria sales are half bottles of Fino and Manzanilla of which well over a million and a half were sold, averaging well over 1,000 per caseta. Manzanilla was by far the best seller accounting for 80% and the best-selling brands were La Guita, Solear and La Gitana in that order. The Feria de Abril marks the starting point for the Andalusian feria season which runs into August, so much more Sherry will be sold, especially at the Feria del Caballo in Jerez, which starts on 5th May, and the ferias at El Puerto and Sanlúcar, which are not to be missed.


Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Manzanilla Pasada Solear en rama Invierno 2017 15%, Barbadillo

Bright, slightly brassy gold with golden highlights.
Bold and forthcoming with lots of yeasty bitter flor and almond from the acetaldehyde, dry scrubland, yet there is a certain humidity, saline with notes of olive brine, butter, sourdough and straw, and very slightly herbal, classic crianza biologica and very attractive.
Clean, fresh and intense with lots of toasted and un-toasted nuts, good racy acidity and lots of bitterness with all the underlying complexity imparted by the yeast. It is a serious wine, lively, bitter and saline at the same time but softened by the buttery notes. It is delicious.
Grown in the firm's 500 hectares of vineyard at Gibalbin and Santa Lucia planted over 30 years ago, the grapes went on to produce Manzanilla Solear. After about six years solera ageing most of the wine goes for bottling as Solear while some goes for a further two years ageing in an intermediate solera of 550 butts in two scales leading eventually to the Amontillado Principe solera. From the intermediate solera 100 litres are drawn from 15 selected butts to make a special blend which highlights the state of the wine at the time of the saca (11/12/17). It has about 8 years solera age and by now the flor is getting a little thinner. Each saca is done at the beginning of the season and reflects the state of the wine over the previous three months. If you are interested, the bird on the label is the endangered Marsh Harrier.
14.30 per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Lecture on PX by José Luís Zarzana

The Palomino Fino grape dominates the vineyards of the Marco de Jerez almost completely, leaving only very small plantations of the other two grapes authorised by the DO; Moscatel, most of which is in Chipiona, and Pedro Ximénez, of which there is even less, accounting for under 100 hectares.

In Jerez last Tuesday, in his maiden lecture as a member the Real Academia de San Dionisio, José Luís Zarzana Palma of PX specialist Bodegas Ximénez Spínola (est.1729) focused on “The Pedro Ximénez Grape in Jerez, its Origins, Varietal Characteristics and Winemaking Possibilities”. In his view there is room for PX in the area and it merits greater attention from the trade, and he encouraged growers to plant more of this variety “after a long and unjustified period of abandonment which caused a shortage which had to be supplemented imaginatively”. This shortage led to the paradox of being able to make and sell PX under the DO but not having sufficient raw material. Luckily, Brussels gave the bodegas permission to get their supplies from Montilla-Moriles in order to preserve this type of wine. Thus, the European Union sanctioned a practice which has been widespread since Phylloxera caused the Palomino to become almost a monoculture, relegating other local grape varieties which were more “problematic” such as PX and others like Mantúa and Perruno to virtual disuse due to their greater predisposition to diseases and lower levels of production. In his opinion therefore, the area has long experienced an excess of Palomino which has brought about successive grubbing-up of vines and re-conversion of vineyards without it occurring to anyone to substitute the grape that we are so short of.

(foto: JL Jimenez/Jerez Siempre)

But times have changed and now quality rules over quantity again with less standardisation, so he called for common sense to prevail, defending with the voice of experience all the grapes which grow in Jerez’ albariza soil, and encouraging the growers, organisations and the Consejo Regulador to plant more PX to bring even more greatness to the vineyards. He sustained that in the past different kinds of wines were produced from PX. Although there is no evidence, he is convinced that all the different kinds of DO Sherry have been produced from this grape.

Bodegas Ximenez Spinola and the PX vines (

This assertion is supported by experimental work carried out by the Zarzana family over the last ten years on vinification of PX in Jerez, to which they are dedicated under the auspices of the National Accreditation Body (ENAC). The recuperation of this local variety, along with the others already mentioned, has opened the debate about their inclusion as authorised varieties in the DO thanks to their conservation in the vinifera bank at the Rancho de la Merced and the efforts of its director, Alberto García de Luján. Making Oloroso from PX is straightforward but not so a Fino type wine which the firm has already produced, in this case without fortification and en rama, but it cannot be sold as Sherry. Nonetheless it caught the attention of the sommelier at Aponiente who has included it on the list of this famous restaurant owned by Ángel León.

Sundrying PX at Ximenez Spinola (

As to the history of PX, its origins are still a mystery due to the lack of evidence to support the various hypotheses, among them the theory that it is German Riesling, now disproved by DNA testing on both varieties. The central European theory points to a soldier in the army of the Emperor Charles V or a Catholic cardinal by the name of Pedro Ximénez – Peter Siemens – as possibilities for the introduction of the grape, though more recent research relates PX to the Gibi, related to the Alarije of Extremadura. There is historical evidence for its presence in Sanlúcar in the treatise on vines by published by Esteban Boutelou in 1807. Zarzana’s research in collaboration with the University of Utrecht has come up with a new fact on the possible origin of the grape which relates it to a Dutch wine merchant, one Pieter Simonz, about whom there is evidence that in the XVII century he sold PX wine in the Baltic countries and Saint Petersburg having sent a fleet to Sanlúcar and Alicante to buy it. “In the end, with the grammatical and phonetic differences, it would be difficult to explain that the grape could have the same name all over the world if there didn’t exist a Peter, Pieter or Pedro Siemens, Simonz or Ximénez”.

Monday, 23 April 2018

President of the Oenologists on the “Sherry Revolution”

This interesting article by Ángel Espejo appeared in today’s Diario de Jerez

Sherry is impressing the world. The DO is once again a key reference point in Spanish wine and its evolution is being closely followed by the trade, among them the oenologists, who have just held the first edition of the VinEspaña competition as well as their general assembly in Jerez. They see in Jerez a model to follow, now that other wine regions are being shaken up by internal disputes.There are still disputes in Jerez of course – like Bag in Box or Fino from Sanlúcar – but these are minor in comparison to the scandals which are tainting other DOs like Rioja, Rueda or Cava where bodegas’ leaving the DO seems to be the order of the day.

The revolution in Jerez is being closely followed by other DOs who watch out of the corner of the eye the change of mentality and openness which has developed in the area and which, according to the president of the Spanish Federation of Associations of Oenologists (FEAE), the Jerezano Santiago Jordi, is demonstrated by the mere fact of considering the possibility of incorporating into the DO the new wines which are appearing in the area; the new Sherries which are reviving abandoned winemaking traditions (unfortified wines, pago wines, wines with only brief ageing, the revival of old grape varieties…).

Santiago, who is also vice-president of the International Union of Oenologists (UIE) as well as acting as a consultant oenologist, is not disconnected from these innovations, and is in fact immersed in a project for the forthcoming launch of two Finos de Pago, one from the Macharnudo and another from the Balbaína, which will join the red and white table wines which he makes in the area. For him, oenology is a way of understanding life, and he emphasises that the resurgence of Sherry is based on two fundamental pillars: tradition and the vineyard. The future is the past. “Basically, what is happening in Jerez is that they are reviving the old ways of making wine, the ancestral ways”. He is a firm defender of the importance of viticulture, the vineyard and the land in the current winemaking scene.

“In viticulture generally, which is totally different from that in Jerez, greater value was put on the pago and the vineyard, whereas here, with our system of criaderas and soleras and fortification, there has been more interest in getting quantity from the vineyard. In the past however, wines were made without fortification, pago wines were produced with higher strength and there were other varieties than just Palomino, and this is being revived now, but it needs skill in the vineyards and bodegas, perhaps slightly more in the vineyards because if not it will be difficult to be profitable”.

Santiago’s words show a clear vindication of the figure of the oenologist, especially the young ones who, according to him “are obliged nowadays to travel to complete their education since they know that wine production starts in the vineyard, and that has been rather neglected in Jerez, though it is at last being addressed”. Nevertheless he asks that they tread carefully and points out that “all this is still being done by a minority, and not everyone will see it as good”.

In Santiago’s view, the inclusion of the new Sherries in the agenda for debate by the commission set up by the Consejo Regulador to resolve the questions which would require a modification of the Sherry regulations is an important step, especially when compared with the problems in other DOs. “In other areas they are killing themselves. In Rioja, bodegas are abandoning the DO, in Rueda they are slashing prices and there is a tremendous battle going on; it is crazy. I believe it is virtually an obligation to open this debate because there are other ways of understanding viticulture and we have to leave the traditional behind, yet be aware that not everything they did in the past was bad, and as we are unique, exclusive, original… we should take advantage of this, while also keeping our minds open to other trends”.

Santiago believes that this change of mentality and renewed value put on the Sherry vineyards are closely related to the education of the new oenologists, but that it lacks sufficient education about viticulture. “It is not like that in my case because I am an agricultural engineer and worked in vineyards before becoming an oenologist, but right now, those who are studying the four year oenology course experience very little viticulture, although when they travel to work the harvest in other areas of Spain and abroad they see that everything in the glass started in the vineyard”.

Santiago Jordi is president of the FEAE, vice president of the UIE and one of Spain’s busiest consultant oenologists. He works with Huerta de Albalá and González Palacios as well as bodegas in Somontano, Toro, Ribeira Sacra, Chile, Brazil and even… Ireland. He also has vineyards in Jerez where he makes his own wines: Margarita y Amapolo, Atuna and Cara Cepa as well as the forthcoming Tintilla and is working on two Finos de Pago from Macharnudo and Balbaína.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Bodegas: M&F Tosar

Juan Antonio Tosar Hernández was the son of Antonio Tossar, of Italian descent, and Beatriz Hernández. The family lived in Cádiz where young  Juan Antonio, or simply Antonio as he was known, married Bárbara Martínez García who was of noble birth and who bore him seven sons and two daughters before dying around 1835.Antonio was in the business of trade with the Spanish colonies in the Americas. As this trade began to decline, Antonio moved with his large young family to El Puerto de Santa María to try and restore their fortunes in the wine trade. 

Adolfo Tosar
By 1838 he had a modest bodega at Calle Espíritu Santo, 19, next to some houses in Calle Rosas which he had inherited from his mother. Over time these installations would be extended by two of his sons, Manuel and Francisco Javier Tosar Martínez who changed the company name to M&F Tosar and also installed a cooperage in an adjacent plot in 1846. Antonio died in 1850. Another son, Adolfo (1822-1880) went to London where he set up a sales office, and it would be he and his successors who would continue the business till the end. The brothers were hard working, efficient and husbanded their wines with great care, and by the 1860s they were among the leading firms in the area, despite the modest scale of their bodegas. They bought a house at Calle de la Plata, 6, where Manuel lived, remaining a bachelor, and in the basement they installed a sales office, tasting and meeting rooms.

The family home still stands, now a bridal wear shop
Francisco Javier died, also unmarried, in 1865 and divided his share of the business between his brothers Manuel and Adolfo and sister Amalia. When she died, her share was divided between Manuel and Adolfo and the company continued as M&F Tosar for another decade until the death of Manuel. By now the firm had reached its maximum potential and employed 20 people and had some 5,000 arrobas of stock including dozens of wines as well as brandy and vinegar. Everything had to be split among the remaining inheritors, but at least there were not many. In 1870 Adolfo married Manuela Zurutuza Fesser (b 1840). In 1873 he was back in El Puerto with his wife and two children to run the business at the behest of his elder brother who was ageing and infirm, but he did need to return to London from time to time. He was there when Manuel died in 1874. Adolfo’s two sons, Antonio and José, inherited one third each of Manuel’s share of the business and Adolfo continued to run it on his own as Adolfo Tosar & Cía till his death in 1880.

A label blank from the later years

The business continued in the hands of his wife Manuela Zurutuza and their now four children under the title Viuda de Adolfo Tosar & Cía. The name M&A Bayo Tosar was also occasionally used. The firm, which held a royal warrant, ceased trading in the early years of the XX century. At about this time, one of the daughters married an Osborne and another married José Antonio Ruiz de Cortázar who ran Bodegas Alonso Pajares.  In 1901 Manuela’s two sons, Manuel and Francisco Javier, established a brewery and sparkling waters business, Fábrica de Cervezas Tosar, in Calle Cielo, but despite a good start and a change of name to Cervecera Portuense in 1904, it didn’t last very long.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Gewürztraminer 2017 12.5%, Cortijo de Jara

Very bright pale gold with distinct notes of green and silvery gold highlights.
Exotic, fragrant and quite intense with notes of lychee, very slightly under-ripe peach, pineapple, honeysuckle, orange blossom and a trace of almost ginger-like spice. Classic Gewürztraminer nose and very fresh.
Super fresh fruity and tangy - the acidity is very good for the grape and the place, and all that fragrance carries through on the palate. It seems light at first but definitely has some body and there is a gentle, slightly chalky texture and considerable length. 
Gewürztraminer is  very unusual as far south as Cádiz being more of a northern grape, and one which can complete its ripening quickly leaving very low acidity, especially in a hot place. It is not one of the varieties permitted in the Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz regulations so it is legally simply a table wine, though it might contain a little Sauvignon Blanc, which is allowed. Nevertheless, it is a beautifully made wine with real character. The cortijo is located in a beautiful place about 25 km north east of Jerez on mixed soils with some albariza. The grapes were picked by hand at night for maximum freshness, cold fermented in stainless steel, stabilised, bottled without ageing and labelled by hand.
6,95 De Albariza chalky texture

Friday, 20 April 2018

Fino La Barajuela 2014 16%, Luis Pérez

Bright mid brassy gold with golden highlights.
Full, rounded and quite complex with notes of straw and a hint of fruit: ripe apple, quince and ripe grape pulp. There is a restrained note of flor which balances well with the fruit and there is a gentle mineral salinity from the soil, and a general feeling of weight from the extra ripeness of the grapes.
Clean and very fresh with an attractive tension between the flor, decent acidity and the fruit, it has a lovely tanginess too, not to mention a slightly dry chalky mineral feel. It is different from the usual Fino being fruitier as it is made the old fashioned way and the result is a very sophisticated and interesting wine with lots of flavour and terrific length.
Made with Palomino grapes from the El Corregidor vineyard at the heart of the inland pago Carrascal. The soil here is one of the many kinds of albariza: barajuela, which is composed of very thin layers which resemble the side of a pack of cards (baraja). The vines are over 40 years old so the yield is low. The harvest is picked in various passes over a two month period to achieve the ideal ripeness for the various wines. The first grapes, not yet ripe enough for wine, are used for a brandy project and the next ones, which will be used for the Fino, are sun dried for a day or more to increase sugar content as the wine will not be fortified. The must is filled unfiltered straight into butts where it ferments without temperature control. After fermentation a selection is made as to whether the wine will be aged biologically or oxidatively and the level of wine in the butts selected for Fino is kept comparatively high so that the flor will not overpower the character of the vineyard. The ageing of the wines is assiduously observed as the flor yeast strains can vary. This is one of the very few vintage Sherries, and one of the fewer still which are not fortified and has a DO Sherry. It might seem expensive for a Fino, but an enormous amount of work has gone into it, and it is delicious. The back label has a little block with the blank symbols of una palma, dos palmas, tres palmas and cuatro palmas with the una palma symbol overprinted, so one wonders what else might be in the pipeline...
35.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 19 April 2018

19.4.18 Very Interesting Lecture at Williams & Humbert

The excellent Ciclo de Conferencias (Cycle of Lectures) offered by Williams & Humbert since 2014 continues on Thursday 26th April with a fascinating lecture entitled “Tránsitos de Ida y Vuelta: La Anudación de Tres Continentes” (Return Journeys: the Ties between Three Continents) by María del Carmen Borrego Plá, Professor of History at the Universidad Hispalense in Sevilla, author of various books and co-proprietor of Bodegas El Maestro Sierra. She will explain the connections and cultural, social and economic exchanges between Europe, Asia and America which took place during the XVI century - including the wines and their customs – which have lasted till the present day without us being aware of their origins. The lecture will take place at the bodegas of Williams & Humbert at 19.30 and a glass of Sherry will be served afterwards. Go if you possibly can, there is no charge, but places are limited.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Pedro Ximénez 15%, Bodegas Fernández Gao

Opaque browny black fading to amber at the rim, viscous.
Very fruity, predominantly pasa but hints of prune and dried fig too. It has that lovely smell of raisins on their redores (esparto mats) out in the sun as well as notes of carob, molasses and Christmas cake. 
Amazing viscosity with an attractive dried grape pulp texture, pure raisin concentrate! Super smooth and mouth-filling with just enough acidity to mitigate some of the sweetness giving it a soft treacly tang and very good length. 
This lovely PX has an average age of over 12 years and comes from a small solera in the bodega San Jorge in Calle Arcos, Jerez. Fernández Gao is the welcome reincarnation of a historic old bodega of the same name whose origins date back to 1750. In 2014 Jerez businessman Antonio Sánchez Gago bought two disused bodegas in Calle Pajarete (formerly Real Tesoro) and Calle Arcos along with the original firm's various brand names and, using family soleras as a starting point, set up the new firm along with his brother Juan Carlos who is the oenologist. It is early days but the wines are very good and have already received some deservedly good scores from the critics.
26,60 per 50cl, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Brandy Pedro I Solera Reserva 38%, Bodegas Yuste

Mahogany with copper highlights fading to amber.
Complex and refined, it has developed a bouquet of subtle nuances like oak, nuts, Oloroso, caramel and vanilla all nicely melded together. It might contain some aguardiente, but not much, this is mostly holandas and it has an air of quality.
Very smooth and quite rich with hints of dried fruit and caramel rounding it off. It holds the alcohol well too, which helps, and there is a gentle texture. There are gentle brown sugar and orange peel notes and there might be a trace of sweetening (perfectly legal) but it has been well done, and the Oloroso is not excessive. Long, harmonious and very satisfying.
The soleras for this excellent brandy were established in 1860 by the now lost firm of Pedro Romero in Sanlucar, and they were bought by Francisco Yuste after Romero went bust. The brandy itself has an average age of nearly 20 years, spent in butts made from American oak from Costa Rica. I'm not sure if it is named after Pedro Romero or after King Pedro I of Castilla and Leon, a XIV century monarch known as "Pedro the Cruel" or "Pedro the Just" depending on which side you were on.
32,60 euros, Licores Corredera

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Sherry of Royalty

This lovely and very interesting article by Ángel Espejo and video by Miguel Ángel González appeared in yesterday’s Diario de Jerez. The video is in Spanish but is well worth watching nonetheless.

*His wine has a privileged place in the royal household and also refreshes the criaderas of Tio Pepe.
*Curro of La Blanquita is the creator of this Fino without a name from the historic pago of Balbaína.

El Kubala used to enter the royal Zarzuela Palace* just like Pedro did his house. He always went well provided with a few arrobas of Fino wine from La Blanquita to refresh the butt which Pedro Pacheco* had gifted to King Juan Carlos* during his time as mayor. Rafael García González - better known as El Kubala or Kubalita for his resemblance to a Hungarian footballer and his skill with the ball when he competed in the lower divisions – looked after the royal barrel with the same care he put into the maintenance of the small solera in the little private bodega of the ex-mayor of Jerez, which was also refreshed with the wine of La Blanquita, the 50 hectare vineyard in the historic pago Balbaína which belonged to the Barba family.

The connection with royalty was interrupted by the sudden death of El Kubala. The monarch ceased to reign and the ex-mayor was deprived of his liberty. But that is another story. By one of life’s many coincidences, the La Blanquita Fino regained its connection with royalty, but by another route, brought about by the friendship between the elder son of Francisco Barba González, “Curro de la Blanquita”, and José Manuel Zuleta, Duke of Abrantes and equerry to Queen Letizia, childhood classmate of the vine-grower’s son, and by which the despatch of Balbaína Fino to the palace for the annual refreshing of the royal barrel was re-established.

News came directly to the ears of Curro de la Blanquita about the refusal of the King Emeritus* to accept any wine which did not originate from his vines after Pacheco was relieved of the mayorship. “So they say” said the veteran Sanluqueño vine-grower, who was more worried about the quality and prestige of his wines, which also refreshed the criaderas of Tio Pepe at González Byass.

Curro Barba invested the money he had managed to save in Barcelona as a painter, the first place he went after completing his military service at the La Parra base*, in the purchase of the vineyard on the last day of the year back in 1969. Four million of the old pesetas which they gave him to pay half the asking price for La Blanquita, a parcel located on the left of the Jerez-Rota road in the first few kilometres, in the municipality of El Puerto, and which then consisted of 15 hectares of vineyard presided over by the casa de viña La Blanquita whose whitewash shone brightly in the sun giving the vineyard its name.

Barba had only seen the vineyard as a young man working as a day labourer in Sanlúcar, but he quickly adapted to the new role of vine-grower where he soon saw the need to make the change to wine maker because of the slim margins provided by the sale of grapes to the bodegas.

“I had no idea about wine but it couldn’t be too difficult and I knew something about vineyards”, explains the official provider of wine to the royal household, who continues “I had a rough time of it at the start since grapes offer very low returns, but after much hard work I completed the payments for the vineyard for which they gave me a reduction for early payments, then I grubbed up the very old vines and re-planted it”.

In the mid-1970s, with his financial affairs in order, Curro assumed another debt to build a press house, and years later, in his tireless search for stability, he again re-mortgaged the family home in Sanlúcar to construct another building to house the necessary tanks as he became a wine producer. “From selling grapes I went to making mostos which I sold straight from the butt to González Byass, and later installed the tanks from which I could sell wine which had been racked for a higher price.

With great effort and sacrifice the business began to finance itself and allowed him to triple the size of the vineyard to 45 hectares with the purchase of another two parcels in the area and establish a modest solera of 180 butts of Fino “as my little treat”, that is to say for personal consumption or with friends – now limited in number by the ailments of age – and for sale in bulk. No Amontillado or Oloroso or any other types of wine, just Fino, but Curro takes care not to allow the wine to get fat, by what he calls “false sales” or withdrawing part of the wine and refreshing it with younger wine so it doesn’t end up losing the flor and becoming Amontillado.

Curro of La Blanquita misses the excitement and hope of those years, despite the hard daily work in the vineyard, but at almost 83 years old his main worry is that he doesn’t see his legacy go beyond his son Francisco Barba “Currito”, the only one of his three children interested in being a grower.

With 52 springs on his shoulders, Currito runs the business in which he began working 13 years ago and he doesn’t want any of his four children anywhere near it. Curro and Currito agree that it “provides a living given hard work, but not much more. It is very demanding and you have to be on top of things all day, every day”.

With a considerable production of some 600 butts per year – between 250,000 and 300,000 litres – La Blanquita remains a small family business far from the winds of change blowing through the area, and this distance doesn’t hold out much hope, in the short term at least, of resulting in increased grape and must prices for the growers.

Curro father and son don’t understand new Sherries or new grape varieties. Theirs is the Palomino, from which they make their Fino, and “the more the merrier”, because according to Curro “Jerez is still one of the few DOs which still pays by the kilo, so how can they ask a grower for more if they don’t pay for it”.

Although this family of cosecheros lives beyond the new airs blowing through the area, they agree on the vital importance of looking after the vineyards and also that of the pago from which the grapes come, in their case, Balbaína “whose wines are famous for their finesse” affirms Francisco Barba senior, who insists that “this provides a living given hard work, and if you don’t have the capacity for such work you would be better trying something else, because only with constant work and attention will the vineyard succeed”.

La Blanquita has other attributes however; the vineyard has beautiful views looking towards Jerez, though they have changed in recent years with the uprooting of vineyards “where we reached 22,000 hectares and now only have 6,000”. The abandoned appearance of some of the nearby slopes resulting from the uprooting saddens Curro, though while there are still some plots dedicated to producing Sherry there are others, like the neighbouring Viña del Caballo, bought by a bodega to plant other, non-Palomino, grape varieties to make Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz. “At least it is still a vineyard”, he observes.

While he is still physically able, Curro de la Blanquita will keep on going every day to his vineyard, in winter only in the mornings and in summer, mornings and afternoons “to attend to everything that happens here”. And he will continue to do it with an amiable smile, a reflection of his good-natured character to which the inscription on a plaque presented to him by his friends for his 80th birthday refers. It hangs on the main door of the bodega and reads: “We will always be able to count on you because you are a person with a good heart”.

*In 2014 King Juan Carlos I abdicated in favour of his son, now King Felipe VI, married to Queen Letizia, and now holds the title of King Emeritus.
*The Zarzuela Palace in Madrid is the residence of the King/Queen and the royal household.
*Pedro Pacheco was mayor of Jerez between 1979 and 2003. He was imprisoned for municipal irregularities in 2014 and is now nearing the end of his sentence.
*La Parra was an air base built close to Jerez in 1936 and is now the city’s La Parra Airport. Parra means “vine”.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Manzanilla 1a Saca 2017 15.3%, Sacristía AB

Bright old gold with golden highlights.
Full, forthcoming, complex and very fresh with beautifully harmonised notes of bitter mature flor, buttery toasted almond and faint oxidation. There is also plenty of straw and dried herbs and scrub as well as a distinct salinity. There is a nice dry air about it, presumably since it was selected in summer when the flor is thinner.
Big, quite intense and very clean with beautifully balanced acidity. Lots of straw and dried herbs, yeasty sourdough, distinctly maritime and at a lovely stage of maturity. It is very dry with a slight chalky texture and finishes with a very long and impressive flourish.
This wine is the only saca of 2017 (so far, but probably) and comes, as it often does, from the bodega of Francisco Yuste who has stocks of some great Manzanilla. It was selected in July and bottled en rama in November. The hot dry spring had left its mark on the flor giving the wine great depth, personality and elegance, and it is a Manzanilla Pasada, well over eight years old, though that is not mentioned on the label. Despite great success with his wines, Antonio Barbadillo seems ever less inclined to use the electronic media, so unless you bump into him it is difficult to keep up to date and offer more information. Still, this is a lovely wine, classic Manzanilla.
15.50 euros per 50cl, Er Guerrita

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Manzanilla Victoria 15%, Bodegas Diez-Mérito

Bright pale golden straw with golden glints.
Fresh and forthcoming with herbal and slightly floral aromas of grass, straw and camomile there is a salty edge too, and of course some flor bitterness, but not enough yet to obscure traces of apple and fresh apricot. Young and zippy, still with some vino blanco character.
Plenty of tangy freshness, clean and appley with an attractive gentle herbal bitter note and a dry, chalky feel from the albariza and a mineral hint. It gives you the impression of open sea air on the beach near a meadow, and arouses a strong desire for seafood tapas.
The name Victoria has long been a popular name for Sherries having been used by a number of bodegas like Otaolaurruchi, V&F González, Bobadilla and Bodegas Internacionales. This brand will have come from the latter due to the purchase of parts of Internacionales along with Diez-Mérito by Marcos Eguizábal in the 1980s after the collapse of Rumasa. It was then sold under the name of Federico Paternina, the umbrella name of Eguizábal's company, until Diez-Mérito was bought by the Espinosa family in 2016. The wine has an average age of over three years and is excellent value for money.
4.00 euros, widely available.

Friday, 13 April 2018

13.4.18 Tio Pepe en rama 2018 Launched

The 9th release of Tio Pepe en rama is now available. After an initial selection of 120 butts in October, Antonio Flores has selected the wine from just 62 butts from the Constancia and Rebollo soleras, both of which are made from Macharnudo musts. Autumn 2017 was very hot and followed by a cooler winter, with decent rainfall into spring which gave the wine a healthy layer of flor which is reflected in the wine’s yeastiness. For the first time it will also be available in magnums.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Molinero 2016 11%, Cuatro Ojos Wines

Bright pale golden straw with golden glints.
Attractive and quite intense Moscatel nose, fragrant - almost perfumed - and very floral with notes of jasmine, citrus blossom and honeysuckle and a definite grapiness with the faintest hints of mineral and salinity.
Fresh and dry with loads of grapey flavour up front. Acidity is fairly low but you wouldn't really notice as there is a clean mineral backbone which helps maintain balance, and a faint creaminess, and there is a chalky texture too, no doubt from the albariza. It has a long delicate fragrant finish.
This is the first release of this interesting wine made by three girls in El Puerto de Santa Maria. It is named in honour of their viti-viniculture tutor Araceli Molinero and is made from Moscatel grapes grown in albariza soil. The must is fermented in tank and the wine is aged, surprisingly, in old Amontillado and Oloroso butts for 3 months on its lees before bottling without filtration. It spends two months in numbered bottles before release. A vintage date on the label would be helpful. 
20.50 euros Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

La Bota de Palo Cortado 72 "Pata de Gallina" 20.5%, Equipo Navazos

Polished antique chestnut with brassy glints fading to amber at the rim.
Fresh and gently crisp at the start with notes of fine oak mingling with toasted almond and hazelnut along with traces of marzipan, pastry filled with orange cream and tobacco. It is aromatic, elegant and complex as it opens out with some hints of Oloroso, and slightly stronger hints of Amontillado.
Mouthfilling and generous yet super refined flavour up front with lots of nuts, pastry, a faint hint of ginger and orange cake and those fine, almost aromatic woods. There is remarkably little tannin and the texture is exceptionally well rounded and smooth with a hint of sweetness, probably from glycerine, which gives it great balance and impeccable charm. Delicious!
Pata de Gallina translates as "hen's foot" and relates to a cask marking denoting an oxidatively aged wine with a particularly well rounded, smooth, almost viscous character. Equipo Navazos have worked with Bodegas Ferando de Castilla for some years - in fact their logo derives from a photo taken there. In the case of this particular wine, it came from a selection made at the Jerez bodega of the almacenista Juan García Jarana five or six years ago, from which La Bota 34 was drawn, and which has been kindly stored at Ferando de Castilla in a tiny six butt Equipo Navazos "little altar" (3,2,1) solera. So this wine comes from that same solera but with five years more ageing, and it has an estimated average age of around 30 years and was bottled in January 2017, unfiltered naturally, at La Guita.
58 euros per 50 cl bottle, Er Guerrita

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

10.4.18 Vinoble Latest and Dates for International Sherry Week

Vinoble is back with a bang this year (3-5 June), the crisis is over and strenuous efforts have been made by the city council and Consejo Regulador to make this tenth edition the best yet. It is the perfect event to show off the wines of Jerez and also the gastronomy and culture of the city. There will be a free daily tasting with capacity for 100 people as well as a special Tokaj tasting for 30 people. There will also be tastings of Fondillón Sweet Bordeaux and Port among others, not to mention Sherry and some of the leading bodegas will do their own. Two sessions will be devoted to the pagos and the Consejo will do a tasting of vintage wines made from the treading of the grapes at the Fiesta de la Vendimia and looked after at its bodega San Ginés. There will also be the opportunity to try wines from the Poets Laureate butts and one laid down in honour of the visit of Prince (now King) Felipe. Vinoble is special because it is the only exhibition to specifically promote fortified and sweet wines which, as Consejo Director César Saldaña put it, “tend to disappear behind a tide of red and white wines at most shows”.

Meanwhile the dates have been announced for International Sherry Week 2018. This, the largest celebration of Sherry in the world, will take place on 8 – 14 October. The dates have been put forward so they fall while it is still summer time and it doesn’t conflict with European Wine Tourism Day. Registration for events is open now so it is time to plan yours! The chance of winning Sherry to the value of 1,000 euros for the most innovative and original event is a great incentive.

Monday, 9 April 2018

9.4.18 Good Start to the Year for Sherry Sales

The Consejo Regulador was a little worried at the end of 2017 as sales had dropped by 5% with a volume of 3.3 million litres, but the start of 2018 has brought some cheer. In the course of January and February this year sales rose 4% to 3.8 million litres or 140,000 litres more than in the same period last year.

In the home market, which has been very encouraging recently, sales were about 1.5 million litres after a slight drop of 0.4% in the first two months of 2018, but it is hoped that this drop can be recovered in the coming Feria season of April and May in Andalucía, where large amounts of Sherry are consumed. Exports, on the other hand, grew by 6.6% in January and February to 2.37 million litres. This growth in sales abroad, where ever falling sales of the cheaper lower quality BOBs are concentrated, is wholly thanks to the UK, traditionally Sherry’s biggest market and where the Consejo has high hopes of recovery. Here sales jumped by an amazing 40% in the first two months of 2018.

Sales to the UK rose from 557,000 litres to 780,000 litres for the same period, a rise of some 225,000 litres. Of the other two large traditional export markets, Holland saw a fall of 3% with a little under 600,000 litres sold in January and February and Germany saw a 0.2% rise to 324,000 litres. Across the Atlantic, and after a promising year in the US, sales in North America lost steam in the first two months and fell by 18.5%, with volumes in the US remaining largely unchanged at around 160,000 litres, very slightly above the 2016 figure. In Asia, although sales volumes are small at around 34,000 litres, they shrank by 25% in January and February although the principal Asian market, Japan, saw growth of 5% to around 25,000 litres.

This recovery at the start of 2018 is not enough to balance out the 4.65% (3.27 million litres) drop in sales over the course of 2017 with the home market falling by 1.7% and export markets by 6.3%.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

8.4.18 Historic Tasting in Sanlúcar

On Friday night Antonio Peña who runs the great wine shop De Albariza put on a really interesting tasting. It consisted of comparing some classic Sherries, bottled 40 years ago or more, with the same wines bottled recently. Antonio Barbadillo (Sacristía AB) gave a fascinating talk and brought two Manzanillas of his own. It was a wonderful tasting, and here is a list of the wines along with brief comments:

Manzanilla Sacristía AB Primera saca 2011 (@ 7 years in bottle)
Quite deep in colour, slight hint of Amontillado, traces of biscuit, caramel, complex, lovely.
Manzanilla Sacristía AB Primera saca 2017 (@ 1 year in bottle)
Fresh, complex, full, saline and rounded, classic.

Palo Cortado Wellington, Hidalgo La Gitana (@ 40 years in bottle)
Early hints of diesel, cardboard, slightly drier but opened out beautifully, delicious
Palo Cortado Wellington VORS, Hidalgo La Gitana (@ 1 year in bottle)
Very slightly darker, sweeter, hints orange, cinnamon, saline, charming

Amontillado del Duque, González Byass (@ 40 years in bottle)
A bit leaner and cardboardy at first but opened out beautifully,
Amontillado del Duque VORS, González Byass (@ 1 year in bottle)
A shade sweeter, hint of tobacco, delightful. These two were remarkably similar.

Amontillado Quo Vadis, Delgado Zuleta (@ 40 years in bottle)
Tight at first but remarkable complexity as it opened out, crisp saline, elegant, long
Amontillado Quo Vadis VORS, Delgado Zuleta (@ 1 year in bottle)
A shade sweeter, even a faint fruit note but still saline, crisp and long

Sherry Crema, González Byass (almost certainly well over 50 years in bottle)
This was without doubt the oldest wine but it is sadly no longer available so we couldn’t obtain a newer version. It was fruity, balanced, not over sweet and quite delicious, made with a little Moscatel as well, as was the style in the past, and it was aged as a blend. It had the most sediment, so it had certainly lost both colour and sweetness - but certainly none of its appeal.

It was fascinating to see how well the old wines had developed in bottle and how things have changed. Firstly it was hard to date the old bottlings precisely as they had no lot numbers on the label, and no back label, so we had to make educated guesses. The recently bottled Palos Cortados and Amontillados were all VORS, but as the system was only introduced in the year 2,000, that qualification was not available to the old wines though they have the same solera age, being effectively the same wines, just with more bottle age. The old corks showed their age more than the wine. They were all of the T type which is not terribly suitable for laying-down and so have a tendency to dry out, and with one exception they all broke. Not unexpectedly, the old wines were a little closed and showed a hint of reduction, requiring persuasion to open them out, and naturally they were very slightly paler and drier. Once they had opened out they were reassuringly similar to the new wines which all had a little more up front charm, at least at first. Times have moved on, labels have changed, but Sherry is as good as ever.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Vino Blanco 2015 12%, Navazos Niepoort

Bright mid strawy yellow with golden highlights.
Quite full and subtly complex with a certain richness and noticeable flor bitterness with slight floral and herbal hints like camomile. There are also gentle fruit notes of quince, apple and yellow plum and a touch of mineral. There are even slight Fino notes.
Full and very tasty. Perfectly balanced acidity with just the right tanginess helped by a zing of flor, lots of appley fruit and minerals and attractive strawy herbal notes. Again a hint of Fino, but more fruit. The finish is long and clean with apple and mineral and a faint bitter flourish.
Palomino grapes for this excellent wine were picked in the pago Macharnudo and pressed lightly for maximum quality (mosto yema). The must was fermented with indigenous yeast in 40 year old butts where it remained under flor for nearly a year before bottling with minimal filtration in 2017. The idea behind this wine is to reproduce the style that was widely drunk in the area in the XVIII century. Wines for export were generally fortified but for local consumption were not, so this is not unlike a Fino, but without the extra alcohol, and with less time under flor. It now has at least a year in bottle and is opening out nicely, and it should be be rewarding to  keep for at least 5 years.
16.50 euros, Er Guerrita

Friday, 6 April 2018

Palo Cortado 12 YO Great Duke 18%, Juan Piñero

Bright deep amber - chestnut with old gold reflections.
Elegant and attractive with lots of almond and hazelnut with a hint of salted caramel and the faintest background bitterness. It resembles a fairly young Amontillado and there are gentle notes of vanilla and American oak, and a faint suggestion of orange peel, really quite fragrant.
Again elegant, and reasonably light, perhaps more in the Amontillado style, but there is a little more weight on the palate. It has a decent acidity and lightness of touch which could only come from Sanlúcar. It is at a lovely stage of development where one can make out clearly the origins of the wine and there is a distinct and attractive Manzanilla note to it.
This is one of a new range consisting of Oloroso, Amontillado and Palo Cortado all sold at 12 years old. It replaces the equivalent old range and the bodega assures me it is exactly the same, just a new label, though I seem to remember a little more body. The choice of name is down to what they feel would sell better in export markets. Nonetheless, it is a delicious wine. The mosto is supplied from the pago Hornillos by Vina Callejuela, and the PC solera has three criaderas with one saca each year.
15,75 Licores Corredera

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Manzanilla La Gitana on Draught!

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana have patented a system for serving Manzanilla La Gitana on draught, like beer. It consists of a 16 litre bag-in-box beneath the counter which feeds chilled Manzanilla to a bar-mounted dispense-tap in the shape of a large bottle of La Gitana. The firm invested 100,000€ in the system, and it almost floundered with the Consejo Regulador’s ban on BIB, but the Junta decided to allow it in the catering trade.

The firm is careful to protect its image by only offering the system to better quality bars, and over 270 are now using it. It has been very successful; some say they were selling the equivalent of 40 cases a year before, but are now selling 400. Most of the systems are to be found in bars in Andalucía, while some 10 bars in the USA have them as does the Sherry Club in Ginza, Japan. Hidalgo’s excellent single vineyard Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana is also available, luckily not quite so cold, on draught in one Sanlúcar establishment; Restaurante Puerta de la Victoria, a few steps from the bodega itself.