Wednesday 31 October 2018

Retallo Blanco 2017 12%, Bodega Manuel Aragón

Pale to mid strawy gold with golden reflections.
A very fresh, gently tangy and attractive balance of fruit and flor greets the nose, though if anything the fruit outweighs the flor, with notes of quince, apple, pear along with slightly floral hints of straw. There is a slight fresh air in the orchard sensation and then a note of weight and roundness comes through adding a more sophisticated touch.
Clean, light and fairly crisp yet decently balanced, very young and appley - I assume the malo-lactic was carried out. It still has a slight rawness but I suspect it will develop very well in a year or two, rounding itself off and showing more mature fruit: there are already encouraging signs on the nose. So it is a very decent wine with some character and potential.
This is a brand new wine from an old bodega located in Chiclana, in the production zone. It is also novel and pretty unusual. It is made by Chano Aragón from Pedro Ximénez grapes from a 1 hectare plot in the pago Cañadilla which has albariza soil and which is entered by the gateway on the label. The grapes are picked at normal ripeness, not super ripeness needed for sweet wines, and vinified dry. After fermentation the wine ages under flor for around six months till bottling en rama in March. Only a little over 1,000 bottles were produced and stoppered with a Diam cork. A "retallo" is a kind of wooden wedge used to locate barrels in a solera system. Frustratingly there is no sign of a vintage date, but this is the first release so it wasn´t a problem - this time.

9.65 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Manzanilla Arboledilla Poniente 2018 15%, Barbadillo

Pale to mid strawy gold with golden highlights, very slightly paler than Levante.
Very fresh with  more grassy herbal aromas rather than the more esparto like nose of Levante, and it smells lighter and a little zippier, younger even, and more yeasty. It is also less saline on the nose though there is still a maritime note.
As the nose suggests, it is also lighter on the palate, less intense and appears less mature. It is super clean and fresh with a little more zip than the slightly more plodding (by comparison) Levante and has no pasada character, and a bit less salt, rather retaining its charming herbal style. Delicious.
There really are noticeable differences between these two lovely wines, yet they are both classic examples of good Manzanilla. This is the second annual release of the Manzanillas Poniente and Levante, which come from the same Solear solera, but from opposite sides of the bodega, enough to make them slightly different. All wines have their terroir, but in the Marco de Jerez there are three: the vineyard, the bodega and even the butt itself. The Poniente (west) side of the bodega is slightly cooler and it shows in the wine, which is a fraction less intense, but perhaps a fraction more elegant. Both wines were made in an identical manner, and drawn from selected butts for maximum character and bottled en rama in February 2018. They are terrific on their own, but it is fascinating to compare them side by side and observe the effect of between 5 and 6 years at either side of the same bodega can have.
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Monday 29 October 2018

Manzanilla Arboledilla Levante 2018 15%, Barbadillo

Pale to mid strawy gold, golden highlights, if anything a fraction deeper that Poniente.
Fresh and very saline with notes of straw and dry herbs. The flor is not over pronounced but there is certainly a slight bitter aldehydic note along with olive brine and sourdough. It seems just a shade fuller and more mature than Poniente yet a little less herbal. Classic Manzanilla, though.
Fairly full, saline, attractively bitter and quite complex with olive brine flavours and faint traces of butteriness and cabezuela, even a distant hint of oxidation.  This Levante is slightly more "pasada" than the Poniente, and quite delicious.
The bodega Arboledilla is possibly the finest in Sanlúcar. This large bodega sits at the eastern edge of the Barrio Alto looking out over the Guadalquivir estuary and is protected by a sort of garden of trees (hence its name) from the Levante and from the busy road which connects the two barrios. This is where the famous Manzanilla Solear is aged, and this wine is effectively much the same at between 5 and 6 years´ average age, only it is made from a selection of butts and bottled en rama in February 2018. It is one of a pair, however. The other wine is called Poniente, and the only difference between the two is that they come from butts stored at either side of the bodega to show how the internal environment can vary and the difference which that can make to the wine, not immense, but noticeable. It is a fascinating idea, and when this pair was launched last year it quickly sold out.
12.50 euros Licores Corredera

Sunday 28 October 2018

Ángel Espejo interviews Luis and Willy Pérez

“The wine of Jerez should be competing in the Champions League of great wines like Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne or Barolo… and to do that there is no need for it to lose its identity”.

This identity and its adaption to market demand are the philosopher´s stone behind the work which Luís Pérez and his son Willy are developing at their family firm Bodegas Luís Pérez, which recently won a prize in the Andalucía Agriculture and Fisheries Awards 2017 for innovation related to the recuperation of old styles of wine and selling them to an educated public, and for their important work in the digital mapping of the pagos in the area. 

This prize is an added incentive for Luís and Willy who are at the forefront of a winemaking project which in barely a decade and a half has been shaking up the provincial winemaking scene, first with the Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz reds and then with the recuperation of the old style wines, the so called Sherry style whites.

What satisfies them most is that “the prize recognises the innovation born of tradition, because as my father says, being artisans doesn´t imply using the tools of three centuries ago” says Willy, who shares the merit for the painstaking work of cataloguing the historic pagos of Jerez with the young winemaker from Sanlúcar, Ramiro Ibáñez.

Willy and Luis Perez in their bodega (foto:MAGonzalez,diariodejerez)

The fruit of Luís´restless need to express his knowledge of wine after a life deeply involved with it – he combined his work at a big Sherry bodega with being a teacher of oenology at Cádiz University – was the start of his own winemaking journey with the purchase in 2002 of the Hacienda Vistahermosa, an old abandoned casa de viña with lagar which was replanted with the red grape varieties used to make Garum and Samaruco firstly and later Petit Verdot.

Them move into making Sherry and the old Sherry style white wines, or “ajerezados” as Willy calls them, came years later once Willy had completed his training as an oenologist in Australia and had returned to the family business.

“Everything which is seen today as innovation was once tradition” says his father Luis, who points out that “perhaps Sherry is in crisis, stagnating, and its values, forgotten up till now, need to be reincorporated” because “the high walls of the bodegas blocked our view of the vineyard and we forgot the origin”.

The prize is a stimulus to keep working along the same lines, but the best is that “we are doing what we like doing and what we must do” says Luis, while Willy points out that the search for identity ties in with the objective of the bodega which is “to be leaders in the production of the old style wines, recuperating lost techniques such as the sunning of the grapes for dry white wines”.

“It was about the search for our identity and adapting it to market demand, something which Jerez always knew how to do, so it is fundamental to know the history; what wines were made and why in terms of the circumstances of each period” says Willy, the driving force behind the bodega´s transition to indigenous grape varieties which started with Tintilla de Rota “ the wine we export most of now” and then with “the old Sherry style whites which used to be known in the area as vinos de pasto”.

The red Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz served as a base for the Barajuela Project which the Pérez´undertook for the recuperation of the old Sherry style wines which is based at El Corregidor, a vineyard with very old vines which once belonged to Sandeman.

In the vineyard at Vistahermosa (foto:MAGonzalez,diariodejerez)

 The Pérez family works with the idea that the old Sherry style wines are not substitutes for Sherry but rather a complement to it “because the area needs a base wine to supply the bodegas” in the face of the prolonged fall in sales of the DO vinos generosos.

“Fortunately, many bodegas are now making these white wines as well as Sherries which relate to the vineyard, and there has been great market uptake and they can be sold at a higher price”.

For the Pérez family this turnaround “demonstrates that there is the capacity to adapt without the loss of identity, whose unmistakeable hallmarks are the albariza and the Atlantic”, distinctive features which bring “finesse” to these wines “and which exist nowhere else”.

Willy is convinced that the next step, the incorporation of the old style whites into the Denomination of Origin will happen as a matter of course, as in fact there is already agreement on the matter in the body of the Consejo Regulador, something which has already happened in other regions like Montilla-Moriles.

From there on, the Marco de Jerez with its flagship signs of identity Will be in a position to compete in the Champions League along with the great wines of France, Italy or Germany. And it will compete with two advantages: the stamp of the albariza soil which impregnates all wines born in this land, and the ability to sell them with the name of the pago from which they came.

“Our hallmark albariza is easily identifiable and if we also have the good fortune to apply the name of the pago, we can compete with Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux, Barolo etc in the Champions League of wines which is where Jerez should be playing” says Willy who, in line with many other winemakers who have put their efforts into the old style whites and Sherries which come from single pagos, is optimistic and confident that the day will come sooner rather than later “because the public is our guide and they want old Sherry style white wine and Tintilla, wines from indigenous grapes which only come from here”.

Even with all this going on, Willy and his father don´t relax for a moment and have already embarked on a new project which stems from their worry about climate change and the need to increase acidity. “We have been working on a hybrid of Tintilla and Palomino simply by a natural mixing of pollen without laboratory intervention, which was practised in the area three hundred years ago, even during Moorish times, and now we have the berries to plant. The climate is changing" – as the historical study made by Willy and Ramiro demonstrates – "and if we don´t do anything the next generation will slap us in the face for not leaving them a proper legacy".

 Ángel Espejo is the editor of Diario de Jerez.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Xaldenil 2015 14%, Finca Las Mesetas

Very deep, opaque black plummy red tight to the rim where there is still some pink.
Syrah and Cabernet jump out with smokey mulberry and blackcurrant aromas. Still fairly tight but with lovely fresh fruit and a faint jammy note along with a hint of pencil from the French oak and a balsamic trace, this is full bodied, perfectly ripe and really quite intense and looks very promising for further ageing in bottle.
Big and generous with no shortage of character it has plenty of almost chewy texture, and while there is plenty of structure, the tannins are ripe and completely unaggressive. There is a slightly balsamic edge to the copious black fruit (from a hot place) and that hint of oak and a noticeable and refreshing minerality, but everything is very well balanced. This is a serious wine, very well made with considerable length, but unfortunately in short supply.
This wine comes from the small and pretty town of Setenil de las Bodegas, located  at over 600 metres altitude in the Sierra de Cádiz, surely the highest vineyards in the province. The town sits on a river which has carved out a spectacular gorge leaving overhanging rock which has provided people with homes since very ancient times. Sadly the bodegas were wiped out by phylloxera and only the town´s name gives any idea they ever existed. Here the Camacho family have a 1.3 hectare vineyard planted to Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot and winemaking is done by oenologist Santiago Jordi. This was the second vintage of Xaldenil, made with 45% Syrah, 35% Cabernet and 20% Merlot, and it was aged for 6 months in used French oak barrels. Naturally production is small, at just 2,400 bottles. This is one of two wines they produce, the other being called 7 Mil Pasos. The family also have a shop, La Cueva del Iberico, selling ham, oils, cheeses etc. and of course wine.
13.50 Licores Corredera

Friday 26 October 2018

Brandy Duque de Valdivia Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Bodegas Valdivia

Mahogany with copper highlights and the faintest trace of green at the rim.
Full and rich with an attractive balance of distilled wine and Oloroso, hints of figs and dates, traces of caramel, vanilla, walnuts, all nicely harmonised with a suspicion of oak. Classic Brandy de Jerez.
Fairly full and yet elegant with distinct Oloroso character; as it opens out it shows a leaner side and so the sugar content below seems a little unlikely as it is virtually dry, though not completely, and is beautifully rounded. There are all sorts of nuances including cinnamon, raisin, oak, nuts and caramel, but everything is in balance with a gentle texture and good length.
This delicious brandy comes from the now defunct Bodegas Valdivia, located at one of the highest points of Jerez near Urium, which has the dubious honour of passing through the hands of Rumasa - twice. It was set up by Rumasa with a touristic hotel in the grounds which was once José María Ruiz Mateos' father's house and sold off as part of its expropriation in 1985. Nueva Rumasa eventually bought it back through its subsidiary Grupo Garvey, but the firm went bust again and the bodega was on the market, again. The receivers sold off all the stock and the empty bodega was eventually bought by the Huelva-based cooperage firm of José & Miguel Martin for the purposes of cask seasoning. The brandy was made from mostly Airén grapes with a little Palomino fermented at low temperature for a fresh character and distilled with some light lees. Made only from holandas, it was aged in ex Oloroso butts in solera and was bottled with an average age of over 8 years containing around 15 g/l sugars. It had a 15 year old big brother, Pedro de Valdivia and an older still Pedro de Valdivia Platinum.
35.60 Licores Corredera

Thursday 25 October 2018

25.10.18 Latest Sherry Sales Figures

The figures to the end of August make rather gloomy reading with overall sales volumes dragged down again by declining sales of BOB in the export markets which are down 7.8% on the same period last year. A total of 18.3 million litres left the bodegas till the end of August this year as opposed to a total of 19.1 million for the same period last year; a drop of 4.5%.

Sherry has always been an export wine, but that is gradually changing with the Spanish market, which grew by 0.15%, now accounting for 43% of sales or approximately 8 million litres – more than double the UK market, traditionally the largest, which is down a scary 12.2% to just 3.6 million litres. The European market just scraped over 9 million litres after a drop of 8.9% thanks mainly to the decline in BOB sales, with Holland down 13.4% and Germany down 1.55%.

It is not all bad news however; the United States has seen growth of 8.7% importing 770,000 litres and Japan an impressive 32.9% and 110,000 litres. The Americas as a whole are up 1.2% due mainly to the US while the Asian market as a whole is up 9% due mainly to Japan. Looking at the moving anual total of sales for the last 12 months they are down by 5.6% with a volumen of 31.7 million litres.

Regarding styles of wine, Manzanilla saw growth of 0.62% selling a shade over 5 million litres while Fino is down 3.5% to 4.2 million litres. Medium and Cream, which are mostly BOB fell by 9.3% and 7.2% respectively and Pale Cream was down 11.6%. Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel saw growth of about 10% with sales of Moscatel at 47,218 litres and PX at around 500,000 litres but Amontillado was down 15.7%.

A decade ago total volume sales were around 50 million litres so a decline of some 30% has taken place since then, which looks very worrying on the face of it, but this decline is almost entirely in the BOB market which consists of cheap wines blended for the supermarkets which do nothing for the quality image of Sherry or for the public conception of it. In fact some bodegas have pulled out of this market altogether as there is very little profit anyway except in sheer volume. The future of Sherry, as with all fine wines, is low volume and high quality at a price which represents value to the consumer and profit for all in the production chain.