Thursday, 28 February 2019

El Pleito de Haurie

Until the late XVIII century viticulture, wine trading and indeed the wines themselves in the Marco de Jerez was very different to that we know today. Wine was generally from the most recent vintage as the growers wanted to sell it quickly and avoid any risks of spoilage, so there was little available with any degree of maturity. The growers could sell most of their wine before the next harvest and it was for the merchants who bought it to age it if deemed necessary. In fact the poorer growers sold their harvest before it was picked (sistema de anticipaciones) giving the merchants or their factors a discount and the growers money to cover harvest costs. 

This annoyed larger growers as the merchants began to expect discounts from them too, and there arose many conflicts about the capacity of butts, merchants building up stocks and thus buying less and all sorts of other disputes. The ill feeling led the growers to form gremios (guilds) in the 1730s and 1740s which came to impose various protectionist ordenances such as control of wine production and prices, restricting its sale to spring and autumn, the prohibition of growers to also be merchants and that of storage (ageing) by any foreigner or outsider who was not a landowner.

By the 1770s this protectionism, which included fining and even jailing offenders, had become almost farcical as it flew in the face of reality, was often unenforceable and the system had become corrupt. The few big merchants who still existed began to simply ignore it and build large bodegas for ageing, but they decided the Gremios must go, after all considerable sales volume was being lost to Madeira, Málaga etc. In 1773 a group of merchants led by Juan Haurie (1719-1794) made a formal application for the official and legal dissolution of the Gremio of Jerez and after years of hard and complex negotiation a royal decree was granted in 1778 which greatly liberalised trade. This was an extremely important step towards the future of Sherry and is known as the Pleito (lawsuit) de Haurie. The Gremios were finally abolished in 1834.

From this point the Sherry trade began to expand and industrialise; now that wine could be stored and aged, the large “cathedral - like” bodegas began to be constructed, solera systems were introduced and many new styles of wine began to appear - in place of the simple mostos or vinos en claro sold hitherto - which increased in number exponentially by blending. Almacenistas appeared and many Spanish and foreign merchants began to establish themselves. Free trade generated greater wealth, and Sherry entered the XIX century on a roll.

{Juan Haurie Nebout (1719-1794) was a Frenchman who arrived in Jerez in 1731 and became a great friend of his Irish neighbour, Patrick Murphy, who had established a wine business in 1730. Haurie helped him with it and inherited it in 1762. He was a clever businessman and in 1791 he took on his nephews who inherited the firm on his death in 1794. In 1816 Pedro Domecq Lembeye, Haurie´s great nephew arrived in Jerez and in 1818 took over the firm which would go on to greatness.}

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Amontillado 17%, Bodegas Sánchez Romate

Light mahogany fading to amber with coppery highlights.
Forthcoming and generous with lots of almonds and hazelnuts, hints of oak and toasted bread, appley caramelly oxidation and a faint raisin note giving a very light trace of sweetness. Clean soft and smooth, it is quite young and not particularly complex but certainly doesn´t lack character or quality.
Medium in weight and basically dry but with a slight hint of sweetness which is more than just glycerine since there is that trace of PX which makes it beautifully rounded and smooth. It is not medium but rather just off-dry and has a long dry nutty finish.
This is a charming and easy-drinking every day Amontillado from the bodega´s standard range, with approximately 3 years crianza biológica followed by a second fortification and a further 5 years plus of oxidative ageing. It is comparatively young but none the worse for that. It was bottled a year ago and would make the perfect wine to introduce someone to the delights of Amontillado - and is a steal at the price.
5.95, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Fine Tempo 2017 14.5%, Oleum Viride

Dense black cherry red with a tight purple rim.
Very fresh with loads of rich ripe almost jammy black plum and cherry fruit with a gentle tang and textured with a note of grape pulp and even skin, it is riper than one would expect in the grapes´ homeland and there are faint traces of smoke and spice from the Syrah, super ripe blueberry from the Petit Verdot and a distant note of oak.
Big and quite intense with all that ripe grape texture melded with some chalkiness yet the tannins are by no means excessive and there is enough acidity to keep things fresh. So it is well structured but very smooth and there is just so much fruit, super ripe yet super fresh and almost - but not - sweet; the wine is still very young but well balanced so will develop well in bottle for the next 3 or 4 years.
This very attractive wine comes from the northern tip of the Sierra de Cádiz and is produced on an estate called Finca Haza las Lajas in natural parkland near Zahara. The estate, which is farmed organically, produces superb olive oil and in fact the wine is more of a secondary product and produced on a comparatively small scale. It is very good however, and is only sold in good years. The vineyard extends to only 2.3 hectares on a sandy chalky slope planted to Syrah and Petit Verdot, while the bodega is in a cave which accommodates a few barrels, all of different woods and different ages. Thus, every year will turn out a dozen or so different wines, aged for a few months, and the best are selected and blended for sale and bottled unfiltered. Annual production is usually less than 3,000 bottles. The business dates back to 2004 with the vines being planted then and now they are giving of their best.
16 euros Licores Corredera

Monday, 25 February 2019

Vino Blanco Matalián 2018 12%, Primitivo Collantes

Bright pale strawy gold with silvery gold highlights.
Fresh, light and mildly tropical, think mango peach and pear with a background current of ripe apple and citrus along with a very faint salinity and a gentle tang. There is a gentle floral character to it as well giving a light, fresh aromatic appeal.
Soft, light, rounded and gentle at first, then the nicely judged acidity appears to provide balance, zip and accentuate the fruit, especially the pear. It finishes very slightly drier than expected but with good length with the classic chalky albariza texture and a trace of salinity.
This excellent wine is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz and comes from a single vineyard, the 19.53 hectare Viña Matalián in Chiclana which lies in the Sherry production zone. A little south of Cádiz, the vineyards are close to the Atlantic with lots of albariza and great exposure to the Poniente. This wine undergoes no ageing and has no flor influence as is intended to reflect these wonderful atmospheric and soil conditions through the medium of the Palomino grape and it does so splendidly. Total production is somewhere around 7,000 bottles.
8.70 De Albariza

Sunday, 24 February 2019

24.2.19 Brandy de Jerez Sales Rise for First Time in a Decade

It is only a rise of 0.7% but after a decade of serious decline it offers a ray of hope. Back in 2009 increasing taxation led many large selling brands of Solera Brandy, such as Veterano, Centenario, Decano, 501, 103, Felipe II and Soberano to leave the DO Brandy de Jerez becoming “Bebidas Espirituosas” which could be sold more cheaply at lower strengths and often no longer containingonly pure grape spirit. This of course led to a huge drop (28.7%) in the sales statistics of Brandy de Jerez. 

Then there was the financial crisis. Sales have declined 75% in the last 12 years and are currently running at 9.2 million litres of which 3.2 million are domestic sales and the rest export, however while Spain saw a rise of 7.3%, exports fell by 3.5%, largely in the Solera category which fell by 12% to 3.9 million litres. Solera Reserva and Solera Gran Reserva are holding firm with sales of 3.8 million litres and 1.5 million respectively. A far cry from total sales of 45 million litres before the Solera brandies left the DO.

There has been much innovation in Brandy de Jerez with the superb single cask brandies of Fernando de Castilla and cask finished versions of Lepanto and Carlos I for example, not to mention the launching of new brands like Valdespino´s Maximum. And there has been much investment, mainly from Filipino entrepreneurs like Andrew Tan and Lucio Co. The brandy is still profitable but needs to get back in fashion. Let us hope this modest rise in sales heralds a well deserved revival, and while the brandy sector as a whole has been depressed for a while, things seem to be looking up.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Manzanilla Pasada Solear en rama Saca Otoño 18 15%, Barbadillo

Attractive deep gold to amber colour with old gold reflections.
Forthcoming and quite full and deep with lots of yeasty humidity. The characteristic flor bitterness is more or less balanced with notes of cabezuela, toasted almond, esparto and slight traces of oxidation giving it a beautifully complex yet lively briny pasada character.
Good and dry with perfect acidity and a touch of bitterness, it is very clean and fresh and almost zippy then the older flavours, the cabezuela and oxidation come through making it richer and more serious with a saline twist in the tail. Super clean, tasty and long. Lovely.
This is the autumn release of this excellent Manzanilla. The grapes came, as usual, from the firm´s extensive vineyards of Gibalbin and Santa Lucia and from vines with over 30 years of age. The wine spent its first 6 years of crianza in the Solear solera until it was transferred to a further 550 butt, 2 criadera solera in the bodega El Potro for a further 2 years of ageing where it reaches the Manzanilla pasada stage before the saca was made from 15 selected butts, taking 100 litres from each. It was finally bottled unfiltered on the 3rd October 2018.
14.30 per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Friday, 22 February 2019

Bodegas: Diestro SA

José de la Puente y Viaña was a well known and well liked person of some wealth who owned substantial vineyard holdings in the pago Balbaina. In 1798 he established a bodega in Jerez which went on to be very successful. He died in 1815 leaving his business to his sons. They ran the firm till 1854 when it passed into the hands of José Romero P Gil who maintained the firm´s solid reputation.

Don José died in 1884 leaving the firm, which now also owned vineyards in the pago Macharnudo, to his son José Romero, a well educated and intelligent man. By 1900 he was exporting successfully to the Americas and expanding sales in Spain itself, selling Sherries of the highest quality from soleras of over 100 years of age. Some of his brands were: Jerez Fino SSS, Pedro Ximénez 1860, Fino Balbaina, Oloroso Fino Superior and Tres Cortados.

The bodegas resided in Calle San Juan de Dios, 13 in the city centre. In 1964 the firm was taken over by Jaime Fernández Diestro and remained at this address, but within a decade the firm was taken over by Rumasa and became another which eventually disappeared into the melting pot of Bodegas Internacionales. Here it was more about quantity and there was little respect for a brand´s or bodega´s heritage or reputation. For a while Varela´s Fino Jardín became a Diestro Brand yet still retaining the Varela logo on the label before, like most other brands, it disappeared altogether.

On the left labels from the Internacionales era and on the right an advert from 1967

Some of the Diestro brands were: Quina San Ramón, Brandy Napoleón Primado, Ponche Diestro, Brandy Viejísimo, Diestro Fino and later under Rumasa Fino Jardín and Cacao Varela.