Thursday, 27 April 2017

Palo Cortado Encrucijado 2014 14.5%, Bodegas Cota 45

Mid-depth gold with copper tinted golden highlights, legs.
Pure and very attractive, slightly sweet, ripe dried fruit aromas; semi raisined grapes, quince and apricot and a faint dry, almost bitter balancing flor note. There is a very slight oxidative appley note which, with that hint of flor, gives it more of a Sherry character. "Like it says on the tin", it is at a crossroads: young and still quite fruity, yet with much more serious intent, "proto" Palo Cortado.
Despite all the aforementioned fruit notes it is dry - though there is notable glycerine accentuated by fairly low acidity - quite full, and more Sherry-like. This is oxidatively aged wine at an early stage, something very hard to obtain outside the bodegas and absolutely delicious. Wines like this were once common in the days before the standardisation we now endure. This is brilliant!
This is another fascinating wine from the brilliant Sanluqueño winemaker Ramiro Ibáñez, made in tiny quantities (barely 1,000 litres) at his little bodega Cota 45 on the Bajo de Guía. It is a young Palo Cortado made the old way, using the old grapes: 40% Rey, 40% Perruno and 20% Palomino, all grown in albariza in the Pago Miraflores. After manual harvesting  they undergo 24 hours of sunning giving a natural strength of 14.5% and are foot trodden . It is not fortified. Two reasons why it cannot have a DO, but that doesn't matter. The barrel fermented mosto supports a layer of flor for four months before dying off naturally and the wine is aged statically for two years on its lees, long enough for it to decide its future. It is bottled en rama. In the old days when there was much less Fino, the wines were classified as Palmas, Cortados and Rayas and this is how a Cortado would have been. Encrucijada is Spanish for crossroads, meaning the wine has just decided its direction. It really demonstrates not only the incredible variations Sherry offers, but also the skill of its producers.
22.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

26.4.17 Tio Pepe en rama 2017 Launched

The VIIIth edition of the annual spring release of Tio Pepe en rama is now on the market. The firm’s oenologist and IWC Best Fortified Winemaker Antonio Flores, made a selection from 60 butts in the La Constancia and Rebollo bodegas. He chose these barrels as they best showed the moment when the venencia breaks through the flor and releases the wine’s wonderful aromas. He is not short of descriptive powers and pronounced the wine “elegant and aromatic on the nose with the characteristic intense yeasty aroma of the flor intermingled with the distinct almond notes typical of Palomino Fino: fresh, complex and intense, salty and expressive, but most of all alive and wild”. He continued that it is “a version of Tio Pepe that is fragrant, intense, brilliant, salty and immaculate”. Available in the UK from 8th May, so it's time to pester your wine merchant.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Brandy Terry1900 Solera Reserva 36%, Fundador

Mahogany fading to amber, legs.
Attractive slightly biscuity Oloroso nose with traces of oak. It is elegant and clean, not too sweet, and has traces of orange peel, dried fruits, vanilla and toasted nuts and has a freshness about it being not too heavily sherried.
Slightly fuller flavoured than the nose would suggest but nicely balanced between the alcohol, oak and Oloroso and a gentle fruity sweetness. It has a certain charm and good length with the holandas nicely outweighing the aguardientes.
This brandy was originally produced by Fernando A de Terry in El puerto de Santa Maria. Terry is not much more than a brand nowadays, after various adventures with Rumasa, Harveys, Pernod Ricard and Beam Suntory over the last 35 years or so, but now belongs to Grupo Fundador. This brandy comes from a 1900 solera and has 3 years average age. The famous "malla Terry" or string net which adorns the bottle was always made by hand by the women of El Puerto.
10.15 from the Corte Inglés

Monday, 24 April 2017

Mahara 2014 12.5%, Bodega Vinifícate

Dense black cherry with a reddy-pink rim, legs.
Most attractive mix of very ripe yet fresh bramble and plum. There is a trace of background minerality and bitterness, true to the grape, and perhaps a balsamic note but very little oak, so presumably it had seen a few vintages, but the wine itself shines through, without need of adornment, with its powerful black fruit.
Big, ripe and well structured yet the tannins are good and ripe. There is a lovely glyceric plumpness about it and a certain rustic (in the very best sense of the word) charm. There is plenty of very slightly tight tangy black fruit and a slightly mineral texture, and a long clean finish. You have the effect of the oak without the flavour of the oak. Very good wine with character.
This is a very friendly, warm-hearted wine whose name translates as “nuts” or “crazy”. It is made by the brothers José and Miguel Gómez Lucas whose plan is to make reds from grapes indigenous to Cádiz so the wines really express their origin. Their friends thought they were nuts to start making wine in 2011 during the economic crisis, hence the name. But they had travelled and studied wine making in other countries and knew what they were doing. As proof, this wine was awarded 92 Parker points.

Mahara is 100% Tintilla, being the only indigenous red grape available in any quantity, as the other varieties are still being recuperated after phylloxera all but wiped them out,( but they do make a second wine, Amorro, which is 50/50 Tintilla and Tempranillo). The Tintilla comes from the Calderín del Obispo vineyard in the pago Balbaína where the soil is pure albariza.

Vinification, which is done in San Fernando, is totally artisan. They tread the grapes and use natural local yeasts, leaving the stems in for fermentation, which takes place in PVC tanks. The wine was aged for seven months, half in both French oak barricas and tinajas and the other half remaining in the PVC tanks. It was bottled unfiltered. However deserving, the wine has no DO. It is sealed with a driven cork and wax capsule.
18.95 euros from Licores Corredera

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Civil War Sherry Labelling and Advertising

Throughout the years various themes have appeared in Sherry labelling, be they flamenco, bullfighting, sport, religion etc., but the Civil War revived another theme: politics. While doubtless some bodegas supported the rebels, many naturally felt it was safer to at least appear to support them, and fascist wording and imagery was used on many labels to this end. Commonly seen was the yoke and arrows symbol, adopted by the blue shirted members of the Falange from the shield of the Catholic Monarchs. Here is a very brief outline of the Civil War and its beginnings.

Once a great colonial power, at the start of the XX century Spain retained only the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, or Spanish Morocco. King Alfonso XIII began his reign in 1902 after the 16 year regency of his mother Queen María Cristina of Habsburg – Lorraine. The country was facing many internal problems such as calls for democracy, the growing workers’ movements and Basque and Catalan nationalism, and the coalition government seemed unable to cope.

Azaña was the republican prime minister

A military coup led by general Miguel Primo de Rivera (1870-1930), born in Jerez, and of whom there is an equestrian statue in the Plaza Arenal, took place with the King’s backing in 1923. At first things went well until the King tried to restore constitutional order in 1930 and Primo de Rivera stepped down, partly because he was ill - he died shortly afterwards.

Without the strong military hand, republicans, liberals, socialists, communists, anarchists and nationalists united against the King. After a landslide victory for the left in elections held in 1931, the Second Republic was proclaimed and the King went into exile. Interestingly, González Byass were asked by the new Republican government to remove the word “rey” (king) from their Oloroso, which is now known simply as “Alfonso”.

Gonzalez Byass Sherry named in honour of Franco's relief of the siege of the Alcazar of Toledo.
The new government immediately set out on a path of social and land reform, public education was secularised and minority rights recognised. This upset the Church and the conservatives and tension increased with the election in 1936 of the Popular Front. The army began to conspire, with the support of the Church and the fascist Falange party – founded by Primo de Rivera’s son José Antonio - to overthrow the republic. 

The 18th July 1936 was the day the war began
In July of that year most units throughout Spain rose up in a rebellion, led by General Mola. The Civil War had begun and would last till February 1939. The Republicans had changed the Spanish flag to red, yellow and purple stripes and this was changed back again to the original red, yellow and red. General Francisco Franco assumed leadership of the army after Mola’s death and became Spain’s dictator till his own death in 1975.

In Jerez the cavalry commander Salvador Arizón had worked hard to ensure rebel control of the city and this was quickly achieved. There was the occasional confrontation but the republican government had not supplied arms to the people of Jerez for their defence and the mayor wanted to avoid bloodshed. The city council was taken over and replaced and the radio station commandeered while both civilian and military patrols kept an eye on the streets and censorship was introduced. Parties and institutions loyal to the Republic were dissolved, their leaders jailed and many shot causing a frightening atmosphere in the city. Then began the systematic and bloody repression and over 400 people were executed during and after the war. At least there were no battles here and life could continue with some sort of normality.... for the next 40 years.

Domecq Oloroso La Raza dedicated to Franco

After Franco' death King Juan Carlos I and his very able prime minister Adolfo Suarez quickly restored constitutional monarchy and introduced the autonomous communities, of which Andalucia is one. All the wartime labelling and advertising rapidly disappeared into people's label collections, and any Francoist statues, street names etc. were gradually removed after the passing of the Historical Memory law.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

22.4.17 Wine Route Now Most Visited in Spain; New La Guita/Covisan Agrement

The Wine Route of the Marco de Jerez is now the most visited in Spain with 501,783 visitors last year. The Catalán wine route of Penedés has been relegated to second place despite having 80 bodegas on its route and Jerez having only 32. In total, Spanish wine routes welcomed 2,714,409 visitors, a healthy 21% more than 2015. The business generated is enormous, and the association of wine cities (ACEVIN) reckon that it amounted to 54.2 million spent at member establishments an increase of 10.66%. This does not take into account money spent in hotels, restaurants and shops which are not members of the Ruta. The majority of visitors are Spanish so there is still plenty of room to boost the figures by attracting more foreigners.  To find out more go to:

Grupo Estévez and the Sanlúcar cooperative Covisan have renewed their collaboration agreement to guarantee grape supply for La Guita for a further five years. The cooperative has 175 members with around 350 hectares of vineyard. Some of these grapes will be distilled to make fortification spirit so that the best-selling Manzanilla in Spain can be 100% Sanluqueño. It is produced in two bodegas; the old one in Calle Misericordia and the more modern one on the Jerez road, where the bottling line is situated. It is very busy right now ensuring there is enough La Guita for the Feria de Abril in Sevilla which kicks off on the 30th. Hopefully they will also be bottling the 2017 La Guita en rama.

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Challenges Facing Sherry, Lecture at Williams & Humbert

Williams & Humbert last night hosted the first of their excellent cycle of lectures for 2017 at the bodega. The speaker was Manuel Pimentel, ex minister for work and social affairs and ex-president of the Consejo Regulador of Montilla-Moriles among many other posts, and his theme was “The Changes Faced by Wine in Society, Bodegas and Consejos Reguladores”.  He began optimistically saying that things are looking up, “we have already touched the bottom”, but Sherry faces many challenges, one being to stop being seen only as a wine for ferias and romerіas (pilgrimages), and approach young urban people who are not familiar with it. They are always looking for something different, and that is one of Sherry’s many attributes, so reaching them would bring better times.

The lecture put considerable focus on the importance of Consejos Reguladores saying that “we associate wine with the place it is made, and thus the importance of the DO which defines it and guarantees a minimum quality to its particular style. If shifting the focus back to the vineyards, to the origins, is a trend, then the DOs have a fundamental role to play along with the Consejos Reguladores which regulate them”. He said that while bodegas, cooperatives and growers are proud of their DO they often mistrust it, seeing it simply as an expensive immovable bureaucratic organisation, restrictive rather than helpful.

Manuel Pimentel (L) and W&H CEO Jesus Medina (foto:Pascual diariodejerez)

So do Consejos Reguladores have a future? Absolutely, according to Pimentel who said that if they didn’t already exist they would have to be invented. “But they must evolve in unison with social changes, fashions of producers and consumers and the technical possibilities which will amaze us in the coming years. Furthermore, the wine world in general and the Consejos Reguladores in particular should fight for wine to be considered a healthy drink unlike certain others.

He noted the recent growth in wine consumption in Spain, but while in the 1970s it stood at 40 litres per person per year, it stands at only 21 litres now. There are without doubt social factors beyond just the economic crisis, and those social changes related to the perception of wine are the ones which should be addressed by the Consejos Reguladores. “Urban society idolises the natural, and wine is just that. No product symbolises the land quite like wine, and people are attracted to its culture and participate in the story it has to tell, but this requires sustainability of production in the face of better environmental awareness.

These days, consumers are very worried about their health and quality of life, and wine is full of healthy attributes which should be promoted. The health benefits of biological ageing of Sherry deserve to be researched; after all, red wine has been promoting itself on its antioxidant properties and cardiovascular benefits for years. People nowadays value leisure time more; the millennials consider it equally important to their professional life and they value wine more as the perfect drink for social occasions than for everyday; drinking better wine but less frequently. As great users of the internet and social media, wine should be seducing them by that means. Consumers look for more quality and variety because they want to feel special and are prepared to pay for it. Sherry has all these attributes in spades, so Pimentel said he was “reasonably optimistic” for wine in general and Sherry in particular.