Friday, 29 November 2013

29.11.13 International Shery Week; Gastronomes Visit Gonzalez Byass

World Sherry Day, which began last May and saw people getting together with Sherry and food around the world, has been transformed for 2014 into International Sherry Week.  A new website is being created ( and new dates have been arranged. The 2014 edition will take place between the 2nd and the 8th of June.

According to Chelsea Anthon of International Sherry Week, last year’s one day affair was simply not long enough, and a week is a more suitable period for all the worldwide events. They might, however change the word “international” for “world”. It is all still on the drawing board, but Jerez council has been busy.

A whole series of events will be taking place next year in Jerez, European City of Wine 2014, most notably Vinoble, from the 25th till the 27th May. Events of all kinds are being arranged to take advantage of the city’s new status. Wine is, obviously the protagonist, but there will be many horse and flamenco events, and motor racing. 2014 is definitely a year to visit Jerez.

Fifty members of the Andalusian Academy of Gastronomy and Tourism paid a visit to the Gonzalez Byass vineyard of la Canariera yesterday to celebrate the end of the fermentations. Saint Andrew’s Day (actually the 30th) is an important day in the viticultural world, when the fermentation ends, and the musts become wine. As the popular saying  in Spain goes:  “Por San Andres, el mosto vino es”. (The must becomes wine on St. Andrew’s Day.) This was the first such celebration in the province, and there were various well-known chefs as well as the GB directors, led by Pedro Rebuelta who enjoyed some good food with GB wines.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Amontillado 18%, Gutierrez Colosia

Amber with polished bronze highlights, legs.
Quite full with toasted, honeyed nuts, a hint of turron de yema tostada (ground almond and honey bar with toasted egg yolk on top), a touch of dried fruit, and then the more savoury elements: a maritime note and a trace of Marmite. Not particularly complex or old, but a bit of a charmer.
Dry with lots of nuts, almond hazel and walnut, not a hint of astringency, rather an attractive mellow feel and a long clean finish. Perhaps around 10 years old, but very attractive.
Highly recommended by Decanter Magazine with a score of 17/20, this is a wine to offer someone who thinks they don't like Sherry. If they don't like this, then there's no hope for them! It is correct and characterful and yet easy drinking at the same time. It is aged as a fino for at least three years before being aged in the Amontillado solera for at least a further five, so it is quite young for an Amontillado, but with all the charms of youth.
Around £16.00 Uk Importers: Eaux de Vie (mainly) and Alliance Wine

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Daily Life of the Sherry Barons in the Late XIX and Early XX Centuries

The second half of the XIX century was very prosperous for the Sherry business. The 1850s and 1860s were a period of commercial splendour supported by exports. Sales were growing healthily and a record volume was reached in 1873. The arrival of the railway facilitated the business of this progressive and industrious bourgeoisie, who held the political and urban reins of the city, while they amassed fortunes.

Writer and producer of Manzanilla, Manuel Barbadillo distinguished two classes of wine producer: those who were aristocratic, and those who were not. The aristocracy had lineage from antiquity, some with coats of arms dating way back, and went around with haughty even contemptuous smiles for those who had entered the business in the era pre First World War. These were the first, the great exporters, the gentlemen, those who played Polo, drank whisky, had Irish nurses, sent their sons to prestigious English universities and bathed in chilled pools.

At the beginning of the XX century there were three good friends with great houses and large families. One was Juan Pedro Domecq Nuñez de Villavicencio, first Marques de Domecq, who lived during a certain stage in his life at the Palacio Cristina (now known as the Palacio Domecq). Another was Joaquin Rivero O’Neale, who had entered the Sherry trade through the ancient house of Cabeza de Aranda y Zarco, and who lived in a palatial house in the Plaza Rivero, also in exquisite taste. And there was Julian Pemartin Carrera, father of Julian Pemartin Sanjuan, the author, along with his wife, Mercedes Diez y Zurita, of the Diccionario del Vino de Jerez – essential for those serious about the study of Sherry. He lived in a palatial house on the Plaza de las Angustias, now a hotel.

The XVIII C Palacio Domecq
Another great house is El Altillo, with its gothic chapel, built about 150 years ago by Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel, founder of Gonzalez Byass as a peaceful family retreat in summer. Time has stood still at this classic house of the Victorian era. Its last family occupants were the seven daughters (known as “las Altillanas”) of Cristobal de la Quintana and Margarita Gonzalez Gordon. The daughters conserved the house exactly as it was, like a living museum of a bygone era, with cabinets of fine English china, and table linen. The rooms still smell of the past. It's as if Las Altillanas might appear at any minute.

At dawn, in those days, there were servants rushing about the stables and coachhouses, fires were lit, kitchens readied, horses were brushed and coaches polished, ready for el Gran Señor to rush off to the bodega. The horse is extremely important in the history of Jerez, and the development of the business. It was a sign of success, prosperity, and when horses multiplied and were attached to great coaches; they became a real status symbol.

One day Manuel Misa y Bertemati, Conde de Bayona was entertaining important visitors, friends of his, among whom was the city Magistrate, Manuel Monti y Diaz. Over (quite a few) copitas their conversation went like this:

- Sherry seems to be selling really quickly, as if it were on horseback, said Monti.
- The butts all lined up look like a cavalry squadron, said Misa.
- Yes, said Monti, each butt the size of a colt which needs to be tamed.
The Conde drifted off into explanations of the bodega, how the wine was made, the different types, a copa of fino here, a copa of oloroso there, ending up with the sweet wines.
- Looks like the wine is galloping, said Monti.
- It’s as if it were on horseback.
- Señor Conde! Said Monti, it feels like the horses are galloping in my veins! What could it be?
- The aristocratic nature of the wine, my dear Magistrate! Fino is an English horse, Amontillado, an Arab horse, and Oloroso a Jerezano horse.
- Well let’s drink a toast to your wines, Señor Conde, said the visitors.
- Let’s drink to our horses, gentlemen, said Monti.
- Let it be so! Said the Conde.

The list of staff in these grand houses is long. There were servants for the keys, dining room servants, gentle-man’s gentlemen, lady’s chambermaids, nurses and governesses for the children, cleaners, launderers, ironers, dining room waiters in grey livery with blue trousers, caps and silver buttons, sometimes with the family crest, some to serve food and some to serve wine, and stable boys. All occupied the upper floor, while the family occupied the first floor which had more sunlight and better accessibility. Every morning the master would go downstairs to the dining room with the children and they would drink plenty of coffee and eat toast with jam before going about their respective business.

The mansion of Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez de Soto, first Marques de Torresoto, was another such household, and became one of the best known in Jerez. The city had inns, but there was no suitable hotel, so people stayed at their friends' houses. Guests of the Marques included Marconi, Sorolla (famous Spanish painter) and Bastida, all of whom admired his collection of antiques collected from all round the world.

As to food, the English way was observed, if not strictly followed, as families of Spanish and French origin needed a better lunch than the English 1 o’clock sandwich of roast beef and gherkin or salmon and salad. The continentals were more accustomed to a three course lunch accompanied by Sherry. They would usually serve soup made from meat stock and various vegetables, or just the stock with rice or pasta. Eggs cooked in various ways, chick pea stews with chicken or game birds, pickled partridge, pigeon with golden onion, quail wrapped in ham or thrush in vine leaves were all dishes accompanied by Sherry: Oloroso with soup and chick peas, Amontillado with fowl. Then there were fresh fruit, meringues floating in custard, soufflés or mousses before finishing with a glass of brandy. At Calle Porvera, 3, Carolina Pemartin de Sanchez Romate had an excellent table and service, as did Maria Luisa Hidalgo, wife of Tomas Diez Carrera who lived in the Calle Caballeros.

The siesta was sacred. The diligent bodeguero just nodded off briefly, although there were some who would go to bed for a while, rather than have just a quick nap on the sofa. Thus visits took place after 6.00. In those houses which still had no telephone, there was always a servant to take somebody’s card, and in those houses which did, the reply to an inopportune call might have gone like this:

- Is El Señor at home?
- El Señor is occupied (meaning perhaps sleeping, reading, trimming roses…)

All the while, the relationship with England gradually changed from simple commercial necessity to a sign of distinction with the appearance of the “gentleman” figure. Everything English was “a la mode”; “Sherry barons” were seen in hats by Lock and suits from Savile Row. They drove English style carriages to banquets prepared by French chefs. They wore suits from John & Peggs, shirts from Beal & Immand, hats from Andre & Scott, shoes from Roberts, drove carriages from Peter’s, and bought sporting items from Hammond.

Having reached the top economically, many of the Sherry Barons managed to consolidate their social prestige by taking up civic posts. There were many examples, such as Juan Haurie, Agustin Blazquez, Manuel Francisco de Paul, Alberto Ramos Santana, Antonio Otaolaurruchi, EduardoHidalgo Verjano, Pedro Barbadillo Ambrosy, Carlos Delgado, Tomas Barbadillo. All were mayors of their respective towns. 

Many others were members of institutions, such as Rafael Rivero, Juan Pedro Domecq, Pedro Carlos Gordon, Jose Pemartin, Guillermo Garvey, all members of the Economic Society of Friends of the Nation. The first board of the Atheneum of Jerez had a few as well: Pedro Domecq y Villavicencio, Carlos de Bertemati, Carlos Rivero y Gordon, Rafael Estevez and Francisco Ivison O’Neale.

Free time was also invested in English sports which the Marques de Torresoto had introduced, such as Polo. Perico Gonzalez Soto wrote from London to his father Manuel Maria, “This is a new sport which requires the blood of a Villavicencio, the courage of an Estopiñan and the skill of a Cabrera”. Many members of the Jerez Polo Club were Sherry people, such as: Richard Davies, the Lassaletta Vergara brothers, Carl and Alexander Williams, the MacKenzie brothers and the Isasi Gonzalez brothers. Torresoto also introduced tennis and clay pigeon shooting, and founded the Lawn Tennis Association and the Gun Club of Jerez.

Back at home, they played the piano, read from their library or simply enjoyed a leisurely dinner, always between 8.00 and 9.00 in the evening. This was a simpler meal than lunch and consisted of some sort of soup in a cup, fish in sauce, meat and a dessert. From 1890, Jerez had electric lighting, being the first city in Spain to dispense with gas. Thus was resolved the big problem of going about the streets at night, when one had to be accompanied by a servant with a stout stick, according to the writer Sutter. In those days there were many casinos, but the Sherry Barons chose to go to the Jockey Club of Jerez or the Grand National Club.

Every Sunday, after 12 o’ clock mass, the Barons attended to the poor, who had formed queues outside their mansions. Wealth and the good use of it; its straightforward Christian effectiveness and means of soaking up of social conflicts appealed to the philanthropic side of the Domecq Loustaus, the Sanchez Romates, to Rafael Rivero and the Misa brothers. For this reason – and many others – the XIX century bourgeoisie received plenty of honours: Tomas Osborne became a Caballero of the Order of Carlos III, Patricio Garvey became Steward to the King, and many, many others received them too, such as the Marques de Misa, the Conde de Osborne, the Marques de Bonanza, the Marques de Domecq d’Usquain.

Where did our great-great grandfathers find the time?

(From Diario Jerez)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

26.11.13 Attempted Theft of Osborne Bull; New Art Installation in Jerez

Two men have been caught in the act of cutting down one of the famous Osborne bulls with the intention of selling the metal for scrap. The incident occurred near Alicante, and the prosecutor is asking for a five month sentence.

The Osborne bulls, of which there are about 90, are huge, made from galvanised steel sheeting supported on a scaffold. The total weight of these beasts is around 4,000 kilos. They can be seen for miles and have state protection.

A wonderful new work of art has appeared in Jerez. It is a 12 metre high photograph of Manuel Moneo, a famous local flamenco singer, which occupies the wall of an old (I think Domecq) bodega in Jerez. The artist is Juan Carlos Toro, and the work, which is to be seen in the Plaza del Cristo de la Expiracion, is titled “Presences”. It certainly has presence, and this sort of work is popping up in abandoned spaces in Jerez.

25.11.13 Tio Pepe Sign; New Look for Canasta Cream

It seems that the Tio Pepe illuminated sign will not now be in its new position in the Puerta del Sol, no. 11 in time for Christmas. It is currently in a warehouse in the Poligono Azque in Alcala de Henares on the outskirts of Madrid, where serious restoration work is being undertaken. According to Gonzalez Byass, it will be mounted in its new position “in a few months”. It was put in the square originally in 1937 after GB had applied to Madrid Council to erect it to celebrate the bodega’s centenary in 1935. The fee for the licence was 796 pesetas! Every component of the sign is being restored with the minutest care with modern finishing techniques.

Williams & Humbert’s Canasta Cream Sherry, the best-selling sweet Oloroso in Spain, has had a facelift. The new design is not so different from the original, but has a slightly more modern feel, both in the label, and the shape of the bottle. According to Eduardo Medina, marketing director of W&H, “the presentation has changed very little in recent years, and we saw a need to update it, with a contemporary and vibrant design which would still be faithful to the brand’s roots and which could still be identifiable to our customers. The new design will be available in Spain by the end of the month.

New bottle is on the left

Saturday, 23 November 2013

23.11.13 Tio Pepe Palmas Live Tasting

The recent live Twitter tasting of the 2013 release of the Gonzalez Byass Palmas range attracted over 180,000 participants in Spain, Japan, the USA, Mexico, Belgium…  The event can still be seen on You Tube. There were 3 videos; “Greetings from GB president Mauricio Gonzalez”, “The Sounds of the Night Harvest in Jerez” and “The Selection of the 2013 Palmas”. What with video technology, streaming and stuff, the GB team employed over 25 technicians in a pretty complex, but very successful tasting.

(Imagen Diario Jerez)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

20.11.13 Medina Family Now Own 100% of Williams and Humbert

The Medina family has taken full ownership of the bodega Williams & Humbert after purchasing the 45% stake owned by the capital risk fund Andalucia Capital Desarrollo (ACD). It was ACD who financed the purchase of the bodega from the Dutch multinational Ahold in 2005. The price for the share purchase has not been released, but both parties have declared themselves satisfied. The Medina family has been involved with Williams & Humbert for over twenty years, and at last it is theirs 100%, and includes their original firm Bodegas Medina.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


This cartoon was published in today's Diario de Jerez, and shows that, even in Jerez, while people are immensely proud of it, not enough people are drinking their own product. Remember, a glass of Sherry every day will help you live till 100!

"Tito, let's have a couple of rum and cokes to celebrate Jerez becoming European City of Wine!"
"All that work, and they still don't get it!"

Monday, 18 November 2013

Jamon and Manzanilla in London

If you're in London, this is not to be missed. Sorry, not much notice, so drop everything!

Palo Cortado Viejo Scully 20%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Deep blacky amber fading through to a yellowy-green rim, legs.
Quite Amontillado: old, lots of toast, hints of dried fruit and old polished furniture, almonds and hazelnuts, and only a trace of oak. Something slightly savoury, from its Manzanilla past, but all this has integrated into a really complex fresh - even crisp - and fragrant nose with a trace of apparent sweetness.
Fairly intense, light, dry and beautifully rounded. Traces of licorice, oak barrels, cedar/sandalwood, dried fruit, sweet spices, walnut. Quite tangy as befits a wine from Sanlucar, quite light in weight and immensely long. Lovely!
This excellent wine comes from a limited edition (2,150 half bottles) produced in 2008 for the Revista Matador art and graphics magazine. Each year, the mag. gets a celebrated winemaker to produce a one-off limited edition top notch wine which they sell with a special designer label. This wine bears a label designed by Irish-American artist Sean Scully, twice nominated for the Turner Prize. The wine is made from Pago Miraflores grapes and comes from Hidalgo family reserves, of which they keep back four butts to celebrate the birth of a new member of the family. It is around 70 years old.
A half bottle costs over 30 euros - if you can obtain one... Try

Sunday, 17 November 2013

What You Need to Know about Zambombas

Every December, in the run up to Christmas, zambombas can be heard accompanying carols in homes, streets, bars etc. It is an old tradition in Andalucia, dating back to the XVIII century at least, where  leading up to Christmas Eve people join in with the singing and sometimes dancing with a slightly flamenco edge. It is a terrific atmosphere; everyone is happy, especially as they are usually enjoying a glass of anis (a clear aniseed liqueur), ponche (a brandy and orange based liqueur) or local wine and a pestiña de navidad (lovely seasonal sweetmeats made from flour dough cooked in olive oil and dipped in honey).

So what is a zambomba? It is an ancient instrument made from a large clay jar with an animal skin fixed tightly to the top, like a drum, but a long stick has been pushed through the skin, and on moving it up and down, it gives off a distinct sound. The clay jars vary in size between about 35cm and 80cm long, so that they are either played vertically sitting down, or horizontally by sitting on the zambomba itself.

Gente de Jerez (quite peaceful this one!)
Typical anis bottle
Other rudimentary instruments are often on hand to accompany things, such as an empty anis bottle rattled with a knife, bells or tambourines, and, of course, song. There is a subtle difference between the traditional flamenco mass, which is slightly more flamenco and formal, and the lively laid-back zambombas (the word has now come to mean the event as much as the instrument). Jerez has a long tradition of zambombas, flamenco and flamenco masses, most of which, along with many carols (villancicos) have been passed down orally through the generations. So if you're going to be in Jerez soon, here are some useful dates:

16.11.12 Jerez has done it! European City of Wine 2014!

At the XVII general asembly of RECEVIN (network of European Wine cities), Jerez beat off competition from Cambados (Galicia) to winn the coveted award European City of Wine 2014. The competition took place in Marsala (Sicily), 2013 European City of Wine, and was attended by representatives from both cities, including their mayors and various officials.

Maria Jose Garcia Pelayo, mayoress of Jerez, pointed out the huge potential benefits to wine tourism, promotion and sales, and gave thanks to the many who had contributed so much to the Jerez bid. According to the mayoress of Marsala, her city saw a 27% increase in wine tourism, and the year is not over yet.

Garcia Pelayo (centre) with Marsala Mayoress on her left (Imagen Andaluciainfo)

This award comes at a historic time for Jerez, which is celebrating the 750th anniversary of its accession to Christian Spain, and has a huge list of wine-related activities scheduled for next year.

Things are really looking up for Jerez, so let's all support it!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

15.11.13 Sherry and Tweets; New GB Palmas Release

There is a great new way to promote Sherry, based in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Sherry and Tweets is aimed at promoting our favourite wine to the younger generation by making use of the social media of which they are so fond. Sherry & Tweets HQ is a charming family hotel in El Puerto called La Casa Huespedes de Santa Maria, owned by Carlos and Myriam.

The idea is that every month there is a Sherry event, about which there will be a lot of tweeting, (internet messages restricted to 140 characters) which will hopefully be picked up by young people who might feel inclined to get involved. The events will take place in interesting places, and feature not only Sherry but its marriage with foods to demonstrate its versatility. In this way, anyone participating can buy the goods physical or online to try at home or meet other fans through the “twittersphere”.

There is a website ( with more information on the “catas 2.0” as they are known. The initiative has the full support of El Puerto town council and the Consejo Regulador. And me!

Gonzalez Byass  will make the 2013 release (the third release) of the Finos Palmas on the 21st of this month. For the first time they will be doing a live master tasting of the “Ages of Tio Pepe”, which can be followed in real time via streaming on any computer, tablet or suitable mobile phone, at 7.00 pm (Spanish time one presumes – 6.00pm in UK). Just log onto and participate via Twitter with the hashtag #finospalmas. The tasting will be led by the firm’s chief oenologist Antonio Flores from the bodegas in Jerez.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Vote for Tio Pepe Roundabout!

Just a reminder. You have till the 30th November to cast a vote for the best Tio Pepe statue to be placed on the roundabout. Here is a picture of the roundabout itself, and you can see the candidates on my post of 25th October. You can vote on

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Old Canal Project at Jerez

Shortly after the Spanish Civil War, there was a project to build a 5 km canal from Jerez to the river Guadalete, which would have connected the city by water to the sea at El Puerto de Santa Maria.

According to a study by the Ministry of Public Works in 1946, the canal would have started in the south of Jerez in an area known as Playas de San Telmo, and joined the Guadalete near El Portal. It was proposed to take advantage of the long straight stretches, but the river should be widened or straightened at tight curves. This would shorten the distance by 2 km.

This project, along with many before it, never reached fruition. It would have taken at least 6 years, and cost 91 million pesetas. It might have taken huge amounts of Sherry to market.

Manzanilla Piconera 15%, Bodegas J Ferris

Very pale strawy gold, light legs.
Gentle flor influence: hints of camomile, almond and traces of palomino fruit with a definite saline tinge and a fine trace of yeast autolysis.
Light and fresh, very clean with notes of bread dough, almond, and flor and marine salinity. Young fresh, gentle and refreshing with a decent tang - a "session" Manzanilla ( perfect for a good few glasses with a long, unhurried lunch of seafood on the Bajo de Guia in Sanlucar....)
Young, inexpensive and uncomplicated, but has a certain charm. Palomino y Vergara had a Manzanilla some time ago called "La Piconera", but whose label sported a dandy with a glass of Sherry, rather than a woman. A piconera is a woman who sells coal (or was once). Remember, Manzanilla is always feminine, so what a male dandy had to do with a female coal seller, goodness knows. Nevertheless the P&V Manzanilla was certainly more complex. But, alas, not any longer available.
Around 5 euros in Spain. Ferris has a good export business, but I've never heard of it in Britain. Try

11.11.13 Sherry Exports

Wine exports from the province of Cadiz have touched 48 million Euros up to August, and nearly all of that is Sherry. Spain may now be officially out of recession (tell that to the unemployed of Andalucia!) but the economy depends on exports, as the domestic market is still in decline. If there is one thing that characterises the Sherry business, however, it is exports – 4 out of every 5 bottles sold are exported.

Sherry prices have risen recently in line with trade policy, allowing revenues to rise, though volumes have slipped a bit. This is also in line with policy: to sell better wine in smaller quantities, concentrate on bodegas’ own brands and try to cut down on the unprofitable BOB (buyers own brand – supermarket) trade, although it is still very important.

The main export markets spent: UK 15.6 m Euros (down 8%), Holland 6.8m (up 0.6%), Germany 5.4 m (up 1.4%), USA 5.3 m (up 41%!), France, Belgium, Mexico and Canada @1.5m, and Denmark and Japan @ 1m.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

9.11.13 XVIII Fino Days in El Puerto

This Monday, at the bodegas Obregon in El Puerto, the programme for the events will be unveiled at 1.00, which this year will be celebrated on the 15th, 16th and 17th of this month. The programme is as follows:

Friday 15th at 8.30 at the Hotel Monasterio San Miguel: The presentation of the programme followed by a round table on single vineyard Fino. There will be a glass of Fino served afterwards in the Hotel’s Cloister.

Saturday 16th at 12.00 at Bodegas Caballero (entrance by the Castle). There will be a grand tasting starring Fino Pavon and a homage to Caballero and Lustau oenologist Manuel Lozano, winner five times consecutively of the IWC “Best fortified Wine Maker in the World”.

Sunday 17th at 12.30 at Viña del Carmen (meet at Venta el Cepo) Visit to the vineyard and talk about the soils and the single vineyards by historian Javier Maldonado Rosso. New wine and country food will be served.

There’s just time to get a flight booked!

Fino 15% Pedro's Almacenista Selection

Pale, quite golden straw, legs.
Interesting; lots of flor and olive, traces of oxidation, bitter and quite full, hints of oxidised apple, palomino fruit, a slight whiff of cinnamon. More complex than it seems at first, a strong flor effect though no autolysis, but really quite bitter - and appetising - needs olives!
Fairly low acidity is compensated for by bitterness, yet well rounded with a little weight, lots of very bitter almond and traces of salinity, apple, yeast, very long.
A really stylish Fino, but only available from Majestic. The range is only minimally filtered, so all the flavour is retained. This Fino is sourced from the Almacenista Garcia Jarana and contract bottled by Sanchez Romate. The label is a reproduction of the poster for the Fiesta de la Vendimia in Jerez from 1967. For more background to the range, see the notes on the Palo Cortado.
£8.99, and extremely good value.

Friday, 8 November 2013

8.11.13 Gymcata Jerez

"You can smell that lovely aroma from the street!"

The I “Gymcata Denominacion de Origen Jerez” has been a great success. The 13 teams of contestants had to pass tests such as blind tastings and differentiating different types of vinegar, going round tabancos and bodegas.

A member of one team, the “Turismologos”, a UCA student, said that she had begun to get to know Jerez itself, rather than just the route from the station to college. “It is really interesting”.

The event, organised by the University of Cadiz (UCA) and the Campus of Agro-alimentary Excellence, and supported by the City Council, The Consejo Regulador, Tabancora (the Tabanco association) and the Association of Oenologists of Andalucia, was timed to coincide with the V European Day of Wine Tourism. Another student, of oenology, said it was great fun. They had visited Gonzalez Byass and the tabanco El Pasaje. “The professors have been encouraging us, and “we’ve arrived in a very good place”.

In El Pasaje they had a really sweet test. Manuel Sanchez, one of those in charge of the test, and who is finishing his doctoral thesis on research into making sweets from Sherry, brought various samples of truffles to see if the contestants could tell which type of Sherry they had been made with.

Another team, “Los Viñeros”, were the winners after they completed all the tests in the least time. The team’s spokesperson pointed out that the event is the perfect way to promote not only Sherry itself, but to get the locals to realise what a treasure of a wine they have. Speaking from the door of the tabanco Las Banderillas, Domi Guillen also said that people would get to know better the tabancos of Jerez, which are delightful. “My test was to differentiate between Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Amontillado and Fino”.

Most of the teams were students, mostly Spanish, but from as far afield as Colombia and Portugal, and they were all delighted to discover how good Sherry and other local products are, not to mention the place and its history.

Tomorrow is also full of activities. Many bodegas have doors open days, some with violin concerts or equestrian shows, visits to vineyards, art exhibitions. There will also take place the first of the “Sherry Cooking Classes”, while the Consejo is organising a tasting for the visually impaired in collaboration with the City council and the ONCE (the Spanish National Organisation for the Blind). There will also be a tutored Sherry and food marriage tasting with a reading of poetry. Then there will be a timed rally starting in the Plaza Arenal.

Oh! How I wish I were in Jerez right now!!!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

7.11.13 Sherry Takes Off in US; City Centre Improvement Conference

At last Sherry is beginning to see the fruits of its labours in the American market. The Consejo had decided to dedicate most of its promotion budget to the Anglo-Saxon world and most of that to the US, where events such as Sherryfest have helped sales to increase dramatically. The last few years have seen considerable promotional investment, totalling more than this year’s entire budget, which is a meagre 650,000 euros, due to the financial crisis.

Sales have grown by 12% and over a million litres of Sherry sold. Sherry is now to be found in shops, bars and restaurants as a result of the interest stimulated by Sherryfest in New York. The final coup de grace was the Grand Tasting which took place at the Astor Centre, with the participation of 25 bodegas and attended by 600 people, mostly trade or specialist press.  As Cesar Saldaña, director of the Consejo put it, “the idea was to make a noise, and we certainly did”. Tastings were held in 60 wine shops, restaurants promoted  menus married with Sherry and Beltran Domecq presented the translation of his book as well as lectures on Sherry.

A tasting at Sherryfest New York
The promotion is aimed less at the masses and more at the elite who have a better understanding of the complexities of Sherry. This year there was also a Sherryfest in Canada, and a welcome change in the law banning false “Sherries”. Although smaller, the Canadan event was equally successful and wound up with Sherry and food marriage dinners and a Sherry Cocktail competition.

A conference is taking place today in Jerez about what to do to stop the deterioration of the city’s historic centre. It is organised by the City Council and the official College of Architects of Cadiz. Ramon Gonzalez de la Peña architects are proposing a wider pedestrianisation scheme. They are also worried about what will happen to disused bodega buildings. Some have been successfully converted such as Valdespino in the Calle Ponce to the Official Language School, but others are in danger of collapse or tasteless supermarket conversions. It is to be hoped, however that the Sherry business can recuperate sufficiently to use these buildings again as they are ideal for that purpose, and not ideal for most other purposes.

There is pressure for housing, and so the centre must look better. Many residents left the centre in the 1960’s and many properties are now empty. Tradition must be respected but within the parameters of modern life. Another concern is the Ciudad del Flamenco, a project which has completely stalled. There is a great deal to be discussed  on the regeneration of a great city with such deep roots in wine and flamenco.

Bodegas: J Ferris

Bodegas J Ferris was established as recently as 1975 by industrialist Jesus Ferris Marhuenda and his wife Candida Ruiz, who already owned extensive vineyards. At the time, the Sherry business seemed everlasting, but Ferris has managed to survive by winning decent sales in the export market, albeit on a fairly small scale.

The bodega is of the "chateau type", on a low hill with the vineyards surrounding it, and is constructed in the traditional style but with modern facilities. It is located a little outside Sanlucar de Barrameda, to the south, with its vineyards in the Pago Miraflores. There is space for a press house, vinification plant with temperature controlled steel tanks, 10,000 butts of maturing wine, as well as stabilisation plant and bottling lines.

They make quite a variety of products as follows:

Manzanilla: La Piconera, La Liebre
Tres Candidas Range: Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado, Cream
J Ferris M Range: Moscatel, Pedro Ximenez
Red Wines: Senorio J Ferris Tinto and the quite rare Tintilla de Rota
Also Three Brandies and a Ponche

They also market a Piconera range under the name Bodegas Las Urtas, principally to Holland and Germany where the PX solera 1941 is popular.

Address: Ctra El Puerto de Santa Maria - Sanlucar de Barrameda, Km 13.6, 11540 Sanlucar
Telephone: (+34) 956 235 100 or (+34) 956 363 400
Visits? Not really, but might be persuaded...

6.11.13 Cadiz May Disappear

Most of the province of Cadiz will disappear beneath the waves as a result of global warming, according to a study by National Geographic. The magazine has created an interactive map which shows this situation after the polar ice caps have melted, raising sea levels by 300 metres. And it will not just be Cadiz, home to our favourite wine. Much of the Spanish coastline of today will be changed. And it will not just be Spain. Cities like London and Venice will disappear, along with the Low Countries. Across the Atlantic, most of San Francisco and New York will be lost. In Africa, Cairo and Alexandria will disappear, and temperatures will rise dramatically. Losses will be similarly catastrophic in Oceania and Australia. The only good piece of news from National Geographic is that these cataclysmic events will take about 5,000 years to happen.

Massive coastal changes promised by global warming

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

5.11.13 GastroCadiz; Cycle Round Bodegas and Vineyads

The first ever “GastroCadiz”took place yesterday, an event celebrating the cuisine of the province of Cadiz, and it took place at Bodegas Delgado Zuleta in Sanlucar. The well-known TV chef Dani Martinez and Bodegas Delgado Zuleta are the main promoters of the initiative which is also supported by the Consejo Regulador, whose director, Cesar Saldaña, had the job of marrying fine Sherries to the food prepared by various leading chefs.

Cadiz is blessed with great seafood, agriculture and meat, not to mention great wines, putting the province firmly on the gastronomic map. The chefs came up with some amazing dishes using only local produce, and Cesar Saldaña married it all perfectly with Sherry. This sort of initiative is surely an excellent way forward for both food and wine exports.

Another event for the European Wine Tourism day is the V Jerez Wine Tourism Cycling Route. For 5 Euros, one can sign up and start at Bodegas Lustau, where a tour is organised, and cycle out to the countryside where a meal and some Sherry awaits the weary pedallers at the Cortijo de Ducha, courtesy of the Consejo. Entries are open until Sunday, and already at least 50 have been received. It is a great family day out for little expense.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Palo Cortado 20%, Pedro's Almacenista Selection

Light amber through gold and yellow to vanishing point, legs.
Quite fragrant with lots of lightly toasted hazelnuts and almonds, a hint of toasted bread, marzipan, faint traces of a Fino past with hints of autolised yeast, a certain implied sweetness, in fact quite Amontillado, fairly crisp but with an earthy hint of walnut at the end.
Quite light in style, all the charm of an Amontillado, fresh, tangy and lively with a lightness of touch. Not short of flavour, all those toasted nuts, then a slightly looser, more oloroso feel and slight traces of truffle, walnut. really more Amontillado than Oloroso, but exactly where do you draw the line?
This is a very decent wine from a range of four (Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso) specially put together for Majestic wine warehouses. It was sourced by "Pedro" who in reality is Peter Dauthieu of a company called Viniberia which sources Spanish wines for UK importer Ehrmanns. The wine comes from the bodega and almacenista Cayetano del Pino in Jerez, and was contract bottled by Sanchez Romate with minimal filtration. The labels on this range are really colourful and different, and feature old Jerez harvest festival posters, in this case, 1951. The wines are good, genuine, interesting and well priced, and my congratulations go to all concerned on a good job well done. This is the sort of project which will really help to boost Sherry sales.
£14.99 only from Majestic

4.11.13 More Medals for Barbadillo; "Spain Bars" Growing in Japan

Barbadillo has done it again. The Salnucar bodega has won three awards at the Premios Mezquita 2013 in Cordoba.  Manzanilla Solear won the Gran Mezquita, Gibalbin 2011 (their red table wine) won the Mezquita Silver, and Eva Cream won the Mezquita Bronze. There were 390 wines entered, from all Spanish viticultural regions, tasted by thirty tasters. The Premios Mezquita, the only big competition in Andalucia, is now in its eighteenth year, and is a reference point in wine competitions due to the high standing of the judges. It has seen Barbadillo win awards time and time again. {The Mezquita is an equisite mosque in Cordoba}

Spanish bars and restaurants are seeing good growth in Japan, according to the Economic and Commercial Office of the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo. 33,396 cases of Sherry were imported last year, representing growth of 10.2%. This is not a vast quantity (Port and Madeira are ahead) but a great opportunity is there for the Sherry trade. Fino and Manzanilla are especially popular in bars which offer Spanish ham and Sherry by the glass. The latter also go spectacularly well, of course, with Japanese Sushi.

(Imagen Trip Advisor)

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Man Who had a Dream: Antonio Pedro Barbadillo Romero and his Castillo de San Diego

Toto, as he was known among friends, returned to Bodegas Barbadillo in Sanlucar towards the end of the 1960’s after trips to Europe and the United States, where he had been impressed by some of the wines he had tasted. He described them as the perfect wines to accompany seafood, but there was nothing of their sort in Spain. The smooth character of these wines reminded him of the musts he used in the bodega to produce Manzanillas and Sherries.

The idea of producing such a wine slowly became a personal project. He began to conduct tests on fermentations in a Phillips fridge at home. The results looked promising, but the tests continued.

Later, he met the English directors of Harveys with whom he signed a wine supply contract. This obliged him to build a vinification plant in 1975, equipped with all the latest technology, in the Gibalbin area, which he thus put on the map. At last he had the facilities to produce the wine that he wanted, and, taking a bit of a risk, he launched the young white table wine which he first called “Vino Noble de Mesa”.

(Imagen Jerez Siempre)
The Consejo and many bodegas were furious: he was prohibited from making any mention on his labels of the Sherry area, as well as any oblique reference to it with names such as “Castillo de Sanlucar” or “Castillo de Santiago”. In the end he named his wine “Castillo de San Diego” after the street where the bodega was situated. He also argued that white table wine was nothing new in the Sherry area, and produced documents from the late XIX century to prove it.

It worked. It was a pioneering wine in every sense, and nothing like it had been produced in Andalucia. At the beginning of the 1980’s, something happened which gave Castillo de San Diego the boost it needed. Felix Cabeza, founder of the excellent Madrid fish restaurant “La Dorada”, tried the wine and was so delighted with it that he made it his house wine. It became so popular that it was soon the best-selling white wine in Spain. And it remains so today.

Toto had a long and distinguished career in Sanlucar. He had a degree in law, but his future was the wine trade. Among his many jobs were company secretary to Bodegas Infantes de Orleans Borbon, president of Williams & Humbert, founding secretary to CAYDSA and president of Barbadillo and Pedro Romero.

He was related, of course, to the Romeros and the Barbadillos, and it was said of him that he was born among the manzanilla soleras. By nature he was charming, jovial and intelligent, and got along with anyone. His workforce loved him, as he loved his native land and its wines. He could prop up the bar for 24 hours! 

His view was that manzanilla was the wine of liberty; it was drunk at court in Cadiz, becoming more the wine of the people after the brief constitution of Cadiz. Along with Juan Carlos Barbadillo, Toto set up the Orden de la Solear (after their most popular brand) to recover the notion of a romantic Andalucia, in which manzanilla was the drink which brought people together.

The 3rd of January 2005 was a sad day for Sanlucar when Toto passed away from a heart attack. By now he was an Hijo Predilecto of Sanlucar (a great honour) and held the gold medal for the defence of the culture of Wine.