Thursday, 22 June 2017

Glass of Sherry in the Vineyards at Sunset, Anyone?

Will you be in Jerez in July? Do you fancy a trip through the vineyards and a glass of Sherry at sunset? No problem, Rutasiete can organise all this for you at a very reasonable price. It is an excellent service which I can recommend and they can collect you and drop you off again afterwards. Here are the details:

Brandy Veragua Solera Reserva 38%, Álvaro Domecq

Deep walnut to amber with bright copper highlights.
Full, quite powerful and forthcoming yet serious and complex with a full array of aromas: wood, caramelised walnuts, toasted almond, old Oloroso, dried orange peel and traces of hickory, pasas and vanilla.
A gentle sweetness greets the palate followed by all the above aromas in  a lovely harmony which gradually opens out giving a full bodied, quite intense brandy with its own individual sophisticated character and very good length.
This excellent brandy is made from 95% Airen and 5% Palomino grapes and is aged for at least five years in both 250 litre barrels and 500 litre butts, all previously seasoned with mostly Oloroso and a little PX. It would appear to consist mainly of holandas, which would explain the quality. The bodega offers another brandy, the Duque de Veragua Solera Gran Reserva.
11.25 euros, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Williams & Humbert Lecture “The Wine Factories and the Construction of the Capitalist City”

“The wine industry of XIX century Jerez created an urban and rural model unique to Spain. “

This is a précis of the latest in the Williams & Humbert cycle of lectures given last Thursday by Manuel González Fustegueras, president of the Foundation of Contemporary Architecture. Under the title “The wine factories and the construction of the capitalist city” he analysed what took place in Jerez architecturally and urbanistically between the end of the XVIII century and the second third of the XIX, all linked to the world of bodegas, “converting Jerez into a unique city which would become the third largest contributor to the Spanish exchequer and in which the management classes became a part of the most influential political circles in the Spain of the time.”

Manuel Gonzalez Fustegueras with Jesus Medina

In view of the weakness of the industrial revolution in XIX century Spain which left Andalucia as an agricultural backwater, the speaker pointed out how the agro-industry of the wine of Jerez would become one of the first models of capitalist economic development in Spain during the second third of the XIX century. In its interaction with the city it would determine the unique development of the “wine factories” or bodegas and the spaciousness of their design. They were clearly constructed as industrial buildings for the specific needs of wine production, and duly built within the layout of the city – which was altered to suit as necessary - and thus determined the shape of future urban development giving a new image to the city: an industrial estate in which the footprint of bodegas came to exceed 40% of urban land. No other industrial city in Spain ever reached such a high percentage. This immense industrial estate transformed the old city of convents into a unique agro-industrial city affecting production and commercial structures, ownership of the land and agricultural techniques, right down to the urban plan of today.

Had it not been for a certain series of events, however, Jerez would never have become “the city of bodegas” which made it so uniquely different from others, but would likely have been limited to just being a vineyard city or wine city, with its enviable geography, located right down south, with magical spaces and amazing architecture, tiled rooves, patios, lanes and special streets. González Fustegueras outlined those main events which made Jerez become “the city of bodegas” as being the discovery and perfecting of a system which offered a homogeneous product – the solera system; the Royal Decree of 1778 which abolished the ordinances of the Gremio de la Vinatería restricting the storage of wine and which was the first victory for the bourgeois merchants over the growers; the fact that at the time Jerez was in a very scruffy state with rubbish dumps, slums and vacant sites which were cheap and perfect for reconversion into bodegas; the dispossession in 1836 by Mendizábal of Church properties which were snapped up by the ever expanding wine trade; and the lack of regulations relating to bodegas. He also noted that the birth of the capitalist city brought concomitant benefits such as the railway, electric street lighting, a Bank of Spain office and factories for bottles, gas and corks among other commodities.

21.6.17 Día de la Manzanilla

What is known as the Día de la Manzanilla is now a three day plus event and this year it runs from the 23 June till the 26 June in celebration of Sanlúcar’s finest product. Here is a brief resumé of the events, most of which are free:

Friday 23
Visit to Barbadillo 12.00
Saturday 24
Open day at Bodegas Covisan 11.00-14.00
Visit to Bodegas La Cigarrera 13.00
Open day at Bodegas La Guita 20.30-22.00
Tasting “De Sanlúcar, la Manzanilla" at Dealbariza wine shop 21.00
Sunday 25
Public Manzanilla tasting and flamenco, Plaza del Cabildo 20.00
Monday 26
Open day at Bodegas Covisan 11.00-14.00
Manzanilla tasting at Bodegas Delgado Zuleta 12.00
“Goyatherapy” workshop 12.30 (Spa treatment using vine products)
Visit to Bodagas La Gitana 19.30

Tempting, isn’t it! And there’s also Innoble on Sunday 25 Sanlúcar is where to be right now. If you can't make it this year, make sure you're there next year!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Ube de Ubérrima Carrascal 2015 12.5%, Bodegas Cota 45

Pale to mid-depth strawy gold with golden glints.
Forthcoming and characterful, it could only be Palomino with its chalky mineral notes with apple and quince fruit and a trace of flor. It smells so fresh and natural - well it is - and there's a saline twist too. It really has its place of origin stamped upon it. 
Dry with a certain bitter crispness and a light texture, it is effectively unfortified Manzanilla only with a trace more fruit. It could not be said to be fruity as the purpose was to express the place, the soil using Palomino which has such a propensity for doing that. Still, there is an enticing balance between fruit and vineyard. The wine has a certain weight giving it presence on the palate and a long clean finish. Lovely.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz was made by Ramiro Ibáñez from 100% Palomino but of various types: Palomino Fino (73%), Palomino de Jerez (16%) and Palomino Pelusón (11%). The grapes came from the small finca Las Vegas in the pago Carrascal where some of these old varieties can still be found in its albariza soil of the lentejuelas type. The vineyard is close to both Sanlúcar and the Atlantic. The wine was fermented in butt and left there to age for 20 months or so, unfortified, with the butts full enough to keep flor at bay. The 1,000 bottles produced were released in May 2017. "Ubérrima" means fertile, referring to the albariza soil whose character he wishes to demonstrate through the wine, and Ramiro also makes another version of Ube de Ubérrima from grapes grown in the pago Miraflores (QV). There is also a third wine yet to be released.
21.50 La Tienda del Jerez

Monday, 19 June 2017

Manzanilla Añada 2012 3/11 15%, Viña Callejuela

Pale gold with a trace of amber and bright golden glints.
Super fresh with noticeable salinity, restrained flor and traces of apple and fresh sea air. It has considerable charm with notes of camomile and a meadow full of wild herbs, yet there is also a more serious side with hints of cabezuela, and everything is in perfect harmony.
Good and dry, fresh, with traces of racy chalky minerals giving a dry texture with exactly the right acidity. It is at an attractive stage of development where it still has signs of youth but those of early maturity are beginning to show. The wine is now five years old and extremely elegant, and if you look closely, there are subtle but growing complexities. Delightful wine.
This is the third butt of the eleven laid down as a vintage wine in 2012, and each annual release has offered a shade more complexity than the last. It is a really inspired idea, but one has to wait a whole year for the next instalment. Still, it is well worth the wait. This was a limited advance bottling for the Copa Jerez Forum tasting, and it will be available very soon - but barely 1,000 50cl bottles.
Not released yet but will be about 20 euros per 50 cl bottle

(With GB's Jose Argudo in background)

Sunday, 18 June 2017

La Charanga 2015 10.1%, Viticultores Alba

Mid depth strawy yellow with golden glints, very light legs.
Fresh and forthcoming with a slight rustic note at first but develops attractive gently fruity and floral notes even camomile with traces of cider, apple, mineral, orchard fruits, straw and a hint of Manzanilla. Neither Oloroso nor flor are obvious, but there is still real complexity of character.
There is a trace of flor now, but not the bitterness, plenty of apply, quincey fruit and an attractive minerality. It is terrifically clean and natural tasting with a very gentle apple/grapeskin texture, lots of flavour and very long.
Another gem from Viticultores Alba. It is made from 50 year old vines of an old clone of Palomino, or Listán as it used to be called, organically grown in the Viña La Charanga whose casa de viña dates back to 1794, belonging to Manuel Benitez "El Bolli" in the Pago Mahina at Sanlúcar. The vineyard soil is pure albariza "tosca", firm, layered albariza. The wine was fermented in an old Oloroso tonel (a butt of 50 or more arrobas) and aged for a year in an old Manzanilla butt under flor for 5 months or so. No sulphur nor any type of additive is used, not even in the vineyard, and neither is it filtered. Everything is done by hand. The 2014 got 90 Parker points.
29.75 Licores Corredera

Saturday, 17 June 2017

17.6.17 Lots More Interesting News

Sánchez Romate are organising another music competition for young people who will play in various streets and squares of Jerez, either as soloists or in groups. It will be under the banner of the firm’s Unusual Sherries range, which is rarely seen on the home market, and it begins on 7th July and every Friday for the rest of the month. The final will take place during the Fiestas de la Vendimia (1-17 September) and the winner will record a mini concert at the Sánchez Romate bodegas.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana have launched a special Manzanilla in celebration of their 225th anniversary. Manzanilla La Gitana Aniversario makes a return to the original label and there are only 1792 bottles, one for each of the firm’s 225 years.

Viña Callejuela have launched 3 new table wines from different albariza pagos.They are Hacienda Dona Francisca (Callejuela), La Choza (Macharnudo) and Las Mercedes (Añina). A brief tasting showed them to be excellent. More later. They are also about to bottle the 3rd release of their vintage 2012 Manzanilla (3/11), the only one there is, but being from one butt there won’t be much…

Williams & Humbert’s February 2017 saca of the 2009 vintage Fino is now available in a smart new 50cl bottle which reflects the house style. It is lovely!

The Spanish Federation of Spirit Drinks (FEBE) has been holding its general assembly in Jerez along with the European Confederation of Spirits Producers, of which FEBE is a member. According to the latter’s figures, Spain produced 214 million litres of spirits in 2016, a good proportion of which was produced in Andalucía, and of which 60% was exported.

The Consejo Regulador has long been working on a definition for “en rama”. While use of the expression has been allowed on labels, different bodegas have different ideas, and some wines are bottled without any stabilisation whatsoever, while some undergo at least some treatment. Each bodega has its own way, and agreement is still not proving easy.

Bodegas Luis Pérez has released two new wines. El Triángulo is 100% Tintilla while El Muelle de Olaso is 100% Palomino. More later.

Armando Guerra of the famous Taberna Der Guerrita bar in Sanlúcar and Barbadillo has organised a great all-day festival of wine and music called Innoble. It takes place on Sunday 25th June from 11.00 am till 11.00pm at an old bodega belonging to Rodriguez Lacave which is the events space of the hotel Posada del Palacio at Calle Caballeros, 11, Sanlúcar. There will be many top people there like Paola Medina, Ramiro Ibáñez, Willy Pérez, Rocío Áspera and Alejandro Narváez of Forlong, the Blanco brothers of Callejuela, El Armijo, Mayetería Sanluqueña and Primitivo Collantes. Bodegas from other parts of Spain will also attend along with Niepoort from the Douro. The fun will include a blind tasting competition. Tickets are 50 € from

A new wine book has just been published called Los Nuevos Viñadores by Luis Gutiérrez, the Wine Advocate’s Spanish wines expert. It looks at 14 members of the new generation of winemakers around Spain and their amazing work in recuperating old grape varieties, focusing on the land and its history, and their imaginative and creative passion for expressive wines. Jerez is represented by Eduardo Ojeda of Grupo Estévez and Equipo Navazos. This really interesting book is in Spanish, but it is bound to be translated soon. Luis will be at Taberna Der Guerrita in Sanlúcar to talk about it and taste some wines on the 7th July at 20.30, see

Friday, 16 June 2017

16.6.17 Copa Jerez Forum Report

So many exciting things have been happening in Jerez! It all began on Sunday with a screening of the film “La Guitarra Vuela. Soñando a Paco de Lucía” by Javier Limón and Jorge Martínez, about the last guitar commissioned by the great Paco de Lucía from Antonio Morales in La Palma de Mallorca (he also made a guitar for Paul McCartney). Paco had been planning a tour, but died before it could happen and before he could play the guitar he called “La Maestro”. Now the orphan guitar has toured 9 countries and been played by outstanding players of a wide variety of musical genres in Lisbon, New York, Boston, Habana, Mexico City, Bogotá, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Salvador de Bahía, Rio de Janeiro and  Almería. More on the guitar anon.

For the first time, the Copa Jerez food and Sherry pairing competition, now an important international gastronomic fixture and in its VII edition, has been extended into two days of action-packed food and Sherry -related events. Renamed the Copa Jerez Forum, top International chefs and sommeliers gave talks, demonstrations, lectures and tastings, including sessions on artisan cheeses, Almadraba tuna, a comparison of frying Spanish style versus Japanese Tempura and Sherry with Jamón de Jabugo, the world’s best ham. All of them are huge fans of Sherry for its quality, sheer variety and food matching prowess, and all are proud to include many Sherries on their wine lists.

Ángel León and Juan Ruiz from Aponiente at bodega San Gines

There was also a fascinating series of dialogues between Sherry oenologists discussing vintage Sherry, biological ageing and the importance of the vineyard. They were Eduardo Ojeda (Grupo Estévez and Equipo Navazos), Ramiro Ibáñez (Cota 45 and consultant), Montserrat Molina (Barbadillo), Willy Pérez (Bodegas Luis Pérez), Paola Medina (Williams & Humbert) and Antonio Flores (González Byass), and each one brought a really interesting wine to taste. Then there was a magnificent tasting at the Jerez Catering School where no fewer than 24 bodegas brought along all sorts of interesting and delightful Sherries. If only there had been time to taste more!

The tasting was well attended

The first day came to a fabulous close at the enchanting cloisters of Santo Domingo with a superbly conceived tasting/concert entitled “Tal palo, tal Jerez”. Top sommelier and co-owner of El Celler de Can Roca (twice voted best restaurant in the world), Josep “Pitu” Roca was joined by the brilliant guitarist Diego del Morao (son of the late flamenco guitar legend Moraíto Chico).  Pitu had selected ten highly interesting wines, most of which are not available commercially, to match ten styles of flamenco (palos), played on Paco de Lucía’s La Maestro guitar. This beautiful instrument shows incredible clarity of notes and depth of sound, especially in the wonderful setting of the cloisters of Santo Domingo, where the “duende” (muse) was everywhere in the sheer passion of the music and the wine. This was a huge success as each wine and each matching palo evoked different and profound sensations.

The wines and music began in a happy carefree mood, gradually becoming more pensive, soulful, passionate and complex. I can’t resist listing them.

Manzanilla selected from a butt in the middle of the bodega La Arboledilla, from the Solear solera at Barbadillo accompanied by “Manzanilla por Alegrías”.
Fino en rama selected from Bodegas El Maestro Sierra accompanied by “Jerez por Bulerías”
Manzanilla Pasada selected from a butt at La Guita accompanied by “Bulería de Lebrija”
Amontillado Muy Viejo, Solera Fundacional, Bodegas Alonso accompanied by “Fandango al natural”
Oloroso para Fino añada 2002, Williams & Humbert accompanied by “Soleá desafinada”
Palo Cortado Tradición VORS accompanied by “Soleá por Bulerías”
Palo Cortado Reserva de Familia, Gutiérrez Colosía accompanied by “Soleá por Bulerías añeja”
Oloroso Maestro Sierra VORS accompanied by “Soleá”
Moscatel Toneles (80-100 years old), Valdespino accompanied by “Tiento por tangos al estilo del Tío Manuel”
Amontillado “Partido Arroyo” solera pre-fundacional, González Byass (over 200 years old) accompanied by “Seguiriya en ré”

Diego del Morao and La Maestro

The Copa Jerez final itself involved seven international chef and sommelier teams each preparing a starter, main course and dessert, each one accompanied by a Sherry. The finalists were:

Ödenturm from Germany
Humphrey from Belgium
Falsled Kro from Denmark
En Rama from the United States
Casa Marcial from Spain
Podium onder de Dom from Holland
The Ritz from the United Kingdom

And the winners were:
Copa Jerez: Podium Onder de Dom
Juli Soler Award for best Sommelier: Juan Luis García, Casa Marcial
(The late Juli Soler was co-founder of El Bulli. 15% of their wine list was Sherry)
Best Chef: Leon Mazairac, Podium Onder de Dom
Best Starter pairing: Falsled Kro
Best Main course pairing: Ödenturm
Best Dessert pairing: The Ritz
Most creative pairing: joint winners En Rama and Humphrey

The Copa Jerez Winners from Podium onder de Dom: chef Leon Mazairac (L) and sommelier Goos van den Berg

After the prize giving ceremony there was a gala buffet dinner and flamenco spectacular, mostly in the form of Bulería, the flamenco palo native to Jerez, along with song and dance and a few more glasses of Sherry. Then it was time for a long well-earned sleep.

The Copa Jerez Forum was a huge success, very well thought out, and I can only wonder at the huge amount of work - and money - it took to organise so many people and events. Every year the Copa Jerez has been gaining in prestige, and now, as the Copa Jerez Forum, it has become an unmissable event. I am sincerely grateful to every Jerezano, from the waitresses to the bodegueros to the Consejo, who worked so hard, was so kind and welcoming and who provided such an unforgettable event. It was really heartening to see the world’s top chefs and sommeliers talk about Sherry with such passion and high esteem.

It is almost certain that the new Copa Jerez Forum format will be continued, and it is possible that more countries might be invited to participate in the XVIII edition, but the invitation is dependent on various factors like the Consejo having the necessary funds to cover the competition heats in more countries and the state of the market for Sherry there. It has traditionally been a kind of “thank you” to the leading export markets, and Russia competed in the VI edition and Japan in the I edition, albeit as an exhibitor, as the starter, main course and dessert format is not the norm in many Asian countries. Canada and Ireland are other possibilities.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Manzanilla Solear en rama Winter 2016 15%, Barbadillo

Bright, amber tinted gold, with golden glints, light legs.
Lots of fresh, clean yeasty flor with notes of bread dough, olive brine and seaside, more of those lovely bitter notes from the wine's surface than from the cabezuela perhaps, dried flowers, dry scrub, traces of bitter almond and a hint of dampness, but just enough from below the surface to give complexity. Tight and zippy.
Distinct notes of toasted bread along with the doughy nuttiness and traces of olive, there is a serious note here, the wine is less wild and more contained with a damper note than, say, the summer bottling. But it is very subtle and beautifully balanced, dry, natural and very long.
Excellent Manzanilla Pasada as always. The seasonal bottlings are all really different and it is a great opportunity to see how the flor changes the wine's character in the different phases of the year. It is so worth while to buy all four sacas of a given year and give them some bottle age and then taste them together to see the differences. This wine was selected from 15 of the best butts in the Solear solera on the 7th December and bottled on the 20th with an average age of at least 8 years and no more than the minimal stabilisation. Only 1,500 litres were released. The grapes came from the albariza soils of the bodegas's vineyards in Gibalbin and Santa Lucia with an average age of 30 years.
15.50 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Brandy Felipe II Solera 36%, Agustin Blazquez

Deep amber with golden highlights
Crisp and light in style yet reasonably aromatic with notes of cornflakes and wine, light on the oak - not the usual heavier Oloroso - more Amontillado with a light trace of honey and hazelnut. Really quite elegant.
Gentle caramel sweetness at the start then those corn and honey notes which balance with a hint of tannin giving character and good length. Open, straightforward and surprisingly easy drinking.
In the heyday of Agustin Blazquez, founded in Jerez in 1795, this was a leading commercial Brandy de Jerez. It was their basic brandy, above which figured Toisón de Oro and Anticuario, all of which, unusually for a Jerez based firm, were aged in bodegas in El Puerto. The firm was taken over by Domecq in 1973, and after Domecq itself was taken over, Osborne bought some of the brandies - Carlos I, Carlos III and Felipe II. In recent times this decent quality brandy has been converted into a "bebida espirituosa" sold at 30% and while cheaper, it is certainly not what it was. So it was sheer luck and a great pleasure when I chanced on this bottle of "real" Felipe II.
13.50 euros/litre from La Mantequería Jerezana

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

3 En Rama El Puerto Spring 2016 15.5%, Lustau

Amber tinged gold with bright golden glints, legs.
Gorgeous deep, intense yeasty notes of thick spring flor. There are some attractive notes from the cabezuela coming through giving it a delightful richness and a gently nutty, buttery, almost toasty complexity with a hint of olive. You can really smell the humid sea air which adds a lovely freshness.
Fairly full with a perfect harmony between the bitterness of the flor and the more lactic flavours from the cabezuela. Low acidity is compensated by the bitterness and it is really well rounded, soft and deeply tasty, fresh without the  wildness of Manzanilla and the weight of Jerez. Lovely.
Having been bottled in April 2016, this wine now has a year in bottle. It is also the first anniversary of the death, at only 61, of the greatly missed man who made it, Manuel Lozano, and it really demonstrates his skill. The 3 En Rama range beautifully shows the difference between the wines of the three Sherry towns, and is bottled in spring every year at  about 5 years old and without any stabilisation.
15.25 euros, Licores Corredera

Sunday, 11 June 2017

De Raiz Seleccion 2014 14.5%, Peter Maurer

Opaque black cherry red up to a pink rim, still with a trace of purple, legs.
Quite tight due to its youth, but it has a very attractive nose bursting with fresh jammy very ripe bramble and raspberry fruit perfectly balanced by toasty, almost smoky lead pencil notes of French oak. It smells quite powerful and full bodied and appears serious and sophisticated.
Spicy French oak up front followed by a trace of liquorice and that tight ripe fruit, all softened with a bit of glycerine. This is a very big generous wine with a big structure and plenty of tannin but it is reasonably ripe. What this wine needs is a few more years in bottle for all its many attributes to come together and develop into something special.
This delicious organic wine is made by German Peter Maurer from Merlot, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir (quite an unusual blend) grown on a double Guyot cordon on fairly saline calcareous clay soils near Trebujena on the left bank of the Guadalquivir. Harvesting is done by hand and the bunches are selected three times - both in the vineyard and the bodega - before fermentation at controlled temperatures. The wine is then aged for 16 months in medium-toasted mostly new French oak barrels and a few months in bottle in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. This could be enjoyed now with a nice juicy steak, but would be best laid down for 3-5 years.
13.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Amontillado 1/15 21%, Bodegas Alonso

Burnished old mahogany with copper-tinted amber highlights and a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Most attractive aromatic mature glyceric buttery caramel and almond notes with traces of cedar up front. There is a more serious side behind with traces of salinity, old oak and dried fruit, but it is all so well integrated that it has become a "bouquet". This is an old wine with all the grace and complexity you should expect - the more you sniff, the more you get.
Fairly crisp on entry thanks largely to volatile acidity, then it spreads out generously on the palate with notable glycerine and lots of toasted nuts before reverting to a crisper, tangier, saltier style yet always beautifully balanced and with a long, dry, remarkably tannin-free finish.
This wine is simply stunning. It was released recently along with an Oloroso 1/14 and a Palo Cortado 1/8 which, despite being from criaderas, are over 50 years old. These supply the much older solera wines which the Asencio brothers bought from the remains of Pedro Romero. It is bottled unfiltered.
120 euros per 50cl Licores Corredera

Friday, 9 June 2017

Las Alegrias Ancestral 2015 11.5%, Alba Viticultores

Strawy gold with golden highlights, petillant rather than fully sparkling, legs.
Very attractive, delicate and refined yet quite complex and frank. Fresh with gentle candied fruit, even traces of aromatic soap, but overall that slight trace of very ripe apple from the Palomino.
Nicely balanced acidity and gentle fruit following through, there's a trace of salinity and a very slight chalky feel from the albariza along with notes of apple. well rounded. It is very dry, yet very well rounded, interesting - and extremely moreish.
Judging from the wine's apparent youth, the fact that they can sell every bottle of the few produced (around 1,000) and that "7/16" (the disgorgement date one assumes) is written in the bottle's punt, I am assuming this is from the 2015 vintage. Made from Palomino grapes - or more precisely, Listán Sanluqueña, the original clone - grown on fifty year old vines in the Las Alegrias vineyard in the Pago Carrascal between Chipiona and Sanlúcar. The must spends 10 days or so fermenting in tank with natural local yeasts and the wine is then bottled to complete the fermentation there, with no addition of anything, not even the usual yeast and sugar "licor". The wine then ages for a year or so before disgorgement by hand and as required for sale. It is not filtered in any way, and there will be a very fine, barely noticeable haze, but that's no problem, that haze has flavour. If you worry about the crown cap, don't. Most Champagne is aged with  a crown cap and only gets the cork at disgorgement. 
23.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 8 June 2017

8.6.17 Latest Sherry Sales Figures

While the trend is in the right direction, total sales are down again. Less cheap wine and more good wine has been sold but not enough of the latter to compensate for the former. The first 4 months of 2017 saw total sales fall 8.6% (= 5% over last 12 months). January to April sales were 9.5 million litres as against 10.3 for the same period last year. This is mainly down to lower export sales for the period, down 13.4% (or 800,000 litres) especially in the traditional markets and BOB.

Germany was down 27%, Holland 17% the UK 14.5%, Spain 2.55% and Europe as a whole was down 16%. After recent growth in Spain, this fall can be explained by the later dates of Holy week and thus the ferias, so a more accurate reflection will be seen in the figures for May. Over the last 12 months total sales were 33.5 million litres, 1.8 million down on 2015, and this was entirely down to exports as Spain grew by 2.5%.

IWSR Premium Sherry sales forecast 

Sales of cheap, sweet “granny” wines are plummeting as their consumer numbers decline, while on the other hand, January to April saw strong growth in the dry styles, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Fino and Manzanilla, which together sold 5.2 million litres – a million more than the most popular sweet styles: Medium, Cream and Pale Cream. This change in taste is motivated by growing interest in the dry styles from wine experts and aficionados who are mostly younger and have greater purchasing power than the granny generation. Luckily it is much more profitable.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

7.6.17 Latest Williams & Humbert Lecture

Bodegas Williams & Humbert have announced the next in their excellent series of lectures which take place at the bodega. The title is "The Wine Factories and the Building of the Capitalist City" and will be imparted by the architect and urban planner Manuel González Fustegueras, president of the Foundation of Contemporary Architecture. He will talk about how, in the face of the disastrous industrial revolution in Spain, which particularly affected Andalucía, the wine industry of Jerez would become one of the first models of capitalist economic development in Spain during the second third of the XIX century, making way for the construction in the city of a huge industrial park which transformed the preexisting urban and rural model in such a short space of time and so potently that it was unequalled in Spain. This change of model brought with it certain decisive consequences which would be inexplicable elsewhere. A fascinating subject as always, and well worth going if you can, especially since a glass of Sherry is available at the end!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Manzanilla 1a Saca 2016 15%, Sacristía AB

Bright, quite deep strawy yellow with brassy amber tones, legs.
Intense and super complex, this is a beautifully matured Manzanilla pasada. There are loads of yeast notes, not only the slightly bitter almond ones from the flor, but also strawy, buttery, nutty, almost cheesy ones from autolysis of the dead yeast cells at the bottom of the butt. There is also a notable hint of salinity and notes of dried flowers and damp bodegas. Impressive.
A rich palate of full-on aromas, textures and flavours. It is big, structured and generous with so many layers of flavour, much of it autolytic, and fairly low acidity yet perfectly balanced. If you hold it on the palate it just gives more and more, and for a long time after you swallow. An absolute classic.
This outstanding wine, possibly the best yet, was selected by Antonio Barbadillo in July 2016 after a mild wet spring. The selection was made from 30 butts in the soleras of Bodegas Francisco Yuste and bottled en rama with an average age of about 10 years. Before bottling the blend was allowed to settle and homogenise in tanks at a low temperature for a couple of months. Now with nearly a year in bottle it is really showing well, and demonstrating just how complex Manzanilla can be. 
15 euros per half bottle, Er Guerrita

Saturday, 3 June 2017

La Bota de Fino 68 15%, Equipo Navazos

Bright gold with a hint of amber and golden highlights, legs.
Full and complex with intense yeast notes; bread dough and bitter almond from the flor and fuller, deeper more autolytic notes of straw, nut oil and butter from the cabezuela. Then there are very slight oxidative notes like bruised apple, which add to the large palate of aromas.
Full and bursting with flavour. It has considerable depth, and the delightful bitterness from the flor substitutes for acidity, giving it perfect balance. There is a wonderful melange of flavours: yeast, both alive and dead, a trace of oxidation and hints of minerality which work together make a wine which is very dry, very clean, very long,very jerezano and very good.
Another excellent Fino blended from the solera, 1st and 2nd criaderas of the Valdespino Inocente solera, like the last seven bottlings of La Bota de Fino. This saca is dated June 2016 and came to a total of 6,500 bottles. The grapes as always are from the Macharnudo Alto and the wine was fermented in butt as is the tradition at Valdespino. La Bota 68 has an average age of between 10 and 11 years. Being bottled en rama, it contains all the loveliness some of which is unfortunately filtered out of Inocente, and has nearly a year in bottle. Don't over-chill the wine; it is at its best at cellar temperature, especially as this is a particularly good bottling.
25 euros, Los Patios de Beatas, Malaga

Friday, 2 June 2017

Brandy Independencia 40.5% Solera Gran Reserva, Osborne

Fairly deep chestnut mahogany fading to amber with bright copper highlights.
Full and forthcoming with toasted almonds, walnuts and hints of pasas and caramel offering a slightly sweet note, all well integrated with Oloroso and the oak of its barrels giving a distinct character.
Big and assertive with real character, and the classic hallmarks of Brandy de Jerez: nuts, oak and a hint of Oloroso-tinged caramel sweetness. There is also a trace of orange peel and that velvet gloved power from years of oxidative concentration and refinement.
The name of this fine brandy refers to the French occupation of much of Spain by Napoleon's armies and the installation of his brother Joseph Bonaparte as king (1808-13). Jerez itself was occupied for nearly three years between 1810 and 1812 and there was much abuse of power, leading bodegas to try and hide as much of their product as possible. If things were bad for the Spanish, they were worse for those French who had set up bodegas in the area. Osborne also used to sell an Amontillado called Independencia, and their Oloroso Bailén was named after a famous Spanish victory over the French in 1808. The faint image on the brandy label is reproduced from a painting of a Napoleonic battle by the famous Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla. For a while Osborne had a picture on the label of King Fernando VII who reigned after they got rid of Joseph Bonaparte. Anyway this brandy is made from holandas and aged in Oloroso butts.
15,95 Bodega La Latina Fuengirola

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Bodegas: M Antonio de la Riva SA

Manuel Antonio de la Riva y Pomar was born in Ruiloba (Santander) in 1838. Aged only 20 he moved to Jerez and bought an old bodega established in 1776 in Calle Arcos, opposite what is now Lustau. It contained some excellent old wines and would establish his reputation.

Manuel Antonio de la Riva y Pomar
He married the jerezana María Guadalupe González de Tagle y Villar and among their children were two noteworthy daughters; Petra (1882-1956) who would marry José Domecq and live in great luxury, daily attending San Marcos church, where it is said the priest could not begin the mass until she arrived. Guadalupe was famed for her beauty and was presented to King Alfonso XIII during a visit to González Byass in 1904. He was impressed but aged only 18 and later married Victoria Eugenia of Hapsburg.

Vina Sabel vineyard and casa de vina
The firm was comparatively small but prestigious thanks to its extremely old and very fine soleras, and it owned 53 hectares of vineyard next to that of Agustín Blázquez in the Pago Macharnudo including Viña La Riva and Viña Sabel (now belonging to Grupo Estevez). Bodegas La Riva are credited with the introduction of “deserpia”, the digging of a square depression round the stem of the vine to catch rainwater.

Manuel Antonio was a great defender of the interests of Jerez, proposing an entity which would fight for the prestige of Sherry and coordinate the efforts of its exporters.  He was thus chosen as honorary president of the chamber of commerce in 1902, and served as a member of the Cortes (Spanish parliament). When he died in 1909 he was a much respected man.

Manuel’s sons continued with the business, changing its name to MA de la Riva & Cia. in 1923, based at Calle Alvar Nuñez and in 1958 it changed again to MA de la Riva SA. In the early 1970s the firm was bought out by Domecq, who were in an acquisitive mood then, but still run, at least for a while, by the La Riva family who were of course related by marriage. Gradually however the soleras were moved to the Domecq installations, and gradually the following famous brands disappeared.

Sherry: Tres Palmas, Macharnudo La Riva Fino, La Riva Pedro Ximénez Superior, Amontillado Extra 1819, Amontillado Fino Copa, Amontillado Guadalupe, Macharnudo Oloroso Viña Sabel, Viejo Oloroso 1830, Manzanilla Los Caireles, Palo Cortado, Brandy: San Quintín Viejísimo,  Hispano

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

31.5.17 Williams & Humbert Sponsor Flamenco Research Competition

Flamenco is hugely important to Jerez, where many of the very great artists were born, and it is home to the exciting Bulería. Following the excellent news that the Andalusian Museum of Flamenco and a Lola Flores Museum will be constructed from a set of council-owned buildings in the currently scruffy Plaza Belén, comes more good news. Bodegas Williams & Humbert have announced sponsorship of the first Flamenco Research Prize “City of Jerez”. The winner of the 3,000 euro prize will be announced on the 16th November, Andalusian Flamenco Day, and the date UNESCO proclaimed Flamenco as Patrimony of Humanity.

Jesus medina, the mayor, council officials and Flamenco experts toast the deal

This first edition of the Flamenco Research Prize is dedicated to the great Jerez-born writer and poet, José Manuel Caballero Bonald, much of whose work has a close connection to Flamenco, and the judging panel includes the leading experts. Submissions, which should be unpublished, can focus on any theme so long as it concerns Flamenco de Jerez. Jesús Medina, president of Williams & Humbert emphasised the link between Sherry and Flamenco, saying “they are both part of what we are, our profoundest way of seeing and feeling life. Jerez cannot be understood without its wine, its bodegas and its Flamenco. No city has provided history with more and greater singers, dancers and guitarists. Flamenco and Sherry are our very signs of identity, two of the maximum expressions of our land which form a perfect symbiosis, like the perfection of marrying different Sherries with different styles of Flamenco.” He is absolutely right!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Forlong Vino Blanco 80/20 12.9%, Bodegas Forlong

Interesting colour, ever so very faintly pink, almost as if a single drop of red had been added - which it hasn't. Legs.
Very forthcoming and bursting with glacé fruits and an appearance of sweetness. Ripe apples, pears, a floral note and a trace of chalkiness and grapeskin along with the slightest hint of raisin. This looks really interesting.
There is a touch of sweetness, presumably from the PX skins, but that sweetness is the result of fairly low acidity as much as residual sugar, though there must be  just a little. All those orchard fruits give it an easy charm, gentle texture, lots of flavour and good length.
As always, another very interesting wine from Alejandro and Rocío's little organic albariza vineyard and bodega just outside El Puerto de Santa María. The wine is 100% Palomino and the reason for the name is that 80% of the Palomino comes from their own vineyard, being carefully fermented in stainless steel tanks the normal way. The other 20%, also Palomino, comes from the viña Plantalina in the pago Balbaina Alta. These grapes are cold macerated and cold fermented along with Pedro Ximénez skins like in a red wine fermentation, to extract deeper aroma and flavour. The skins are extracted after 25 days and the resulting wine is aged and settled in tank on its lees for around five months and bottled with virtually no filtration. It is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz and proves that Palomino can and does have flavour. If only their wines were more widely available! Printed on the (good quality) cork is a quote from Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself" which is about nature and belonging to it.
10.50 Licores Corredera

Monday, 29 May 2017

29.5.17 New Launches from Grupo Estévez

The superb Valdespino Fino Inocente, from a single vineyard and fermented in butt, is now available in a limited edition of 600 numbered magnums. This reflects a bit of a trend in the Sherry world and it is a very welcome one, as one now has the opportunity to lay down wines in magnums, the ideal size for extended bottle ageing, for five years or even much more. Inocente is already bottled at ten years old, but could easily develop considerably more complexity. The spring 2017 release of Manzanilla en rama Deliciosa is also now available, while alongside the Sherries comes the second vintage of the also single vineyard Ojo de Gallo. This Palomino fino table wine was a huge success and the 2015 sold out very quickly.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Beta Brut NV 12.5% Bodegas Barbadillo

Bright pale strawy gold with a very good fine mousse but not much bead or legs.
Pronounced nose, predominantly Palomino with ripe white fruit, apple, a gentle yeastiness, even slightly bread-like, and a faint citrus note. It is not a million miles from Manzanilla but fruitier and there's no flor. Very attractive.
Full and dry with well balanced acidity making it pleasantly tangy, the apple and yeast notes continue, and there is a faint suggestion of autolysis which is surprising for such a young wine. It is very clean with a very slightly mineral, saline hint and a long soft finish.
Made from predominantly Palomino with a little Chardonnay and grown on double cordon and hand picked in the firm's vineyards of Gibalbín and Santa Lucía, both albariza. The first fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and lasts for 15 days and the second fermentation takes place in bottle where it remains for 9 months before disgorgement. The classic "traditional method". Total acidity is 6g/l and residual sugar is also 6g/l. Great value for money and different from Cava - more Sanluqueño!
Around 5 euros, widely available

Saturday, 27 May 2017

27.5.17 Sherry Looks to the Russian Market; Copa Jerez Forum Coming Soon

Consejo Regulador Director César Saldaña hosted a talk and tasting of the diverse styles of Sherry to dozens of Russian importers, sommeliers and professionals recently at a central Moscow hotel. He was on a mission to explore the tastes of the Russian market where Sherry is still a great unknown and to create an opening in the country’s gastronomic panorama. He outlined the wine’s principal characteristics, grape varieties, gastronomic possibilities and its use in cocktails, and there was even a cocktail demonstration. The event included the presentation of the Consejo’s informative booklet “Food in Good Company” which has been translated into Russian. The Consejo sees Russia as a good future market which is already growing year on year. “Sherry is very special and very diverse, and not being familiar it can be a bit surprising, but its appeal is that enormous diversity”, said Saldaña, “there is great interest among Russian sommeliers who can see its great gastronomic potential”.

Copa Jerez Forum Coming Soon

The VII edition of the international Sherry and gastronomy matching competition, the Copa Jerez, takes place over the 12th and 13th of June in Jerez. The seven finalists are all Michelin starred restaurants, so the standard is very high. The event has been expanded into the Copa Jerez Forum and now includes a range of show cooking, lectures and demonstrations by leading figures in the world of gastronomy and a Sherry salon where 20 bodegas will be showing some 200 wines. There will also be a gala dinner and live flamenco performances. This event is simply not to be missed, so if you are a professional and haven’t enrolled yet, do so quickly at:

Friday, 26 May 2017

Amontillado Viejo Pastrana 20%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Mahogany through amber to perhaps a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Forthcoming crisp and welcoming with a savoury note reminiscent of old Manzanilla cabezuela and plenty of toasted almonds with a glyceric edge which contrasts beautifully with a note of salinity. It has a slightly lively, wild Sanlucar character, even for a wine of this age. There are faint oak notes which blend in almost unnoticed to this clean complex and subtle nose.
The tangy, crispness at the start could only mean Sanlucar, then a delightful nuttiness appears giving one ideas of sweetness, yet it is low on glycerine, almost lean, but packed with flavour and character and only just enough glycerine to round it all off leaving an exciting wine with unique characteristics.
This is a rare thing, a single vineyard Amontillado. It comes from the 14 hectare Pastrana vineyard in the Pago Miraflores, famous for the firm's Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, and is simply the same wine aged for much longer, around 50 years, and from selected butts, some of which date back to the firm's foundation in 1792.
77.10 euros ex bodega

Thursday, 25 May 2017

25.5.17 Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 Sherry Results

The results are out for the XIV edition of this prestigious competition which is now the world’s largest. This year saw over 17,200 wines entered which were judged by 219 experts including 65 Masters of Wine and 20 Master Sommeliers. All Silver medal-winning Sherries (31) scored 90 points or over, while Gold (14), Platinum (4) and Platinum Best in Show (2) winners scored 95 or over. 49 Sherries scored 90 points or more, while a further 25 Bronze-winners scored 86 points or more. It is very rewarding to see so many Sherries being recognised for their quality.

Manzanilla Pasada Pastora, Barbadillo
Fino Tres Palmas, González Byass

Pedro Ximénez VOS, Lustau
Oloroso VORS, Lustau                                                                                            
Palo Cortado Viejísimo 1/5, Cayetano del Pino
Oloroso Pedro’s Almacenista Selection, Viniberia

Harveys Fino, Fundador
Harveys Oloroso Medium VORS, Fundador
Harveys Amontillado VORS, Fundador
Amontillado VORS, Lustau
Amontillado Almacenista González Obregón, Lustau
Fino Almacenista González Obregón, Lustau
Oloroso The Best, Lustau (for Morrisons)
Fino del Puerto, Lustau (for Waitrose)
Palo Cortado VORS, Lustau
Amontillado Cuatro Palmas, González Byass
Amontillado del Duque VORS, González Byass
Pedro Ximénez Néctar, González Byass
Pedro Ximénez Noé VORS, González Byass
Fino Una Palma, González Byass

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

An Interview with Willy Pérez of Bodegas Luis Pérez


Guillermo (Willy) Pérez’ surname not only shows his ancestry, but also the continuity of a family business forged by the drive of its founder, a visionary who wanted to change things but to do it in the origins of the world he loved, the very heart of viticulture: the vineyard. Luis Pérez, father and son, are the soul of the business, established in 2002 and located not far from Jerez.

“The project stemmed from my father’s enthusiasm for trying to change things and doing it from the vineyard in a way which has been lost in the area in recent years. Starting out was hard; we are a wine family and we invest everything into wine, so we had to give 100%. We did everything, from the vineyard to the bodega. Let’s not deceive ourselves, they were hard years, going off with a bottle under one’s arm to try and convince the world that Andalucía could produce red wines of quality. At the start nobody wanted to know. They said to us “how are we going to sell a red wine from Jerez which is more expensive than a Rioja?”

How did the idea come about of making red wine in Jerez?
Not many people know that in Andalucía, and particularly in Jerez, a great diversity of wine was produced in the past, including red wine. All we had to do was recuperate that tradition, doing it as well as possible and searching out the land most suitable for each grape variety. Oddly, acceptance first came from tourists who wanted to try the various wines produced in the area. So little by little the restaurants began to feel more comfortable with these new wines. Some even began to put Andalucía at the top of their wine lists, while they put other DOs like Rioja or Ribera del Duero in second and third place. What seems normal now was pretty risky 15 years ago, and we should be grateful to those pioneers.

Do you have some particular secret?
We don’t have any particular formula. Our methods of winemaking are simply to try and obtain the best possible quality. Every plot has its own requirements so we need to do things slightly differently. There are many thousands of wines in the world but the great majority are much the same due to globalisation of winemaking. The difference comes from the vineyard, whether it is better or worse than the others, it is different, and that needs to show through the wine to give it its own style, recognisable and inimitable because the vineyards are too.

What are your next projects?
Fifteen years ago we started out with no limits. We were very keen to try different styles with internationally recognised grape varieties, and it worked out well, making wine with no barriers. Later, as the years went by, we were developing better knowledge of the individual terroirs and how the grapes were adapting to each plot, and also a sense of responsibility to recuperate traditional local grapes. In 2011 we finally made a red from the Cádiz variety Tintilla, and this year we are launching two new wines: El Triángulo, another red from Tintilla, and El Muelle de Olaso, a white made from palomino.

Is the Tintilla a better grape for being Andaluz?
It is not so much whether it is better or worse, it is different. But there is no doubt that it is very suitable for making fresh elegant reds. That is the current fashion in red wines around the world; it has changed from concentration and structure to a lighter style with a lower strength. There has always been fashion, even in wines.

And the Palomino? Can great whites be made from this variety?
Palomino is a very versatile variety. We know it is capable of making excellent fortified wines, but it is often said that it is less suitable for making expressive white wines, although we think this is due to high yields, and returning to yields more like those of the XIX century and using classic techniques it is perfectly possible to make more than interesting white wines.

Was everything done better in the past?
No, not at all. But curiously Jerez reached a point where wine production became so advanced it was breath-taking. Looking back and seeing how highly trained people created such an important legacy gives you an extra responsibility with your land. They innovated and now we have to do so as well, but we are the first generation which has to know the history of it all so we can retain the good ideas and not repeat the mistakes.

Is it true that Jerez is undergoing a minor revolution?
Well, I’m not sure if it is a revolution or not, but good some very good things are certainly happening which will affect us all in the future, one way or another for sure. New wines have begun to appear which only five years ago would have seemed impossible. People like Forlong, Cota 45, Callejuela, Primitivo Collantes, Armando Guerra, Vinifícate, Alba and many others are setting up projects based on the vineyard, and so are the most traditional bodegas who are doing important work for quality. You get the impression that the cycle of the previous crisis of a century ago is repeating itself when an explosion of creativity and commitment managed to take Jerez forward once again. History does repeat itself.

How do you see the future?
I like to be positive. I would like to see a future where the big bodegas labelled their wines with the name of their best vineyards, but above all I want to think about the many small producers who only make a few bottles from their vineyard, but enough to live well, to live wine.

This interview appeared in the Diario de Jerez 22/5/17