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

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Brandy Gran Duque de Alba Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Williams & Humbert

Well patinated mahogany fading through amber with bright copper highlights.
Rich aromas of well matured brandy, the Oloroso, while obvious, is not dominant and balances well with the fruitiness of the spirit. There are notes of raisin, caramel, vanilla, oak and tobacco but on the whole they are well integrated into a very wholesome whole.
A touch of sweetness at the start helps acclimatise the palate to the 40 degrees of alcohol then it opens out nicely and very generously with all the above flavours. There will be a little sweetness from the Dry Sack 15 and I'm not certain if any more has been added (it is not uncommon), but it certainly makes for a very enjoyable brandy rounding it off nicely. Good length.

This is one of the best sellers of the Solera Gran Reservas which originally belonged to Diez-Merito and comes from an 1889 solera. The firm was taken over by Rumasa and the brandy finally ended up at Williams & Humbert. The story goes that it is named in honour of Jacobo Fitz-James Stewart y Falcó, XVII Duke of Alba, a descendant of the Jacobites and father of the late Cayetana, Duchess of Alba. The Duke was a friend of the firm's Madrid agent and having been impressed by the brandy, kindly allowed his title to be used for its brand name. Since then W&H have added two other, older versions of the brandy; GDA XO and GDA Oro. They even have a cream liqueur using GDA as a base. It is made from Airén grapes with a little Palomino fermented at low temperature to conserve primary aromas. The wine is only lightly filtered leaving a little of the lees in suspension on arrival at the still. Distillation is carried out in alquitaras at a very slow rate to achieve the best possible estery holandas. The spirit is then racked into butts seasoned with Dry Sack Oloroso 15 Year Old and goes to the 10th criadera of the solera. Ten years later it emerges as this delicious brandy.
25 euros from the Corte ingles

Monday, 22 May 2017

An Interesting Interview with Francisco Guerrero, President of the Growers

Just as almacenistas have all but ceased to exist, independent growers in the Sherry zone are in danger of extinction. Apathy and discontent are rife among the growers who are not cooperative members. They number around 60 and control some 2,000 hectares, nearly a third of the total under vine, vineyards which the trade cannot allow to be lost. But these vines are ageing quickly because of the impoverished state of their owners, who are unable to make the slightest investment. Asevi-Asaja, the association of independent growers, estimates that at least half are less than 10 years old, and the vines have a commercial life of up to 30 years. Francisco Guerrero, the association president, says the problem is that the vineyards have been unprofitable for years because the price of grapes is too low. There is no spare cash to repair machinery, tractors are literally falling to bits and in small vineyards it doesn’t pay to contract outside help.

After a long period of distance between the growers and the bodegas association, Fedejerez, Asevi has spent the last year trying to renew contact and succeeded in arranging a day of talks between the two parties just before last week’s Feria. According to Guerrero another meeting is expected at the end of June or the start of July to improve the exchange of ideas and seek solutions, the main one being that the grape price has to be fair and reasonable.

One way to earn more from vineyards (foto:Pascual/diariodejerez)

After a small and not particularly good harvest which endured heavy rain in May followed by mildew, the growers are facing another year of uncertainty because of more Levante wind than usual. Last year they suffered its drying and crop-reducing effects for more than a month in July and August, and they fear it will return this year.

After the massive uprooting of excess vineyard subsidised by Brussels which reduced the area of vineyard from 1,050 hectares to the current 6,500, the area managed to reach a balance between supply and demand. But if this year also produces a small crop there will be a supply problem. Naturally the bodegas need to replace their stocks but, as there is currently no overstock, the grape price will shoot up, and nobody wants that. Guerrero explains that in the late 1980s and early 1990s the price shot up from 82 pesetas to 100 (from 50 to 60 céntimos) and that was bad for the trade.

“We want a reasonable price, ideally 40-45 céntimos instead of the current 34-36 céntimos”, says Guerrero, who insists that “after achieving a balance of supply and demand, the trade cannot allow the loss of a further 2,000 hectares. Fedejerez understands the situation and has raised the price for the coming harvest, but it is still not enough”. Meanwhile the bodegas argue that they can’t offer more as the wine itself is not profitable either.

Although Sherry and Manzanilla are enjoying better times, in which little by little prices and sales values are recovering, BOB (buyer’s own brand) is still selling in large volumes and at very low margins, which is chipping away at profitability. The recent growth of Sherry corresponds to the leading brands and the VOS and VORS wines, but the turning point has not yet been reached because of the scale of the BOB trade. It seems that Bodegas and growers alike are condemned to put up with it.

“This year there has been a bit more movement in purchasing by the big bodegas, but only four of them are buying grapes”, says Guerrero, adding that “although the bodegas own some vineyard, it is the minimum possible as they are not interested in large tracts of it either. As they say here “La viña y el potro, que los críe otro” (vineyards and colts – let someone else raise them).

The situation in the vineyards has been bad for years. Six or seven years ago the grape price was the lowest in Spain – a mere 15 céntimos. The current situation is different; along with the Sherry “boom” the growers see other possibilities such as cask seasoning for whisky which is in great demand, or Jerez Vinegar, demand for which seems unstoppable.

Asevi believes there is a lack of motivation to seek other markets for their production, such as concentrated must or alcohol for Solera Gran Reserva brandies, the superior category, made from Palomino grapes. “We need to apply more pressure because to produce concentrated must and alcohol for brandy we would need at least 15,000 hectares more vineyard, a considerable figure when one takes into account that not a single hectare of vines has been planted for four years.

Guerrero says that now is the time to really back the vineyards. The average age of the growers is over 50 years, and they will not be replaced by their children, as the few who do choose to work vineyards do so through the more profitable Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz rather than Sherry.


Of the alternatives to unprofitable vines available to the growers, the olive is currently the most attractive, partly for the rising price of olive oil and partly because they grow well in the area. Francisco Guerrero recalls that the olive was the natural substitute for the vine after Phylloxera at the end of the XIX century. Cultivation of the olive is undergoing considerable expansion in the Jerez countryside, and vine growers are looking at it seriously, since there are certain similarities with the vine in terms of cultivation. Guerrero cites the case of a 25 hectare vineyard on the Trebujena road which was converted to olives and is now about to double in size due to the high profitability of olives. And that is not the only alternative; almonds now proliferate in the Trebujena area in soils which bore vines until recently.

This interview by Á Espejo was published in today’s Diario de Jerez

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Granujales 2015 13%, Viña Granujales

Bright pale gold with light legs.
Very fresh and fairly delicate yet with a pronounced Moscatel aroma with hints of mandarine, tea, a hint of blossom and, well, grapiness. Moscatel is high in terpenes which make it so aromatic.
Dry, light and fresh with moderate acidity and full of the above aromas. Very easy and pleasant drinking which leaves a long clean tasty Moscatel finish.
Made from 100% Moscatel Grano Menudo, a small berried and slightly more aromatic version of the grape, picked manually during the first week of August at the Granujales vineyard near Prado del Rey, Cádiz. It was bottled for Viña Granujales by Salvador Rivero Nuñez, proprietor of nearby Bodegas Rivero, famous for Pajarete and also table wine producers. New, smarter packaging has been designed for the next vintage.
9.30, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Bebidas Esprituosas

This Spanish term translates as “spirit drinks” which in its broadest sense covers brandy, whisky, gin etc. However in Spain it is used for certain lower strength brandy-like drinks. Some 95% of Spanish brandy is Brandy de Jerez, the only Spanish brandy with a DO, which began to be produced in large quantities at the end of the XIX century. Its huge popularity saved many bodegas from potential ruin during times of slump for Sherry, but times change. The Spanish government increased the Impuesto Especial sobre el Alcohol y Bebidas Derivadas (or alcohol tax) in 2002 leading sales to stagnate. At the same time raw material costs were rising and the EU decided to stop giving grants for distillation of potable alcohol. All this led to a bit of a crisis as increased brandy prices would harm not only sales but competitivity with other spirits.

In 2009 Osborne and González Byass, soon to be followed by others, took the bold decision to convert their basic solera brandies to bebidas espirituosas. These drinks are not controlled by the Consejo Regulador Brandy de Jerez, so there is much less regulation. They can be sold at a lower strength than the minimum 36ᴼ for brandy, thereby reducing tax, there is no minimum ageing requirement, and no minimum content of holandas. They don’t even have to be distilled from wine, and while most are, at least mainly, there is some spirit made from molasses and even beetroot around. The spirit must be of agricultural origin.

The budget of the Consejo Regulador Brandy de Jerez was badly hit, and for two reasons. Firstly, since much of its income depends on a levy on sales of DO brandy, it began to receive much less as bebidas espirituosas are not technically brandy. Secondly the brandies which had been converted to bebidas espirituosas were all basic solera brandies and being the cheaper ones they were best sellers, accounting for 75% of all brandy sales and 90% of sales in the home market.

There was a bit of controversy about the branding of these new drinks, as they used exactly the same labels as used before for brandy, with only slight changes in wording. The less observant consumer was unlikely to spot the difference, but if they did they might feel cheated. The Consejo, however, felt that such commercial decisions were for the bodegas alone. Bebidas espirituosas are not so bad; they are aged in soleras, albeit very briefly, and are useful substitutes for the real thing in cocktails. They are not much cheaper than brandy solera though, only a euro or two, but perhaps Brandy de Jerez should follow the path of Sherry, selling smaller quantities of superior quality at a higher price.

The following were all big selling brandies before “conversion”
Veterano (Osborne)
Soberano (González Byass)
Decano (Caballero)
501(Carlos & Javier de Terry, now made by Osborne)
Centenario (Fernando A de Terry, now Fundador) offered as Brandy de Jerez Solera as well!
103 Etiqueta Blanca (Bobadilla, now Osborne) 
Real Tesoro (Marqués del Real Tesoro, now Grupo Estévez)
Felipe II (Agustin Blázquez, now Osborne)

Friday, 19 May 2017

19.5.17 International Wine Challenge 2017 Gold Medals for Sherry

In the 34th edition of the prestigious IWC competition, Spain scored even better than last year with a total of 647 medals and 433 recommendations. Of the 72 gold medals, an amazing 35 were awarded to Sherries. In all, Sherry won 109 medals when gold, silver and bronze are included, meaning that nearly one third of the medals won by Sherry were gold. The trophy winners and best wines of the competition will be published soon; meanwhile the gold medal winners are as follows:

Tradición CZ 
Amontillado VORS, Oloroso VORS, Palo Cortado VORS, PX VOS
Bodegas Diez Mérito
Bertola Palo Cortado 12, Oloroso Victoria Regina VORS, PX Vieja Solera VORS
González Byass
Cuatro Palmas, Tres Palmas, Una Palma, Amontillado del Duque, Noé PX VORS
Bodegas Fundador
Harveys Amontillado, Harverys Palo Cortado, Harveys Oloroso
Solera 1842 Oloroso Abocado
Hidalgo La Gitana
Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, PX Triana
Bodegas Yuste
Amontillado Conde de Aldama, Argüeso Manzanilla San León
Bodegas Barbadillo
Manzanilla Solear
Bodegas Lustau
Fino Jarana, Amontillado VORS, Oloroso VORS, Palo Cortado VORS, PX VORS, Palo Cortado Almacenista Cayetano del Pino, PX San Emilio. Then the BOBs: Very Rare Dry Old Amontillado (for Marks & Spencer), Very Rare Oloroso (for Marks & Spencer), The Best Oloroso (for Morrisons), The Best Palo Cortado (for Morrisons), Waitrose Fino (for Waitrose), Waitrose Manzanilla (for Waitrose), Berry Bros. & Rudd Fino ( for Berry Bros. & Rudd)

To demonstrate how well Sherry did, Rioja only got 15 golds, Cava 2, and Ribera del Duero none. Sherry scored a further 36 Silver, 22 Bronze and 16 recommendations. Impressive!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Oloroso Los Caireles 18.5%, Bodegas Portales Pérez

Bright deep amber/light mahogany with copper glints, legs.
Forthcoming with gentle toasty oak notes, traces of caramel, cinnamon, walnut and orange with a saline, slightly savoury backbone which quickly locates its origin in Sanlúcar. It has a certain complexity, changing slightly with every sniff, but always positively, which gives real character.
Fairly full bodied at first then some tangy acidity comes through, lots of nuts, clean, saline and generous. As the impact subsides the palate is left with a very smooth, satisfying flavour of nuts with a trace of cinnamon and a long clean finish.
This bodega is not well known outside Sanlúcar, but certainly deserves to be. They make good honest wines by artisan methods and have done so for five generations, during most of which they were almacenistas to some of the best bodegas. This Oloroso has an average age of about 8 years coming from a very old solera which has two criaderas, all in very old butts, and the wine is good.
8 euros ex bodega

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Manzanilla Pasada 8 15%, Mar 7

Pale strawy gold with bright golden highlights, legs.
Forthcoming and super fresh. Traces of wild herbs and flowers mix with a powerful saline kick behind which there are notes of bitter almond, flor and tantalising traces of cabezuela. Quite racy and maritime yet vivatious and absolutely classic Manzanilla.
A lot of flavour in an elegant package. It starts off as a good Manzanilla with relatively low acidity but keeps on developing on the palate with very dry, more intense salty cabezuela notes with a faint hint of butter and only a faint trace of oxidation. The flor must have been vigorous. Lovely.
This elegant Manzanilla was produced and bottled  for María José Romero, owner of Mar 7, by Delgado Zuleta. It was aged for at least eight years in their bodegas and selected by María José for its quality and freshness. Some of her wines are bottled for her and some are brought in bulk to her beautiful, atmospheric, traditional old bodega, the one where Pedro Romero started out, and they are filled into 80 year old butts so she can sell them on draught. Don't miss a visit to Mar 7 if you're in Sanlúcar, it is in Calle Mar, 7, opposite Bodegas Argüeso.
13 euros from Mar 7

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

An Interview with Francisco Yuste

At the beginning of the 1990s Francisco Yuste Brioso started out in the world of wine as an almacenista. What began as a hobby soon became a major part of his business. As a distributor of Pepsi cola, along with Estrella Galicia beer, he adopted the Pepsi blue as his trademark colour, and it now appears on all the bodegas he has recuperated over the years. As a native of Sanlúcar he champions Manzanilla as an important part of the town’s heritage, and he has fiercely criticised various bodies which form part of the Denominación de Origen which, in his view, should be independent of Jerez. He currently owns some 10,000 butts, mostly Manzanilla destined for bulk sale to horeca. The damages caused by the Fedejerez prohibition of the bag in box (BIB) is one of the matters raised in this interview, as well as his exclusive revelation of the existence of an investor for an urban development project linked to Bodegas Argüeso in Calle Mar.

Francisco Yuste in Bodega Miraflores (foto:Blanca Cores)

The Feria in Sevilla has recently ended, one of the events where most Manzanilla is sold. Why did you decide not to participate?
We did participate. In fact there were some twenty casetas (out of over 1,000) with Manzanilla San León. But what we don’t do is slash the prices like some bodegas do, so the casetas go looking for a better price. The last time Argüeso participated we lost 18,000 euros, and we are not about losing money.

This price war, are you the only one resisting?
Various bodegas have taken the same decision. If someone likes San León, let them have it but at the normal price at which it is sold to horeca all year round. What we can’t do is give away samples, pay for hostesses and sell at silly prices. You can’t do that.

We are awaiting the Court’s ruling on BIB. What will it mean for the bodegas if they can’t sell wine in this container?
Not selling in BIB is a big problem. We sell a lot of wine in bulk, and are currently selling it in garrafas but the trade doesn’t like them. The judge who ordered the ban on BIB has no idea of the damage it is causing the small bodegas. It is totally unjust because the BIB is better for transport, is more hygienic and keeps the wine in good condition. And it is more economical.

You have put yourself forward, or have been put forward, as the defender of BIB yet you also defend the bottle and the quality it implies which is the Fedejerez argument…
Our bodegas are investing in bottling, in brand image and in creating more brands, but we also consider it stupid to be opposed to BIB. It is like opposing cars with round wheels. In a few years we will be laughing at this opposition to the BIB. What I don’t understand is how the BIB was banned after a plenary of the Consejo Regulador decided not to go against the report of the Junta’s Agriculture Department, and the big bodegas went to court without even sitting down to talk with most of the Manzanilla bodegas. In other parts of the world 50-60% of wines are being sold in BIB simply because it preserves the wine much better. In France, which is famous for quality and image, the figure is at least 38%. The reality is that there is only one gentleman stubbornly against BIB, but the rest of the big bodegas have to follow suit because they are selling in BIB.

Your business career as a bodeguero is characterised by your defence of Manzanilla. Do you believe that the interests of this unique wine from Sanlúcar are poorly represented?
Manzanilla is not represented in the Consejo Regulador. Of over 20 members, only one represents Manzanilla and he is manipulated by the other big bodegas, so that’s why this is happening to us. I think the Junta de Andalucía should take this into account when it produces the new Reglamento. It’s not normal that we sell more than 50% of the wine yet the big bodegas are better represented. We small bodegas of Sanlúcar are lucky to have Manzanilla, a unique authentic wine but not very well known. But when it is known there will be a shortage of wine to supply the market, and we will likely see that happen this year because some will have problems obtaining mosto since we are selling more and more which will lead to a shortage.

Last year Manzanilla was ahead in sales on the home market, but not abroad. What strategy is being adopted to conquer the export markets?
The Sherry they drink in the foreign markets is mostly Cream or Medium, not what we drink here. We sell Manzanilla and the big bodegas sell other wines to the export markets. In Spain we are already at 70-30 Manzanilla-Fino, which is enough. We have the home market but we can’t promote ourselves abroad because promotional funding is controlled by the Consejo Regulador which is the same as Fedejerez, so we can’t do anything. We sell wherever we can sell.  Until the Government decides to do something we can’t do anything here. Outside Spain what is promoted is Sherry, not Manzanilla de Sanlúcar, so it is unknown in many markets.

Recently the wine journalist José Peñín visted Argüeso and he said in an interview that Sanlúcar needed its own DO and to separate itself from Jerez. Do you share his view?
If the big bodegas continue with what they are doing, Sanlúcar will have no choice but to create its own Consejo Regulador, after all we already have a DO Manzanilla-Sanlúcar Barrameda, although some bodegas choose to use the DO Jerez. We cannot be in the hands of the big bodegas; it is now a question for the competition authorities. They impose the laws and they control the Consejo, whose vice president is also president of Fedejerez; it is crazy how they have everything tied up. Finally, and I hope I am wrong, the competition authority will arrive and there will be new sanctions, which would be bad for the image. I have the impression that the Consejo is not independent, it should be keeping an eye on certain bodegas and saying what is Manzanilla and what is not. They are doing us damage bottling wines which don’t resemble Manzanilla, and if we had a Consejo in Sanlúcar, they would be unlikely to reach the market.

What do you mean saying it is not Manzanilla?
There are two wines: Manzanilla or Fino. Even in Sanlúcar there are some bodegas which make Fino. Manzanilla is a wine which has a permanent veil of flor, but in some bodegas the flor is not permanent, and there is some oxidation. That is the difference.

Do you mean to say that the controlling bodies are neglecting their duties?
As I see it the controlling bodies are used too much against us, against the small bodegas - and since this will be published I can expect three inspections. The BIB affair is a total injustice; we’ll see who pays for it because there will be damages and losses. I think the battle will be won sooner or later, but we’ll see who will pay for the damage it is doing to the small bodegas who are selling much less.

It will soon be a year since you bought Bodegas Argüeso. How do you assess this acquisition and the line of business you have undertaken?
Now I have got my teeth into it I would say that it is the best bodega in the area; one which has the least money but one which owes the least and is selling ever more. Sales are better than I had expected and so is the local demand for Argüeso. I am giving the bodega what it needs; a lot of care and a lot of wine, San León is what is selling, La E also…we are consistently selling more without cutting prices. We have solved many of the problems the bodega had since it had been without effective management for some ten years. The staff are helping a lot despite signing an agreement for a substantial reduction in salaries, as they are well aware that such salaries were unsustainable. Everyone is helping to ensure things go well.

You have also recuperated some brands which were at the point of disappearing like the Pedro Romero Punto Azul Brandy. Can you also recuperate the essence of these bodegas rather than a mere business transaction?
For me wine started as a hobby because it was such a shame to see bodegas closing. What I have done is to buy them and keep them. I am a great wine collector. I have been lucky enough to be able to recuperate the great wines these bodegas contained. Now we have the Amontillado Conde de Aldama, or the Pedro Romero brandies led by Punto Azul… and many other brands we have recuperated. Carbajo, Los 48, Pedro Romero, Sainz de Baranda… Now it can no longer be a hobby because we have some 10,000 butts and we have to start thinking like a wine business, and thus all the things we are doing.

The house you live in, a former bodega, won the prize for the best mansion house patio in the city…
(Laughs) Yes, yes, since 1989 when I bought Santa Ana I have been restoring some of the city’s patrimony, but of greater value is restoring jobs. Thanks to the Yuste companies 250 people are now working.

You were also talking about buying some bodega in Jerez. Is anything happening?
We are looking at Jerez because we also need to sell Fino, so we are looking there. Here we are concentrating on new products especially in the world of spirits with Limoncello, ponche, products which had lying been forgotten in the bodegas.

Any projects linked to wine tourism?
The most important wine tourism project in Sanlúcar at the moment is in Calle Mar. We want to put more value on the heritage of the XVI century convent there, creating a musem of the sea, of Manzanilla, it remains to be seen. Above all we want to conserve the panelled ceilings from 1540 which have been declared of cultural interest. We are looking at it with the town council and the Junta to see how we can restore the convent’s cloisters, a real treasure. Each beam there could easily be sold at Sothebys for a million euros. That is what needs to be restored and what I am doing with the bodega heritage of Sanlúcar. By selling wine you are selling history, and to sell it you need to preserve it. That costs a lot of money.

Are you discussing public finance?
We are trying to get public help but I don’t know what sort. In fact in Calle Mar there is a project which has been around for a while which has council and Junta approval and was championed by the former owners who seem to want to revive it. It is a nice project for a hotel there which respects all the bodega buildings. There are various companies, but one above all, which is trying to develop the project, and things are at an advanced stage for it to go ahead with private capital. Argüeso as owners of the site, will play their part but companies from elsewhere will do the work.

What do you think of the latest prizes your wines have won at CINVE?
The prizes and recognition we are receiving give us great pride and motivation to keep growing. The Argüeso San León, the Yuste Aurora and La Kika and of course the very old wines of Conde de Aldama and the Pedro Romero Punto Azul brandy are benchmarks for the highest quality in the DOs Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Brandy de Jerez. The best prize of all is to see how every day our client base is growing in Spain, and of course around the world, in countries like Australia, Mexico, Japan or the United States, and also in the more traditional markets like the United Kingdom.

This interview by Cristina Cruz was published 15/5/17 in andalucíainformació

Monday, 15 May 2017

Talayón Brut NV 12.5%, Miguel Domecq

Pale golden straw with golden glints, legs, fine mousse but no bead.
Fresh and fragrant with subtle notes of white flowers, pear, paraguaya (a form of peach) and even a slight mandarine note with traces of yeasty bread. It also smells very like good Chardonnay.
Really nicely balanced. You would hardly notice the 10g/l sugar as it balances out the acidity from the early picked grapes so the wine feels good and dry. It is very clean and there is a slight mineral note which must come from the albariza, but beware, it is very moreish!
Launched in November 2016, this is the latest project at Miguel Domecq's  Cortijo de Torrecera not far from Jerez. The 32 hectare vineyard lies between the XII century Moorish Torrecera tower and the bodega itself on pure albariza soil. Since the vineyard is so close and the grapes are picked at night, absolute freshness is assured. The wine is 100% Chardonnay, and the vines are always subjected to green harvesting (discarding excess bunches to concentrate flavour in the remaining ones). The grapes are given a 24 hour cold soak at 8°under CO2 to avoid any risk of oxidation, and the first fermentation lasts 16 days at 17° while the second fermentation takes place in bottle where it remains for 9 months before disgorgement. It contains 10g/l residual sugar to balance the acidity and salinity from the soil. So it is made by the traditional method used in Champagne, and with same grape variety (as a blanc de blancs anyway) and from similar soil. And for the first release of the wine it is really successful, especially for the price. No vintage date is given, but it is likely to be a 2015.
7.95 Licores Corredera

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Brandy Insuperable Solera Reserva 36%, González Byass

Bright light mahogany with gold and copper highlights.
Polished bouquet of caramel, wood and oloroso with a trace of brown sugar sweetness melding with an attractive nuttiness. It smells rich, smooth and well balanced.
Smooth and nutty with hints of raisins and caramel. The Oloroso doesn't dominate, rather adding to the spirit's complexity and roundness. Good value.
González Byass have been producing brandy  since at least the 1850s, but their still was soon inadequate to supply demand. Manuel María González Ángel, having been impressed with the Scotch distilleries built by Gilbeys, sought the skills of their designer, a Mr Thomson, who then came to Jerez and designed a larger and more efficient distillery which was completed in 1860. It was then that new soleras were established and Insuperable was launched. Nowadays that distillery is used for Lepanto and base spirit for the other brandies comes from the firm's distillery in Tomelloso, being transported to Jerez for ageing. Insuperable is approximately 8 years old.
9.85 euros from Licoreria La Latina, Fuengirola

Saturday, 13 May 2017

13.5.17 Las Jornadas de la Sal y el Estero El Puerto de Santa María

The III edition of this fascinating gastronomic event will take place on the 6, 7, and 8 October at the impressive Bodega El Cortijo in Calle Pozos Dulces. All the best local restaurants and bodegas will be present as well as the distiller Rives and the brewers La Portuense and 15 & 30. Ham and salt producers will also be there. A major feature of the event is the “pescado de estero”, or fish and shellfish caught in small shallow gated seawater lakes which feed water to the salt pans. This tradition goes back beyond Roman times, and the quality of the seafood is such that it is in great demand from restaurants. It would be well worth making the effort to attend this event, where one can learn much and enjoy all sorts of gastronomy. The first 500 tickets, priced at 45 euros for the whole day, go on sale on the 15 May, available from and 500 more will be available on the 7 and 8 of October.

Despeque or catching the fish in an estero (foto:cosasdecome)

Friday, 12 May 2017

Precede 2013 13.5%, Bodegas Cota 45

Deepish brassy gold with gold highlights, legs.
Full and complex, it smells very natural with notes of well ripened Palomino, hints of fresh apricot and pineapple, a trace of cider and a traces of waxed straw and oxidation along with some chalky minerality, but no flor. It smells big, characterful, old fashioned and immensely appealing.
It is big. There is a lovely fullness of almost rustic flavour, moderate acidity and a good texture as well as certain familiar Manzanilla notes. It has all the benefits of barrel ageing without the woody flavours. There might have been some transpiration concentrating it a little and the result is a magnificent flavourful wine.
100% Palomino grown in the pago Miraflores near Sanlúcar and produced in very limited quantities (700 bottles) bottled in October 2016. This was a joint project between Ramiro Ibáñez of Cota 45 and Manuel Guerra of Taberna er Guerrita as part of their quest to resucitate old styles of wine. Apart from the ageing perhaps, this is what "vino blanco" would have tasted like before the days of soleras. It was fermented in one old Manzanilla butt and left to age there, full to the brim ("a tocadedos") to avoid flor, for three years before light filtration and bottling. It has no DO but the chaps who made it have no need of that hassle. The wine will be sold out long before the paperwork is done. This is the same wine Ramiro supplies to Guerrita for the annual mosto only this has been aged.
16.15 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 11 May 2017

11.5.17 Lustau Launches New White vermouth

After the success of their red vermouth, Bodegas Lustau yesterday launched a white partner for it. The ceremony was held on the 24th floor of Sevilla’s only skyscraper, the 40 storey Torre Sevilla, completed last year. The new vermouth is the result of the close collaboration of Lustau’s oenologist Sergio Martínez and their head distiller Fernando Pérez. Together they crafted a new secret formula based on dry, mineral, almondy Fino and sweet, floral, citric Moscatel along with nine botanicals which include gentian, camomile and of course, wormwood, all macerated separately. The result is golden in colour, light and refreshing with a notably bitter finish with strong Fino notes. The new vermouth is already available through the firm’s distribution network.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Some Sherry grapes of the past

Currently, there are three grape varieties authorised for the production of Sherry: Palomino Fino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez, and it is incredible how many styles of wine can be produced from them. But once there were many more, dozens of them. In fact 40 were catalogued by the great ampelographer Simón Rojas Clemente during his visit to Andalucía in 1807 and they were not all white.

Simon de Rojas Clemente

Their fall into disuse, and in many cases near disappearance, can be blamed principally on economic viability and Phylloxera. The latter arrived in 1894, wiping out those vines not planted in sandy soils. It was already known that the only hope was grafting vitis vinifera scions onto resistant American rootstocks, but some rootstocks were unsuited to the soils or the scions, and many varieties were all but lost.

Sherry, like all wines has evolved considerably over its long history, and it is only comparatively recently that a more complete understanding of it has been achieved. In the past, each butt of wine developed slightly differently (they still do, but not so markedly), giving a huge variety of styles with little uniformity, starting myths about whether wine styles “happened” or were “made to happen” which have persisted to these days in the case of Palo Cortado – doing no harm to its sales. The solera system was introduced as a way of controlling this, but even then, wine spent up to three years in sobretablas before its style was regarded as having been “fixed”. There was a limit to the number of soleras one could reasonably have, and inevitably some unique and wayward wines would be lost in the mix.

Esteban Boutelou

Many think the loss of these old varieties has changed the character of the wines. Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso are all now 100% Palomino, while in the past they often contained considerable proportions of other grapes. The Palomino was beginning its expansion into the vineyards beyond Sanlúcar long before Phylloxera because it was more productive and disease resistant than other varieties, and because it more easily produced the lighter styles of wine which were becoming more popular. Botanist Esteban Boutelou noted this preference as early as 1807.

Grape varieties are enormously complicated as they have so many names in so many places and often apparently quite different names account for the same grape. Also the same variety can give different results in different places, but here is a modest attempt to list and describe some of those all but lost varieties.

Albillo “The little white one” has many names such as Albillo Castellano, Cagalón, Albilla and Albuela. It was authorised by the Consejo regulador until quite recently. Simón de Rojas Clemente felt that Albillo should be the name of a family of grapes rather than an individual variety. It has numerous bunches of large greeny-yellow grapes which are juicy and good to eat. It buds and flowers early and can thus suffer from poor spring weather, which has led to its decline, but musts are both sweeter and more acid than Palomino. Albillo is also found in Castilla and the Canaries.

Albillo Castellano

Calona Rojas Clemente likens the red grape Calona Negra of Trebujena, Sanlúcar and Jerez to the Carchuna of Motril and describes it as exquisite both as a table grape and as a wine grape. This variety has yellowy leaves, a fairly thin skin, plenty of sugar and ripens early.

Calona Negra

Garrido Fino Native to Huelva, where most of it now grows, it was once permitted in small quantities by the Consejo Regulador, this white variety also bears the name Palomino Garrio. A vigorous and reliable vine, it produces numerous compact bunches of plump, greeny-gold spherical grapes. It ripens fairly late and its must is reasonably resistant to oxidation, possibly because of its higher acidity and lower sugar than Palomino. It was therefore useful for must correction, now done more scientifically.

Garrido Fino

Jaén Native to Andalucía and La Mancha, there is also a red version of Jaén. The earliest reference to it is in 1513 by Alonso de Herrera. It buds early making it susceptible to a poor spring as well as oidium and botrytis but resists drought and yields well, especially when trained on wires. It is sometimes confused with Palomino, with which it shares low acidity and sugars. It has traditionally been used in Sherry, and once also in Brandy de Jerez.

Jaen Blanco

Mantúo There are various versions, or at least names, of this white grape which was once quite common in the Sherry area and indeed authorised by the Consejo Regulador until quite recently: Mantúo de Pilas, Mantúo Gordo, Uva Rey, Uva del Puerto Real, Gabriela, Mantúo Castellano, and Mantúo Vijiriego. A late ripening fairly tasty greeny-golden coloured grape with a fairly thin skin and average levels of sugar and acidity. According to Eduardo Abela in his “El Libro del Viticultor” (1885) its wine was an intense gold with a strawy flavour, good body and aroma and was ideal for Palo Cortado. Mantúo was also a popular variety for “uva de cuelga”, the practice of hanging up choice bunches inside, away from the sun, to preserve them for eating during winter.

Mantuo Castellano

Mollar Mollar is thought to originate in the Canary Islands where there are red and white versions. The Mollar Blanco used in Jerez is also known as Cañocazo and was permitted until fairly recently for Sherry production, but its low disease resistance, especially to mildew, has caused it to decline. It is a vigorous vine with plentiful bunches of large freckled golden grapes which give a very sweet tasty juice and a fine aroma, and was used sometimes to augment the aroma of PX. Interestingly it takes its name from traditionally being grown with the support of a branch of the Molle or Aguaribay (false pepper tree). It is a minor ingredient in Chile for Pisco production. There is a red version known as Mollar Cano (Listán Negro in the Canaries).

Cañocazo-Mollar Blanco

Perruño has been around in the Sherry area since at least XVIII century, and was once permitted by the Consejo Regulador. Other names are Perruño de Arcos, Perruño Fino, Perruño Tierno and Perruño Común. It offers plenty of tight conical bunches of grapes which grow ever more golden with the sun’s rays. It is regarded as difficult to ripen and therefore can be a bit acid with a low sugar content. Its small, thin skinned berries are bitter to eat, so comparatively late harvesting is required, end of September at least, into October. It has decent pest resistance but is prone to cryptogamic attack. Julian Pemartín says it is best for Olorosos of average quality, but Lagar Ambrosio is making successful white table wine from it in Olvera. There are barely 5 hectares of Perruño left.


Zalema Thought to have originated in Grazalema (Cádiz) or indeed from the arabic "assalam alik" (peace go with you), it was once found in the Sanlúcar area. It is a vigorous, late ripening vine with good drought resistance but sensitive to mildew and produces thick skinned grapes which can have a faint bitterness and the must is easily oxidised. It is used to make table wines and generosos in DO Huelva, where 95% of it is now grown.


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Tio Pepe en rama 2017 15%, González Byass

Lightly strawy gold with amber and golden highlights, legs.
Powerful flor yeast notes with hints of bread dough and bitter almond dominate a faint Palomino fruit note, and there is certainly some salinity. Super fresh, and as its maker Antonio Flores says, it is "alive and wild" yet it has considerable depth and is certainly more complex than standard Tio Pepe.
It really grabs the attention with a most attractive attack with full-on flor and salinty which gives way to a full, softer, deeper rounder Jerez style of Fino. Acidity is low, but replaced by the flor bitterness which gives it its wild character. It is very dry and clean with lots of flavour and terrific length.
"Vivo y salvaje" as the bodegas describes it (lively and raw/wild), the 2017 release, which is the eighth edition, comes from 60 butts, laboriously and skilfully chosen from an initial selection of 100 by oenologist Antonio Flores in the bodega La Constancia. The cold winter was followed by seemingly endless wind from the Levante but the flor did a good job of protecting the wine, which was bottled when it was at  its thickest point, and the result is excellent, bursting with yeasty saline freshness. Another success.The new wine was launched by Antonio Flores at the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, close to the famous illuminated Tio Pepe sign. You can see the man himself at work here:
16 euros, Los Patios de Beatas, Malaga

Monday, 8 May 2017

Amontillado 8 18.5%, Despacho de Vinos Mar 7

Attractive amber verging on antique mahogany, bright copper highlights, legs.
Classic Amontillado nose, clean, fresh, with lots of toasted almond, hazelnut and a hint of toasted bread and an incisive, saline coastal note with a trace of flor bitterness, meaning it was once Manzanilla. It is really fragrant and nuanced and encourages you to keep on nosing it, which is very rewarding, even without drinking it.
Crisp, fresh and lively with immediate appeal, it is at a beautiful stage of its crianza where, while it retains most of the character of its Manzanilla origins, it has developed complexity in addition to that without taking up too much wood. It tastes very natural and clean, beautifully balanced and long.
This delightful Amontillado from Sanlúcar has an average age of fifteen years and was selected by Marіa José Romero who runs the despacho and who comes from a family of bodegueros (Pedro Romero) and is thus very skilled in Manzanilla matters. This wine was bottled by Delgado Zuleta, to whom she is also related, and that attests to its quality. This is what Amontillado is all about.
17 euros from Mar 7

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Brandy Marqués de Misa Solera Reserva 36%, Williams & Humbert

Deepish amber with old gold and coppery highlights.
Subtle toasted oak and caramel notes along with those of dried fruits and nuts with a hints of mineral and brown sugar. The crispness of the aguardientes is just about rounded off by the holandas.
Fairly sweet on entry with dried fruit, caramel and a slight liquorice/aniseed note, then it gets crisper and nuttier. It looks as if the ageing butts were more Amontillado than Oloroso so the brandy is a little lighter in style. There are trace wood notes and very low tannin, but noticeable sweetness is balanced by a slight parting bitter note.
Manuel Misa y Bertemati founded his bodega in 1844 and merged with his brother Buenaventura Pablo whose bodega was established in 1840. Manuel was a great salesman and was deeply involved in politics, holding various important posts for which he was made Conde de Bayona and later Marqués de Misa, a Spanish grandee. He constructed the lovely bodega in Calle Diego Fernández Herrera now owned by Diez Mérito. After his death in 1903 the firm continued in family hands until the late 1960s when Rumasa bought the stocks and brands selling the bodega to Harveys. The stocks were transferred to the vast Bodegas Internacionales, now Williams & Humbert, which was also bought by Rumasa in 1972. The old Misa brandy solera was already there when the Medinas bought the firm. This brandy is made from mostly Airén and some Palomino grapes and is a blend of holandas and aguardientes. It has an average age of over three years, the minimum required being one, and a sugar content of 15g/l. The bottle is thankfully sealed with a cork instead of those annoying plastic "tapones irrellenables" you find under screwcaps.
8.50 euros

Saturday, 6 May 2017

6.5.17 New Jerez Beer Aged in Sherry Butts

Bodegas El Maestro Sierra and Cayetano del Pino have a new neighbour in Plaza Silos: the Bodega 15 & 30 which makes artisan beer. Various businessmen led by the Merino group have converted an old 500 square metre bodega, once used by Manuel Luque to produce medicinal wines, into a brewery. Here they ferment two different beers and mature them in butts of Galician oak from sustainable forests seasoned with Oloroso to the satisfaction of the Consejo Regulador. The brewery and its beer take their name from the number of arrobas in a Sherry butt (30) and a half butt (15). The plan is to produce four beers, and they are experimenting with ageing them in a solera and in ex brandy butts.


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Oloroso Añada 1986 18%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Bright antique chestnut to mahogany to amber with a hint of green at the rim, legs.
A powerful yet elegant with an aromatic combination of perfumed exotic wood and toasted nut notes, mainly almond and walnut along with savoury salty aromas and a balancing sweet note of warm spices. There is considerable complexity here, and one could sniff it forever.
Intense and clean with a certain crispness which gives it a fresh edge yet it is generous, well rounded, perfumed with spices, a savoury hint and a trace of orange. It is full of life and after 20 or so years in wood it has remarkably little tannin and a gentle salt edged texture. Terrific length.
This beautiful vintage Oloroso is the only one produced in Sanlúcar, in fact the only other vintage wine is a Manzanilla from La Callejuela. It is made from grapes grown in the firm's own vineyards in the pagos Balbaina and Miraflores, and only the mosto yema (first pressing) is used. The wine was aged statically for over 20 years under official Consejo Regulador seals, watched over by winemaker Antonio Sánchez, and bottled about 10 years ago, and both barrel and bottle age have rounded it off to perfection. It most deservedly won a gold at last year's International Wine Challenge.
85 euros per 50 cl ex bodega

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Casa Marqués de Arizón: Cargadores a Indias

The names of many foreigners who settled in Spain became hispanicised as the locals often found them hard to pronounce. This applied to the Harrison family which fled to Spain to escape the Penal Laws which made life extremely difficult, indeed dangerous, for Catholics in their native Ireland. They arrived in the late XVII century at Blanes, a port town a little up the coast from Barcelona. Here they were soon involved with trade between Cataluña, Sanlúcar and the Americas, exporting among other goods, spirits and nuts from the former and wine and olive oil from the latter. They also became involved in shipbuilding and owned a small fleet of ships which would make their fortune.

In 1709 a branch of the family led by Felix Harrison bought a house in Sanlúcar between calle Divina Pastora and calle Banda Playa which was then on the riverbank at the Puerto de la Balsa where there was easy access to ships. The spectacular two storey house had a tower from which shipping could be observed, a beautiful central colonnaded patio, a well, an oratory and a delightful arched warehouse. It was extended between 1721 and 1730, and the many ancillary buildings contained stables, a cooperage and basement storage for oil, grain and of course, wine.

The family became one of the most important trading businesses of the day and they were even able to put ships and warehousing at the disposition of King Felipe V. This would pay off handsomely later on. They also owned much land and Jacinto Salvador de Arizón was given the title Marqués de Casa Arizón in 1739, one of 75 Cargadores a Indias to be ennobled. It was he who paid for the urbanisation of the Plaza de la Ribera, now the Plaza del Cabildo, among many other projects.

There are one or two macabre stories about the house. One member of the family is said to have watched helplessly as a ship laden with silver sank at the mouth of the Guadalquivir and threw himself from the tower. His ghost is occasionally seen at the spot where he died. Another story concerns Diego de Arizón, who in 1736 murdered his wife, Margarita Serguera, and the butler, Juan Peix for having an affair. He was condemned to death and awaiting his fate in prison in Cádiz, but King Felipe V commuted the sentence in exchange for 60,000 pesos which he duly spent on his royal palace in Madrid.  Don Diego later repented bequeathing his fortune to various religious institutions. The body of poor Doña Margarita is thought to have been walled up somewhere in the house, and her ghost, known as the white lady, is said to wander the house and the tower at full moon.

As time went by fortunes changed and the house fell into disrepair and almost ruin with speculative builders hovering, despite it being officially declared as being of Cultural Interest. It would have been tragic to lose this important building which is the biggest and best example of the historic business of the cargadores a Indias. It was finally converted into a 4 star hotel, the Palacio Arizón, and at least some of its stunning features can be enjoyed. It is well worth having a look, especially as the Sánchez Ayala Bodegas are opposite.