Saturday, 30 September 2017

Pagollano 2016 12.5%, Hidalgo la Gitana

Appearance
Fairly pale straw to yellowy gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Very fresh with an attractive mix of flowers and fruit; traces of camomile and orchard blossom with apples and pears, yet it does smell of Palomino and there is a very light saline hint.
Palate
Smooth, fruity and soft thanks to a low acid level, but there is plenty of Palomino flavour and that saline hint comes through. It is well rounded with a little body and dangerously drinkable.
Comments
This is a new table wine from Hidalgo La Gitana launched as part of the celebrations of their 225th anniversary. According to the back label the grapes come from old vines and are harvested a bit later for increased ripeness. This has of course led to the aforementioned lack of acidity. Nowhere on the label or cork does it give a vintage, so I am presuming this is from 2016 as is very likely. Nor is there any mention of grape variety, origin of grapes or method of production, so I am again presuming that it is Palomino (I'm pretty sure) and from the firm's own vineyards. Is it a new vintage of Las 30? Who knows. There is no information out there on the firm's website or Facebook page.
Price
5.75 from De Albariza




Thursday, 28 September 2017

28.9.17 Fedejerez Wants to Stop Fino from Sanlúcar

Under the Regulations governing the production of Sherry it has always been perfectly legal for bodegas in Sanlúcar to produce and sell Fino as well as Manzanilla, but it has long been an aspiration of Fedejerez to put a stop to this. The matter was last raised in 2013 but having aroused heated exchanges it was decided to shelve it. At a plenary meeting of the Consejo Regulador on Tuesday however, it was raised again with the idea of modifying the regulations to exclude Sanlúcar, leaving only Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María for the production of Fino and only Sanlúcar for the production of Manzanilla.

The proposal was presented at the meeting but was totally rejected by the (one) representative of Manzanilla and so Fedejerez will put the matter to the vote at some future meeting. In justification of its move, Fedejerez recalled that in May 2013 it raised the matter after a commission concluded that there is no objective parameter which allows for a difference between Fino and Manzanilla. In the judgement of Fedejerez therefore, the continued production of two wines, produced in exactly the same way and which cannot be distinguished and which belong to two different Denominaciones de Origen is “irregular” and “indefensible”.



According to the Fedejerez proposal, “The lack of technical specifications to distinguish Fino from Manzanilla calls into question the sustainability of the DO Manzanilla de Sanlúcar itself, the regulations of which establish that Sanlúcar is the exclusive zone for the ageing of Manzanilla. The defence of the DO Manzanilla – the fulfilment of EU requirements for the recognition and protection of DO wines produced in member states – should bring with it the assurance that only Sanlúcar has suitable conditions for the ageing of Manzanilla, and that consequently no other type of biologically aged wine, such as Fino, can be aged there.”

The Fedejerez arguments are the same as those in the original proposal which questioned the possibility of producing the two wines in the same place. After pressing the Junta de Andalucía to “exercise its powers in matters of Denominaciones de Origen as soon as possible”, Fedejerez reiterated its claim to be defending the uniqueness of the DO Manzanilla to avoid the loss of credibility which could result from the lack of differentiating parameters between Fino and Manzanilla “and the consequent harm to the whole Sherry region.”

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

International Sherry Week - Win a Place on the Sherry Educator Course

The IV edition of International Sherry Week is only five weeks away (November 6-12) so it is time to start organising your event. This year it will be bigger than ever and there is an added incentive to join the fun. Two places on the Sherry Educator course are being offered as a prize for the best Sherry and food match. It is well known that Sherry can match any dish, but there are some wonderful combinations still to be discovered. So here is a chance to not only experiment, but to have a wonderful time with your friends, and possibly win a trip to Jerez. The course consists of three days of intensive tutorials, tastings, bodega and vineyard visits and masterclasses which give a real understanding of our favourite wine. Details can be found at: http://www.sherry.wine/sherryweek 




Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Ojo de Gallo 2016 12%, Grupo Estévez

Appearance
Pale bright strawy gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Fresh, clean and very natural, honest, with traces of apples and minerals, it smells young, fresh, leafy and vital with a slight note of Fino, but it is fruitier and lighter.
Palate
Dry, clean, lean and minerally, it has a decent acidity and a slightly chalky feel and a certain crunchy character, and all these characteristics relate to the quality of the vineyard. It is light yet has lots of style and is brilliant with food. I can't wait to see what bottle age does to it.
Comments
This delicious wine is made from 100% Palomino grapes hand picked from 25 + year old organically grown vines in the company's 145 hectares in Macharnudo Alto, the best bit of the best pago in Jerez. (They own 256 hectares in the Pago Macharnudo as a whole). The wine is fermented in stainless steel using selected local yeasts and rested at low temperature for six months on its lees before bottling. After the successful sales and critical acclaim of the first release, the 2015, the 2016 is selling fast. This is one of the best examples around of a wine which faithfully reflects the character of the vineyard in which it was born, and shows just how important vineyards are. Grupo Estévez know this - they are the  biggest vineyard owner of all the bodegas with 800 hectares. Ojo de Gallo (Eye of the Cockerel) is the name of the parcel of vines the wine comes from.
Price
7.60 euros, Licores Corredera

Monday, 25 September 2017

Nectar Cream 18%, González Byass

Appearance
Transparent deep brown with amber towards the rim.
Nose
Attractive aromas where the PX and Oloroso balance nicely, if anything allowing the Oloroso to dominate. There are notes of American oak, toasted almond and walnut, hints of antique furniture, caramel and toffee with a trace of raisin.
Palate
It is sweet, but by no means excessively so and again the Oloroso is expressive with only enough PX to soften it. It is well balanced and quite stylish, with hints of oak and no cloying. The quality is very good and it has a lightness of touch, good length and a reasonably dry finish.
Comments
This is an old GB brand which used to be a Cream, but has since been changed to a Pedro Ximénez, so having found some I thought it would be fun to try it as you don't see much around any more. The firm has reduced its range of wines over the years, presumably because it was just too expensive to promote so many, besides they have introduced new wines like Tio Pepe en rama and the Palmas range. They also have another Cream in the form of Solera 1847. The Nectar was delightful and a shade lighter than Solera 1847.
Price
5.90 euros, Vilaviniteca



Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bodegas: Gorman & Co

Dr. John Gorman (MD MRCS) was an English surgeon who decided to change careers and join the wine trade. He spent most of the latter part of his life in El Puerto de Santa María exporting quality Sherry to Gorman, Hamilton & Thorby, wine merchants of which he was a partner, with offices at 16 Mark Lane London, a street noted for wine merchants. The firm later included William Hastings Hughes until the partnership was dissolved in 1859. The Sherry business was comparatively small scale, exporting 296 butts in 1856 (compared to Burdon’s 3507). This number had risen to 650 butts by the late 1860s. The wine was sold under the firm’s name in the London area.

Gorman was a hands-on type with a thorough knowledge of the Sherry business and indeed wine in general. His wine was highly recommended by Richard Ford (1796-1858) in his book “A Handbook for Travellers in Spain” of 1846. This recommendation would increase Gorman’s sales enormously, at least for a while. Ford tells us that Gorman acted as both manager and capataz of the bodega and that it was well worth paying a visit.

A contemporary quayside at El Puerto (foto:gentedelpuerto)

Gorman's knowledge was put to good use in 1823 when he gave evidence to the British Board of Trade on the quality of Sherry. He produced an amazing list of all the vineyards, their size, their soils, number of butts produced and their owners. He reckoned that the 25,000 acres or just over 10,000 hectares (there are only 7,000 now) was close to the limit of planting to produce quality wine, and said that the wine shipped to Britain was blended to suit the British taste and much was therefore not natural.

In 1852 he gave evidence to a House of Commons committee that increasing excise duty was counterproductive, saying also that a properly made Sherry did not need as much alcohol as some inferior wines contained. He pointed out that much wine shipped as “Sherry” was not genuine and needed to be fortified. In his view, if the public could learn to drink natural wines, they would drink better and so drink more, and thus raise Government revenue.

Gorman is credited with being the first to ship Manzanilla to England, and he described it as “a natural wine, sub-bitter with a fragrant aroma, very pure, and might be drunk by those who have any organic affection or inflammatory disease”. There is no record of the business, at least under that name, after the 1870s, when presumably Gorman died.










Saturday, 23 September 2017

Holgado Petit Verdot 2013 14.7%, Hermanos Holgado

Appearance
Opaque black cherry red with very narrow pinky almost purple rim, young looking.
Nose
Big, fresh and very attractive. Perfectly ripened grapes and notes of American oak, brambles, blueberries and traces of spice, bitter black chocolate with a faint balsamic even minty hint. The oak is nicely balanced and not excessive, just enough to add complexity, though more bottle age will be needed to age the wine.
Palate
Full bodied and dry with plenty of texture and a certain amount of mostly ripe tannin, chewy. There is also plenty of black fruit, just the right acidity and those spicy balsamic notes. It is fresh, clean and long, a very good wine with some charm, but personally I would have given it more time in oak. Still it will be interesting to see how another say, three years in bottle brings it on.
Comments
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz is produced organically at the vineyard called the Viña Dehesa Palomino located in the protected spectacularly beautiful natural park of Alcornocales, between the sierras  Grazalema and Las Nieves, east of the road from Algeciras to Jerez. Here, some distance from "civilisation" near Villamartin, there is both Atlantic and Mediterranean influence in the microclimate. Vines have been cultivated here since the XVI century, originally by monks. While they use modern equipment they also use artisanal processes. Having made money in Pajarete cheese the family decided to invest in small scale wine production and planted Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The PV was hand picked, selected and then fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in American oak for six months. Given that the wine is nearly 4 years old is is amazingly fresh, but needs more bottle age. Meanwhile it would be delicious with Retinto beef, steaks or game dishes as their proteins balance the tannins.
Price
10.00 euros, Licores Corredera




Friday, 22 September 2017

Amontillado Tabanco 18.5%, Lustau

Appearance
Deep brown tinged amber with copper highlights.
Nose
Savoury with walnut notes slightly predominating over toasted almond and hazelnut, hints of garrapiñada (almonds tossed in caramel) and tocino de cielo (a dessert made from egg yolks and caramel) and traces of dried fruits. There is a slightly saline Sanluqueño note about it.
Palate
Full bodied and textured with lots of nuts and dry yet with very faint traces of sweetness and tannin. It is quite a complex wine, but definitely on the weighty side, perfect for winter sipping.
Comments
Despite winning medals at the IWC and DWW, you don't see much of this wine about, which is a shame as it is good. It is probably the familiar problem of too many wines for the promotional resources available, but it is available in the US and other export markets. Anyway although it is not much more than eight years old it is quite sophisticated and interesting.
Price
13.00 euros, Mantequeria Jerezana


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Table Wine Bodegas: Luis Pérez

Luis Pérez’ scientific qualifications and achievements are far too numerous to list here, but suffice it to say he is highly qualified and experienced in wine chemistry. He taught at university and worked at Pedro Domecq’s research department before starting his own bodega in 2002 with the aim of recuperating and diversifying wine production in the Marco de Jerez. He bought the 25 hectare Hacienda Vistahermosa in the Pago del Corchuelo just outside Jerez with its XIX century casa de viña, and built a modern bodega powered by gravity with underground barrel storage.



Here he planted 14 hectares with Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Tempranillo, Tintilla and Cabernet Sauvignon which are cultivated organically on albariza soil. He also planted various other varieties (19 in all)  for further study. Everything Luis and his son Guillermo “Willy” Pérez do is geared to low production of the highest quality with the maximum expression of the vineyard. They firmly believe that the wine is made in the vineyard.



Thanks to family connections Willy, who is now the chief oenologist, gained access to the old 30 hectare El Corregidor vineyard in the Pago Carrascal, which once belonged to Sandeman, and this brought new possibilities. Being planted with Palomino 84, the clone in use before the California clone took over because of its higher yield, it gave him the chance to go for his dream of making unfortified Sherry. This involved rejecting many grapes and harvesting two or three weeks later than normal, but it worked and the 2013 vintage was released with two years of crianza, called Fino Barajuela. The butts were filled slightly fuller than the normal 5/6 to reduce the possibility of flor consuming too much of the alcohol he had worked so hard to achieve. There is now also an Oloroso Barajuela.



The rejected grapes are not wasted; instead they are briefly sunned to raise their sugars and the fermented juice is sent for distillation in Tomelloso. The resulting holandas are sent back and aged statically, and will ultimately produce a 100% Jerez Brandy. There have been other innovations too, like wine aged under the sea.



The wines are:
Garum: a Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot blend aged 12 months in French and American oak
Garum Submarino: 100% Tintilla aged 16 months in new French oak, bottled, put in an amphora and aged a further year under the sea.
Samaruco: Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Cabernet aged 1 year in French oak
Petit Verdot: 100% Petit Verdot aged in new French oak
Tintilla: 100% Tintilla aged in new and used French oak for 16 months.
El Triángulo: 100% Tintilla with 5 months in oak
El Muelle de Olaso: The firm’s only white table wine to date, 100% Palomino
Marismilla: Rosé made from Tintilla
Fino Barajuela: Carrascal Fino de añada, unfortified
Oloroso Barajuela: Carrascal Oloroso de añada, unfortified



Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Rosado Cabernet 2015 13%, Bodega Forlong

Appearance
Pale to mid coppery onion skin pink with orangey gold highlights.
Nose
Forthcoming, fleshy and full of berry fruit with distinct notes of cherry and raspberry, there are also attractive traces of glacé fruit, rose petals and a hint of minerality from the albariza presumably.
Palate
Soft, full, fruity and beautifully balanced with lots of ripe yet tangy berry fruit and a gentle texture. It is super fresh, tasty and dangerously easy to drink yet has surprising complexity and length.
Comments
This charming rosado is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown organically in albariza soil in the Forlong vineyard near El Puerto de Santa Maria. The grapes are picked manually and comparatively late so as to avoid the green pepper/ asparagus notes Cabernet can have if not perfectly ripe. This also makes any tannins softer. They are selected both in the vineyard and on arrival at the winery. The must is fermented till the desired colour is achieved and racked into a separate tank where fermentation continues at very low temperature (@13C) taking over a month, with weekly batonnage (lees stirring). Once the fermentation is complete the wine is clarified only by natural decantation and bottled en rama. As always, the label is a classic, designed by Victoria Cerezo Doello, and depicts presumably the Mad March hare and the notice above its head reads "En el Pais de las Maravillas" or In Wonderland.
Price
7.60 euros, Licores Corredera




Tuesday, 19 September 2017

19.9.17 New Manzanilla Committee

The Red Room of the town council building in Sanlúcar today hosted a meeting of all the 40 bodegas which produce and sell Manzanilla at the behest of Víctor Vélez, director general of Bodegas Barbadillo, who feels that Manzanilla needs better representation at the Consejo Regulador. The idea is to create a “Mesa de la Manzanilla” or Manzanilla Committee to defend the Manzanilla Denominación de Origen, though its definitive constitution will need the approval of the Consejo which governs both DO Jerez and DO Manzanilla. Víctor Vélez is the only representative of the Manzanilleros at the Consejo.

The plan is to create a trade forum which can unite to debate Manzanilla matters and which would include a representative of the Consejo. According to Vélez “there are many bodegas, some of them quite important ones in Sanlúcar, which are not represented at the Consejo as they are neither members of Fedejerez nor the association established by Barbadillo and Delgado Zuleta”. Despite accounting for 21% of total sales of Sherry, Manzanilla has just the one representative at the Consejo. “We want these bodegas to be able to collaborate and express their views at a forum of debate and I will take into account any decisions or proposals they make at the Consejo”. We want the bodegas which are not represented to feel that at least they are being listened to.



Vélez pointed out that while sales of Sherry and Manzanilla had fallen from 70 million litres in 2001 to 33 million today, Manzanilla had suffered a bit less, remaining reasonably stable with slight growth, but the market is very competitive and international sales still need to be increased. Currently 64% of Sherry sales go for export yet barely 8% of Manzanilla sales go abroad. There are many challenges which face the new Manzanilla Committee, the main ones being communication, export and promotion of Manzanilla.

The Committee will consist of seven people, representing Barbadillo, Delgado Zuleta, Grupo Estévez, one of the cooperatives, a bodega not necessarily based in Sanlúcar but which markets Manzanilla and two delegates from the Professional Association of Artisan Bodegas of Sanlúcar. Meetings will be held monthly before the plenary at the Consejo.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Fino en rama Peña del Aguila 15%, Bodegas César Florido

Appearance
Pale straw gold with golden glints.
Nose
Most attractive nose, slightly more suggestive of Manzanilla than Fino, but then they are Sanlúcar grapes and the wine is aged on the Atlantic coast. There is a fresh maritime character with traces of meadow herbs and camomile, the flor is certainly there but elegantly restrained and a minute hint of oxidation adds to the complexity. It is beautifully balanced and fresh.
Palate
There is plenty to chew on with a lovely yeasty, slightly bitter character yet acidity is fairly low giving a softness and roundness and a slight trace of butteriness from the lees. This is delicious, as good as any Fino or Manzanilla.
Comments
Here is one to watch out for. My personal view is that this bodega is outstanding and deserves better recognition. It is not only an extremely interesting bodega but they are a delightful family with lovely wines. If you buy an upmarket Moscatel from a bodega in Jerez, you can be pretty sure it was made here. Chipiona is the home of Moscatel and it is the finest around, but the more familiar Sherry style wines are also produced, yet despite their quality they are not included in the DO Sherry because Chipiona is in the production zone not the crianza zone, and so few people know them. Peña del Aguila is an old brand which they are rescucitating for a range of fine Sherry style wines which includes a superb Palo Cortado. Anyway this lovely wine is made from 100% Palomino from old vines in the pago Miraflores - which also supplies Manzanilla grapes. This Fino runs through 5 criaderas and a solera (400 butts in total) in the Cherra bodega only 25 metres from the Atlantic and César makes a selection of just one butt (in this case number 2), the best of all, which provides some 1,200 half bottles making it unique and special.
Price
14.00 euros per half bottle ex bodega


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Brandy Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva 36%, González Byass

Appearance
Bright patinated mahogany to amber at the rim with copper highlights.
Nose
Open and quite rich but not too heavy with traces of dried fruit and a pronounced gently sweet vanilla aroma from the American oak presumably. There is an attractive aroma of garrapiñadas (almonds tossed in caramel), turrón perhaps, almost Amontillado. This is a gentle, elegant, refined brandy.
Palate
Soft, fairly sweet, open textured and super smooth with that attractive vanilla nuttiness to the fore. It is a very unaggressive brandy with very little tannin, yet remarkably tasty with considerable length.
Comments
González Byass is the only bodega in Jerez which distils brandy in Jerez, and they only distil the three versions of Lepanto there. They are basically the same brandy, but subject to different ageing regimes - PX butts, old Oloroso butts, or in this case butts which have been seasoned with Tio Pepe. Lepanto is made from 100% Palomino, which is also very unusual. The brandy is aged in soleras dating back to around 1870 and is bottled at an average age of 12 years. The name Lepanto commemorates a naval battle of 1571 in which the Holy League ( mainly Spanish and Italians) defeated the Ottoman Empire off the coast of Greece.
Price
About 25 euros

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Palo Cortado Añada 2000 Single Cask 20%, Valdespino

Appearance
Pure brassy amber with bright glinting golden highlights.
Nose
Super elegant, tight and fresh with lots of toasted bread, hazelnuts and almonds, slight traces of oak and, despite having maintained flor for only a few months, there is an attractive hint of bitterness as well as a mineral note. It is balanced up by beautifully fresh oxidative notes and the faintest hint of sweetness giving it a great deal of charm
Palate
Elegance itself. It has a wonderful lightness of touch yet is deceptively deeply flavoured. It is dry, beautifully rounded and fresh with a slightly saline mineral hint and a trace of volatile acidity, balanced to perfection by a touch of glycerine. Lots of nuts, a slightly autumnal blond tobacco touch, and almost interminable length. Superb.
Comments
This is quite delicious. It is the - hopefully first - culmination of a project started shortly after Grupo Estevez bought Valdespino. The grapes are 100% Macharnudo Alto and the gently pressed must was fermented in butts. The contents of this particular butt showed great promise from an early stage and the state of the flor was carefully monitored. It gradually petered out and the wine was re-fortified to 17% and allowed to mature. It developed real class and it was decided to bottle the wine in June 2017 in just 500 half bottles. So this is  a single vineyard, single butt, single vintage Sherry which is rare and exquisite. It is only available on the export markets so whatever you have to to obtain some.
Price 
About 150 euros per half bottle




Friday, 15 September 2017

Garum 2015 14.5%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Appearance
Almost opaque black cherry red with young cherry pink rim.
Nose
Full, young, tight with lots of plump ripe black fruit; cherry, plum, mulberry, and slightly dusty wood notes, mainly French oak as it opens out. There are traces of spice and smoke from the Syrah rounded off by the Merlot and Petit Verdot which offers a slight blueberry note.
Palate
Big, fully structured and characterful. Although Syrah only accounts for 30% of the grapes, it is notable for the spice. There is a bit of none too aggressive tannin which is balanced by the fruit but the wine needs a year or so more in bottle to reach its best. And it will be good - it is good now. 
Comments
Made from approximately 60% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 10% Petit Verdot from the virtually organic albariza vineyard at Hacienda Vistahermosa just outside Jerez. Yields are restricted by green harvesting and the grapes, which are vinified separately, are hand picked and cross a selection table before a cold soak and fermentation at controlled temperature in stainless steel. After malo-lactic the separate wines are blended and aged for 12 months in used French and American oak and the wine is bottled unfiltered.
Price
9.00 euros, Licores Corredera


Thursday, 14 September 2017

14.9.17 Valdespino Launch Palo Cortado Añada 2000

As if the range of Sherries from Valdespino was not good enough already an exciting and rare new addition has been launched. It is a Palo Cortado made from grapes grown in the firm's Inocente vineyard in the pago Macharnudo Alto, probably the best vineyard in  Jerez, where the vines range from 35 to 55 years old. 500 half bottles were filled from a single butt in June 2017, though samples were available at last year's Vinoble where they met with considerable interest. The wine was pressed very gently and fermented in a number of butts, and from early on one in particular showed outstanding finesse and complexity. It was fortified to 15°, beginning life as a Fino but gradually the flor disappeared, and it was fortified again to 17°. Being wine from a single vintage the butt was sealed by staff from the Consejo Regulador and then allowed to develop. Over the almost 17 years it has developed a further 3° of alcohol and a beautiful colour as well as amazingly complex aromas and flavours. Each bottle is hand numbered and sealed with a driven cork with a wax capsule and presented in a gift box. The wine is all destined for export, mainly Britain and the United States.



Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Amontillado Aurora 19%, Bodegas Yuste

Appearance
Pure amber with coppery gold highlights and the slightest trace of green at the rim.
Nose
Interesting and attractive, fresh, saline and savoury with lots of coastal notes of sea air, seaweed and beaches, then there are the oxidative, almost rancio notes with walnut - almost walnut in syrup - with traces of hazelnut and a slight hint of caramel. Its complexity creeps up on you as you are enjoying it so much. Classic Sanlúcar Amontillado.
Palate
Light and open textured, dry, almost crisp with that salted caramel note almost balancing the salinity and a trace of volatile acidity yet giving a fleeting appearance of sweetness and an attractive tension. There is very little tannin, the acidity is perfect and the alcohol is well contained. The effect is a wine with real character which is supremely elegant and very long.
Comments
Francisco Yuste has created a range of fine quality wines around the name Aurora which originated with his purchase of Pedro Romero's Manzanilla Aurora solera. This wine started out as a Manzanilla, and it certainly shows; it could only be from Sanlúcar and it is extremely good. And very well priced. Interestingly it was allowed to become Amontillado without a second fortification, which let it slowly develop through the full pasada stage and gain considerable complexity. It has an average age of about 20 years. In fact it goes on to feed the last criadera of the famous Conde de Aldama Amontillado solera, one of Sanlúcar's finest.
Price
12.60 euros per 50cl, Licores Corredera


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sherries of Certified Age

Few other wines can stand the extended ageing in wood which makes Sherry so special. Even a typical decent Fino, for example, spends longer in wood than a typical Gran Reserva (and is a fraction of the price!). This is possible thanks to the solera system whereby the wine is regularly refreshed with younger wine, and the butts have been very carefully seasoned to minimise any wood flavours. Thus there are many Sherries of great average age, concentration and complexity on the market, even a few over 100 years old.

Apart from small parcels kept aside for consumption by honoured guests and the bodega owners themselves, some of these “sacristia” soleras grew out of sheer lack of sales. The market seemed to want cheap wines, so huge quantities were supplied and the good stuff was left to carry on ageing. The wines, if bottled, were labelled “viejo” (old) or “viejísimo” (very old) which they undoubtedly were, but without any more precise definition. 


 In the year 2000, in order to promote these treasures and take advantage of a growth in interest, the Consejo Regulador introduced a new official category for these top quality old Sherries with a certified minimum period of average ageing. Thus were born the wines with "Mención de Edad". VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum or Very Old Sherry) for wines with a minimum average age of 20 years and the VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum or Very Old Rare Sherry) for 30 year old wines. There are two further categories which certify minimum average age of 12 and 15 years. The aim was not only to guarantee the age of a wine which does not carry a vintage date, but also to ensure it was of outstanding quality, representing Sherry at its finest.

While the solera system offers incredible consistency in a given wine, by its very nature it mixes wines of different ages, so only an average age can be given. Soleras have to be run consistently to avoid any changes in the character of the wine, so quantities of wine withdrawn from and fed into the system can be, and are, tracked by the Consejo. Fundamentally, the wine must have taken a minimum specific period to work its way through the solera system from start to finish. Here is how the process works.



The bodega submits a detailed application stating the type and quantity of the wine of a particular saca. On receipt of the application, Consejo inspectors visit the bodega and take samples and seal the container(s) of the wine. A sample then goes to a panel of expert and highly experienced tasters, five usually, none of whom work for a bodega. They are looking to be convinced of the wine’s age and also its quality, so even if it is old enough, but not good enough, it will fail. It is essential that the tastings are accurate as it is very awkward for bodegas to have a different saca of the same wine turned down. In the case of some very old wines there can be a hint of astringency so a very little PX is allowed to be added to round them off. It does not have to be 20 or 30 years old but the older it is the better it works.

If the wine passes the tasting panel it goes to the lab where three testing processes are then employed: scientific analysis, tasting and audit. The analysis is carried out at the Estación de Viticultura y Enología de Jerez, one of the best laboratories in Spain, where a number of tests are carried out including measuring the content of esters, dry extract, sugar and glycerine, along with carbon 14 dating.

The audit tracks the movements of the wine and verifies the correct amount has been withdrawn. There is a quota system by which the entire solera system for a given wine, say 12 years old, must retain 12 litres for every litre sold. Logically therefore for a 20 or 30 year old wine there must remain at least 20 or 30 litres. When a wine passes the tests – which are carried out on each saca – a precise number of the appropriate, numbered age statement labels will be issued according to the amount of wine.

This classic is 80 years old but VORS only guarantees 30

 Only certain types of Sherry qualify for certified age statements, and they are Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez as most Finos, Manzanillas and Moscatels are best when younger. It should be noted that the age certification guarantees that a wine is at least the stated age, but many are much older. There is no certification available for wines older than 30 years.

Although the system is as good as it can be, and most bodegas use it - after all nearly all of them have very old wines - some have chosen not to do so and sell their old wines without age statements. Perhaps their reputation is enough, or their wine is much older than 30 years and VORS might devalue it. Those bodegas which do use the system however, can easily demonstrate the advanced age of their wines and justify a more profitable price tag. Since only 0.2% of all Sherry carries a VOS or VORS tag they need to be profitable.


Interestingly I have never come across a Vintage Sherry with an age certification. Many are over 20 or 30 years old, and obviously their age is already known as it has been supervised by the Consejo from the start. I asked them about this and they said that they would certainly qualify, as long as they were top quality but couldn't remember seeing one either. I asked a few bodega people and they seemed a bit vague on the issue, but with a clear vintage date on the label most obviously feel it is unnecessary.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Manzanilla Pasada Solear en rama Primavera 2017 15%, Barbadillo

Appearance
Bright amber tinged gold with golden reflections.
Nose
Seriously fresh with pronounced flor notes and that saline maritime mineral bitterness which makes Manzanilla so special. There are subtle hints of seaweed and brine, and a sensation of humidity. There are also faint traces of cider and cabezuela giving a slightly appley buttery character.
Palate
Zippy and fresh but serious. There is reasonable acidity but much of the effect comes from the saline flor bitterness, which, with the saline yeastiness and slight butteriness gives an incredibly tasty wine which really develops and then lingers on the palate. Lovely.
Comments
Another cracking Manzanilla pasada en rama from Barbadillo. According to the back label, en rama is "como Dios la trajo al mundo" (lit. as God brought it into the world) or as God meant it to be. Couldn't agree more! The wine is around 8 years old and consists of wines selected from the Solear solera in the Arboledilla bodega which are aged  for a further two years, so it really is a Manzanilla Pasada. 
Price
14 euros, Er Guerrita

One is just not enough....



Saturday, 9 September 2017

Vino Blanco Covisan 2016 11.5%, Coop Covisan

Appearance
Pale silvery strawy gold, looks young and fresh.
Nose
Soft and slightly chalky, even a very slight trace of sherbet, faintly floral with gentle apple, pear and melon fruit. It is not massively complex but really quite attractive, and it's Palomino.
Palate
Again soft and gentle, and although the acidity is low it works with those orchard white fruits coming through. Its lightness and freshness make it attractive, especially in summer. Moderate length. Dangerously easy quaffing wine of decent quality.
Comments
Covisan stands for  Cooperativa del Campo Vitivinícola Sanluqueña which was established in 1968. The seven cooperatives in the Sherry area own a little over half the vineyards and each thus produces large quantities of wine. They act as independent wine producers with their own soleras and brands, sell bulk mosto (newly fermented wine) to the bodegas and bars and also sell them mature wine as required. So the coops are a very important part of the system. Covisan is well equipped with modern plant and is very serious about its wine. They supply La Guita next door and La Gitana among others. Anyway this wine is made from the first very gentle pressing of Palomino (as is their Manzanilla), fermented in stainless steel tanks at @ 17C allowed to settle and then gently filtered before bottling. It seems so cheap but it is good and also available (legally!) in BIB.
Price
2.30 euros ex bodega


Friday, 8 September 2017

Bodegas: Carrasco Hermanos

The origins of this firm go back to 1840 when Manuel Gil y García, from Grazalema (Cádiz), bought the bodegas and fine soleras which had once belonged to Tomás Geraldino y Croquer (the Irishman Thomas Fitzgerald) who had died in 1755. The business grew to be very successful and in 1882 it was expanded and renamed after the relatives the Carrasco brothers (hermanos) joined the firm, based at Calle Cartuja 2-5. They owned a 25 hectare vineyard called San José in the pago Burujena.



The Official Guide to Jerez of 1889 describes them as exporters, particularly to the Americas where they had an office and near monopoly in Mexico, but were also present in other markets. The 1900 edition of the same publication lists them as a very successful business with large, spacious and well thought out premises, having bought another neighbouring bodega.



It seems that on the 31st December 1895 the business was split into two to best manage the large volume of business. Thus Francisco Carrasco y Hermanos was created and established itself in Calle Arcos 55 where they had a cooperage, distillery and all the appurtenances necessary for a large business. Some of these bodegas now belong to Lustau. In 1897 the firm changed its trading name to Juan Carrasco y Hermanos and was bought out some twenty years later by Gutiérrez Hermanos who moved operations to the Carrasco bodegas in Calle Cartuja.



In 1936 the firm moved to Calle Cordobeses 3 and in 1963 became Fernando Carrasco Sagastizábal (1899-1982) where they remained till they were in turn bought out by Manuel de Argüeso in 1942, becoming part of Manuel de Argüeso SA which itself was bought by Valdespino in 1972.



At this point the firm disappeared from the radar except that there was a Fernando Carrasco Chacón, presumably the son, still operating  as late as 1984 likely as an almacenista and at the same address. The old bodega now belongs to Tradición CZ. Some small and very old soleras were bought by M Gil Luque and sold under the De Bandera label. Equipo Navazos Palo Cortado No.6 came from one of these.



Best known brands were  Manzanilla Fina Rafael, Amontillado Colombo, Pajarete 1800, Jerez Quinado Del Uno, Coñac san Carlos.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Corta y Raspa Viña Atalaya 2016 11%, José Manuel Harana

Appearance
Bright pale gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Fresh,clean and natural with notes of very young Manzanilla, very mineral with hints of fresh herbs and wild plants and a maritime note. There are faint notes of apple and even flor, so the wine leans slightly more towards Manzanilla than fruity table wine. Classic Sanlúcar vino blanco.
Palate
Light young and fresh with good acidity, almost crunchy, the fruit is balanced out by a faint flor bitterness and saline minerality which gives it a lovely tension. There is a chalky texture and while it seems a little lean at first it soon fills out and leaves a super clean dry finish. It is barely a year old and more time in bottle will bring it out further and enhance the vineyard character.
Comments
José Manuel Harana Yuste is a 5th generation grower and one of the three mayetos involved in the Mayetería Sanluqueña project which was the brainchild of oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez to make the vineyards more profitable by selling a finished product rather than just grapes. José Manuel's grapes come from his Viña Atalaya vineyard in the Pago Atalaya where the soil is the lentejuela type of albariza. All the Mayetería Sanluqueña wines have been made in exactly the same way, fermented in butt, to let the vineyard speak for itself, all the wines are different and all are good, showing just how important and how interesting vineyards are. Production for 2016 was just 700 bottles, but that could increase when he sees how well received the wines have deservedly been. Bottled by MC3 in El Puerto de Santa María.
Price
9.95 euros, De Albariza

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Sweet Sherry for Ladies

Fashions come and fashions go, and as far as wine is concerned sweetness is definitely a fashion. A century ago – and even much more recently - sweet wines were far more popular than now. For example, divers were surprised by the sweetness of the Champagne they rescued from a XIX century shipwreck in the Baltic. But it shouldn’t be a fashion, it is not about being “cool”, it is all about the right wine for the right dish or the right occasion. And it is surely not about gender.



Sweeter styles, at least the more inexpensive ones, are often appreciated by novice wine drinkers because they are easier to drink, and also by older people who are accustomed to the sweeter styles of the past. These days, many people profess not to like sweet wines, as if they were for simpletons or amateurs (or not “cool”), but I have done many tastings which included Cream, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel and – albeit with a little explanation - people loved them. Some think dark wine is sweet and that certain grape varieties are too, but this is usually not the case.



The fact is that the grape variety and colour don’t matter – the important thing is quality. These wines are often much more difficult to make and require great skill and special conditions, and many are not legendary without good reason. Sweet wines go with all sorts of dishes which are unsuitable for dry wines and are every bit as delicious. It is not as if loads of sugar has been added, as many seem to think; they contain natural grape sugar.



There is absolutely nothing wrong with sweet wines, indeed some of the world’s greatest wines are sweet; Sauternes, Málaga, Tokaj, Port, Constantia and the PX and Moscatel Sherries to name just a very few – and they offer all sorts of flavours and textures which dry wines simply can’t, though naturally the opposite also applies. All decent wines are interesting, dry or not.



So to get to the point, it has long been assumed, mainly by the men who made the wines, that ladies prefer something sweet, as if we were a simpler breed with simpler tastes, but my enquiries show that most of us in fact have much more sophisticated and wide-ranging tastes. Women are less dogmatic and accept a wine for what it is or what it is for. Furthermore, women are scientifically proven to be more sensitive tasters. In fact increasing numbers of women are working as oenologists at bodegas around the world, and the Marco de Jerez is no exception.




Thankfully, these condescending “special wines for ladies” are a thing of the past. Sweet or not, ladies are more than capable of making up their own minds, thank you very much.






Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Corta y Raspa Viña Morla 2016 11%, Rafael Rodríguez

Appearance
Pale straw gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Fresh clean, open and mineral with slight marine notes, there is a gentle leanness with a real feeling of nature and aromas of open meadow and hints of apple and kiwi. Young fresh and crisp with real vineyard character.
Palate
Crisp and clean, almost like biting into an apple, then salinity and minerals come through. There is a good acidity and while the whole thing seems on the lean side there is enough breadth. While lovely now, the wine is still young and that breadth will develop well over a couple of years.
Comments
Despite being made in an identical way, this wine is very different from the Viña Las 40 and shows the vineyard effect clearly. It was one of just 700 bottles made of 100% Palomino from the 3rd generation mayeto Rafael Rodríguez' vineyard Viña Morla in the Pago Añina with help from consultant oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez, whose brilliant idea the Corta y Raspa wines and the Mayetería Sanluqueña project was. There are two wines from Rafael, the other coming, like this one, from the tosca cerrada albariza soil of his Las 40 vineyard (QV). The idea was for the mayetos to make  a more sustainable income from their vineyards, and if the quality is as good as this, then they will. It was contract bottled by EMC3 in El Puerto de Santa María. Rafael is one of three growers involved in the project, and there is sure and certain hope that more will join.
Price
9.95 euros, De Albariza




Monday, 4 September 2017

Brandy Cardenal Mendoza Carta Real Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Sánchez Romate

Appearance
Deep walnut tinged mahogany with gold and copper highlights and a trace of green at the rim.
Nose
Intense and aromatic with a wealth of nuances. An attractive caramel and raisin sweetness greets the nose, then there are notes of dried fig, date, prune, oak, dried orange peel, spice and traces of Oloroso and PX, but with a brandy of this age many nuances are melding together to form an outstanding and complex bouquet. 
Palate
Full and super smooth with remarkably little tannin, but a great deal of flavour. It coats the mouth generously with a gentle sweetness and develops powerful notes of dried fruits, traces of nuts, toffee, oak, leather and tobacco. It has real layers of flavour and an extremely long and fairly dry finish.
Comments
This superb brandy was introduced to commemorate the arrival of the new milennium with something special and is available in limited quantities in numbered bottles. It has an average age of at least 25 years. A parcel of the standard Cardenal Mendoza, already a Solera Gran Reserva was set aside for extra ageing in 1981, the bi-centenary of the founding of the bodega. It was put in mainly old Oloroso and a few PX butts till it had an average age of at least 25 years. The name Carta Real commemorates a dinner at the Royal Palace in Madrid in 1900 when wines and brandies from Sánchez Romate were served. In fact the owner of the bodega at the time, Juan Manuel Sánchez y Gutiérrez de Castro was also a minister to King Alfonso XII who elevated him to Duke of Algeciras for his efficiency in organising an international conference there.
Price
Around 70 euros


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Corta y Raspa Viña La Charanga 2016, 12.5%, Antonio Bernal

Appearance
Pale silvery strawy gold with bright golden highlights.
Nose
Super fresh, clean and natural with notes of apple skin and wild meadow plants, both herbs and flowers. A faint hint of sweeties is overpowered by salinity and ozone, and there is even a slight trace of lemon icing. Young and promising.
Palate
Clean, fresh and crisp with a distinct malic note, surprising given the 12.5% strength and the ripeness that would imply. Yet that malic acidity gives the wine amazing freshness and is certainly a part of the Palomino flavour profile when young. The salinity is still there, adding to the fun. This is a very young wine and needs time in bottle to develop, but I am sure it will develop well.
Comments
This is was one of 1,000 bottles made from 100% Palomino grapes grown by Antonio Bernal Ortega, a 4th generation grower, in his historic Viña La Charanga vineyard in the northwest part of the Pago Maina (or Mahina) near Sanlúcar. Here the soil is the barajuelas type of albariza and the vines are around 30 years old. He also supplies grapes to Viticultores Alba for their lovely sparkling wines. As a "member" of Mayetería Sanluqueña, the project set up by oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez to make the vineyards more profitable, the wine is made from low yield grapes which are virtually organic and fermented naturally in butts. All the project's wines are made the same way allowing the individual vineyards to speak for themselves, and they do. This project deserves maximum support and will hopefully help protect the vineyards from encroaching urbanisation. I would like to buy the Corta y Raspa range again to see how they age, and it would be very helpful if some way of identifying the vintage were on the labels, even a lot number. Yes it is on the cork, but you have to remove the capsule to see it, and most wine merchants wouldn't want you doing that.
Price
9.95 euros, De Albariza

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Manzanilla Entusiástica 15%, Delgado Zuleta

Appearance
Pale straw gold with golden highlights.
Nose
There are signs of development since the first release with a little less fruit and a little more flor. While the first was more a 15% table wine with a trace of flor, it has developed a little more in the Manzanilla direction. It is very clean and fresh, retaining some mosto notes, but is more of a Sherry now, with faint green herb, almond and flor notes, and most attractive.
Palate
Some apple and quince fruit, grassy green herb notes and just a little bitterness. There is a gentle mineral salinity and a pleasant roundness beautifully balanced by the flor. It is a serious wine with some class and is much better than some young Manzanillas - and it is still a baby. Lovely.
Comments
Organic viticulture is growing in  the province of Cádiz, and while there are quite a few very good organic table wines, this is still the one and only organic Manzanilla. The grapes were grown by organic pioneer Pepe Cabral in his vineyard in the Pago Burujena and the wine was made at Delgado Zuleta. Here the small young solera of only some 12 butts is located and quietly growing in size and complexity every year under the care of oenologist José Sánchez. The butts were previously used for La Goya. This is the second release, and the wine is now three years old and comes with a completely new label, quite different from other brands. Unusual too are the clear glass bottle and driven Diam cork, perhaps with the idea of attracting table wine drinkers - let's hope it works. The wine is bottled en rama and there are - or rather were - about 1100 available.
Price
17.95 euros, De Albariza

Friday, 1 September 2017

Quãdis Joven 2015 14.5%, Barbadillo

Appearance
Dense black red fading through black cherry to pink at the rim.
Nose
Full, ripe, jammy fruit; cherries and plums mainly with faint balsamic traces and hints of spice. It is deep and fairly intense, quite serious for a young wine with distinct notes of ripeness, none of which takes away from the youthful zest.
Palate
Loaded with ripe fruit; cherries, plums, brambles yet quite full bodied with a light texture and faint mineral and balsamic notes. As a young wine there is very little tannin, but just enough to give it feel and structure on the palate. A charmer with a more serious side.
Comments
The name Quãdis comes from an ancient name for Cádiz and the wine is the result of 20 years' work to make red wine good enough to represent it. The Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo and Tintilla grapes used to make this wine are grown in the albariza soils of the firm's 250 hectare Gibalbín vineyard and the vines are about 12 years old. Harvesting was done at night and by machines fitted with de-stemmers and the grapes were harvested according to ripeness over 30 days. A three day cold soak at 5C followed before fermentation in separate stainless steel tanks with specially selected yeasts according to grape variety. The wine was then stabilised and bottled after settling in tank without any oak ageing. This is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz sold as a joven (young wine), which is lovely slightly chilled, and they also make a crianza (oak aged) version. Quãdis was only introduced quite recently.
Price
6.40 euros, Licores Corredera