Sunday, 18 February 2018

Amontillado 17.5%, Elías González

Appearance
Bright chestnut to amber with copper glints.
Nose
Attractive almondy nuttiness and comparatively youthful oxidation with slightly savoury and saline notes. There are hints of almond cooked in caramel (garrapiñada) and toasted egg yolk turrón. along with faint hints of oak. Quite young but none the worse for that.
Palate
Faint elements of dried fruit join all that savoury oily nuttiness. The wine is dry, tangy and fairly light  with an appealing salty hint and  generous follow through with a good long clean finish.
Comments
The bodega, which is also an almacenista (they supply Lustau), only bottles Manzanilla and the other wines are only sold on draught (en granel). It is a shame as they are good, but without a label they can't really get the promotion they deserve.
Price
7 euros per litre, draught ex bodega



Saturday, 17 February 2018

17.2.18 El Maestro Sierra in World Top 100 Wineries; Manzanilla Interpretation Centre for Sanlúcar

The bodegas awarded places in the prestigious American magazine Wine and Spirits’ 2017 Top 100 Wineries have now received their diplomas. Of only five Spanish wineries, three are from the Marco de Jerez: González Byass, Hidalgo la Gitana and El Maestro Sierra, the latter being accredited for the second time. This wonderful old bodega in Plaza Silos, Jerez, was founded in 1830 and is still in family hands, those of Doña Pilar and Doña Carmen Borrego Pla and their devoted and delightful team who still work using the time-honoured methods.

The Maestro Sierra team

The town council of Sanlúcar met recently with bodega representatives to discuss a plan for a Manzanilla Interpretation Centre to be located in the historic Las Covachas. The idea is to give the historic council-owned building a useful purpose and at the same time promote Manzanilla with a place to exhibit and explain the history and production of Manzanilla and the architecture of the bodegas. The mayor of Sanlúcar, Víctor Mora, was pleased with the response from the bodegas, who would contribute financially to a foundation jointly with the council allowing the payment of staff to run the centre. There was enough support for the project for it to go ahead over the coming year. Las Covachas is a series of gothic arches built in the XV century by the II Duke of Medina Sidonia into the cliff which separates the Barrio Bajo from the Barrio Alto.

Las Covachas on the Custa Belen with ducal palace above

Friday, 16 February 2018

La Bota de Palo Cortado 75 "Sanlúcar" 18%, Equipo Navazos

Appearance
Deep amber to pale chestnut with old gold reflections.
Nose
Complex and interesting with faint traces of flor and minerality hiding behind the more upfront and attractive oxidation with notes of caramel, apple, almond - turron yema tostada - and a gentle saline note. It has a certain youthful fruit which balances sublimely with clean oxidation and while it is beautiful now it has great potential for further ageing.
Palate
Full and quite intense with a glyceric roundness, yet it is perfectly dry. There is amazing presence and it has all the charm of youthful oxidation with that apple and caramel and a hint of toast and very subtle reflections of the Manzanilla where it began. Super fresh and clean with a gentle texture and a very long satisfying finish. This is lovely.
Comments
Many people visualise Palo Cortado as a rare mature wine with at least 15 years of age, but such a wine is simply an older version of this. After all PC is classified as such after little more than a year in sobretablas and is then refortified to 17.5% after a very brief period under flor. This delicious wine comes from the bodegas of La Guita where oenologist Eduardo Ojeda and his team conduct a few experiments. While it is young, this is still a Palo Cortado, showing the precise characteristics of its type. It is also a vintage wine, from 2010. The grapes all came from the same vineyard in the pago Miraflores La Baja and the wine was matured in a mixture of traditional butts and 225 litre barrels filled to the brim to avoid excess oxidation. This release comes from a dozen of the latter, selected for their balance and delicacy. 3,200 bottles were released.
Price
50 euros, Pura Cepa

Thursday, 15 February 2018

15.2.18 Williams & Humbert Saving Turtles

Many bodegas in Jerez do important social and cultural work to show their support of various causes, which sometimes extends beyond the city. Williams & Humbert took up the cause of the endangered Tortuga Carey (Hawksbill turtle) four years ago when they adopted one, naming it Luxus after the top version of their outstanding Dos Maderas Rum which is sourced in Nicaragua. They are donating money raised by sales of the rum to a programme called Billion Baby Turtles, part of the ICAPO initiative set up to save them under the umbrella of the charity SEE Turtles.



These turtles play an important role in the preservation of the shallow eco-systems of tropical waters, but despite legal protection they are in danger of extinction as their eggs are stolen and their shells are used for decorative objects. Money is needed to patrol beaches where they nest and lay their eggs, to ensure the babies finally reach the water. So far the campaign has saved over 3,000 turtles thanks to the W&H contribution towards 500 volunteers, a website (tooraretowear.org), and 10,000 students have been educated about them. Donations to the campaign can be made at seeturtles.org/venecia or by buying Dos Maderas Luxus Rum. This excellent rum, is aged in the Caribbean for ten years before ageing for a further five years in Jerez in ex Don Guido VOS Pedro Ximénez butts.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Vermut Duque de Diano 15%, Bodega Genaro Cala

Appearance
Deep blacky brown fading to amber at the rim.
Nose
At first the more bitter elements show, like wormwood and possibly gentian and there is a faint curry-like note before the PX and Oloroso make themselves apparent. It is quite intense and complex with a sweet edge and you can make out the PX, but all is harmonious.
Palate
Very slightly lighter on the palate than expected from the nose, but every bit as intense, and while it is fairly sweet it is not excessively so and thus well balanced and clean with a certain tang which also helps. It has a long, gently bitter and reasonably dry finish and is very well made.
Comments
While this vermouth has been available in bulk to local bars for some time, it was launched in bottle only at the start of 2016 with the new wave of popularity for vermouth. The title Duque de Diano was the obvious choice for a brand name as it once belonged to Genaro's family, which used to run the bodega Francisco de Cala. The base wines for this vermouth come from family stocks of Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso which are quite old with a little sobretabla blended in. The blend is then infused with a formula of 30 botanicals which took years to refine, and is of course secret, and aged in a solera of French oak barrels in a tiny bodega in Calle Jardinillo. It is a totally artisan vermouth made the old fashioned way.
Price
10.70 De Albariza

Monday, 12 February 2018

Sombrero Tinto 2014 14%, García de la Jara

Appearance
Opaque black to tight young cherry red rim.
Nose
Full, tight, young, still a little closed but there are signs of French oak and a distinct saline note. There is also plenty of fresh black fruit like bramble and blueberry and a hint of strawberry. 
Palate
Full bodied with a gentle grip and again that saline note with a light hint of smoke. Along with all those fruit flavours there is an earthy, lightly balsamic touch. One can certainly tell that the wine comes from near a beach, and it is a little unusual, yet it is very pleasant, however it does need a couple more years in bottle.
Comments
This unique wine is the only one produced at this tiny bodega owned by the García Saborido family, and the first red to be produced in Sanlúcar itself, on sandy soil only 300 metres from the La Jara beach. The hat is illustrated on the label out of homage to grandfather Paco García who wore it while out inspecting the vines. The  Petit Verdot, Merlot and Syrah grapes are hand harvested and selected before de-stemming. Occasional pumping over is carried out during fermentation and the wine is aged for three months in French oak before light filtration and bottling.
Price
About 10 euros

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Zerej II Oloroso 19.5%, Bodegas Barbadillo

Appearance
Bright chestnut with brassy, coppery tints fading to amber.
Nose
Refined, vibrant and very fresh and attractive with slight wood and walnut notes along with a touch of Sanlúcar zip - it is lighter and slightly crisper than a Jerez Oloroso with a trace of salt. It is very complex and it is difficult to pick out some of themore subtle nuances, but there are hints of caramel, turron yema tostada, toasted bread and almond, very elegant. 
Palate
Fresh and crisp at the start then it opens out with flavours of tobacco, toasted nuts and leather, while there is a decent acidity keeping it fresh and very little tannin. It is lively on the palate and super clean with lots of flavour and character yet light and surprisingly intense with a long warming finish.
Comments
Barbadillo was established in 1821 and the Oloroso solera predates it, with some of the older butts being made from chestnut. This beautifully rounded wine comes from a butt carefully selected by Montse Molina and Armando Guerra from the 4th criadera. That sounds rather young, but then there are 13 criaderas in total, and this characterful wine has an average age of some 12 years. Naturally it was bottled without any filtration or stabilisation. This would be a fantastic partner for Iberico pork or lamb, even beef, and the classic local dish, Berza.
Price
180 euros for the mixed set of four magnums, no individual price, but excellent value.


Saturday, 10 February 2018

Bodegas: Lorente & Barba

This is a new firm, established in 2016, but the wines and the bodega are old. It is run by two partners; Mauricio Lorente and Julio Barba. Mauricio’s great great grandfather was in the Sherry business and had a modest bodega which he passed on to his son at the end of the XIX century. He passed it on to his son, Onofre, who was a clinical and oenological pharmacist. He bought Bodegas Lukol and sold Sherry as well as Jerez Quinado La Enfermera and a Sherry based aphrodisiac containing yohimbine, which had modest success. He later sold the bodega and its commercial brands but retained the best of the family soleras, and these were inherited by Mauricio Lorente’s father, who was also called Onofre and was also a pharmacist and analyist, and who also had a bodega, in Calle Cabezas where he started in the 1970s as an almacenista.



The knowledge and skills of his forebears in the days before oenologists meant that when Mauricio inherited the wines they had been carefully looked after and he decided to establish a bodega with Julio and sell Sherry. They acquired a lovely bodega which is 500 years old, constructed from stone and brick with thick walls, low roof and hand carved single block stone pillars, in Calle Ceniza, an area where some of the oldest bodegas were built. As the street was re-paved over the centuries the bodega floor is now about one and a half metres below street level.



Another giveaway as to its age is the fact that it has two stories and the upper one would have been used to store grain and straw in the days before the advent of the “cathedral bodegas”. The bodega also has a well dating back to Moorish times, which once had a waterwheel, and it is said that the well never dried up even in the severest drought. For that reason, the first fire station in Jerez was installed in an adjacent building. The well is referred to in a book from 1261 listing property divided among the supporters of king Alfonso X “The Wise” when he took Jerez from the Moors.

The bodega is the oldest in Jerez still functioning as such and is still perfect for ageing wines. The firm has launched two wines to start with; a Fino and an Oloroso. At each saca 200 - 225 bottles (or a third of the contents) are filled directly from each butt. The wine drawn from each butt is not blended for homogeneity, so these are single butt wines, and the label of each bottle carries the number of the butt it was filled from and the date of the saca, so there can be slight variation between bottles from the same saca, making it even more interesting. And of course they are bottled en rama.




With the Fino they have stretched out the ageing under flor for to the maximum, helped by the excellent conditions in the bodega. It is darker and more intense than younger wines and is around 12 years old. The Oloroso is between 18-20 years old and intense yet elegant and very long. So far they are only selling these two wines, but others are in the pipeline. 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Amontillado Mil Pesetas 18.5%, Pedro Rodriguez e Hijos

Appearance
Bright, amber tinged mahogany fading to amber rim.
Nose
Fairly light and elegant with lots of toasted nuts, and gentle hints of wood and seaside, even a trace of iodine, toasted bread and caramel. Slight notes of autumn leaves and tobacco complete the picture.
Palate
Dry, but it has that attractive Amontillado characteristic of gently implied sweetness. Decent acidity and good balance give it excellent length, continually giving out those tobaccoey nutty flavours. It has a certain charm with quiet complexity and good length. Very drinkable.
Comments
Pedro Rodriguez e Hijos is in fact Barbadillo. When the founder Benigno Barbadillo died his widow married Pedro Rodriguez who was a relation of hers and also worked for the company which he then  ran for a while, and very efficiently, under his name but in partnership with Benigno's cousin, Manuel López Barbadillo. Although this wine is named after one Barbadillo bodega, it was actually aged in another, San Agustin, which gets it name from being on the site of the former convent of the Augustinian monks. Interestingly Pedro Romero used to sell a Manzanilla pasada called Mil Pesetas. Anyway, the name Pedro Rodriguez e Hijos is used as a sous-marque to sell in some export markets. It might be somewhere around 15 years old.
Price
15 euros per 50cl, La Tienda del Jerez




Thursday, 8 February 2018

Palo Cortado Encrucijado 2015 15%, Cota 45

Appearance
Amber tinged gold with bright brassy gold reflections.
Nose
A lovely harmony between gentle oxidation and fruit. The wine is very fresh, clean, light and ripe with fruity notes of dried apricot balancing with straw and caramel notes of oxidation and traces of apple and seaside keeping things light and elegant - yet serious. It smells like a young Sherry and really that is what it is, apart from the unauthorised grapes.
Palate
Fresh, deeply tasty and dangerously moreish. Acidity is comparatively low, but it balances perfectly with a delightful slightly clean salty tang at the finish. It has a lovely light weight and considerable elegance and complexity, still with lots of Manzanilla character, but it is at the crossroads (encrucijada) between the latter and Palo Cortado. Interestingly it tastes lighter than 15%, but it is.
Comments
What an interesting and delicious wine! Made from Rey (30%), Perruno (50%) and Palomino (20%) from the albariza soils of the pago Miraflores. Two of these grapes were used in the past before Palomino took over and they were dropped from the regulations, and Ramiro wants to recuperate them to add complexity to the wine, which he has certainly done. The grapes were sunned for two days to avoid the need for fortification. This adds a certain degree of ripeness to the character of the wine. It was aged for two years, four months of which were under flor in seasoned Sherry butts. The result is a beautiful style of wine, a young Cortado, which had disappeared, yet neither the symbol nor the words "palo" or "cortado" appear on the label any more. (this is the third release) Brilliant stuff, which should age beautifully for many years in bottle, which is sealed with a good quality driven cork. Only 1,000 bottles were produced.
Price
25 euros, Er Guerrita

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

7.2.18 Consejo Statistics to be Improved

Sherry closed the 2017 campaign with a drop in total sales of 5%, a drop which is mainly in the BOB wines, the low price segment which is sold largely in Dutch and German supermarkets. The bodegas have only ever supplied the Consejo with figures on sales volumes, not on value, but that is about to change as average prices will now be incorporated into Consejo statistics so as to better reflect the changing trends of recent times led by the rise of premium and up market brands.

As from now the Consejo will collect weekly data on the evolution of the value of wine sold and at the same time pay special attention to its final destination, since wine is often re-exported from France and China, distorting official statistics. It is hoped that this will reflect more accurately the new reality in Jerez, the substitution of BOB by premium wines, which according to Consejo director César Saldaña is fundamental as while the average price is rising it is not properly illustrated by statistics based only on volume.

Sherry deserves better than this! (foto:alamystock)

He says the statistics need to be more detailed, adding that the rise in average price is due to a 7% rise in sales of Oloroso, Amontillado and Palo Cortado over the last year, the more expensive and profitable wines. The Consejo also notes the contribution of premium Pedro Ximénez to the average rise in sales with a 2% increase, as well as the 12 and 15 year old wines and VOS and VORS. This is in stark contrast to the BOB situation where sales are in steep decline in markets like Holland and Germany which buy the cheap basic Sherry dragging down total sales volumes. In Holland 80% of Sherry sold is competitive supermarket own label, and the bodegas are losing interest in it as better wine is far more profitable even in lower volumes.

They are now focusing on these better more profitable wines and the page has been turned on the volume sales which did so much damage in the 1970s and 1980s.Until then, Holland and Germany were small markets but they grew rapidly due to low subsidised prices, and it is these markets Sherry is losing. While nobody wants to lose sales of any kind, the bodegas have to promote the quality wines, both for the image of Sherry and for profitability. It is the sweeter styles which are losing volume, mainly Medium and Cream which have been sold at unsustainable prices, but things have changed. 2017 ended with three more almacenistas and three more exporters, all small but with high quality in mind. That is the trend now.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Ube Maína 2015 13.5%, Bodegas Cota 45

Appearance
Bright pale gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Attractive forthcoming and fragrant and natural with lots of stewed apple and creamy, slightly herbal notes including camomile with background mineral and saline touches and a trace of orange blossom. On the surface it is rich and generous, yet behind that there is a hint of Sanlúcar wildness, but there is little evidence of the flor.
Palate
Character right from the start, yet while some of that richness remains, the bare bones are more apparent now. There is an attractive clean, dry chalky texture, and while acidity is low, a trace of flor helps out and balance is perfect. The apple flavour is now fresher, less stewed, and the minerality shines through. Length is impressive. Lovely.
Comments
Yet another classic from Ramiro Ibáñez. The hand-picked Palomino Fino grapes come from the Finca La Charanga in the sloping northern part of the Pago Maína, close to Sanlúcar. The soil is the barajuela type of albariza which is rich in diatoms (marine fossils) and appears in fine layers which are very white and very absorbent of water but low in organic matter. The wine is fermented in two old Manzanilla butts and aged in them for two years under flor, but since they are filled nearly full the flor makes less of an impression, as the idea is to show the character of the soil in a form of old style unfortified Manzanilla. Just two butts could only produce 1,000 bottles.It hasn't been in bottle for very long - just a few months, but is already showing considerable class.
Price
17.90 La Tienda del Jerez



Monday, 5 February 2018

Oloroso 5 18.5%, Mar 7

Appearance
Bright clean mahogany with copper glints fading to amber.
Nose
Attractive and classic Oloroso nose with beautifully integrated oxidation. It is generous, open and fresh with a hint of implied sweetness and lots of toasted nuts, a hint of turron yema tostada and a trace of oak, all nicely balanced with a certain savoury note.
Palate
Quite full bodied and well structured with a decent acidity keeping things tight then those nuts come through and the wine softens and opens outwith a faint trace of caramel to a well rounded but deeply flavoured character with considerable length. Textbook Oloroso.
Comments
Mar 7 is an unusual wine shop at Calle Mar, 7 opposite Bodegas Argüeso in Sanlúcar. This house with its own bodega dates from 1820 and was once owned by a cargador a Indias. This was the starting point of the famous bodega Pedro Romero founded in 1860, and it is a distant relative, María José Romero who runs this enterprising business. She has some original wines of Pedro Romero which are refreshed for her by Delgado Zuleta, making her wines pretty unique, and they are certainly very good. This Oloroso is one of them and has an average age of somewhere between 12-14 years. She sells wine both on draught and in bottle.
Price
17 euros, Mar 7

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Brandy Maximum 40%, Marqués del Real Tesoro

Appearance
Bright amber tinged gold with golden highlights.
Nose
There is a certain resemblance to Cognac rather than the usual Jerez brandy with its powerful wood and Oloroso/PX character. This is much more subtle and elegant with only gentle background hints of Oloroso butts though there is a slight wood note. Hints of dried fruits like apricot meld with faint traces of honey and blonde tobacco.
Palate
Smooth and mildly fruity with just a hint of sweetness and no discernible tannin. It is like brandy in its natural state without the traditional confections so you can taste the spirit itself and what it is made from, and it is good. It has poise, elegance and charm with a gentle texture and terrific length.
Comments
Marqués del Real Tesoro is part of Grupo Estévez who have been commendably using only their own Palomino grapes for distillation, both for fortification spirit and for brandy, and this is the first brandy release. The firm is one of the biggest vineyard owners and has put increased emphasis on the origins of their products and are aiming for 100% Jerez. Far from being made from lesser grapes, the brandy is made from high quality, low yielding ones, and it takes 5 kilos to make 1 litre. A higher than average proportion of pot still holandas is used and the spirit is aged in ex Oloroso butts for 3 years. In fact it is from the 2014 vintage. The emphasis here is on style and origin, not on tradition or age. No sweetening has been added and no mention of age appears on the label. It is aimed not only at traditional brandy drinkers but also the new, younger drinkers. The quality is extremely high and it is different with its own unique style. Superb.
Price
39.95 per 50cl bottle De Albariza


Saturday, 3 February 2018

Aminea 2016 10.5%, Entre Dos Aguas

Appearance
Bright pale strawy lemon yellow, good mousse, some decent, lasting bead.
Nose
Subtle and very gently aromatic with a slightly creamy character hints of apple tart and cream and a gentle floral note, even faint traces of honeysuckle, ginger and yeast . It gets more intriguing as the fizz dies down and a slight green note appears, from early-picked fruit one imagines.
Palate
Crisp, light and very fresh with notes of pastry and hints of apple, apricot and glacé fruits. It is very dry (no dosage) and has a lean clean mineral backbone, even a faint saltiness, and yet it has considerable elegance. Acidity is perfect and it has a long, clean gently fruity finish. The albariza soil really makes itself known with a slight chalky texture.
Comments
This was one of just 50 bottles produced, and made - most unusually - from the Gewürztraminer grape, a natural mutation descended from the Traminer, formerly known as Aminea. The vines are around 40 years old and are from the pago Añina. The wine is made in two ways; one by full Champagne method and this one by their take on the metodo ancestral where it is firstly fermented under dry ice in a half butt seasoned with Fino, and left there for a month or so with a thin layer of flor. It is then bottled with a carefully measured amount of unfermented must from PX grapes. These had been sunned for a couple of days and the must kept from fermenting by freezing. It gives about 25 g/l sugar which ferments out. After completion of bottle fermentation, the wine needs to undergo "remuage" or shaking and turning the bottle to loosen sediment and this (like everything else) is done by hand. A neat system has been devised using 5 coloured dots on bottom of bottle and each day it is turned to a set colour. Once the sediment is on the crown cap the bottle neck is frozen and a plug of sediment and ice is ejected on opening. Finally a proper cork and label are applied.
Price
20 euros, La Tienda del Jerez


Friday, 2 February 2018

2.2.18 González Byass Revives East Indies Wine

In past centuries wines were sent as ballast in ships as long sea journeys improved them.  Now González Byass are reviving the tradition known as “ida y vuelta” (return trip) or “vino mareado” (seasick wine). Return journeys to the East Indies were once quite common and could increase the value of the wine five-fold.  The bodega has selected two butts of exceptional Palo Cortado which will undertake the journey aboard a Spanish Navy sailing ship, the Juan Sebastian Elcano, which was launched in 1927 and is used to train sailors. It was named after the captain of the only surviving ship of Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the globe, the quincentenary of which will soon be celebrated, and GB is paying homage to this achievement. Magellan is known to have taken lots of Sherry on his voyage. The Juan Sebastian Elcano will set sail from Cádiz on 11 February. The wine, simply known as Palo Cortado XC, and which oenologist Antonio Flores describes as having “reached its peak and is one step from glory” will be bottled after its return.


Thursday, 1 February 2018

Amontillado Viejísimo Conde de Aldama 21%, Bodegas Yuste

Appearance
Bright chestnut-mahogany with copper glints and a hint of green at the rim.
Nose
Magnificently fragrant and complex, and its age is immediately apparent. There are notes of exotic woods like cedar and sandalwood then toasted nuts like almond and hazelnut along with faint notes of dried fruit like date and apricot and a faint trace of iodine. It is not powerful but rather extremely elegant and all the minute nuances are beautifully harmonised into an exotic bouquet.
Palate
After a very refined start it opens out revealing intense flavour with lots of charm and a lightness of touch. Tannin is very low for such an old wine and it retains that salty bitterness so characteristic of Sanlúcar along a gentle acidity, a faint balancing hint of caramel and a slight rancio and tobacco note. It is crisp on the palate and very lively with incredible, almost interminable length. Wonderful.
Comments
This beautiful and venerable old wine is one of the oldest Sherries around. It now has an average age of 100 years. It comes from a pre-phylloxera solera established in 1740 by Bodegas Aguilar & Cia in Sanlúcar having begun life as Manzanilla and was once owned by the Conde de Aldama. The Conde was unimpressed with the quality of the post-phylloxera wine and sealed his soleras so that  none of it could spoil them, so the wines grew more concentrated and more valuable over many years. It passed through the hands of the now disappeared Manuel Argüeso Hortal and Valdespino before finding its way to Francisco Yuste.
Price
71 euros per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera