Friday, 16 March 2018

16.3.18 Success for Sherry in Bacchus Awards

The following Sherries have won awards at the XVI edition of the Bacchus International Wine Competition. Only Gold and Silver are awarded at the only competition held in Spain (Madrid) which is recognised by the OIV (International Organisation for the Vine and Wine). More than 100 international tasters, including Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, winemakers and specialised journalists, worked their way through over 1,500 wines over four days, so it is certainly thorough.

Gran Bacchus de Oro: (only 10 wines are awarded this)
Lustau Oloroso VORS
Tradición Palo Cortado VORS

Bacchus de Oro:
Fundador Harveys Bristol Cream
Fundador Harveys Amontillado
Fundador Harveys Oloroso
Osborne Coquinero
Díez Mérito Amontillado Pemartín
Lustau Palo Cortado VORS
Lustau Pedro Ximénez VORS
González Byass PX Noé VORS
Tradición Cream VOS
Tradición Amontillado VORS
Tradición Oloroso VORS

Bacchus de Plata:
Díez Mérito Oloroso Pemartín
González Byass Tio Pepe
Coop. Católico Agricola Moscatel Los Madroñales

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A Pulso 2017 12%, Cuatro Ojos Wines

Light, transparent young ruby red with a pink tinge to the rim.
Fresh and bursting with forest berry fruit and faint background traces of tea and licorice, open and light, full of youthful exuberance with a passing resemblance to Beaujolais primeur, but different grapes.
Again lots of fruit, berries plums, cherries, and pretty light with only gentle structure and depth. It is a pleasant red wine which would match white meats, perhaps lightly cooled, but is for enjoying now as it is not very suitable for bottle ageing.
Much of the lightness, freshness and fruitiness can be explained by the fact that the wine was made by carbonic maceration, like Beaujolais primeur. The grapes are destemmed and placed whole in a sealed stainless steel tank where some grapes are crushed under the weight of the rest. This releases juice which begins to ferment emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide causing the other grapes to ferment intracellularly - from the inside. This gives a wine which is low in tannin and structure but soft light and fruity. After fermentation the tank is emptied and the solids trodden by foot for more extraction. The wine was bottled in early December. It would be helpful if they would include on the label grape variety/ies (in this case, I believe it is Syrah) and vintage, which is information the consumer would probably find more useful than the winemaking process.
12.45 De Albariza

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

13.3.18 Very Special Tasting to be Included at Vinoble

At each edition of Vinoble, one of the most eagerly awaited tastings is the one conducted by the Consejo Regulador of Jerez. In previous years these tastings have focused on wines like VOS and VORS or Vintage Sherries or Noble Blends, but this year the Consejo has come up with another brilliant idea which will maintain Vinoble’s capacity to offer wine professionals a unique opportunity to try real wine treasures which would be practically impossible to find anywhere else.

The Consejo’s proposal is titled “Treasures of San Ginés” and will consist of a tasting of the truly unique wines stored in the commemorative butts in its own bodega of San Ginés at Consejo HQ. These butts contain the vintage wines which result from the traditional treading of the grapes which takes place at the main door of the cathedral during the annual Fiesta de la Vendimia. Since the first Fiesta in 1948, the must has been fermented, decanted and fortified and then aged statically in butts in San Ginés.

Some of the butts at San Gines (foto:ABC Sevilla)

As well as the symbolic value of this traditional winemaking method, these vintage wines have great importance in the recent history of the Consejo. In the year 2000 they became an essential element in establishing analytical reference points - especially in terms of carbon 14 - in the determination of a reliable curve of values to guarantee the veracity of the age certification system for VOS and VORS.

The specific vintages to be tasted at Vinoble have been personally selected by Consejo president Beltrán Domecq, who will also conduct the tasting, aided by director general, César Saldaña. The organisers of Vinoble hope to finalise the complete tasting programme in early April, when tickets will be made available.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Brandy Solera Gran Reserva 38%, Fernando de Castilla

Fairly deep antique mahogany with bright copper highlights fading to amber at the rim.
Exudes class with all the classic characteristics of Brandy de Jerez but in top form. It is crisp with an excellent balance between dried fruit, mainly dates and raisins, and fresh clean oak in which the Sherry is notable but not predominant leaving room for all sorts of nuances like toasted bread and nuts and traces of caramel and aromatic woods. Tight and fresh.
Crisp, full, generous and clean, it makes quite an impact and shows just how good Brandy de Jerez can be. There is no sweetening making it quite dry and there is a hint of tannin - to be expected for its age - giving a hint of grip but not at all aggressive, and there is a roundness which carries it through to impressive length. The quality of the casks is evident and it is beautifully made.
This superb brandy is made from selected pot still holandas - the firm only uses holandas - and aged primarily as añadas and then in solera, in butts previously seasoned with Oloroso and Amontillado, for a total of 15 years. As his family had been involved in the Sherry trade for a couple of centuries, and having worked for Gonzalez Byass, Fernando Andrada Vanderwilde y Contreras decided to set up a firm to produce the finest possible Brandy in Spain. He started out buying brandy from Real Tesoro, eventually buying the Gran Reserva solera, a bodega in Calle Jardinillos and the almacenista Bustamante. The brandy was highly successful and the firm is now run by Jan Petterson, who has added various amazing single cask brandies to the range.
44.50 euros, Birdie Vinos

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Entrechuelos Rosado 2017 13.5%, Bodegas Miguel Domecq

Very pale, bright faintly copper tinted wild salmon pink with pinky gold highlights.
Fresh and fruity with hints of raspberry, strawberry and a trace of peach and gently tangy with a slight floral note and some white wine character and confectionery following through.
Beautifully balanced, clean and elegant, very refreshing with great depth of flavour with lots of soft berry fruits. Attractively tangy, subtle and decently long.
While this most attractive wine is made in the currently fashionable very pale style,what it may lack in depth of colour it certainly does not lack in flavour. It is made from night harvested Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot grapes grown on the firm's own vineyards at the Cortijo de Torrecera. Each variety is harvested separately when it is perfectly ripe, and on arrival at the winery the grapes are put in stainless steel tanks and the juice is allowed to drain under gravity, without pressing. This gives very fine juice with very little colour which is fermented slowly at 15C over three weeks before spending a few months on lees before bottling. I am presuming this is from 2017 as a vintage is not stated. If it were older the colour would be more orange. It would help shops rotate stock if a year or clear lot number was stated, not to mention consumers.
4,50 euros, Licores Corredera

Friday, 9 March 2018

Palo Cortado "Saca Única" 22% Sacristía AB

Beautiful bright clear deep mahogany with copper glints and a trace of green at the rim.
Extremely aromatic yet serious with clear notes of toasted almond and hazelnut and a trace of orange tinged caramel. There is a hint of oak and a sensation of exotic wood like cedar along with a trace of toast. It is hard to identify some of the many nuances as time has melded them into a harmonious and very charming bouquet. A very serious wine.
Intense and concentrated. There is a distinct saline note behind and salted caramel perhaps, a hint of bitterness and inevitably a certain amount of tannin and crisp acidity, much of it volatile, but it is very old and that is to be expected. Once past the structural elements, it opens out and offers lots of nuts, a hint of rolling tobacco and various woods, before fading gracefully and with incredible length.
This is the first Palo Cortado in the Sacristía AB range by Antonio Barbadillo Mateos, who sells limited amounts of top quality old wines, and it is very special. It comes from the bodegas of Juan Piñero in Sanlúcar and 500 litres were contract bottled, giving a saca of 1,000 x 50cl numbered bottles. The wine is somewhere between 90 and 100 years old and is thus pretty rare and proves that there are still a few ancient treasures to be found. This stunning wine is definitely a Vino de Pañuelo. The yellow symbol on the label looks like that for dos cortados, but on its side, yet this wine is surely a cuatro cortados as more cortados are added according to age - as long as the wine is in good condition of course.
110,65 per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Ponche Santa María 20%, Osborne

Chestnut brown fading to amber with coppery glints.
Distinct aromas of orange, both juice and peel and perhaps a hint of lemon, followed by herbal and spice notes predominantly cinnamon with hints of brown sugar and caramel. It is very fresh and light with a certain complexity and all is nicely integrated.
The sweetness has a certain viscosity which is cut by the citrus giving it a gentle tang which balances with caramel and herbal notes. It is light, clean and fresh with a lively fruity character with decent length and no cloying.
Made from selected spirits distilled at the firm's own distillery in Tomelloso and infused with fruits such as orange, plum, raisin and various spices like cinnamon, many in the form of essences  according to a secret formula. While all the formulas are secret, most Ponches taste fairly similar yet there are subtle differences. Unlike some, Osborne seem to be doing little to promote this product.
8 euros per litre, Roali

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Vino Blanco 12 Liños 2016 12.5%, Viña Armijo

Mid strawy, brassy gold with golden glints.
Lovely and fairly intense Palomino nose with lots of slightly herbal and floral wild meadow aromas especially camomile and even a faint hints of honeysuckle, followed by some apple and apricot fruit. It has a certain weight, perhaps from the old vines or lees stirring or both and it is complex and charming, and speaks of soils exposed to fresh Atlantic air.
Beautifully balanced, it has breadth as well as an attractive mineral and very slightly saline backbone with lots of apple, quince and perhaps a trace of apricot and apple skin. Is is super clean and fresh with a gentle tang, good length and undoubted bottle ageing potential.
This cracking wine is made from Palomino grapes from just 12 rows of very old vines in the Armijo vineyard located in the pago Miraflores Alto at Sanlúcar. This is the origin of the great Gaspar Florido wines. This is the first release of 12 Liños and it is a great example of the classic "Vino Blanco de Sanlúcar" with lots of vineyard character showing through. It is aged with minimal flor in an old former Manzanilla butt and winemaking is supervised by Ramiro Ibáñez. The wine is contract bottled en rama by EMC3 in El Puerto and sealed with a driven cork and wax seal.
15 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Oloroso L&B 18%, Bodegas Lorente & Barba

Deep old mahogany with copper highlights fading through amber to a trace of green at the rim.
Attractive, full and forthcoming, it has an air of age and class. It is complex with interesting nuances of oak, cinnamon, walnut, vanilla and traces of pasa, orange peel and burnt sugar, but they are all well harmonised into a wine with great character and individuality.
It is full bodied at first and very well rounded with a slight and surprising hint of raisiny sweetness as if just a drop of PX had been added. If so, it is a traditional practice with old wines and perfectly legal. A delightful generous mellowness then follows as it opens out, richly nutty with that trace of brown sugar and very little tannin and the wine finishes slightly lighter than expected yet it has considerable length, and dangerous drinkability.
Mauricio Lorente and Julio Barba have established their own bodega based on stocks of wine which have been in the family for a long time, so their wines are new on the market, at least in bottled form. Everything is done by hand by the traditional methods; no pumps, filtration or bottling line here. The bodega building itself is over 500 years old and provides the perfect conditions for ageing. Wines for bottling are taken from the individual solera butts only when they are deemed to be perfect. They are not blended together, so any differences in the wines from each butt are celebrated, and the numbers of the saca, butt and bottle are written on the label. These are single barrel Sherries and there is only ever a maximum of 225 bottles from each butt. This delightful Oloroso has about 18 years solera age, and it comes from saca 2, butt 26 and Oloroso bottle 39. Naturally it was bottled en rama (by hand) and has a driven cork.
27.90, La Tienda del Jerez

Monday, 5 March 2018

Bodegas Viña el Armijo

The Florido family have been involved in the wine trade since the XVIII century and became exporters at the start of the XIX. In 1880 the firm of Florido Hermanos was established in Sanlúcar, but was bought out by Pedro Domecq.

In 1942 Gaspar Florido Cano founded a new firm with his own name having purchased some very old Amontillado soleras from Bodegas Rodriquez La-Cave (which later merged with Delgado Zuleta). These soleras would later form the famous soleras 25-GF, 30-GF and Ansar Real (dated 1840). The numbers refer to the number of butts in the soleras. He worked as an artisan almacenista supplying wines to the best bodegas and also to local bars and restaurants.

Florido owned the 33 hectare Viña el Armijo in the Pago Miraflores with its lovely XVI century casa de viña which supplied most of its musts. It also owned over five bodegas with a total of some 7,000 butts, but later consolidated into one bigger one on the road to Trebujena. In 1997, aware of the prestige of the wines Eduardo Cotro Florido, from the fourth generation, decided to bottle them and sell them on the open market. He asked extremely high prices, but it worked as the whole world took notice.

Without any heirs interested in taking on the declining business Florido eventually sold out for 6.5 million euros to Pedro Romero in 2007, but he didn’t sell everything. He retained the Viña el Armijo and some butts of his old wines, GF-25 and Ansar Real (GF 30) no less. The rest was later bought by Bodegas Alonso. Not only that but soon after the sale a new company was formed, Gaspar Florido e Hijas SL with an office in the Banda Playa, and these lovely wines plus a Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso of very fine quality are available in very limited quantities. It is run by Isolina Florido Escriva de Romani and José Manuel Gaona. In 2018 they launched a white Palomino table wine called 12 Liños, made with the help of Ramiro Ibáñez.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Moscatel Pico Plata 15%, Bodegas Yuste

Deep mahogany fading to amber with coppery highlights.
Fresh, fruity and juicy with pronounced raisin and date character along with gentle and very slightly floral notes of honey, citrus, tea, oxidation along with a faint trace of oak and some age.
Viscous and very sweet yet as is usual with Moscatel, there is a decent level of acidity to freshen it up. It has that lovely tangy, super ripe fruitiness and pulpy texture from the sun dried grapes and is quite full yet it has a light, clean non-cloying finish which lasts. Good.
The grapes for this classic, full Moscatel come from the home of Sherry Moscatel: the sandy coastal vineyards of Chipiona. They are sun dried for a week or so and the wine is partially fermented before fortification and ageing in solera. It should not be mistaken for a Malaga Moscatel of the same name made by Malaga Virgen which, while delicious, is a little younger and not solera aged. The name Pico Plata translates as "silver beak" and there is a South American bird of that name, but here it refers to the original source of the grapes: a pago a little east of Chipiona. The brand was originally owned by Florido Hermanos but made and bottled for them by Domecq. Then, it was sold at a greater age: añejo. Florido was taken over by Pedro Romero and when they went bust Francisco Yuste bought various wines and brands along with that of Pico Plata. Some original (now very, very old) wine is now in the hands of Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Pérez who are selling it under the revived brand M Antonio de la Riva which they bought from Beam, then owners of Domecq who owned it. Anyway, while this is not the original añejo wine, it is very good.
14,20, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Winter Pruning and the State of Things

I came upon this interesting article by Francisco Romero with photos by Juan Carlos Toro and thought it would interest you too.

The sky is heavy with cloud but the rain hasn’t yet arrived. Until it does, activity doesn’t stop in the Calderín del Obispo vineyard which lies in the pago Balbaina, west of Jerez close to the Jerez - Rota, road, and here one can see a dozen workers busy pruning the vines with shears. Juan Cabrera is one of the longest serving. Juanín, as his co-workers know him, has been doing this job since 1993. “I learned it from two veterans, one on my right and the other on my left”, and he remembers them saying cut the dead stick and leave the green. He is one of twelve pruners in the team which works for about 70 days a year. It used to be more, but there is less manual work now as vineyard husbandry becomes ever more mechanised. “A few years ago there were 70 of us to do the harvest, and now there are ten” says Juanín who, while he talks, doesn’t stop cutting off branches which will later be collected by another team armed with rakes.

One of these is Juana Vázquez who has worked in the vineyard since 2006 and who works fewer days as time goes by. “Before, it was nine months non-stop, last year it was 38 days, just enough to keep me going for six months” she says. I only have this work, the rest of the year I don’t work, there is nothing out there. The pruning season coincides with other agricultural activities, she says, and in her native Espera (Cádiz) there is little chance of finding work. Still, she considers herself privileged. “At least I have this but friends of mine are looking for any opportunity to work. This year she hopes to at least equal the number of days she worked last year.

The 45 hectares of this vineyard are planted to three vine varieties: Tintilla de Rota, Tempranillo and Palomino, though the latter predominates. “The Tintilla is good but is more expensive and has lower yields” explains Diego Vázquez, Juana’s brother, pruner and team leader, and for whom the vineyard has become his passion. “Every day you learn something new” he says, “you go shaping new vines, and it is wonderful to shape a vineyard right from the start from the grafting through to a productive vine”. It was his father who introduced him to this world and since then he has continued to progress in an environment he now knows intimately. “I knew a few days ago that it would soon rain; when you can hear the aircraft from the Rota base, you know rain is on its way”, he says with conviction, repeating a piece of wisdom he learned from the veterans.

The casa de viña (vineyard house) is located at the top of the slope from where you can see half the province. To the east lies Jerez with the sierra in the distance, and to the south, the Bay of Cádiz. The building was constructed in the XVIII century and originally belonged to the Dominican monks who left their legacy here in the form of art, paintings mainly, and a chapel which the Guerrero family has preserved in perfect condition. According to Francisco Guerrero, one of the brothers who run the estate, it was his grandfather who began to exploit part of the land to provide a school to teach the workers’ children to read and write, a small bodega and a home for the vineyard manager in his forebears’ former residence, though this is hardly used now.

“I had thought of organising some sort of activity to develop wine tourism, but now at the age I am…” says Francisco, wine grower and president of Asevi-Asaja, the association of independent growers. “The vineyard is getting more and more mechanised because skilled labour is too expensive” he explains, since “the wine doesn’t sell for the price it should”, which produces a cascade effect forcing growers to reduce costs. He lists the vineyard practices which have been lost over time: “Now the vine bark is no longer peeled back to clear it of insects, pruning cuts are no longer painted with iron sulphate and citric acid, even the kind of pruning has changed from vara y pulgar to double cordon, which is more suitable for mechanisation”.

Guerrero comes from a family with decades in the world of wine. His grandfather founded Bodegas Soto which sold a famous ponche of the same name. It was he who added the “del Obispo” to the name of the estate which his grandchildren now run because that was the nickname of an old friend who used to complain that there were ever fewer trades (the word “oficio” also means a church service)  in the vineyards and that the growers were ageing. Guerrero says that “the vineyards of Jerez need more work than in other parts of Spain because the type of pruning is costlier”, which, along with the low price of a kilo of grapes (in Rioja the price is around 2 euros a kilo and in Jerez 0.35 euros) means that profits for growers are ever leaner. “It is not enough to cover costs” he points out, adding that “we are not paid for the quality of the grapes or the sacrifices we make”.

The pruning work, which started in December, is coming to an end.  The pruning team will be swapping their shears for other less physical work, but just as important. Soon they will be lowering the wires to allow the plants to bud and then raising them again in a few weeks to allow them to stand straight and for the grapes to grow properly towards the beginning of summer, although there is still plenty of time for that. Juanín is one of the survivors. “There used to be 20 of us but now we are barely ten or twelve” he says, letting it slip later that he wants to retire. He doesn’t have many years to go but he will have to wait till he is 65 since “in the countryside there is no early retirement”. When he and his co-workers retire, who will there be to do their jobs?

Friday, 2 March 2018

Zerej II Palo Cortado 20%, Barbadillo

Bright clean amber tinged chestnut to mahogany with coppery gold glints, fading through amber to a trace of green at the rim.
Attractive start with plenty of toasted almond and hazelnut, faint buttery and bitter orange notes along with a certain crispness and faint bitterness, from its Sanlucar origins presumably. There are suggestions of salted caramel and just a hint of oak. It is very much Amontillado in character, yet there is a certain weight in the background. Subtle, nuanced and appealing.
It is definitely fuller on the palate with more Oloroso character showing through yet remains extremely elegant and there is a perfect counterpoise between Amontillado and Oloroso. It is beautifully rounded with an attractive open texture, now with hints of walnut, leather and tobacco, very faint hints of tannin, and the whole comes together with delightful complexity. This seems to be a wine one could enjoy at any stage of its production. Superb.
This delightful wine is one of four magnums in the second release of the Zerej and is the oldest wine in the set. After ageing briefly under flor the wine was re-fortified and aged oxidatively for an average of 25 years in a very old solera. The Palo Cortado is bottled at various ages, the youngest being the 15 year old Obispo Gascón, followed by the VORS (now also named Obispo Gascón) which is well over 30 and the rare (barely 40 bottles a year) Reliquia at around 100 years. It is interesting to see the wine in a roughly half way stage between two younger bottlings, and it comes from one butt laboriously selected by Montse Molina and Armando Guerra, bottled without any filtration or stabilisation in March 2017.
180 euros for the set of 4 magnums, no individual price but excellent value.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Mirabrás 2016 13.5%, Barbadillo

Deep bright straw gold with golden highlights.
Serious, with  lots of nuances; fruity ones like apple - even a faint cider-like hint, herbal ones like camomile and fresh straw, traces of flor and a gentle sweeter, almost honey-like tone possibly from the asoleado. Not far removed from Manzanilla with its light marine notes, yet fruitier and with less flor and alcohol. And there is a certain weight to it. Very attractive.
Tangy apple,bitter hints of flor and a saline note instantly give away its origins and grape variety. There is also a slightly chalky mineral feel and a decent level of acidity which give it a decent bite and some of the classic Sanlucar wildness and probably some bottle ageing potential, especially if the 2014 is anything to go by. Both delicious and interesting.
The wine is named after the Mirabrás which is a style of Flamenco associated with Sanlúcar, hence the label design. The wine itself is much more interesting, however. It is made the old fashioned way from 100% old vine (45 years old) Palomino grown in the firm's Cerro de Leyes vineyard which is part of their larger Finca Santa Lucia. The grapes are sunned briefly before fermentation using natural yeast in toneles seasoned with Manzanilla. It remains for some 14 months on its lees, without batonnage, in a mix of the same toneles and some tanks where flor is allowed to develop, but to a small extent as the toneles are filled "a tocadedos". It was bottled without filtration in December 2017 and a total of just over 5,000 bottles were available.
16,95 euros, De Albariza