Monday, 21 May 2018

Fino Granero 15%, Bodegas Manuel Aragón

Bright paleish lemony silvery gold.
Fresh and still with traces of ripe apple fruit and a faint tartaric-almost glacé lemon-note in the background, but also with traces of flor bitterness and a certain hint of almond. It has more depth as it opens out with hints of yeast, straw and olive brine; a classic youngish Fino from coastal vineyards.
Fresh and slightly fuller than expected, it has a lively acidity giving it zip and a gentle chalky texture along with notes of faintly bitter almond, apple, lemon peel, a certain yeastiness and a gentle briny salinity. The finish is long with an appealing dry bitter freshness.
Bodegas Manuel Aragón were founded in 1795 and are also known as "Bodegas Sanatorio". Still a family business, they are located in Chiclana and are thus in the Sherry production zone. This means that while the wine very much is Sherry, it can't be sold as such, but it can be sold to bodegas in the ageing zone and sold on as Sherry. The quality of this bodega's wines is excellent, proved by the fact that two of its old wines, bottled by Equipo Navazos scored 98 and 99 points from Robert Parker.
5,95 Licores Corredera

Sunday, 20 May 2018

20.5.18 Williams & Humbert Launch New Organic Vintage Fino

Innovation is the name of the game in the Marco de Jerez, more so than almost anywhere else, and Williams & Humbert oenologist Paola Medina, who is making quite a reputation for herself, has come up with yet another: organic vintage Fino en rama from a single pago. The wine is from the 2015 vintage, and the organically grown grapes are from the pago Burujena, northeast of Jerez near Trebujena. After fermentation the must was fortified to 15.5° with organic fortification spirit, and filled into butts. Soon a veil of flor appeared and after a little over three years of static ageing the wine was bottled without filtration but in limited quantities in March 2018 at a strength of 15°. The great thing about vintage wines is that they always reflect the character of their particular year, while solera wines blend away the style of the vintage to produce homogenous wines. The new wine will be available at the firm’s online shop from 21st May. Another saca was made in March 2018: the Fino Añada (vintage) 2010 which is already available.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Moscatel Heredad de Hidalgo 17%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Deep mahogany brown fading to amber at the rim, quite viscous.
Full and ripe with clear notes of sun dried pasas, hints of toffee, salted caramel - there is a faint salinity on the nose - and a trace of cinnamon, and of course notes of raisined grape, tea and orange with a slight maritime air about it.
Rich, sweet and flavourful with that lovely grape pulp texture and just enough acidity to balance. It is lighter and slightly fresher than its intensity would imply and there are notes of brown sugar, toffee and raisin. It has terrific length and leaves that lovely almost chewy texture fading slowly.
Heredad de Hidalgo is the more commercial range from this XVIII century bodega in Sanlúcar which tends to be available in supermarkets and on the export market under more than one label. The range includes Manzanilla, Fino, Cream, Pale Cream, Medium, Amontillado, PX, Oloroso and Moscatel, but is not mentioned on the firm's website probably because it is a bread and butter range and not one which attracts connoisseurs. Nonetheless this Moscatel is quite good, and  is bought in from Chipiona to top up the solera.
8.00 euros Museo Vino Mijas

Friday, 18 May 2018

Brandy Doscientos Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Hidalgo La Gitana

Amber tinged mahogany fading to amber with copper glints.
Full yet well rounded with a certain mellowness, it has aromas of vanilla, a hint of old oak, toasted almonds and a note of Oloroso which is not too intense, along with some dried fruit notes. All the aromas are nicely integrated and harmonious and there is a gentle hint of sweetness.
It starts well with a little sweetness making it beautifully rounded and keeps improving as its complexity comes through. If there is any aguardiente it is not noticeable, pure holandas, so it is not at all spirity and the flavours of nuts, Oloroso, caramel, vanilla, raisin and a hint of orange peel shine through. There is very little tannin so it is smooth, and very long. Delicious.
Most bodegas traditionally distilled some spirit, though nowadays most have it done for them and Hidalgo are no exception. For a long time the firm has successfully sold its Fabuloso brandy, but  with a view to celebrating their bi-centenary in 1992 they bought an ancient brandy solera from a member of the family which had lain locked away and untouched to launch something special. The spirit used to refresh the solera is pure holandas, distilled in pot stills and aged in ex Oloroso butts well over a century old. The result is superb.
28,50, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 14.7%, Hermanos Holgado

Intensely deep, almost black with a tight ruby rim and the faintest hint of orange at the edge.
Full yet fresh and open with distinct notes of blackcurrant and hints of other black fruits like blueberry and bramble. There is are noticeable hints of toast and lead pencil giving away the French oak, all in good harmony with a slightly creamy feel and a faint balsamic note.
Fairly full bodied with lots of fresh, hard black fruit and that attractive toasty note. It is well structured and quite firm with plenty of decently ripe tannin, and is surprisingly young tasting for a wine of its price which has been in bottle for about six years. It will still improve over up to three years and represents very good value.
After their succes producing Pajarete cheese, the Holgado brothers are also making excellent wines in their vineyard, Dehesa Palomino, which is situated near Villamartin in the beautiful Parque de los Alcornocales on the fringe of the Sierra de Cádiz. Cabernet ripens well under the Andalusian sun. They use artisan methods to grow a range of vines, all cultivated organically and harvested by hand. While the bodega is modern, they also use artisan methods here. This Cabernet was fermented in stainless steel and undewent the malo-lactic in barrel where it was then aged for six months before bottling in spring 2012. 
8.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Oloroso Alfonso 1/6 22% Vinos Finitos, González Byass

Bright antique polished chestnut fading to amber, old gold highlights, trace of green at the rim.
Very fragrant and open with attractive and creamy notes of butterscotch, garrapiñadas (almonds cooked in caramel), turrón and toffee. There are also hints of walnut and the slightest traces of cinnamon, orange peel and sandalwood. It is slightly unusual with all that butterscotch but delightful with that gentle sweet note, and in the background the more usual, slightly firmer traces of oak.
Starts full and crisp but soon broadens out into an open textured wine which seems fairly light yet has great presence and a gentle tang of volatile acidity. There are notes of caramel, butter, faint hints of warm spices and a firm but not over obvious structure, with unobtrusive tannins. It is clearly an old wine but at its prime and absolutely charming.
This is the newest release from González Byass and is the first of a forthcoming range called Vinos Finitos. This is a play on words as "vino finito" means a fine little wine, or even a Fino, but also a finite one and also that their age is (well reasonably) infinite being very old. Almost forgotten, but not completely. This wine originally came from a solera which for many years refreshed the standard Alfonso solera, but over the years a capataz had separated out 6 particularly good butts and left them up to their own devices. Only one of these has been selected for bottling by the firm’s oenologist Antonio Flores “with his nose and with his heart”. The bodega describes the wine as a “vino de pañuelo” (a wine so aromatic a gentleman would apply a few drops to the handkerchief in his breast pocket instead of using aftershave) and ideal for meditative sipping. It has an average age of over 40 years and the saca consists of  965 x 50cl numbered bottles. Annoyingly hard wax which flies everywhere was used to seal the cork, but still, it is a cracking wine.
99.95 per 50cl, Licores Corredera


Monday, 14 May 2018

Bodegas: Eduardo Bohorques

Eduardo Bohorques Carrasco was born in Ubrique (Cádiz) on 29th March 1863. He established himself in Jerez with vineyards and a bodega at Calle San Juan in 1885 and married Carmen La Cave from Sanlúcar. Before long he was exporting Sherry as far as the Americas, the Far East, Japan, India and Australia.


His wines had a good reputation, but his most famous and commercially successful product was Quina. His Quina Formiatado, was made from a base of his wines plus a formula of botanicals devised by a leading Doctor, one Dr. Luque. In those days it was usual – and certainly commercially expedient - to have the endorsement of a doctor. The quina was also recommended by leading doctor Francisco M de Terán in 1908 and others in “British” India, not to mention the Church.

It won the Gran Diploma de Honor (the top award) at the Great Exhibition at Buenos Aires in 1911. Eduardo also produced Quina Bohorques and Quina Hércules. The following year he was awarded a Warrant to supply the Spanish Royal Family, and in 1913 the magazine Nuevo Mundo printed a feature about him calling him the “King of Aperitifs”. Some of the labels were designed by the well-known Jerez artist Teodoro Miciano.

In the same year he exported - without charge - a large quantity of Quina to give a boost to the Spanish troops fighting in the Rif War in Morocco, a fact which he made sure was well advertised. Like many successful bodegueros, Eduardo was involved with other lines of business: he was the Spanish agent for the American Aeromotor company which produced tall windmills for pumping up water and various other applications, and installed one at one of his Fincas, La Serrana. This too was well advertised and attracted the interest of both the Minister of Agriculture and King Alfonso XIII. He was even the consul for Paraguay.

At about this time Eduardo and Carmen lived in Calle Caballeros and the firm moved to smaller bodegas at nos. 9-11 Calle Cazón. These would later be used by Ruiz de Villegas from 1946 and later Gran Mariscal. He died in around 1915 leaving the running of the business to his wife who carried on till the 1920s when she ceased to be an exporter and came to an arrangement with Sánchez Romate who, having presumably bought her out bottled and sold the wines under the Eduardo Bohorques brand for a while as a sous-marque.

Among other brands the bodega produced Ponche Bohorques, Coñac Regidor, Brandy Siglo Pasado, Brandy Solera, Amontillado Fino Bohemio, Fino Macharnudo, La Pica Cocktail Sherry and Dry Solera Los Claveles.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Tio Pepe en rama 2018 15%, González Byass

Bright lemony gold with a faint tinge of polished brass.
Fresh and fragrant and while the acetaldehyde is fairly restrained there is a slightly humid character from the flor and distinct hints of yeast and sourdough along with faint floral and olive brine notes. It is very different from last year's release with less of that up front bitterness and the wine itself shines through. It has a lovely balance of freshness and seriousness.
All that said, it is quite full and a little more serious on the palate. There is a little more of that lovely flor bitterness and a trace of salinity along with a gentle texture. It has great depth and some attractive subtleties from the cabezuela adding considerable complexity to a long very clean finish.
This is the 9th edition of the Tio Pepe en rama, released annually in spring. Master blender and oenologist Antonio Flores begins the process in mid October of assessing and selecting some 100 butts from the foundational Rebollo solera and that in the bodega La Constancia (which are both refreshed with mostos from the Macharnudo). He then re-assesses them in spring, finally selecting about 60 from which to make his blend. This year he selected 62. After a cold dry winter the flor was in good shape and a wet March helped too. This year for the first time the firm filled 1,000 magnums - which would be well worth getting hold of to lay down for up to 5 years, say - and enough half bottles for use at the firm's caseta at the Feria del Caballo in Jerez, along with 18,000 standard bottles. This year's slogan for the wine is "armonía perfecta"
16.40, Licores Corredera

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Solera 1724, Bodegas Rafael O'Neale

Antique polished chestnut, deep amber fading through amber with copper glints to a trace of green.
It was pretty closed at first but as it opens out it smells quite old with aromas of damp old butts and a trace of oak, even a hint of exotic woods, plenty of toasted nuts, a faint nutty sweetness, blond tobacco, fallen leaves and a hint of volatile acidity. It is fairly light both in appearance and on the nose but with distinct clean elegant oxidative notes so the likelihood is a lightish Amontillado.
It is also light on the palate, yet elegant and tasty as it opens out. It is quite old fashioned and there is a good tang, mostly that volatile acidity, which gives it length, and a hint of bitterness, and balances with a modest glycerine content, and still lots of toasted nuts, but very little tannin, though there is a gentle grip. It has perhaps lost just a little of its former verve and charm, but not a great deal and is still extremely well balanced and attractive with excellent length and considerable class. Lovely.

This is an old wine, probably bottled in the 1970s, but with a good fill level. The base of the bottle puts the possible date at 06/77 with a capacity of 70 centilitres, a size which was not unusual in the 1970s but which was later  standardised by the EU at 75cl. Also the style of the bottle itself is one I recognise from those days. Naturally it needed decanting as there was some fine sediment. The tip of the T cork shows lengthy contact with the wine, but didn't break. Annoyingly the label does not reveal the type of wine it is or the alcoholic strength, and there is no evidence of there having been a back label, but my guess is as above and it could easily have 20 years solera age plus 40 years bottle age. Irishman Timothy O'Neale established the bodega in 1724, so the wine comes from one of the foundational soleras. The firm lasted till 1983, one of the longest lasting of all - so far...
100 euros, Licores Corredera


Friday, 11 May 2018

10.5.18 Growers warn Bodegas: Pay Now for Quality or there will be No Grapes

Francisco Guerrero, the president of the independent growers’ association Asevi, has used these powerful words to express the growers’ frustration, indeed desperation, at low grape prices and almost zero profitability. There is no investment and both machinery and vines are ageing. “The bodegas need to realise now that independent growers are in danger of extinction. We have always looked after the vineyards and if they continue to delay payments, they will be left with no grapes while demand is increasing for other uses such as Sherry casks for the Whisky trade”.

The growers are complaining bitterly about the long established system of paying for grapes per kilo instead of for quality. The bodegas don’t want to change this as it is cheaper for them, especially with the resurgence in Sherry which is closely linked to the differentiation of pagos as the maximum expression of quality. Until now all the grapes were mixed regardless of the pago of origin or terroir, but some bodegas are now pushing for differentiation of pagos, although they are reluctant to pay more for the grapes, the only way to achieve classification by area, since the cooperatives mix all the grapes which arrive irrespective of the pago or terroir from which they come.

Asevi has asked the Consejo Regulador to define the quality of the grapes so they can be classified, but not in terms of sugar content, which is done elsewhere in Spain, “but which wouldn’t work here”, but in terms of other parameters such as the soil and climate which have been widely studied and would serve as guidelines.

Francisco Guerrero (centre left) foto:diariodejerez

Up till now, attempts by the independent growers to get the bodegas on side have failed. “We raised with Fedejerez the need to make the vineyards profitable. Some vineyards have incorporated new cultivation techniques which offer higher sugar levels, like in Balbaina where they are historically low but are now up from 11° to 13° Beaumé, which saves the bodegas money on alcohol, but no benefit has filtered down to the growers. Guerrero recalled that since the National Competition Commission ruled on grape prices in the area a few years ago, imposing heavy fines on many bodegas, “the growers have been obliged to negotiate prices individually, and they thus have a lot to lose as the bodegas are squeezing them and grapes are perishable”.

“We are very worried; the state of the vineyards is constantly getting worse and only the minimum possible is being done so as to reduce costs, and that shortens the useful life of the vineyard, which is also suffering from mechanised harvesting” complains Guerrero, who claims that a vineyard’s useful life has been halved from 50-60 years before to 25-30 years now, reducing growers’ margins further. He says that pessimism is growing that vineyards will be abandoned and growers will leave, and so the possibility of them joining cooperatives or joining together has been raised, and that is something which would give them more power against the bodegas given that between the independent growers they own some 2,500 hectares of vineyard out of the slightly over 6,500.

The recuperation of old traditions of the area, such as unfortified wines or using overripe grapes offer a sliver of hope since these are more expensive wines which would translate into better prices for the growers. But time is running against the interests of the growers who blame the boom of the 1970s and 1980s for doing much damage, not to mention the oenologists who decided that wine should be made in the bodega and the source of the grapes was irrelevant. Although nowadays it is no longer like that, and the terroir is regaining importance, in practice the growers are still not seeing any benefit from the recovery of Sherry and its prestige of old.

In fact, as Guerrero points out, many growers have turned to planting table wine grapes like Tintilla for Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz and winemakers can’t get enough of them at much higher prices than Palomino which, he says has lost 40% of its price over the last 20 years.

This report by A Espejo appeared in yesterday's Diario de Jerez

Thursday, 10 May 2018

10.5.18 Menace of Xylella Fastidiosa Puts Growers on Alert

The pathogenic bacterium Xylella Fastidiosa which is spread by sap feeding insects and can kill over 350 species of wood producing plants including vines, olives, citrus, lavender and rosemary, has been detected in Spain. It causes leaves and fruits to dry up and fall, eventually killing the plant. A forum has therefore been hosted by the Consejo Regulador, the Junta de Andalucía Agriculture Department, the International Organisation of Wine and the Vine and the bank Cajamar Rural to give growers the latest on the risk they face. The forum covered how to detect the presence of Xylella and the devastating economic impact of its arrival which causes Pierce’s Disease in vines.

Glassy winged sharpshooter spreads pathogen (foto:westernfarmpress)

In California the disease has already cost 100 million dollars – half in losses and the other half in research to control the problem, and it is also present in Italy. The disease has been found in olives near Madrid, almonds near Alicante and at a nursery near Almería. The spread of Pierce’s disease is such that it is necessary to uproot the entire hectare surrounding an affected vine. Detection is vital and the Junta has already carried out 9,000 inspections since 2015. The president of the Jerez growers’ association, Francisco Guerrero, said that Jerez can ill afford the uprooting of vines since the vineyards have already been reduced to 7,000 hectares, so without sufficient vigilance, especially in nurseries, the remaining vineyard could be lost.

Damage caused by Pierce's Disease (foto:winesandvines)

There is no cure yet for Pierce’s disease but work on bacteriophages (viruses which can kill bacteria) is offering some hope. The 2018 season in Jerez is already proving difficult as rising temperatures after record rainfall in March are creating ideal conditions for the spread of cryptogamic diseases like oidium and mildew, and most vines have needed to be sprayed twice, costing the growers dear.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Tintilla de Rota Joven NV 17%, Bodegas J Martínez "El Gato"

Fairly viscous, not red so much as deep blacky walnut brown fading to amber at the rim.
On the nose it is more red than the colour, with oxidative notes slightly resembling those of tawny Port. There are other interesting notes like gentle salinity, something slightly herbal, and faint traces of bitterness, hints of honey, and faint notes of old oak barrels.
Full bodied but thankfully less strong than the tawny Port, the sweetness is balanced by decent acidity and some tannin but it has a lovely grape pulp texture and the trademark honeyed sweetness which doesn't cloy. There is a slight rustic character which only adds to its charm and it has considerable length. Delicious.
El Gato is a family bodega and the only one still producing this legendary wine in the seaside town of Rota, and if it weren't for the fact that it is the only Rota producer it would be shameful that the only DO it can (and does) aspire to is Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz, and it is the only fortified wine therein. Its history goes back centuries and it was widely exported in the XVI and XVII centuries. Most of the Rota vineyards disappeared in the 1950s when Spain and the US set up a joint military base. The wine is made from a blend of sun dried Tintilla, arrope, which is made by boiling down Tintilla must to a form of syrup, and fortifying spirit. The blend is then aged in old butts to produce two wines, this Joven and the older Noble Reserva. Tintilla de Rota is unique and should be sought after!
14,90 Burcamar, Sanlúcar

Tuesday, 8 May 2018


Flor translates as “flower” but it is not nearly so pretty. It is a veil of Saccharomyces yeasts which forms on the surface of Finos and Manzanillas after fermentation. Yeasts are minute single cell organisms which, along with moulds and mushrooms, belong to the fungus family and they reproduce by mitosis or cell division. They have a profound effect on grape juice, transforming it into wine, and in the case of the biologically aged Sherries, creating a quite unique and fascinating style of wine.

There are hundreds of yeast strains and they are abundant in the environment sticking to grape skins as they ripen. Populations vary according to local conditions and so form a part of the terroir of a particular vineyard. Not all strains are helpful to the winemaker, but the most useful is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae which gives a reliable fermentation of the grape juice after a little sulphur dioxide (SO2) has killed off any undesirable strains. During fermentation the yeasts feed on the carbohydrates in the glucose and fructose in the must converting them to carbon dioxide (CO2) and alcohol.

This process takes place anaerobically, but as the environment changes to one with 11-12° of alcohol and a shortage of their accustomed nutrients the yeasts develop a protective film on the cell wall with CO2 bubbles allowing them to float and feed aerobically, and they rise to the surface forming  a film of flor. The butts are not filled completely so the flor has a larger surface to grow on. At first it forms in little white patches (which could vaguely resemble flowers), and fairly quickly spreads to cover the surface of the wine. Naturally the diet needs to change a little so they now start to breathe large quantities of oxygen and consume mainly alcohol, any dissolved oxygen, acetic acid and glycerine. The “guardapolvos” or barrel bungs are designed to fit loosely to keep out dust but allow airflow.

There are four principal sub-strains of Saccharomyces which are found in flor: S. Beticus, which forms flor quickly and is predominant while the wine is still young and S. Montuliensis tends to take over as it ages, with S. Cheresiensis and S. Rouxii playing a more minor but still important role. Yeast is highly sensitive to environmental conditions according to the location, vineyard, bodega and even the butt, so the population can be mixed and vary according to these conditions, which are controlled as carefully as possible by the bodegas. The most important factors are:

Alcoholic strength of between 14.5° and 16°; below 14.5° there is a risk of bacterial spoilage and above 16° would harm the flor.
Ambient temperature of between 15C and 25C. Bodegas are designed to exclude the hot east wind (Levante) and allow entry to the cooler moist west wind (Poniente).
Relative humidity of over 70%. This can be controlled by the use of hoses to wet the albero (gritty sand used on bodega floors) which absorbs and releases the humidity.
Plentiful air supply; the bodegas have high rooves and good ventilation to allow for this and the butts are only filled to 5/6 capacity, leaving headspace.
SO2 content should not exceed 180 parts per million (this is not a great deal – dried fruit contains over 1,000)
Tannin content should not exceed 0.01%. White wines contain much less tannin than reds, and Finos and Manzanillas are made from the first pressing which contains even less.
The pH value should be between 2.8 and 3.5 (potential Hydrogen is a scale of 0 – 14 which measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. 7 is neutral and lower numbers represent acidity).
Running the scales regularly provides a little more nutrition and oxygen from younger wine to that in the next criadera or solera.

The changes flor yeasts make to the wine are profound. Over the course of say five years of biological ageing the following are notable. Alcohol is oxidised as the yeast metabolizes it increasing eightfold the content of a compound called acetaldehyde which gives biologically aged wines their characteristic bitter almond aroma. The content of glycerine, a colourless odourless and slightly sweet-tasting by-product of fermentation which gives roundness or viscosity to table wines, is reduced from some 7 g/l to almost none, making the wine very dry and light. Total acidity is reduced by 20%, volatile acidity by 70%, dry extract is halved and alcohol is reduced by half a degree. The wine has now lost its fruity table wine character and transformed itself into Sherry.

Two Amontillado scales are above two Fino scales as the Fino's flor needs to be closer to the cooler ground (Urium)

During this process the veil of flor has covered the surface of the wine preventing air contact and thus oxidation, keeping the wine pale, but it is by no means static. It gets thicker when conditions suit the yeast best to reproduce in spring and autumn and thinner when they don’t. It tends to be thicker in the coastal towns of Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa María with their moist fresh sea breezes, and it is noticeable in the wine which is crisper and zippier than that of Jerez. As time goes by and the flor ages it can lose its white colour and develop shades of grey, and wrinkles, but it still does its job.

As the flor generates new cells, old ones die off and sink to the bottom of the butt. Over time a considerable deposit of cells builds up, known as “cabezuela”. Enzymes in the wine begin to break it down in a process known as autolysis which releases proteins, amino acids and enzymes into the wine gradually giving it a creamier feel and a buttery savoury character which can only be achieved over considerable time, at least eight years. Such wines are known in Sanlúcar as Manzanilla Pasada, but the old Jerez and El Puerto term Entrefino is no longer used. Left for even more time, the slow transpiration of the wine reduces its water content, and as it grows stronger the flor will slowly be killed off allowing oxidation to take place and the wine slowly develops into a natural Amontillado. More commercial ones are produced by simply adding alcohol to do the job. Palo Cortado also spends a brief time under flor, up to a year, and then continues ageing oxidatively. If carefully managed, flor can last up to around 15 years.

Note accumulation of cabezuela at bottom of butt

Tools used in the bodegas for running the scales are designed to cause the minimum possible disturbance to the flor and cabezuela. For example the “rociador” is a curved tapering tube with perforations at one end used to top up a butt below the flor. The “bomba de trasiego” is a curved tube used to siphon wine from the higher scales, again from below the flor. Used for extracting tasting samples from the butts, the venencia has a curved bottom to the narrow cup on its end so it can be inserted and extracted with minimal disturbance.

Bomba de trasiego (L) and a rociador (R)
When the wine is finally ready for sale the saca will almost inevitably have some flor in it and this could pose stability problems in bottle, quite apart from being unsightly, so the wine has always been filtered - and often too thoroughly. The resulting wine can be a bit paler and have lost some of the character it had in solera, so the arrival of en rama wines, which undergo the absolute minimum of filtration, has been welcomed by connoisseurs.

It is strange to think, given the wonderful flor wines we enjoy today, that until the first quarter of the XIX century flor was considered a defect which made wines thin and weak. It was often mistaken for Micoderma Vini, a film which spoils wine. Wine with proper flor was often disposed of by fortification or turning into vinegar, but as wine science was virtually non existent before the findings of Louis Pasteur, everything was done according to empirical experience and was very haphazard. The proliferation of the solera system at roughly the same time helped as it homogenised the wine which was different in almost every butt in the old añada system. By the 1850s, however, Fino had arrived, thanks to pioneers like Patricio Garvey who took advantage of a change of tastes in Britain, the largest market. Flor wine had, however, been enjoyed in Sanlúcar as early as the XVIII century.

Wines made using flor are almost, but not entirely, unique to the Marco de Jerez. They can be found in various parts of Spain, like Montilla-Moriles, where great wines are also made, and Rueda for example. It can also be encountered in the Jura in France and occasionally Tokaj in Hungary, but it is much less of a speciality.

Monday, 7 May 2018

7.5.18 First Biodynamic Wines in Cádiz

Many of the table wines from the province of Cádiz are produced organically, or at least as naturally as possible, but now biodynamic wine is being produced for the first timeBoth sides of Javier Guardiola’s family have long been involved with wine production. One side has been making wine near Sevilla since 1910 and the other the famous Pajarete in Villamartín since 1750. Javier, who is trained in chemistry and commerce, began biodynamic viticulture at the Finca El Higueral near Arcos de la Frontera in 2011 and grows Pinot Noir and Merlot. Many thought Pinot would be difficult as it is more of a cool climate grape, but he has had no problems so far. Both his wines, sold under the company name of Guardi Wines, contain it; Vino Amor is 100% Pinot while Barón Gracia Real is blended with Merlot. The vineyard has both Demeter and organic Certification.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Amontillado Fino 18%, Bodegas Pedro Romero

Antique polished light mahogany fading to amber with copper glints.
Slightly closed at first but its complexity soon opens out and it is really quite intense with lots of toasted bread, hazelnut and almond, savoury hints of salted caramel and a briny salinity giving it that Sanlúcar touch. In fact one can still detect traces of Manzanilla. There is a faint trace of oak which contributes to its serious air, but it is elegant too.
Attractively light yet quite intense with beautifully harmonised elements of minerality, nuttiness, and salinity and just enough glycerine to give the perfect roundness without balancing out too much of the acidity which gives it its slightly racy edge. Almost crisp and very elegant and long, delicious.
This delicious wine must easily have ten years in bottle judging by its shyness and a certain amount of light sediment. In 2012 the term Amontillado Fino was dropped, so it was certainly bottled before then. Once one of the most important bodegas in Sanlúcar, Pedro Romero closed its doors in 2014 after over 150 years, tragically going bust. Rather than being a Fino Amontillado which is a Fino at the crux of Amontillado, this is an Amontillado Fino or a fine (quality/elegant) Amontillado, and it certainly is. It was probably about 15 years old at bottling and at a lovely stage of development, then and now.
30 euros per 50cl, Burcamer, Sanlúcar

Saturday, 5 May 2018

La Fleur 2015 13.5%, Bodegas Forlong

Mid depth brassy gold with golden highlights.
Quite full with pronounced notes of ripe apple and pear skin, it is fairly yeasty but only traces of flor and slight traces of salinity and oxidation, hints of straw and sourdough, along with candied lemon peel, hints, not a million miles from a Fino, yet not, a serious wine though, and different.
Again, quite full, approaching intense, strawy with a chalky albariza texture and a touch of salinity and a decent acidity. This interesting, complex and fairly unique wine lies somewhere between the Jura and Sherry. It is multifaceted; fresh and zippy, and Sherry-like at the same time, packed with flavour, and it has terrific length.
Another excellent and interesting wine from this go-ahead young bodega. La Fleur is 100% Palomino grown organically in the finca Forlong in the pago Balbaina Baja. The vineyard, which is close to El Puerto de Santa Maria, once belonged to the XIX century shippers Matthiesen Furlong. After fermentation the wine is allowed to age in a butt for two years under flor before being hand bottled en rama. I was a little surprised at the slight oxidative notes after 2 years under flor, but they do add complexity. Unfortunately, the production is tiny with just 600 bottles. It would be worth keeping for 2-3 years as well. Seek it out!
30 euros per 50cl, Guerrita

Friday, 4 May 2018

4.5.18 Grupo José Estevez Launches New Table Wine

Made from grapes selected from the firm’s best vineyards this is a new 100% Palomino table wine called Albariza, vintage 2017. The label shows the image of a sea horse to reflect and pay homage to the wine’s origins in pure albariza soil which began to form 33 million years ago when the Sherry vineyards were beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The wine is made exclusively from mosto yema (first pressings) and the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks where the wine is left to deposit its lees afterwards before filtration and bottling. The result is a young fresh joyful wine with real local character and it is perfect for accompanying seafood, smoked fish, rice dishes and Asian dishes.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Brandy Anticuario Solera Reserva 38%, Agustín Blázquez

Deep walnut mahogany with copper glints fading to amber and a trace of green.
Crisp and full with distinct notes of Oloroso and damp old oak butts but also of fine quality spirit, quite probably holandas giving a certain richness, with traces of brown sugar, dried fruits and fresh pipe tobacco. This is highly nuanced, fairly concentrated and very attractive.
Full bodied with plenty of Oloroso and perhaps a trace of PX. A gentle sweetness seems natural and not added. It is intensely flavouredand lightly textured with hints of walnut, toasted almond, caramel, vanilla and a gentle trace of tannin with a very long dry, elegant finish.
Given the fluid contents of 75cl (the 70cl bottle was standardised in the EU in 1992) this bottle certainly dates back to pre 1992 at the latest, and given that it bears the RE number of Blázquez, it might possibly predate the Domecq takeover of 1973 (although the firm did operate as before till the 1990s). So it must have at least 25 years in bottle, which has done it no harm at all (just a very slight ullage) and probably concentrated it a little. It is a lovely brandy, but unfortunately not available since the 1990s. The large XIX century soleras - the Anticuario solera had over 1,000 butts - were kept in El Puerto and probably belong to Osborne nowadays.
30 euros, Mantequería Jerezana

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Desvelao 2017 11%, Cuatro Ojos Wines

Pale lemony gold with a faint green tinge and golden highlights.
Forthcoming and super fresh with all the fragrance of Moscatel. Lots of floral notes with citrus blossom and honeysuckle and then there are the fruit notes with pear and a hints of lime peel and lemon icing, yet behind that impressive nose are very slight saline and mineral hints and a distant trace of bitterness from flor.
Just as impressive on the palate with perfectly judged acidity driving all that fruit and a gentle hint of green tea. The wine is dry and quite light with a very light dry chalky texture, a clean minerality and a slightly bitter saline trace which betray the albariza where the vines grew and the flor under which it was aged briefly - only just enough to be noticeable.
The brand name Desvelao is a play on words. Desvelar means to reveal but here it means taken from under the velo (veil) of flor, yet the wine is a revelation and something very unusual being Moscatel grown in albariza, and this is the first release. It is basically the same wine as the lees aged Molinero but with the time spent on lees spent also under flor for a period of around three months. It is made by three girls with great ideas and considerable skill in El Puerto de Santa Maria.
20,50 Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

1.5.18 Brandy de Jerez Sales Improve

After years of declining sales the figures for Brandy de Jerez sales have shown a healthy increase in the first quarter of 2018. Exports grew by over 27% with sales of 1,340,060 litres while the home market grew by 20% with sales of 774,164 litres. This needs to be seen in context however, with the total sales for the past 12 months, at 9.7 million litres, showing a drop of 4.7%. The Philippines are the biggest export market and in the first quarter over half a million litres were sold there, a rise of 64%. Europe bought 386,000 litres, an increase of 13% and Africa bought 305,000 litres, an impressive rise of 195%, while America saw a decrease of 52% to 141,000 litres.

Some time ago now, the bodegas decided to stop selling Brandy de Jerez Solera in favour of the lower strength Bebidas Espirituosas as raw material costs and taxes were rising. Despite this, Brandy de Jerez Solera, with 6 months minimum ageing and an average of 1 year old at sale, remains the best seller with approximately 0.9 million litres sold representing growth of 48%. 725,000 litres of this went abroad, an increase of 46.5% while the rest was sold at home showing an increase of 55%.

Sales of Brandy de Jerez Solera Reserva, with a minimum of 1 year ageing and average age of two years, were about the same volume, showing an overall quarterly increase of 20%. Slightly more was sold at home with sales of 481,259 litres, 16.62% up, while exports were 409,149 litres, up 23.92%. The news is not so good however in the Brandy de Jerez Gran Reserva Category with its 3 years minimum ageing and average age at sale of 8 years. Total sales for the first quarter were down by 6.6% to a volume of 330,000 litres. Export showed a decline of 9% at 205,546 litres while home market sales were down 2% to about 122,000 litres.

The overall picture shows that sales decline is slowing and there are grounds for cautious optimism in the hope that a new trend is under way. Jerez Brandy is a very important product both economically and socially; of the 20 or so quality spirits produced in Spain which are recognised by the EU it has a global market share of some 55%. The estimated value of sales of Brandy de Jerez in 2016 was 80 million euros, 60% of all Spanish spirits.