Wednesday, 22 March 2017

22.3.17 Fundador Goes Organic

All 200 hectares of Bodegas Fundador’s El Majuelo vineyard will be controlled by “sexual confusion” in an attempt to control Lobesia Botrana or vine moth, starting now. This moth is one of the major vineyard pests especially in southern Europe, and was first detected in Jerez in the early 1960s. Lobesia is capable of four generation in a year, but usually three in Andalucía. Eggs are laid in spring among the fine flower leaves of the vine, and the larvae damage the nascent grapes, then as the surviving grapes ripen, caterpillars feed on them, which is bad enough but these lesions leave the grapes open to the fungus Botrytis Cinerea which rots them, rendering the bunch useless.

Lobesia Botrana moth (

The sexual confusion technique works by using nature. At breeding time, the female moths emit pheromones to attract males, so the vine growers put little female pheromone diffusers all over the vineyard (350-500 per hectare) saturating the air and confusing the males. Some vineyards even have traps which consist of little glue lined boxes charged with pheromones. This process only attacks the Lobesia and dramatically reduces fertilisation without the use of insecticides, which attack all insects good and bad, and is permitted in organic vineyards. It has been in use in Jerez since 1993 but not particularly widely due to the cost.

Lobesia caterpillar (

Since 2004 Fundador has held the ISO 14001 environmental certification which insists on constant environmental control and improvement, and the company has already ceased the burning of vine prunings, reduced herbicide use and introduced sexual confusion techniques to reduce environmental impact and manage the vineyards organically.

Pheromone dispenser (

Monday, 20 March 2017

Manzanilla Velo Flor 15%, Bodegas Alonso

Fairly deep brassy yellow with gold and bronze highlights, legs.
Deep, slightly brooding and complex with all sorts of aromas such as straw, camomile, yeasty flor bitterness, traces of nuts and butter from the cabezuela and a mineral salinity. This is a serious wine, definitely pasada and quite full, slightly concentrated Manzanilla.
Full and loaded with flavour. It has an attractive trace of oiliness and butteriness from the autolysis balanced by a vague whiff of cider, a gentle acidity and the bitter flor notes. This is lovely, more pasada than some yet the word doesn't appear on the label.
This is a new Manzanilla aged between 9 and 10 years in a solera  established by the Asencio brothers who fairly recently set up Bodegas Alonso by buying The old Mendez bodega and some very old soleras previously belonging to Gaspar Florido then Pedro Romero. To improve cash flow and expand the range they are working on two Manzanilla soleras; this one and another based on older pedro Romero wines which is not yet available. This one is based on wines bought in from almacenistas and will be fed from bought-in mostos, acquiring its own characteristics over time, while the other will be fed by mostos produced from their own 13 hectares of vineyard. One real key to the quality of these wines is the bodega. It might be in a dilapidated state, but it is so close to the Guadalquivir, almost at sea level, that it has perfect conditions for ageing Manzanilla. Meanwhile the brothers are working hard to restore it, while retaining a totally artisan set up. The wine is bottled in a unique shape of bottle for Sherry, en rama and sealed with a good quality driven cork and wax. Don't over chill. If this is the shape of things to come, I can't wait!
25 euros from Er Guerrita

Brandy Fundador Solera 36%, Pedro Domecq

Light mahogany to amber with golden highlights.
Nice balance between holandas and spirit, given that there can't be much holandas, with notes of oak, nuts, and hints of Oloroso, really quite attractive for basic Jerez Brandy.
Good start with well rounded traces of dried fruits and nuts then Oloroso and hints of oak come through, a trace of caramel sweetness balances it all and it has a good long finish.
This was really the brandy which started it all. For a long time Sherry bodegas had distilled wine for making fortifying spirit and/or ageing it into brandy. Production was quite small and most brandy was used for the personal consumption of the bodegueros, but occasionally it was sold. Pedro Domecq received a large order from a Dutch client for 500 bocoyes (large butts) of excellent brandy. This was duly distilled but after two years of ageing the client was unable to pay so Don Pedro ordered the spirit to be racked into used Sherry butts where it was slowly forgotten. 

Five years later the liquid was found to  be really special and he decided to produce brandy on a large scale. He imported extra stills and all necessary equipment and steadily built up a solera based on the original spirit and in 1874 launched Fundador, Spain's first commercially produced brandy, to great acclaim. One of the original butts is still kept in the bodega El Molino, signed by King Alfonso XIII in 1904. Domecq went on to produce more brandies: Carlos I, Carlos III and Marqués de Domecq. Eventually, after many corporate comings and goings, Carlos I and III were sold to Osborne and Grupo Emperador bought what was left of Domecq renaming it Bodegas Fundador. Currently they market various versions of Fundador: this standard Fundador Solera , Fundador Gold Reserve Solera Reserva, Fundador Exclusivo Solera Gran Reserva, Fundador Light and Fundador Ultra Smooth. They also produce the Terry brandies.
About 8.50 euros, widely available.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Soils of the Marco de Jerez

It is common knowledge that the soils in which vines grow – not to mention the climate - make a huge difference to the character of the wine produced. Given the quality of the wines of the Marco de Jerez, the soils must be something special, and they are, but how did they come about?

We need to go back in time some 70 million years to the start of what geologists call the Tertiary period when the African tectonic plate started to shift north and by about 55 million years ago had pushed up and inverted sediments to form the rock of Gibraltar and other limestone outcrops. This had two effects. It caused a deep depression between the area to the north, behind the rock, and the Sierra Morena which is a much older and harder upthrust and runs on an approximate line from Huelva to Sevilla to Córdoba, or roughly along what is now the course of the river Guadalquivir. It also closed off what is now the Mediterranean causing it to dry up eventually, the modern Strait of Gibraltar only being created some 13 million years ago.

The Guadalquivir (or Betic) depression became an inland sea for millions of years during which time huge amounts of marine sediments were deposited consisting mostly of vast amounts of plankton and coral skeletons, shells and bones which were slowly compressed into limestone and chalk up to 100 metres thick. Continual tectonic pressure causing gentle uplift and rivers washing down vast amounts of sediment, along with falling sea levels from about 36 million years ago during the Oligocene period, caused the sea to gradually disappear. This left a clay and sand overlay which was gradually eroded over millions more years, helped by three tsunamis over the last 4,000 years, to form the varied soil and subsoil conditions prevailing today and expose the albariza. If the ice caps melt and sea levels rise again, the Jerez area may well disappear once again beneath the waves.

This chart shows the extent of Guadalquivir sedimentation (

The Sherry vineyards currently amount to almost 7,000 hectares in which there are three general soil types: albariza, barro and arena. Some two thirds of the vineyards are albariza with the barros and arenas making up the rest in roughly equal proportions, though albariza’s share will have increased a bit since the uprooting of excess vineyards. Only vineyards with enough albariza can be classified as Jerez Superior. Listed below are the more important soil types.

This is albariza (foto:Ramiro Ibanez)

Albarizas are without doubt the finest soils for Sherry production and are almost pure white as they contain up to 80% calcium carbonate, or chalk. They also contain clay, sand and silica as well as various minerals such as magnesium, iron, gypsum and of course marine fossils. These soils are low in nitrogen and organic matter making them less fertile, and yields are therefore lower. Various names are given to the albarizas according to their chalk content and composition:

Tajón (or Tejón): hard and compact with about 80% chalk

Tosca (or Tosca cerrada or antehojuela): contains at least 60% chalk and some fine sand and clay in thin layers, highly absorbent

Lentejuela: softer more powdery and absorbent with around 50% chalk and some clay and sand, very easy to work

Barrejuela (or Barajuela): around 50% chalk but streaked or even layered with ochre (ferric oxide mixed with clay) and easy to work

Lustrillo: chalk content of about 30-50% with some gypsum, sand and clay

Albarizas are the lowest yielding of the Sherry soils, but produce the best wine. They act like a sponge, absorbing huge amounts of rainwater, and during the hot summer months the surface dries over retaining the water below for the vine roots. The softness of this soil allows the vines to develop good root systems which can grow up to 6 metres deep, while the clay content ensures that the minimum amount of water can evaporate from the surface of the soil. Albariza is where the Palomino grape reigns supreme, though Pedro Ximénez is also grown in it, albeit usually on the lower slopes.

Barro means “clay” and is the main constituent of this soil which is mixed with up to 30% chalk and some sand. It tends to occur in dips in the landscape called “bujeos” and contains more iron, giving it a fairly dark brown colour, and more organic matter than albariza. It tends to crack in the heat of summer and is more prone to weeds, and while Palomino is grown here, the wines are coarser and fuller bodied, and the yields are higher.

Arenas means “sand” and this soil can contain over 70% of it, mixed with some chalk and clay, and the latter tends to bind it so the sand is not always loose. It is usually found near the coast and often overlies clay, and its content of iron oxide gives it a reddish yellow colour, while it has a fairly high content in aluminates and silica. The Moscatel grape is not as fussy as some varieties about soils, and is happy enough in most, but it has been very successful in the coastal sandy soils of Chipiona.

This map from the Consejo Regulador shows soil distribution. Marismas are marshes

Saturday, 18 March 2017

18.3.17 Universo Santi Staff Sherry Training

Staff of Universo Santi, who all have some kind of disability, have begun their training with a visit to González Byass to learn about Sherry from that “master of jerezology” (as Diario de Jerez charmingly puts it), Antonio Flores. During morning and afternoon sessions he explained to them how to distinguish the different types of Sherry and how they match the different dishes on the menu. He stressed the importance of promoting Sherry in this restaurant saying “Sherry is at a unique moment and we must take advantage of it. Sommeliers, waiters and maîtres play a vital role in the work we do in the bodega, because we can spend thirty years ageing a wine, but it is they who present it to the diner, they who can make or break our work.

Antonio Flores shows the staff round bodega La Concha (fot:diariodejerez)

Restaurant staff face a total of 200 hours of training, or up to 800 hours if their disability is mental. Antonio Vila, president of Universo Accesible which is behind the promotion of the project, says the restaurant is 95% complete with only the decoration, gardening and completion of staff training remaining to be done, and will probably open towards the end of this year. The kitchen from the late, multi Michelin starred Santi Santamaría’s Can Fabes restaurant has already been installed so that cooking staff can get the hang of it.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Bodegas: Alexander Webber & Co

Alexander Webber was an English wine merchant who imported the classic wines into London on quite a large scale. His premises there were at 36 Mark Lane and 55 Davies Street, Berkeley Square, London, and he had a Scottish agent, Alex Ferguson & Co, in Glasgow. He established a successful almacenista and shipping business in Jerez in 1830, constructing handsome bodegas at Calle Pizarro 10 and 12 close to Ivison (Pizarro,7) and Wisdom & Warter (Pizarro 15 and 17). Here he was furnished with offices and all the necessary equipment. He made a speciality of the Fino style which was now becoming popular in England.

He must have been well regarded as he was asked to write a book on wine by the Royal Society of Physicians. It was published in 1888 under the title “Wine: Notes on this Valuable Product” at two shillings a copy. It makes fascinating reading now. In 1867 Webber exported 9,630 arrobas (321 butts) and 21,255 (708 butts) in 1874. His son in law John Pickett Marks worked with him and took over the business on Webber’s death in London in 1888. Marks renamed the firm Juan P Marks and continued to trade until his death in 1911, though the bodegas at Pizarro 10 and 12 were acquired by Sandeman in about 1906, and in whose hands they remain to this day.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Selección de Don Antonio 2015 12.5%,Bodegas Páez Morilla

Bright deep cherry red with ruby highlights, legs.
The Syrah stands out with its leathery, very slightly smoky super ripe mulberry fruit and traces of olive and spice, probably from the French oak. There is a background note of blackcurrant, presumably from the Cabernet and the overall impression is one of  a lively wine made from very ripe grapes.
Medium to full bodied with lots of cherry and plum fruit and an attractive tang. Tannins are light giving it a pleasant sapidity to balance the fruit and making it very easy to drink. There is a rustic touch perhaps, but with a little food it works really well.
This is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz made from Syrah, Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Viña Lucía vineyard in Páez Morilla's Hacienda la Vicaria estate at Arcos de la Frontera. After being the first to commercialise Jerez Vinegar in 1945, the innovative Antonio Páez Lobato, the "Vinegar King", bought la Vicaria in the early 1970s and first commercialised a red wine, Viña Lucía, in 1977. This was one of the first if not the first commercial red from Cádiz in a very long time. The grapes are destemmed and given a pre and post fermentation soak, a bit of bâttonage is done after malolactic and the wine is then aged for three or four months in used French oak barrels before final stabilisation and bottling. This is good value for money, almost too cheap really!
3.82 from El Corte Inglés