Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Manzanilla Pasada Solear en rama Invierno 2017 15%, Barbadillo

Bright, slightly brassy gold with golden highlights.
Bold and forthcoming with lots of yeasty bitter flor and almond from the acetaldehyde, dry scrubland, yet there is a certain humidity, saline with notes of olive brine, butter, sourdough and straw, and very slightly herbal, classic crianza biologica and very attractive.
Clean, fresh and intense with lots of toasted and un-toasted nuts, good racy acidity and lots of bitterness with all the underlying complexity imparted by the yeast. It is a serious wine, lively, bitter and saline at the same time but softened by the buttery notes. It is delicious.
Grown in the firm's 500 hectares of vineyard at Gibalbin and Santa Lucia planted over 30 years ago, the grapes went on to produce Manzanilla Solear. After about six years solera ageing most of the wine goes for bottling as Solear while some goes for a further two years ageing in an intermediate solera of 550 butts in two scales leading eventually to the Amontillado Principe solera. From the intermediate solera 100 litres are drawn from 15 selected butts to make a special blend which highlights the state of the wine at the time of the saca (11/12/17). It has about 8 years solera age and by now the flor is getting a little thinner. Each saca is done at the beginning of the season and reflects the state of the wine over the previous three months. If you are interested, the bird on the label is the endangered Marsh Harrier.
14.30 per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Lecture on PX by José Luís Zarzana

The Palomino Fino grape dominates the vineyards of the Marco de Jerez almost completely, leaving only very small plantations of the other two grapes authorised by the DO; Moscatel, most of which is in Chipiona, and Pedro Ximénez, of which there is even less, accounting for under 100 hectares.

In Jerez last Tuesday, in his maiden lecture as a member the Real Academia de San Dionisio, José Luís Zarzana Palma of PX specialist Bodegas Ximénez Spínola (est.1729) focused on “The Pedro Ximénez Grape in Jerez, its Origins, Varietal Characteristics and Winemaking Possibilities”. In his view there is room for PX in the area and it merits greater attention from the trade, and he encouraged growers to plant more of this variety “after a long and unjustified period of abandonment which caused a shortage which had to be supplemented imaginatively”. This shortage led to the paradox of being able to make and sell PX under the DO but not having sufficient raw material. Luckily, Brussels gave the bodegas permission to get their supplies from Montilla-Moriles in order to preserve this type of wine. Thus, the European Union sanctioned a practice which has been widespread since Phylloxera caused the Palomino to become almost a monoculture, relegating other local grape varieties which were more “problematic” such as PX and others like Mantúa and Perruno to virtual disuse due to their greater predisposition to diseases and lower levels of production. In his opinion therefore, the area has long experienced an excess of Palomino which has brought about successive grubbing-up of vines and re-conversion of vineyards without it occurring to anyone to substitute the grape that we are so short of.

(foto: JL Jimenez/Jerez Siempre)

But times have changed and now quality rules over quantity again with less standardisation, so he called for common sense to prevail, defending with the voice of experience all the grapes which grow in Jerez’ albariza soil, and encouraging the growers, organisations and the Consejo Regulador to plant more PX to bring even more greatness to the vineyards. He sustained that in the past different kinds of wines were produced from PX. Although there is no evidence, he is convinced that all the different kinds of DO Sherry have been produced from this grape.

Bodegas Ximenez Spinola and the PX vines (

This assertion is supported by experimental work carried out by the Zarzana family over the last ten years on vinification of PX in Jerez, to which they are dedicated under the auspices of the National Accreditation Body (ENAC). The recuperation of this local variety, along with the others already mentioned, has opened the debate about their inclusion as authorised varieties in the DO thanks to their conservation in the vinifera bank at the Rancho de la Merced and the efforts of its director, Alberto García de Luján. Making Oloroso from PX is straightforward but not so a Fino type wine which the firm has already produced, in this case without fortification and en rama, but it cannot be sold as Sherry. Nonetheless it caught the attention of the sommelier at Aponiente who has included it on the list of this famous restaurant owned by Ángel León.

Sundrying PX at Ximenez Spinola (

As to the history of PX, its origins are still a mystery due to the lack of evidence to support the various hypotheses, among them the theory that it is German Riesling, now disproved by DNA testing on both varieties. The central European theory points to a soldier in the army of the Emperor Charles V or a Catholic cardinal by the name of Pedro Ximénez – Peter Siemens – as possibilities for the introduction of the grape, though more recent research relates PX to the Gibi, related to the Alarije of Extremadura. There is historical evidence for its presence in Sanlúcar in the treatise on vines by published by Esteban Boutelou in 1807. Zarzana’s research in collaboration with the University of Utrecht has come up with a new fact on the possible origin of the grape which relates it to a Dutch wine merchant, one Pieter Simonz, about whom there is evidence that in the XVII century he sold PX wine in the Baltic countries and Saint Petersburg having sent a fleet to Sanlúcar and Alicante to buy it. “In the end, with the grammatical and phonetic differences, it would be difficult to explain that the grape could have the same name all over the world if there didn’t exist a Peter, Pieter or Pedro Siemens, Simonz or Ximénez”.

Monday, 23 April 2018

President of the Oenologists on the “Sherry Revolution”

This interesting article by Ángel Espejo appeared in today’s Diario de Jerez

Sherry is impressing the world. The DO is once again a key reference point in Spanish wine and its evolution is being closely followed by the trade, among them the oenologists, who have just held the first edition of the VinEspaña competition as well as their general assembly in Jerez. They see in Jerez a model to follow, now that other wine regions are being shaken up by internal disputes.There are still disputes in Jerez of course – like Bag in Box or Fino from Sanlúcar – but these are minor in comparison to the scandals which are tainting other DOs like Rioja, Rueda or Cava where bodegas’ leaving the DO seems to be the order of the day.

The revolution in Jerez is being closely followed by other DOs who watch out of the corner of the eye the change of mentality and openness which has developed in the area and which, according to the president of the Spanish Federation of Associations of Oenologists (FEAE), the Jerezano Santiago Jordi, is demonstrated by the mere fact of considering the possibility of incorporating into the DO the new wines which are appearing in the area; the new Sherries which are reviving abandoned winemaking traditions (unfortified wines, pago wines, wines with only brief ageing, the revival of old grape varieties…).

Santiago, who is also vice-president of the International Union of Oenologists (UIE) as well as acting as a consultant oenologist, is not disconnected from these innovations, and is in fact immersed in a project for the forthcoming launch of two Finos de Pago, one from the Macharnudo and another from the Balbaína, which will join the red and white table wines which he makes in the area. For him, oenology is a way of understanding life, and he emphasises that the resurgence of Sherry is based on two fundamental pillars: tradition and the vineyard. The future is the past. “Basically, what is happening in Jerez is that they are reviving the old ways of making wine, the ancestral ways”. He is a firm defender of the importance of viticulture, the vineyard and the land in the current winemaking scene.

“In viticulture generally, which is totally different from that in Jerez, greater value was put on the pago and the vineyard, whereas here, with our system of criaderas and soleras and fortification, there has been more interest in getting quantity from the vineyard. In the past however, wines were made without fortification, pago wines were produced with higher strength and there were other varieties than just Palomino, and this is being revived now, but it needs skill in the vineyards and bodegas, perhaps slightly more in the vineyards because if not it will be difficult to be profitable”.

Santiago’s words show a clear vindication of the figure of the oenologist, especially the young ones who, according to him “are obliged nowadays to travel to complete their education since they know that wine production starts in the vineyard, and that has been rather neglected in Jerez, though it is at last being addressed”. Nevertheless he asks that they tread carefully and points out that “all this is still being done by a minority, and not everyone will see it as good”.

In Santiago’s view, the inclusion of the new Sherries in the agenda for debate by the commission set up by the Consejo Regulador to resolve the questions which would require a modification of the Sherry regulations is an important step, especially when compared with the problems in other DOs. “In other areas they are killing themselves. In Rioja, bodegas are abandoning the DO, in Rueda they are slashing prices and there is a tremendous battle going on; it is crazy. I believe it is virtually an obligation to open this debate because there are other ways of understanding viticulture and we have to leave the traditional behind, yet be aware that not everything they did in the past was bad, and as we are unique, exclusive, original… we should take advantage of this, while also keeping our minds open to other trends”.

Santiago believes that this change of mentality and renewed value put on the Sherry vineyards are closely related to the education of the new oenologists, but that it lacks sufficient education about viticulture. “It is not like that in my case because I am an agricultural engineer and worked in vineyards before becoming an oenologist, but right now, those who are studying the four year oenology course experience very little viticulture, although when they travel to work the harvest in other areas of Spain and abroad they see that everything in the glass started in the vineyard”.

Santiago Jordi is president of the FEAE, vice president of the UIE and one of Spain’s busiest consultant oenologists. He works with Huerta de Albalá and González Palacios as well as bodegas in Somontano, Toro, Ribeira Sacra, Chile, Brazil and even… Ireland. He also has vineyards in Jerez where he makes his own wines: Margarita y Amapolo, Atuna and Cara Cepa as well as the forthcoming Tintilla and is working on two Finos de Pago from Macharnudo and Balbaína.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Bodegas: M&F Tosar

Juan Antonio Tosar Hernández was the son of Antonio Tossar, of Italian descent, and Beatriz Hernández. The family lived in Cádiz where young  Juan Antonio, or simply Antonio as he was known, married Bárbara Martínez García who was of noble birth and who bore him seven sons and two daughters before dying around 1835.Antonio was in the business of trade with the Spanish colonies in the Americas. As this trade began to decline, Antonio moved with his large young family to El Puerto de Santa María to try and restore their fortunes in the wine trade. 

Adolfo Tosar
By 1838 he had a modest bodega at Calle Espíritu Santo, 19, next to some houses in Calle Rosas which he had inherited from his mother. Over time these installations would be extended by two of his sons, Manuel and Francisco Javier Tosar Martínez who changed the company name to M&F Tosar and also installed a cooperage in an adjacent plot in 1846. Antonio died in 1850. Another son, Adolfo (1822-1880) went to London where he set up a sales office, and it would be he and his successors who would continue the business till the end. The brothers were hard working, efficient and husbanded their wines with great care, and by the 1860s they were among the leading firms in the area, despite the modest scale of their bodegas. They bought a house at Calle de la Plata, 6, where Manuel lived, remaining a bachelor, and in the basement they installed a sales office, tasting and meeting rooms.

The family home still stands, now a bridal wear shop
Francisco Javier died, also unmarried, in 1865 and divided his share of the business between his brothers Manuel and Adolfo and sister Amalia. When she died, her share was divided between Manuel and Adolfo and the company continued as M&F Tosar for another decade until the death of Manuel. By now the firm had reached its maximum potential and employed 20 people and had some 5,000 arrobas of stock including dozens of wines as well as brandy and vinegar. Everything had to be split among the remaining inheritors, but at least there were not many. In 1870 Adolfo married Manuela Zurutuza Fesser (b 1840). In 1873 he was back in El Puerto with his wife and two children to run the business at the behest of his elder brother who was ageing and infirm, but he did need to return to London from time to time. He was there when Manuel died in 1874. Adolfo’s two sons, Antonio and José, inherited one third each of Manuel’s share of the business and Adolfo continued to run it on his own as Adolfo Tosar & Cía till his death in 1880.

A label blank from the later years

The business continued in the hands of his wife Manuela Zurutuza and their now four children under the title Viuda de Adolfo Tosar & Cía. The name M&A Bayo Tosar was also occasionally used. The firm, which held a royal warrant, ceased trading in the early years of the XX century. At about this time, one of the daughters married an Osborne and another married José Antonio Ruiz de Cortázar who ran Bodegas Alonso Pajares.  In 1901 Manuela’s two sons, Manuel and Francisco Javier, established a brewery and sparkling waters business, Fábrica de Cervezas Tosar, in Calle Cielo, but despite a good start and a change of name to Cervecera Portuense in 1904, it didn’t last very long.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Gewürztraminer 2017 12.5%, Cortijo de Jara

Very bright pale gold with distinct notes of green and silvery gold highlights.
Exotic, fragrant and quite intense with notes of lychee, very slightly under-ripe peach, pineapple, honeysuckle, orange blossom and a trace of almost ginger-like spice. Classic Gewürztraminer nose and very fresh.
Super fresh fruity and tangy - the acidity is very good for the grape and the place, and all that fragrance carries through on the palate. It seems light at first but definitely has some body and there is a gentle, slightly chalky texture and considerable length. 
Gewürztraminer is  very unusual as far south as Cádiz being more of a northern grape, and one which can complete its ripening quickly leaving very low acidity, especially in a hot place. It is not one of the varieties permitted in the Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz regulations so it is legally simply a table wine, though it might contain a little Sauvignon Blanc, which is allowed. Nevertheless, it is a beautifully made wine with real character. The cortijo is located in a beautiful place about 25 km north east of Jerez on mixed soils with some albariza. The grapes were picked by hand at night for maximum freshness, cold fermented in stainless steel, stabilised, bottled without ageing and labelled by hand.
6,95 De Albariza chalky texture

Friday, 20 April 2018

Fino La Barajuela 2014 16%, Luis Pérez

Bright mid brassy gold with golden highlights.
Full, rounded and quite complex with notes of straw and a hint of fruit: ripe apple, quince and ripe grape pulp. There is a restrained note of flor which balances well with the fruit and there is a gentle mineral salinity from the soil, and a general feeling of weight from the extra ripeness of the grapes.
Clean and very fresh with an attractive tension between the flor, decent acidity and the fruit, it has a lovely tanginess too, not to mention a slightly dry chalky mineral feel. It is different from the usual Fino being fruitier as it is made the old fashioned way and the result is a very sophisticated and interesting wine with lots of flavour and terrific length.
Made with Palomino grapes from the El Corregidor vineyard at the heart of the inland pago Carrascal. The soil here is one of the many kinds of albariza: barajuela, which is composed of very thin layers which resemble the side of a pack of cards (baraja). The vines are over 40 years old so the yield is low. The harvest is picked in various passes over a two month period to achieve the ideal ripeness for the various wines. The first grapes, not yet ripe enough for wine, are used for a brandy project and the next ones, which will be used for the Fino, are sun dried for a day or more to increase sugar content as the wine will not be fortified. The must is filled unfiltered straight into butts where it ferments without temperature control. After fermentation a selection is made as to whether the wine will be aged biologically or oxidatively and the level of wine in the butts selected for Fino is kept comparatively high so that the flor will not overpower the character of the vineyard. The ageing of the wines is assiduously observed as the flor yeast strains can vary. This is one of the very few vintage Sherries, and one of the fewer still which are not fortified and has a DO Sherry. It might seem expensive for a Fino, but an enormous amount of work has gone into it, and it is delicious. The back label has a little block with the blank symbols of una palma, dos palmas, tres palmas and cuatro palmas with the una palma symbol overprinted, so one wonders what else might be in the pipeline...
35.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 19 April 2018

19.4.18 Very Interesting Lecture at Williams & Humbert

The excellent Ciclo de Conferencias (Cycle of Lectures) offered by Williams & Humbert since 2014 continues on Thursday 26th April with a fascinating lecture entitled “Tránsitos de Ida y Vuelta: La Anudación de Tres Continentes” (Return Journeys: the Ties between Three Continents) by María del Carmen Borrego Plá, Professor of History at the Universidad Hispalense in Sevilla, author of various books and co-proprietor of Bodegas El Maestro Sierra. She will explain the connections and cultural, social and economic exchanges between Europe, Asia and America which took place during the XVI century - including the wines and their customs – which have lasted till the present day without us being aware of their origins. The lecture will take place at the bodegas of Williams & Humbert at 19.30 and a glass of Sherry will be served afterwards. Go if you possibly can, there is no charge, but places are limited.