Monday, 23 October 2017

If We Break the Mystique of Sherry We Will Ruin It

An interview with Lustau’s oenologist Sergio Martínez in yesterday’s Diario de Jerez

Having already won the International Wine Challenge (IWC) World’s Best Fortified Winemaker in July, Sergio Martínez, oenologist at Bodegas Lustau, has now won the IWC Merchant Awards Spain Best Spanish Winemaker. Lustau seems to win so many prizes; Sergio’s predecessor, Manuel Lozano, won the former award no fewer than seven times consecutively.

You managed to win the award at first attempt.
Many might see it that way, but I’ve been working at Lustau since 2003 and since 2004 with Manolo (Manuel Lozano, Sergio’s predecessor. I am doing everything in practically the same way and the only real difference is that before, Manolo was in charge and now it is me. Given that he was 61, I was gradually working to take over from him when he retired, but unfortunately that happened sooner than expected when he died suddenly last year.

“Continuity and a new air”, I think those were the words chosen by the firm in the announcement of your appointment.
Continuity is logical because Manolo set the guidelines, a route which bore fruit, and we need to follow in the same direction. And a new air because I am younger and more into technology. Manolo followed a more traditional, more classical line. I believe Manolo was the only person in the whole of Grupo Caballero who still used a typewriter. I share the same philosophy as him but with more current ideas.



What do these awards mean?
For me it means enormous personal gratification and professional satisfaction and I am delighted for the whole team at Lustau because each member brings something to it, from the one who tops up the soleras to the one who decides on investment. It is a sign that all the cogs are working together.

Part of the awards belongs to Manuel Lozano.
Absolutely and I pointed that out at the awards ceremony in London, because he set the bar and it would be stupid to deviate from his roadmap.

Did you think beforehand that you could win?
Honestly, yes. All the time I saw Manolo, his career and how he worked every day and dreamed that one day I could win it, but I never expected it to be so soon. But that will not necessarily hold me to continue working the same way. Just the nomination was fantastic, but if I won it, so much the better!

Has someone with so short a career as an oenologist ever won the award before?
I really don’t know, but Lustau has won 30% of the World’s Best Fortified Winemaker awards; manolo won it seven times and Manuel Arcila and Juan Fuentes won it before him. I am very grateful to the firm for supporting continuity, for natural succession, and there is the result, a real success.

To what is owed the success of the Lustau wines in this competition?
The wines are very well looked after, pampered from the vine to the glass as Manolo used to say. We are right on top of the whole process and attend to every detail. We are always looking for quality – excellence – and that is what people want.

How did an isleño (someone from San Fernando, Cádiz) land in Jerez?
Although I am from San Fernando, my maternal aunt was from Chiclana; she had a vineyard and was a member of the local cooperative, and that world always attracted me. I was finishing my studies for a career in chemistry and six months of practical sessions cropped up at Lustau in the quality control department with a certain Manuel Lozano as tutor. When I finished they offered me the post of capataz as the old one was retiring. They gave me that opportunity, and I am still here.

Manolo wasn’t keen to leave his bodega, are you more of a travelling oenologist?
It’s true that Manolo didn’t like going anywhere; he was a real bodega man. I‘m not all that keen either as I am a little shy but little by little one gets moving, and I do understand that the figure of the oenologist offers great commercial support.

Lustau has a range of en rama wines; Finos from jerez and El Puerto de Santa María and a Manzanilla from Sanlúcar. So is there a difference between Fino and Manzanilla?
It is a delicate matter and one has to draw a fine line. By its location and definition Manzanilla can only come from Sanlúcar. What differentiates it from Jerez, for example, is that the flor covers the wine’s surface all year round thanks to the microclimate. So using the term Fino in Sanlúcar goes against the meaning of Manzanilla in my opinion.

So how do you know what you are drinking then, since a Consejo Regulador commission concluded that there is no way, divine or human, of differentiating between Fino and Manzanilla?

Strictly speaking, if there is a study which says not, then fine, but there is a clear organoleptic difference because Manzanilla grows more flor. There is a lot of legend around the wines of Jerez and if we go there we will break the magic, the mystique and ruin the Denominación de Origen.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

21.10.17 Sherryfest New York to Open to the Public; VT Cádiz in Peñín Shortlist

The VI edition of Sherryfest will take place in New York between 27-29 October, and for the first time it will be open to the general public.  This will be a great event with dinners, seminars, cocktail events and the Grand Sherry Tasting on 28 October. Twenty bodegas will be pouring 150 Sherries at the Astor Center and this is not to be missed. The event coincides on the 27th with the XII edition of the Sherry Cocktail Competition. Booking is vital and should be done as soon as possible at: https://www.sherryfest.com/events  where more details can be found.

The Sherryfest team

After long and intense rounds of tasting for the latest Guia Peñín, the tasters have selected the 10-wine shortlist for their “revelation” wines. These were chosen for their singularity and quality, and the only requisite for inclusion on the list is that they haven’t been tasted before. You won’t be surprised to learn that one of them is from Cádiz, and that it was made by Ramiro Ibáñez; his Ube Carrascal 2015. The Guia Peñín describes the wine as “a race apart, a vintage wine with a little flor, made by a young grower and oenologist who in recent years has set his sights, along with another group of rebels, on giving back to the wines of the area their sense of place. To achieve this he has simply revised and readapted the winemaking of the past, knowledge of which had been based until now on historic archives. His perspective goes back to times when wines were aged statically, when winemaking was not the most important aspect of the wine, when the vineyard character shone through and when extreme age was not necessary for quality.”


Rare Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva 42.5%, Valdespino

Appearance
Light amber with bright golden highlights.
Nose
Fragrant and fresh with a slightly crisp and incredibly subtle almost Cognac character but with more notes of very fine almost dusty oak like a cabinet maker's workshop . It smells quite light yet quite intense with a hint of dried fruits, perhaps apricots and dates, and gentle Sherry notes, but this is unlike many Brandies de Jerez which have heavier Oloroso and PX aromas. Instead it has the elegance and grace only possible with many long years of ageing.
Palate 
Light,crisp and very classy with notes of caramel, blonde tobacco and oak. Despite its age this brandy has comparatively little tannin - with just enough to  balance it nicely with a very gentle
sweetness giving it a drier, lighter feel than many. It is supremely elegant and lingers for ages on a very satisfied palate. A few drops of water can be helpful.
Comments  
This very special Brandy de Jerez comes from a small solera laid down by the Valdespino family in 1842. It was intended as private stock for consumption only by the family and their friends, but some years after the sale of the firm to Grupo Estevez the latter decided to create the top quality Valdespino Rare Spirits range which includes an old Blended Malt Whisky and an old Rum, both also from Valdespino family stocks. The range was launched onto the market for the first time in 2016. The Brandy has an average age of over 30 years and was aged in hundred year old American oak butts well seasoned with Valdespino Fino and Amontillado. Availability is limited and this first batch consisted of 3,000 bottles. If you see it, buy it.
Price
50 euros, Licoreria Latina


Friday, 20 October 2017

Oloroso 21.5%, Bodegas Fernández-Gao

Appearance
Bright antique mahogany with copper glints fading to a hint of green at the rim.
Nose
Refined and fragrant, open and forthcoming. This is a classic mature Oloroso nose with nutty notes of walnut and toasted almond, cinnamon, traces of oak and a hint of dried fruits including a trace of orange peel. Pure and fresh, lovely, it defines the meaning of Oloroso.
Palate
Full bodied and generous, almost powerful up front, then it opens out and offers up those lovely complex nutty notes with a good texture and very little tannin for its age. It is very dry but rounded off by some glycerine and balances perfectly, so the serious becomes charming. The flavour lingers for ages with a very clean finish.
Comments
This is an excellent Oloroso. It comes from the newest bodega in Jerez - or is it one of the oldest? The original firm, whose origins went back to 1750, was bought out in the 1960s by McKenzie and the soleras absorbed into theirs. So the wines now available from the re-established company are not the same, but they are every bit as good if not better. They come, mostly from old family soleras of the Sánchez Gago family who are behind the new bodega. Anyway this wine has an average age of over 20 years and justifiably scored 94 points from Wine Enthusiast.
Price
33.00 euros per 50 cl bottle ex bodega


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Manzanilla Arboledilla “Poniente” 15%, Barbadillo

Appearance
Brassy gold with golden highlights, a shade darker than Levante.
Nose
Slightly fuller, fatter than the Levante, it has the herbs but is slightly nuttier with the faintest trace of cinnamon and a hint more yeastiness yet less bitterness and it is also ever so slightly sweeter and rounder in style (though still bone dry) and slightly more mature and perhaps a touch more complex.
Palate
There is a certain generosity here, the wine is not quite as lean as Levante, its features are a little more integrated, less wild, but a little harder to pick out. Behind the slightly more "hecho" nature there is an attractive bitterness, a faint trace of fruit and perhaps less salinity. It is clean and very long.
Comments
Being the biggest firm in Sanlúcar offers Barbadillo a huge range of possibilities for interesting wines. This is a limited edition of two wines, just 600 bottles of each, from exactly the same bodega (the famous Arboledilla) and exactly the same solera (Solear) and with exactly the same age, and the only difference between them is that they come from butts at opposite ends of the bodega. A mere 200 metres apart, the wines show distinct differences. One comes from the Poniente (west) side of the bodega and the other comes from the Levante (east) side. Named after the trees planted on the east side of the bodega which protect it from the heat, La Arboledilla has virtually no windows on this side, while the west side has large ones which allow in cooler air. It is the largest bodega in Sanlúcar with a huge airspace allowing the huge number of butts in the nine-criadera solera to breathe. The wines were bottled in June 2017 en rama. It is envisaged that they will be released occasionally, when oenologist Montse Molina sees fit, and while they are lovely individually, it is wonderful and instructive to compare them. The bottles are sealed with a driven cork.
Price
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera




Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Manzanilla Arboledilla “Levante” 15%, Barbadillo

Appearance
Bright brass-tinged gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Very Manzanilla, very fresh with notable saline, almost lemon notes and hints of wild fresh herbs like camomile, yet light. The flor yeastiness is not over pronounced and there is a slight mosto character with a trace of apple/apricot fruit. It smells slightly younger than Solear, but is still very attractive.
Palate
Bone dry classic Manzanilla, it is very light and super fresh with plenty of those saline bitter flor and herb notes, and extremely elegant. There are few if any pasada notes, but it is very sophisticated and has great length. Lovely wine, and a bit more zippy than Poniente.
Comments
Being the biggest firm in Sanlúcar offers Barbadillo a huge range of possibilities for interesting wines. This is a limited edition of two wines, just 600 bottles of each, from exactly the same bodega (the famous Arboledilla) and exactly the same solera (Solear) and with exactly the same age, and the only difference between them is that they come from butts at opposite ends of the bodega. A mere 200 metres apart, the wines show distinct differences. One comes from the Poniente (west) side of the bodega and the other comes from the Levante (east) side. Named after the trees planted on the east side of the bodega which protect it from the heat, La Arboledilla has virtually no windows on this side, while the west side has large ones which allow in cooler air. It is the largest bodega in Sanlúcar with a huge airspace allowing the huge number of butts in the nine-criadera solera to breathe. The wines were bottled in June 2017 en rama. It is envisaged that they will be released occasionally, when oenologist Montse Molina sees fit, and while they are lovely individually, it is wonderful and instructive to compare them. The bottles are sealed with a driven cork.
Price
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Fino Camborio en rama Magnum 15%, Bodegas Juan Piñero

Appearance
Gold with a faint brass tinge and bright golden highlights.
Nose
It has immediate appeal with considerable intensity and lots of lovely saline yeasty flor. It smells fairly concentrated and there are notes of straw, dried herbs, faint traces of oak and oxidation, blonde tobacco, almond and a hint of that aroma which can only be described as "bodega". 
Palate
The intensity continues on the palate; it is big with a delicious slightly almondy bitterness which substitutes for acidity and gives it perfect balance. It is bone dry and its 10 years or so of age and a  trace of cabezuela really show in its sheer sophistication, depth and length. This is a cracker.
Comments
This wine is superb. It is a saca from the best butt of twelve selected from the total of 300 in the Camborio solera which Juan Piñero keeps in a bodega in the Calle Francisco Javier in Jerez. The label charmingly calls it  "saca de floración" or late spring when the flor is at its best, or 27th May 2017 to be exact. Following the recent trend it is in a magnum and sealed with a driven cork and hand-dipped in wax. Wine ages better in magnum and the temptation is strong to lay it down for 2 or 3 years, but the temptation to drink it now was even stronger. This solera belonged originally to Fernando A de Terry who were taken over by Domecq and the solera languished till Juan Piñero bought it and got Ramiro Ibáñez to work his magic. This is a very limited edition unfortunately.
Price
39.85 euros, Licores Corredera