Friday, 22 September 2017

Amontillado Tabanco 18.5%, Lustau

Appearance
Deep brown tinged amber with copper highlights.
Nose
Savoury with walnut notes slightly predominating over toasted almond and hazelnut, hints of garrapiñada (almonds tossed in caramel) and tocino de cielo (a dessert made from egg yolks and caramel) and traces of dried fruits. There is a slightly saline Sanluqueño note about it.
Palate
Full bodied and textured with lots of nuts and dry yet with very faint traces of sweetness and tannin. It is quite a complex wine, but definitely on the weighty side, perfect for winter sipping.
Comments
Despite winning medals at the IWC and DWW, you don't see much of this wine about, which is a shame as it is good. It is probably the familiar problem of too many wines for the promotional resources available, but it is available in the US and other export markets. Anyway although it is not much more than eight years old it is quite sophisticated and interesting.
Price
13.00 euros, Mantequeria Jerezana


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Table Wine Bodegas: Luis Pérez

Luis Pérez’ scientific qualifications and achievements are far too numerous to list here, but suffice it to say he is highly qualified and experienced in wine chemistry. He taught at university and worked at Pedro Domecq’s research department before starting his own bodega in 2002 with the aim of recuperating and diversifying wine production in the Marco de Jerez. He bought the 25 hectare Hacienda Vistahermosa in the Pago del Corchuelo just outside Jerez with its XIX century casa de viña, and built a modern bodega powered by gravity with underground barrel storage.



Here he planted 14 hectares with Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Tempranillo, Tintilla and Cabernet Sauvignon which are cultivated organically on albariza soil. He also planted various other varieties (19 in all)  for further study. Everything Luis and his son Guillermo “Willy” Pérez do is geared to low production of the highest quality with the maximum expression of the vineyard. They firmly believe that the wine is made in the vineyard.



Thanks to family connections Willy, who is now the chief oenologist, gained access to the old 30 hectare El Corregidor vineyard in the Pago Carrascal, which once belonged to Sandeman, and this brought new possibilities. Being planted with Palomino 84, the clone in use before the California clone took over because of its higher yield, it gave him the chance to go for his dream of making unfortified Sherry. This involved rejecting many grapes and harvesting two or three weeks later than normal, but it worked and the 2013 vintage was released with two years of crianza, called Fino Barajuela. The butts were filled slightly fuller than the normal 5/6 to reduce the possibility of flor consuming too much of the alcohol he had worked so hard to achieve. There is now also an Oloroso Barajuela.



The rejected grapes are not wasted; instead they are briefly sunned to raise their sugars and the fermented juice is sent for distillation in Tomelloso. The resulting holandas are sent back and aged statically, and will ultimately produce a 100% Jerez Brandy. There have been other innovations too, like wine aged under the sea.



The wines are:
Garum: a Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot blend aged 12 months in French and American oak
Garum Submarino: 100% Tintilla aged 16 months in new French oak, bottled, put in an amphora and aged a further year under the sea.
Samaruco: Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Cabernet aged 1 year in French oak
Petit Verdot: 100% Petit Verdot aged in new French oak
Tintilla: 100% Tintilla aged in new and used French oak for 16 months.
El Triángulo: 100% Tintilla with 5 months in oak
El Muelle de Olaso: The firm’s only white table wine to date, 100% Palomino
Marismilla: Rosé made from Tintilla
Fino Barajuela: Carrascal Fino de añada, unfortified
Oloroso Barajuela: Carrascal Oloroso de añada, unfortified



Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Rosado Cabernet 2015 13%, Bodega Forlong

Appearance
Pale to mid coppery onion skin pink with orangey gold highlights.
Nose
Forthcoming, fleshy and full of berry fruit with distinct notes of cherry and raspberry, there are also attractive traces of glacé fruit, rose petals and a hint of minerality from the albariza presumably.
Palate
Soft, full, fruity and beautifully balanced with lots of ripe yet tangy berry fruit and a gentle texture. It is super fresh, tasty and dangerously easy to drink yet has surprising complexity and length.
Comments
This charming rosado is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown organically in albariza soil in the Forlong vineyard near El Puerto de Santa Maria. The grapes are picked manually and comparatively late so as to avoid the green pepper/ asparagus notes Cabernet can have if not perfectly ripe. This also makes any tannins softer. They are selected both in the vineyard and on arrival at the winery. The must is fermented till the desired colour is achieved and racked into a separate tank where fermentation continues at very low temperature (@13C) taking over a month, with weekly batonnage (lees stirring). Once the fermentation is complete the wine is clarified only by natural decantation and bottled en rama. As always, the label is a classic, designed by Victoria Cerezo Doello, and depicts presumably the Mad March hare and the notice above its head reads "En el Pais de las Maravillas" or In Wonderland.
Price
7.60 euros, Licores Corredera




Tuesday, 19 September 2017

19.9.17 New Manzanilla Committee

The Red Room of the town council building in Sanlúcar today hosted a meeting of all the 40 bodegas which produce and sell Manzanilla at the behest of Víctor Vélez, director general of Bodegas Barbadillo, who feels that Manzanilla needs better representation at the Consejo Regulador. The idea is to create a “Mesa de la Manzanilla” or Manzanilla Committee to defend the Manzanilla Denominación de Origen, though its definitive constitution will need the approval of the Consejo which governs both DO Jerez and DO Manzanilla. Víctor Vélez is the only representative of the Manzanilleros at the Consejo.

The plan is to create a trade forum which can unite to debate Manzanilla matters and which would include a representative of the Consejo. According to Vélez “there are many bodegas, some of them quite important ones in Sanlúcar, which are not represented at the Consejo as they are neither members of Fedejerez nor the association established by Barbadillo and Delgado Zuleta”. Despite accounting for 21% of total sales of Sherry, Manzanilla has just the one representative at the Consejo. “We want these bodegas to be able to collaborate and express their views at a forum of debate and I will take into account any decisions or proposals they make at the Consejo”. We want the bodegas which are not represented to feel that at least they are being listened to.



Vélez pointed out that while sales of Sherry and Manzanilla had fallen from 70 million litres in 2001 to 33 million today, Manzanilla had suffered a bit less, remaining reasonably stable with slight growth, but the market is very competitive and international sales still need to be increased. Currently 64% of Sherry sales go for export yet barely 8% of Manzanilla sales go abroad. There are many challenges which face the new Manzanilla Committee, the main ones being communication, export and promotion of Manzanilla.

The Committee will consist of seven people, representing Barbadillo, Delgado Zuleta, Grupo Estévez, one of the cooperatives, a bodega not necessarily based in Sanlúcar but which markets Manzanilla and two delegates from the Professional Association of Artisan Bodegas of Sanlúcar. Meetings will be held monthly before the plenary at the Consejo.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Fino en rama Peña del Aguila 15%, Bodegas César Florido

Appearance
Pale straw gold with golden glints.
Nose
Most attractive nose, slightly more suggestive of Manzanilla than Fino, but then they are Sanlúcar grapes and the wine is aged on the Atlantic coast. There is a fresh maritime character with traces of meadow herbs and camomile, the flor is certainly there but elegantly restrained and a minute hint of oxidation adds to the complexity. It is beautifully balanced and fresh.
Palate
There is plenty to chew on with a lovely yeasty, slightly bitter character yet acidity is fairly low giving a softness and roundness and a slight trace of butteriness from the lees. This is delicious, as good as any Fino or Manzanilla.
Comments
Here is one to watch out for. My personal view is that this bodega is outstanding and deserves better recognition. It is not only an extremely interesting bodega but they are a delightful family with lovely wines. If you buy an upmarket Moscatel from a bodega in Jerez, you can be pretty sure it was made here. Chipiona is the home of Moscatel and it is the finest around, but the more familiar Sherry style wines are also produced, yet despite their quality they are not included in the DO Sherry because Chipiona is in the production zone not the crianza zone, and so few people know them. Peña del Aguila is an old brand which they are rescucitating for a range of fine Sherry style wines which includes a superb Palo Cortado. Anyway this lovely wine is made from 100% Palomino from old vines in the pago Miraflores - which also supplies Manzanilla grapes. This Fino runs through 5 criaderas and a solera (400 butts in total) in the Cherra bodega only 25 metres from the Atlantic and César makes a selection of just one butt (in this case number 2), the best of all, which provides some 1,200 half bottles making it unique and special.
Price
14.00 euros per half bottle ex bodega


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Brandy Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva 36%, González Byass

Appearance
Bright patinated mahogany to amber at the rim with copper highlights.
Nose
Open and quite rich but not too heavy with traces of dried fruit and a pronounced gently sweet vanilla aroma from the American oak presumably. There is an attractive aroma of garrapiñadas (almonds tossed in caramel), turrón perhaps, almost Amontillado. This is a gentle, elegant, refined brandy.
Palate
Soft, fairly sweet, open textured and super smooth with that attractive vanilla nuttiness to the fore. It is a very unaggressive brandy with very little tannin, yet remarkably tasty with considerable length.
Comments
González Byass is the only bodega in Jerez which distils brandy in Jerez, and they only distil the three versions of Lepanto there. They are basically the same brandy, but subject to different ageing regimes - PX butts, old Oloroso butts, or in this case butts which have been seasoned with Tio Pepe. Lepanto is made from 100% Palomino, which is also very unusual. The brandy is aged in soleras dating back to around 1870 and is bottled at an average age of 12 years. The name Lepanto commemorates a naval battle of 1571 in which the Holy League ( mainly Spanish and Italians) defeated the Ottoman Empire off the coast of Greece.
Price
About 25 euros

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Palo Cortado Añada 2000 Single Cask 20%, Valdespino

Appearance
Pure brassy amber with bright glinting golden highlights.
Nose
Super elegant, tight and fresh with lots of toasted bread, hazelnuts and almonds, slight traces of oak and, despite having maintained flor for only a few months, there is an attractive hint of bitterness as well as a mineral note. It is balanced up by beautifully fresh oxidative notes and the faintest hint of sweetness giving it a great deal of charm
Palate
Elegance itself. It has a wonderful lightness of touch yet is deceptively deeply flavoured. It is dry, beautifully rounded and fresh with a slightly saline mineral hint and a trace of volatile acidity, balanced to perfection by a touch of glycerine. Lots of nuts, a slightly autumnal blond tobacco touch, and almost interminable length. Superb.
Comments
This is quite delicious. It is the - hopefully first - culmination of a project started shortly after Grupo Estevez bought Valdespino. The grapes are 100% Macharnudo Alto and the gently pressed must was fermented in butts. The contents of this particular butt showed great promise from an early stage and the state of the flor was carefully monitored. It gradually petered out and the wine was re-fortified to 17% and allowed to mature. It developed real class and it was decided to bottle the wine in June 2017 in just 500 half bottles. So this is  a single vineyard, single butt, single vintage Sherry which is rare and exquisite. It is only available on the export markets so whatever you have to to obtain some.
Price 
About 150 euros per half bottle




Friday, 15 September 2017

Garum 2015 14.5%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Appearance
Almost opaque black cherry red with young cherry pink rim.
Nose
Full, young, tight with lots of plump ripe black fruit; cherry, plum, mulberry, and slightly dusty wood notes, mainly French oak as it opens out. There are traces of spice and smoke from the Syrah rounded off by the Merlot and Petit Verdot which offers a slight blueberry note.
Palate
Big, fully structured and characterful. Although Syrah only accounts for 30% of the grapes, it is notable for the spice. There is a bit of none too aggressive tannin which is balanced by the fruit but the wine needs a year or so more in bottle to reach its best. And it will be good - it is good now. 
Comments
Made from approximately 60% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 10% Petit Verdot from the virtually organic albariza vineyard at Hacienda Vistahermosa just outside Jerez. Yields are restricted by green harvesting and the grapes, which are vinified separately, are hand picked and cross a selection table before a cold soak and fermentation at controlled temperature in stainless steel. After malo-lactic the separate wines are blended and aged for 12 months in used French and American oak and the wine is bottled unfiltered.
Price
9.00 euros, Licores Corredera


Thursday, 14 September 2017

14.9.17 Valdespino Launch Palo Cortado Añada 2000

As if the range of Sherries from Valdespino was not good enough already an exciting and rare new addition has been launched. It is a Palo Cortado made from grapes grown in the firm's Inocente vineyard in the pago Macharnudo Alto, probably the best vineyard in  Jerez, where the vines range from 35 to 55 years old. 500 half bottles were filled from a single butt in June 2017, though samples were available at last year's Vinoble where they met with considerable interest. The wine was pressed very gently and fermented in a number of butts, and from early on one in particular showed outstanding finesse and complexity. It was fortified to 15°, beginning life as a Fino but gradually the flor disappeared, and it was fortified again to 17°. Being wine from a single vintage the butt was sealed by staff from the Consejo Regulador and then allowed to develop. Over the almost 17 years it has developed a further 3° of alcohol and a beautiful colour as well as amazingly complex aromas and flavours. Each bottle is hand numbered and sealed with a driven cork with a wax capsule and presented in a gift box. The wine is all destined for export, mainly Britain and the United States.



Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Amontillado Aurora 19%, Bodegas Yuste

Appearance
Pure amber with coppery gold highlights and the slightest trace of green at the rim.
Nose
Interesting and attractive, fresh, saline and savoury with lots of coastal notes of sea air, seaweed and beaches, then there are the oxidative, almost rancio notes with walnut - almost walnut in syrup - with traces of hazelnut and a slight hint of caramel. Its complexity creeps up on you as you are enjoying it so much. Classic Sanlúcar Amontillado.
Palate
Light and open textured, dry, almost crisp with that salted caramel note almost balancing the salinity and a trace of volatile acidity yet giving a fleeting appearance of sweetness and an attractive tension. There is very little tannin, the acidity is perfect and the alcohol is well contained. The effect is a wine with real character which is supremely elegant and very long.
Comments
Francisco Yuste has created a range of fine quality wines around the name Aurora which originated with his purchase of Pedro Romero's Manzanilla Aurora solera. This wine started out as a Manzanilla, and it certainly shows; it could only be from Sanlúcar and it is extremely good. And very well priced. Interestingly it was allowed to become Amontillado without a second fortification, which let it slowly develop through the full pasada stage and gain considerable complexity. It has an average age of about 20 years. In fact it goes on to feed the last criadera of the famous Conde de Aldama Amontillado solera, one of Sanlúcar's finest.
Price
12.60 euros per 50cl, Licores Corredera


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sherries of Certified Age

Few other wines can stand the extended ageing in wood which makes Sherry so special. Even a typical decent Fino, for example, spends longer in wood than a typical Gran Reserva (and is a fraction of the price!). This is possible thanks to the solera system whereby the wine is regularly refreshed with younger wine, and the butts have been very carefully seasoned to minimise any wood flavours. Thus there are many Sherries of great average age, concentration and complexity on the market, even a few over 100 years old.

Apart from small parcels kept aside for consumption by honoured guests and the bodega owners themselves, some of these “sacristia” soleras grew out of sheer lack of sales. The market seemed to want cheap wines, so huge quantities were supplied and the good stuff was left to carry on ageing. The wines, if bottled, were labelled “viejo” (old) or “viejísimo” (very old) which they undoubtedly were, but without any more precise definition. 


 In the year 2000, in order to promote these treasures and take advantage of a growth in interest, the Consejo Regulador introduced a new official category for these top quality old Sherries with a certified minimum period of average ageing. Thus were born the wines with "Mención de Edad". VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum or Very Old Sherry) for wines with a minimum average age of 20 years and the VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum or Very Old Rare Sherry) for 30 year old wines. There are two further categories which certify minimum average age of 12 and 15 years. The aim was not only to guarantee the age of a wine which does not carry a vintage date, but also to ensure it was of outstanding quality, representing Sherry at its finest.

While the solera system offers incredible consistency in a given wine, by its very nature it mixes wines of different ages, so only an average age can be given. Soleras have to be run consistently to avoid any changes in the character of the wine, so quantities of wine withdrawn from and fed into the system can be, and are, tracked by the Consejo. Fundamentally, the wine must have taken a minimum specific period to work its way through the solera system from start to finish. Here is how the process works.



The bodega submits a detailed application stating the type and quantity of the wine of a particular saca. On receipt of the application, Consejo inspectors visit the bodega and take samples and seal the container(s) of the wine. A sample then goes to a panel of expert and highly experienced tasters, five usually, none of whom work for a bodega. They are looking to be convinced of the wine’s age and also its quality, so even if it is old enough, but not good enough, it will fail. It is essential that the tastings are accurate as it is very awkward for bodegas to have a different saca of the same wine turned down. In the case of some very old wines there can be a hint of astringency so a very little PX is allowed to be added to round them off. It does not have to be 20 or 30 years old but the older it is the better it works.

If the wine passes the tasting panel it goes to the lab where three testing processes are then employed: scientific analysis, tasting and audit. The analysis is carried out at the Estación de Viticultura y Enología de Jerez, one of the best laboratories in Spain, where a number of tests are carried out including measuring the content of esters, dry extract, sugar and glycerine, along with carbon 14 dating.

The audit tracks the movements of the wine and verifies the correct amount has been withdrawn. There is a quota system by which the entire solera system for a given wine, say 12 years old, must retain 12 litres for every litre sold. Logically therefore for a 20 or 30 year old wine there must remain at least 20 or 30 litres. When a wine passes the tests – which are carried out on each saca – a precise number of the appropriate, numbered age statement labels will be issued according to the amount of wine.

This classic is 80 years old but VORS only guarantees 30

 Only certain types of Sherry qualify for certified age statements, and they are Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez as most Finos, Manzanillas and Moscatels are best when younger. It should be noted that the age certification guarantees that a wine is at least the stated age, but many are much older. There is no certification available for wines older than 30 years.

Although the system is as good as it can be, and most bodegas use it - after all nearly all of them have very old wines - some have chosen not to do so and sell their old wines without age statements. Perhaps their reputation is enough, or their wine is much older than 30 years and VORS might devalue it. Those bodegas which do use the system however, can easily demonstrate the advanced age of their wines and justify a more profitable price tag. Since only 0.2% of all Sherry carries a VOS or VORS tag they need to be profitable.


Interestingly I have never come across a Vintage Sherry with an age certification. Many are over 20 or 30 years old, and obviously their age is already known as it has been supervised by the Consejo from the start. I asked them about this and they said that they would certainly qualify, as long as they were top quality but couldn't remember seeing one either. I asked a few bodega people and they seemed a bit vague on the issue, but with a clear vintage date on the label most obviously feel it is unnecessary.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Manzanilla Pasada Solear en rama Primavera 2017 15%, Barbadillo

Appearance
Bright amber tinged gold with golden reflections.
Nose
Seriously fresh with pronounced flor notes and that saline maritime mineral bitterness which makes Manzanilla so special. There are subtle hints of seaweed and brine, and a sensation of humidity. There are also faint traces of cider and cabezuela giving a slightly appley buttery character.
Palate
Zippy and fresh but serious. There is reasonable acidity but much of the effect comes from the saline flor bitterness, which, with the saline yeastiness and slight butteriness gives an incredibly tasty wine which really develops and then lingers on the palate. Lovely.
Comments
Another cracking Manzanilla pasada en rama from Barbadillo. According to the back label, en rama is "como Dios la trajo al mundo" (lit. as God brought it into the world) or as God meant it to be. Couldn't agree more! The wine is around 8 years old and consists of wines selected from the Solear solera in the Arboledilla bodega which are aged  for a further two years, so it really is a Manzanilla Pasada. 
Price
14 euros, Er Guerrita

One is just not enough....



Saturday, 9 September 2017

Vino Blanco Covisan 2016 11.5%, Coop Covisan

Appearance
Pale silvery strawy gold, looks young and fresh.
Nose
Soft and slightly chalky, even a very slight trace of sherbet, faintly floral with gentle apple, pear and melon fruit. It is not massively complex but really quite attractive, and it's Palomino.
Palate
Again soft and gentle, and although the acidity is low it works with those orchard white fruits coming through. Its lightness and freshness make it attractive, especially in summer. Moderate length. Dangerously easy quaffing wine of decent quality.
Comments
Covisan stands for  Cooperativa del Campo Vitivinícola Sanluqueña which was established in 1968. The seven cooperatives in the Sherry area own a little over half the vineyards and each thus produces large quantities of wine. They act as independent wine producers with their own soleras and brands, sell bulk mosto (newly fermented wine) to the bodegas and bars and also sell them mature wine as required. So the coops are a very important part of the system. Covisan is well equipped with modern plant and is very serious about its wine. They supply La Guita next door and La Gitana among others. Anyway this wine is made from the first very gentle pressing of Palomino (as is their Manzanilla), fermented in stainless steel tanks at @ 17C allowed to settle and then gently filtered before bottling. It seems so cheap but it is good and also available (legally!) in BIB.
Price
2.30 euros ex bodega


Friday, 8 September 2017

Bodegas: Carrasco Hermanos

The origins of this firm go back to 1840 when Manuel Gil y García, from Grazalema (Cádiz), bought the bodegas and fine soleras which had once belonged to Tomás Geraldino y Croquer (the Irishman Thomas Fitzgerald) who had died in 1755. The business grew to be very successful and in 1882 it was expanded and renamed after the relatives the Carrasco brothers (hermanos) joined the firm, based at Calle Cartuja 2-5. They owned a 25 hectare vineyard called San José in the pago Burujena.



The Official Guide to Jerez of 1889 describes them as exporters, particularly to the Americas where they had an office and near monopoly in Mexico, but were also present in other markets. The 1900 edition of the same publication lists them as a very successful business with large, spacious and well thought out premises, having bought another neighbouring bodega.



It seems that on the 31st December 1895 the business was split into two to best manage the large volume of business. Thus Francisco Carrasco y Hermanos was created and established itself in Calle Arcos 55 where they had a cooperage, distillery and all the appurtenances necessary for a large business. Some of these bodegas now belong to Lustau. In 1897 the firm changed its trading name to Juan Carrasco y Hermanos and was bought out some twenty years later by Gutiérrez Hermanos who moved operations to the Carrasco bodegas in Calle Cartuja.



In 1936 the firm moved to Calle Cordobeses 3 and in 1963 became Fernando Carrasco Sagastizábal (1899-1982) where they remained till they were in turn bought out by Manuel de Argüeso in 1942, becoming part of Manuel de Argüeso SA which itself was bought by Valdespino in 1972.



At this point the firm disappeared from the radar except that there was a Fernando Carrasco Chacón, presumably the son, still operating  as late as 1984 likely as an almacenista and at the same address. The old bodega now belongs to Tradición CZ. Some small and very old soleras were bought by M Gil Luque and sold under the De Bandera label. Equipo Navazos Palo Cortado No.6 came from one of these.



Best known brands were  Manzanilla Fina Rafael, Amontillado Colombo, Pajarete 1800, Jerez Quinado Del Uno, Coñac san Carlos.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Corta y Raspa Viña Atalaya 2016 11%, José Manuel Harana

Appearance
Bright pale gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Fresh,clean and natural with notes of very young Manzanilla, very mineral with hints of fresh herbs and wild plants and a maritime note. There are faint notes of apple and even flor, so the wine leans slightly more towards Manzanilla than fruity table wine. Classic Sanlúcar vino blanco.
Palate
Light young and fresh with good acidity, almost crunchy, the fruit is balanced out by a faint flor bitterness and saline minerality which gives it a lovely tension. There is a chalky texture and while it seems a little lean at first it soon fills out and leaves a super clean dry finish. It is barely a year old and more time in bottle will bring it out further and enhance the vineyard character.
Comments
José Manuel Harana Yuste is a 5th generation grower and one of the three mayetos involved in the Mayetería Sanluqueña project which was the brainchild of oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez to make the vineyards more profitable by selling a finished product rather than just grapes. José Manuel's grapes come from his Viña Atalaya vineyard in the Pago Atalaya where the soil is the lentejuela type of albariza. All the Mayetería Sanluqueña wines have been made in exactly the same way, fermented in butt, to let the vineyard speak for itself, all the wines are different and all are good, showing just how important and how interesting vineyards are. Production for 2016 was just 700 bottles, but that could increase when he sees how well received the wines have deservedly been. Bottled by MC3 in El Puerto de Santa María.
Price
9.95 euros, De Albariza

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Sweet Sherry for Ladies

Fashions come and fashions go, and as far as wine is concerned sweetness is definitely a fashion. A century ago – and even much more recently - sweet wines were far more popular than now. For example, divers were surprised by the sweetness of the Champagne they rescued from a XIX century shipwreck in the Baltic. But it shouldn’t be a fashion, it is not about being “cool”, it is all about the right wine for the right dish or the right occasion. And it is surely not about gender.



Sweeter styles, at least the more inexpensive ones, are often appreciated by novice wine drinkers because they are easier to drink, and also by older people who are accustomed to the sweeter styles of the past. These days, many people profess not to like sweet wines, as if they were for simpletons or amateurs (or not “cool”), but I have done many tastings which included Cream, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel and – albeit with a little explanation - people loved them. Some think dark wine is sweet and that certain grape varieties are too, but this is usually not the case.



The fact is that the grape variety and colour don’t matter – the important thing is quality. These wines are often much more difficult to make and require great skill and special conditions, and many are not legendary without good reason. Sweet wines go with all sorts of dishes which are unsuitable for dry wines and are every bit as delicious. It is not as if loads of sugar has been added, as many seem to think; they contain natural grape sugar.



There is absolutely nothing wrong with sweet wines, indeed some of the world’s greatest wines are sweet; Sauternes, Málaga, Tokaj, Port, Constantia and the PX and Moscatel Sherries to name just a very few – and they offer all sorts of flavours and textures which dry wines simply can’t, though naturally the opposite also applies. All decent wines are interesting, dry or not.



So to get to the point, it has long been assumed, mainly by the men who made the wines, that ladies prefer something sweet, as if we were a simpler breed with simpler tastes, but my enquiries show that most of us in fact have much more sophisticated and wide-ranging tastes. Women are less dogmatic and accept a wine for what it is or what it is for. Furthermore, women are scientifically proven to be more sensitive tasters. In fact increasing numbers of women are working as oenologists at bodegas around the world, and the Marco de Jerez is no exception.




Thankfully, these condescending “special wines for ladies” are a thing of the past. Sweet or not, ladies are more than capable of making up their own minds, thank you very much.






Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Corta y Raspa Viña Morla 2016 11%, Rafael Rodríguez

Appearance
Pale straw gold with golden highlights.
Nose
Fresh clean, open and mineral with slight marine notes, there is a gentle leanness with a real feeling of nature and aromas of open meadow and hints of apple and kiwi. Young fresh and crisp with real vineyard character.
Palate
Crisp and clean, almost like biting into an apple, then salinity and minerals come through. There is a good acidity and while the whole thing seems on the lean side there is enough breadth. While lovely now, the wine is still young and that breadth will develop well over a couple of years.
Comments
Despite being made in an identical way, this wine is very different from the Viña Las 40 and shows the vineyard effect clearly. It was one of just 700 bottles made of 100% Palomino from the 3rd generation mayeto Rafael Rodríguez' vineyard Viña Morla in the Pago Añina with help from consultant oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez, whose brilliant idea the Corta y Raspa wines and the Mayetería Sanluqueña project was. There are two wines from Rafael, the other coming, like this one, from the tosca cerrada albariza soil of his Las 40 vineyard (QV). The idea was for the mayetos to make  a more sustainable income from their vineyards, and if the quality is as good as this, then they will. It was contract bottled by EMC3 in El Puerto de Santa María. Rafael is one of three growers involved in the project, and there is sure and certain hope that more will join.
Price
9.95 euros, De Albariza




Monday, 4 September 2017

Brandy Cardenal Mendoza Carta Real Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Sánchez Romate

Appearance
Deep walnut tinged mahogany with gold and copper highlights and a trace of green at the rim.
Nose
Intense and aromatic with a wealth of nuances. An attractive caramel and raisin sweetness greets the nose, then there are notes of dried fig, date, prune, oak, dried orange peel, spice and traces of Oloroso and PX, but with a brandy of this age many nuances are melding together to form an outstanding and complex bouquet. 
Palate
Full and super smooth with remarkably little tannin, but a great deal of flavour. It coats the mouth generously with a gentle sweetness and develops powerful notes of dried fruits, traces of nuts, toffee, oak, leather and tobacco. It has real layers of flavour and an extremely long and fairly dry finish.
Comments
This superb brandy was introduced to commemorate the arrival of the new milennium with something special and is available in limited quantities in numbered bottles. It has an average age of at least 25 years. A parcel of the standard Cardenal Mendoza, already a Solera Gran Reserva was set aside for extra ageing in 1981, the bi-centenary of the founding of the bodega. It was put in mainly old Oloroso and a few PX butts till it had an average age of at least 25 years. The name Carta Real commemorates a dinner at the Royal Palace in Madrid in 1900 when wines and brandies from Sánchez Romate were served. In fact the owner of the bodega at the time, Juan Manuel Sánchez y Gutiérrez de Castro was also a minister to King Alfonso XII who elevated him to Duke of Algeciras for his efficiency in organising an international conference there.
Price
Around 70 euros


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Corta y Raspa Viña La Charanga 2016, 12.5%, Antonio Bernal

Appearance
Pale silvery strawy gold with bright golden highlights.
Nose
Super fresh, clean and natural with notes of apple skin and wild meadow plants, both herbs and flowers. A faint hint of sweeties is overpowered by salinity and ozone, and there is even a slight trace of lemon icing. Young and promising.
Palate
Clean, fresh and crisp with a distinct malic note, surprising given the 12.5% strength and the ripeness that would imply. Yet that malic acidity gives the wine amazing freshness and is certainly a part of the Palomino flavour profile when young. The salinity is still there, adding to the fun. This is a very young wine and needs time in bottle to develop, but I am sure it will develop well.
Comments
This is was one of 1,000 bottles made from 100% Palomino grapes grown by Antonio Bernal Ortega, a 4th generation grower, in his historic Viña La Charanga vineyard in the northwest part of the Pago Maina (or Mahina) near Sanlúcar. Here the soil is the barajuelas type of albariza and the vines are around 30 years old. He also supplies grapes to Viticultores Alba for their lovely sparkling wines. As a "member" of Mayetería Sanluqueña, the project set up by oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez to make the vineyards more profitable, the wine is made from low yield grapes which are virtually organic and fermented naturally in butts. All the project's wines are made the same way allowing the individual vineyards to speak for themselves, and they do. This project deserves maximum support and will hopefully help protect the vineyards from encroaching urbanisation. I would like to buy the Corta y Raspa range again to see how they age, and it would be very helpful if some way of identifying the vintage were on the labels, even a lot number. Yes it is on the cork, but you have to remove the capsule to see it, and most wine merchants wouldn't want you doing that.
Price
9.95 euros, De Albariza

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Manzanilla Entusiástico 15%, Delgado Zuleta

Appearance
Pale straw gold with golden highlights.
Nose
There are signs of development since the first release with a little less fruit and a little more flor. While the first was more a 15% table wine with a trace of flor, it has developed a little more in the Manzanilla direction. It is very clean and fresh, retaining some mosto notes, but is more of a Sherry now, with faint green herb, almond and flor notes, and most attractive.
Palate
Some apple and quince fruit, grassy green herb notes and just a little bitterness. There is a gentle mineral salinity and a pleasant roundness beautifully balanced by the flor. It is a serious wine with some class and is much better than some young Manzanillas - and it is still a baby. Lovely.
Comments
Organic viticulture is growing in  the province of Cádiz, and while there are quite a few very good organic table wines, this is still the one and only organic Manzanilla. The grapes were grown by organic pioneer Pepe Cabral in his vineyard in the Pago Burujena and the wine was made at Delgado Zuleta. Here the small young solera of only some 12 butts is located and quietly growing in size and complexity every year under the care of oenologist José Sánchez. The butts were previously used for La Goya. This is the second release, and the wine is now three years old and comes with a completely new label, quite different from other brands. Unusual too are the clear glass bottle and driven Diam cork, perhaps with the idea of attracting table wine drinkers - let's hope it works. The wine is bottled en rama and there are - or rather were - about 1100 available.
Price
17.95 euros, De Albariza

Friday, 1 September 2017

Quãdis Joven 2015 14.5%, Barbadillo

Appearance
Dense black red fading through black cherry to pink at the rim.
Nose
Full, ripe, jammy fruit; cherries and plums mainly with faint balsamic traces and hints of spice. It is deep and fairly intense, quite serious for a young wine with distinct notes of ripeness, none of which takes away from the youthful zest.
Palate
Loaded with ripe fruit; cherries, plums, brambles yet quite full bodied with a light texture and faint mineral and balsamic notes. As a young wine there is very little tannin, but just enough to give it feel and structure on the palate. A charmer with a more serious side.
Comments
The name Quãdis comes from an ancient name for Cádiz and the wine is the result of 20 years' work to make red wine good enough to represent it. The Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo and Tintilla grapes used to make this wine are grown in the albariza soils of the firm's 250 hectare Gibalbín vineyard and the vines are about 12 years old. Harvesting was done at night and by machines fitted with de-stemmers and the grapes were harvested according to ripeness over 30 days. A three day cold soak at 5C followed before fermentation in separate stainless steel tanks with specially selected yeasts according to grape variety. The wine was then stabilised and bottled after settling in tank without any oak ageing. This is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz sold as a joven (young wine), which is lovely slightly chilled, and they also make a crianza (oak aged) version. Quãdis was only introduced quite recently.
Price
6.40 euros, Licores Corredera




Thursday, 31 August 2017

Corta y Raspa Las 40 2016 12% Rafael Rodríguez

Appearance 
Bright clean light gold with golden reflections.
Nose
Full ripe and generous, Burgundy-ish at first with a fleeting aroma of toast, but there is no oak here, it is not necessary. Then the mineral and apple notes come through along with hedgerow grasses and faint floral and citric notes. What a good start.
Palate
Big, broad and fairly soft, the acidity is comparatively low, yet the wine is well balanced. It has a gentle texture and lots of flavour of ripe orchard fruit with faint traces of herbs all held together with a mineral backbone. It is really quite sophisticated  and super drinkable.
Comments
Rafael Rodríguez Jiménez is a 3rd generation mayeto (grower) and member of the group of growers which is Mayetería Sanluqueña, formed to produce quality wines from their albariza vineyards and make a better living than just selling grapes. They are backed by the oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez. The first release of Mayetería Sanluqueña wines consists of four 2016 wines from three growers, and Rafael Rodríguez produced two of them, from different vineyards in the Pago Añina. This one is made from 100% Palomino and comes from the tosca cerrada form of albariza in his vineyard Viña Las 40, and is bottled by EMC3 in El Puerto. Only around 700 bottles. It is a pity all the Mayetería labels are identical except for the information, but hopefully that will change. They have probably had considerable financial outlay, but made a very sound investment judging by the quality. This is great value for money.
Price
9.95 euros, De Albariza



Wednesday, 30 August 2017

30.8.17 State of the Harvest

The harvest is now beginning to come to an end with most of the inland vineyards finished. As of yesterday over 59 million kilos or close to 85% had been pressed with an average sugar reading of 11.78° Beaumé. Picking had been accelerated as rain had been forecast and that makes picking much more difficult as the soil becomes very muddy. Heavy rain also brings the risk of cryptogamic problems, but came too late to do any damage to the extremely healthy grapes, so it was more of an irritant than a problem. The grapes can absorb some of the rainwater which will reduce the sugar level, but that was high already and it simply compensates for any loss of volume from the high temperatures. Only Chiclana and Puerto Real, which are usually last to pick anyway, have not begun but will do so shortly. The total crop looks like being around 70 million kilos, fairly normal, but a big increase on last year, but that was a smaller than average crop. The Marco de Jerez is lucky, as many other wine regions both in Spain and abroad are reporting the smallest harvest for decades, as frost, hail and drought have really taken their toll, and harvests have generally been much earlier than normal. Yet some still deny climate change.


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Fiestas de Vendimia 2017

The annual Harvest Festival gets under way on 1st September with a multitude of activities. Many are free as long as you book, but there are far too many to list here, so for more information go to: 

http://www.jerez.es/fileadmin/Documentos/Fiestas/Vendimia17/PROGRAMA_FV2017_AL_24.08.17.pdf



Bodegas: Cramp Suter & Co

George William Suter Stevens was born in Malta in 1809. He went to Jerez in 1831 where he worked as a merchant specialising in Sherry, forming the firm of Cramp Suter & Co. in the early 1850s. Despite his initially unfavourable impressions of the town, he remained there for the rest of his life at Plaza del Mercado, 10 and was married to Candelaria Miramon Asencio. He was not only British Vice-Consul from 1869 till he died in 1887 but also Consul for the Ottoman Empire. His partner was Francis Cramp (1820-1875) who had been a partner in Port and Sherry shippers Offley Cramp & Forrester since 1846, and brother in law of Joseph James Forrester who made a famous map of the Douro. Cramp spent his time between Jerez, Oporto and London, while Suter ran the business in Jerez.

George William Suter Stevens

Suter bought wine, often from González Byass, for resale in Britain and Ireland, where he had various agents. He was more of a shipper and almacenista  but still produced various brands. Henry Vizetelly visited in 1876 and commented on the fine Fino soleras, kept in a very dark bodega and wine dating from 1812 along with some other very old wines which had been to Manilla and back, East India Sherry. The old wines were evidently highly aromatic but rather potent. Perhaps Suter’s main claim to fame was a map he drew of the Jerez viticultural districts, the first of its kind, with Miguel Palacios in 1857. It could be that he got the idea from JJ Forrester.



By 1877 Suter had bodegas at Calle Rincón de Malillo, 7 as well as two houses, one at number 4 of the same street and the aforementioned at Plaza del Mercado, 10, where he lived. The Cramp Suter Sherries must have been good as for a while Bodegas Cayetano del Pino sold them under licence. After Suter’s death the bodegas were bought by Bartolomé Benítez Lago, who sold them in 1931 to Fernando Carrasco Sagastizabal.

Pictures and much info: Jose Luis Jimenez

Among the Cramp Suter brands were:
Jerez Viejísimo Añada 1840, Oloroso Viejo, Una Raya, Tónico Reconstituyente, Málaga Blanco Dulce




Monday, 28 August 2017

Fino en rama (Jerez) Spring 2015 15.5%, Lustau

Appearance
Bright amber tinged strawy gold with golden glints.
Nose
Wonderfully fresh and nicely developed; quite intense with lots of almondy acetaldehyde and bitter flor but with subtler notes behind like faint traces of oxidation, toasted bread and oily, almost buttery notes along with a gently saline hint of dry scrub. Hints of cabezuela add even more complexity.
Palate
Equally intense; bone dry and fresh with full-on flavour and that bitter flor and the complexity of 2 years' bottle age distracting one from the lowish acidity. This is delicious and full of that almost sun-baked Jerez style as opposed to the racier brinier Sanlucar and Puerto styles, and has an attractive chalky mineral texture and incredible length.
Comments
Now that this wine has spent two years in bottle I thought it would be fun to try it - and it certainly was! It is in beautiful condition and could happily spend much longer in bottle. Each spring, only enough wine is selected to fill two butts, so there were only perhaps a couple of thousand bottles of this roughly 5 year old wine. It just shows how much is lost in filtration and how worth while it is to keep these wines aside for a year or two - or even more.
Price
12 euros per 50cl bottle, Licores Corredera


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Brandy Marqués del Mérito Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Diez Mérito

Appearance
Deep walnut brown with bright ruby/copper highlights and a trace of green at the rim, legs.
Nose
Intense, even concentrated, with lots of wood and Oloroso, this smells old and serious. There are also notes of caramel, vanilla, brown sugar,  and traces of coffee and pasas. 
Palate
Rich, generous and full bodied, this is a real after dinner brandy. For all the wood on the nose there is by no means excessive tannin and it is intensely flavoured, its generosity lingering for ages.
Comments
This must be one of the last bottles of the old design which has now been replaced by the Mérito 15 Solera Gran Reserva, which as far as I know is the same brandy. It is all a bit complicated as Diez Hermanos merged with Marqués del Mérito, then they were both taken over by Rumasa. They were then taken over by Marcos Eguizabal along with Zoilo Ruiz Mateos and thus used to make Gran Duque de Alba which went to Bodegas Internacionales which is now Williams & Humbert. The Espinosa family which now owns Diez Mérito have tried to simplify things and now offer a range of brandies which are all called Mérito, followed by their age and type. This solera was established in 1819 and the brandy is around 15 years old, distilled from both Palomino and Airén.
Price
25.00 euros, Licores Corredera


Friday, 25 August 2017

El Muelle de Olaso 2016 14%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Appearance
Pale silvery strawy gold with golden reflections.
Nose
Full and inviting, charming, soft with apples and pears and a hint of flowers like camomile but behind that, and as it warms up, there are barely perceptible notes of straw and minerals giving it more of a Carrascal Palomino character. The charm slightly outweighs the origin but it is there.
Palate
Plenty of orchard fruit; apples pears even white peach, delicious with lowish yet perfectly balanced acidity and gentle texture. This wine is dangerously easy to drink and another example of how good Palomino can be in skilled hands.
Comments
This is the first release of this new wine, alongside its red partner El Triángulo (QV), both Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz. It is made from 100% Palomino grapes grown in the pago Carrascal and hand harvested in various passes over nearly two months to achieve perfect ripeness. 80% of the grapes are fermented at low temperature in stainless steel tank while 20% are briefly sunned before fermentation in seasoned Sherry butts, presumably Manzanilla or Fino. The finished wine is aged in tank for six months on its fine lees. At the moment the wine is delightfully fruity and fragrant but hopefully more of the vineyard will become apparent as it ages in bottle. The Muelle de Olaso was a pier built by the Marqués de Olaso in Sanlúcar in 1922, and notable for being constructed from reinforced concrete beams, designed for unloading fish and for passengers going to and from Sevilla. It was demolished in 2005.
Price
9.00 euros, Er Guerrita

Official photo - looks red but is white

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Manzanilla Deliciosa en rama Spring 2016 15%, Valdespino

Appearance
Amber tinted gold with golden highlights, legs.
Nose
Big and well developed, lots of flor and some prominent oxidative notes. Clean dry nose with traces of olive brine, dried flowers, bitter almond, straw, autolysis and salt bringing a good deal of complexity and undeniable character. Perhaps the oxidative notes slightly obscure those of the wild yeasty beast, but look for it and it is there.
Palate
Packed with flavour, this is a classic. There is a delightful texture and flavour from the cabezuela with its nutty butteriness which balances beautifully with the lively acidity which gives it its yeasty salty zip. There is so much flavour it lasts for ages. Thank goodness for the en rama wines in which all that character is not filtered out.
Comments
This wine is a different selection from the Deliciosa solera at the Misericordia bodega which has 6 criaderas plus the solera. It is bottled at about 6-7 years old. Grapes are from the Pago Miraflores. It has a higher acidity level than standard Deliciosa which gives it more zip. And an extra year in bottle  makes it even better!
Price
8.00 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera



Wednesday, 23 August 2017

23.8.17 Williams & Humbert to Launch Organic Sherry

Sometime next year W&H will launch a three year old organic Fino from the 2015 vintage while an organic Oloroso is still ageing as it needs more time. These will be the first organic Sherries from Jerez. A couple of years ago Delgado Zuleta successfully launched an organic Manzanilla called “Entusiastico” and behind both projects is Pepe Cabral, a passionate advocate of organic viticulture and leader of Mostolé, a group of like-minded growers who supply the grapes for the organic Sherries. Having approached a few bodegas with the idea without success, the Medina family who own W&H immediately saw the opportunity and signed a contract with them in 2015.

Since the 11 members of Mostolé only own just over 20 hectares of vineyard between them, quantities cannot be large, but the quality is excellent, and W&H bought nearly all the grapes. The firm’s oenologist, Paola Medina, is delighted with the wines’ evolution so far and says that “the idea sounded good from the start since the increase in interest in Sherry coincides with increasing interest in organic wines”. While the Spanish market hasn’t yet shown much interest in organic wines, the northern European one has great possibilities. Nonetheless, the fledgling project has attracted considerable interest from the trade.

38 butts of 2015 organic Fino at Williams & Humbert (foto:AGonzalezdiariodejerez)

For the moment W&H are keeping the wines as añada but are not ruling out the possibility of starting soleras; it depends on how the wines develop. And of course some may develop into Amontillados, Palo Cortados… When the grapes were pressed the must was allowed to ferment spontaneously without any yeast inoculation. To gain organic certification, the fortifying alcohol also needs to be organic and the Comité Andaluz de Agricultura Ecológica (CAAE) must verify the traceability of the complete product from vineyard to bottle.

So far the firm has not come up with a name for the wine. One possibility is to use an existing brand name like Fino Pando Ecológico and the other, obviously, is to create a new one. Certainly a new name would avoid any risk of confusion, but would need time for design and registration.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

22.8.17 Latest on Harvest; Tio Pepe Sherrymaster

Due to a persistent Levante wind and the high temperatures it brings the harvest is being brought in as quickly as possible. These temperatures cause evaporation from the grapes reducing their weight and therefore value as they are paid for by weight. It looks now as if the 75 million kilo harvest predicted might be more like 65 million, but that is still 8 million more than the difficult 2016. Nearly all the lagares are now working with a few exceptions in coastal areas, but they should be working shortly. According to the Consejo, up to and including Sunday, 21 million kilos had been picked, or just under one third of the total, with an average sugar reading of 11.55° Beaumé.




The V edition of the Tio Pepe Sherrymaster takes place on the 6th and 7th September led by oenologist Antonio Flores. There will include visits to the vineyards, the bodegas and the firm’s archive as well as various tastings, one in the mosque of the Alcázar. Sherry will be matched to gastronomy at the hands of Andoni Luis Aduriz and Guillermo Cruz of the two Michelin star restaurant Mugaritz. This is a great way to learn more about Sherry and one can book here: https://sherrymaster.com/inscripcion/