Saturday, 1 October 2016


Phenols are natural substances which occur in plants and, of course in the grapes used to make wine. Collectively known as polyphenols, they are a group of several thousand compounds which affect the colour, flavour and texture of wine.

There are two broad groups of phenols: flavonoids and non-flavonoids. In the first group there are Anthocyanin (from Greek = blue flower), a phenol occurring in the grape-skin responsible for its dark red to blue colour, and anthoxanthins with white to yellow colour. Then there is Tannin (from German “Tannenbaum” or fir tree), a phenol which has no aroma or flavour but which can give a bitter character to the wine as it reacts with proteins on the palate. It is found in the skins, stems and pips of the grape, and also the wood in barrels. It helps with wine stability and the bitterness fades over time as the tannins polymerise and fall out of solution. This is why red wines are laid down, but phenol levels can be reduced in the winery by encouraging this process. Catechins are phenols produced by the vine as a defence and have colour stability and antioxidant properties.

The non-flavonoid group includes Resveratrol, another phenol produced by the vine as a defence against microbes. It is found in red and white grapes but more in red wine because of the maceration of the skins during production. White wines are usually made without maceration of the grape-skin and thus mainly contain the phenols found in the pulp. Resveratrol has beneficial effects on the human heart and extracts are already being produced. In winemaking everything is interdependent. There are so many variables such as grape variety, ripeness, pressing, extraction, barrel ageing and many, many more.

Some very old Sherries – those aged oxidatively - can contain significant phenol levels which have been extracted from the old oak butts over decades, up to a century or more. It is extremely rare for any other white wine to have such extensive wood ageing. Since Phenols are alcohol-soluble, the longer the wine ages, and the stronger it is, the more phenols it will absorb, especially as evaporation concentrates the wine. But it is the oxidation over time which gives them their dark colour, whereas with Finos and Manzanillas the ageing period is shorter so they have a lower phenol content and the flor protects them from oxidation making them paler.

Nowadays we have sophisticated means of analysis and measurement and so polyphenol content can be measured, usually expressed in mg/l of gallic acid. The Total Polyphenol Index (TPI) is used and a typical sturdy red Cabernet Sauvignon might register around 90 on this scale while a more everyday red would register more like 50-60, and an oxidatively aged Sherry a little less – depending on age. It is a useful guide to the extraction and structure of the wine without the need to taste it, but virtually never appears on wine labels.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Amontillado Solera 18%, Cayetano del Pino

Mid golden amber with brassy old gold highlights, legs.
Oxidative notes predominate with traces of implied sweetness, American oak, straw and lots of nuts. It has a certain bitter almond crispness attributable to its background in biological ageing balanced by a roundness from oxidative ageing and a sort of umami/vanilla note. Stylish and interesting.
Fairly light at first then grows as it warms on the palate, with a certain tang and full of flavour. There is a slightly open textured feel and a gentle grip without it being tannic, and it has terrific length.
This once famous bodega which supplied the royal household of king Alfonso XIII acts as more of an almacenista nowadays. They only make Amontillado and Palo Cortado, but they are excellent. Their Sherries are out there, and while hard to find, they are most rewarding when you do.This wine started as a Fino fortified to 15.5% and was allowed to age through the criaderas till it reached 17.5% at which point the ageing became completely oxidative, and the whole process took 20 years. What a bargain! Production is very small at 2810 bottles annually, and the wine is bottled en rama.
12.60 euros from Licores Corredera

Thursday, 29 September 2016

It's Time to Get Your Sherry Week Event Organised!

It is only 6 weeks till International Sherry Week (7-13 November) but there's still time to organise and event and register it free at It could be a tasting, food matching session, cocktails, anything as long as it is SHERRY!

29.9.16 Sherry Export Value Up 14%; Convenio Protests

The first seven months of the year have seen sales in terms of value grow by 14.3% to a total of 21.5 million euros compared to 18.8 million for the same period last year. This welcome development is largely thanks to the United Kingdom, consistently the largest export market, despite the worries over Brexit. Some non EU markets have shown impressive growth such as Norway, where export earnings tripled, and China, where they doubled.

Beltran Domecq and Carmen Ortiz (centre) foto:diariodejerez.

These figures which were extracted from statistics compiled by the Instituto de Comercio Exterior (ICEX), and show unmistakeable growth in Sherry sales were revealed yesterday by Carmen Ortíz, the agriculture minister at the Junta de Andalucía, during a vineyard visit with representatives of the trade. She encouraged producers to continue following the path of quality not only to increase sales in existing markets but to develop new ones. “With the efforts of growers and bodegas we can keep moving forward and realise our hopes” she said and pointed out that there is collaboration between the trade and the Junta “which we want to boost” because this traditional Andaluz wine has been the flagship of Spain and Andalucía throughout the world.

Protestors at Fundador (foto:diariodejerez)

More demonstrations about the Convenio de la Vid are being planned by the workers who are awaiting official permission to demonstrate outside Williams & Humbert, Estévez and González Byass next week. Yesterday they protested outside Osborne’s Bodega el Tiro. The mood is that if the peaceful demonstrations achieve nothing then strike action will be necessary, and they are quite prepared to undertake this.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

28.9.16 Celebration at Williams & Humbert; Salón Guía Peñín 2017

The Medina family, owners of W & H, recently held the first Asamblea de la Familia Medina at the bodega. The idea of the assembly is to safeguard cohesion and harmony throughout the three current generations of this large family. There is also a family council which discusses and makes decisions, and everyone signed a protocol which lists the positions members of the family occupy in the company in the hope of continuing the vision of the founders to whom homage was paid: the brothers Ángel, José and Jesús, who were present, and the late Nicolás.

The XVII Salón Guía Peñín de Los Mejores Vinos will take place on 27th October in Madrid at the Palacio Municipal de Congresos. The wines to be shown are those which scored 93 points or more in the tastings for the 2017 Peñín Guide, which will be launched at the event. Over 4,000 people from 17 countries are expected. The 2017 guide has broken its own record with over 11,500 wines tasted, including 174 which scored over 95. Only 3% of the wines tasted were fortified, but Sherry achieved the highest average score of all.

Bodegas Carmona y López

Vicente López Campos established himself as an almacenista in Jerez in 1819. For more than half a century he grew very successful, due in a large part to the quality of his vineyards in the best pagos which he cared for assiduously. The bodegas were in the Calle Ávila and Calle San Francisco de Paula, the latter of which may be the bodega which is now the fine restaurant La Carboná.

In 1878 the firm decided to venture into the export markets with wines like: Jerez Doble Pálido, Pálido, Oro Oscuro, Oro, Oloroso, Pasto, Amontillado, Flor Fina, Pedro Ximénez and Tintilla de Rota. Before long they had earned a reputation for quality in America and Europe. They had a couple of brands specifically for Britain: Lunch Sherry, and Prince of Wales’ Feathers, while they sold a range of Soleras Finas in Spain. For a while they were suppliers to the Spanish royal household. 


The firm also launched a brandy “Cognac Fine Champagne” distilled from Jerez mostos in magnificent pot stills and its label carried the trade mark star which adorned all their labels. They also produced Quina, good vinegar and olive oil.

In the Bordeaux Exhibition of 1896 they won a diploma of honour, and won many other awards at other wine competitions. The firm was still going in 1901 according to a review of Jerez bodegas published that year, but nothing has been heard since.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Why I List So Many Long Lost Bodegas

PARTLY it is because they arouse my curiosity since many of these old firms were the forerunners of the bodegas of today. Many of their soleras still exist but are now in different hands, often renamed, sometimes unused, but it is interesting to know how and where they ended up. Most of the family names still exist, but few of the original bodegas. As the firms grew they bought or built more, resulting in bodegas all over the place which was impractical. Recent years have seen firms consolidate in much bigger bodegas and sell off the old sites to the builders. Anyway, many of those old bodegas were no longer fit for purpose as surrounding modern construction had diverted their supply of Poniente wind and modern trucks could not pass down the narrow streets.

Luckily Real Tesoro was rehoused at Estevez (

PARTLY it is because the trade was different then. It was full of industrious and innovative people who, in the days before the Denominación de Origen, were also involved with other types of wine such as Madeira, Port and Málaga, which they either bought in for resale – though in some cases they actually owned the respective wineries - or simply made it themselves. There used to be “Porto de procedencia” (genuine Port) or “Porto de Jerez”. The same applied to spirits with, for example “Coñac” and “Ojén” (an anise flavoured spirit originally from Ojén near Marbella). They did all sorts of things which were perfectly legal then, including refreshing soleras with Montilla and making outrageous advertising claims.

PARTLY also because I realised it is almost impossible to find this information anywhere else and decided to offer what I could find. I have spent a great deal of time researching them in my own Sherry library (37 books - so far), on the internet, talking with people, and of course in the library in Jerez with the librarian, but there is not much there either. Naturally there are records of births, marriages and deaths, the padrón (a list of everyone habitually living in a municipality), planning permissions, council taxes and such like, but virtually nothing about individual Sherry firms. A whole team of researchers with plenty of time would be needed to piece all this together and match it up to any other extant information.

Interior of Jerez Library

As historians say, it is the winners who write history, or in this case the bigger, surviving bodegas. There is no shortage of information on them, but it is amazing how quickly information about even recently closed bodegas disappears. Rumasa certainly didn’t help; in its rush to buy up bodegas little thought was given to their records. Another point is that many of these old firms simply left less evidence. They would change the company name as directors came and went, making it very hard to trace their history, and most exported in bulk so the wine would usually bear the name of its importer in another land, meaning the producer often had no label; even less to remember them by.

Here’s to the hundreds of lost bodegas who helped create the wonderful wine we enjoy so much today.