Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bodegas: Gorman & Co

Dr. John Gorman (MD MRCS) was an English surgeon who decided to change careers and join the wine trade. He spent most of the latter part of his life in El Puerto de Santa María exporting quality Sherry to Gorman, Hamilton & Thorby, wine merchants of which he was a partner, with offices at 16 Mark Lane London, a street noted for wine merchants. The firm later included William Hastings Hughes until the partnership was dissolved in 1859. The Sherry business was comparatively small scale, exporting 296 butts in 1856 (compared to Burdon’s 3507). This number had risen to 650 butts by the late 1860s. The wine was sold under the firm’s name in the London area.

Gorman was a hands-on type with a thorough knowledge of the Sherry business and indeed wine in general. His wine was highly recommended by Richard Ford (1796-1858) in his book “A Handbook for Travellers in Spain” of 1846. This recommendation would increase Gorman’s sales enormously, at least for a while. Ford tells us that Gorman acted as both manager and capataz of the bodega and that it was well worth paying a visit.

A contemporary quayside at El Puerto (foto:gentedelpuerto)

Gorman's knowledge was put to good use in 1823 when he gave evidence to the British Board of Trade on the quality of Sherry. He produced an amazing list of all the vineyards, their size, their soils, number of butts produced and their owners. He reckoned that the 25,000 acres or just over 10,000 hectares (there are only 7,000 now) was close to the limit of planting to produce quality wine, and said that the wine shipped to Britain was blended to suit the British taste and much was therefore not natural.

In 1852 he gave evidence to a House of Commons committee that increasing excise duty was counterproductive, saying also that a properly made Sherry did not need as much alcohol as some inferior wines contained. He pointed out that much wine shipped as “Sherry” was not genuine and needed to be fortified. In his view, if the public could learn to drink natural wines, they would drink better and so drink more, and thus raise Government revenue.

Gorman is credited with being the first to ship Manzanilla to England, and he described it as “a natural wine, sub-bitter with a fragrant aroma, very pure, and might be drunk by those who have any organic affection or inflammatory disease”. There is no record of the business, at least under that name, after the 1870s, when presumably Gorman died.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Holgado Petit Verdot 2013 14.7%, Hermanos Holgado

Opaque black cherry red with very narrow pinky almost purple rim, young looking.
Big, fresh and very attractive. Perfectly ripened grapes and notes of American oak, brambles, blueberries and traces of spice, bitter black chocolate with a faint balsamic even minty hint. The oak is nicely balanced and not excessive, just enough to add complexity, though more bottle age will be needed to age the wine.
Full bodied and dry with plenty of texture and a certain amount of mostly ripe tannin, chewy. There is also plenty of black fruit, just the right acidity and those spicy balsamic notes. It is fresh, clean and long, a very good wine with some charm, but personally I would have given it more time in oak. Still it will be interesting to see how another say, three years in bottle brings it on.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz is produced organically at the vineyard called the Viña Dehesa Palomino located in the protected spectacularly beautiful natural park of Alcornocales, between the sierras  Grazalema and Las Nieves, east of the road from Algeciras to Jerez. Here, some distance from "civilisation" near Villamartin, there is both Atlantic and Mediterranean influence in the microclimate. Vines have been cultivated here since the XVI century, originally by monks. While they use modern equipment they also use artisanal processes. Having made money in Pajarete cheese the family decided to invest in small scale wine production and planted Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The PV was hand picked, selected and then fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in American oak for six months. Given that the wine is nearly 4 years old is is amazingly fresh, but needs more bottle age. Meanwhile it would be delicious with Retinto beef, steaks or game dishes as their proteins balance the tannins.
10.00 euros, Licores Corredera

Friday, 22 September 2017

Amontillado Tabanco 18.5%, Lustau

Deep brown tinged amber with copper highlights.
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.
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.
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.
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

Pale to mid coppery onion skin pink with orangey gold highlights.
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.
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.
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.
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

Pale straw gold with golden glints.
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.
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.
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.
14.00 euros per half bottle ex bodega