Friday, 17 February 2017

17.2.17 Lecture on 1st Circumnavigation at Consejo

Much will be heard over the coming two years about the first circumnavigation of the world, the 500th anniversary of which will be celebrated in 2019. Since Portugal had reserved the eastern route to the Spice Islands and Columbus had failed to find a western route on behalf of Spain, Ferdinand Magellan set sail in a fleet of five ships from Sanlúcar in September 1519 in search of it. The voyage was largely financed by King Carlos I of Spain, and was completed three years later by Juan Sebastian Elcano after the death of Magellan, most of the crew and the loss of four ships.

Luis Molla delivering his lecture (foto:diariodejerez)

The fleet loaded its supplies at Sanlúcar, and these included a lot of wine. Sherry was therefore the first wine to circumnavigate the world, and yesterday a lecture on the subject was given at the Consejo Regulador by Luis Mollá Ayuso, a writer, naval captain and professor. During research for his forthcoming novel on the subject he came across the original 200 page ship stores book which lists 253 butts and 417 odres (wineskins) of Sherry enough for 246 sailors, and which cost the crown the modern equivalent of 60,000 euros.

Page 5 of the ship stores book showing references to Sherry (foto:diariodejerez)

About 25 years ago a replica of Elcano’s ship the Nao Victoria was built and was successfully sailed round the world. It is only 28 metres long and 7.5 metres at its widest point yet, if we do some sums, it carried some 50 butts and 83 wineskins – among all the other stores – and a crew of 42. The precise size of these containers, in days long before standardisation, is not known but the wine ration was one litre per day issued in four rations. The Nao is tiny, and it must have been incredibly cramped, I know, I’ve been aboard.

The Nao Victoria replica at sea 

During his discourse, Luis Mollá was rightly at pains to encourage the trade to take maximum advantage of this opportunity to promote Sherry during the celebrations. He said that Sanlúcar will be the capital of Andalucía for a while and that the Consejo should support initiatives such as special fifth centenary labels. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

16.2.17 Europe Prepares Strategy for Protection of Origin in US

The arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States has put the main sectors of the world economy on alert, among them the wine sector, whose alliance of leading denominations of origin led by Sherry, Champagne and Port see the progress achieved in reinforcing protection of origin in the USA being endangered. Signatories of the Declaration to Protect Wine Place Names and Origin, signed in the Napa Valley in 2005 (see it here: are worried about the cooling of the free trade agreement known as TTIP between Europe and the USA since the arrival of Donald Trump. There will be a further alliance meeting at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in June.

The “post Trump strategy” took up a great deal of the debate at the recent meeting of the great wines of the world, held in Chianti in celebration of the tercentenary of Chianti Classico, and the alliance now has the support of twenty denominations of origin and geographic indications from all over the world. There will be a further alliance meeting at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in June.According to César Saldaña, director of the Consejo Regulador of Jerez the alliance is preparing a common strategy in an attempt to stop the global impact of the protectionist policies of the new president. He said that Trump’s arrival has confused the situation. One plan is to form a lobby group to ensure that the free trade agreement isn’t allowed to lose its teeth and that more attention is paid to European wines in the USA, where there has been no progress since the signing of the Wine Accord back in 2005.

The meeting in Chianti (foto:diariodejerez)

On that occasion the EU and the USA agreed to photograph the fake wines on sale at the time in the American market. The Accord fell short however; while no new brands were permitted, established ones could continue. In the USA it is considered that the names Sherry, Champagne and Port do not refer to their origin but to their production methods. It is expected that at the forthcoming meeting in Bordeaux new members of the alliance will be announced. Current members include Sherry, Port, Champagne, Burgundy and Chablis, Bordeaux, Rioja, Madeira, Chianti, Tokaj, Western Australia, Victoria and even a few from the USA: Long Island, Oregon, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Walla Walla, Washington State and Willamette Valley.

Meanwhile the EU has just voted to ratify a trade deal with Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Negotiations began in 2009 amid much controversy and once each EU member parliament has agreed to it, it should take effect in a matter of months.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Bodegas: Molina & Cia.

José María Molina y Lamata worked as an agronomist at Bodegas Misa in Jerez before leaving to establish his own bodega in 1870 at Calle Honsario. This was a very old street in the Barrio San Pedro which had once been the site of the Jewish cemetery in medieval times. With the knowledge and experience he had gained from Misa, his business was very successful, gaining an excellent international clientele.

In 1884 he moved to a bodega complex in Calle Clavel, 29 which had once belonged to Carlos Haurie and now belongs to Emilio Hidalgo. This was the result of forming a partnership with Servando Álvarez Algeciras, who had a bodega in Calle Carpinteros in the Barrio Santiago. Servando provided financial backing and commercial experience while José María ran the bodegas and provided the winemaking skills. Servando married the daughter of fellow bodeguero Pedro Beigbeder y Casenave.

The Calle Clavel complex consisted of three bodegas, two for storage and ageing and the other, which held 2,500 butts, was for preparing wines for export.  Here they had an impressive range of modern conveniences: a bottle washing machine, a bottling line, corking machine, cork-branding machine and capsuling machine. Not only that but they had a steam boiler for cleaning butts, a 10 horsepower steam engine,  a still for brandy production and a cooperage.

Together they successfully exploited many European markets like Germany, France, Holland and Switzerland as well as the transatlantic ones of the USA, Mexico and much of Latin America. The firm reached its heyday in the late XIX and early XX centuries, but the partners were ageing. After the death of José María Molina around 1908, Servando Álvarez bought over the firm but before long sold it to Emilio Hidalgo. His bodega in Calle Carpinteros was demolished to make way for a school somewhere about 1912.

Bodegas Molina had an ample range of wines and their Sherries included Palido, Oloroso, Amontillado, Fino, Tres Cortados, Manzanilla, Moscatel , Moscatel Quinado and PX as well as home-made Málaga, Madeira, Port, Tintilla, and of course, brandy “Cognac Fine Champagne”. Some other brands were Abuelo, Imperial Molina, Jerez Para Enfermos, Vino Para Consagrar.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

14.2.17 La Guita Launch 2017 Kit de Picoteo

In 2013 Grupo Estévez introduced the successful La Guita Kit de Picoteo (snacking kit) which consists of a box containing two bottles of Manzanilla La Guita and an assortment of up market tapas. Each year there is a new edition and for 2017 there is ham, cheese, hake roe, olives, piquitos (tiny breadsticks), stuffed chicken, red peppers and pâté, and of course the Manzanilla. According to the firm’s research 93% of La Guita consumers consider picoteo to be  their favourite food moment, ideal if friends come round or for watching a film or a match.

This is the 2016 kit

This clever idea is an exercise in co-branding with other products of excellent quality and over 1,000 kits have been sold each year. Promotion is done through social media and thus attracts the younger consumer. There is a draw to win a kit, and if you win one and send in a photo of it being enjoyed you can win a Super Kit with 12 bottles of la Guita and a load of snacks. To participate go to or

Monday, 13 February 2017

Brandy Carlos III Solera Reserva 36%, Osborne

Mahogany fading to amber with copper tints.
Forthcoming with notes of Oloroso and wood from the butts, vanilla and  traces of toasted nuts and pastry. Quite dry at the start but develops a hint of sweetness, clean and balanced with its production process clearly written on its sleeve.
A little sweetness gets it off to a friendly start then the distilled wine flavours come through followed by Sherry, a trace of dried fruits and vanilla. It is clean, fresh and moderately crisp while displaying a decent depth of flavour and good length. Tasty but not too intense, an excellent everyday brandy.
This is one of the old Domecq brands sold along with Carlos I to Osborne by Pernod Ricard after their take-over of Domecq and is one of the leading brands in Spain. The blend contains at least 75% holandas, the best quality spirit from pot stills as a Solera Reserva must. It is aged for about two years in a solera established in 1904 and consisting of butts which have previously held Oloroso. Two years sounds a rather short time, but the use of soleras gives more complexity than one might expect. Charles III ruled from 1759-1788 and was one of Spain’s better kings. He introduced the Spanish flag as we know it and the national anthem among many other things.

10.75 euros widely available

Sunday, 12 February 2017

An Interview with José Peñín

This is a modest translation of an interview by Cristina Cruz with the founder of the Guia Peñín, Spain’s leading wine guide, published in on Friday.

We find him, caña (Sanlúcar venencia made from cane) in hand, enjoying a glass of Manzanilla at Bodegas Argüeso. A journalist by profession, he is making notes in his mobile about the differences between the Sanlúcar venencia and that of Jerez.

How would you define the situation of the wines of the Marco de Jerez?
It is one thing to talk about the Marco de Jerez and another to talk about the wines of Jerez and Sanlúcar; Manzanilla versus the wines of the big bodegas. There are situations and circumstances which have been further defining themselves over the passage of time. Sanlúcar – Manzanilla – is enjoying a boom, better sales because perhaps it is closer to the taverns, to the new consumer, that occasional consumer who is becoming interested in wines from small producers. What is happening with Manzanilla? It is produced by small family bodegas but if we go to Jerez they are big corporations, big bodegas and epic brands. I have proposed that they create a separate, independent Denominación de Origen because the wine and the business model are different. The climate is different and so is the crianza and even the yeasts. I don’t know if this would help the trade, perhaps it could be a subsector, and I believe the regulations would allow that.

What about quality and prices?
The quality of the average Sherry is far superior to wines from the rest of Spain, but one negative aspect is the ridiculously low price. This is because the Sherry trade has not done enough to defend a quality product and it has not done enough to resist buyers, mostly foreigners, dictating the price. When I go to the Marco de Jerez the impression I get is that bodegas are stagnating. If you go to Rioja you will see investment in tasting rooms and areas for wine tourism, but here such small profits don’t allow investment or even repairs.

Should the strategy of the bodegas in Sanlúcar be to modernise too?
I think it is still very difficult. The added value which the bodegas of Sanlúcar have achieved is very small. They have become dependent on the big firms which have bought at the price they wanted to pay, leaving no margin to invest in image. It is regrettable that, of the flagship wine producing areas of Spain, the poorest and the one with the most unfortunate bodega scene, is Jerez and in particular Sanlúcar. This stems not from neglect but from working in another way. Jerez and Sanlúcar owe their survival to emotion, to a love of something. Producers here ask less of their business than elsewhere. There is a certain magic, emotion, sensitivity which gives bodegueros here the capacity to do other work, but without abandoning the bodega. That wouldn’t happen elsewhere.

Are the low prices only due to interference from foreign markets?
It has certainly been the case. While Manzanilla has triumphed on the home market it has not done so abroad. This is because the bodegas have not been able to organise good marketing abroad while here, word of mouth has been effective, such that Manzanilla is no longer only consumed in Andalucía but throughout Spain.

Do home consumers put more value on the artisan product from these small bodegas?
To many of these occasional consumers, those with the money, it doesn’t bother them too much to spend just a little more if the product is good as they know it is an occasional purchase. The consumer is feeling more confident. They don’t mind paying 3 euros more because it is something different, albeit at a higher price.

Alongside prices, Sanlúcar is immersed in another polemic, BIB. What is your opinion?
I am against the traditional aesthetic. I have always defended the practical against the traditional. The BIB is much more hygienic. I am writing an article on the subject and I have a BIB at home which has been open for a month and a half. I have been checking and the wine is still the same so it would seem to be about image. If the powers that be at the Consejo Regulador and the big bodegas dislike the BIB it can’t be about hygiene so it must be about image. But what is image? I believe that if a screwcap or a synthetic cork can be used, why not the BIB which keeps wine even better? The Consejo arguments are weak and are all about image. What image? Let’s give it a try, let’s make the boxes better, prettier. People just want to stand still, keep the status quo.

What are your preferences among Sherries?
I have tasted excellent wines at tastings over the last 30 years when there were bigger differences between them, but now those differences are much smaller. As for types, I like a Palo Cortado – a real one – an Oloroso which has a balance between oxidation and the flavours accrued from time spent in wood, I like an Amontillado if the biological and oxidative ageing have been well done and it is not too old. I love biological ageing.

In the Sherry tastings you have recently done which wine stood out?
I loved La Kika, San León, Elías González, which I didn’t know, and I very much like the Manzanillas pasadas, wines at the limit of biological ageing which are mouthfilling and linger for ages on the palate. It is all about more ageing, more flor and more rotation. I’m not interested in a wine without biological character, the bitterness, the salty, iodine sensation.

What do you think about the table wines?
I’m very interested in the relationship between the people and their vineyards, their wine and their work. Now I’m familiar with Palomino table wines, wines of a given year sold young as opposed to a wine for dynamic ageing in the solera system. What with the minerality of the vineyards I think another grape variety would give better results for table wines. For me Palomino is for crianza.

Which wines achieve the highest points?
The highest are usually from Equipo Navazos. And that idea might be the future for the wines of Sanlúcar: a realistic price based on top quality. Although that would suppose a drop in sales volumes, higher income would balance it out. Some bodegas are already selling at a higher price and it works.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

11.2.17 Sherry Casks now Used for Gin

Sherry casks have long enhanced the flavour profile of whisky, brandy and rum, but now gin as well! Master of Malt, an online spirits company which also acts as an independent bottler under the name That Boutique-y Whisky Company, has just launched two gins aged in Sherry casks under a new name of That Boutique-y Gin Company. Both are distilled by the Ableforth Distillery in Kent (UK), famous for their brand Bathtub Gin, and it is this gin which has been bottled from two different casks.

The first gin has spent six months in a first fill 50 litre Pedro Ximenez cask and this tiny release of just 105 50cl bottles has a strength of 43.4%. The second gin has spent six months in a first fill 50 litre Palo Cortado cask with only 100 50cl bottles available at a strength of 57%, known in the gin business as "navy strength". It would be very interesting to try them and see how Sherry affects gin, but it will not be easy with such small quantities available.