Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Recent Adventures in Sanlúcar

Just to give you an idea of how wonderful the people of Sanlúcar are, here’s what happened at the weekend. I had booked to attend iNNoble, an unmissable event full of small wine producers, and the Día de la Manzanilla in general. After hours trying to find accommodation I finally secured it at Hotel Barrameda, only to arrive and find I’d stupidly booked for July, not June. Marta, the receptionist, was extremely kind and phoned all the hotels, pensions etc. on my behalf, but without success. At least I have a room booked for July.

So I decided to go to Taberna er Guerrita (above) and consider what to do over a glass or two of their excellent Manzanilla. Having succumbed to the temptation of Armando’s little shop, I got talking to some local chaps and my predicament soon came out. After buying me another drink, Juan said not to worry, he knew of a chap who was installing a few rooms in his delightful bodega/bar, and in no time we were in his car en route to La Herrería (below) in the Barrio Alto. 

The owner, the charming Félix, did indeed have a room which, though not 100% complete, was more than good enough, especially at the price, and what’s more he could offer food and drink, even parking. He showed me a great bar called Ke Arte with lots of live flamenco, so I spent some time there and ended up going for a paseo with some of its customers! Back at Félix' bar we got talking and I mentioned I should really move to Sherryland instead of endless driving, hotels and speeding tickets. Then he introduced me to a man in the property business who might well have something suitable. A few drinks later and we’d arranged to meet up.

Fernando Angulo

Next day was iNNoble at the Posada del Palacio which was fantastic (see separate post), and after the morning session and an excellent lunch with Borja of the Tienda del Jerez and his wife, I returned to my room for a siesta. At around 6.30 I was awoken by my name being shouted from the patio. I rushed downstairs to find Fernando Angulo of Viticultores Alba waiting with a sample already poured. And what a sample – completely hand-made sparkling Palomino which was his best yet.

Amusing signs like this were everywhere at iNNoble

We hopped into Fernando’s car which took us to the second session of iNNoble, not slowly, but there was no time to waste. As we arrived we noticed the sky was a very odd colour and we speculated about everything from a storm to the end of the world. It was only later, over a drink with Borja that we noticed ash falling from the sky, and it turned out to be from a very serious forest fire in Huelva – some 70 kilometres away – but it was threatening the Coto Doñana. It destroyed 10,000 hectares in the end, but thankfully Doñana was saved.

Then there was a tasting of, you guessed it, Manzanilla, in the Plaza del Cabildo led by none other than Antonio Barbadillo, which was well attended and great fun. As the benefits of the siesta wore off I repaired to nearby Barbiana for a nightcap and some Ibérico ham before tackling the steep Cuesta de Belén back to the Barrio Alto, and an extremely sound sleep.

Monday morning, began with a visit to Covisan, one of the wine cooperatives where the capataz himself showed me round the bodegas. Unlike some bodegas they actually make the wine here using impressive modern equipment; a sea of stainless steel tanks, presses and filtration plant. They also have an ageing bodega with huge soleras mostly for Manzanilla, but also Amontillado Oloroso and PX. The coop supplies wine to many bodegas as well as having its own brands. We had a great conversation about BIB, the Consejo, the coming harvest and many other matters. Viva Sanlúcar!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

27.6.17 Williams & Humbert Launch a new Vintage Sherry

Having pioneered vintage Finos, the bodega is launching a new one, “Tiento”, a Fino en rama 2007. It will be the first in a new series of vintage Sherries which bears the names of different flamenco styles (palos) on their labels according to the style of the wine. The origin of Tientos is in risk taking, being adventurous, daring (the word translates as “care”) and that is what winemaker Paola Medina has been doing in her amazing work with biological ageing in vintage wines. Tientos are deep, majestic and slow and the Fino is like that; deep and majestic, to be appreciated slowly. This is a rare bird as somehow flor has lasted on the wine for almost a decade in a couple of sealed sealed butts, and that is almost unheard of. 

Interestingly it is not the first time the word Tiento has appeared on a W&H label. In the past they bore the old Andalusian saying “Para conserver el conocimiento, vete al vino con tiento, pero si el vino es de Jerez, perderás el tiento alguna vez” (To preserve your senses approach wine with care, but if it comes from Jerez, you can lose that care for once). And the flamenco connection goes deeper. Since the firm’s first vintage wine in 1920 there has always been a nod to flamenco in the shape of a flamingo (flamenco in Spanish), and that tradition lives on. Just this month Josep Roca chose a W&H Oloroso vintage 2002 to match a soleá at the Copa Jerez “Tal palo, tal Jerez” event. The bodega is even sponsoring the first “Ciudad de Jerez” prize for flamenco research.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Palo Cortado Añada 1966, Williams & Humbert

Lightish much polished mahogany with golden, copper glints.
Incredibly fragrant and clean with lots of toasted almond and hazelnut, traces of exotic woods like cedar and faint traces of spice. It is on the light side but almost perfumed, and with a complex array of aromas all combined into a bouquet in which it is hard to pick many of them out. Magnificent.
The wine is powerful on entry and  dry and fairly crisp yet it opens out like a fan, softened by glycerine and then the flavour floods out; all those nuts, exotic woods and dried leaves, perhaps some of them Dutch tobacco leaves. Tannins are very fine and it has a forceful richness and elegance at the same time. What a wine, bursting with character, and very long. Superb.
After a butt was kept aside as a vintage for the birthday of a member of the family in 1922, the firm has laid down butts of vintage Sherry every year since 1924. The wines are only lightly fortified and gain their @22% through merma (loss of water through transpiration). Unfortunately they are rarely seen in bottle, and indeed this example was one of just four bottles hand filled without filtration for the Copa Jerez tasting.
It looks the same as this Oloroso 1966

Saturday, 24 June 2017

24.6.17 Winegrowers Fear a Hot Summer; New Book on González Byass

It has already been the hottest spring in 52 years and the meteorologists are predicting a hotter summer than usual with daily temperatures likely to be around 40 degrees. This of course implies a small harvest. Even the sceptics are agreed that climate change is behind the situation and no one can deny that recent weather events have been extreme, like last year’s 40 days of incessant Levante wind, and when it rains, it is torrential. It seems we are losing spring altogether and going straight from mild winters to very hot summers.

Checking Macharnudo vines (foto:diariodejerez)

Growers are hit twice; by the change in the natural cycle of the vines reducing yields and by rising costs and the resultant drop in earnings. It is not only vineyards which are affected, but they are affected most severely as they are a summer crop and grapes are ripening quicker. Sunburned grapes have already been spotted in inland vineyards two months before the harvest and irrigation is not allowed. Growers can react to changes in the weather, but changing climate is another matter and government must do more. Naturally growers have insurance, but the insurer, Agroseguros, is a state monopoly and its policies not specific enough. For example they cover crops against hail, but not the Levante wind which does so much harm in in Cádiz, where nobody can remember when it last hailed.

Anew book on the history of González Byass is to be launched at the bodega on Tuesday. “González Byass: Historia de una bodega desde 1835” was written by Paula Fernández de Bobadilla and illustrated with watercolours by Ximena Maier. Begoña García González Gordon wrote the definitive book on the bodega some years ago, so this new book is more of a “greatest hits” as its author put it, having condensed much information into a more readable work.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Ube de Ubérrima Miraflores 2016 12%, Bodegas Cota 45

Pale strawy gold with golden highlights.
Immediately attractive, interesting - unusual even - and fresh. Salty briny seaside notes with a gentle trace of flor mix with slight pork and cider cooking smells. Then there are some hints of apricot and quince along with bread dough, and yet it smells more and more of Palomino as it opens out in the glass. And some say palomino is bland...
Gentle grapeskin texture with notes of baked apple tart nicely balance the acidity and traces of flor, but it is more subtle than that; there is a dry chalky feel and a natural air about it. It is clean, very tasty and has very good length, delicious actually.
This wine is one of a very interesting pair - as you'd expect from Ramiro Ibáñez - though a third wine is to be released later. Both are Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz and made exactly the same way but the grapes are grown on different kinds of albariza in different pagos, Carrascal (QV) and in this case Miraflores, though the vineyards are all close to Sanlúcar. The grapes are 100% Palomino, and come from five different vineyards in the Miraflores Alta and Bajo with a mixture of albarizas: lustrillos, lentejuelas and tosca cerrada. The idea is to show the different soil characteristics as transmitted by the Palomino, which is so good at that. The must is fermented in butts which are full enough to prevent excess flor and aged there for 8 or 9 months. Some 3,500 bottles were filled. This is a classic "vino blanco de Sanlúcar" or unfortified Manzanilla and great value.
10,90 euros, La Tienda del Jerez

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Glass of Sherry in the Vineyards at Sunset, Anyone?

Will you be in Jerez in July? Do you fancy a trip through the vineyards and a glass of Sherry at sunset? No problem, Rutasiete can organise all this for you at a very reasonable price. It is an excellent service which I can recommend and they can collect you and drop you off again afterwards. Here are the details:

Brandy Veragua Solera Reserva 38%, Álvaro Domecq

Deep walnut to amber with bright copper highlights.
Full, quite powerful and forthcoming yet serious and complex with a full array of aromas: wood, caramelised walnuts, toasted almond, old Oloroso, dried orange peel and traces of hickory, pasas and vanilla.
A gentle sweetness greets the palate followed by all the above aromas in  a lovely harmony which gradually opens out giving a full bodied, quite intense brandy with its own individual sophisticated character and very good length.
This excellent brandy is made from 95% Airen and 5% Palomino grapes and is aged for at least five years in both 250 litre barrels and 500 litre butts, all previously seasoned with mostly Oloroso and a little PX. It would appear to consist mainly of holandas, which would explain the quality. The bodega offers another brandy, the Duque de Veragua Solera Gran Reserva.
11.25 euros, Licores Corredera