Thursday, 17 August 2017

17.8.17 Lots of Interesting News

New Palomino White from Mahara – and new Bodega
The Gómez Lucas brothers, Miguel and José, have produced their first white wine, made from Palomino grown on albariza and arena soils in Chiclana. It is called Amorro and just over 5,000 bottles will be available. The name comes from the expression “beber a morro” meaning drinking from the bottle and was chosen as the wine is so easy to drink, and the word "amor" is in there too. Their new bodega is in the industrial estate of Polvorines de Fadricas in San Fernando which was once the site of the navy’s gunpowder stores. We can look forward to more interesting wines from this bodega in the future, as they now have the space to experiment.

Universo Santi Restaurant Set to Open Late September
This unique project is located in the Altillo, the former house of Manuel María González Ángel, and will be staffed exclusively by people with some form of disability. Employees have been receiving training in wine from González Byass. Jerez city council owns the building while the project is financed by various charitable foundations and supported by top chefs and sommeliers and is a not-for-profit enterprise, which means that haute cuisine can be offered at sensible prices. It deserves to be a great success as everyone wins – diners and the disabled.

Sherry Sales Surge at Majestic
The UK wine retail chain Majestic Wine has reported huge growth in sales of Sherry with an overall increase of 46% over the last 12 months and an amazing 71% for the dry, more up-market styles. The firm attributes this to “hipsters” who may use the wine for tapas or mixing and also buy craft ales and gins, proving that Sherry is finally moving on from the “drink for grannies” image. Meanwhile, the International Wine & Spirits Record is predicting growth in Sherry sales of 18% over the coming five years. іOjalá! as we say here (let’s hope so!)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

16.8.17 Latest on the Harvest

It is now a week and a half since Barbadillo kicked off the harvest and a few million kilos have already been picked. As from today picking will become generalised in the inland vineyards, while those near the coast will need to wait a further few days till the right sugar levels are achieved. A light Levante wind is forecast for the weekend and with sugar levels well over 12° Beaumé it is better to pick soon than take the risk of volume(and therefore financial) losses by waiting for even higher levels of sugar, as the price paid for the grapes is based on weight, not quality.

The biggest problem would be if any rain were to fall, which would make harvesting difficult in muddy conditions, and if the humidity were followed by hot dry weather there would be a risk of botrytis, though nobody thinks this is likely. The grape price has crept up to 0.36€/kilo which is good, but Sherry grapes are still among the cheapest around. If you are here during the harvest there is no better way to see it than with who offers personalised visits.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

15.8.17 International Sherry Week 2017

International Sherry Week 2017 will run from the 6th – 12th November, and is now in its IV edition.  It gets bigger every year as more people discover that Sherry is such a versatile wine that it is ideal for any kind of event and really brings people together. Now is the time to start organising your event and will give it free promotion. It could be any sort of event; a tasting at home or at a venue, online perhaps; a food and Sherry matching session; Sherry cocktails; in-store tastings at wine shops; comparative tastings - blind tastings even, it only matters that you enjoy some Sherry with your friends - and that’s not hard to do! Salud!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Pedro Ximénez Duquesa 18%, Sánchez Romate

Almost completely opaque blacky walnut brown fading to intense amber at the rim, viscous.
Very fruity, mainly dried fruit of course, with raisins, prunes, dates and figs to the fore along with toffee, carob and a slight toasted note from the oak. There are traces of coffee and cinnamon too.
Full on the palate with lots of texture and those delicious dried fruit flavours. It is unctuously sweet with a hint of honey yet the oak and coffee notes and a perfect touch of very slightly citric acidity provide an element of balance. Fantastic length.
This excellent PX is, at some 8-10 years old, the younger version of the superb 15+ year old PX Cardenal Cisneros. Despite its comparative youth it has considerable class and density and is good enough to feature in the firm's Reservas Especiales range and scored 90 from the Guía Peñín and 91 from Robert Parker.
14.00 ex bodega

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Harvesting at Grupo Estévez

Times have changed. Hundreds of people - mostly women, as the men were working in construction during the better years – used to form teams of pickers and arrived at the vineyards at dawn armed with knives or clippers. It was a long, hard job with pauses only to eat. Now the machines have taken over and there is barely a trace of the harvesting teams of old, who are now only needed in vineyards with difficult access for the machines or which contain old vines which have not been planted in a suitable way for machine harvesting.  This requires the rows of vines to be spaced to allow the passage of the machine and the vines to be trained on trellises at a certain height. The timetable has been reversed with the machines starting at ten at night and finishing at seven in the morning.

When darkness falls and while most people are sleeping the machines get to work, equipped with powerful headlights, cameras and various sensors so every detail of the ground is visible. Working at night has several advantages. It is better for the machines and their drivers to work at 22° than at 37° and the lower nocturnal temperature delays oxidation of the grapes or even premature fermentation. In the early days of machine harvesting much damage was caused to the vines which shortened their lifespan, but technology has moved on and machines are now more efficient and much faster than people.

Harvesting with Jerez in the background (foto:Manuel Aranda/diariodejerez)

Grupo Estévez is using a total of nine machines to cover their nearly 800 hectares of vineyard. Each one is different and adjusted for different vineyards but they function in much the same way. On the upper part there are two hoppers which collect the grapes, while on the lower part vibrating devices shake the grapes off the vine and collect them on a tray fitted with an elevator which takes them to the hoppers. There are powerful fans which blow away any dust, twigs or leaves. The process is fast and efficient but with all the shaking there can be a little loss of juice, and this calls for equally efficient transport to get the grapes to the bodega as quickly as possible. 80% of the company’s grapes are now harvested by machine.

Experts agree that no two harvests are the same; all sorts of factors affect the quality of the grapes, be they related to the climate, weather or environmental conditions. This year they look very good, and if they look good they usually are good. This year Estévez is predicting a 20-25% higher yield than last year, and of better quality. Eduardo Ojeda, the firm’s technical director reckons that the grapes are at about 12-12.5° Beaumé, almost two degrees higher than the regulatory minimum of 10.5°, which will of course require less fortifying spirit.

According to the Consejo Regulador, the harvest is inherently about logistics in which the efficiency of organisation will have both technical and financial consequences. In terms of costs machines are cheaper. Each one does the job of 100 pickers, and other processes are increasingly mechanised. In fact Estévez is only using 40 people for the harvest including truck drivers, machine operators and foremen. It requires only three people to maintain and operate each machine, taking turns during the working night, after which they need to degrease, disinfect and clean the machine ready for the next job. Since they cost 116,000 – 200,000 euros, maintenance of the machines is vital. They are hired, and the price is calculated in function of the area of land they will cover and the weight of grapes they will collect. Meanwhile the hand picking will start at the beginning of next week.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Viña Galvana 2015 12%, Bodegas Delgado Zuleta

Pale bright almost silvery gold with light gold glints.
Interesting and fruity notes of geranium, tangerine peel and sappy saline green herbs, camomile tea, with background hints of apple and barely ripe apricot, the Moscatel is notable on the nose but the Palomino is apparent in the background. Slightly unusual yet very attractive and characterful.

Fresh and crisp up front with all that tangy herbal fruit and a faint saline note then softens into a very gentle very slightly chalky textured finish with lingering fruit. Very drinkable yet it has a subtle serious side.
Made by Manzanilla specialists and one of the oldest bodegas (1744) Delgado Zuleta, this Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz contains 85% Palomino and 15% Moscatel. The grapes are from vineyards located near the coast between Sanlúcar (Palomino) and Chipiona (Moscatel). The musts were fermented separately at low temperature in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged on its lees and allowed to decant naturally before bottling, giving the desired young fresh fruity style and losing the minimum in stabilisation. 18,000 bottles are produced annually. The label shows horse racing on Las Piletas beach, Sanlúcar.
4.10 euros, Licores Corredera

Friday, 11 August 2017

Alba Rosado Brut Nature 2015 13%, Viticultores Alba

Quite a full rosé colour, a sort of light slightly orangey red  fading to salmon pink, decent mousse.
Gentle, super fresh and attractive with notes of ripe red fruit like pomegranate, redcurrant and strawberry. There is a slightly mineral air and a certain crispness from the Tintilla, and the Palomino also makes itself apparent in a faint apple note.
Fresh, fairly crisp and good and dry. It is beautifully balanced and clean which helps drive home those fruit notes, and there is a gentle chalky texture and a mineral hint in the background. Soft ripe red fruits predominate and make it very moreish, and it has very good length.
Yet another winner from Viticultores Alba who are obsessed with their wine being as natural as possible. They don't interfere in anything and take what the vineyard has to give. This charming wine is made from a blend of Palomino (93%) and Tintilla (7%) grown organically in the albariza vineyards of Sanlúcar. It is fermented in a stainless steel tank using natural local yeasts and bottled while still fermenting to retain the sparkle. No SO2 (sulphur dioxide) nor any other additive is used and the wine is as natural as is humanly possible. It is disgorged to order, and this particular bottle was disgorged by hand in October 2016 having spent about 21 months en rima - or completing fermentation in bottle. Only around a thousand bottles were made. Brut Nature means no addition of sugar ("dosage"). With sparkling wines sugar is sometimes added to balance the tartaric and carbonic acidity of the wine (eg Brut Champagne contains between 6 and 12 g/l sugar yet still seems dry). The addition of sugar in Alba wines is completely unnecessary and is never done.
27.00 euros, Er Guerrita

Thursday, 10 August 2017

10.8.17 Sherry Harvest has Begun

The Palomino grapes are already being picked in what is the earliest harvest anyone can remember, and it looks very unlikely that it will ever again begin in early September as it did before. The harvest has been getting ever earlier thanks to global warming, and recently it has been beginning in the second half of August, but this is unprecedented. Barbadillo began picking in their Gibalbín and Santa Lucía vineyards near Jerez on Monday having begun the pies de cuba at the end of last week. Grapes from the inland vineyards have easily exceeded the minimum sugar levels of 10.5° Beaumé required by the Consejo Regulador – with some reaching 15°. Much of the table wine harvest is already done.

A harvester drags a container of grapes in Barbadillo's Gibalbin vineyard (foto:MAGonzalez diariodejerez)

In its last forecast at the end of July, the Consejo predicted a possible increase in yield of 20% over last year, but it is still too early to be sure. Also it should be remembered that last year’s crop was quite small. Quality appears to be exceptional however, certainly better than last year. Grupo Estévez began harvesting last night and will be in full swing by the middle of next week, except for the vineyards at Sanlúcar which always ripen a little later, in about 10 days’ time. Williams & Humbert have begum picking their organic Palomino grapes and expect to begin the main harvest on Monday. For their part, some of the growers for González Byass will begin tonight while GB will begin on their own vineyards on Wednesday, and Fundador are carrying out checks to see how ready their and their suppliers’ grapes are.

Some 80% of the grapes will be harvested mechanically, but is some small vineyards or those with difficult access, hand picking will be necessary. The Cooperative will by contrast be picking 80% of its members’ grapes by hand which will require some 500 people, though they are not expecting to start picking before the end of next week. All the winemakers are in agreement that, even though the harvest is so early, the grapes are of superb quality.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Canasta Cream VOS 20%, Williams & Humbert

Dark mahogany with copper tones fading through amber to a green tinged rim.
Forthcoming and complex, there's a lot happening here. Figs, dates, raisins, traces of oak, even aromatic woods, brown sugar all wrapped up in caramel. Way beyond a normal Cream Sherry and way better and much more interesting.
Rich and sweet, with lots of caramel and dried fruits, a hint of walnut, yet the sweetness is beautifully balanced by acidity allowing the intense flavour to come through. There is an attractive texture and no cloying, and the flavours linger for ages. If only all Cream Sherry could be like this.
This is the extra special version of the best selling Canasta Cream. Standard Canasta is a blend of roughly 75% Oloroso from the pagos Balbaina and Carrascal and 25% PX, and the blend is made at the sobretablas stage, so the wines are homogenised throughout their ageing before the wine is bottled at about six years of age. This is the same wine, introduced in 2016, with an extra 14 years of solera which have given it considerably more complexity and created an absolute classic in which the sweetness is less accentuated and the Oloroso shines through. Brilliant gently chilled after dinner.
30.95 euros per 50cl, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Brandy Alma de Magno Solera Gran Reserva 36%, Osborne

Deep blacky walnut brown fading to amber with bright copper highlights.
Lively with quite a lot happening: notes of walnut, oak, fresh pipe tobacco and dried fruits: raisin, fig, quince jelly and perhaps a hint of orange peel. There is a faint background mineral trace I associate with column still spirit which is all but covered by the warmth and breadth and gentle sweetness.
Big, bold and generous, richly flavoured with a noticeable touch of sweetness making it incredibly smooth. There are caramel/toffee notes as well as Oloroso and orange and maybe a hint of nutmeg. No aggressive wood tannins and considerable length.
This is the better version of Magno Solera Reserva with an avarage age of five years. It is distilled at the firm's plant in Tomelloso from 100% Airén grapes, mostly in pot stills (holandas) but some column still spirit also forms part of the blend. The American oak ageing butts, which are of course located in El Puerto de Santa Maria, are mostly seasoned with Oloroso, (but there is something else there too) which gives it its distinct full bodied yet very smooth character. The brandy was launched in 2007 as a more affordable Solera Gran Reserva, filling a gap in the range. Alma is the Spanish word for "soul" and mine likes it very much.
15 euros, widely available

Monday, 7 August 2017

7.8.17 Sherry Sales for the First Half of 2017

The existing trend continues with export sales down and domestic sales up. Total sales were 7.2% down with a volume of a little under 15 million litres, as against the same period for 2016 with a volume of over 15.6 million litres, and 2015 with 16.2 million. Exports are down by 13% and amounted to less than 8 million litres while sales on the Spanish market rose by 0.8% with sales of a little over 6.5 million litres.

Spain has now consolidated its place as the largest market, having knocked Britain into second place some time ago, and it is the bodega brands which are selling, while sales of the cheap BOB, which did so much damage to the image of Sherry, are plummeting. The good results in Spain are driven by gastronomy and Sherry’s amazing ability to match any dish, and are encouraging the bodegas to concentrate on quality.

Sherry is slowly shedding the “wine for grannies” image and playing a starring role in the fashionable bars and Sherry Bars which are proliferating in Europe, Asia and America. It is now quality wine which is selling as demonstrated by the falling sales of BOB in its traditional markets. In the UK sales dropped by 13.3% with a volume of 2.7 million litres, in Holland and Germany sales dropped by 16% and 22% respectively with a total volume of just over 3 million litres, as against 3.8 million last year.

The US market dropped by 10% to 573,578 litres and, despite its admiration for Spanish culture, its venenciadores and its Sherry bars, the Asian market remains to be cracked. Sales were very modest; not far over 100,000 litres, but at least they were up, by 2.6%.

Looking at the last twelve months, total sales were down by 5.7% with a volume of 33.3 million litres as against the previous year which saw sales of 35.3 million litres. During the same period the Spanish market grew by 3.4% with over 12 million litres, while exports fell by over 10% to a volume of just over 21 million litres as against 23.6 in the previous year. The vast majority of Sherry is sold in Europe which as a whole saw a drop of 10% with a volume of 19.2 million litres, while the US saw a more serious drop of 13.6% and Asia of 4.6%.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

6.8.17 Fernández-Gao Launch De Ecclesia

The recently re-established firm of Fernández-Gao has launched a new high quality communion wine which is not only the first such wine with the Denominación de Origen Sherry but also has the approval of the Bishop. The idea was born of the friendship between the parish priest of Algar, Juan Antonio Vital, and the technical director of Fernández-Gao, Juan Carlos Sánchez. The Bishop had contacted the priest about establishing a new parish in Arcos, which naturally would need funding, and Juan Carlos offered to help. Juan Antonio thought up the wine’s name and designed the label, while Juan Carlos created the wine.

The bodega is not producing De Ecclesia for profit, but the parish priest feels the Church could sell the wine at 6-7 euros and has already obtained a domain name for this purpose. Production is unlikely to exceed 10,000 bottles however. Communion wine has traditionally been a fairly low strength basic wine gifted in garrafas to the priests by the bodegas, but not usually specifically made for the purpose. De Ecclesia, in contrast, will be fully bottled and labelled and the arms of the city will adorn the top of the cork. They are so confident in the quality of the wine that they are recommending people to take the host and the wine separately so as to appreciate its flavour.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

5.8.17 The Great Sherry Tasting 2017

The GST is back for its VII edition. This is the world’s largest Sherry tasting outside Jerez and it will take place in London at Level 2 OXO Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London on Monday 11th September.  There will be at least 200 wines and over 24 bodegas, in most cases represented by their UK importers. Three masterclasses have been arranged; “Becoming a Sherry Sommelier” by two leading sommeliers, “Pairing Cheese with Sherry” by Susie Atkins and “The Nation’s Favourite Sherries: En Rama and Cream” by Beltrán Domecq.

Bodegas Alonso will be there for the first time as well as Garvey and there is a welcome return of Sandeman. Sherry cocktails will be available along with lots of people who can answer any questions about Sherry. So if you are in the trade, this event is unmissable, and you can book here:

Fino 15%, El Maestro Sierra (Re-taste)

Pale straw gold with brassy gold highlights.
Quite big and complex with all sorts of nuances. There is plenty of flor giving it lots of  surface almondy bitterness, hints of olive brine and bread dough, and  a noticeable influence of cabezuela giving it an attractive buttery -almost cheesey - seriousness. This is class.
Lots of character, a real demonstration of what flor can do both on the surface of the wine and from the bottom of the butt, all in perfect harmony. This is cracking stuff. Bone dry, bitter, balanced and complex, there is a gentle texture and considerable length. All you should expect of a Fino and more.
Always an excellent Fino, this wine was bottled in April 2017 at at least five years old and is super fresh and super expressive. It speaks volumes about the bodega's location and the skill of oenologist Ana Cabestrero. While it is not bottled en rama, it has not been subjected to excessive stabilisation leaving plenty of flavour, plenty. 
7.10 euros per half bottle from Licores Corredera

Friday, 4 August 2017

4.8.17 Xeco: a new Fino is Launched

Using the strapline “XECO, a Sherry brand for YOU – not Granny!”  three self-confessed “Fino fiends”, Polly, Beanie and Alexa have crowdfunded the launch of a new Fino in ”disruptive packaging”. It is aimed at young people in wine and cocktail bars, and the girls are working with bartenders to develop more cocktails. The wine itself is a four year old Fino sourced from Bodegas Diez Mérito and will be available any day now in the UK from Master of Malt with an RRP of £15.99 - £16.99. The plan is to launch an Amontillado in the autumn and more information can be found at

Thursday, 3 August 2017

3.8.17 Sherry Vinegar Sets Record Sales

While Sherry is beginning to make a comeback, Jerez vinegar sales are soaring, registering a 9% increase in first half sales over last year. This is all the more impressive when last year’s sales hit a record of 5 million litres, which was itself an 11% increase on 2015. The biggest market is Spain, closely followed by France and the two countries account for 80% of total sales, with the USA in third place with a spectacular increase of 71%. Sales are largely driven by gastronomy but domestic use also contributes greatly.  The recent recession saw sales levels wobble, but they have surged back as Spain’s economy begins to recover. Jerez vinegar is unique, being born of Sherry wine, which has a much longer history than most, and, of course, the solera system. It is also controlled by the Consejo Regulador.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Marismilla 2015 13.5%, Bodegas Luis Pérez

Delicate, pretty very slightly orangey onion skin pink
Attractive, fresh, tight and delicate yet forthcoming fruity aromas like a fruit salad of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and, of course, black grapes - and a hint of their texture. Extremely inviting.
Super fresh and beautifully balanced with gentle, perhaps slightly chalky grapeskin texture, a trace of clean minerality and those delicious berry flavours. The depth of flavour and aroma belies the pale colour as it is made from the mosto yema or free-run juice. Delicious with a long clean finish.
This Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz is quite unusual as there are few rosés produced here and fewer still from the Tintilla grape. The organically grown grapes come from the bodega's own albariza vineyards at Hacienda Vistahermosa in the pago Corchuelo. They are hand picked at night for maximum freshness and minimum oxidation and selected both at the vineyard and again at the bodega. They are 100% de-stemmed and given a four hour cold soak. The free-run juice is then fermented at low temperature in a process known as "lagrima" (or tears), giving a delicate but aromatic and tasty wine which is great value.
7.20 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Table Wine Bodegas: Forlong

Established by a young couple from El Puerto de Santa María, Alejandro Narváez and Rocío Áspera in 2009, this bodega has gone from strength to strength. It started as a passion, became a dream and later a reality, and all the more impressive in the depths of an economic crisis. Alejandro had studied marketing and Rocío had studied business, but their career path changed when Rocío’s father bought the land known as La Finca del Olivar in 2007 and planted a hectare with vines. They made the first wine in 2009 and fell in love with the idea. Alejandro then studied viticulture and oenology gaining further experience in Bordeaux, while Rocío studied viti-viniculture in hot climates and worked for a while at Bodegas Luis Pérez.

Alejandro & Rocio with their wines standing in front of the tinajas.

The vineyard is in the pago Balbaina Baja near El Puerto and once belonged to Charles Furlong, British Vice Consul and partner in the long gone Sherry producer Matthiesen Furlong. They have been farming it biodynamically and hold a certificate of organic agriculture for which they had to go through a three year conversion period. Inspectors visit every year to check that no chemicals are being used, and they are not as these two passionately believe that the vineyard should be reflected in the wine, and the better the grapes, the better it is. They now have two further vineyards; in Balbaina Alta between Jerez and Sanlúcar, and another, La Greduela, located four kilometres east of Jerez where they grow four hectares of red grapes. The Balbaina vineyards have albariza soils and La Greduela has more clayey soils which help to emphasise the fruitiness in the wine. A total of eleven hectares are currently planted, though they are not all in production yet.

(foto: Cristo Garcia)

Until finance could be raised to construct the bodega, Alejandro and Rocío made the wine using the facilities at Sancha Pérez at Conil before the first Forlong wines were released in February 2014; 2,000 bottles of Petit Forlong red and 1,000 of Forlong Blanco. One approaches the bodega, which is in the middle of the vineyard, down a track lined with mulberry trees, passing the small olive grove. Here, various winemaking techniques are employed including fermentation in steel tanks, barrels and eight tinajas (huge clay jars). Barrel ageing is carried out in a fantastically humid cellar. Innovation and experimentation are bywords here with, for example, Palomino made using the red wine process and aged in ex Oloroso butts, while they are also fermenting in tinajas and experimenting with different periods of oak ageing, and proportions of grape varieties in the blends, not to mention sparkling wine.

The vineyards are planted to Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tintilla, Merlot, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez. Grapes are harvested manually, selected and stored in a cold room at about 4-5 C for 24 hours and destemmed before winemaking commences. Only natural yeasts are used. Crianza takes place in the cellar below the bodega, and is kept to a minimum to allow wines to develop in bottle.

Production has grown from the initial 3,000 bottles to the current 60,000, with seven different wines on the market. A further two wines are made exclusively for the Michelin starred Aponiente restaurant in El Puerto run by Ángel León, one of which is sparkling and called simply Burbujas (Bubbles).  Thanks to the quality and innovative style of not only the wines, but also the lovely labels designed by Victoria Cerezo Doello, they have no trouble selling them and nearly all are sold locally, but they would like to grow and sell internationally. Given their varied and proven skills, this should not be a problem, and export success would be well deserved.

White wines:
Blanco Forlong
El Amigo Imaginario
Rose wines:
Rosado Forlong
Red wines:
Assemblage Tinto
Petit Forlong

Address: Carretera Jerez - Rota Km 6, 11500 El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz.
Telephone: (00 34) 620 211 203 (mobile)
Website: (still in construction)
Visits: would need to be arranged

Monday, 31 July 2017

Castillo de Argüeso NV 11.5% Bodegas Argüeso

Bright pale golden straw with golden glints.
An interesting mix of fruit and salt. Really salty and mineral with lots of fresh sea air and a raw young green Palomino fruit. Unusual but natural. No flor, no crianza, just a mosto cleaned up for bottling, but with some real Palomino character. Like Manzanilla without the flor.
Fresh, light and clean with comparatively low acid and a bit less salty than the nose, but that allows the grape itself to really comes through with gentle leafy appley fruit. It could only be Palomino and is all the better for that.
From the Manzanilla specialists Herederos de Argüeso, now part of Francisco Yuste, this is 100% Palomino grown in albariza soils in the Sanlúcar area. It is a straight Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz table wine at only 11.5%, possibly because the grapes were picked earlier to retain acidity, but it works well at what used to be a normal strength. I do wish they would put vintage dates on the labels, even if they were stamped on with the lot number or onto the cork. Obviously one wants to avoid having to print new labels every year, but the consumer needs an idea of the wine's age. This will be 2015/2016 and it is very good value.
4.85 euros, Licores Corredera

Sunday, 30 July 2017

30.7.17 La Bodeguita to Open to Public

The town council of Jerez has decided to open its own little bodega, known as “la bodeguita” to the public, and work to repair some butts and smarten up the space is already under way in the hope that it will be ready in autumn. The plan is to open it during the Fiestas de la Vendimia, or at the latest on the 9th of October, the day of the patron saint of Jerez, San Dionisio.

The bodeguita was created in 1991 by Pedro Pacheco who was mayor at the time, and is in the town hall buildings in Calle Consistorio. The council has been in talks with various bodegas asking them to supply wine and butts since a dozen of these were past repair, but the heads have been retained so as to exhibit the signatures of various personalities. In fact, given the small size of la bodeguita (30 square metres) the barrels are half butts of 250 litres.

The oenologists Antonio Flores (González Byass) and Eduardo Ojeda (Grupo Estévez) have both visited the bodeguita to assess the condition of the wine, while the Julio cooperage has been working on the butts and running the scales at the request of Fundador. Estévez have sent a specialist to repaint the signatures and restoration of posters and paintings, some of which are fine works of art, is also in hand.

Still to be established are opening times, entry prices and whether a tasting should be made available. The idea is not to compete with commercial bodegas but to stimulate visitors to visit the commercial bodegas and buy their wine.

Many bodegas originally donated butts of wine to the bodeguita: González Byass, Williams & Humbert, Sánchez Romate, Domecq (now Fundador), Lustau, Fernando de Castilla, Osborne and Sandeman. Now there will also be wine from Grupo Estévez, Diez Mérito and Tradición. There is no Fino, but there is Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Cream, all of very fine quality, and the bodegas themselves will look after it as it is a shop window for their products.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Fino Añada 2009 Saca Feb 2017 15.5%, Williams & Humbert

Quite deep for Fino; mature amber tinged gold with golden highlights.
Full and developed, different and complex with a certain richness. There are fine notes of oxidation and apple, traces of tobacco and dry leaves as well as quince jelly and hints of flor which are noticeable if a little less pronounced than in some Finos. It is going towards Amontillado, but not quite on the same path as usual; the nose  is perhaps more like that of extended bottle maturation. It is lovely though!
Full and mature-tasting, low in acid and well rounded, yet there remains a hint of flor bitterness. Fino-Amontillado might best define it, though the term is no longer officially used, but being an añada it cannot be quite the same, though it is nevertheless extremely complex. It is virtually unique in style, fascinating and has great depth of flavour and considerable length.
Bottled in February 2017 at about seven and a half years old and already long sold out. The grapes as always are from the firm's vineyards in the pagos Añina and Carrascal and only first pressing must was used. The wine was fortified to 15.5%, casked up, sealed by the Consejo and left. There were about 20 butts of the Fino 2009 and the occasional saca, and another was done in April 2017, all in small quantities. If only one could reliably obtain them all and calmly observe the wine develop, but as it is, one just has to take what one can get. Still, even that is a treat.
20 euros per 50cl bottle, Er Guerrita

Friday, 28 July 2017

Petit Verdot Tempranillo 2015 14%, Sancha Pérez

Very deep black cherry red with pinky red rim, legs.
Needs to breathe for a while and it evolves in the glass, but it has an attractive open textured style with plenty of ripe sun-baked red and black fruits, mainly cherry and plum, and traces of almost smoky spice and French oak mingle with the fruit, giving an interesting and characterful young wine.
Full bodied and tasty with that hint of spice; the warm climate really comes through giving it an open generous style with lots of fruit, a gentle and tangily refreshing acidity and low tannin. Dangerously easy drinking now but would benefit from another year in bottle.
Made from organically grown Petit Verdot and Tempranillo grapes from vineyards between Conil and Vejer which overlook the Atlantic. Petit Verdot has lost its place in Bordeaux as it needs more sun than the home of Claret can normally provide, but Cádiz has plenty so the wine is fully ripe. The two grape varieties are vinified separately and later blended together with the blend being aged about 12 months in French oak. The perfect everyday good red.
10.99 euros, Licores Corredera

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Palo Cortado Añada 1987 21.9%, González Byass

Beautiful bright clear deep mahogany with copper glints.
Impressive, very fresh, rich, full and extremely refined with a roundness that comes of  maturity. Lots of hazelnut and almond and hints of toasted bread, tobacco and subtle hints of oak and exotic woods. This is a complex and delightful wine which one could sniff for hours.
Full bodied, almost powerful, with a lovely nutty texture and deeply flavoured with those notes of tobacco and wood. It is beautifully balanced and despite its power, not over the top to drink. A certain glycerine content rounds it off beautifully and it has almost interminable length. A classic.
As its maker, Antonio Flores, puts it the wine "has reached its fullness and is one step from glory". And he is quite right, it is wonderful. Of the 200 butts laid down as vintage wine, only 987 bottles of this  Palo Cortado were produced. It was made from gently pressed grapes (using a Willmes hydraulic press) as only the finest must will do. It was aged in Consejo-sealed butts with a 100 litre headspace and bottled en rama. Butts not selected were either bottled for senior company staff or blended into soleras.
218.00 euros ex bodega

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Brandy Milenario Solera Gran Reserva 40%, Luis Caballero

Deep chestnut with copper highlights through amber to a trace of green at the rim, legs.
There is some age here with notable touches of wood and plenty of Oloroso, traces of cinnamon, caramel, vanilla and pronounced notes of walnut. It smells comparatively dry and is tight and quite complex yet well rounded.
Slightly sweeter than expected, quite intense but well balanced with traces of candied orange peel, Oloroso, vanilla and caramel, very slightly spicy with a hint of grip from the wood tannins. A serious and excellent quality brandy.
This fine brandy boasts soleras established in 1795 which predate the foundation of Caballero in 1830. In 1908 Caballero bought the soleras from Marqués de Misa and moved them from Jerez to the San Francisco bodega in El Puerto de Santa María. The name Milenario comes from the supposedly thousand year old Drago Milenario (Dragon Tree) which was long ago brought from its native Canary Islands and grows in a patio at the bodega. The branches are supported by chains in case they collapse from their own weight. This is Caballero's top brandy and its final solera consists of only 5 butts through which the brandy ages for 20 years. Just to confuse things there are also Milenario Solera and Milenario Solera Reserva
23 euros

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

OVNI Palomino Fino 2015 12%, Equipo Navazos

Pale strawy gold with golden highlights.
Fresh and very Palomino with notes of apple quince and a certain very slightly saline chalkiness and something of fresh country air in a meadow as well as a trace of flor. There is an element of Fino about it, but not quite. It is very attractive.
Clean and tasty with chalky mineral notes followed by gentle fruit then traces of salinity and bitterness. It is well balanced despite comparatively low acidity and could only come from Jerez. Decent length with a very clean finish, and a little moreish.
OVNI is Spanish for UFO and is the name of a joint project with online food and wine retailer Coalla Gourmet. The grapes come from Jerez vineyards and before fermentation in stainless steel tanks some Jerez flor was added to the grape juice. After fermentation the wine was left in tank for six months under a thin veil of flor, but not enough to profoundly influence the wine's character. This is not unnatural as flor yeasts are everywhere and will settle on any wine not fortified to 17/17.5%. This wine is not intended to be laid down, but will develop interestingly over the next year or two.
9.50 euros, Er Guerrita

Monday, 24 July 2017

Manzanilla Pasada Goya XL 15%,(saca 2016) Delgado Zuleta

Amber tinged strawy old gold with golden glints.
Delightful pasada nose, almost pungent yet complex and refined. Behind the full-on dried herbs and flowers and notable salinity of the flor, there are all sorts of nuances; apple, slightly toasted almond, olive brine, ozone, sea water and hints of oxidation and autolysis. Mature Manzanilla at its very best.
Full and super fresh despite its age thanks to the flor which leaves its trademark yeasty bitterness. Balance is perfect and there are wonderful buttery savoury flavours from the bottom of the butts as well as slightly oxidative notes. It is very dry with a gentle chalky mineral feel and very long. Classic.
I haven't tasted this superb Manzanilla for years - partly because it is so hard to get - being released only "when a series of exceptional circumstances comes about". The wine, which is the bodega's top Manzanilla, is from selected butts in the La Goya solera (marked with XL) and "reposed" a further 2 years, being bottled en rama at 10 years old. Not surprisingly it won the IWC Manzanilla Gold Medal and Trophy in 2016 and scored 93 from Robert Parker. The solera is very old and special, having once been stored in an old underground bodega close to the Bajo de Guia. This bottle is from a 2016 saca. If you see it, buy it!
18.20 euros per 50cl, Licores Corredera

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Amontillado de Bandera VORS 18.5%, M Gil Luque

Burnished antique mahogany fading through amber to a trace of green at the rim.
Forthcoming and fragrant, textbook Amontillado and more; fresh and crisp with that enticing aroma of toasted nuts and a trace of almost caramel sweetness, notes of fine quality oak - even exotic woods and a faint hint of linseed oil and resin -  and none of it spoiled by excess alcohol, which is modest for its age of over 30 years. Enough tartaric/volatile acidity to give it the necessary bite.
On the full side at the start but opens out into an excellent, supremely elegant, dry, nutty characterful wine. Gently crisp acidity provides freshness and poise unhindered by tannin and balances beautifully with the glycerol and nuts. This is an outstandingly stylish Amontillado with amazing length.
The bodega dates back to the end of the XIX century and acquired its name when bought by Manuel Gil Luque in 1912. Shortly before it was taken over by La Guita in 1984, Gil Luque bought some very old soleras from Fernando Carrasco Sagastizábal, which may have belonged to Tomás Geraldino Croquer (the Irishman Thomas Fitzgerald) whose bodega was established in 1840. In 2007 La Guita was bought by Grupo Estévez, and the De Bandera wines have all but disappeared from the market, though the soleras are still looked after. The brand name De Bandera translates as flagship (not in the naval sense) and this wine certainly is. It is sealed with a stopper cork smothered in wax. I was rather lucky to get hold of this slice of history.
80 euros, Er Guerrita

Saturday, 22 July 2017

22.7.17 Consejo Predicts Excellent Harvest

If the benign weather conditions persist between now and the harvest, the Consejo Regulador is optimistic of a larger harvest than last year and one of great quality. They estimate that if the Levante wind behaves as it has during this first month of summer, production could be at least 20-25% higher than last year.

Rainfall has been equal to the historic average (620 litres per square metre per year) with certain variations according to location as some vineyards are closer to the sea than others. Importantly the rain fell evenly and without storms, maintaining a good moisture level in the vineyards and not causing soil erosion which happens when torrential rain falls in a short time.

During spring 200l/m² fell in the form of various showers which allowed the soil to recuperate the water consumed by the vines and evaporation from the rise in temperatures. The summer has been very dry so far, but some morning dew has fallen after periods of intense heat and the albariza soil’s extraordinary capacity to retain the humidity from the spring rain and supply the vines with their needs has meant that they are not suffering any hydric stress.

Between January and the middle of May the Levante wind made its presence felt, even causing some damage at the end of spring, but it has moderated so far this summer, only bringing a couple of periods of intense heat, and this has been compensated for by a few days of the cooler Poniente wind and early morning dewfall.

The Consejo says that the health of the grapes couldn’t be better and there have been very few incidences of insect damage, while mildew, which caused so many problems last year is all but absent, along with oidium, and any incidences have been isolated to more humid coastal vineyards.

All in all the grapes have ripened very well and it looks as though the harvest will begin at the end of the second week of August, 7-10 days earlier than last year. It promises to be a great one - if the weather stays fair.

22.7.17 Fedejerez Celebrates 40th Anniversary

After nearly 40 years of the Franco regime’s state controlled single trade union, known as the Sindicato Vertical and to which both workers and bosses were obliged to belong, the new democratic government repealed it. This allowed the constitution in 1977 of Fedejerez, the association of bodegas. Many members of the trade attended the association’s 40th anniversary event at the Consejo’s Bodega San Ginés yesterday.

The last 40 years have seen massive change in the Sherry trade, and in his address to members, Fedejerez president, Evaristo Babé, said the next ten years will bring further dramatic change and this needs a “change of mentality” as well as unity and loyalty towards each other as well as to Fedejerez. He said “it is a critical moment and there is not enough coherence between what is said and what is done”, alluding to the inconsistency of price of certain Sherries.

After praising the work of his predecessors, he mentioned five decisive factors in the evolution of the trade over the last four decades. The changes in ownership of many bodegas, unthinkable forty years ago, such as Domecq, Garvey, Croft, Sandeman, Palomino & Vergara, Bobadilla… some now lost, but some” fortunately” absorbed by other bodegas.

Anniversary toast in the Consejo Patio, Evaristo Babe in front (foto:pascual/diariodejerez)

Spain’s joining of the European Union in 1986 had positive aspects, but also a negative ones like the disappearance of tax relief on exports and the “radical” tax increases which went with it. Thirdly he brought up the dreadful consequences of many bodegas’ obsession with quantity and the internal disputes to obtain maximum market share over competitors. Fourthly he pointed out the enormous difficulty of modernising labour relations, and lastly the “enormous collateral damage” inflicted on the trade by the rise and fall of Rumasa.

Looking to the future, Babé said that “the Sherry trade is enormously privileged for the excellent and unique quality of its wine, for the value of the brand, for its patrimony - both material and immaterial - and for its degree of internationalisation, something many others dream of”.

“Bodegas which have relied too heavily on trade and public institutions to solve their problems have the responsibility to make changes at this crucial moment to adapt as fast as possible, for the next ten years will pass very quickly. Unity and loyalty among bodegas and towards Fedejerez are essential”.

Friday, 21 July 2017

21.7.17 Table Wine Harvest Already Underway in Cádiz

The hot weather of the last few weeks has ripened the non-Palomino grapes very quickly and they are being harvested now to conserve freshness and acidity. As global warming advances, harvests are ever earlier; in 2000 and 2014 the harvests were earlier than usual, but this year is earlier still, and most are harvesting at night, especially Chardonnay (the first to ripen), Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. Plantings of these are not huge, but these varieties of cooler northern origins need to be picked soon before they over-ripen. The red varieties are also ripening sooner than usual, but there is less pressure here and they will probably be picked starting in the third week of August at about the same time as the Palomino, which is, of course better acclimatised. The quality of the grapes appears to be very high and there are no signs of ill health. Much still depends on the weather over the next few weeks, however.

Night harvesting at Bodegas Luis Perez' Vina el Corregidor (foto:Pascual/diariodejerez)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

20.7.17 Harvest Update; González Byass Best Bodega in the World

With approximately a month to go till the harvest the growers are in a much more positive frame of mind than last year when there were problems with mildew and the harvest was considerably reduced (62 million kilos) due to persistent Levante winds. So far, this year has been much better with high temperatures in June and enough nightly dewfall to give healthy grapes, so a “normal” harvest is expected of between 70 and 80 million kilos, provided there is no dramatic change in the weather.

According to the president of the growers’ association Asevi-Asaja, Francisco Guerrero, there is also better news on the trade front with bodegas buying more grapes and at a slightly better price. Everything depends, of course, on what happens between now and the harvest which is expected to start between the 20th and 25th August.

González Byass is the best bodega in the world according to an analysis of Spanish bodegas winning the most prizes in the last year by Meanwhile the World Association of Wine and Spirit Journalists and Writers has produced a ranking of the world’s 100 best wine companies according to prizes won which puts Spain in second place with 906 after France with 1,026. The top 50 includes 14 Spanish bodegas. GB won the most prizes of all putting it in 1st place with 121 prizes and Lustau in 5th place with 106. So Sherry is really punching above its weight.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

La Choza 2016 13.5%, Viña Callejuela

Bright pale golden straw with golden glints, the deepest of this Viña Callejuela triumvirate.
Fresh and classy with noticeable but not overtly bitter flor balancing a gentle richness with traces of quince jelly, apple, apricot and a trace of mineral. As it opens out it gains in presence and complexity with the richness and body of a fine Burgundy, yet it is 100% Palomino with that lovely flor edge. The aforegoing is in contrast particularly to the Hacienda with its zippier more maritime style.
Substantial and rich, beautifully rounded and a bit riper than the Hacienda and Las Mercedes. That is down to it coming from the Pago Macharnudo. It is perfectly balanced;  if you look in that plumpness you can still find the acidity. Lovely flavours of well ripened fruit, clean and long and stylish.
This excellent wine comes from the 4.4 hectare La Choza vineyard owned by Viña Callejuela in the Pago Macharnudo, often referred to as the Grand Cru of Jerez. The vineyard is pure albariza at an altitude of 74 metres and is the farthest inland and therefore warmest of this threesome. Like the others, this was fermented and aged 7 months in ex Manzanilla butts under flor. The intention of the project was to demonstrate the differences between different albariza vineyards, using exactly the same vintage, vinification and ageing. The results are twofold: firstly these are three outstanding wines in their own right which show just how good Palomino can be, and secondly they clearly show the differences between the vineyards. They also show what a potent team there is in the Blanco brothers of Viña Callejuela and Ramiro Ibáñez. These are some of the very best table wines yet from the Marco de Jerez, but only around 1,000 bottles were made of each.
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Las Mercedes 2016 13%, Viña Callejuela

Lemony straw with golden reflections.
Very clean and fresh with up front flor not quite obscuring tangy Palomino fruit notes of apple and apricot, with floral hints like camomile and the smell of a wild meadow. There is an attractive though unexpected Riesling note but that gentle flor and a maritime trace bring us back to reality.
Super fresh and open with lots of fruit for a Palomino - but that is tempered by traces of minerality and bitterness from the flor which substitute for the lowish level of acidity. The wine is really young still but absolutely delicious now - and very moreish - it is beautifully made and leaves a long clean finish. It is a little darker in colour than Hacienda and bigger and softer with a touch more flor.
One of the three single vineyard wines launched recently by Viña Callejuela, this 100% Palomino Fino wine comes from the 8.5 hectare Las Mercedes vineyard on pure albariza soil at 83 metres above sea level in the Pago Añina, closer to Jerez than Sanlúcar. In the tradition of the Vinos Blancos de Sanlúcar, it is unfortified and sold young with a little flor influence, making for delicious and versatile table wine. Like its sister wines, La Choza and Hacienda Doña Francisca (QV), it is made from hand-picked grapes and is fermented in and spends 7 months in used Manzanilla butts under flor and bottled in the spring following the vintage. The only difference between the 3 wines is the vineyard they come from, and the idea is to show the different vineyard characteristics using Palomino as a medium, and it really works; the three wines are very different. Fewer than 1,000 bottles.
12.50 euros, Licores Corredera

Monday, 17 July 2017

Hacienda Doña Francisca 2016 12%, Viña Callejuela

Paleish golden straw with golden glints.
Very attractive and complex for its age with a perfect balance of flor notes and fruit. There is a distinct vineyard note of chalky minerality, a slightly salty maritime note and hints of orchard fruits with a serious slightly savoury note. 
Super fresh and gently tangy with salty and bitter notes from the flor competing with the apple fruit. There is a gentle chalky texture too. This is delicious and defies those who say Palomino has no character. It not only has character but that of a particular Sanlúcar vineyard. Long and clean.
This one of three lovely table wines launched by Viña Callejuela in the true Sanlúcar tradition of vino blanco. The principal difference between them is the vineyard, and they really show the difference between one and another, both in terms of soil and microclimate. They are all 100% Palomino from albariza soil, in this case that of the 16 hectare Hacienda Doña Francisca vineyard in the Pago Callejuela at 62 metres above sea level. The grapes were harvested manually, fermented in and aged for 7 months in ex Manzanilla butts under flor. Only 1,000 bottles were made unfortunately so let's hope they can increase production! See also posts on La Choza and Las Mercedes.
12.50, Licores Corredera

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Amontillado "Sin Prisa" 1/42 22%, Alexander Jules

Fairly deep old patinated mahogany with copper glints fading through amber to a green tinged rim.
Forthcoming and super complex with all sorts of nuances. There are notes of oak butts, autumn leaves, toasted nuts and very Sanluqueño traces of seaweed and brine. As it opens out there is a hint of caramel which is checked by volatile acidity then more nuts come through, even walnut. There is a slightly lean edge which comes from age, but in all it is very fragrant.
Crisp and fairly powerful with an attractive very slightly bitter salty tang, again very Sanluqueño. For a wine of this age there is naturally a little tannin but it is remarkably un-aggressive. It has some slightly savoury flavours too and they mingle with those of the salted caramel and wood leaving a bone dry tangy wine of immense class which lingers on the palate forever.
This is something special. It comes from one bota punta in the 42 butt Conde de Aldama Amontillado solera bought by Francisco Yuste in 2001. There was more than one Amontillado solera, and it would be interesting to know which this one is, but it probably dates from the XVIII century. It is stored in Yuste's beautiful old bodega Los Ángeles in Sanlúcar. The Aldama soleras have changed hands more than once but have always remained in Sanlúcar and retained the style. "Sin Prisa" means without rush, and the same could be said for the Conde de Aldama and Francisco Yuste, neither being in any rush to sell this treasure, indeed Aldama sealed the soleras for years to keep any inferior wine out. Since then the solera has only ever been topped up to replace "merma" or evaporation loss and the wine has an average age of at least 70 years, probably more. Only 400 half bottles were filled in November 2016 with virtually no stabilisation whatsoever, and sealed with a Diam cork. Now there is a rush - to get hold of some of this rare nectar!
70 euros per half bottle, Guerrita

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Pinot Noir 2014 14.5%, Peter Maurer

Transparent black cherry red with a hint of brick showing through, legs
Ripe and quite full with an attractive reduction of strawberry, even raspberry character up front, but there is more. This is Pinot from a warm climate with the attendant concentration, but it works. Slight balsamic, spicy notes along with hints of toast, licorice and well managed French oak (i.e. not all new) add to the complexity. It's a long way from Burgundy, but with a style of its own.
Pretty full bodied, gently tannic and perhaps a bit alcoholic for a Pinot Noir, but delicious nonetheless. Well structured with more pronounced notes from the French oak, and nice texture but still a bit young and grippy. It would be brilliant with a steak though.
It was a brave and ambitious idea to make Pinot in a hotter place like Cádiz, but Peter Maurer virtually created his own environment by desalinating a marshy area of  four and a half hectares near Lebrija where he grow his vines organically. A nearby reservoir adds moisture to the atmosphere and he has planted pines to help with shade and rosemary and lavender to repel certain pests. There are even holm oaks and olives. It is very likely that with some bottle age this wine will develop a subtler bouquet and more delicacy on the palate. It already has 14 months in French oak and a little over a year in bottle but needs more, say three years. Only 600 bottles produced.
18.90, Licores Corredera