Elmundovino on the dry wines of Jerez and Sanlucar


This blog may appear to be turning into an elmundovino.com appreciation society but it is not the case. I have of course always held them up as an authority but this recent apparent burst of enthusiasm is a symptom of Murphy’s law of periodicity.  It is simply that, like buses in the London rain, you wait a long time for them to do a piece on sherries and then they come along again and again and again.

After last week’s tasting of Equipo Navazos by Victor de la Serna today they have published the results of a tasting of finos, manzanillas and some bigger beasts by Victor de la Serna, Juancho Asenjo and Alberto Pérez Marín. Really top class tasting too: the Palmas series by Gonzalez Byass and leading en ramas of the likes of Solear, Pastora, Fernando de Castilla, and la Guita. There is even a glimpse of the Callejuela Manzanilla de Añada 2012 2/11.

Overall the scoring is very high (which is no more than you would expect), although curiously they don’t seem to have enjoyed the wines from el Puerto.  Interestingly, they compared the Solear en Rama summer 2016 (aka the Teal) with its 2015 counterpart (the Rednecked Nightjar) and found that the year in bottle had given the 2015 an extra dimension.  So much so that the tasting is accompanied by an op ed questioning the apparently still commonly held notion that en rama wines are for immediate consumption. I for one fully endorse that view – and the good news is that I reckon I know where to get some more of the Nightjar.

Best of all, the fact that they call the cata “Jerez I” strongly suggests that there is more to come …


Pride in your roots

Plano parcelario

Yesterday I had a nice little manzanilla Orleans Borbon and was delighted to see a reference on the label to Pago Balbaina. There has recently been something of a reawakening in interest in terroir in el Marco de Jerez, but it is still relatively rare to see the Pagos (and even less the vineyards) identified on the labels of the wines.

With one exception: Macharnudo and, particularly, Macharnudo Alto. That particular Pago has built a mystique and brand to the point where I have seen it referred to as the “DRC” of Jerez. It owes that mystique in large part to the wines: Inocente, the famous single vineyard fino by Valdespino has a striking personality, Coliseo and other Valdespino wines from Macharnudo have been impressive, the Macharnudo Alto finos from Equipo Navazos, while different to the Valdespino wines in many ways, are also of the very highest quality. At the other end of the scale, Pitijopo Number 5 from Macharnudo was, in the long run, probably the oustanding wine of that edition.

And those are just the recent wines: the fame of the pago is not a recent phenomenon. It owes a lot to historic brands like Agustin Blazquez and de la Riva and, most of all, the legendary Domecq. Neither is it a coincidence that some of the finest wine makers in the history of the region chose to acquire vineyards in Macharnudo Alto. Indeed, Macharnudo looks absolutely splendid from a distance – hills of pure white albariza – and in fact if you go and spend time in Jerez with the guys that are keen on terroir and ask them where they would like to have a vineyard there is a good chance they will tell you Macharnudo.

In summary, there is every indication that it really is top class real estate and an ideal place to make wine.But there is another issue at play here, which is that Macharnudo has become famous not just because the finest winemakers had vineyards there, or because they made very famous wines there, but because they also put the name of the pago on the labels of those very fine wines.

Nothing controversial about that: because the wines from the pago were good, the name of the pago was used to market the wines. What strikes me, though, is the number of great wines from Jerez that don’t make any attempt to capitalize in the same way. The Solear en rama series are an example that springs to mind: Antonio Barbadillo was himself a great expert on the pagos and their qualities and my understanding is that these outstanding little wines come from Santa Lucia and Gibalbin, but it doesn’t say so on the label. The same applies to a number of my other favourite wines from the region: la Panesa, el Tresillo, the Pata de Gallina, the Fernando de Castilla wines, for example, and I can’t help wondering how famous the pagos involved could be if we only knew what they were.




Manzanilla fina Orleans Borbon 

I can be grumpy at times about packaging but there is a lot to like about this little bottle. It is a regular size, the label is a thing of beauty, the colours seem lively and appropriate and the magic words “Pago Balbaina” are proudly displayed. I couldn’t resist picking this up on my last visit to Der Guerrita.

I am very pleased to have done so too because there is also a lot to like about the contents. It is quite a pale lemony yellow and has aromas of straw and sea air, maybe some lemon and almonds. Then on the palate it has a nice punchy, zingy salinity, nice yeastiness and bitter almonds. 

Very nice little wine: nicely presented, zingy and tasty.

Palo Cortado De la Cruz de 1767

I have never had a bottle of this to myself or really had time to study it but having encountered it twice before (at the Feria de vinos and the Salon de los Vinos Generosos) last night it was brought to a cracking dinner in La Piperna. Third time lucky I thought and I even took a couple of notes. It is a relatively new release and the only wine, as far as I know, from Bodegas Arfe, an old old bodega (judging by the 1767) under the management of the former enologo of Garveys, Luis Arroyo.

As you can see it is a brown-yellow amber colour and at least this bottle last night wasn’t entirely crystalline – just slightly cloudy. On the nose it has nuts and sawdust, and the spicey, gingery and tobacco aromas I associate with old barrels. Not a massive, pungent nose but a bundle of aromas.

A very similar story on the palate. It is not over concentrated or astringent and by no means overpowering – almost light, in fact. Has a nice caramel and nuts at the beginning then a nice buzzy salinity and acidity and then those spicey, gingery flavours. Sawdust and tobacco flavours on the finish.

A nice, distinctive wine.

Equipo Navazos old and new by Victor de la Serna

If you want to know what is what when it comes to the latest Equipo Navazos releases then look no further than these cracking notes of a blind tasting by Victor de la Serna. Normally these elmundovino tastings are by a panel but this one looks like a solo effort and what an effort it is: 13 wines, some of them pretty potent, and a whisky, rum and brandy. It is the sort of tasting where you might not start blind but you will almost certainly finish that way.

It also once again gives an impression of the amazingly varied output of Equipo Navazos – wines and spirits of every feather and fur. I have only tasted a few of these wines, and it seems I am a bit behind the curve with the recent releases in particular, but the notes of the ones I have tried certainly ring true. I am just disappointed to read that the Bottle of Number 6 I have been hoarding all these years may have been better pre hoarding …

Angelita Madrid revisited

Brilliantly long lunch yesterday in Angelita Madrid – the headquarters for wine lovers in the capital.

The great attraction of Angelita is its ever changing selection of wines by the glass – including a list of a dozen or so wines from Jerez and Sanlucar (and a few more from Chiclana) – together with hard to find wines by the bottle (including UBE and the Manzanilla de Añada, to name just two) and classic wines from all over with a few years in their legs (yesterday we had a 26 year old Rioja, for example).

It makes it a great place to come and try new things and also to try out your blind tasting skills. Just look at the outstanding, original wines we tasted blind yesterday (the record shows that I got one of them dead right and got the regions and varieties right for two others, although I whiffed in humiliating fashion on the only manzanilla we tried). It is also a great place to run into fellow wine lovers – yesterday was no exception on that score either.

Finally, it is also tomato season and there may not be better tomatoes on sale anywhere in Madrid. Just look at these absolute beauties before and after, not to mention the delicious pez mantequilla and sirloin with migas. It is hard to believe they have only been open five months – what on earth did we do before Angelita opened?

Kabuki Wellington

Last night a fella was lucky enough to have a quite outstanding dinner in Kabuki Wellington, one of the very best restaurants in Madrid or indeed anywhere.

The cuisine is japanese with and mediterranean influences and is of superb quality. I really am not qualified to describe it in detail – all I can say is that if you have not been already you really have to go. I did not at any stage take any photographs of the dishes: I was too busy eating, drinking and generally making merry. Neither did I, and this is perhaps less forgiveable given the theme of this blog, have a very detailed look at the winelist and the list of sherries.

Fortunately, I have since been able to get my hands on a copy and I can confirm that they have everything a sherrylover could reasonably ask for. In fact there really is a lot to like about this outstanding sherrylist:

  • I count a total of 54 bottles, including some very fine and rare wines, including vintages and limited releases, and although some are understandably expensive, there are also some absolute bargains.
  • The sherries come first, and under the header “Our special wines”. No doubt about the importance they attach to sherries on this list at all.
  • The wines are classified not just by style but also by centre – Jerez, Sanlucar, el Puerto and Montilla Moriles, a distinction I think is really helpful and which should be emphasized more.
  • The coverage of styles and centres is first class. If you wanted to be hyper demanding you would ask for a couple of finos del puerto and a couple of amontillados de Sanlucar, but there is plenty to choose from as it is.

The wines of Jerez and Sanlucar are of course perfect matches for the cuisine, although they compete here with an equally superb selection of champagnes, rieslings, burgundies and other chardonnays and, well, wines of every colour and stripe, from vinho verde to pinot noir.

And maybe most importantly, in Silvia Garcia Guijarro they have a fantastic sommelier – a real star and the main reason I didn’t bother studying the wine list (which in retrospect, is a shame, since I would have been even more impressed). The first time I visited Kabuki I remember having a chat about pairings with her and was bowled over by how friendly, disarming but knowledgeable she was – a real pleasure to be advised and the pairings suggested were superb. Since then we simply put ourselves in her hands and the pairings this time were, as always, absolutely faultless, even brilliant.

Sugoi, as they say.