Colet Navazos Extra Brut 2011

Madrid is currently scorchio and of an evening you will find the locals repairing to high places in the hope of catching a Himalaya style breeze. And since man does not live by altitude and atmosphere alone if you can find a terrace with the good stuff then all the better.

One such spot is El Mirador del Thyssen – the roof terrace of the Thyssen museum – currently featuring none other than David Trillo as chief of the roof and wineslinger, who is by all accounts revelling in the bottles he has found tucked away in the cellar.

And this is the good stuff, too. Not my first bottle, but hadn’t had it for a good while – January 2017 it says here. 100% Xarel Lo, dosage of palo cortado and amontillado, 30 months on the rack and must be over five years on the bottle.

And what was back then a big exuberant cava is now sharp and fine – still yeasty, floral, apple and nut on the nose, but then sharp, fizzy and crisp on the palate, really cracking nutty, mature apple flavours and that fresh saline finish.

Top class, refined summer bubbles.

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Ube Paganilla 2018

I have been on a rampage of Ube drinking lately due to the happy coincidence that while Madrid’s unseemly warmth parches the throat, the watering holes I head to (for the record, home, then Angelita, Taberna Palo Cortado, Taberna Verdejo, and now Dis Tinto), are awash with these high class fresheners.

And I speak in the plural because the Ubes are legion. First came the Carrascal. Then the Miraflores. She in turn was followed by the Maina. And this, my friends, is Paganilla 2018.

I honestly have no clue where Pago Paganilla is – but given that the label says Barajuelas and Tosca Cerrada and the way this wine shapes up I am guessing we are nearer to Maina than Carrascal, if not further inland. Pale gold straw in colour but bags of bandwidth on the nose and the palate – really flavourful with ripe herby fruit and oxidation – not quite savoury apricot jam and dry honey but on the way there. And a stinging saline, mouth watering finish, with that jammy, herby flavour hanging on for ever.

This is not like most white wines. I like this very much.

Fino Arroyuelo

Back at the place where this blog was born (the Malaga coast) and a nice surprise to find this visitor from Cadiz on the supermarket shelf. Chiclana’s finest – the Arroyuelo fino by Primitivo Collantes and his fields of albariza.

This one seems to have been in the bottle a little while – this is not an en rama wine but showing a nice blush of color. Superb on the nose – lovely haybales, chamomile and almonds -, really fragrant and aromatic. And then the full monty on the palate: sharp, zingy start, then flavours that go from fresh to nutty to herby, and a fiery, mouth watering saline finish. Was really cracking with an espeto of sardines I can tell you.

Not as famous as some of the bodega’s wines but all the hallmarks of a class fino.

Manzanilla Predilecta

Full disclosure: this wine is distributed here in Madrid by a good friend of mine and not only that but he gave me this bottle.

So feel free to take it with a pinch of salt when I tell you it is a cracking good little manzanilla. Floral, with plenty of the archetypal chamomile on the nose, and serious on the palate, with a whiff of white fruit backed up by a knitting needle of saline heat and grapefruit and a long, warm, lingering and mouthwatering finish. At the flowery, juicy end of the scale.

But of course you cannot in all conscience rely on the objectivity of this review so I suggest you get out and buy some.

Tres en Rama 2019

The black swallows may or may not return to build their nests under my balcony but I am not going to miss much sleep over it while these three little beauties keep turning up on my doorstep. Another year and another edition of the Tres en Rama – Lustau’s great little boxed set showcasing the “terroir of the cellar”. A manzanilla de Sanlucar (cellared in Sanlucar), a fino de Jerez (cellared in Jerez) and a fino del Puerto (Puerto de Santa Maria), the three corners of the so-called sherry triangle.

First up, the manzanilla de Sanlucar. A nice rich en rama colour – no filtering here – a lovely apple, chamomile, sea breeze and haybale nose and the same punchy flavours on the palate before a saline, mouthwatering finish. Really opens the appetite.

Then second up (for me, but you can do as you please etc.) is the Fino de Jerez. This takes the haybales and sticks them in a farmyard, maybe with a bakery attached – all mulchy straw and yeasty bread on the nose and a sharper, zingier, more potent palate with a stinging hot, salty and watering end.

And last but by no means least, the fino del puerto. Here the sea breeze is full of the smells of rockpools and salty seaweed drying in the sun. The palate is again full of yeasty juice and bite, with a rich, juicy and mineral finish.

Superb stuff once again.

Vinos de la feria

Been a cracking couple of days down in Jerez in and around the Feria de Jerez and I didn’t want to let it go by without a word or two about the wines we drank there.

I must admit to a bit of trepidation at the title of the post, because “vino de feria” is not the most complimentary way to describe one of the wines from Jerez by any means. This is not a wine fair, nor a wine tourist destination. You are not going to find many unique wines or experimenta of any kind. It is a massive event, of mass consumption and not a lot of earnest appreciation (a significant proportion of the fino that gets drunk is mixed with lemonade if that gives you an idea). In fact, almost every serious wine tasting with a bodega from the region in Madrid used start with a “these are not vinos de feria” or similar.

Having said that, what else can you call a post about the wines you drank at the feria?

First up, the one wine you are guaranteed to have a drink of at the Feria is Tio Pepe. Ironically it is pretty scarce in Madrid – even in its en rama version – but it is massive worldwide and a hegemon in Jerez. A mate was telling me it was available in 90% of the casetas at the feria and I believe them. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or with the wine. Just saline enough, nutty enough and juicy enough, served cold in little bottles, it is a perfect little freshener and cracking foil for the ham and tapas on offer from every side. Gonzalez Byass also have one of the essential casetas to visit – really top drawer.

The champion caseta of this year’s feria, however, was the sensational “Trasiego”, complete with shades made from sarmiento and a glass bar filled with 600kg of albariza. Really top class decor and top wines from Bodegas Lustau: we had fino la Ina and amontillado Botaina (they had run out of Papirusa, to the disappointment of our crew which was heavily stacked with Sanluqueños).

While I was at the “cachivaches” with my kids in the “calle del infierno” (the funfair – really not that bad!) the same crew found the bargain of the feria: Amontillado de Harveys in the caseta of Bodegas Fundador for only €15 a bottle. I hope they enjoyed it. Really. (The churros and chocolate were excellent anyway.)

The class act of my feria was to be found later that evening – a glass or two of Gobernador in the caseta of my good friend Juanma Martin Hidalgo, of Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo. Delicious wine just begging for a dish of callos as an accompaniment.

Overall no complaints from me on the liquid refreshments. The feria is not your venue for high end or cutting edge wines but there is nothing wrong with these wines (I have been in a few supermarkets where they would have been a very welcome sight indeed) and there is something joyous in the absolute ubiquity of fino (and in seeing everybody swig it down). More than anything, there is a real sense that this is a fino’s natural habitat, and it is much fun hunting them in the wild.

La Feria de Jerez

Back from a few fantastic days in and around the Feria de Jerez and although I will write up the wines I found there I didn’t want to leave it too long to express my gratitude to all those down there that made the last few days so memorable.

The Feria is absolutely spectacular, for the horses and carriages by day, the breathtaking illumination by night, and of course the ladies in their gorgeous dresses (the chaps also brush up but not by comparison). It is also absolutely chock full of life in all its dimensions. Masses of people, loud music – from flamenco to reggaeton and everything in between -, drinking, dining, dancing, parading, conversations shouted over the music, high heels hop stepping over the biological residue of the horses – deafening for all the senses. (And that is before you get to the “fairground” known as the Calle del Infierno.)

But, while not wanting to overdo the cliche, what really makes it special is the people. I am fortunate to have quite a few friends down in Jerez and was able to catch up with a goodish proportion of them at the Feria (and it would have been more had it not been for hangovers themselves acquired at the Feria). In fact I was struck by just how incredibly social it was – big lunches, casual encounters with people I hadn’t seen in years, more than once I was introduced to entire families … however big an event it is (and the scale is large), it really seemed to maintain the ambience of a kind of massive communal wedding feast, with everybody getting together, glad rags on, and ready to have a good time. And have a good time they did – from before lunch to just before breakfast.

The people certainly made our trip – I really have not experienced sustained kindness like it. People were so generous with their time during a week that must be absolutely hectic – we simultaneously felt guilty for monopolizing their attention and for not staying with them longer – and so generous in every other sense too. So many warm welcomes and big smiles, so many glasses of sherry, so many little plates, so much joy in our company – it was wonderful to be there.

I cannot name everyone who made it such a special few days – the list would be too long for a post like this – but in particular want to thank Cesar Saldaña of the Consejo Regulador. Cesar not only invited us down but made it impossible to refuse, and he and his lovely wife Carla did so much to make it a wonderful trip for my family and I. I will be forever in their debt, and in Cesar’s case not for the first time – my interest in sherry, this blog, I owe them both to Cesar. I suppose there is no chance of repaying something like that, but I fully intend to try!