Fino en rama “Los Mimbres”

No doubt that this was en rama – almost the last glass from the bottle and as you can see it was pretty murky in the glass, and positively swampy in the bottle.

A fresh moriles fino, 100% pedro ximenez – from a single pago in Lagar de Benavides – and biologically aged in solera for around five years.

Very fresh almond and a little bit of greenery on the nose, then punchy, almonds, very slight hint of liquorice and yeast, and a fresh finish. Not the sharpest or most corpulent of wines – straight through – but fresh and flavourful.

Will try and make sure I get the first glass of the next bottle …

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La Bota de Palo Cortado 62 – Diez Años Después

Some barrel in the juice here.

This was a much anticipated wine when it was released – the 10th anniversary special edition – and typical of Equipo Navazos that they surprised everybody with a wine from a bodega in Chiclana.

And a cracking wine it is too. Lots of juice in this. Deep chestnut in colour with a bright, piercing, cherry brandy nose, then it has lively acidity on the palate and tobacco, barrel and church furniture concentration on the palate, leaving a burnt caramel flavour clinging to the sides of the mouth. Warm throughout – an obviously old wine but one with plenty of life to it.

Happy Anniversary to them!

Encrucijado 2015

This is fantastic. A year in the bottle has really brought it on – cleaner lines and a sharper profile.

A rich buttery gold in colour on the nose you have dried apricots and just a hint of almonds, then on the palate it has a sharp, acidic start, and buzzy acidity all the way through, with a lovely middle palate of almonds and apricots and a fresh, mouth watering finish.

Lovely stuff and a little bit different than your standard palomino fino. Which is as it should be – this is perruno, uva rey and just a small dollop of palomino – a blend of varieties from the days of yore that make this the only true palo cortado.

You often hear that a wine from Jerez is “history in a bottle” but it generally only means it has been in the bottle – or the barrel – a long time. This really is history.

Fino la Barajuela 2016 in Taberna Palo Cortado

A more detail oriented, aesthetically attuned blogger would probably have sought out a more appetising backdrop for the photo above but I am short on time and gas lately and the issue only occurred to me when I went to Instagram it shortly afterwards.

In any event, this wine don’t need no stinking backdrop. It is the finest Fino, the future of Jerez that is deeply rooted in its past, and a beautiful wine in anyone’s language.

Sharp in the entry and fresh in the finish, but full of juicy, high register white fruit and just enough of a mineral seam to it. Maybe not as big in the beam and the back of the throat as the 2014 and maybe not quite as deep, saline and complex as the 2013, it shares with both the top end of honeyed white fruit and with its finer, sharper profile comes across as almost ethereal.

A lovely palomino white wine, finer and with a bit of extra dash: not too bad at all and enough to bring the most miserly hermit out of his blogging doldrums.

Maruja manzanilla pasada and Roni Peperoni

This is one of those pairings that seems just too easy – two of my very favourite things being consumed at the same time – but even so I was impressed at just how well they teamed up.

The manzanilla pasada has the weight and character to stand up to the cheesy, tomatoey, savoury, spicey, oregano enhanced perfection of the pizza (from my local “Allo Pizza” btw) and its sharpness and herbal salinity was just perfect.

Absolutely superb and the pizza menu surely deserves some further exploration …

La Bota 68 de Fino – Macharnudo Alto

This is the fino from Macharnudo Alto by Equipo Navazos that is a near relation of the all time classic Inocente by Valdespino and a comparison of the two – particularly if you could get a bottling of Inocente from the same date – would be very interesting.

Every time I try this wine I am reminded of the tremendous impact it had on me when I first tried it in January 2017 – it had such amazing zip and pizzazz and seemed to jump out of the glass at me. Since then I have found that it mellowed in July 2017, was hanging on in November 2017 and this time, in February 2019 had become fine and mellow to an extent that was unrecognizable from its original vigour. (It had also changed color noticeably, something I also noted in November 2017.

Of course the three later bottles might not have been stored in identical circumstances, the latter ones may even have been open a few days and these are living wines – you can never guarantee that they age the same way. But despite that all my experiences tend to point me to the conclusion that the explosive aromatics and flavour profile when first released – when you could accurately have described this wine as Inocente on steroids – are not sustained over the years in the bottle. In fact you get the impression that the wine is almost exhausted by all that early exertion – something I have never come across in an Inocente. (I will have to search one out with a December 2016 bottling to see if I am right.)

This wine is still a lovely drop: sweet, floral and herbal nose, soft palate with yeast, nuts and bitter almonds, and a fresh, mouth watering finish. But it is hard not to hanker after that younger, more effervescent incarnation.

Contratiempo y Desvelao: moscateles de albariza

I was unable to make it to this year’s Cuatrogatos Wine Fest – the best yet by all accounts – and in particular as described by Carmen Artola in this great piece from this week. But I didn’t miss out altogether. A fortuitous alignment of the planets allowed me to slip away from Madrid for the traditional pre-winefest dinner with the winemakers in El Arriate.

And it was a cracking dinner too. The most important ingredient of any dinner is the company and in that regard these cats are of the highest quality. There wasn’t all that much technical discussion on this occasion but it was great to catch up and hear the news of a group of people who are not only fun to be around, and utterly admirable, but complete nutters to a man, woman and child. They are and it was a blast.

The second key ingredient – and apologies here to the crew at El Arriate but I hope they will forgive me – is the wine, and there again the night was worth any number of hours in Renfe’s cold, unloving embrace. The assembled artisans produced bottle after bottle of evidence of their artistry – some really lovely stuff too (and there were some bottles from little known regions overseas such as champagne and saumur champigny that didn’t let anyone down either).

But for me the two bottles of wine I found most enjoyable were the two above. Contratiempo and Desvelao are two unfortified table wines from moscatel grown in the same vineyard on albariza by a really charming group of young lady winemakers. It wasn’t the first time I had tried them – in fact I had had them at the previous year’s winefest – but it was the first time I had the chance to try them at dinner and let them sit in the glass, and I found them very enjoyable.

Albariza is all the rage these days for palomino, but traditionally moscatel would be planted on sandy soils, and I had even had the impression that moscatel wouldn’t normally survive and thrive on albariza. But this one certainly has, and the resulting wine has all the sapidity and intense, savoury flavour you would expect from one of the new palominos, with what seemed to me to be just a touch more acidity up front and a really nice fruit/savoury finish.

But almost as interesting as that flavour profile is the contrast between the two wines: Contratiempo big, beefy and “horizontal” – full of flavour and growing in aroma in the glass – and Desvelao, from the same vineyard and vintage but with some time under a veil of flor was finer, fresher and sharper.

I gather there are only very small amounts of this available (if it is available at all), which strikes me as a shame. I for one wish there was more, and if you do get the chance to try them I would recommend you give them a proper go, with a nice dinner and good company. Bravo to Cuatro Ojos Wines and more, please!