Fino del Puerto Lustau single cask, March 2017

Cask is a word that isn’t used enough in general. Has a nice ring to it and avoids the snigger potential of butt. Sounds particularly good in combination with the word “single” or “sherry”, although I will admit that the liquid that springs to mind is more Scottish than Spanish.

Be that as it may this liquid is Spanish and it is a little beauty. I have always been partial to the fino del puerto releases by Lustau – particularly the tres en rama – but this one, which is a special bottling for the chaps at Vila Viniteca, seems to be a step up in dimensions.

Beautifully clear and bright and a very slightly orange gold in colour. It has a wonderfully aromatic nose with really sharp sea air and seaweed/rockpool aromas. Then sharp salinity and a powerful, juicy, spicy spike of flavour, leaving a salty burn on the tongue and a long and lingering flavour of bitter, peppery salad. It has been a while but it seems tighter and more intense than the other examples I have had.

One of only 480 dinky bottles – which are well worth hunting out. (Or just get down to Territorio Era where they have it by the glass.)

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El Muelle de Olaso 2016

My last bottle of this, maybe the beefiest of the unfortified palomino white wines coming from the region at the moment.

The wine is by Willy Perez and the fruit is from the El Corregidor vineyard on Pago Carrascal that is the source of his fantastic Barajuela project. They harvest the grapes in several passes: (simplifying things) first for brandy, then for this, then for the fino and finally for the oloroso. In total 80% of the fruit comes from that early pass and 20% from a later pass that would otherwise go into the fino. The 80% then gets fermented in temperature controlled inox while the 20% gets some asoleo before fermentation in bota.

The resulting wine is a beefy 14.5% alcohol and is beefy in other respects too. It has a lot of concentrated fruit that gives it a floral, honeysuckle, pear and citrus nose, but give it time and you get a lot more herbal undergrowth. Then on the palate there is that fruitful, muscular body, a very broad profile that kinds of unfolds in the throat, backed up by savoury, stewy flavours and a fresh saline finish.

Seriously fruity and fresh.

Florpower Friday

The blog is fun but there is no doubt it is hard work, involving lunches and dinners that sometimes last several hours and multiple bottles of wine. Yesterday was a prime example, as the author and two esteemed colleagues – Jens Riis of elmundovino and Richard van Oorschot, maverick maker of “Pilgrim” – put in a pretty solid shift at Territorio Era.

The wines under scrutiny on this occasion were the Florpower releases by Equipo Navazos: unfortified palominos from Pago Miraflores, and specifically, Number 53 “Más allá” (the MMX), Number 57 “Florpower” (MMXII), and Number 67 “Más acá” (MMXIV). For the sake of contrast we also opened a bottle of the 2012 Navazos Niepoort, an unfortified palomino from further inland (I would swear it was macharnudo), and for comparison’s sake we also compared that with Callejuela’s La Choza. (We also warmed up with a really interesting South African white wine and finished off with a Lirac from the South Rhone, but who is counting?) And the sacrifice was not in vain: we had a cracking time and it was pretty instructive too.

The number one conclusion that we drew was that it really helps to give these wines time. In fact it is something I have been observing for a long time: unfortified palomino wines can be slow to get going after opening and really grow in aromatics after a little while. Of the three Florpower wines the biggest beneficiary was Number 53, the 2010, which started like super-bitter grapefruit but took on haybale aromas and became softer and sweeter like a young amontillado as time went on, but all three improved over time. (Of course this could also have to do with the excellent cooking that was arriving and disappearing with impressive speed.)

The second observable fact was that these florpower wines are a work in progress and you can see the guys at Equipo Navazos are not afraid to try a few different things. Whereas the Number 53 (and presumably the original, Number 44 which we didn’t have a chance to try (because we didn’t have any)) was only 12% and a little underpowered the Numbers 57 and 67 both had that little bit more oomph at 12.5% and all the better for it. You would guess it was a matter of selection of more mature fruit – 12.5% is a pretty good number for Miraflores you would say.

Third, although it was really interesting to see the references to months “under flor” in the description of how these are made, with the exception of the 53 (which really opened up like a milder amontillado as the lunch went on) the influence of that flor was limited. There was still plenty of fruit and body in there and curiously the 53, which ended up smelling and tasting more biological than the others, started off with the stickiest, least saline finish.

Fourth, and maybe I should have started with this, the class wine of the three was the Number 57, or MMXII. By pure chance it is the only one of the three wines that I had had before (not once but twice) and I am glad to say it was just as good as I remembered. If I had to compare it to anything I would say it was like a muscular burgundy: nice gentle acidity to start and then a compact profile with full flavours of a bundle of fruit (sweet and sour citrus and white fruit), a spine of minerals and a nice tail of a fresh saline finish. I guess a fair bit of the credit for that mouthful of flavours would go to the harvest – 2012 is spoken of as a great growing season down there and this certainly is consistent with that – but it was also noticeable how much fruit there was in a wine harvested a good few years ago. Terrific stuff and full of what my colleague Jens Riis described as “disfrutability” (TM or whatever).

Comparisons are odious as they say, and the other two certainly weren’t helped by having to compete with the middle child of the bunch. The Number 67 had a lot in common with the 57 but by comparison seemed a little cruder, a little more brash and not as polished. The 53 on the other hand was a fish of a much different kidney: first up the balance of flavours was much more grapfruit than anything sweet or soft, then it went through a phase where it seemed a bit underpowered, and then it opened out aromatically in a really interesting way. Jens reckoned it had a lot more “Sherryicity” (but I reckon he was pushing it with the catchphrases).

And that brought us to the two other palominos. The Navazos Niepoort 2012 was really interesting aromatically and you would swear it was a macharnudo wine but while it had this great aroma and was tasty first up it maybe just lacked a bit of depth and oomph. Just didn’t seem to have that compact shape and length of the Number 57. And that we compared to la Choza – a 2015 (?) macharnudo unfortified palomino that had a lot more brute strength than the Navazos Niepoort: 13.5% compared to 12.5% to begin with, and yet again you would say well spent. Not the same floral, herbal nose – this one had more than a bit of raw meat and punchier herbs to it – but a big savoury mouthful and an interesting comparison.

And as quickly as it began, after no more than two or three hours (and a couple of other bottles of wine that fall outside my jurisdiction), it was over. Some really interesting wines, one of them high class, and a highly disfrutable lunch by any standards.

 

 

 

Tintilla 2015 Forlong

I must say I find these tintilla de rota wines very drinkable – not only do they pack a nice punch of fruit they also seem seem to generate nice spice for relatively little structure. I am told that the reason is due to the relative lack of pips by comparison to your varieties from more Northern climes.

This is by the chaps at Forlong and is an excellent example of the breed. As you can see it has that dark tone to it that must be behind the name, a really deep looking dark cherry. On the nose there is a similar dark cherry style of fruit and, as I may have mentioned, a nice bit of herb and spice about. Then on the palate you get all of the above again, a nice entry, then quite a big, concentrated dollop of fruit, those herbs and spices and even a bit of mouthwatering salinity.

Very nice stuff with no edges. Only drawback is that it appears to evaporate quickly.

Lakasa plus la Barajuela

An absolutely superb lunch in Lakasa today. Not a surprise you might say, but you had to be there.

Yes, we drank a bottle (and a half) of Fino La Barajuela 2013 – Saca de 2017 – and it absolutely sang – as did my colleague as the meal progressed (Heaven 17, if you must ask). What an absolutely majestic wine – vaut le voyage on its own, but with flavourful food like this just perfection.

Because even with such a liquid on the table it was hard to take our eyes off the solids. There were five half courses of superlative flavour and texture (yes, I forgot to photograph one of them), followed by not one but two servings of the superb cheesecake – an absolute beauty made with idiazabal. Would be very hard to choose between the dishes but the cerceta (teal) was a little flavour bomb on its bed of roast aubergine, and the scimitar sharp fino could not have been better with it. The texture of the peas, the yoke of the egg and the papada, the flavors of the boar, the lobster, the cock, the calçot and romescu – it is very rare to have such quality every time a plate is put in front of you.

One of the great lunches in a great place, with a truly great wine.

Manzanilla de Añada 2012 Callejuela – the first three botas 

Over the last week or so I have been rather guiltily sipping down these three little bottles. Guilty because there are so few of them around that in good conscience I really ought to share them. Guilty, too, because another section of my conscience was trying to save them for future verticals/horizontals/diagonals of the whole añada. So the least I can do is share my thoughts.

As I recently wrote in relation to Bota 1, that one is still lush and wine-like, polished and compact. Thinking back to when it was fresh you would say the fruit had gone down the mountain a bit in the last couple of years – from blossom to something more herbal – and it feels slightly broader in the beam, with more of the liquorice root that I have come to associate with Callejuela, but still a very enjoyable drop.

Bota 2 has more of an edge of salinity, a bitter, sharp mineral, sea air nose. Still has fresh, developing almonds on the palate but cut through with that slightly bitter minerality . A slightly bigger, saline volume on the palate and a fruitlike finish with a hint of bitterness (which to be fair I am only noticing in comparison to Bota 1). Flavourful and tasty, with a warm finish, not noticeably mouth watering.

Bota 3 looks quite a different beast. On the eye it is obviously darker than the other two, which if it isn’t a result of differences in filtering can only mean that something different has happened in the bota. A touch of oxidation – and there is just a hint of it on the nose and on the palate. There is an air of hay bales there – the acetaldehide of a true manzanilla – but some golden cooked apple too. Still a hot, dry mineral finish rather than a wet, fresh one.

Three terrific little wines and an education to drink them together. Three down and eight to go!