We had this last night at the end of a cracking dinner with a really good little creme brulee (I took no photo of course so I am recyling one). I also have one of these 100 year old PX beauties down here with me and was nearly tempted to open it but managed to rein myself in in time.
It really is an excellent little wine. A little apricot gem, sweet but mineral, tasty but fresh. Comparisons were made with late harvest rieslings but to me this has a bit more apricot and orange richness than you would find there. But it is a lot more than that: it is terroir specific (the Panesa vineyard, in Carrascal de Jerez), it is a pure expression of the fruit, and it has a specific vintage (2014, obvs). In fact it not only has a vintage, but by choosing to vary the asoleo (less asoleo for a cool season like this one, slightly more for a warm season like 2015), and fermentation without temperature control it almost exaggerates the qualities of that vintage.
But most importantly, a little gem of a wine.
Just as with my last comparison of wines from these two regions the differences are far more pronounced than the similarities. It is an unfair comparison in so many ways – fundamentally different cepages, ages, and soils – and in this kind of company even very nice wines can come across as a touch rustic. Moreover it was not a well planned experiment – I expected more wood from the Pouilly Fuissé and now that I look at the ficha I see I have picked the wrong one altogether. Half of this was aged in lined concrete tanks and half in 2nd to the 5th use barrels (although in sherry terms I am guessing that a 5th use barrel would still be considered relatively “new” oak). I really need to sit down and work out a more useful series of side by sides (John set out some cracking minerals suggestions in the comments to that last post – will get working on those too.)
What is evident though is that the attitude to the use of wood in one case and the other seems to be slightly different – to an extent the Socaire makes use not of the wood itself but of the wine impregnated into the wood, trying to extract, with some success, the unique characteristics of the fino, rather than the oak, to enrich the aromas and palate. I was over categoric in my last post when I said that there was no conversation about barrel ageing in Jerez and Sanlucar (and Chiclana) and was duly put right. But although it is true there is indeed much more discussion about the botas used to age wines, I still don’t really see the same level of interest in the age or qualities of the oak itself.
Very old, very famous Sanlucar amontillado with an average age of over 40 years from the bodega Rodriguez la Cave, a once Hispano Frances bodega now part of Delgado Zuleta, who claim to be the oldest in the business. I was surprised that I hadn’t written about this on the blog already, but on a recount the nights where this wine have been involved have not been conducive to note taking. Anyway, better late than never.
As you can see it is a beautiful, lively amber colour with a hint of yellow orange. On first opening it was a little closed up and unforthcoming, but after a week or so open (with the cork in) it seems a different proposition (it is also true that I may be in a better mood/frame of mind, who knows). Now on the nose it has some spirity fumes – closer to petrol than to brandy – then walnut skin, furniture polish, and cigar box wood.
On the palate it is very dry and very salty, sharp but full and refined. Zingy and acidic feel on the tongue and massive in salty seawater volume, and leaves a buzz rather than a sting. Flavours are woody, leathery, and tobacco, before a long long salty and savoury/bitter finish with the tongue still buzzing.
It is easy to see why this is for many the top of the pops in terms of Sanlucar amontillados – a salty beast.
Interesting contrast here between two wines that are both 100% palomino fino and have both spent time in bota but with and without flor, respectively. (They are also from opposite ends of the Marco de Jerez.) What I find interesting is the fact that what I recognize as the wood influence of the barrel is much more marked in the Socaire – which has spent two years in an old fino bota – than in the Manzanilla de Añada – which has spent nearly four.
I am no expert here but I am guessing that this lack of wood effect may be a function of the flor at work, or that the barrel influence is balanced by the lack of glycerine and sugar in the wine. Or it maybe that what I am attributing to the wood is really the effect of the wine impregnated into the barrels. On a completely different level, it reminded me of one of the more extraordinary wines that we tasted by Alba a while back: Alba Pago Carrascal Las Alegrías 2014. That wine was un unfortified palomino fino from Pago Carrascal (de Sanlucar) that aged for 18 months in a 650 litre chestnut bocoy that had held oloroso for over 80 years – and as a result had gained a fascinating, fine character and profile. It also brought to mind Mirando al Sur, a fascinating 100% viura from Rioja by Oliviere Riviere that had spent 18 months in a sherry bota. (Indeed although I am even less of an expert this kind of thing has been de rigueur in the whisky business for donkeys years.)
It is something that has intrigued me ever since I started thinking about these wines: trying to get a handle on the importance of the barrels used. One of the first things a winemaker will tell you about their wines is how much oak it has had, where the oak was from and whether it was old or new. This conversation just never happens in relation to sherry. Maybe because of the historic nature of many soleras and the very limited number of vintage wines: even the new soleras that appear tendo to inherit barrels from old ones, while the vintage wines I know of, from memory, appear to be aged in old botas.
It would be fascinating to try something made in a new barrel, or maybe to make some wine in new american and french oak and give them a run against the oldies. Who knows maybe there is a stack of literature out there that I am not aware of – if so give me a shout.
It is a 100% palomino by Primitivo Collantes that I have been looking forward to ever aince I tried its little brother, the Viña Matalian. It is unfortified and has not spent time under flor but was fermented and aged for two years in botas that had formerly held Fino Arroyuelo.
The result has a beautiful gold colouring and a lush nose with fruit, almonds and sweet herbs as it opens up. It has a chalky touch and is very slightly saline without being zingy – minerals like a chablis as we said the other night. Like its brethren it is long rather than wide – tastier for that time in the barrel but elegant and fresh.
Really good, another Chiclana classic.