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 …

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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!

Cuatrogatos Wine Fest IV

Otro año mas han vuelto, los grandes, grandes gatos de tan selecto club, organizando lo que viene a ser el evento de vino de este y cualquier otro año – el Cuatrogatos Wine Fest IV.

Sera este sábado, 16 de febrero, en la Hacienda el Pinar del Puerto de Santa Maria, y como en anteriores ediciones habra un montón de winemakers allí expuestos con sus productos, entre otras atracciones.

Un servidor no estará esta vez, y lo llevo francamente mal. En ningún caso deben perderlo ustedes, porque se pasa el día francamente bien bebiendo como dios manda, aprendiendo alguna cosa y riéndose mucho.

Ahora perdonadme, pero quiero estar solo un rato …

An evening with Pepe Blandino in Taberna Palo Cortado

A fella hasn’t had a lot of time for wine tasting lately, and even less time for writing them up, but couldn’t not write up this one after a cracking night with Bodegas Tradición in Taberna Palo Cortado.

The wines we already know: superb, compact finos from the latest saca and those of the last couple of years and a couple of fine amontillados, including one from the first criadera and of the course the famous VORS. And boy that old amontillado is class. But on this occasion the star of the show was the human element, Pepe Blandino, the capataz of the bodega.

If the enologist is the architect, the capataz is the foreman in the cellar, and although the role may not be unique to the sherry region there are very few areas where they have the same importance. The sheer amount of time that these wines spend in the cellar sets the region apart from most (even the finos on the night were over ten years in the making),  and the wines are not just sitting in the barrels either. The solera processes and the range of ageing styles give the enologists and cellarman a range of options, and challenges, that simply don’t arise elsewhere.

As such it was a real privilege to hear from one of the big names, and one of the real characters too. You had the impression that he enjoyed himself and he definitely had the crowd  in the Taberna spellbound. Let’s be honest, there was plenty of shtick and a fair few anecdotes about the good old days. There were even a few disclaimers of the “I don’t know the fancy words” variety.

But underneath it all your man gave the impression of a really canny operator – frankly you wouldn’t expect anything less from a quality outfit like Tradición-, and there were some fascinating technical details in there about the processes, the classification and the way the wines are used. He also had some very clear views about the merits of terroir vs selection, static and dynamic ageing.

I was also told that Pepe was personally responsible for the hand-numbering of the labels that go on the wines and it struck me as perfect. Tradición has always been the embodiment of a modern approach to making the most traditional of wines, those labels are a great example of just that and for all the shtick on the night the hand numbering is precisely the kind of attention to detail you would want from your capataz. An honour to meet him and a great night as always in Palo Cortado.

Macharnudo Blanco 2016, M Ant de la Riva

This wine was brought to dinner last night by a true gent and new friend and what a treat to have another crack at this, maybe the classiest of all unfortified palominos.

It is class in every respect. From an old, famous name, the bottle and label are an elegant, respectful homage to that tradition and are frankly pretty damn smart looking. The other name on the bottle also has some lineage as the most famous of all the pagos: macharnudo.

More importantly the wine just oozes class. It is a beautiful rich gold in colour – it just looks delicious, so inviting. Then you have gorgeous nose that seems like a blend of honey suckle and apple blossom and wild herbs on a mountainside, and the palate is maybe the classiest of all: a floral, white fruit start with just a hint of mineral bite to it, that grows with sweet, savoury, aromatic herbs in the middle and shapes away to floral fresh sweetness at the end.

Really superb stuff – an iron fist in the silkiest of velvet gloves.

Por debajo de la flor

Me han dicho que eso de escribir un blog sobre vinos que forman parte de la historia, patrimonio y cultura de España esta muy bien, y que se entiende porque lo hago en ingles, pero por otro lado seria un guiño al personal que vive en el antes aludido territorio traducir los posts de forma que se pueden leer en cristiano. (Estoy resumiendo un poco, porque me lo han dicho de una forma muy insistente, con muchos argumentos y no poca persuasion.)

Y la verdad es que tenían razón. No porque me puede traer mas lectores, o porque permitiría mi (muy querida) suegra seguir mis movimientos, sino por respeto a los aficionados españoles de undertheflor.

Mas de la mitad de los lectores accedan al blog desde este maravilloso pais y dentro de poco “celebraremos” el cuarto aniversario del blog, pero en todo este tiempo no he tenido la minima consideración con los castellano-hablantes (por no hablar de la gente de Jerez y Sanlucar).

De hecho, por si escribir en ingles fuera poco, he utilizado en todo momento un verbeaje de lo mas rebuscado, imposibilitando el trabajo del traductor automático mas asiduo. Esparto grass es poco, soy consciente.

Pero, por favor, no me lo tomáis mal. No es que no os quiero. Después de 16 años, 11 meses y 22 dias Madrid ya es la ciudad donde mas tiempo he pasado en mi vida (y los mejores tiempos ademas) y sois muchos los amigos que he hecho a través de este blog.

El mundo del vino, y especialmente del vino de Jerez, es una cosa muy especial, pero sobre todo por la gente que tiene dentro. Muchas gracias a todos por compartir tantas cosas conmigo. No me salen tan fácilmente los chistes en español pero vaya, lo intentaremos de vez en cuando.