A lot has been written about the resurgence of the wines of Jerez and Sanlucar (revolution, resurrection, rebirth, reboot, yadda yadda) and some are concerned that it may all turn into hubristic triumphalism, that cracks will be papered over and an opportunity for the region’s wines to return to greatness lost. For my part, and all joking aside, I take a lot of encouragement from what I see going on, and I am really optimistic for a number of reasons.
First, because of the role that some really quality, interesting wines have played. Equipo Navazos and top bodegas like Emilio Hidalgo, Tradicion and Fernando de Castilla, amongst others, have put the wines of Jerez back at the top of the rankings and have convinced, even educated, wine enthusiasts to think of them like wines. The very largest bodegas and groups deserve significant credit too, with some great collections and series: Gonzalez Byass with their Tio Pepe en Rama, Palmas and VORS ranges; Barbadillo’s Solear en Rama and the Reliquias; and Lustau’s Coleccion Almacenistas; amongst others. Even if volume sales decline the quality of wines on offer is probably higher than at any time in recent years, and that can only be positive.
Second, due to the involvement of top class restaurants, sommeliers and even chefs. I strongly believe that the sustainable future of these wines is in the middle of the dinner table (and preferably during the main course). As such, it is great to see people like Pitu Roca, Guillermo Cruz, Juan Ruiz Henestrosa and David Robledo speaking in public in defense of the wines of Jerez and Sanlucar, and even better to try some of the pairings they come up with. In general there is a growing presence of wines from the region in quality restaurants and a growing quality of the restaurants with strong selections of wines from the region. Closest to home in Madrid, places like Surtopia, Taberna Palo Cortado, Taberna Verdejo, la Chula de Chamberi, the Restaurante Vinoteca Garcia de la Navarra, Asturianos and others are far, far, more than just “sherry bars”: these are high class restaurants with cuisine that matches the quality of their wine lists.
Third, based on the apparent interest in really learning about the wines. I mentioned in my more light hearted piece on Monday the courses of tastings being run by Enoteca Barolo and Taberna Palo Cortado: even if the 80 odd people that have signed up were already enthusiasts (and I would be one of them if I had the chance) it is surely a positive sign that they are keen to pay for multi-session courses and learn more. In a similar vein, I take great heart from the fact that the most read post on my blog was the post collecting blog entries concerning terroir and the quality of the reading available in general.
Fourth, I believe that innovations like Equipo Navazos Magic Numbers, Sacristia AB’s selected bottlings, the proliferation of dated sacas of en ramas and other wines and the increased prominence of vintages can help by giving critics and consumers a reason to keep trying and writing about these wines and collectors a reason to keep collecting them. (I also think just having that date, that year on the bottle helps reinforce the idea that these are wines like any other.) For the same reason, I am also encouraged by the quality of the “mostos” and still table wines being made from palomino – UBE, 30 del Cuadrado, la Charanga, Viña Matalian, the Florpowers, Navazos Niepoort – a growing list of wines with real potential. Apart from anything else, in the long term new, young wines must be the key: we live in an age of tremendous opportunity for the fans of the older wines, but it will not be sustainable in the long term to be releasing 40 year old vintages.
Most importantly, I am optimistic thanks to the young winemakers that are pushing at the boundaries and asking the important questions. I have written about them repeatedly but I cannot speak too highly of Ramiro Ibañez, Willy Perez and their ilk. Projects like the Pitijopos, the Manzanilla de Añada, Encrucijado, the Barajuela Fino and Oloroso, are just fantastic – as are things like the Williams Coleccion Añadas and Manifesto 119. Not just for the quality of the wines themselves, but due to the thinking behind them, the techniques and ideas being explored that are not just novelty for novelty’s sake, but historic strengths of the region, the terroir and the palomino. While the volumes may be small (the irony sometimes is that the lovely wines they make are sold out even before they reach the ears of the public) their influence is huge (in no small measure due to the efforts of guys like Armando Guerra) and in my view wholly positive. I seriously hope one day to be at the unveiling of a statue or something to these guys.