In the many hours that I was there yesterday I completely failed to take a picture of the Salon, the wall to wall stands of top class bodegas, the throngs of happy, thirsty professionals and “semi professionals” or the many fellow bloggers, tweeters and enthusiasts I finally had the pleasure of meeting in the flesh. I never claimed to be any good at this but, really, not a single photo. Neither did I manage, having scrawled down several pages of increasingly unintelligible notes, to bring said notes home. No clue what happened to them, none at all. It is an astonishing new blogging low. (Above graphic aid sent over by the helpful chaps at Lustau – many thanks guys.)
You see (not that it is an excuse or an attempt at one) for large parts of yesterday’s brilliant event in Madrid I had what is known as a “bit of a buzz on”. (At one stage I (jokingly) offered to defend the honour of the Lustau Fino del Puerto via a fist fight in the carpark.) I did in fact spit out a fair few of the glasses of wine that I was offered. In a couple of particularly egregious cases I even tipped them straight into the spittoon. But these things do not come naturally to me and by far the majority of a very large number of glasses found their way into my bloodstream. It is my great weakness and one I am acutely conscious of.
In my defense, it was a fantastic, convivial occasion and the wines on offer were brilliant, far to good for spitting out. Of the wines that were new to me the standouts were the latest sacas of Sacristia AB Manzanilla and Oloroso; the new version of the Fino Capataz and the Abuelo Diego Palo Cortado from Alvear; the 2001 Historic Vintage Oloroso from Williams & Humbert; the unbelievably high quality 1955 Solera Cincuentanaria series by Perez Barquero – especially the Amontillado-; Valdespino’s “Coliseo”; and the Sanchez Romate Old & Plus Oloroso, to name just a few. And those are just the novelties. Amongst the top class wines I consider old friends there were: Gonzalez Byass’ Tio Pepe en rama (3 weeks after bottling), the Cuatro Palmas and the 1987 Palo Cortado de Añada; the new saca of Goya XL by Delgado Zuleta; the majestic Fino del Puerto and Fino del Puerto en rama by Lustau; the Toro Albala 1931 Convent Selección; the Barbadillo Pastora and Solear en Rama; the Tradicion Fino … Frankly, the list could go on and on and on.
A lot of fantastic wines – too many and too good, really. And I say that because great fun and top class as it was, one of the abiding memories of the salon (other than the sneaking suspicion that once again I made a spectacle of myself), is of the senses being utterly overwhelmed.
At the outset I made a concerted attempt to try the manzanillas and finos against each other, retreating to the centre of the dance floor to take notes and sip in peace, and that comparison was extremely revealing. But after a little while the structured approach broke down under the sheer variety of tempting wines, the competing temptation to try wines across the range of a bodega (like Barbadillo’s trio of Solear, En Rama and Pastora, and Valdespino’s wines from Macharnudo Alto), and the kindness and attention of the people from the bodegas (too many to name here, but I am grateful to all of them). Add to that the chance encounters with acquaintances of every kind and the desire to share a glass with them and chaos ensues. As a result over the course of the day I probably tried in excess of a hundred and fifty different wines of every different style in an increasingly haphazard order: at one point I think I went from a fifty year old PX to a fino, to a vermouth, and then another fino – bonkers.
In addition to the chaotic approach, I honestly think it is unfair on wines of this quality and these qualities to taste such large numbers at a time. Even with an unfortified wine I believe you need to take time to appreciate it – look at it, enjoy the aroma, swirl it around, savour it, think hard about the different stages of its journey across the tongue, past the tonsils and down the neck. With the exceptionally complex wines of Jerez and Sanlucar I think you need even more time to appreciate them: you are stretching your taste buds and memories to the limits in every direction, and if you do it too quickly you can do yourself mischief. In fact on reflection, even with my notes I would struggle to make a sensible write up with more than impressions of the majority. And if I could I am not sure how fair it would be: how can I realistically compare a fino I have tried after an 80 year old amontillado?
But even if the salon was not the ideal location for appreciating these wines it was an absolutely priceless opportunity to try them, to witness the burgeoning interest in them, to meet some real experts and more importantly even, see old and new friends from all over. Twitter, the blog, and all the rest are really miraculous things but you cannot beat actually meeting people and offering to fight them in person … (hangs head in shame).
So bravo to the organizers of the Salon – Calduch Comunicación – and bravo to the bodegas for turning out in such numbers and with such fantastic wines. It really was a pleasure.