Pagos, soils, flor and wines with Willy Perez (and many, many, thanks)

Today was another great day by any standards but for this blogger it was monumental. The great Luis “Willy” Perez took a few hours out of his permanent state of rolling harvest to show us some historic pagos and their soils, his fantastic hilltop bodega and, most importantly of all, the wines they produce.

It was not my first visit to the pagos of Jerez – in fact a couple of times today I stood in a spot near identical to five months ago (or at least I think so, we will never know for sure since the maps used on that occasion appear to have slipped over the edge of the world). But although the viewpoints may have been the same the emphasis and lessons were different to those I remembered. We observed the natural borders between soils of different types and the way the physical borders matched them, the way the different plantlife behaved on the different soils, the relationship between altitude, slope and soil type, and the way that the landscape had changed in other ways, with fincas abandoned by their winemaking owners.  Seemingly small stuff but just as in March it is easy to see that the implications of each detail are significant.

Then we visited the beautiful Finca Vistahermosa bodega. It is frankly spectacular and a must visit for anyone visiting the area. In fact it struck me as potentially enormously positive for image of the region as a whole to have a bodega like this – clearly and elegantly part of the landscape and as modern as anything you would find anywhere. It had absolutely every necessity – tanks of every material, barrels of every size and age – but Luis clearly placed a good deal more importance in the dusty dirt of the vineyards than the shiney and oaky gear indoors. Then we had a short visit to the room storing the Barajuela wines where Willy outlined the thought processes behind their making and, in doing so, turned quite a bit of my mental furniture upside down.

Finally we sat down with Luis, the genial Federico Ferrer of Cuatrogatos Wine Club and some of the young winemakers working with Luis – to taste the wines. It was a cracking tasting. We tasted the excellent 2013 Tintilla de Rota with its 2014 and 2015 siblings and an amazingly mineral rosé. More importantly, I will never forget tasting a full spectrum of Barajuela wines. I think it is the single most promising project in the region (just see here, here,  here, here and here) and tasting the wines at different stages of development and hearing the comments and thoughts of Luis as we tasted them was invaluable. While I am nowhere near understanding what these wines are, what makes them how they are and how they evolve – under flor and in the bottle – I felt for a moment as if I was getting somewhere. And what wines they are – these are the massive wines that Jerez used to produce, enormously muscular and flavourful. You have the sense that there is nothing that cannot be achieved with them.

And all too soon (but nearly an hour later than planned) it was over. It was a fantastic, unforgettable experience that I will never be able to repay, so all I can do is express my thanks for the extreme generosity of our host.



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