The Cuatrogatos Wine Fest was an absolute blast and there were fantastic wines everywhere you looked, but for me the highlight of the day was the unveiling of the “Mayeteria Sanluqueña”.
The project, the brainchild of Ramiro Ibañez, is aimed at encouraging and helping mayetos, or the small scale owner/growers who traditionally supply fruit to the cooperatives and other producers, to instead make and sell their own quality wines. The wines are vineyard specific from low yield (<7,000kg/ha), hand-harvested fruit and are fermented in bota, but otherwise the mayetos have a free hand to experiment and try and coax the best they can out of their vines, some of which have been in the family for generations. Today we met the first wave – three guys who brought along four wines – but they are just the start, with other mayetos experimenting and working on their own wines up and down el marco.
As my half-dozen regular readers will know, I believe that this is exactly what el marco needs to do. There was a pretty vehement debate on Saturday afternoon amongst some big names on the role the vineyard and the vine should play in the future of Jerez but for me there is no doubt: the vines and vineyards of el Marco are capable of producing white wines of a quality and expression comparable to any great region worldwide, and seeking out and making those wines – and charting out the vineyards that make them – is surely the best way for el marco to get back to the top table.
And these wines were a further confirmation of the potential of the region:
- Atalaya – by Jose Manuel “Manu” Harana Yuste – had a punchy nose of iodine and salty sea air (and a touch of reduction to start, although it improved a lot after 30 minutes or so) and a similarly direct and mineral profile on the palate, with a touch of steel, slightly stewy bitter almond flavours and a seashell finish
- La Morla (Pago de Añina) – by Rafael Rodriguez Jiménez – was a totally different proposition. While the Atalaya was all coastal minerals the Añina was a delight on the nose, like a Cotes du Jura with ripe apple and pastry, and a nice concentration first up on the palate
- La Charanga (Pago de Maina) – by Antonio Bernal Ortega – was probably the best of the lot, with a sea-air, almond and apple pie nose and a fantastic shape to it, with mineral zing to the start, a long finish and a big flavour profile in between – slightly more concentrated fruit and a hint of vegetable and peppery spice.
We were also given a sneak preview of two other wines – from Miraflores and Macharnudo – and later in the day I also had a chance to try another Añina wine by Rafael Rodriguez Jimenez. In fact it was one of those dream days when I was also able to have a dip into UBE 2014, a diatomic bomb “UBE Maína 2016” and another look at the three vineyard specific wines by Callejuela. Nearly a dozen palomino wines that were anything but the neutral, dowdy solera fodder that we have been brought up to expect: these were fantastic, quality and unique wines, and although it has been pointed out to me that I usually use “interesting” to describe wines I don’t like that much, these were interesting in a very good way.
I appreciate that the opportunity I had yesterday was special, but if you get the chance to try even some of these wines then you should grab it with both hands.