The Greatest Show on Earth: the wines of el Corral de la Moreria 

Looking back at what was a pretty fun 2017 as a blogger it dawned on me that I had never properly written up what was probably the best night of the year, an absolutely unforgettable evening in Corral de la Morería.

The Corral de la Morería is Madrid’s and the world’s most famous, and probably best, venue for flamenco and a place of pilgrimage for many. It was opened in 1956, making it the oldest known tablao of its type, has been the scene of some historic moments and performances by the very best artists (just check out the list on the website) and has been frequented down the years by the likes of Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Kiss, John Lennon and others of their ilk. Founded by Manuel del Rey, the business was taken over on his death by his wife, Blanca del Rey, herself a world class cantaora, and is now run by their sons, José Manuel and Armando. I am told that the tablao is so famous it can book artists that other places cannot, and although I am almost completely illiterate in flamenco terms I can tell you from personal experience that the artists I saw there – including a fellow called Jesus Carmona – were absolutely superb.

In addition the dinner you can tuck into while watching the artists is also from the very top drawer. It has a top class, Michelin starred chef – David Garcia, who won his Star in Álbora – and the pairing menu we had was as good as anything you can get in Madrid (I can still remember the pichon a good five months later). The only problem, as I said in my post at the time, was that with the spectacular show taking place a few metres away it really was impossible to pay the food the attention it deserved, but I am told that since then this problem has also been resolved: they now have a separate “Restaurante Corral de la Morería” reserved for dining in peace before the show starts.

But anyway, this blog is not about dance or about food, and the real reason I felt I had to come back and write something was the phenomenal line-up of wines we were given with the pairing menu (not that I made any note whatsoever of the dishes they accompanied – apologies for that). They are said to have the largest collection of sherries in Madrid and, frankly, I believe it, but more importantly they gave me the right ones.

  • Socaire 2014 – a fantastic way to start, with what I have no doubt is the Grand Cru de Chiclana de la Frontera, a 100% palomino from a terrific little vineyard called Finca Matalian, at the Southernmost point of the region but soils that are high in calcium, 100m high and only eight kilometers from the sea. It was a terrific wine – and the current vintage, the 2015, is just as good – I refer you to my earlier posts for full details.
  • Encrucijado 2014 – that was followed up by another terrific wine and one of the new stars of the region. The Encrucijado is almost unique in that it is plurivarietal, and has a wiry structure and butterscotch flavours that just seem to get better with the time in the bottle. Again, I refer you to earlier posts for full details.
  • Fino de Añada 2009 (March 2017) – the first really biological wine on the night was this little gem from Williams & Humbert. Really superb progression of wines, this following the Encrucijado’s butterscotch with sweet hazelnut and salty potency but with a fine, sharp, fresh elegance. Once again, if you would like more details check out these posts.
  • Fino Especial La Panesa – very occasionally there comes a time when you think the sommelier is reading your mind and this was one of them. I was just thinking how much I would like to compare the hazelnuts of the Williams with the roasted almonds of this, the king of solera finos, and hey presto it appeared. (What made it more fun was that the wines were being served blind, and I laughed when I scented this one.) An absolutely regal fino which I have written about from time to time in the past.
  • Amontillado 7/7 de la Callejuela – now this, on the other hand, I had never tried and would never have identified for anyone’s money (I might have been able to tell you that it was an amontillado). It is a wine that was bottled specifically for the guys at Corral de la Moreria by those great lads at Callejuela – and a very nice, balanced amontillado too, with a nice sharp biological, Sanlúcar character but plenty of body and juice and nice honey-like notes. A really superb wine and, again, perfect after the Panesa.
  • Palo Cortado Privilegio 1860 – As I mentioned before, these wines were arriving blind but I have to say the sommelier gave himself away a bit because he was unable to hide his excitement when this was served. It is, simply put, one of the very best wines I have ever had from any region. A sweet spicey nose, perfect profile of smooth acid, full body and long finish, silk on the palate and an unbelievable array of flavours from nuts to ginger, chocolate and spices that seem to last forever. Looking back I now see that I have had this on no less than four occasions – if you ever hear me complaining just remind me of that fact.
  • Don PX Convento 1946 – if my good friend the sommelier was excited about the Privilegio he was gleeful about this one. The first and only wine from outside the Sherry region, this is, you guessed it, a pedro ximenez from Montilla Moriles, and a legendary one too. These really old pedro ximenez are fascinatingly dark, and this one was like a peppery dark chocolate in character, but for once the progression didn’t do the wine any favours – maybe it was the comparison with the Palo Cortado (or maybe purely because it is so concentrated to start with) but this one, complex as it was, didn’t come across as quite as expressive.
  • Toneles – and we finished by returning to the sherry region and another absolutely legendary wine, Valdespino’s exceptional old moscatel. Superb aromas of brandy, raisins, sweet spices, chocolate, cedar and tobacco, then a lovely buttery mouthful of intense flavour and immense length – with sweet raisin and chocolate with figgy spices. An absolutely exceptional finish to a quite stunning line up of wines.

Really brilliant wines individually but also a beautifully judged progression from light to shade, up through the ages and styles. Awesome stuff. And while I only had a glance at the first few pages of the monumental winelist I saw enough to be able to tell you there are plenty more where these came from.

When you are blogging it is easy to get over-excited with the hyperbole and declare everything fantastic, awesome and unforgettable but when it comes to that night at el Corral all of the superlatives apply. I really won’t forget it in a long, long time.

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