An evening with Pepe Blandino in Taberna Palo Cortado

A fella hasn’t had a lot of time for wine tasting lately, and even less time for writing them up, but couldn’t not write up this one after a cracking night with Bodegas Tradición in Taberna Palo Cortado.

The wines we already know: superb, compact finos from the latest saca and those of the last couple of years and a couple of fine amontillados, including one from the first criadera and of the course the famous VORS. And boy that old amontillado is class. But on this occasion the star of the show was the human element, Pepe Blandino, the capataz of the bodega.

If the enologist is the architect, the capataz is the foreman in the cellar, and although the role may not be unique to the sherry region there are very few areas where they have the same importance. The sheer amount of time that these wines spend in the cellar sets the region apart from most (even the finos on the night were over ten years in the making),  and the wines are not just sitting in the barrels either. The solera processes and the range of ageing styles give the enologists and cellarman a range of options, and challenges, that simply don’t arise elsewhere.

As such it was a real privilege to hear from one of the big names, and one of the real characters too. You had the impression that he enjoyed himself and he definitely had the crowd  in the Taberna spellbound. Let’s be honest, there was plenty of shtick and a fair few anecdotes about the good old days. There were even a few disclaimers of the “I don’t know the fancy words” variety.

But underneath it all your man gave the impression of a really canny operator – frankly you wouldn’t expect anything less from a quality outfit like Tradición-, and there were some fascinating technical details in there about the processes, the classification and the way the wines are used. He also had some very clear views about the merits of terroir vs selection, static and dynamic ageing.

I was also told that Pepe was personally responsible for the hand-numbering of the labels that go on the wines and it struck me as perfect. Tradición has always been the embodiment of a modern approach to making the most traditional of wines, those labels are a great example of just that and for all the shtick on the night the hand numbering is precisely the kind of attention to detail you would want from your capataz. An honour to meet him and a great night as always in Palo Cortado.

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