Once I posed a rhetorical question about why it didn’t go more often to a class spot in Madrid and got the laconic response, from a laconic source, that it was because I had “family and a job”. And indeed I do. And I have been exceptionally fortunate lately. I have the same amount of family, but ever more work, which is good news except that it means that the spare moments dedicated to this blog are few and far between.
So the Corral de la Moreria has been a particular boon to me these last few months. They have had a lot to celebrate – a National Gastronomy Prize for best service and a Michelin Star, no less – and they have the charming habit of celebrating at lunchtime, notoriously the one time in my calendar that I can make it out and about without complaints from colleagues or kin.
And these lunchtimes are not your standard lunchtime (unless your standard lunchtime involves Michelin star food, outstanding sherry, and really top class flamenco dancing (thought not)).
So when they invited me to attend their tasting at Enofusion – Madrid’s gastronomic festival – I couldn’t turn it down, even if it involved half an hour each way on the metro due to the taxi strike.
In the end it was an operation carried out with surgical precision. I strolled in off the metro and through the door at 14:59 and was on my way to the station again at 16:00 sharp. And if that seems impressive the real miracle was what took place in between.
It will be no surprise to the half-dozen readers of this blog that there were some cracking wines involved. In fact, this being a tasting organized by Juan Manuel del Rey, in which he was even billed as the “jeweller of Jerez” you won’t be surprised to read that is was a succession of beautifully presented wines that have spent longer in the bottle than one of those mexican lizards.
As an aside and with apologies to the many poetic minds involved I personally don’t agree with the idea of comparing these wines with jewellery. Jewellery is static – a load of pretty looking minerals – whereas these are living things. Vegetable with a small v and perishable, kept alive so long only when well made and perfectly kept. So for me Juan Manuel isn’t just a jeweller, there is much more skill involved here.
Be that as it may, first up was a Manzanilla la cigarrerra that the years has refined and maybe dimmed but was fresh and full of old grass and iodine – lovely mouthwatering stuff.
That was followed by a rarity. A “Maruja” manzanilla fina olorosa – 58 años in the bottle no less and a style that has disappeared. For me the aromatics were refined an chamomile rather than explosive but and incense but it was still flavourful on the palate.
Then out came a Terry Fino la Ina from the 1970s that was really incredible – just superbly sharp, clean and focussed, for its forty odd years – unlike some we could mention.
From this stage onwards my notes become more and more poetic, perhaps influenced by the frequent interjections of amazement by some distinguished attendees.
It is also possible that the wines called for it. Certainly the next one, Carta Blanca amontillado fino – which was paired with a “Soleá – was pure macharnudo class, calling to mind not just salinity and almonds but vanilla and white chocolate.
That was followed by more of Forrest Gump’s chocolate box. This time the Dos cortados, which was all salty, zingy peanut butter like a kind of alcoholic Reeses cup.
Then the wine I might have expected to be a bombon, the 1976 bottle of Rio Viejo – was superbly serious. Again macharnudo but this time all diesel power, a deep groove of salinity but delicate and ethereal on the palate. Really superb – reminded me of an earlier musing about bottle ageing: if the way to make a million making wine is to start with ten million, the way to make a lovely fine old wine is to start with a chunky new one. Whatever the reason, it was rarified stuff, really exceptional.
And that was followed by the bonus ball, a wine from Gonzalez Byass and brought to the tasting by Antonio Flores himself: no less than a 1908 bottle of Matusalem. Amazing to think of all that time, and this was fascinating stuff. A lot of pinewood, eucalyptus and ginger, light and liquid in the body with flavours of ginger and sawdust.
The liquids were not alone, because when you have lunch with El Corral you are fed by a top, top gun, David Garcia. Here he only had the chance to give us a few bites, on the road in the midst of a trade show, and he noticeably even spoke about them from the sidelines, perhaps recognizing that we had come for the wine. But the guy is a genius, he loves his sherry and it shines through. In those few bites he showed what sherry pairings are all about in terms of echoes and harmonies – absolutely perfect.
But even up to there you might say nothing new here: this blog is after all the chronicling of lunchtimes that are frequently characterized by heavy use of stemware and by no means averse to the occasional Michelin star.
And you would be crushingly wrong, because when you have lunch with Corral de la Moreria, there is art, there is poetry, music and dancing. This time provided by Eduardo Guerrero. Here his stage was only a little bit bigger than a bar stool but even so – class – and if it is said that writing about wine is like tap dancing about architecture then imagine how well I write about flamenco …