This blog may not amount to very much but it has brought me into contact with some top class people, I have had some superb dinners and I have learned about some fantastic projects, for all of which I am very grateful. There was a bit of all three this week when I was able to have a cracking dinner in Taberna Verdejo with Carlos del Rio, who is not only a really nice bloke and great company but also one of the men behind probably the most exciting new project in Jerez in recent years.
Because as you surely must have heard, Carlos and his family (famous for Hacienda Monasterio) have teamed up with Peter Sisseck to start a new project in Jerez, acquiring the bodega and solera that produced Camborio until three years ago (three years already …, time flies when you are having fun) and, to judge by my conversation with Carlos this week, making some serious progress in the meantime.
First, they have acquired vineyards in Macharnudo and Balbaina (in el Cuadrado no less), where little by little they are busy inserting palomino de jerez clones to replace palomino fino. At the same time they have added to and reorganized the botas they acquired into two separate soleras: one producing a fino based on the rump of the Camborio solera but aimed at producing an altogether finer wine, with more criaderas and replenished from their vineyard in Balbaina, and a second that they have founded afresh, again producing fino and with wines taken 100% from their Macharnudo vineyard.
And they aren’t stopping there – what was one of the oldest of old school bodegas now has more high tech gear than Iron-man’s gaff, the absolute cutting edge, and there is more building work going on than in the lego movie. In fact in the course of a very pleasant dinner it became clear that these guys are literally not taking anything for granted but had explored and paying serious attention to literally every step in the wine making process. (And to think I was under the impression that they were just going to top and tail Camborio …)
The half dozen readers of this blog will know that this sort of thing is, in my opinion, exactly what the doctor ordered. A focus on terroir, vine, and proper wine making, with attention to detail down to the smallest speck of dust. There are a lot of excellent producers down in Jerez, and happily there are a few with a similar focus on winemaking and terroir, but it is frankly excellent news el marco that serious winemakers like these have come to the party and are prepared to not only get on the dance floor but also try out a few new moves. (And they have a lot of new moves in mind – I have never heard so many wine making ideas in one conversation.)
And to judge by the liquid accompaniment to our dinner they know what they are about too. Carlos brought two sacas from the Balbaina solera – one from October 2018 and one from June 2019, and they were frankly fascinating. The June 2019 was a classic fino, zingy and full of haybale aromas and burnt almond flavour – maybe a touch finer and fresher than that Camborio but a serious fino in its own right. And the October 2018 was something else entirely, much finer, more elegant, more Esparto grass than haybale and more a fine wine than a winey fino.
Frankly both of them are delicious and the kind of stuff you could drink hectoliters of, although unfortunately there aren’t going to be hectoliters. They expect to release the first wine next year and the 10,000 bottles have already been sold (these are not any ordinary winemakers) for distribution to lucky winelovers across two continents.
If you are able to get your hands on them they are going to be worth trying. In fact if you call yourself a sherry lover or wine lover at all this is a project that deserves your support. I am going back for a second dip Monday night at an event here in Madrid featuring Peter Sisseck himself and some relatively some well known wines from his other wineries up north and I am looking forward to that immensely.
In fact it brought to mind a comment Carlos made this week. He told me that Peter himself had said “I am lucky to have Pingus because it means I can also make wine in Jerez.” It is a great sentiment but he is only half right, because Jerez, and those of us who love the wines of Jerez, are just as lucky to have guys like him and Carlos, and projects like the one taking place at Calle San Francisco Javier 8.