Verdejo, pero viejo

Of the many joys that this blog has brought me undoubtedly the greatest has been the possibility of trying things that otherwise I would not. I have been spoilt by sommeliers, invited to events, been able to visit wineries and meet winemakers, and generally been very fortunate indeed. And there was a new example this week as a colleague from the firm where I work shared something really unique with me.

His family own a winery, Bodegas Otero. up in Benavente, one of five wineries in one of Spain’s least famous DOs, where they make some very enjoyable reds and whites from prieto picudo and verdejo. Unusually for this blog, we are not talking a new winery: they were founded in 1906. Also unusually for this blog, the wine was not a new one either, quite the contrary.

The bodega has the typical “sala de visitas”, with old barrels on every wall, many of them signed for family members, recently decided to take stock of the wine in those barrels, and what they have found is quite extraordinary.

The barrels were filled with verdejo in the 1980s and then they, and their contents, literally became part of the furniture. The angels took more than their share and the barrels became a little less full, allowing a veil of flor to form for a few years before a decision was taken to fortify around 15 years ago, since when they were left to grow old as gracefully as possible. Until last year, when the barrels were emptied into two deposits, from which a few bottles – no more than tasting samples – have been produced.

And this is where my luck comes in because I was fortunate enough to be given a couple of those bottles and asked if I thought it was worth bottling the rest. Even before I opened them I was intrigued – who wouldn’t be – and I couldn’t think of a better place to do so than Angelita, with its cooking based on the produce of the same zamoran fields.

And the wines didn’t let anybody down – a lovely golden colour, clear as a bell, and aromatic, with barrel, sawdust, wax and brandy there but also old old apple. On the palate too: nice acidity, mellow flavours, not at all heavy on the palate despite their 19 degrees and a long, mouthwatering finish with that same aromatic profile. The two wines – we had a bottle from each deposit – were also full of character. One finer, all barrel and mellow, and the other brasher, with more volatile acidity and the juicier, spirity profile and nose that that brings.

I was impressed enough, indeed, to want to compare them with some of the many sherry wines on excellent list and they really stood their ground admirably – finer and maybe less potent on the palate due to their lack of solera, but no less aromatic and flavorful and maybe even more elegant.

So a lovely discovery all told, no doubt at all that these need bottling – in fact they will be a couple of wines that will be well worth hunting out when they are finally available (and I am glad to say you should be able to find them in Angelita). My sincere congratulations to Bodegas Otero and my thanks to them for sharing.


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