Underthetree

It is that time of year again. You are wondering what to get for that special sherry blogger in your life. Well worry no longer for I have the answers.

There is a school of thought that the old standards are the best, and there is no doubt you can’t go wrong with a bottle (or two) of La Panesa, Solear en rama, Maruja pasada, el Fossi or Tresillo. You certainly cannot go wrong with the white Sanlucar wines of Ube, the unique Encrucijado or the awesome Pandorga, and I must be doing something right if wines like this are such a regular part of my diet.

On the other hand and since it is Christmas you might be thinking bubbles. If so, just go with it. The palomino bubbles of Mr Angulo, the sherry dosed chardonnay or xarel-lo of Colet Navazos, or even just some Salon or Selosse from a decent year: there is room for all chez Sharquillo.

But if you are looking for something extra special, there are a few things I would relish in particular:

10.  First, I am curious to see what Peter Sisseck does with Fino Camborio. One of the big names of the “new Spain” has acquired one of the great old soleras – the last release of which was an absolute belter – and the combination is fascinating. Part of me hopes he doesn’t change anything (and it’s not exactly as if I need an excuse to get another bottle or two) but the possibilities are there.

9.  Las Viñas de Callejuela 2014 – to be honest I would settle for more of the 2015s (and I bet they will be better for a year in the bottle) and I look forward to the 2016s but from the little I have seen/sniffed/swallowed of the 2014s they are going to be absolute corkers. In fact as I write this I can imagine the Blanco brothers in red suits with big white beards – merry Christmas fellas!

8.  That brings me on to the new crop of Mayeteria Sanluqueña. There were some little gems this year and this is a project that if there is any justice is set to grow and grow.

7.  Beyond a picture on twitter I have absolutely no idea what they are doing but even so I am intrigued to the point of anxiety by the potential fruit of the fruit of the Leclapart Muchada union. (Sisseck, Leclapart – it looks like something really is changing down there.)

6.  I am almost ashamed to have to include Las Tres Miradas in this list. There is really no excuse for not having tried them yet. The guys at Alvear have kept me informed of the numerous tastings and there is no doubt in my mind of the potential either: the lads at Envinate know a few things about distinctive and approachable wines.

5.  Back onto more familiar terrain and I personally cannot wait for the Fino and Oloroso la Barajuela 2014 (and frankly anything from La Barajuela). I have been lucky enough to try the fino twice already and it was awesome but if Willy thinks it wasn’t ready for the bottle then who is going to argue with him? All I can say is when it is ready it looks like being a monster fino, and if that is the fino …

4.  And still I want more. Having been up and had a look at the vineyards nearly 18 months ago a chap is getting impatient with regard to Willy Perez’s wines from la Esperanza and El Caribe whatever they are. Come on Willy, get on with it!

3. And that Christmas carol line about King of Kings brings to mind Primitivo Collantes’ UVA Rey – wine of an unspecified nature from a vineyard of this regal old variety planted by the unsung hero of Chiclana. Once again all I know is that I saw a bottle on twitter alongside some of those cryptic descriptors that experts use, but knowing the man I reckon it is going to be tasty.

2. As I write this list I am getting more and more excited about the year ahead and one of the reasons is the relaunch of La Riva, one of the famous names absorbed by Domecq in the boom years and recently acquired by Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Perez. They have a white wine and a fino from the original vineyards and some little cellar dinosaurs in the pipeline and they will find me lying under the tap with my mouth open.

1. But what I am most looking forward to is Pitijopos Vol III, which this time around – possibly the last – is due to cover some of the legendary vineyards, and the old way South is watering at the very thought of it. But it almost doesn’t matter what the wines are like: if anyone ever does anything as important as the Pitijopos in Jerez again I will be very surprised, and there will probably never be another box of wines created with more genuine passion.

I appreciate it is a long list, but just think of my little eyes lighting up on Christmas morning …

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Williams & Humbert in La Malaje 

A long overdue write-up of an intriguing selection of wines and pairings on a great night at La Malaje, including as a highlight the last of Williams & Humbert’s cracking 2009 finos, their excellent Alegria manzanilla and Don Zoilo amontillado, but also some wines you don’t often see in Spain: favourites in Denmark, Ireland and the UK.

One of them the Winter’s Tale, a lighter, finer, younger, medium-sweet medium (82 gr/l), from six year old oloroso with a reasonable shot of pedro ximenez. I have often said that the sweeter styles are not really my bag and I am not going to pretend to enormous enthusiasm but this was quite striking with very nutty aromas and a nice combination of raisiny sweetness and salinity and freshness. Very gluggable stuff as Shakespeare would no doubt have remarked.

Interestingly, it came up early in the evening and was imaginatively paired with a salad of smoked mackerel. It must be said the combination of smokey salty sweetness in the mackerel and sweet nutty saltiness in the wine worked pretty well, and the acidity of the salad meant you didn’t need much from the wine. If you were being picky you would say that maybe the wine took over a little bit as the glass wore on and the food ran out but on the basis of a quick taste of each this was evidence in favour of drinking sweet wines before the dessert courses.

Another wine you don’t see a lot of was the Oloroso Lacave, a young and pretty light oloroso – I didn’t make a note of how old but it was probably not markedly older than the Winter’s Tale since it didn’t have any great concentration or acidity to it. Did have that same pleasant nuttiness though – not as pronounced a hazelnut as the Fino de Añada but in that direction. Another imaginative pairing – with the gamba roja (the english translation of “red prawn” doesn’t do it justice) – and again the nuttiness was a nice complement, although it went even better with the top class bread and olive oil we had.

After that the wines were of a more familiar stamp – the afore-mentioned Manzanilla Alegria, Amontillado Don Zoilo y Fino de Añada, until the finish and the Walnut Brown. This time the sweet wine was paired with a desert – a Tarta Napoleon in chestnut custard – and although my dessert was gone so quickly it is hard to judge the pairing it certainly seemed alright.

Now the Walnut Brown is an old favourite in my family (if not of mine). It is a sweet oloroso or cream (105gr/l) but interestingly enough has not just palomino and pedro ximenez but also at least a touch of moscatel – and once you know it is there you can really tell it is there, with aromas and flavours of what I identify as stewed tomato. Makes for a more complex palate than the average cream and maybe the varied flavours help balance the sweetness.

A terrific dinner all round, and if it hasn’t converted me to sweet wines as such there is no doubt that it was a chance to try some wines I otherwise wouldn’t.

Tosca Cerrada 2016

If you want to enjoy palomino white wines I have two top tips: first give them time in the bottle and then give the bottle time once open. In particular I have found that these wines by Mario Rovira have improved in the bottle – those lucky enough to still have the 2014s really sing their praises.

This one, the 2016, is probably a little unready: aromatic with an apple and sweet herb nose but slightly murky in appearance and just the slightest touch heavy on the palate. Fresh start then that apple and a touch of bitterness, then a touch of fennel leaf or anis coming out in a persistent finish.

Very enjoyable but I reckon you might want to keep this a year or so.

Palo Cortado Península

This is one of a pair of wines given to me by a grateful (and far too generous) client, together with its amontillado twin, the Escuadrilla. I say twin because the pair of them are twelve years old: whereas the Escuadrilla had four years under flor and eight of oxidative ageing, this had a brief year under flor and eleven of oxidative ageing.

The fichas on the Lustau website have some very interesting technical data, showing as you would expect that this palo cortado has slightly more alcohol and slightly more volatile acidity than the amontillado. Those differences may seem slight but they are noticeable, with the palo cortado having noticeably more nip and sting to it.

Otherwise the family resemblance is clear: the same hazelnut flavours. The differences are as distinctive – a touch more vanilla on the nose, a little bit more blackcurrant bitterness on the palate and a dryer finish with more tobacco flavour.

La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada 59 – Capataz Rivas

Just lately I seem to find Equipo Navazos wines everywhere I go but to be honest that is no bad thing – certainly not when they are as enjoyable as this one. This Number 59 is sourced from a special solera set aside at La Guita and has all the characteristics of a top manzanilla pasada: mellow, fresh, fruitful, saline, and elegant.

They are characteristics that make it a wonderful, versatile wine for the table and indeed a friend and I enjoyed a few glasses in Media Ración over lunch the other day. But it is also the kind of wine that is enough of itself – enjoyable but with plenty of complexity. This was bottled in June 2015 and looking back at my previous notes from October 2015 and February 2016  I would say it has held up very well – maybe a slight edge has been taken off it over time but it is still sharp and fresh.

Lovely stuff.

Amontillado Escuadrilla

A really mellow, drinkable amontillado this one from Lustau – a nice little tipple. It had only four years under flor (in the solera of Fino Jarana) and a further eight years of traditional aging.

It is crystal clear and a light hazelnut colour, with a nice nose of hazelnut toffee– tending to sawdust. Nice palate too, fine but rich with nutty and toffee flavour and a pleasant finish, with the flavour slipping away.

Very easy, very pleasant drinking.

Viavélez

I haven’t been in far too long – probably years – but as is so often the case I can’t tell you why. Viavélez is a brilliant little taberna/restaurant/bistro specializing in the food of Asturias – the beloved country that is near to my heart – and famous in particular for its croquettes. And based on this photo – kindly sent to me by @Amandosfalcon – it also deserves to be famous as a sherry temple. Magnificent stuff – every base covered. Will not be long before I go back!