Amontillado Pemartin 

After years of drinking sherry and enjoying it, and a couple of years of even writing a blog about it, I might have been expected to have come across most of the available sherries. But I have not. For a start, seems like every month there are new labels (not necessarily new wines, but more about that on another occasion) but it would be pretty good going even to get to know all of the 100+ generosos by the glass that are on offer in Territorio Era. I reckon I visit the establishment as often as anybody and nevertheless your man David can still surprise me with bottles of which I have never heard. And here is one.

It is called Pemartin, it is owned by Diez Merito, and it is a pretty decent amontillado. You would say it is at the youngish end of the scale both biologically and traditionally: not a lot of biological impact on the nose or profile or massive flavours on the palate, but a perfectly pleasant wine with a nice buzzy start, caramel middle and fresh finish. Just right for accompanying a quick mollete de oreja, which is just as well …

 

 

 

Amontillado Solera Fundacional 

To my mind this was the clear star of my recent lunch with Bodegas Alvear and one of the finest amontillados I have come across to date. 

I agree with the protagonists of Edgar Allan Poe’s great story. For me you cannot beat the amontillado style for flavourful elegance – manzanilla pasadas and older finos can be as elegant and complex but when the amontillado is good it can be exceptional. Experts tell me that back in the day the wines considered top of the pops were the amontillados and I believe them. And from what I have seen there is no doubt how they get their name: the amontillados from Montilla Moriles are as good as any you will find. (The Jerez propaganda about the style being named for the “ruined” wine that arrived by donkey from Montilla can be archived in the (overflowing) blarney file.) 

This Amontillado Solera Fundacion is one of the very best. It is taken, as its name maybe gives away, from the foundational solera and must be of a ripe old age, but wears its years with incredible grace. I may have been softened up a bit by the four top wines that preceeded it, but my notes are extremely, er, enthusiastic. 

It is very easy on the eye, crystal clear and a rich, hazelnut/amber in tone, and has just an outstanding nose. Concentrated, rich, compact nose with a lot of sides to it, like one of those 20 sided dice mathematicians love, with everything from caramel through nuts and leather to just the slightest hint of the darkest chocolate. (With the glass empty it was all sweet pine sawdust.)

On the palate it is the archetypal best of both worlds – elegant, silky and fine in profile but rich in flavour and expression. A sharp acid start, a controlled explosion in the middle involving a spectrum of flavours from nuts and caramel through cigar box and leather to dark chocolate and even coffee, then a smooth salinefinish with no astringency. 

Really fantastic. A touch of magic to this wine. 

Criadera /A

Am going with the short version of the name here. This was wine number four of an outstanding lunch with Bodegas Alvear last week and had a tough gig, wedged as it was between an outstanding fino (the Fino Capataz Solera de la Familia) and a quite sensational amontillado (Amontillado Solera Fundacional). 

Said to have an average age of around 13/14 years (compared to 10/12 for the fino) this is the “fino que va para amontillado” – the biological wine headed for the amontillado solera. It has had more oxidation than the fino – the flor starting to disappear for seasons from around eight years onwards – but hasn’t really had the full roast of oxidation of an amontillado. 

It is only slightly richer in colour than the fino, a lovely rich amber. On the nose it is less aromatic – you really notice the reduced exposure to flor – and although there is a touch more hazelnut in the nose there is less of the sweet wet hay aroma, making it seems less sweet overall. 

On the palate it is a similar story, a tighter, slightly less expressive wine compared to the fino, with a touch more intensity and a sharper profile. Punchy, acidic start and a fresh finish gives it a nice elegant profile. (Curiously once the glass is empty the aromas are much more lively – sweetness and haybales.)

Another very fine wine, elegance and intensity. 

Oloroso Pata de Gallina, Lustau/Juan García Jarana

I am a big fan of this wine and it is one of the great values available – really very cheap indeed for what it is, and very hard to resist when you come across a bottle.

It is a dark dark colour here and looks for all the world like one of these very concentrated olorosos but the nose doesn’t give you wood and leather but toffee, nuts burnt caramel and mineral smokiness. Then on the palate it is fatty and full bodied, even maybe to the point of being a little heavy, and it is full of flavour, with a nice acidic attack, nice caramel to burnt caramel flavours and a spicey and racey finish. Not too bitter and astringent, in fact quite a sticky sweet finish.

Hedonistic wine, even if the bottle is rather small.

Fino CB 

The second wine from my epic lunch with Alvear last week was the Fino CB, a six year old fino, once again from 100% pedro ximenez, and from wine that did not require fortification. Am realizing that it is a house that venerates its former capatazes and here is another example: it is apparently named after Capataz Villanueva (in the, erm, old Spanish, Billanueva). 

As you can just about see it was a pale straw colour with just a hint of green. A punchy nose with a touch of yeasty bread about it. Was interesting to try it after the Marques de la Sierra, because whereas that wine was leafy and had notes of fennel and anise this one takes it up a notch and has that liquorice root flavour I associate with pedro ximenez finos. Has a slightly richer texture to it. If the Marques was silky this has a bit more velvety, oily body – and a warm, savoury palate and a nicely integrated salinity that is more sapid than saline. 

An underrated and enjoyable fino with its own character. Good old Captain Villanueva! 

Marques de la Sierra 

Not the first dry white pedro ximenez wine I have had but there have not been many. This was the first wine of a quite fantastic lunch with Javier Noval of Alvear and in the heat of Madrid was a top start.

I am convinced that, just like Jerez and its creams and mediums, the dry wines of Montilla Moriles are victims of the phenomenal success of their sweet pedro ximenez. In fact even more so, because the very name of the grape has become synonymous with the sweet wine. But so much more is possible with pedro ximenez and it strikes me that a straight dry table wine should be an important part of any bodega’s armoury.  Alvear are in fact leading the charge, and with the help of Alfonso Torrente of Envinate will soon be releasing some parcel specific wines under the name “Tres Miradas” – a cordobes homage to the Pitijopos. 

This is not one of those wines, but rather the reboot of a classic label and it is a fesh and enjoyable wine. Dry but has a citrus, floral sweetness of flavour and some nice minerals and green leaves and – a great shout by Javier – some fennel flavours. 

Very nice thirst quenching stuff – and as far from the popular image of a pedro ximenez as you can get. 

Amontillado Fossi 1/3 Solera No 

I have written many times about the Fossi – a lovely amontillado fino that is one of the most underrated wines around – but here we have a very special edition. This is a magnum drawn from a solera of three “Botas No”: botas that have been set aside for years, without sacas, and only refreshed to replace the angels’ share. (I am not sure how many of these magnums were produced but probably not many – I tried this at the bar of Territorio Era.)

The first thing I notice about the wine is the colour – to me it is a shade more amber/straw coloured, and less caramel-hued than the standard Fossi. On the nose it is punchy and on the palate too it strikes me as more of a missile – sharp and direct, more concentrated acidity and salinity, slightly less juice and caramel flavour. Very fine and elegant, a nice structure and profile. 

A more serious version of the standard but I could still drink bucketloads.