La Bota 93 de manzanilla – “Navazos”

Equipo Navazos release some class wines and this manzanilla is always one of them. A new bottling from the same botas that gave us the illustrious Bota 71 – and which I guess are botas acquired in 2007 from the cellars home to the famous La Guita.

As soon as you pour a glass you know this is an altogether richer wine than La Guita – a gorgeous old gold colour – and at the same time wonderfully aromatic, with lots of haybales and the archetypal chamomile. I remember first smelling the 71 from almost across the room at a social gathering and this one takes me back to that moment.

That chalky Miraflores character is very much in evidence on the palate, but here overlaid with the good juice: yeast, zingy salinity and sweet herbal tea.

An excellent manzanilla and a real blockbuster of a wine.

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Blanco Macharnudo De la Riva 2017 in Taberna Palo Cortado

The world is full of injustice and misery. As the great Cantona shrewdly observes, like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, and so on and so forth. But the worst of it is that there is so little of this wine available.

It is a marvellous white wine, that has everything you could ask for. White blossom on the nose and on the palate ripe melon made of steel on the verge of going rusty from interstellar corrosion such as that suffered by the Millenium Falcon. Then mouthwatering and persistent – a massive, sapid, mouthful of flavour, less like a leaf in profile and more like a comet – a massive tail.

This is why we drink wine. Superb! Make more of this please!

La Fleur 2015 by Forlong

I always thought this would get even better in the bottle and it has definitely gained in intensity on the palate, but has maybe just lost that apple and chamomile fruity nose that it had when first released. The flavour profile has gone from the sweet apple pie to baked cider apples, and the aromatics have dialed down.

It has, in short, become altogether more serious, and I miss the youthful zest of 18 months ago. I was wrong and I take it back, please tell me there is a new vintage!

1955 Palo Cortado by Perez Barquero in Taberna Palo Cortado

One of many long overdue posts from one of many really top class lunches at Taberna Palo Cortado, unquestionably the number one place for any sherrylover (with apologies to Perez Reverte) in Madrid. They have more wines by the glass than anywhere else, and it really is a case of whatever your heart desires.

The only problem with it, in fact, is that when I go I end up so pie-eyed that the notes are so sketchy and the list of wines is so long I never get round to writing them up. But in a fit of back to work puritanism here I am writing up some of the wines from a marvellous lunch just a few months ago.

This is an absolutely cracking old wine from the other place, Montilla Moriles, which to me throws up a few interesting issues.

First, the wine – this is a gorgeous old oxidated wine, 100% pedro ximenez but almost fully dry – maybe just the tiniest amount of sugar – nice acidity, lovely rich flavours in a nice spectrum and no edges. Really top class, elegant but rounded wine, the kind you could enjoy best with a good book and a comfy chair.

And then, the issues.

First, the “1955” is a touch misleading, at best. I am told it refers to the approximate age of the solera, as anyone who knows their way around will appreciate, but many punters will not, and given the price band, some punters may think they are drinking something that is older than it is.

Second, the term “palo cortado”. It is pretty surprising to find a wine from Montilla Moriles being called a palo cortado. Not these days – the marketing value of the palo cortado brand is not to be sniffed at – but I am not sure what historic usage of that term there was, and ten years ago there weren’t many such wines on the market, so it is surprising at the least that a solera of “palo cortados” was founded 64 years ago. It is what it is – a selection of the finer, more elegant olorosos – and it just seems odd to label it as something else.

But pardon my quibbling. The wine is outstanding and would be equally fine however it were labelled, let’s just enjoy it!

Tio Pepe en rama 2019

The tenth edition of Gonzalez Byass’s en rama bottling of the legendary fino and that moment of every year when a fella has to stop and salute the behemoth that is Gonzalez Byass.

They don’t get much airtime on this blog for a few reasons – one being that the kind of restaurants and winebars I go to don’t, with a few exceptions, seem to have them on their wine list. Even their very high end wines – the Palmas – cannot easily be found, and I sometimes wonder why.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am the number one fan of all the little bodegas, the new kids on the block, the guys that are subverting the norms of which Tio Pepe is a symbol. Neither am I a fan of making wines in the millions of barrels (I just don’t see how it is possible to be honest) and in Jerez in particular there is a special kind of opprobrium attached to any suggestion of industrialization.

But I can’t find it in my heart to blame Tio Pepe for all the world’s ills. They may make a lot of wine, but there is plenty on the plus side of the ledger. They may not have been the first, but these en ramas, the Palmas, and the promotional weight they throw behind them have also played their part in the “sherry revolution” we all embrace. They also do their bit at the very top end with their superb olorosos and palo cortados de añada.

And even before that, by having their wines on the shelves all over the world and all the time they did as much as anyone to keep the flame alive. I may not go looking for their wines but I don’t know how many times I have been happy to see a little green bottle on a supermarket shelf, in a fridge, in an exotic wine bar, in a barrow full of beach refreshments. I remember being almost overcome with emotion when a steward on an airline was able to find not just a bottle of Tio Pepe but also a bottle of Alfonso oloroso.

As a result, the almonds in this wine are one of the most familiar flavours I, and probably the majority of the world’s sherry drinkers, associate with the dry ones. I well remember doing a blind tasting of Tio Pepe in its standard and en rama versions and I was able to spot them mainly because the good old Tio Pepe was so unmistakable (and lighter in color, let’s be honest).

And here is that flavour, baked almonds, and zing, and mouthwatering freshness. More juice, more herbs here, with umami depth. Like grelos in a rich Galician stew, this is delicious and familiar.

Big isn’t bad, not bad at all.

 

Corral de la Moreria at Enofusion: the Jeweller of Jerez

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 …