Añina 2016 in Taberna Palo Cortado

In sherry terms Madrid is one of the places to be, if not the place to be, with restaurants and winebars with incredible lists of sherries seemingly in every neighbourhood. But the final destination for the discerning drinker in want of some of the really good stuff, and in particular the really hard to get stuff, is Taberna Palo Cortado.

In Taberna Palo Cortado there is a wine list of over 300 sherries (and other traditional Andalucian wines), all available by the glass. A list exceeding my over exercised imagination. But even that list is not the end of the story. If you dig a little deeper you will soon find yourself being offered wines off the menu that are even more special.

One such is this Anina 2016 by the great Willy Perez. It is of course 100% palomino fino, from old vines on a vineyard called “El Caribe” in the historic pago de Añina in Jerez. It ticks two of my boxes: terroir and (as its name suggests) vintage, putting it right up my street, and it is another example of this new style of concentrated, unfortified white wines that Willy is quickly becoming associated with.

All the hallmarks are there – it is ripe and honeylike on the nose, loads of fruit and only the faintest hint of a distant haybale, has good acidity and weight on the palate and again a lovely mouthful of fruit flavours. Maybe a hint of oxidation up front – certainly not much suggestion of anything biological – but nice mineral and herbal notes in amongst it all. Not quite as saline or savoury as its cousins from Carrascal de Jerez, but excellent, no question.

The only problems with this wine are (a) the small size of the bottle and (b) the small number of them. Not that that stops Taberna Palo Cortado!

Sherry Week 2020 – in Madrid and worldwide

Sherry Week 2020 is upon us and, while understandably restrained this year, it is still a great excuse/opportunity to try a glass of one of the world’s great wines. If you’d like to find an event – whether a tapas and sherry offer or a full blown tasting menu – there is a cracking searchable map on the Sherry Wines Website.

In Madrid as always we are well looked after. In Madrid every week is Sherry Week – whether in its Sherry Temples, Palo Cortado, Surtopia, Corral de Moreria or A’Barra, or its wine temples, lead by Angelita Madrid and la Fisna, or the restaurants and taverns with outstanding lists of sherries like Zalamero, Taberna Verdejo, la Canibal, Lakasa, la Taberna de Pedro, La Malaje, Media Ración, Kulto, Triciclo, la Antoja, the “new” Venencia … there are many and I am bound to forget some for which I apologize in advance (luckily I can edit this post later).

But this week there are 29 different locations listed in Madrid, including in the aforementioned Canibal, Pazo de Lugo, Kulto, Distinto, la Antoja, and many others – the full list is on the website – but at the risk of upsetting some very good friends, one event stands out to me: “La Mayeteria Sanluqueña in Sagrario Tradicion”.

La Mayeteria Sanluqueña is one of the greatest things in the new landscape of Jerez (in this case Sanlucar) and the event – a menu paired with wines from two of the mayetos from two pagos that are close by but express different stories, and two vintages – 2017 and 2018 – that express very different times. In fact I should declare an involvement here – Nico asked me for a suggestion of how to take part in sherry week and that was all the excuse I needed to further my agenda on all fronts. I love the traditional wines of Andalucia in all their forms, but palomino, vintage and terroir are my bag in a big way, and if you throw in artisans and tradition, and if the wine is as good as these are …

So get down to your local sherry event, and if you can find them, check out the mayeteria!

El Tresillo and la Panesa

One thing lead to another. These wines are a long time in the bodega and then survive a laughably short time once within arms reach.

They are two sensational wines each in their own way.

The Panesa is magnificent in its breadth, volume and solidity, lovely in the mouth and during a long finish, a wine you can drink at any time of day and night. Has a full aroma and flavour with no vibrato – Juanma Martin Hidalgo compares these to the classical music of Jerez and if so this is the pavarotti, a big lunged, vibrato free beast.

At its side the Tresillo is beguilingly fine and more complex on the nose and palate, with a touch of polish in more ways than one and more noticeable sea air. Then a touch of hazelnut to La Panesa’s almonds. This would be the other chap – more of a crowd pleaser and a more complex character maybe but not that same force of personality.

Frankly, this is why people say comparisons are odious – what a pair of absolute belters.

UBE Carrascal 2015 – in Taberna Palo Cortado

This was the original UBE and still my favourite overall. From Carrascal de Sanlucar, the freshest and most vertical of the great pagos in el marco, but from old vines and a low yielding vineyard that produces wines of relative potency and concentration.

It is of course 100% palomino (although with Ramiro other options are available), from three different clones – palomino fino, palomino de jerez and palomino pelusón (which intriguingly translates as big hairy palomino). It is fermented in bota and then spends another 20 months there, without flor, after which this one has been another three and a half years in the bottle.

That period in the bottle has really brought it on – as I so often find with palomino white wines – and the result is a highly enjoyable, fresh but flavourful white wine.

As you can see, it has taken on a very attractive old gold colour, clearly darker in shade than I remember it, and it has a very distinctive nose, chalky interlaced with lemon but with a hint of stewy herbs in the background. In fact those herbs come through more and more as the wine opens up. Really interesting balance of mineral, fruit and savoury. Then on the palate more of the same, the effect of the chalk, the fresh start and a nice, generous mouthful of citrus and herbal fruit before slipping away in a long fresh finish.

Plenty to enjoy here, a really excellent wine, and that savoury character makes it a great wine for one of the cheeky lunches I have missed so much …

Sagrario Tradicion

I may not write as often as I used to but there is no doubt that I research the occasional posts more thoroughly. In Kaleja recently I had every item on the menu, my recent post on the Barajuelas was the result of about 20 liters of the stuff over the years and this long-overdue post is the product of no less than six visits to my new high class neighbourhood neotaberna.

The first visit was a sober affair with a good friend but despite not opening a single bottle of wine we saw enough to see we were in the right place – from the tomatoes to the croquettes to the quail, the turbot in pil pil and the flan in amontillado. Absolutely cracking stuff – worth coming back here.

Second visit was for callos, mellow and aromatic callos, with a fascinating 2006 airen, some lovely natural style burgundy, the pluma in a bun and flan again. More top trucking.

Third visit was a long and genial dinner with some good friends and the boss here, Nico – a real character and really good bloke who knows his wine and is generous with his brandy. And he knows his cold cuts too – the shaved aged steak with shavings of foie was bonkers, the others not far behind and as for the torreznos and frogs legs …

Well suffice it to say that I came back for the frogs legs. Big healthy frogs from the North of Spain, in a pisto with a big fried egg on it. The perfect symbol of this place – haute cuisine in down home style. And with it cocido “stuffing” – superb – a glass of Fresquito and then a stunning late albariño – O Rebusco – well worth going back and searching for.

But of course when I went back there was none left, so I made do with a cracking little cod salad, a kind of high end ploughmans, followed by the biggest leg of rabbit I have ever seen washed down with more of the good stuff, including a truly special Vin Jaune.

And then a quick lunch today with some beautiful smokey roasted peppers from Benavente and a pepitoria made with a rooster that could, by its bones, have been mistaken for a dinosaur. And this with a lovely glass of the Williams & Humbert 2012 fino – which is just beautiful stuff – and another lovely natural wine.

This is not your average neighbourhood restaurant. For a start it is well, well above average, and most importantly, it is in my neighbourhood.

Barajuela class of 2013

I discovered during the lockdown that I had managed to squirrel away quite a few bottles of la Barajuela and ever since had been looking for an occasion to crack some open, so when I was invited over to dinner by some friends recently I seized my opportunity.

I am pretty sure I will be invited back, and it isn’t due to the conversation.

These two wines are by now like old friends but I still remember the first time I sat down with a full bottle of the fino – Father’s day 2016. Together with that first palo cortado that set me off in the first place this is the wine that made the strongest first impression on me.

Since then there have been another saca of the fino and two new vintages and more recently an NV and I have had more than my share of all of them – it is no secret that I like them and wherever I go they seem to follow me.

But I will never tire of them either – really outstanding white wines, that simultaneously have a higher and a lower register than most, more body, more complexity, more salinity and all in a beautiful profile. Just beautiful and great to drink them together, that step in power and that hint of oxidation in the oloroso seeming to add an extra dimension.

And I never tire of sharing them with friends. These wines are such great ambassadors for Jerez and the best possible argument in favour of terroir and vintage focussed winemaking in the region.

But not too many friends – the bottles are tiny and only hold 750 mil.

Agostado 2016

The artistry formerly known as Encrucijado.

A clash in trading names means a change of moniker for this historic wine and it is a real shame. Historic because it is made using varieties that had long fallen out of favour, and because it was one of the first “new wines” from el marco. It was certainly the first that I tried, what seems a long time ago now in September 2015. That was the 2012 – the MMXII – and this is the 2016.

Over the years the wine has wound its neck in a bit. Back then there were five or six varieties involved, as the idea was to try and replicate the almost random selection of the pre-phylloxeric vineyards. But it was never meant to be an experiment, it was meant to be a wine, and as a wine it has grown and grown in stature even as the varieties dwindled. Now it has just three varieties: palomino fino, uva rey and perruno. (Still two more than your average blanco de albariza.)

From the start it was a lovely wine, but it just seems to get better and this strikes me as good as any that I have tried. It has that bit of extra girth of flavour, more buttery, more melon, but this one also has a lovely elegant profile and fresh finish. And from memory it seems to have improved a lot with a year in the bottle too.

One worth hunting out and savouring – the history of the wines and varieties of Jerez, and a lovely wine while you are at it.

Kaleja Part II

It is not often that words fail me but I am struggling, and have been struggling for several weeks, to find the terminology to describe my second visit to Kaleja.

If my first visit was almost furtive, ensconced at the bar with my head down, this time it was an occasion and, oh boy, what an occasion it turned out to be. I had what could be termed the extra long menu – one of everything – and it lead to a couple of hours of proving the fallacy of the good time/long time dichotomy.

The pictures here tell at least some of the story, of dish after outstanding dish, but you would need more than a 1000 words to adequately describe some of these.

Looking at them it is hard to know where to start. Maybe the dish that had the biggest impact on me was the huevas con fetta – a little flavour bomb of fishy and cheesy salinity and freshness. The dish I would have repeated over and over the squid in butter, or maybe the beans in ham, or the foie in salpicon, or the gamba, or the green beans …

The list could go on and on – and I could have too. While some menus can seem a long struggle, this one never got heavy. A fantastic combination of flavours, textures and ingredients, and all that stewing and roasting making for a lunch that was as digestible as it was enjoyable.

You get the idea – it was an absolute feast for the senses.

And a liquid feast too, as Juan “Juanito” Perez weaved a merry thread of superb wines through proceedings, including some absolute crackers beloved of this parish. The Camborio en Rama, Saca de Floracion, La Fleur by Forlong, UBE Miraflores, the Antique Oloroso, the Maria del Valle fino, the Amontillado by Bodegas Tradicion and a sensational Palo Cortado by Antonio Barbadillo.

Superb wines all but also brilliantly matched to the cooking – harmonies and complements, flavours that reinforced each other. Really excellent work.

A really outstanding lunch in fact, one that will live long in the memory. I can’t wait to get back down to Malaga for Round Three.

Solear en rama – Spring 2015 – the Oropéndola

There is still a feeling of sacrilege when I open these little bottles that have been stashed away these last few years but the regret doesn’t outlast the first mouthfull.

What an astonishingly nice wine – it really is the archetypal dry sherry. Beautiful gold colour, lovely haybales and yeast on the nose, zingy salinity and fresh yeasty juice on the palate, and the mouth just sallivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

This bottle is from when it was still bottled as a mere “manzanilla” but it really is a manzanilla pasada – you can feel it in the concentration and the intensity of the flavours.

Wonderful stuff.

Navazos Niepoort 2018 in Coalla Madrid

Aperitivo o’clock in a bustling Coalla Madrid and nothing better to wash down your berberechos than a glug or two of this white wine from pago Macharnudo.

One of the first unfortified white wines from Jerez – the first vintage was back in 2008 – this project by Equipo Navazos with one of the story of Jerez’s unsung heroes, Dirk Niepoort aims at recreating the wines of Jerez in centuries past. From 100% palomino fino from the famous albariza of macharnudo, fermented in bota and no fortification, with only a few months of spontaneous flor.

It is delicious stuff – fresh, saline and aromatic, with a suggestion of white fruit and a touch of the old esparto grass. Fruit, mineral, herb in a lovely balance, and very elegant. The berberechos were also top class it must be said and a better pairing I cannot think of.

Marvellous – with wines like this by the glass no wonder Don Ramon is enjoying Madrid!