Pitijopos Volume II, Part 4 – La Atalaya

Three years now since the first night of the Pitijopos (Volume I) – for me one of the most memorable and educational nights as a wine drinker.

For the uninitiated, the Pitijopos are sets of six “mostos” from 100% palomino grown in six specific sites – in Volume I from across the sherry region and in Volume II from around Sanlucar, fermented without temperature controls in bota at Cota 45, and released as boxed sets with the aim of demonstrating the different terroirs and the characteristics they can imprint on the wines of the region.

Volume II – which a few colleagues and I tasted together back in January last year – is all about Sanlucar and sets up a contrast between the vineyards near the Atlantic and those inland, influenced by the Guadalquivir river – and this is one of the wines from that particular box (which if you are interested are currently on sale in single file at Reserva y Cata).

Specifically, it is the wine from a pago called La Atalaya, said to be a fascinating “hybrid” pago halfway between the river and atlantic pagos, 10,75km from the sea and characterized by albariza antehojuela which makes for direct, fresh wines, albeit tempered by the inland location and climate.

When first released it had a very aromatic nose of lemon and seaside air, a fresh start, nice juicy volume and a long, mouthwatering saline, seafood shell finish (or so I wrote at the time at least).

A year and ten months later it is still aromatic and fresh but seems much more complex. The citrus nose now has a strong air of bicycle inner tube and a hint of diesel, and you have that same mineral complexity on a palate that is still juicy and jammy, with salinity that is really only noticeable in that fresh finish. I really like it in fact – would even say it has improved in those two years (as these palominos tend to do imho).

Long live the Pitijopos and bring on Volume III!

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Monday night champions in Taberna Verdejo

I don’t get out much lately so when I do have an excuse I try to take advantage. I don’t think there can but much debate that last Monday night was a bit of a success on that front. Some friends and colleagues were in town and anxious to learn about the wines of Jerez so we tooled along to Taberna Verdejo where el vino did, as they say, flow.

While the first bottle of palomino had a quick ice bath we started with a chardonnay “El Beso” (the name of which couldn’t have been more appropriate to the location) but from there on it was Jerez all the way, starting with La Choza de Callejuela, the terrific unfortified palomino from La Choza on Macharnudo Alto by the guys at Callejuela, a great example of a full flavoured, savoury palomino and a fascinating comparison with the opening Chardonnay.

Then we headed under the flor, starting with a manzanilla, and not just any manzanilla: the Sacristia AB, second saca of 2015, full of characteristic haybales and chamomile aromas, the saline shape and finish, and allowing a nerdy excursus on filtering, marquismo and bottle ageing (which may or may not have been too much information). After a manzanilla of that quality I felt obliged to have a glass of La Panesa, which was absolutely epic: full in body and in palate, a big mouthful of sherry and nut butter, like a kind of dry liquid shortcake. A big boned fino in contrast to the slinky manzanilla.

Then (when you may have been expecting an amontillado) we had a medium that I had never tried, Las Señoras by Delgado Zuleta, which to me seemed finer and fresher than your average medium (but I would admit I don’t drink much average medium). It was certainly finer and fresher than the bottle that followed it: the Gobernador, the guvnor, Emilio Hidalgo’s classic oloroso and a perfect introduction to the style. Sharp start, acidity, caramel and burnt finish – perfect with a rich stew – and another exercise in compare and contrast – in this the (pretty obvious, I admit) difference between oloroso’s with and without a dose of PX.

But we weren’t finished, next up was the epic amontillado VORS by Tradición, one of the leaders in its class on any basis, as aromatic, elegant, dry, complex and potent as any wine around, from Jerez or otherwise. But provoked by a comment from my colleagues at the table, who couldn’t believe there could be wines as dry, saline and sharp, we completed our sherry bingo card with the legendary Sanlúcar palo cortado Quo Vadis. Not a lot left to say at this stage, just enjoy the saline intensity and rapier flavour.

It was a pretty good dinner alright. So much so that our neighbours on the next table, impressed by the continual arrival of bottles, declared us the Champions of Monday night. It was a huge honour and a title worth celebrating – with an absolutely cracking brandy from Bodegas Tradición.

But there was no doubt who are the real champions of Monday night: Taberna Verdejo themselves. One of Madrid’s best and certainly one of its friendliest restaurants, a sherry temple and a happy place. I cannot say too many good things about them and if you are ever looking for sustenance on a Monday (or any other day for that matter) you should get your head in there. Many many thanks once again and I look forward to coming back to defend my new title!

 

Fino Tradicion 2/17 in la Tasquita de Enfrente

Lunch yesterday at the Tasquita de Enfrente today and no better way to start than a glass of the house fino, an absolute belter from Tradicion. From the second saca of 2017 this was absolutely glorious: citrus sweet farmyard nose, yeasty, roast apple on the palate, a shimmer of salinity on the front and back.

Really delicious, mouth watering stuff: an aperitivo with attitude.

Bull Fight Sparkling Wine, by Manuel Gil Luque in Angelita Madrid

There are so many reasons to go to Angelita Madrid, and one of them is the chance to try your hand at blind tasting. I would challenge anyone, however, to identify this thing blind – was dark in color and had the pine resin aroma I associate with some old pxs, but a touch watery on the palate and a bit of burnt barrel in flavour – like the old burnt bread “tea” sailors apparently used to drink. I was thinking some kind of medium but it turned out to be an ancient sparkler of all things.

Once I saw the bottle I was only more curious. Cracking name – “Bull-Fight” – and it is by a bodega I had never heard of, Manuel Gil Luque, which the magic of internet informs me has been around as a brand since 1912. No sign of any new wines and certainly not much Bull Fight currently on sale. If anyone does have any information would be very interesting to hear from them.

Fino Macharnudo de Romate

One of the wonderful old wines given to me by Valerio Carrera, the man in charge of the superb wines at A’Barra.

I really like these old finos, their fine profile only seems to get more elegant with time, while they have enough flavour to survive the passing of the years. This one started a touch closed but then opened and had sapidity and bite, nutty flavours with a bitter under edge, and sharp salinity all the way through – fresh start and finish that just added to the impression of a wine that is far easier to drink than it is to find.

 

 

Fino Tradicion – May 2013

First had this wine at a really memorable tasting with Bodegas Tradición in Reserva y Cata just over two years ago. Back then only one bottle had been found and I didn’t think I would see another bottle but at a splendid lunch with the chaps from Tradicion lo and behold one was produced (amongst a number of others, I might add).

A very nice wine this – the first saca released by Tradición, of the wine that had originally been acquired to refresh their superb amontillados but which inspired Jose Maria Quiros to suggest that they should start producing finos in their own right. A bit different to the finos that have come afterwards, as the solera was built up and as the wines had less time of static ageing (this one was, after all, originally not part of a solera).

It also wears the signs of those five years in the bottle. First, you can see the variation in colour against the November 2017 below – the 2013 on the left, 2017 on the right.

It looks like it has oxidized and you definitely get some of that in the nose and on the palate. Has an old, stewed apple character to the nose, it is softer around the edges – less sharpness and zing on the palate – and in flavour terms has a lower register – stewed rather than fresh citrus, less fresh bread yeastiness and just a hint of bitter salad at the end.

I guess this wine would have been slightly more aromatic and slightly less full bodied than the others on release, and it is a gentle, mellow thing now – very nice indeed.

 

 

La Ina de Domecq in Corral de la Moreria

I have only ever been to Corral de la Moreria a handful of times but each time the spectacular wines come thick and fast and it is hard to take it all in.

But this one, from the summer, stood out. A fino with a long time in the bottle, it had a beautiful softness to it – marshmallowy texture – and had lost some of its force, but still had enjoyable apply, nutty flavours and a remarkable clarity and profile.

A class, memorable old fino.