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.

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Soleras cincuentanarias (y una centenaria) de Perez Barquero

Fantastic cata last night at the Union Española de Catadores as José Ruz of Perez Barquero and Paco del Castillo lead us through the wines of this great Montilla bodega. 

As you can see, there were some real heavyweight wines to be tasted, and I for one learned a few interesting things. We started with Fresquito, a sparky vino de tinaja, then moved smoothly through the gears with the Fino en Rama Gran Barquero (Spring 2017), the Amontillado Gran Barquero, an Amontillado Gran Barquero bottled in 1996, the full range of Solera Cincuentenario wines – the Amontillado, the Palo Cortado, the Oloroso, and the Pedro Ximenez – and before that last one the Oloroso Solera Fundacional (Lot B). 

I am a huge fan of the Amontillado Gran Barquero – an absolutely world class wine – and it would take some persuading for me to choose any of the others over it last night. There was a lot of concentration and a lot of intensity on show, and some rare and expensive wines (sacas of 200 and 500 bottles), which really had very distinct profiles. 

In fact, it was very interesting and quite disarming to hear that the Cincuentenario Palo Cortado – one of the stars of the night – was the result of barrel selection rather than any intentional process. Motivated by the current high fashion status of palo cortados the guys at Perez Barquero had selected from amongst their older olorosoa the wines they felt had that kind of profile – without really knowing why they did. It would not have been due to selection or mostos, because they were all olorosos, but it could have been some biological action in the tinaja before the wines entered the solera. (Perhaps there is some mystery after all.) In any event, and whatever the cause, there was no doubting the difference in character between this and the oloroso. 

It wasn’t the only star either. The Oloroso Solera Fundacional was an absolute beast – brandy, salinity, burnt Christmas cake and a finish like the after dinner cigar (and nearly as long). One of those wines that you consume with extreme care. 

I could and will write a note on all the wines because the standard was exceptionally high across the board, but the one I could drink gallons of is the current Amontillado Gran Barquero. It is the standout in terms of elegance, profile and all round flawlessness – a marvellous wine that only gained in comparison to the bigger beasts. 

And a word of thanks and congratulations to José and Perez Barquero, the UEC and Paco del Castillo for a fantastic tasting – really top class. 

(The song of) El Cid 

Now here is a wine you don’t see every day. I am often criticized for reviewing wines that are marketed in minute quantities. Wines, as a famous Spanish winemaker, student and philosopher puts it, of which there are more photos on twitter than bottles in circulation. Well this one isn’t marketed at all – it is in theory only distributed witin the family and shareholders of Osborne – so booyah to the haters. 

That being the case you may wonder how I got my hands on the liquid photographed above and the answer is simple: Territorio Era. It really is the number one spot to taste the rarer examples of these wines – and even by the glass. This one caused a bit of a splash on the social networks when its arrival was announced so after a short but enjoyable lunch we tucked into a glass. 

It is a fish of a similar kidney to the Solera BC 200 from the same house (and also of a very limited distribution) and is another absolute dream wine. I don’t know the full details but I would guess it was a very, very old but very fine amontillado with a small and very nicely judged, perfectly integrated percentage of pedro ximenez. 

As you can see, it has that dark, more intense colour that the pedro ximenez can impart. On the nose it was quiet but there was a lot in there: sweet figs, roasted nuts, bready Christmas cake. Then on the palate it was like a sort of nectar on steroids. The sweetness of the pedro ximenez lifting it and making it absurdly easy to absorb, but not hiding the fact that there was a lot of wine in there. A rapier, cool acidity first up then very intense flavours of those figs and walnuts, slightly burnt cake and just tending to sawdust before an eternally long and pleasantly sweet nut and fig finish. And no edges or joins anywhere in sight – like one of those baths carved from a single piece of wood this is all curves and smooth surfaces. 

Absolutely fantastic. 

Amontillado Viejo Hidalgo y Cia

I am really not sure what happened here. I can clearly remember writing a blog post about a very enjoyable lunch with Jens Riis at Angelita and about how this wine was class but a bit long in the glass (it is a bottle from October 2007 which I got from the guys at Vila Vinoteca).  But then when I happened to open the blog this morning the post had gone.

It is not the first time it has happened. Other posts have disappeared in equally mysterious circumstances, and neither is it the most serious: the post about the first time I tried the Encrucijado 2012 is missing without trace and given how unique that wine was, and how much of an eye opener tasting it was, I feel the absence keenly.

It is nevertheless very annoying and also quite curious – when I look at my twitter timeline I see that the now empty link to the blog post has been retweeted numerous times. It is almost as if people retweet based on the picture without reading the post first!

 

 

Amontillado Gran Barquero, from 1996

In Territorio Era they have anything you might like to try, and these days you cannot sell these bottle-aged wines quick enough – the punters lap them up. I am not so sure, and this wine is a  good example of what makes me leary of them.  

The Gran Barquero amontillado is, in my view, one of the great wines, light and supple but structured, punchy and creamy caramel. But this one here has had 21 years in the bottle – and in my mind the first question is where? Label looks like it has had a fair bit of sun, or did they not use green back in the 90s? 

Whatever the reason is, the wine shows its age. A texture that has lost its creaminess and become a little bit dusty, and whereas the modern amontillado is all caramel and toffee this is woody and a touch bitter.  

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.