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 …
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.
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.
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.
I think we have now reached the limit in terms of length of wine name – this is getting to Riesling-like proportions. Was going to write this up as an amontillado fino but have gone with the manufacturer’s instructions.
It is the first saca of 2017 (or ever), one of the new releases by Alvear (you can try them all at Territorio Era), and as you can see is a pretty limited release – 1060 tiny bottles. 100% pedro ximenez with an age of around 10-12 years under flor and apparently from the criadera used to feed the solera of the amontillado VORS.
It has a bit more reddish brown than straw in colour and is pretty clear, if not quite cristaline. On the nose I find it much closer to an amontillado than a fino. I don’t get quite as much haybale biological action in the nose, just maybe a bit of sawdust whereas there is a piercing salty bitter almond aroma. On the palate too it wasn’t as fat or fatty as I expected. In fact I was surprised by just how dry and fine it is. An elegant palate, with a nice sharp acidity, a very piercing bitter almond flavour and a fresh, saline finish.
An elegant wine in a cheeky little bottle: get one if you can.
Another long lost label – this one once of Ruiz Mateos, later absorbed by Garvey, recently acquired itself by Fundador – but David at Territorio Era has somehow got his hands on a few bottles, including this one dated 2006. A middle aged amontillado with a deepish colour, relatively quiet, nutty nose (with a bit of reduction first up that soon blows away), then a palate that is relatively mellow and roasted-nutty with a little bit of bitterness from the time in the bottle.
The second of two very special wines served after an already brilliant tasting with Bodegas Tradición at Taberna Palo Cortado last night, this one was a homage to the star of the evening, Jose Maria Quiros, who had for a time worked at the legendary and now disappeared bodega of Agustin Blazquez. It was very generously opened by Paqui, who had already given up her evening to host us and had laid on the usual delicious tapas – I just wish I had a wine good enough to have reciprocated.
Because this wine was also top drawer. Estimated as being bottled in around 1950, it came from an original wooden case and was wrapped in original straw packaging (you can just see it above). The cork had not survived the passing of the years, or rather had been partaking a bit too heavily, which explains the debris in the glass above, but otherwise the wine came across as as clean as a whistle.
This would have started as an amontillado fino – probably not unlike the older finos that Tradición make today – and has probably gained some colour. As you can see, a lovely clear brown (interesting to me how similar it was in colour to the manzanilla of the same kind of age that we had tried just before). This had just a touch of reduction on the nose and aromas that were a bit more serious, like bitter almonds. Then on the palate again it was still compact and clean in profile. Not a big structure or punch but a little bit of acidity and a nice deep, almond to bitter almond flavour.
This must have been some wine when it was a young’un – and in many ways it still is.