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.
Part IV of the Cuatrogatos Wine Club Didactic Selection is upon us, bringing with it the oxygen action of oxidation.
One of the things that is so striking about the wines of Jerez and Sanlucar (and indeed a number of other regions around Spain) is the coexistence of three distinct forms of ageing: biological ageing under the flor (Parts II and III), oxidative or “traditional” ageing where there is no flor (today) and not forgetting wine without flor or oxidation (Part I).
Each form of ageing brings about different effects. In biological ageing, the living flor protects the wine from the oxygen in the air and steadily eats away at the alcohol, sugar and glycerine, reducing the volatile acids and leaving behind the hay bale acetaldehydes. The result are wines that are literally “fino”, potent and with bready, nutty, herbal and floral flavours and aromas.
In “traditional” ageing, these gears go into reverse. Residual alcohol, glycerine and sugar all increase as evaporation (the angels taking their share) does its work, and colour and volatile acids increase due to the interaction of the wine with air and barrel. Now the result is oloroso, a fragrant (oloroso literally means “aromatic”), acidic, caramel flavoured wine, or, where the wine has also had biological ageing, an amontillado, which can combine the characteristics of both to make some of the most sought after wines of all. And here we have two such wines, both from the boys at Callejuela.
First up for didactic reasons is El Cerro oloroso. A really beautiful, elegant old oloroso, and a perfect exponent of the qualities that oxidative ageing can bring out. A dark brown in colour as you can see (I love the clear bottle presentation) and on the nose the aromas are all burned sweetness: fruits and nuts singed to an inch of their life. Then on the palate it has that sharpness of acidity and then a big density of flavour, again half burned sugary raisins and walnuts, with a turn to the bitter but not too much. Real solidity to the middle part of the palate and then a remarkably clean finish. No astringency or bitterness as it hangs around the palate. Lovely.
And then that is a nice contrast to an amontillado from la Callejuela, the “Origen Calificada”. Now here maybe the contrast is forced and the comparison between categories isn’t quite fair – el Cerro has a fair bit more age than the Origen and a better comparison would probably have been La Casilla amontillado.
But the point here is to compare the effect of that biological ageing compared to the oxidation and that comes across really nicely in this wine, maybe better than it would in a much older amontillado. On the nose and amongst the roasted almonds and hazelnuts you get church furniture, and the palate is that touch finer and fresher at the start, and almost comes across as grassy fresh at the finish.
And here endeth the Didactic Selection, as they say.
But “what of the “other” category, the “palo cortados”?” you may ask, as you suddenly smell a rat and suspect Sharquillo’s selection is one bottle short. Worry not: it really isn’t so. “Palo cortado” has become a very successful category commercially but really is not a uniquely different category of wine. Without wanting to burst anyone’s bubble the wines available as palo cortados would, in days gone by, have simply been sold as olorosos. In fact, some leading bodegas have even told me that their bottlings of palo cortados are brought about by identifying and selecting the finer butts of their olorosos. This isn’t to knock their quality – a finer oloroso is a wonderful thing. Indeed, on that score, El Cerro could easily pass as a palo cortado if sales ever dip below the tiny production that it has.
And besides, there is a limit to the number of bottles you can fit in a case, and once you have started there could be no stopping. I hope these few posts are just the start of a long voyage for someone, and I would encourage anyone who has got this far to thing far outside and beyond this box, and to search out all the many, many styles and makers and explore the wines of Jerez. I did and I have never looked back.
Taberna Palo Cortado is an unreal place where unlikely, even impossible things are within reach. Took some colleagues there for dinner and, given free rein to show off the best of el Marco and beyond, it turned into one of those memorable dinners.
We started with champagne – not pictured – and maybe it is less well known what a nice little selection of champers is available here. This bottle was just for refreshing between courses but over the years I have had some serious and high quality bubbles. But it wasn’t long before we got stuck into the superb Andalucian wines for which Palo Cortado is famous.
We kicked off with the De la Riva Fino from Balbaina Alta – with that deep colour, deep haybale and hazelnut and fresh background – like a nut store floating on a mountain stream.
But, as I said, I was given free rein, and next up was la Barajuela Fino – 2016 – and it was the star of the night. What an awesome wine – the fruit and top register, the depth and compactness. Everyone loved it – they always do.
Tragically, it soon ran out and so we tapped an altogether more classic fino – a Panesa from October 2019 – which never let’s you down. Just class, sculpted palomino, with all its nuts in butter.
I then picked a wine slightly out of order – Encrucijado 2015 – the proto palo cortado (by now I was fully warmed up and well into an explanation of the situation pre-phyloxera), should really have come earlier. Butterscotch loveliness but so much finer and more subtle in profile than the heavy old Jerez finos.
By now we are tucking into some world class escabeches – pularda and presa ibérica – and the chosen accompaniment was the VORS Amontillado by Bodegas Tradicion. What a class wine – fine, fragrant, flavourful and elegant. One of the very best in its category.
And then callos, garbanzos, and the absolutely epic oloroso De La Riva. Not a lot to say about this absolutely sensational oloroso, except that it struck me as wonderfully elegant for all its rusty nail and acidity.
By this stage of dinner the intellectual discourse has become fragmented and there is a sense that the battle is won. I cannot remember what we had for dessert, but we accompanied it with a regal old 1955 pedro ximenez from Toro Albala, before a glass of the top class Tradicion brandy to cap off the night.
A fantastic dinner with a fair bit of laughter and a range of wines you can only find in one place in Madrid. Many thanks to Paqui and the team and the less said about Thursday morning the better …
This was a gift given to me by wonderful friends and I am mortified that I have opened it without being able to share it with them.
But on the other hand I have them in mind as I drink this excellent wine. A superb example of an old amontillado, this is so fine on the nose, so saline and sharp, and so elegant of profile, with maybe just a fanned out tail like a fiery saline shuttlecock.
Beautiful work from Antonio Flores and the team at Gonzalez Byass back in 2012. Which I now remember is the year I met my friends – and my woe is compounded.
Had a very enjoyable few days in San Sebastian earlier this summer and of course hit the old town in pursuit of pintxos. Cracking fun albeit hard on the elbows, and even more so if, like me, you run into friends from Jerez everywhere you turn. Some of them were humans – and it was cracking to see them – and some were liquid and wonderful.
Because this is a wonderful wine, no question, and it was a joy to see it hastily tagged onto the end of a chalkboard in A Fuego Negro – the only sherry there and you would have to applaud the taste of whoever squeezed it in.
It is the finest of amontillados – packs complexity and nutty, savoury flavour in the most ethereal of shapes – really lovely. In fact it is one of the finest of wines full stop.
Was a great moment when we saw it on the list and the reverential enjoyment of this beautiful wine made for a really enjoyable oasis of calm in a frenetic lunchtime.
Been a cracking couple of days down in Jerez in and around the Feria de Jerez and I didn’t want to let it go by without a word or two about the wines we drank there.
I must admit to a bit of trepidation at the title of the post, because “vino de feria” is not the most complimentary way to describe one of the wines from Jerez by any means. This is not a wine fair, nor a wine tourist destination. You are not going to find many unique wines or experimenta of any kind. It is a massive event, of mass consumption and not a lot of earnest appreciation (a significant proportion of the fino that gets drunk is mixed with lemonade if that gives you an idea). In fact, almost every serious wine tasting with a bodega from the region in Madrid used start with a “these are not vinos de feria” or similar.
Having said that, what else can you call a post about the wines you drank at the feria?
First up, the one wine you are guaranteed to have a drink of at the Feria is Tio Pepe. Ironically it is pretty scarce in Madrid – even in its en rama version – but it is massive worldwide and a hegemon in Jerez. A mate was telling me it was available in 90% of the casetas at the feria and I believe them. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or with the wine. Just saline enough, nutty enough and juicy enough, served cold in little bottles, it is a perfect little freshener and cracking foil for the ham and tapas on offer from every side. Gonzalez Byass also have one of the essential casetas to visit – really top drawer.
The champion caseta of this year’s feria, however, was the sensational “Trasiego”, complete with shades made from sarmiento and a glass bar filled with 600kg of albariza. Really top class decor and top wines from Bodegas Lustau: we had fino la Ina and amontillado Botaina (they had run out of Papirusa, to the disappointment of our crew which was heavily stacked with Sanluqueños).
While I was at the “cachivaches” with my kids in the “calle del infierno” (the funfair – really not that bad!) the same crew found the bargain of the feria: Amontillado de Harveys in the caseta of Bodegas Fundador for only €15 a bottle. I hope they enjoyed it. Really. (The churros and chocolate were excellent anyway.)
The class act of my feria was to be found later that evening – a glass or two of Gobernador in the caseta of my good friend Juanma Martin Hidalgo, of Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo. Delicious wine just begging for a dish of callos as an accompaniment.
Overall no complaints from me on the liquid refreshments. The feria is not your venue for high end or cutting edge wines but there is nothing wrong with these wines (I have been in a few supermarkets where they would have been a very welcome sight indeed) and there is something joyous in the absolute ubiquity of fino (and in seeing everybody swig it down). More than anything, there is a real sense that this is a fino’s natural habitat, and it is much fun hunting them in the wild.
This is really quite superb. It is one of the wines from the time when I really started to pay close attention to the outstanding wines of Jerez. Hot on the heels of the outstanding Bota de Palo Cortado 34 – Pata de Gallina, this may have been the very first amontillado I drank in awe and wonder.
Can’t believe it was over six years ago, because drinking this it seems like yesterday. A gorgeous colour, more amber than the chestnut of the palo cortado, and what a nose – sea air of iodine and salt and freshness – almost pine needles. Then on the palate it is acid fine, stingingly saline and with flavours of bitter, burnt nuts and unbaked dough – those tight knots of unbaked dough you find in underbaked buns. Slightly astringent on the finish – tobacco that dries the mouth even as the salinity waters it. That astringency is the only bum note for me but it certainly adds to the complexity.
It is a true thoroughbred too. As the Equipo Navazos ficha explains, from the third criadera marked “M. Pda” (“Manzanilla Pasada”) in the bodega of Rainera P. Marin, legendary source of La Guita.
I still have some bottles of the 34 (reimported from the UK, amusingly enough) but this was my last 37 and I am sorry to see it go (because now it is open, go it will). What an outstanding wine. More, please!
The bar of Angelita Part II and more pure quality. Emilio Hidalgo’s world class amontillado fino.
Intrigued to see the back label – it used to be that to work out the saca you had to decipher the lot number but now the month and year are proudly displayed – November 2018 in this case. I for one think it is the right move – more transparent, more information for us nerds, and a recognition of the fact that the wine changes both in barrel and bottle – even an amontillado like this one.
Not that this wine seems to change. Consistently one of the most elegant wines from Jerez, it has a silky feel and beautifully fine profile with layers of granary bread, nut and hazelnut aromas and flavours.
This wine was pretty nearly perfect. Fine, elegant, sharp but soft and slippy, flavourful and such flavours: an array like the frayed edge of a persian carpet – one of the ones you can imagine flying on. Caramel, nut, burnt nut, burnt caramel, black treacle, black coffee, toffee …
This is a legend of a wine and one that deserves its billing too. Absolutely superb, and yet another reason to one of the great places in Madrid, one of the only places where you could try wines like this: El Corral de la Moreria.
It is one thing to have an overdose of gainful employment and a backlog of posts, but it is quite another thing to fail to acknowledge an absolutely cracking lunch like the one I had with the guys from Tradición in Palo Cortado at the end of June.
We kicked off with a “martini” made with Salcombe gin and fino and there were bubbles and a superlative Amontillado to finish, but the stars of the lunch for me were the finos that came in between. First and foremost a bottle of the May 2013 saca of the Tradición fino, a little bottle of the fino bottled for Mugaritz and a magnum of the November 2017.
Really fascinating to see that 2013 again. The only other time I had tried it was at a superb vertical tasting of all the sacas at Reserva y Cata in Madrid in November 2016 and even then I remember the complexity and additional dimension it had. A year and a half longer in the bottle and there was caramel softness to it, and a bitter almond and butter feel to the flavours. Really fascinating and almost enough to make me want to keep a bottle for a few years (if it were not for the ease with which the November 2017 were slipping down). One day I will invest in a cellar that is far enough out of reach to protect the wines from erosion.
For the time being all you can do is give thanks that wines like these are being made year after a year and at such a high level. It certainly makes for a brilliant lunch.