The temples of Jerez in Madrid

 

Felt I had to share this post by Paz Ivison with a list of drinking holes of all shapes and sizes in Madrid where you can feed your sherry addiction. Was lucky enough to meet Paz recently (in fact two ladies called Paz – the first of which was a bit bemused when I told her I was a big fan and had read all her posts about Jerez) and she is not only a proper journalist but also a good egg and maybe even a good laugh.

Being hyper critical there are a few places on here that for my money would need to work a bit harder to get on my own list, but the key point – how easy it is to get hold of the true, the blushful hypocrene – is the right one. Madrid is where it is happening in sherry terms, no doubt about it.

Champagne & Jerez – Alavole.com

alavole

I wanted to share this cracking post on alavole.com (for me the top site on champagnes in Spain) about the points in common between these two great regions, the challenges they face and the prospects for the future. It is a really thoughtful summary (in Spanish) of the parallels between these two regions – something that I have always thought to be true – and it is excellent to read a confirmation from the point of view of someone who is not only a “sherry” fan.

I also happen to agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments expressed, and in particular:

  • The importance of the vine and viticulture;
  • In turn, the importance of the soil – the craie and the albariza – and the complexity of the wines they make possible;
  • The bravery of the small producers that are making the case for viticulture and terroir;
  • The shared characteristics of the wines, and in particular the influence of the yeasts involved;
  • The potential for bottle ageing of the wines; and
  • The versatility of the wines in gastronomy and as pairings.

It really is a cracking post and I recommend reading it in full. Alvaro also suggests meeting up in Segovia to discuss with a few bottles on the table and lest there be any doubt I am available for that particular seminar if selected.

The search for the lost butt of wine

en-busca-de-la-bota-perdida

I am pretty sure the title of this nice piece (in Spanish) in Metropoli is a reference to the great series of novels by Marcel Proust (which I always associated more closely with little cakes and involuntary siestas) but you never know it may be a literal reference to people searching for “forgotten” butts of wine. In any event the article certainly covers a phenomenon in the wines of Jerez which has always struck me as fascinating: the guys that go hunting in other people’s bodegas to find special barrels for release to the public.

The usual suspects are here: Equipo Navazos, who have probably been operating longest and have released an ever wider variety of wines, some of which are really extreme and exotic; and Antonio Barbadillo’s Sacristia AB, also long established but more focussed, you would say, on classic styles and profiles. But the article also references some of the fresher faces on the block: Alexander Jules, the collaboration between Lustau and Juan Ruiz Henestrosa of Aponiente (which reminds me that I still haven’t tried that wine) and Federico Ferrer’s Cuatrogatos Wine Club.

I really think these limited bottlings help to generate interest in the wines of the region as a whole and the concept of the “lost bota” is definitely a good one in marketing terms. But if I were to criticize the piece at all it would be that they in fact don’t give enough credit to some of th winemakers involved. The Equipo Navazos “Florpower” white wines and Socaire and Golpe Maestro involved far more than finding old disregarded botas. Rather, these are top class wines being made in innovative ways. Indeed, Sacristia AB and Alexander Jules also do a bit more than just snaffle up botas that they find: as Alexander Jules’ excellent website explains, their wines are often from intermediate criaderas, specific sections of soleras and bodegas.

Nevertheless, bravo to all concerned, and in particular Metropoli!

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The other place

After a really intense week I am only now getting around to reading this fascinating piece by Paco del Castillo on what he calls Spain’s hidden gem: Montilla Moriles. It follows on from an absolutely stratospheric tasting a week ago where the panel at elmundovino.com gave no fewer than three wines 19/20 and a further five 18.5/20 – and that in a tasting with no Don PX

For my part, I can only agree with the scores of the wines I have tried – the Toro Albala 1951 Amontillado in particular is an absolute delight and, while I only tried them on the fly, the 1955 Solera Cincuentenaria range by Perez Barquero and Abuelo Diego by Alvear also struck me as absolutely excellent. 

In general, I have a feeling that while not quite as expressive as young wines, these px tend to age even more gracefully than their palomino counterparts – maybe it is the higher glycerine content – and really benefit from a bit of additional time. The same applies to the finos even – the Capataz and the Gran Barquero en rama really gain from more solera. That glycerine also mitigates the extreme dryness and acidity that can be there in the real dinosaurs so they win every way up. 

So well done again Elmundovino.com – they may not be the only distinguished critics to pick this up (Don Luis was very keen earlier this year) and indeed none of the top wines in this tasting are being given away, but it is a timely recognition of another corner of excellent Spanish wines. 

Elmundovino on the dry wines of Jerez and Sanlucar

Elmundovino

This blog may appear to be turning into an elmundovino.com appreciation society but it is not the case. I have of course always held them up as an authority but this recent apparent burst of enthusiasm is a symptom of Murphy’s law of periodicity.  It is simply that, like buses in the London rain, you wait a long time for them to do a piece on sherries and then they come along again and again and again.

After a tasting of Equipo Navazos by Victor de la Serna last week they published the results of a tasting of finos, manzanillas and some bigger beasts by Victor de la Serna, Juancho Asenjo and Alberto Pérez Marín and then today they have published a further tasting by Victor de la Serna, Alberto Pérez Marín, and Jens Riis.

Really top class tastings all of them: in the first tasting all the latest Equipo Navazos releases; in the second tasting, the Palmas series by Gonzalez Byass and leading en ramas of the likes of Solear, Pastora, Fernando de Castilla, and la Guita (and a glimpse of the Callejuela Manzanilla de Añada 2012 2/11) and in the third some more of the latest releases by Equipo Navazos, some classics from Valdespino, a series of sacas of the great Tradición Fino, the wines of Juan Piñero and the Williams & Humbert añadas (which Victor de la Serna actually tasted with the author last week).

Overall the scoring is very high (which is no more than you would expect), and looking through both notes and scores I am proud to say these experts and I seem to be of a mind in most things. It was in particular an honour to taste the Williams & Humbert wines with Victor and I fully agree with his notes and scores – was in the process of writing up my own and will clearly have to work harder.

Only two differences that I can detect: they didn’t seem to have enjoyed the wines from el Puerto (other than the excellent 3 en Rama) as much as I do, while I may need to  revisit the Valdespino classics. (I also need to get my hands on more of the Piñero wines – while I love the Maruja the others have somehow evaded me to this point.)  Interestingly, in the second tasting they compared the Solear en Rama summer 2016 (aka the Teal) with its 2015 counterpart (the Rednecked Nightjar) and found that the year in bottle had given the 2015 an extra dimension. So much so that the tasting was accompanied by an op ed questioning the apparently still commonly held notion that en rama wines are for immediate consumption. I for one fully endorse that view (and the good news is that I have been able to get some more of the Nightjar). Then in the third tasting, on the other hand, they had at least one en rama manzanilla with a couple of years in the bottle that they didn’t rate as highly as I did when it was fresh. Clearly, time in the bottle giveth but also taketh away.

Overall, a really excellent trio of tastings, a good snapshot of some of the more important series of wines around and great to see that I am not alone in thinking these wines are all top quality.

 

Equipo Navazos old and new by Victor de la Serna

If you want to know what is what when it comes to the latest Equipo Navazos releases then look no further than these cracking notes of a blind tasting by Victor de la Serna. Normally these elmundovino tastings are by a panel but this one looks like a solo effort and what an effort it is: 13 wines, some of them pretty potent, and a whisky, rum and brandy. It is the sort of tasting where you might not start blind but you will almost certainly finish that way.

It also once again gives an impression of the amazingly varied output of Equipo Navazos – wines and spirits of every feather and fur. I have only tasted a few of these wines, and it seems I am a bit behind the curve with the recent releases in particular, but the notes of the ones I have tried certainly ring true. I am just disappointed to read that the Bottle of Number 6 I have been hoarding all these years may have been better pre hoarding …

Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Perez

Since he will be coming to Madrid soon I thought I would revisit and update this post from last October about Ramiro Ibañez and (although Willy is not coming to Madrid as far as I know) give some recognition to his Jerez based partner in crime while I am at it.

Last October I shared a cracking piece by Spanish Wine Lover about Ramiro Ibañez, the maverick winemaker behind exciting projects such as EncrucijadoPitijopos, PandorgaUBE, and Manzanilla de Añada, as well as many other more traditional, but top class wines (including, in particular, El Cerro and La Maruja). In the eight months since then though he and Willy Perez have been up to all sorts.

First, they have been writing. The so called Sobrinos de Haurie are writing a new history of the wines of the region, of which the first section is already available. Churchill once famously said that history was going to treat him kindly because he was going to “write it himself” (and he did) but these guys are driven by higher motives. In fact it is one of the things that most impresses about them: maverick as they may appear, they are not just experimenting for the sake of it. Rather, they evidently venerate the history of the region, feel the responsibility of continuing its traditions and want to restore the region’s past greatness.

Second, they have been revitalizing the local tourist industry. I was fortunate enough to be invited down for a visit by Ramiro and Willy in March and it was quite remarkable. Not just the visit to the pagos and the explanation of the ideas but the demonstration of how those pagos and those ideas translate into wines. Different class. And I was not alone: they seem to have spent most of their weekends this spring putting their case to bloggers and writers of every fur and feather – including proper writers such as Victor de la Serna and Andrew Jefford, amongst others. They are also happy to share their knowledge and photos with bloggers (thanks guys), spend days commenting on articles at all hours of day and night and frankly do whatever is necessary to get the message out.

Third, they have been involved in some pretty interesting debates and initiatives – including high profile catas at Vinoble and elsewhere, and the lower profile but even more interesting Manifesto 119, aimed at encouraging local winemakers to recover forgotten varieties.

Most importantly, they continue to win their arguments the best way possible: by banging out cracking wines. The next volume of the Pitijopos could well be the most important lesson you could learn about terroir in Sanlucar – breath is bated. Volume II of the Manzanilla de Añada was announced ready today, UBE 2014 was as good as expected, and Willy’s Fino la Barajuela 2013 exceeded even my fanboy expectations.

Technical excellence, respect for tradition, hard work, generosity, imagination and energy, and top class wines. If these guys didn’t exist, we would have to invent them.