Tosca Cerrada 2016

If you want to enjoy palomino white wines I have two top tips: first give them time in the bottle and then give the bottle time once open. In particular I have found that these wines by Mario Rovira have improved in the bottle – those lucky enough to still have the 2014s really sing their praises.

This one, the 2016, is probably a little unready: aromatic with an apple and sweet herb nose but slightly murky in appearance and just the slightest touch heavy on the palate. Fresh start then that apple and a touch of bitterness, then a touch of fennel leaf or anis coming out in a persistent finish.

Very enjoyable but I reckon you might want to keep this a year or so.


Las Viñas de Callejuela – the 2014 edition

The genial Blanco brothers from Callejuela were in Madrid for a few days just when I was away, but were kind enough to leave me a little present at my preferred fuelling post, Territorio Era.

You may have read about the vineyard specific wines that these guys first released. Those were the 2015 and were terrific enough, but these little fellas are the 2014s and have even more personality. I gather they are due to be released early next year and they will be worth not just seeking out but fighting over if necessary.

Encrucijado 2015

Encrucijado is one of the projects of Ramiro Ibañez’s Cota 45 and touches on many of the threads of the history the guy is trying to recreate. A multivarietal, vintage specific wine that corresponds to what was once called palo cortado (before that term became synonymous with the more marketable olorosos).

This is the third vintage and the third variation: the first was the 2012, and was from six varieties (50% Palomino Fino and 10% each of Beba, Mantúo Pilas (aka “Uva Rey”), Perruno, Cañocazo and Mantúo Castellano); the second, the 2014, was 40% “Uva Rey”, 40% Perruno and only 20% Palomino. This third addition is 50% Perruno, 30% Uva Rey and 20% Palomino.

My first impression of the wine is that it is a chip off those previous blocks. Has that butterscotch aroma and flavour, maybe slightly sharper and with a bit more volume and heft this time, but still with a buttery saline finish. Very approachable and very fine, elegant wine (although I know for a fact that the author believes it will improve further with time in the bottle).

El Muelle de Olaso 2016

My last bottle of this, maybe the beefiest of the unfortified palomino white wines coming from the region at the moment.

The wine is by Willy Perez and the fruit is from the El Corregidor vineyard on Pago Carrascal that is the source of his fantastic Barajuela project. They harvest the grapes in several passes: (simplifying things) first for brandy, then for this, then for the fino and finally for the oloroso. In total 80% of the fruit comes from that early pass and 20% from a later pass that would otherwise go into the fino. The 80% then gets fermented in temperature controlled inox while the 20% gets some asoleo before fermentation in bota.

The resulting wine is a beefy 14.5% alcohol and is beefy in other respects too. It has a lot of concentrated fruit that gives it a floral, honeysuckle, pear and citrus nose, but give it time and you get a lot more herbal undergrowth. Then on the palate there is that fruitful, muscular body, a very broad profile that kinds of unfolds in the throat, backed up by savoury, stewy flavours and a fresh saline finish.

Seriously fruity and fresh.

Florpower Friday

The blog is fun but there is no doubt it is hard work, involving lunches and dinners that sometimes last several hours and multiple bottles of wine. Yesterday was a prime example, as the author and two esteemed colleagues – Jens Riis of elmundovino and Richard van Oorschot, maverick maker of “Pilgrim” – put in a pretty solid shift at Territorio Era.

The wines under scrutiny on this occasion were the Florpower releases by Equipo Navazos: unfortified palominos from Pago Miraflores, and specifically, Number 53 “Más allá” (the MMX), Number 57 “Florpower” (MMXII), and Number 67 “Más acá” (MMXIV). For the sake of contrast we also opened a bottle of the 2012 Navazos Niepoort, an unfortified palomino from further inland (I would swear it was macharnudo), and for comparison’s sake we also compared that with Callejuela’s La Choza. (We also warmed up with a really interesting South African white wine and finished off with a Lirac from the South Rhone, but who is counting?) And the sacrifice was not in vain: we had a cracking time and it was pretty instructive too.

The number one conclusion that we drew was that it really helps to give these wines time. In fact it is something I have been observing for a long time: unfortified palomino wines can be slow to get going after opening and really grow in aromatics after a little while. Of the three Florpower wines the biggest beneficiary was Number 53, the 2010, which started like super-bitter grapefruit but took on haybale aromas and became softer and sweeter like a young amontillado as time went on, but all three improved over time. (Of course this could also have to do with the excellent cooking that was arriving and disappearing with impressive speed.)

The second observable fact was that these florpower wines are a work in progress and you can see the guys at Equipo Navazos are not afraid to try a few different things. Whereas the Number 53 (and presumably the original, Number 44 which we didn’t have a chance to try (because we didn’t have any)) was only 12% and a little underpowered the Numbers 57 and 67 both had that little bit more oomph at 12.5% and all the better for it. You would guess it was a matter of selection of more mature fruit – 12.5% is a pretty good number for Miraflores you would say.

Third, although it was really interesting to see the references to months “under flor” in the description of how these are made, with the exception of the 53 (which really opened up like a milder amontillado as the lunch went on) the influence of that flor was limited. There was still plenty of fruit and body in there and curiously the 53, which ended up smelling and tasting more biological than the others, started off with the stickiest, least saline finish.

Fourth, and maybe I should have started with this, the class wine of the three was the Number 57, or MMXII. By pure chance it is the only one of the three wines that I had had before (not once but twice) and I am glad to say it was just as good as I remembered. If I had to compare it to anything I would say it was like a muscular burgundy: nice gentle acidity to start and then a compact profile with full flavours of a bundle of fruit (sweet and sour citrus and white fruit), a spine of minerals and a nice tail of a fresh saline finish. I guess a fair bit of the credit for that mouthful of flavours would go to the harvest – 2012 is spoken of as a great growing season down there and this certainly is consistent with that – but it was also noticeable how much fruit there was in a wine harvested a good few years ago. Terrific stuff and full of what my colleague Jens Riis described as “disfrutability” (TM or whatever).

Comparisons are odious as they say, and the other two certainly weren’t helped by having to compete with the middle child of the bunch. The Number 67 had a lot in common with the 57 but by comparison seemed a little cruder, a little more brash and not as polished. The 53 on the other hand was a fish of a much different kidney: first up the balance of flavours was much more grapfruit than anything sweet or soft, then it went through a phase where it seemed a bit underpowered, and then it opened out aromatically in a really interesting way. Jens reckoned it had a lot more “Sherryicity” (but I reckon he was pushing it with the catchphrases).

And that brought us to the two other palominos. The Navazos Niepoort 2012 was really interesting aromatically and you would swear it was a macharnudo wine but while it had this great aroma and was tasty first up it maybe just lacked a bit of depth and oomph. Just didn’t seem to have that compact shape and length of the Number 57. And that we compared to la Choza – a 2015 (?) macharnudo unfortified palomino that had a lot more brute strength than the Navazos Niepoort: 13.5% compared to 12.5% to begin with, and yet again you would say well spent. Not the same floral, herbal nose – this one had more than a bit of raw meat and punchier herbs to it – but a big savoury mouthful and an interesting comparison.

And as quickly as it began, after no more than two or three hours (and a couple of other bottles of wine that fall outside my jurisdiction), it was over. Some really interesting wines, one of them high class, and a highly disfrutable lunch by any standards.




UBE Maína 2016

One of the star wines of a great week last week, the long awaited UBE Maína 2016. First spotted at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest in February this is the third of the wines under Ramiro Ibañez’s UBE label. 

Whereas the first two wines are from Carrascal and Miraflores – two of the most atlantic pagos in Sanlucar – this is from Mahina, the river influence pago famously rich in diatomeas.

And the wine doesn’t disappoint: it is a little tank, a lot of the aromatic hallmarks of the other wines but broader than it is tall and full of punch. Sapidity that hammers at the sides of the throat on the way in but is still fresh on the way out.  

Top stuff, and out soon. 

Raya la Barajuela 2015

An unexpected bonus wine from the Barajuela project and another historically and educationally important wine. 

The name refers to the old classification of wines when they came in from the vineyard – palmas and rayas. Broadly speaking whereas the palmas were fine and could hope to become finos and amontillados, the rayas were heavy and were destined for oxidation. Back in the day the differences in the wine resulted from the mix of varieties in the vineyards, but in the monovarietal present this has been selected from the latest and longest ripening fruit from the multiple passes of the harvest.

The result is a wine where on the nose it smells like there is some residual sugar and first up you get that false sweetness of a late harvest riesling, but without the same level of acidity and a much finer body. (I must admit, I have heard these wines described as “heavy” and “fat” so many times I half expected something syrupy.) it has a nice backbone of salinity but then you get a turn to grapefruit bitterness which I must admit I find a bit disconcerting. Overall it is easy to see why the palmas were so sought after. (On the other hand, it is fascinating to speculate about how a wine like this is transformed by oxidation.)

Very interesting indeed.