A 2017 manzanilla La Jaca in Taberna Verdejo

Whereas I tend to pull faces when I get given really old wines I have no problem with the occasional manzanilla with a couple of years in the bottle. They get that touch of oxidation but remain very fine – no inclination towards the potency of a manzanilla pasada but a little bit of the flavour.

This one, a half bottle of La Jaca that had been filled in June 2017, was no exception to the rule. Still fragrant on the nose, but a little bit of old fruit in there with the chamomile, like one of those fruit teas, but wheras the fruit teas always smell better than they taste, this was just fine on the palate. Still fresh and zingy, had a nice dry, nutty palate and if not quite a hint of toffee maybe just a suggestion of nougat.

Very nice little wine, and absolutely at home in what is surely the loveliest little tavern in town.

La Fleur 2015 by Forlong

I always thought this would get even better in the bottle and it has definitely gained in intensity on the palate, but has maybe just lost that apple and chamomile fruity nose that it had when first released. The flavour profile has gone from the sweet apple pie to baked cider apples, and the aromatics have dialed down.

It has, in short, become altogether more serious, and I miss the youthful zest of 18 months ago. I was wrong and I take it back, please tell me there is a new vintage!

Corral de la Moreria at Enofusion: the Jeweller of Jerez

Once I posed a rhetorical question about why it didn’t go more often to a class spot in Madrid and got the laconic response, from a laconic source, that it was because I had “family and a job”. And indeed I do. And I have been exceptionally fortunate lately. I have the same amount of family, but ever more work, which is good news except that it means that the spare moments dedicated to this blog are few and far between.

So the Corral de la Moreria has been a particular boon to me these last few months. They have had a lot to celebrate – a National Gastronomy Prize for best service and a Michelin Star, no less – and they have the charming habit of celebrating at lunchtime, notoriously the one time in my calendar that I can make it out and about without complaints from colleagues or kin.

And these lunchtimes are not your standard lunchtime (unless your standard lunchtime involves Michelin star food, outstanding sherry, and really top class flamenco dancing (thought not)).

So when they invited me to attend their tasting at Enofusion – Madrid’s gastronomic festival – I couldn’t turn it down, even if it involved half an hour each way on the metro due to the taxi strike.

In the end it was an operation carried out with surgical precision. I strolled in off the metro and through the door at 14:59 and was on my way to the station again at 16:00 sharp. And if that seems impressive the real miracle was what took place in between.

It will be no surprise to the half-dozen readers of this blog that there were some cracking wines involved. In fact, this being a tasting organized by Juan Manuel del Rey, in which he was even billed as the “jeweller of Jerez” you won’t be surprised to read that is was a succession of beautifully presented wines that have spent longer in the bottle than one of those mexican lizards.

As an aside and with apologies to the many poetic minds involved I personally don’t agree with the idea of comparing these wines with jewellery. Jewellery is static – a load of pretty looking minerals – whereas these are living things. Vegetable with a small v and perishable, kept alive so long only when well made and perfectly kept. So for me Juan Manuel isn’t just a jeweller, there is much more skill involved here.

Be that as it may, first up was a Manzanilla la cigarrerra that the years has refined and maybe dimmed but was fresh and full of old grass and iodine – lovely mouthwatering stuff.

That was followed by a rarity. A “Maruja” manzanilla fina olorosa – 58 años in the bottle no less and a style that has disappeared. For me the aromatics were refined an chamomile rather than explosive but and incense but it was still flavourful on the palate.

Then out came a Terry Fino la Ina from the 1970s that was really incredible – just superbly sharp, clean and focussed, for its forty odd years – unlike some we could mention.

From this stage onwards my notes become more and more poetic, perhaps influenced by the frequent interjections of amazement by some distinguished attendees.

It is also possible that the wines called for it. Certainly the next one, Carta Blanca amontillado fino – which was paired with a “Soleá – was pure macharnudo class, calling to mind not just salinity and almonds but vanilla and white chocolate.

That was followed by more of Forrest Gump’s chocolate box. This time the Dos cortados, which was all salty, zingy peanut butter like a kind of alcoholic Reeses cup.

Then the wine I might have expected to be a bombon, the 1976 bottle of Rio Viejo – was superbly serious. Again macharnudo but this time all diesel power, a deep groove of salinity but delicate and ethereal on the palate. Really superb – reminded me of an earlier musing about bottle ageing: if the way to make a million making wine is to start with ten million, the way to make a lovely fine old wine is to start with a chunky new one. Whatever the reason, it was rarified stuff, really exceptional.

And that was followed by the bonus ball, a wine from Gonzalez Byass and brought to the tasting by Antonio Flores himself: no less than a 1908 bottle of Matusalem. Amazing to think of all that time, and this was fascinating stuff. A lot of pinewood, eucalyptus and ginger, light and liquid in the body with flavours of ginger and sawdust.

The liquids were not alone, because when you have lunch with El Corral you are fed by a top, top gun, David Garcia. Here he only had the chance to give us a few bites, on the road in the midst of a trade show, and he noticeably even spoke about them from the sidelines, perhaps recognizing that we had come for the wine. But the guy is a genius, he loves his sherry and it shines through. In those few bites he showed what sherry pairings are all about in terms of echoes and harmonies – absolutely perfect.

But even up to there you might say nothing new here: this blog is after all the chronicling of lunchtimes that are frequently characterized by heavy use of stemware and by no means averse to the occasional Michelin star.

And you would be crushingly wrong, because when you have lunch with Corral de la Moreria, there is art, there is poetry, music and dancing. This time provided by Eduardo Guerrero. Here his stage was only a little bit bigger than a bar stool but even so – class – and if it is said that writing about wine is like tap dancing about architecture then imagine how well I write about flamenco …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Bota 68 de Fino – Macharnudo Alto

This is the fino from Macharnudo Alto by Equipo Navazos that is a near relation of the all time classic Inocente by Valdespino and a comparison of the two – particularly if you could get a bottling of Inocente from the same date – would be very interesting.

Every time I try this wine I am reminded of the tremendous impact it had on me when I first tried it in January 2017 – it had such amazing zip and pizzazz and seemed to jump out of the glass at me. Since then I have found that it mellowed in July 2017, was hanging on in November 2017 and this time, in February 2019 had become fine and mellow to an extent that was unrecognizable from its original vigour. (It had also changed color noticeably, something I also noted in November 2017.

Of course the three later bottles might not have been stored in identical circumstances, the latter ones may even have been open a few days and these are living wines – you can never guarantee that they age the same way. But despite that all my experiences tend to point me to the conclusion that the explosive aromatics and flavour profile when first released – when you could accurately have described this wine as Inocente on steroids – are not sustained over the years in the bottle. In fact you get the impression that the wine is almost exhausted by all that early exertion – something I have never come across in an Inocente. (I will have to search one out with a December 2016 bottling to see if I am right.)

This wine is still a lovely drop: sweet, floral and herbal nose, soft palate with yeast, nuts and bitter almonds, and a fresh, mouth watering finish. But it is hard not to hanker after that younger, more effervescent incarnation.

Finos San Patricio in Taberneros

Took me far too long to get to Taberneros – the very first time I posted my list of restaurants for sherry lovers I was told I should go there and it ended up taking me over three years – shocking really. When I finally did duck my head in last week there were friendly smiles all round, an entire cocido was miraculously found despite the late hour and, even more miraculously, while I stepped outside to take a call three bottles of a fine old fino appeared on the bar. To be precise, three bottles of Fino San Patricio – the famous Garvey marque – from 1977, 1972 and 1967, respectively.

As a result a fella found himself under an obligation to pay a bit more attention than has lately been the custom, and found himself enjoying the experience all the more as a result. Nothing in it really color wise – and no surprise if you think you are drinking wines that are 41, 46 and 51 years in the bottle – but some quite telling differences on the nozzle and in particular on the palate.

The 1977 was piercing and saline on the nose, any hay bales appeared to have faded to sea air and brackish sea weed, the 1972 was a little bit closed and whiffy while the 1967 had a really intriguing nose of salty bacon flavoured crisps (frazzles) with a background of a little bit of ginger. Then on the palate the 1977 was intriguingly the least substantial of the three – vertical, bitter but fresh, the 1972 had that same profile with just an ounce more oomph and pungency but the 1967 seemed to have gone a little over the top, a much softer, mushier profile and clear signs of oxidation in the wine.

Very interesting and a real treat. I am by no means a fan of these older bottles but there is no denying how interesting the comparisons can be. The cocido, though, was even better. I will be back!

Bull Fight Sparkling Wine, by Manuel Gil Luque in Angelita Madrid

There are so many reasons to go to Angelita Madrid, and one of them is the chance to try your hand at blind tasting. I would challenge anyone, however, to identify this thing blind – was dark in color and had the pine resin aroma I associate with some old pxs, but a touch watery on the palate and a bit of burnt barrel in flavour – like the old burnt bread “tea” sailors apparently used to drink. I was thinking some kind of medium but it turned out to be an ancient sparkler of all things.

Once I saw the bottle I was only more curious. Cracking name – “Bull-Fight” – and it is by a bodega I had never heard of, Manuel Gil Luque, which the magic of internet informs me has been around as a brand since 1912. No sign of any new wines and certainly not much Bull Fight currently on sale. If anyone does have any information would be very interesting to hear from them.

Fino Macharnudo de Romate

One of the wonderful old wines given to me by Valerio Carrera, the man in charge of the superb wines at A’Barra.

I really like these old finos, their fine profile only seems to get more elegant with time, while they have enough flavour to survive the passing of the years. This one started a touch closed but then opened and had sapidity and bite, nutty flavours with a bitter under edge, and sharp salinity all the way through – fresh start and finish that just added to the impression of a wine that is far easier to drink than it is to find.