Fino Arroyuelo

Back at the place where this blog was born (the Malaga coast) and a nice surprise to find this visitor from Cadiz on the supermarket shelf. Chiclana’s finest – the Arroyuelo fino by Primitivo Collantes and his fields of albariza.

This one seems to have been in the bottle a little while – this is not an en rama wine but showing a nice blush of color. Superb on the nose – lovely haybales, chamomile and almonds -, really fragrant and aromatic. And then the full monty on the palate: sharp, zingy start, then flavours that go from fresh to nutty to herby, and a fiery, mouth watering saline finish. Was really cracking with an espeto of sardines I can tell you.

Not as famous as some of the bodega’s wines but all the hallmarks of a class fino.

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Tres en Rama 2019

The black swallows may or may not return to build their nests under my balcony but I am not going to miss much sleep over it while these three little beauties keep turning up on my doorstep. Another year and another edition of the Tres en Rama – Lustau’s great little boxed set showcasing the “terroir of the cellar”. A manzanilla de Sanlucar (cellared in Sanlucar), a fino de Jerez (cellared in Jerez) and a fino del Puerto (Puerto de Santa Maria), the three corners of the so-called sherry triangle.

First up, the manzanilla de Sanlucar. A nice rich en rama colour – no filtering here – a lovely apple, chamomile, sea breeze and haybale nose and the same punchy flavours on the palate before a saline, mouthwatering finish. Really opens the appetite.

Then second up (for me, but you can do as you please etc.) is the Fino de Jerez. This takes the haybales and sticks them in a farmyard, maybe with a bakery attached – all mulchy straw and yeasty bread on the nose and a sharper, zingier, more potent palate with a stinging hot, salty and watering end.

And last but by no means least, the fino del puerto. Here the sea breeze is full of the smells of rockpools and salty seaweed drying in the sun. The palate is again full of yeasty juice and bite, with a rich, juicy and mineral finish.

Superb stuff once again.

Vinos de la feria

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.

Fino 2010, Williams & Humbert

Williams & Humbert were kind enough to invite me to a cracking little party to celebrate the launch of their new añadas but amidst all the dancing, music, gossip and posing and after a few glasses my ability to appreciate the wines in detail was lightly impaired.

Luckily I caught up with this fino in the nearest thing we have to laboratory conditions – the bar of Angelita – and have had a proper run at it. One of the Colección Añadas and a fascinating contrast to its predecessor, the 2009.

The two wines are from the same vineyard in consecutive years, have been cellared in the same cellar by the same hand but they are as different as two sisters can possibly be. Whereas the 2009 was all lush gentleness, full of juice and hazelnut, this is sharp, zingy, with bitter liquorice flavours and heat from a salty, peppery finish.

Moody but magnificent – wish I had paid more attention the first time!

Fino Caberrubia

Any of my regular 20 or so readers will know that I am quite partial to a drop of La Barajuela Fino, so it shouldn’t be a great surprise to hear that the little that I have of this is not going to last long.

Many of the things that make the Barajuela Fino one of the great wines of the world are here: the terroir and old vines (el corregidor, in Carrascal de Jerez), the winemaker (Willy Perez) and the very philosophy of making wine.

The difference are those two letters: NV. Non vintage. And I love it. There is no more eloquent, elegant way of making your argument in favour of vintages than this. The only question is: why aren’t the 99,9% of bottles coming out of Jerez that aren’t vintage properly labelled?

This wine is from the last couple of harvests – the 2015 fino that never appeared and the 2016 – and is so close to the Barajuela Fino itself that it is a joy to sup on. That combination of blossom, white fruit and savoury, that wine-like elegance.

The NV of the world indeed. Absolutely cracking.

Fino en rama “Los Mimbres”

No doubt that this was en rama – almost the last glass from the bottle and as you can see it was pretty murky in the glass, and positively swampy in the bottle.

A fresh moriles fino, 100% pedro ximenez – from a single pago in Lagar de Benavides – and biologically aged in solera for around five years.

Very fresh almond and a little bit of greenery on the nose, then punchy, almonds, very slight hint of liquorice and yeast, and a fresh finish. Not the sharpest or most corpulent of wines – straight through – but fresh and flavourful.

Will try and make sure I get the first glass of the next bottle …

Fino la Barajuela 2016 in Taberna Palo Cortado

A more detail oriented, aesthetically attuned blogger would probably have sought out a more appetising backdrop for the photo above but I am short on time and gas lately and the issue only occurred to me when I went to Instagram it shortly afterwards.

In any event, this wine don’t need no stinking backdrop. It is the finest Fino, the future of Jerez that is deeply rooted in its past, and a beautiful wine in anyone’s language.

Sharp in the entry and fresh in the finish, but full of juicy, high register white fruit and just enough of a mineral seam to it. Maybe not as big in the beam and the back of the throat as the 2014 and maybe not quite as deep, saline and complex as the 2013, it shares with both the top end of honeyed white fruit and with its finer, sharper profile comes across as almost ethereal.

A lovely palomino white wine, finer and with a bit of extra dash: not too bad at all and enough to bring the most miserly hermit out of his blogging doldrums.