Fino Alexander Jules 22/85 – May 2013

Yes, the table in the background is at Angelita, but this wine is not on their list. It was a special treat brought to Madrid by the great Federico Ferrer of the Cuatrogatos Wine Club and generously shared over lunch this week.

I am a huge fan of Alexander Jules. I wrote a piece a little while ago about marquistas that some people took as being critical, but it wasn’t at all my intention to write off all bottle selectors. When done right, I think they bring a lot of value and Alexander Jules is one of the guys that definitely gets it right. Specifically, he selects cracking wines, he tells you where the wine comes from (right on the label), what makes it special and what to look for, and then he goes out and sells of them in places (mainly the United States) that they otherwise might not reach.

The first fino of his that I tried was a selection from the Camborio solera and although it was noticeably distinct from the Camborio I knew it was so good it made me look at Camborio in a different light. This one is not from Camborio, but from another of my favourite soleras: the Fino Perdido by Sanchez Romate. And again, it will probably make me look at that wine in a different way.

Like the wine I know it is beautifully aromatic, with all the apple pie aromas – I love the mention of cinnamon on his ficha, we are definitely in the same ball park. Then on the palate it is just spectacular, sharp around the edges but broad in flavours, like a broad arrowhead. And the breadth of flavour is there too: stewed apple with peppery rocket flavours and a salt and pepper finish. And despite spending going on five years in the bottle , unlike some of the more aromatic finos it is still as compact and as fresh as a daisy. A really good sign.

So many many thanks Fede and many congratulations again Alex, a cracker!



#4GWFEST2018 – Part 1 – The return of Antonio de la Riva

Some of the wines I was most looking forward to trying at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest last weekend were new (and old) wines from an old name: Antonio de la Riva. It is the name of a maker established in the 19th Century, absorbed by Domecq in the late 20th Century and which disappeared as a label not long afterwards, but whose bottles are highly prized by collectors and fans of the older wines. I am neither a collector (except to the extent that winemakers persuade me their wine will improve in the bottle) or particularly big on the bottle aged wines, but even so I was excited about these, because the famous old brand – together with some regal old butts and a supply from some handy soleras and vineyards – has recently been revived under new ownership.  And you have to say it could not be in better hands: the Sobrinos de Haurie themselves, Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Perez.

The wines, which up to this weekend had only been tried by a select few, are expected to be released soon. They include a white wine, from pago Macharnudo (and specifically, the corner of the Majuelo vineyard known as “El Notario”), a fino from wines sourced from Balbaína Alta, and two very senior citizens in the form of a very old oloroso and a very very old moscatel. On the day the lads had brought the fino, the oloroso and the moscatel and given the tiny quantities that were available their presentation in public was discreet – as the photographs above show.

The good news is that the wines are absolute belters.

First, the fino is a classic “Jerez” style (I have written “Jerezano twice in my notes”), with a very mineral, compact structure and sapidity. The nose is stoney and weedy, not big and aromatic haybales but more like the overgrown wall of a churchyard. Then it has a sharp zing to it broadening out into a decent mouthful of slightly bitter almonds before a fresh finish. Closer in style to a Camborio than an Inocente but in that same neighbourhood in terms of class with a good ten years under flor.

After the fino, the oloroso, which according to my notes is from Balbaina Baja and is spectacular (double underlined in the original text). Sawdust and alcoholic sweetness on the nose (I have hazelnut vinegar written here), then all the right kind of woody flavours across the palate: walnut and cedar cigar boxes, bitter chocolate and extremely black, salty and peppery coffee. And an unbelievable concentration and acidity – holding even a small sip in your mouth the heat is incredible.

And then the moscatel, which is another absolute beast. More of the same only possibly even more so. Incredibly dense and dark to look at – took an eternity for the drop above to make its way to the tasting receptacle – but just amazing on the nose and the palate, full of ginger and spices, nuts, chocolate and coffee. Enough acidity to keep it honest and balance up its sweetness and incredibly long. Sensational, and being honest, well beyond my powers of description even if I had taken decent notes.

Remember the name: Antonio de la Riva.

Barajuela Finos again

The boys down in Jerez tease me for the amount of these Barajuela wines I am able to find but to be honest most of the time they seem to find me. I am honestly trying to hold back, and now only order it if I can share it with at least one newcomer to the breed. This was one of those occasions – a lunch at Bache with an old colleague-, and yet again I can confirm that the people love it.

What I love about these wines is how much fruit is there, how the fruit seems to reach down the savoury registers into salinity making a massive iceberg of a wine: as much or more below the surface as above it. On that score, the 2014 Fino has the same white blossom and white fruit nose and top end of the palate as the 2013 Fino (saca of February 2017), but more of the savoury, sapid mountain. It also has less time under flor – isn’t quite as sharp or mineral – but has an even bigger, fuller frame. On the other had, while it is not strongly biological on the nose the 2013 – particularly this second saca – has, if not quite haybales, then at least a little bit more dry herb in the nose and again that sharper profile.

More importantly, both are brilliant white wines for sherry lovers, sherries for wine lovers, just brilliant wines.

Fino Lorente & Barba

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They have a quite amazing list of wines at Taberna Palo Cortado with more than 300 references, many of them new to me even after nearly three years of hunting out obscure sherries.

This is just such a one, and a great example of the “new old”. I gather these guys have a five hundred year old bodega – at least the physical premises are said to be that old – but as far as I know they didn’t start selling their own wine until recently. They have been involved in the wine business though providing bottling and other services for other bodegas. Now the time has apparently come for them to sell their own family soleras and this is the fino.

It is definitely what you would call an “artisan” product. Has a deep old yellow-green color and is sweet on the nose, with hints of fennel leaf, and not a great deal of biological influence. Then it is broad and heavy on the palate, saline without being zingy, seems like a fair whack of glycerine and again a lot of that liquorice root. Blind I would probably guessed it was one of the ecological pedro ximenez en rama finos (but since I didn’t taste it blind I am going to say a mosto from somewhere inland like Trebujena).

Not really my kind of thing – but it is certainly full of character.

Fino del Maestro Sierra – Bota de Ana (Bottle 3/20)

This is a very rare wine – as you may be able to see on the label only 20 bottles from each saca – from a bota of fino chosen by the winemaker at Maestro Sierra, Ana Cabestrero (and hence la Bota de Ana). The bota itself is said to be one of the two “original authentic fino soleras” (although when I was told that it made me wonder what the other soleras were called)  botas of Amazingly I was able to try this by the glass at Taberna Palo Cortado (one of their 300+ wines from the region).

Maestro Sierra’s finos are characteristically very fine and elegant, with a nice soft yeasty almond texture and flavour, and this is all that. The colour is watery gold and the nose has just a hint of fresh straw to it, with those almonds and maybe a touch of citrus underneath. Then the flavours in the palate are just what the nose leads you to expect: it is big and rich in texture and very long, but there isn’t much width to it – a kind of silky almond rapier. Neither is the salinity overpoweringly zingy – a very refined wine indeed.

The height of refinement, and exclusivity!

Fino la Barajuela 2014

I was dining at Lakasa last Friday night (and it was absolutely heaving – great to see) with a group of friends from outside my wine nerd bubble but nevertheless was allowed to choose the wine, and even (somewhat controversially) given free reign. I picked two wines that to me seemed blindingly obvious – the Cuvee Saint Anne by the brilliant Alexandre Chartogne and the Fino la Barajuela.

What I didn’t know was that they had run out of the 2013 and had just received the 2014 (in fact I didn’t know the 2014 had even been released) and suddenly a wine I had been waiting for for 18 months (give or take half a glass in a tasting with the man) was on the table in front of me.

This is the second vintage of Willy Perez’s outrageously good fino, and although the 2013 will always have a special place in my heart you have to say that this is even better. It has the same nose or honey-suckle to honey with golden yellow apple underneath, the same bite and palate of fruit but even more mineral sapidity and throat filling savoury flavours. It is frankly epic and totally delicious.

And as always happens with these Barajuela wines, my friends from outside the sherry bubble loved it. It is a tremendous source of frustration to me that when I read the views about this wine from sherry experts and tastings there are grumblings about whether it is really a “fino” yadda yadda yadda. Surely what is important is that it is an outstanding white wine, and one that paired with almost everything we proceeded to eat.

Now begins a heartbreaking period in which I am allowed to purchase a shockingly small allocation of bottles and then feel obliged to hold back when I see it in stores so that a wider public can try these wines. Please, don’t let my sacrifice be for nothing.

Fino Williams Coleccion Añadas 2009, Febrero 2017

A bit of a backlog forming here for the editorial team at – this was the second wine of an absolutely cracking lunch at Alabaster ten days ago, and there have been several lunches since.

Luckily this one is an easy write up – this wine is class. It is part of the Williams Coleccion Añadas, a single vintage, statically aged fino from añina and carrascal, and one of the most distinctive finos around. It has an evolved, dark straw colour and a pronounced hazelnut aroma and juiciness and that make it very approachable indeed.

I have been exceptionally lucky and have been able to try three sacas, from February 2016, February 2017 and April 2017, and the evolution of the three, from fino to arguably a fino amontillado, was fascinating. (Indeed, I gather the 2009 fino is no more – future sacas will be of a 2009 amontillado.) Moreover, the joy of the Coleccion Añadas is that you can try the 2009 fino alongside the oloroso of the same vintage, or even a box of six, and now you can try the 2010, which is a fish of an altogether different kidney.

A lovely wine if you can get hold of it.