Lustau 3 en rama 2018

These were very generously sent to me by Lustau but be not afraid: this largesse will not affect the low standards of professionalism and objectivity for which the blog is barely known.

It is a terrific gift to receive. The 3 en rama set is a great idea by Lustau: three selected en rama wines from each of the three centres of el marco: Sanlucar (manzanilla), Jerez de la Frontera (Fino), and El Puerto de Santa Maria (Fino del Puerto). The wines are distinct and, in my limited experience, a good introduction to the characteristics of biological wines from the three centres.

The Manzanilla de Sanlucar de Barremeda is all fresh green slightly salty apples on the nose and the start of the palate, a nice bite of zing then again a fresh, apply finish. Very inviting indeed.

The Fino de Jerez de la Frontera is slightly more serious, more tangy vegetable than apple and a more intense, peppery zing. It seems to have more metals in the minerals more weight and a metallic tang on the finish.

The Fino del Puerto de Santa Maria is my favourite every year and yet again it stands out. It has a brilliant nose of sweet rockpools and is as complex on the palate – with sweet and herbal touches and a zingy, fresh finish. Really a top, top class fino.

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The Williams 2009s in El Escaparate de Vallehermoso

It’s nice to discover new places and it’s nice to run into old friends, so you can’t argue with running into old friends in new places. These two wines – which I was able to enjoy yesterday at El Escaparate – are definitely old friends.

I first came across the 2016 sacas of these released as part of the Colección Añadas – in fact they were among the first añada (vintage specific) wines that I had tried.

The two have a lot in common: from the same palomino in the same vineyards in Añina and Carrascal (Jerez), aged for the same eight years in botas of american oak of 500 and 600L before the saca in April this year. The difference is that the fino was fortified to 15º after fermentation, allowing it to develop flor, whereas the oloroso was fortified to 18º and allowed to age “traditionally”. It makes for a great opportunity to compare and contrast the effects of the biological and oxidative ageing.

It is also really interesting to contrast the various sacas. The first saca was in february 2016 and there have been two or three before this one in April 2017, and it has been interesting to see how the fino, in particular, has changed over time.

It was always a rich, juicy fino with a touch of oxidation, but this one for me has gone over the top from fino to amontillado, with slightly less sharpness and caramel complementing the hazelnuts that, foe me, characterized this vintage. Just look at the colour of it for a start: it is barely distinguishable from the oloroso.

The oloroso too has changed: it always had a spirity, volatile heavy hazelnut nose but this one seems a little quieter by comparison – but maybe the bottle had been open a while, or maybe it was just the change in the fino that made them closer in character.

Two lovely wines, and absolutely perfect with the various delicious meats on offer at El Escaparate (they certainly did the job with Higinio’s finest breasts of Barbary duck and wood pigeon).

Fino Tradicion November 2017

Lunchtime in Media Ración and no better way to start than a glass of Tradición Fino. Any time I drink this it always takes me back to a memorable, unforgettable vertical in Reserva y Cata (already three sacas ago – none of which I have blogged about until now) and the overwhelming impression is of a series of wines that just gets better and better.

This is one of the top wines in the older fino bracket and has the big bones and solidity that 12 years under flor will create, but as with other wines from Tradición what sets it apart is not so much how old it is but how youthful it seems for its age. In color it is a rich gold, but nowhere near as dark as some younger wines, and while not as aromatic as some finos it has an impressively compact, clean profile to the nose. On the palate too, you get a good dose of roasted almond, particularly in these November sacas, but also fresh citrus notes (and a slight gooseberry bitterness). You have the impression that it is a wine that will age very impressively in the bottle (if it ever gets the chance).

A high quality fino, from a line of high quality finos. Must find myself those two missing sacas!

Fino en rama Arroyuelo in Media Ración

Not had the Arroyuelo en Rama in a while but was delighted to break that duck over a spot of lunch. The star fino from Finca Matalian and probably the Southernmost fino in el marco, rather than periodic “sacas” these are bottled to order and this was from January 2017.

As you would imagine given that date it was very very biological – a really pungent nose, sharply zingy salinity (for all those 14 months in the bottle) and a slightly bitter and very spicey, rocket salad palate with a finish that was mouth watering and stinging at the same time.

An absolute belter. Top class fino with a unique personality. It occurred to me how similar it is to the similarly impeccable Solear en Rama from the opposite end of the region. I may be imagining it but must try a side by side.

Fino la Barajuela 2013 (Saca de 2017) in Media Ración

It must seem as if I am obsessed with these wines – it has got to the point where my blogging colleagues gently pull my leg about it on social media. Of course there is an element of truth in that, but in my defense I am also in a virtuous loop in which the places I go to tend to stock them, the sommeliers I know are aware of my interest and it is so hard to say no when they are offered.

In fact at one point I did start saying no, on the basis that if I drank all the wine on offer it would defeat the object of writing about them (one establishment told me they had been sent two bottles of one vintage, of which I had accounted for 75%) since noone else would be able to drink them anyway.

And to be honest I am a little mystified as to why more people have not done so. As I have mentioned before on here I find these wines fantastic: top notes, bottom notes, body, concentration, shape, salinity, the full package. Neither do I believe I am alone in this: every time I have shared a bottle with friends from outside my bubble they have loved it (even Mrs Undertheflor enjoys a glass or two) and better judges than I seem to share my enthusiasm.

Anyway, I reckon I have allowed you all a fair crack so be warned: my admirable self restraint, and with it your chance to enjoy these wines, is coming to an end.

 

The wines of Emilio Hidalgo in Taberna Verdejo

Absolutely top class dinner last night in Taberna Verdejo featuring a lot of laughter some first class cooking and above all three absolutely classic wines from Emilio Hidalgo.

First, with mussels and rubio (sea robin) in escabeche (and in fact even before the food arrived) we started with La Panesa, which is just a class fino. So much power and body, a really buttery mouthful and a no vibrato purity and solidity of flavours. These bottles were from 2016 and the almond and roast almond flavours just had that suggestion of bitterness before the long long finish.

Then another escabeche, this time a rabbit (another of Verdejo’s strengths, small game) and, having exhausted the supply of La Panesa we moved on to the Amontillado Fino Tresillo. And my goodness what an impact this wine makes – such sharpness and elegance, finer in feel than the fino and a touch of dry honey to the almond flavours – almost hazelnut-, all with that sizzling salinity, which comes across much more clearly in this finer profiled wine. Really lovely, really drinkable wine.

And then with the sweetbreads (oh, the sweetbreads) and rabo de toro (stewed bull’s tail) a glass (or two) of the Gobernador oloroso. Another beautifully made wine – packed with acidity and flavor but with excellent crispness and balance. In fact I was struck by the freshness of it – really clean lines.

All three wines were individually superb but also great company for the solid matter, but the less said about the Rives Special Gin from El Puerto that followed the better …