Lustau’s 125th Anniversary bottlings

A belated thanks to the crew at Lustau who very generously included me in the celebration of their 125th anniversary by sending me this extremely handsome boxed set of special bottlings.

As with their 3 en rama it is a selection that celebrates their presence in all three of the major centres of el Marco – Papirussa manzanilla pasada from Sanlucar, Amontillado Solera del Castillo from el Puerto de Santa Maria and the 1996 Vintage Sherry from Jerez itself. And they are three cracking wines too.

This is the first time I taste the manzanilla pasada from Papirussa and it is a very nice drop indeed. Whereas Papirussa is a bright fresh apple on the nose, here the apples are older and packed in straw, and on the palate too it is a more serious mouthful. It is punchy and zingy, saline and mouth watering, with more soft apples in the flavours that feed to a long saline burn. A really tidy, punchy little wine all round.

And this post was originally only going to describe the manzanilla pasada but I couldn’t resist opening the amontillado. I love the Lustau wines from El Puerto and this is no exception. From the solera in the Castillo de San Marcos bodega this has had four years of biological action, then 25 years of oxidation, 17 of them static.

If it sounds like it is going to be a gem I am glad not to disappoint. Sweet caramel, church bench and sawdust on the nose, when you breathe in deeply a lovely old brandy – a top class nostrilful. It is just as full of meaning on and about the tongue too – again zingy, gum stinging acidity and rich flavours – more of that brandy sensation that fades to sawdust that fills the mouth and up into the nasal channels. A really pronounced barrel effect in fact.

And that left the vintage sherry and, well, it would be rude not to, no?

This is frankly wonderful, I love it. From a late harvested vintage no less than 25 years ago this had its fermentation halted early and the result is a fine sweet palomino wine that has spent the intervening period in oloroso butts. I

It was time well spent too. This has just a stunning nose of Christmas cake while baking – fruits, nuts, spices and booze, maybe a touch of cedar cigar box – and then on the sip (or, let’s be honest, gulp) you get all of that again in a lovely velvety package, with acidity that balances the sweetness and a sticky finish that keeps the party going for ages and ages until fading a final note of cigar at the end. Really superb stuff.

All in all a fantastic box set and a wonderful thing to receive. Many thanks to Lustau once again and many happy returns!

Solear en Rama Spring 2014 – the Red Kite, 7 years on

Amazing to think that I started hoarding these little bottles seven years ago and even more amazing to crack them open and find the wine is still sensational, maybe even better than it was.

Was nostalgic to see this bottle still had the “manzanilla” with no pasada on the label and the agglomerate cork instead of the natural cork in the recent bottles, and it has been fun trying to recall what I was up to in 2014 when I first opened this. I didn’t have the blog yet and I hadn’t even been to Jerez in those days. I wasn’t on instagram yet even – what in the world did I use to do with my time? (Yes I know there aren’t many posts these days so same difference I suppose.)

But some things haven’t changed. Back then I loved these little bottles and I still do. I suppose the question is whether I loved them more or not and that is an interesting one. In general of course these wines no longer have the impact they did on that more impressionable young fella, but this has withstood the test of time as well as any.

And this specific wine has certainly taken the passing years in its stride. It is still intense, full of zingy saline heat, and full of juice too: real concentration of flavour. The colour is that touch darker, and the flavours have gone down a notch in register – but this is just as full a palate as I remember, and with time open a sweetness comes through on the finish that just rounds it off.

I would swear it was better for seven years in this tiny bottle – wish I had bought a couple of magnums and had a couple of decades …

Pastora Manzanilla Pasada in Angelita Madrid

There is a lot of enthusiasm for old bottles these days. I don’t share it in general – I rarely meet one without wishing I had met it years ago. But there are exceptions and exceptional places. In Corral de la Moreria, Abarra and, lately, Angelita.

In the last few weeks I have been spoiled in Angelita with a couple of old bottles that were really exceptional – a Gitana most recently but most memorably this Pastora. It was absolutely sensational.

The older wines become finer and more fragile in profile – it only takes the slightest imperfection to throw the silhouette. But these two were great and the Pastora out of this world. Still zingy, but rapier fine, and flavours that had gone from spice to incense. But even better it was still all joined up – the shape was there, not too bitter and remarkably pleasing.

But probably the best thing that I can say about it is that the friend I shared it with loved it – and I don’t think they had had a new manzanilla pasada before that, let alone one that was fifty years old.

You didn’t need to be a fan or a “sherrylover” to love this, it was lovely wine.

Solear en rama – Spring 2015 – the Oropéndola

There is still a feeling of sacrilege when I open these little bottles that have been stashed away these last few years but the regret doesn’t outlast the first mouthfull.

What an astonishingly nice wine – it really is the archetypal dry sherry. Beautiful gold colour, lovely haybales and yeast on the nose, zingy salinity and fresh yeasty juice on the palate, and the mouth just sallivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

This bottle is from when it was still bottled as a mere “manzanilla” but it really is a manzanilla pasada – you can feel it in the concentration and the intensity of the flavours.

Wonderful stuff.

Solear en rama, saca de invierno 2013

As I have occasionally published, a fellow has accumulated a pretty large collection of these little bottles over the years but, no more. They may or may not improve in the bottle, but the only way to enjoy them is once they are out of it. Plus I have a famously small vinoteca and these little bottles are annoyingly fiddly to store. When you add to the equation the fact that the wines inside them are right up my alley, their life expectancy is in the basement with no takers.

First to go to the block is my oldest – this effort from winter 2013, the aguja colinegra or black tailed godwit.

Nearly seven years later it is lovely stuff, and proof of one of my deep held beliefs on the bottle ageing debate: the better the wine, the better it will stand the passing of the years. Lovely and rich in colour and on the nose, still zingy first up and full of juice on the palate, with just a hint of that incense bitterness that can develop in older manzanillas before a buzzy, mouthwatering saline finish.

None of this is doing any good for the chances of survival of the others it must be said …

Solear en Rama Summer 2016 – the Marbled Teal

Difficult to top this, one of my favourite sacas of one of the best manzanillas around, in a magnum, and thanks to social distancing, none of those annoying close range socializers wanting to share it.

When reviewing my flock of Solear en Rama for repeats it struck me that I had seen this marbled teal somewhere before and indeed I have another. Faced with the decision of whether to drink the magnum or half bottle well, I thought about it for nearly a quarter of a second …

Almost too good to drink. Now a manzanilla pasada, but more manzanilla than pasada. It is not as fruity oxidized or as heavy as many, really fresh with a wonderful piercing nose and just a solid slab of manzanilla flavour: flavours of sea air and spicey, peppery rocket salad with a fresh finish.

There is a saying here that a good salad should be well salted (una buena ensalada sera bien salada) and this is certainly that. The biological is there at start and finish – zing to begin and swish to end – and in between you have those oily, peppery sensations on bready flavours – cobs of bread you use to mop up the dressing.  

A living legend. And by living, I mean the solera, because you won’t be seeing this bottle no more.

Solear en rama – Saca de Primavera 2018 – the Gullheaded Tern

Have a big collection of these little bottles and am strongly considering a bit of a clear out – if I could find time to see them all away at once I would but I will likely have to pick them off in some small groups. Not yet, though, because this was one that I had two of so could tuck into, without any guilt and with a massive dollop of pleasure.

It really is one of the top wines from Sanlucar, from Jerez, from anywhere. Has that musky haybale aroma and overlying, underlying flavour, sea breeze and almonds, stinging salinity on the lips, and after nearly two years in the bottle (bit less) this one has a nice touch of oxidation – almost raisiny to begin with.

Really love these. Maybe will have to hold onto them after all – can always buy a bigger house …

Solear en Rama Primavera 2019 in Bache

Bache is a great spot for a quick lunch with a cracking list of sherries and some quality, fun solids to accompany them.

This is an absolute gem – for me at the same time the definition and archetype of a manzanilla and quite unique.

Old gold colour, crystal clear but consistent, fragrant on the nose with dried beach grass and yeast and zingy and juicy on the palate. It has been a while since I have had one of these but this has all the biological, incisive character of the spring sacas I remember.

I believe it is 20 years now that they have been producing these. 80 sacas of pure class. Happy Anniversary guys!

Maruja manzanilla pasada (at the bar of Media Ración)

This is a wine that I just like more and more. As a style manzanilla pasada ticks a lot of boxes – that combination of biological sharpness, rich, buttery body and rounded, roast-pepper savoury-sweet flavours. But this is a particularly fine example, with a sizzling sharpness, spicey finish and broad palette beautiful stewey rich flavours – everything from the sweet carrot to the potent bitterness of the bay leaf.

It would be the perfect wine for many dishes, but with the superb bacalao ajoarriero at Media Ración – probably the perfect combination of green and red peppers, tomato, onion and garlic – it is an absolute dream. Superb stuff.

 

Maruja manzanilla pasada and Roni Peperoni

This is one of those pairings that seems just too easy – two of my very favourite things being consumed at the same time – but even so I was impressed at just how well they teamed up.

The manzanilla pasada has the weight and character to stand up to the cheesy, tomatoey, savoury, spicey, oregano enhanced perfection of the pizza (from my local “Allo Pizza” btw) and its sharpness and herbal salinity was just perfect.

Absolutely superb and the pizza menu surely deserves some further exploration …