Manzanilla Carvajal

Very nice drop of manzanilla here – a special selection sourced by Jaime Carvajal, an up and coming young marquista, from wine made by Delgado Zuleta. Jaime was for many years Gonzalez Byass’ man in the province of Cadiz and now has a nice portfolio of wines including Cobijado and the palo cortado from Cayetano del Pino, amongst others.

Nice old gold colour as you can see – tablecloth notwithstanding – and a lovely nose on it with classic haybales and sea breeze and just a hint of spicey herbal tea. Then on the palate it has zingy salinity, a full flavour with just a touch of bitterness and oxidation and a full, buttery texture.

Top manzanilla – very nice indeed.

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Fino Cruzado Las Botas

One of the highlights of the summer was getting to talk about the marquistas at no less a venue than Er Guerrita – reported in in a cracking post by Carmen Martinez de Artola – and here is a fine example of the marquista breed.

This fino was bottled by the guys at “Las Botas”, Cesar Velazquez and Raul Villabrille, and whereas I was originally told it was from botas selected from the Fino Señorita Irene at Bodegas Francisco Yuste I now gather that it is from Fino Camborio (as I had in fact first thought – since it was the first time I tried it).

Knowing that it is no surprise to find it nicely full bodied and thirst quenching (and at the same time mouth watering) stuff. Said to have an average age of ten years and to be on the crossroads between a fino and an amontillado. Not sure I would go as far as that, but this is near to my sweet spot for finos: enough age and contact with the cabecillas to make it slightly bitter on the nose and buttery in texture and plenty of flavour there. Flavours of almond to toasted almond and a long flavourful and fresh finish.

When we spoke at Der Guerrita one of the issues that came up was the difficulty for the new marquistas – like Las Botas to come up with original marketing propositions and it must be said that their denominations: “fino cruzado”, “manzanilla apartada” etc are a bit harder to understand than the magic numbers, for example.

Nevertheless the important thing is that they have done a good job selecting this – I will look out for the Yuste finos – and if they can sell it as well good luck to them.

De Jereces y marquistas: polisemia vinosa

Had to share the link to this cracking piece by Carmen Martinez de Artola (and not just because she refers to me in it as “el Guerrero”) of the tasting I was lucky enough to take part in this summer at Der Guerrita.

Really top summary of the (better) wines we drank on the day (or in my case, spat out, unfortunately) but above all I love the introduction – why worry what we call them if the wines are good?

Nice piece – in Spanish and another good reason to learn the language kids!

Marquistas: de marca blanca a Equipo Navazos

Was an honour to participate this summer in a tasting lead by Armando Guerra as part of the series of summer tastings at Taberna Der Guerrita.

A really interesting, ambitious tasting too, aiming to cover the phenomenon of the “marquistas”: the practice of selling someone else’s wine under your own brand. In fact in this case even more ambitious all the way across the spectrum from the “white label” of the supermarkets all the way up to Equipo Navazos.

Armando invited me on the strength of some musings of mine back in February on this subject and I was delighted to accept even if it is a bit of a hospital pass: for some reason people get very offended if you suggest they may be a marquista.

The scope was too ambitious for me – I am very far from an expert in white label wines and that business strikes me as absolutely distinct, in terms of the volumes, characteristics and role from the business of the “bota hunters” I am more familiar with. (In fact one interesting point to come out of the cata was the discovery of a third category in a kind of middle ground – the own-label exporters.)

That broad scope may also have prevented us from getting as in-depth into the phenomenon as we might have liked. Not that there wasn’t debate: it was a pretty lively group in the room too and there were some pretty frank exchanges of views. But for all that we didn’t really advance very far.

There really wasn’t much discussion of the supermarket level, but on the “bota hunters” and exporters there was broad speaking agreement as to their useful role: marketing and explaining the wines, providing novelty, different vision. Some in the room firmly believed that the special selections were better than the standard wines from the bodega (I tend to find the law of averages persuasive). There was also general agreement that the marquistas do most good – and least harm – when they identify the source of their wines.

But Armando made an interesting comment that rang true, which is that the “bota hunters” face an increasingly uphill task. Put simply, with the upturn in interest in these wines there are not as many special old botas lying around to be discovered, it is getting harder to find something different to say to better educated consumers and the bodegas too are getting more sophisticated in terms of their own approach, squeezing the space the marquistas used to have to themselves. Another challenge is carving out a unique message in an increasingly crowded space: new pretenders cannot simply take for their own the “magic numbers” of Equipo Navazos and you find some increasingly novel ways of describing the uniqueness of the wines.

And when you think about it it is interesting to witness the evolution of Equipo Navazos, for me the number one marquistas and one of the undisputed stars of the sherry story in recent years. You certainly can’t fault them for standing still: they may have started as bota hunters, but it is noticeable that the wines increasingly come from tried and trusted sources or from far and wide, that they increasingly make their own wines and have even diversified into rum, whisky, and even gin.

While all this was going on there was of course a lot of wine going down: or in my case, being spat out (I had to drive back). A really top lineup in fact, with everything from supermarket fino via Sacristia AB, and Equipo Navazos to the legendary “Teran Salvaje”. In fact at least one wine was wrongly included: the De la Riva oloroso in the final flight. De la Riva is a new project but certainly not a marquista. Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Perez, beloved of this parish, actually bought the solera involved (“with wood” as they say around here) and have acquired wine to refresh the solera on an on-going basis. Noone is making or bottling wine for these guys and the brand is registered in their name. (Having said all that, what an epic, flavorful oloroso – no complaints with having a glass of that.)

It was a fascinating and fun discussion albeit one that tended to confirm my beliefs rather than challenge them. I for one think that Equipo Navazos and others like them have done a fantastic service to the wines of Jerez and Sanlucar by bringing them to the attention of a wider public, and by showing how special they can be. And marquistas are always going to be around: the best marquistas have deservedly strong brands and even if they didn’t in some places it will always be easier to sell a new, exclusive label than a traditional brand.

But the marquistas are no more the future of the region than own label brands. You can see the future in fact in what Equipo Navazos (and many others) are doing – making and experimenting with new (or old) ways of making wines and focussing on vintages and terroir. In fact the real future is probably neither the marquista or the bodega, but the vineyard.

La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada 60 – Bota Punta

Not much of this left now (they have half a glass here in Media Ración) and we will miss it once its gone. Every time I come back to it it seems chalkier, more savoury and more mineral – with a warming, mouth watering, salt and pepper finish.

Maybe it is the time in the bottle, the time the bottle has been open, or maybe just my imagination (or the alignment of the stars) but seems to have a shade less of the almost fruit-like toffee that I remember when it first came out. Looking back at old notes I definitely enjoyed it more last year and the year before.

Still a superstar wine though – drink up it you can find it.

Fino las Botas

Las Botas is one of the most recent arrivals in the world of the marquistas with some interesting wines including this cracking fino, selected from the Camborio solera.

This one has had a bit of time in the bottle judging by the colour and a suggestion of bitterness on the palate. Nice aromatics – a really mulchy nose of wet haystacks – and a nice sharp zingy start, a savoury, granary bread and bitter almond palate and a long fresh finish.

Cracking stuff – would be interesting to line up some of the different bottlings of Camborio to see how they compare.