Legends in Taberna Maitea

There is an English expression intended to belittle achievements: “a legend in his own lunchtime”. It is a comment on ephemeral glories. The phrase feels completely inadequate in the face of my own lunchtime today.

Today in Taberna Maitea I came face to face with such legends and so quickly that it hardly seemed real: Carta Blanca, Fino Caribe, Manzanilla Pochola, PX Viña 25, and the legendary Amontillado la Botaina. Dinosaurs that once ruled the earth and even in fossilized form are like a jeep ride through jurassic park. In addition there was the Callejuela manzanilla madura, the Viejo C P palo cortado and a mystery 2016 from Miraflores, all of them ourstanding, but still …

I should say right away that this was not an everyday lunch at the bar (although they have a great list these wines are not generally available). All I can do now is express my sincere thanks to Nico for such an outstanding lunch (the food was also brilliant – just see below) – notes of the wines will follow when I come down from the clouds.


Three years under the flor – a birthday wish

Back on the Costa where this blog was born three years ago now and it has been another fun year. More than 900 posts , thousands of hits and visitors and the rest (from over 120 countries, not including Iceland), some enjoyable lunches, sneaky glasses, fascinating tastings and riotous dinners, but most importantly, a few pennies are starting to drop and I am beginning to think I am getting a handle on what is what where these wines are concerned.

The first thing I learned is the incredible range of wines that can be achieved in the cellar: whether through concentration, oxidation, reduction and barrel and biological aging, blending with sweet wines and in soleras at variable speeds, all with the benefit of timescales that shame other regions, there is a sense of possibility that is quite amazing.

But the second thing you discover is that those possibilities bring great responsibilities, and mean great discipline is needed. With so many dimensions it is all too easy for your wine to end up unbalanced and misshapen, and if you get it just slightly wrong for thirty years you will finish up quite a long way off the path.

And the third thing you learn is that the biggest mistake that has been made is one of the most common, and it has been made for a lot longer than thirty years. Simply, that many bodegas have forgotten that underneath all those effects there should be a wine, a wine with a personality given it by vine, vineyard, and vintage. Too many of the wines in the region are being made with high yield, low concentration, low personality palomino clones that could and indeed are sourced from anywhere across the region. They are often still delicious – crisp, mineral, punchy and full of yeasty or caramel goodness – but they could be so much more.

Because once you have discovered the unique personality that palomino can have when produced with low yields, in different vineyards and in different vintages it is impossible to forget and difficult to go back. The resulting wines not only have added dimensions, they are unique. However majestic the bodega, however great the skill of the capataz, bigger bodegas can be built and techniques can be copied, but vines, vineyards and vintages cannot be replicated.

Don’t get me wrong, I never say no to a glass from one of the great soleras (and the Solear above was absolutely delicious at sundown yesterday), but if this blog gets a birthday wish it would be for the region as a whole to rediscover the miracles of its vines, vineyards and vintages. (And if I were allowed a second wish, it would be for the great “gurus” of terroir and vine to finally give el marco de Jerez the credit it deserves.)


El Triángulo in La Antojá

Quick bite of lunch today and very pleasant one too – sardine sandwich, black pudding on toast and a few meatballs washed down with a lovely sharp and fresh xarel-lo (Pardas Rupestris) and this cracking tintilla de rota wine, tight acid up front and stewed blackberries all the way through, just the slightest hint of green pips.

Love it – punchy in exactly the right way.

Fossi and veggies in Taberna Verdejo

Not just any veggies – the superb “Verde que te quiero verde” in Taberna Verdejo: horseradish, artichokes, borage, chard, asparagus and whatsit broccoli. Pairs with this gem of an amontillado – sharp, smooth and savoury rich – like a metaphorical glove.

Appropriately enough too – although these days everywhere in Madrid seems to have a good sherry list Verdejo was one of the first and in particular one of the first to really embrace the #chiclanapower of Primitivo Collantes.

The Cuatrogatos Wine Fest 2018

I am on the train to Madrid after a fun and inspiring weekend with winemakers from every corner of Spain, brought together by my friend and top man Federico Ferrer.

There were a few exciting new wines from el marco de Jerez and I will be writing up the notes as soon as I can, but for the time being I wanted to post my thanks to Fede, Marta and all the winemakers for a really fantastic event and a lot of laughs.

Wines do not make themselves. They do not occur in nature. They do not grow or emerge from the soil, however famous the vineyard. They are made by people and making them is bloody hard work. (And if you think making them is hard, try selling them.) I am a little in awe of anyone who can make wine, an awe that only increases when you spend time with them and see just how much of their life they pour into that work.

I really feel privileged and grateful to have been there this weekend. Long live the winemakers, and long live the Cuatrogatos Wine Club!

The best of 2017 undertheflor

fe1ee6d3-cff7-4e87-b5d7-fd75e640185cOther blogs may post their “best of” at the end of December or beginning of January but that is not how we do things at this address: January 20 works for me. There is a risk of course that a full three weeks into 2018 people might be less tolerant to my bragging and crowing on about what an awesome year I had last year but frankly I have the post mainly written now so I might as well go ahead.

January: lessons in terroir with the Pitijopos 

The first highlight of the year was the night in January when we took a lesson in the terroir of Sanlúcar with Volume II of the Pitijopos. There is no better demonstration of the relevance of terroir in el marco than these six bottle sets and I firmly believe that it is an issue that is central to the future if el marco is going to be considered a serious wine region. If only all educational experiences were as much fun as this.

February: Wine and fun at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest

February was all about the he Cuatrogatos Wine Fest an absolutely cracking day and night down in el Puerto de Santa Maria with the genial Federico Ferrer and his band of artisan winemaker friends. Like a salon but in the bowels of a bull ring, with wines that are a lot more interesting than the average, Cadiz-style street food and an awful lot of laughter. This year’s is on February 24 and is a must-attend for anyone seriously into fun and wine (in that order).

March: epic tastings, visitors from the other place and going blind

March was the month of epic tastings. First, we witnessed the full extent of Chiclana Power: with the great, criminally unrecognized Primitivo Collantes in Enoteca Barolo. Then that was followed by the true history of Palo Cortados according to Ramiro Ibañez in, fittingly enough, Taberna Palo Cortado. Two nights when copious notes were taken, notes which in other hands might have been used to write up an interesting post or two. I really learned a lot in those two tastings and if you get the chance to listen to these guys I highly recommend it.

In addition, I also had the pleasure of meeting Erik and Laura Burgess, the couple behind Montillamorileswines.com. We took a leisurely crawl from Territorio Era to La Malaje, via Angelita and la Venencia (we never made it to La Fisna) and tried a fair few interesting wines along the way: Manu from la Malaje finishing us off with some cracking old Montilla Moriles and even a bottle of Cordobese bubbles!

And as if that wasn’t enough, the month ended on a high with a cracking day at the Cata por Parejas by Vila Viniteca. I really need to drink more 2002 Salon, no doubt, but in general it really brought home how much fun blind tasting can be. I can’t make it this year but will probably train anyway!

April: the big three and the big one

April was again all about tastings but this time the three really big beasts among current enologists: a sensational dinner with Eduardo Ojeda of Valdespino/La Guita/Estevez (and Equipo Navazos) in Lavinia; getting to meet Jose Maria Quirós of Bodegas Tradición (and the legendary Agustin Blázquez) in Taberna Palo Cortado and, finally, Antonio Flores of Gonzalez Byass with his array of Palos Cortados de Añada. An honour to meet any one of them and to meet all three in one month was almost too much to take in.

And then the month ended with an all too brief visit from another of my blogging heroes: Ruben of SherryNotes featuring a signature cracking lunch at Territorio Era and what was shaping to be a pretty handy bar crawl until Mrs Undertheflor intervened and called me home!

May the force be with you

No big ticket events in May but there was one of those little moments that make the blog – indeed life – worthwhile. On a trip with friends and our families (imagine a scene involving double digits of small kids) a fella was allowed a few minutes to escape from the Guggenheim Museum for some delicious tidbits and a refreshing glass or two of the good stuff courtesy of the very kind folk in Nerua Bilbao, which may just about have the perfect wine list. Forever in their debt!

June: Alvear, bubbles and Bez

June began with a quite exceptional lunch with Alvear at which we tried their range of spectacular wines – some of the best wines tasted all year – and at the end of the month we had a cracking tasting of the natural wines of Alba Viticultores in Wine Attack, Madrid’s leading natural wine specialists, including key discussions and demonstration of mancunian poetry in motion from the early 1990s and a lot of laughs. (There is another link here.)

July: Mucho, mucho arte

In July probably the highlight of the whole year was an almost unbelievable night in Corral de la Morería. Not just because of the wines that we had – although they were absolutely epic – but the dinner, the incredible show, the atmosphere. It will live long in the memory and I am almost afraid to go back.

September: soleras cincuentanarias

In September the UEC hosted a great tasting of wines from one of the other big guns of the “other place”, the Soleras Cincuentenarias (and one Centenaria) by Perez Barquero. Again the wines were outstanding but for me the most memorable moment was the description of where the “palo cortados” come from: “we select the botas of oloroso that have the right profile”. All very mysterious.

October: Barajuelismo

The highlight of October was the night of the Barajuelas with Willy Perez in Palo Cortado. Truly exceptional wines – the long awaited Oloroso la Barajuela 2013 and a sneak preview of what promises to be an epic Fino la Barajuela 2014 – and a fascinating explanation given by the man himself, including a moving account of his “noches de fuego” that has Oscar winning movie clip written all over it.

November: Florpower and the Weight of History

November was enlivened considerably by an impromptu Florpower Friday lunch, at which we tried the famous series by Equipo Navazos and a few other things and had a blast, but the highlight was probably a cracking dinner with Vila Viniteca and friends to celebrate the 10th anniversary of an earlier anniversary or something. Always great to hear from winemakers, but Telmo Rodriguez’s thoughts on Spanish wine’s “historic places” had me realizing that they had forgotten the most important of them all …

December: Paola Medina in Taberna Palo Cortado

An early moment of joy in December was a lunch in Lakasa with la Barajuela. If you know Lakasa at all you will imagine how well we ate that day, and when you add a bottle (and a half) of Fino La Barajuela and a good friend well, there was singing and all sorts. (Apart from anything else it was a pleasure to see the reaction of a good friend from outside my little world of sherry nerds really enthusing about that special wine.)

But the highlight of the month was a tasting by Paola Medina in the new Taberna Palo Cortado at which we heard about and more importantly tasted more from her awesome colección añadas, alongside some very nice wines from the Don Zoilo range. (And hats off to Taberna Palo Cortado, who in the course of one year hosted tastings by all the top stars of the “new Jerez”: Ramiro, Willy, Primi and Paola.)

Bloody hell what a year that was!