undertheflor in 2016

After a week at home in the UK without even a single glass of sherry to lighten the mood I am back, and pawing at the ground, champing at the bit and generally keen to get back to my”vertical style” of wine tasting.

But first it seems a good moment to reflect on these last twelve months. It is only the second year I have been doing this blog, indeeed the first full calendar year, but I doubt I will ever again learn as much in a single twelve month period. It is no exaggeration to say that I learned just enough to understand how little I really know.

The outstanding memory of the year was of a trip to Sanlucar in March and a visit to the pagos of Jerez and Sanlucar lead by the phenomenal Ramiro Ibañez (and the phenomenally affable Federico Ferrer). Even reading my inadequate note of the occasion brings back memories of a day that was stunning in the sense that it literally took me days to work out what had happened, but which once the fog lifted left me with the beginnings of an understanding of the geography of the region. Later in the year I caught up with the other one of Haurie’s nephews, Willy Perez, and was treated to a tasting of the wines of his Barajuela project that in any other year would have been by far the highlight. Two exceptional days that will live long in the memory.

Willy Perez’s  Fino La Barajuela 2013 was by far my wine of the year. It is a superb wine with concentrated, high register fruit, the body, touch, aromas and flavours of a fino and a sharp, deep mineral balance. I am running out of bottles and simply cannot wait for the 2014 (which was monstrous in a good way this summer). There were an awful lot of good wines along the way though – in fact the list would be just too long – there have been so many fantastic wines I wouldn’t be capable of summarizing.

It would also be a daunting task to rank or compare all the fantastic tastings. There were many brilliant nights, but it would be remiss not to mention tasting the Lustau Almacenistas (in Taberna Palo Cortado), the Wines of Alba Viticultores (in La Buena Vida), Toro Albala (in Taberna Palo Cortado again), Mons Urium (in Taberna Palo Cortado again), the Williams Colección Añadas (in Taberna Verdejo), the great Gran Barqueros (in Reserva y Cata) and a fascinating “vertical” of the Tradición Finos (also in Reserva y Cata), to which you would have to add a memorable dinner and lunch at Surtopia with the wines of Jerez and Sanlucar chosen by Mr Ibañez.  In fact it is hard to know where to cut off this category – a lot of the dinners I go to lately end up turning into some sort of tasting: the worst/best culprits here are Angelita, Territorio Era and Taberna Verdejo, but the “problem” is spreading, and I am lucky enough to hang around with some guys that are not shy with their wine cabinets when we meet for dinner.

No doubt about it, it has been a fantastic year, and if I can match that in 2017 I will be very surprised indeed (and very pleased). Bring it on!

Giving Thanks

Restaurants

I envy our american cousins and their thanksgiving holiday, and not just because I would like the Thursday off and enjoy roast turkey. I like the idea of taking a moment to acknowledge how much we have to be thankful for, and thought I would share my own thanks for those who have helped me and this blog over the last year and a half.

So here we go, in an approximate chronological order:

  • Cesar Saldaña at the DO, who first gave me the idea, and Ana Losada, who encouraged me to get on with it and make it a reality;
  • WordPress for their cracking app which is easy enough to use that even I can manage it with moderate proficiency;
  • My wine drinking buddies here in Madrid, including David at Vila Viniteca, Guillermo, Manuel, Raul and Jason, all legends that have humoured me, generously broadened my education with wonderful wines from all over the world in the face of my obsession with a single corner of Andalucia and now to be honest drink more sherry than I do;
  • My fellow sherry bloggers, including the international crowd – Ruben, Helen, Paddy, Erik, and Seanna (a friendlier, more welcoming bunch you could not imagine), and also the Spanish guys and in particular the Enoarquia and Spanishwinelover, both of which have been a source of ideas and an inspiration;
  • The guys off the wineberserkers bulletin board and in particular David Coffey – it has been fascinating getting the perspective of fans of other wines in the US and elsewhere (after all, what do they know of sherry, who only sherry know?) ;
  • The other characters on twitter for all their retweets, likes, comments and such, in particular Lori and Michael at Dracaena Wines for giving me an excuse to retweet blog posts as part of #sundaysips;
  • The restauranteurs and barpersons of Madrid and elsewhere, for giving me the opportunity to try so many wines by the glass, including Jose and Ruth at Surtopia, Ana Losada (again) when she was at the Chula, David and the guys at Angelita, Paqui at Taberna Palo Cortado and David and Diego at Territorio Era;
  • My dealers, and in particular Federico Ferrer of the Cuatrogatos Wine Club, Ezequiel at Reserva y Cata,  Santiago at Coalla Gourmet and Armando Guerra of the legend that is Der Guerrita;
  • The bodegas that have been generous with their time and in so many ways: in particular Carlos and the guys at Lustau, but also Manuel and Lorenzo from Tradición, Adela and José from Perez Barquero, Rocío from Urium, and Cristina from Williams & Humbert; and
  • The real experts, from whom I have learned a lot, including Alvaro Giron, Juancho Asenjo and Paco del Castillo, but in particular Victor de la Serna, who from the start has been a big support retweeting, commenting and on one memorable evening coming along to show us how to taste wines.

Most of all I am grateful to all the winemakers who have taken time to chat and share their knowledge, and of course for making the wines that give the whole thing meaning. In particular I would pick out Ramiro Ibañez, one of the most passionate and knowledgeable winemakers I have ever met, who has been a true inspiration and a fount of wisdom, but also thanks and kudos to Luis “Willy” Perez and his Barajuela Project, Primitivo Collantes and Finca Matalian, Paola Medina for her Colección Añadas and the many others that are creating exciting wines for me to taste and blog about.

Now begins the worry about who I have left out. If I have forgotten you don’t be dismayed – it is the way of this particular beast, and I guarantee as soon as I see you again I will remember and attempt to hastily amend this page with my mobile!

 

 

Sherry shopping suggestions

what-to-look-for

My latest post for the sherry.wine site was published today: What to look for on a sherry bottle.

I bet you can guess what it is about. In fact it is a little bit less/more than your standard explainer – if you look really carefully you will detect some of my personal preferences hidden amongst the mass of cogent, well made points. There are some equally telling omissions, for which I will no doubt have to answer at some point. In any event, I hope it helps.

100 up


The sun never sets on the undertheflor empire, and today the good folk of Malawi joined the party, becoming the 100th member of the United Nations to do so. Moni and zikomo Malawi! 

The end of en rama

This afternoon I deleted the en rama category off the blog. 

This is not a reflection on en rama wines. They are almost always more interesting than their filtered rivals and some are markedly better. Neither is it an objection to the concept: if you can save money on production  processes, make better wine and sell that wine for more money good luck to you. 

Rather, it had just got to the point that almost every wine on here was an en rama so as a category it became pointless – not discriminating enough and at the same time discriminating in the wrong way. While many many wines are “en rama” in the sense of being unfiltered or very lightly filtered many choose not to mention this. As a result the category ended up including all sorts of wines that for whatever reason made great marketing play of their unfiltered status and leaving out some other wines unfairly. 

But worry not – all the wines are still there in their respective categories. 

Bourbon 

I honestly do not remember what this Bourbon is called but it was the second of two at a splendid Washingtonian dinner this week and as refined and razor sharp as anyone could wish. 

I don’t know what the first one was called either – this is probably a low point in blogging terms – but they were night and day, horizontal and vertical, butter and toffee. 

In fact neither do I remember what the difference was in terms of the barrels used. Do I win a prize? 

Filter Coffee

Just had an eye opening experience – finished dinner, had a coffee (a shot of expresso) and while the flavour was still in my mouth, poured myself one of the remaining glasses of Solear en rama. The sensation was all fruit – the wine has always been splendid but with a low, vegetable register, and after the coffee it sings sweeter. It was like an instagram filter for the tongue.

It was great – so armed with a triple expresso and a couple of bottles I have repeated the experiment with success. Some super dry wines have shown up sweeter. Now this may be absolutely bog standard stuff to the experts but I find it very interesting – how flavours react with following flavours. Also I am interested about this one because coffee is a flavour you find so often in the great wines of Jerez in particular. Surely no coincidence.

 

Ifs and butts

image.jpg

Have been boning up on technical issues for a tasting tonight and realized that despite an early post with biological and traditional ageing in a nutshell and a post on the velo de flor (with thanks to Enoarquia.com and Jamie Goode), I have never really got around to tracking down pieces on the other half of the equation – traditional ageing and the role of wood.

For starters I found a couple of guest articles on the Sherry.wine website – by Paula Maclean and Jamie Goode, respectively – really interesting stuff. But by far the best piece I have seen is this one by Ruben at SherryNotes.com (and Whiskynotes.com) – in turn inspired (or provoked) by the Jamie Goode piece.

A really brilliant piece and one I recommend reading.

 

In der sherrygarten

One of the lads was in Munich for the semifinal yesterday and sent this cracking picture of one of the windows in the historic Dallmayr store (est 1700) in the main square. Bit of cecina and manzanilla la Goya  – lovely.

If this was an attempt to sell sherries to the Atletico fans in town it was probably a little optimistic (but I am pretty sure it wasn’t).