Encrucijado 2015

This is fantastic. A year in the bottle has really brought it on – cleaner lines and a sharper profile.

A rich buttery gold in colour on the nose you have dried apricots and just a hint of almonds, then on the palate it has a sharp, acidic start, and buzzy acidity all the way through, with a lovely middle palate of almonds and apricots and a fresh, mouth watering finish.

Lovely stuff and a little bit different than your standard palomino fino. Which is as it should be – this is perruno, uva rey and just a small dollop of palomino – a blend of varieties from the days of yore that make this the only true palo cortado.

You often hear that a wine from Jerez is “history in a bottle” but it generally only means it has been in the bottle – or the barrel – a long time. This really is history.

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Bull Fight Sparkling Wine, by Manuel Gil Luque in Angelita Madrid

There are so many reasons to go to Angelita Madrid, and one of them is the chance to try your hand at blind tasting. I would challenge anyone, however, to identify this thing blind – was dark in color and had the pine resin aroma I associate with some old pxs, but a touch watery on the palate and a bit of burnt barrel in flavour – like the old burnt bread “tea” sailors apparently used to drink. I was thinking some kind of medium but it turned out to be an ancient sparkler of all things.

Once I saw the bottle I was only more curious. Cracking name – “Bull-Fight” – and it is by a bodega I had never heard of, Manuel Gil Luque, which the magic of internet informs me has been around as a brand since 1912. No sign of any new wines and certainly not much Bull Fight currently on sale. If anyone does have any information would be very interesting to hear from them.

Atamán Vermouth

In Jerez old is now the new new. Just missed out in the unveiling of this in Madrid this week. A newly relaunched vermouth under an old Barbadillo brand resurrected in 2017 after 40 odd years.

As I say, I missed the unveiling, and indeed I only made it to La Fisna before closing by the skin of my teeth and as a result have next to no actual information, other than that it is an old recipe with a manzanilla base and an amped up dosage of quinine.

The resulting potion is powerful stuff and not at all what springs to mind when someone says “vermouth”. The manzanilla base is dry as dry can be and there is no hint of sweetness. For me it is more reminiscent of an amaro, with burnt caramel bitterness, but saline. (You get the feeling that a martini made with this would be filthy rather than dirty.)

Serious, grown up, drinking.

Terrazze dell’Imperiese Bianco 2013

If you are only interested in sherries, look away now, because as its moniker suggests this is not a sherry. It is not even a palomino, or a vine grown on albariza. Unlike an increasing number of wines from around Spain it hasn’t had any flor, or spent any time in an old oloroso barrel. On the contrary, it is a 100% vermentino that has spent 19 months on its lees.

But it is slightly oxidized and doesn’t half smell and act like some of the palomino wines – it was suggested to me by Victoria in La Piperna (Madrid’s premier Italian restaurant) for precisely that reason and I am very glad she suggested it because the similarities and differences are very interesting. (After all, what do they know of sherry, who only sherry know? As a great man nearly said.)

Aromatically it is very similar – on nose alone I would have called this palomino, without question. As you would expect, the flavours on the palate are not dissimilar – maybe a bit more towards ripe fruit and plums than white fruit – like a palomino there isn’t much acidity and there is that touch of oxidation, to which palomino seems very prone. Having said all that, it lacks the distinctive salinity of the albariza wines, which leaves it feeling a little blunt at both ends, and for me the palate over all is less defined – less discernible herb.

Would be a good one to sneak into a blind tasting for all the new sherry experts (unless of course they read this blog).

De Alberto Dorado

You know that the guys in Jerez are doing something right by the number of would-be Jereces that are appearing. These days it doesn’t matter what region you are making wine in, you aren’t anyone if you aren’t making something under “flor”, something oxidated, something does with palo cortado or at the very least something aged in a barrel that was once used for fino, manzanilla, oloroso or similar.

Now the guys in Rueda have an answer to this. Their “dorados” are oxidated and are in some cases from soleras, but are no recent invention: if you know your history you will know that they are in fact backed by a long tradition.

Even so, it is surely no coincidence that after fifteen years in Spain I only start to see them now, with the “sherryrevolution” at full steam. And indeed in just a couple of weeks I had my first during a spectacular lunch at Alabaster and this, my second, during a cheekier lunch at Angelita. (Unless we include Beatriz Herranz’s Bruto, but that is 100% palomino so doesn’t seem to fit the bill.) Since then I haven’t stopped seeing them all over twitter, and although you never know whether it is the same 6 bottles in all the pictures it certainly seems like they are making a splash.

This one is 100% verdejo (it says here) and was very interesting if not to say quite curious. As you would imagine there is fruit in the nose but whereas your oxidated sherries give you an impression of sweetness on the nose here it came across as bitter fruitiness, like an orange marmalade. Then on the palate it had a bite of acidity and then again that fruity bitterness. To be honest I found it difficult to get into, but if twitter is anything to go by it won’t be long until my next opportunity.

Dorado Carrasviñas

Was given this blind by Fran, the sommelier at Alabaster, at the beginning of what turned into one of the all-time great lunches, and didn’t get anywhere near identifying it. To be fair, while I had read about “Dorados” from Rueda, until now hadn’t had my hands on one. (The nearest was probably For this is the verdejo and palomino answer to the solera aged wines of the South and it was very interesting indeed.

You can find a ficha here in Spanish and as you will see that it is an unfortified blend of palomino and verdejo (proportion not revealed but order of varietals suggests more verdejo) that have been separately fermented in inox before coupage. Then it is stored in 16L glass demijuanas for 18 months and subjected to the extremes of the Castilian summer – which leads to the oxidation – before being finished in oak barrels. (Although it all sounds like a single vintage process I couldn’t find a date on the label or bottle.)

The resulting wine is pretty interesting. As you can see it has a deep old straw color to it, which in my mental processes it had me heading manzanilla pasada or old fino. Then the nose had fruit – much more like a manzanilla pasada than fino, but even more fruit than that, very bright nose. On the palate it had quite an acidic start, which on top of all the fruit had the alarm bells ringing, and then that fruit, then a turn to sour fruit bitterness and a deepish groove of salinity. Quite a long, fiery and mouthwatering finish.

I might get pelters for this from the guys down in el marco but I really enjoyed it – tasty and complex, and a reminder of how much fun it is to taste wines blind. May have been a bit of the element of surprise involved but will have to see if I can get some to try against the real thing at my leisure. Nice one Fran!

Bruto 2014

Now here is an interesting wine: 100% palomino from a single vineyard, spontaneous fermentation in the butt, then 12 months “under flor” and 4 months in inox. 948 bottle in total. And from Rueda of all places. 

Quite a geographic shift (about 600 km north as the urraca flies) but I am told it is less of an innovation than a throwback to the times when a lot of palomino was grown and aged in the North. It is also from an impeccable maker – Beatriz Herranz of Barco de la Corneta – who has a cult following for making serious wine from a grape (verdejo) and in a region that are too often synonymous with egregious mass production. 

Most importantly it is pretty tasty stuff. I wouldn’t have said it had 12 months under flor – if anything I would have said a good few months oxidation – and neither was it the most expressive, but there is pungency, solidity and salinity there. 

As experts in Madrid bar tops will know from the picture, I tried it in Angelita, where this month all the wines are from female winemakers, but you can find interesting wines by the glass all year around.