1955 Palo Cortado by Perez Barquero in Taberna Palo Cortado

One of many long overdue posts from one of many really top class lunches at Taberna Palo Cortado, unquestionably the number one place for any sherrylover (with apologies to Perez Reverte) in Madrid. They have more wines by the glass than anywhere else, and it really is a case of whatever your heart desires.

The only problem with it, in fact, is that when I go I end up so pie-eyed that the notes are so sketchy and the list of wines is so long I never get round to writing them up. But in a fit of back to work puritanism here I am writing up some of the wines from a marvellous lunch just a few months ago.

This is an absolutely cracking old wine from the other place, Montilla Moriles, which to me throws up a few interesting issues.

First, the wine – this is a gorgeous old oxidated wine, 100% pedro ximenez but almost fully dry – maybe just the tiniest amount of sugar – nice acidity, lovely rich flavours in a nice spectrum and no edges. Really top class, elegant but rounded wine, the kind you could enjoy best with a good book and a comfy chair.

And then, the issues.

First, the “1955” is a touch misleading, at best. I am told it refers to the approximate age of the solera, as anyone who knows their way around will appreciate, but many punters will not, and given the price band, some punters may think they are drinking something that is older than it is.

Second, the term “palo cortado”. It is pretty surprising to find a wine from Montilla Moriles being called a palo cortado. Not these days – the marketing value of the palo cortado brand is not to be sniffed at – but I am not sure what historic usage of that term there was, and ten years ago there weren’t many such wines on the market, so it is surprising at the least that a solera of “palo cortados” was founded 64 years ago. It is what it is – a selection of the finer, more elegant olorosos – and it just seems odd to label it as something else.

But pardon my quibbling. The wine is outstanding and would be equally fine however it were labelled, let’s just enjoy it!

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La Bota de Palo Cortado 34

I still love this wine, but I loved it so much more six years ago.

Maybe it is me. This is the wine that first caught my attention back in the day – it absolutely knocked my socks off in what was my most memorable wine experiences. I still remember firing off an email to a friend in pure amazement at what to me was an entirely different dimension (although then I had probably tried a total of ten sherries, eight finos and two ancient olorosos).

And I also swim against a strengthening tide on the question of bottle ageing. I understand that the oldest wines can be finer and sharper, and even funkier, but I love the freshness and fullness of texture and flavours of these wines when new, and this one when it was new really knocked my socks off.

And although old men forget (yet all shall be forgot) there is no doubt in my mind that this wine has changed over the years. Images may be worth thousands of words and if so this image backs me up.

Which isn’t to say it isn’t an absolute belter of a wine. Aromatic on the nose, sharp up front and superbly aromatic, too, on the palate. The almond and nuts are slightly more toasted than when the world was new and the bright orange notes more marmalade but they are still there and so is the ginger. It really is terrific stuff.

La Bota de Palo Cortado 62 – Diez Años Después

Some barrel in the juice here.

This was a much anticipated wine when it was released – the 10th anniversary special edition – and typical of Equipo Navazos that they surprised everybody with a wine from a bodega in Chiclana.

And a cracking wine it is too. Lots of juice in this. Deep chestnut in colour with a bright, piercing, cherry brandy nose, then it has lively acidity on the palate and tobacco, barrel and church furniture concentration on the palate, leaving a burnt caramel flavour clinging to the sides of the mouth. Warm throughout – an obviously old wine but one with plenty of life to it.

Happy Anniversary to them!

La Bota 34 de Palo Cortado – “Pata de Gallina”

A touch of controversy these days if you dare to accuse anyone of “bota hunting” but if wines like this are the result you won’t find me questioning the process. In fact this wine is a great example of how the “bota hunters” do more than repackage the wine of others.

This is from the same solera that produces Lustau’s marvellous Pata de Gallina oloroso by almacenista Juan Garcia Jarana but while that wine is rich and juicy, fat on the palate (and one of the best value wines around) this has that potent flavour in a much finer, more elegant profile.

In fact it is an extraordinary wine. It was the wine that really made me sit up and take notice of the wines of Jerez back in the day and although it has changed over time (it was bottled back in February 2012) it is still quite superb.

While it used to be a vibrant red it is increasingly fading to amber brown. The nose is still a touch sweet with orange and ginger, but I feel has a little bit more bitter wood than I remember. On the palate it starts sharp and zingy, then aromatic and rich in flavour – again whereas I remember caramel this has a touch of bitter mahogany, black chocolate, and tobacco. And it lasts forever – lovely finish.

Beautiful wine. Congratulations to all concerned!

Palo Cortado Antique in Zalamero Taberna

I have had my moments with mussels, after years of living in Brussels I have become accustomed to bivalves of a certain level. These, red curry notwithstanding, were at that level and this palo cortado was a perfect match.

The Antique range from Fernando de Castilla are some really nice wines. Not VORS but with enough concentration and barrel in them to give them heft without heaviness. My personal favourite is the oloroso, which is just that touch juicier than this palo cortado, but this is a great wine for any kind of pairing, and perfect for a pairing like this with a bit of spice in it. The photo isn’t great but you can see it is a dark amber in color – nice and clear -, a nutty aroma with just a hint of volatile and a nice, clean palate. Sharp, acidic entry, rich nutty flavours, a turn to bitter heat and then a sizzly finish.

Quality wine and top pairing.

Palo Cortado Lagar Blanco

The other place in full effect. This was one of the wines that Borja at Bache gave us the other day during yet another enjoyable lunch. I don’t know much about it and didn’t have much time to study (what with all the eating and socializing that was going on) but it was very nice stuff.

Palo cortado is not a category that was historically associated with Montilla Moriles although you see more and more of them since the recent resurgence of the category. I do not know the legal definition up there (“is there anything he does know?”, you might well ask) but judging by the bottle and what it says here  it seems to be along the same lines as in Jerez: a wine that has the nose of an amontillado and the body of an oloroso. Nowadays wines with those characteristics can be achieved in various ways: a bit of biological here, a bit of free run juice there, or even by pure selection. Judging by the nose and the information provided I guess that this one falls into the latter two categories.

However it was made or selected it is a very nice wine. I am always on the lookout for heaviness when PX is involved but this one is very fine, nice and sharp at both ends with acidity and salinity and nutty and a little bit woody in the middle (and the finish). Not overdone at all and a nice age – I would have guessed 20 years or so and I would have been right.

Palo Cortado Península

This is one of a pair of wines given to me by a grateful (and far too generous) client, together with its amontillado twin, the Escuadrilla. I say twin because the pair of them are twelve years old: whereas the Escuadrilla had four years under flor and eight of oxidative ageing, this had a brief year under flor and eleven of oxidative ageing.

The fichas on the Lustau website have some very interesting technical data, showing as you would expect that this palo cortado has slightly more alcohol and slightly more volatile acidity than the amontillado. Those differences may seem slight but they are noticeable, with the palo cortado having noticeably more nip and sting to it.

Otherwise the family resemblance is clear: the same hazelnut flavours. The differences are as distinctive – a touch more vanilla on the nose, a little bit more blackcurrant bitterness on the palate and a dryer finish with more tobacco flavour.