La Bota de Palo Cortado 92 – “Pata de Gallina”

Pata de Gallina III, with a vengeance

In the 1980s a young undertheflor would watch a program on the TV called “The Day the Universe Changed”. In it, the great James Burke tells the story of the advancement of human knowledge and the humans that advanced it. Nerdy as it may be, it was absolutely outstanding, a celebration of achievement and knowledge, and nearly 40 years on I still remember some of the episodes. (There were none involving wine, although brandy and barrels get a look in in a couple.)

In the story of the advancement of my wine knowledge there have been a few days when the universe changed. One was the day I tasted Episode I of the Pitijopos, one was when I was given a tour of Emilio Hidalgo by the great Juanma, another when I visited the pagos and vineyards of Jerez and Sanlucar with Ramiro Ibañez. Even single wines have done it. I will never forget my first bottle of la Barajuela Fino or of Toneles Moscatel. And one of those days was the day I tried the wines from Pata de Gallina the first time, in the guise of La Bota de Palo Cortado 34, by the great Equipo Navazos.

I went and found it in Enoteca Barolo after getting the tip from Victor de la Serna that I should look for “La Bota”. But when I took it home I really had no idea what to expect and it just blew my mind. I will never forget the moment. I sent an email to a mate of mine about it – I wish I could find that!

It wasn’t just shock value, it was a really outstanding wine, No 34. I loved it deeply and dearly, buying up every bottle I could in Spain and even reimporting a case from the UK (to the amusement of the sellers involved). I think I still have a bottle at the back of the minibar there. The ones I have had recently have faded a little, but back then it had a bit of everything, complexity in handfuls, and a balance and a lightness that very few wines share. Eight years later and probably 800 different sherry wines (and similar) later it is still right up there.

And this, its most recent reincarnation, is a lovely reminder of it. It is not the same wine – I am convinced that the more recent releases have become sharper, finer, with less fullness of bone and more definition, and I frankly miss that puppy fat. But this is still one of the very best examples of what this style of finer oloroso is supposed to be about. Flavourful but sharp – cheeky and complex. And when I say sharp I mean rapier sharp, without renouncing the full palate and a bundle of flavours and sensations that take minutes to unpack as you hold it on the tongue, warming your gums and the inside of the cheeks with its acid and salinity. Burnt wood, burnt caramel, sweetness, bitterness, citrus, sawdust – but without being overbearing in any direction really.

A lovely, balanced wine yet again, and I always wonder if the 34 was better or if I was worse, or am I worse now? I suppose in end it doesn’t matter. But I hope this wine will change a few universes as its predecessor did mine.

La Bota de Palo Cortado 86 – Bota NO

Yo ho ho and a palo cortado. This is a lovely elegant wine selected by the enterprising gents at Equipo Navazos from Perez Barquero in Montilla Moriles that is so drinkable this little bottle seems to vanish like the morning dew – albeit at night time, because it would be unseemly even for me to be sucking down palo cortado at breakfast time.

Palo cortado is not a traditional designation in Montilla Moriles – but Equipo Navazos have never been afraid to reclassify and neither have the best bodegas. They have chosen the right wine here – this is lighter and finer than an oloroso, while still juicy and without enough biology to make it an amontillado.

It is evident in the colour, and on the nose it is light and a bit of brandy. And then on the palate the juice is there – it has juice in every molecule, one of the most pleasurable palo cortados I have tried in terms of mouthfeel. Velvety is a word I don’t use enough in fact.

And it may not be an eye watering bottle of potent concentration but it has all the features of a top palo cortado – in nice proportions too. Fresh, acid, sweet, nutty, savoury, barrely – then salty sweet and three times as long as the average post on here. Then at the end has a nice smokiness on the aftertaste.

Really top class as long as it lasts …

Taberna Palo Cortado

Taberna Palo Cortado is an unreal place where unlikely, even impossible things are within reach. Took some colleagues there for dinner and, given free rein to show off the best of el Marco and beyond, it turned into one of those memorable dinners.

We started with champagne – not pictured – and maybe it is less well known what a nice little selection of champers is available here. This bottle was just for refreshing between courses but over the years I have had some serious and high quality bubbles. But it wasn’t long before we got stuck into the superb Andalucian wines for which Palo Cortado is famous.

We kicked off with the De la Riva Fino from Balbaina Alta – with that deep colour, deep haybale and hazelnut and fresh background – like a nut store floating on a mountain stream.

But, as I said, I was given free rein, and next up was la Barajuela Fino – 2016 – and it was the star of the night. What an awesome wine – the fruit and top register, the depth and compactness. Everyone loved it – they always do.

Tragically, it soon ran out and so we tapped an altogether more classic fino – a Panesa from October 2019 – which never let’s you down. Just class, sculpted palomino, with all its nuts in butter.

I then picked a wine slightly out of order – Encrucijado 2015 – the proto palo cortado (by now I was fully warmed up and well into an explanation of the situation pre-phyloxera), should really have come earlier. Butterscotch loveliness but so much finer and more subtle in profile than the heavy old Jerez finos.

By now we are tucking into some world class escabeches – pularda and presa ibérica – and the chosen accompaniment was the VORS Amontillado by Bodegas Tradicion. What a class wine – fine, fragrant, flavourful and elegant. One of the very best in its category.

And then callos, garbanzos, and the absolutely epic oloroso De La Riva. Not a lot to say about this absolutely sensational oloroso, except that it struck me as wonderfully elegant for all its rusty nail and acidity.

By this stage of dinner the intellectual discourse has become fragmented and there is a sense that the battle is won. I cannot remember what we had for dessert, but we accompanied it with a regal old 1955 pedro ximenez from Toro Albala, before a glass of the top class Tradicion brandy to cap off the night.

A fantastic dinner with a fair bit of laughter and a range of wines you can only find in one place in Madrid. Many thanks to Paqui and the team and the less said about Thursday morning the better …

Lunch with Pepe Blandino and the wines of Bodegas Tradición

A traditional Spanish lunch

Bodegas Tradicion were founded in 1998 but the majority of the superb wines they sell are even older. So old, in fact, that their enologist once told me that they have the opposite problem to many wineries in Jerez. Rather than seeking to make their wines seem ever older more concentrated or extreme, the challenge is to how to keep the wines fresh and balanced.

I can confirm that they achieve exactly that after yet another fantastic lunch featuring their wines in Taberna Palo Cortado earlier this week. We tasted the full range – from a really cracking saca of the fino from last November (just delicious) to a little bottle of incredibly potent very old amontillado and everything in between, and they were just superb from start to finish. (We didn’t have time for the cream or a cigar, but the occasion merited just that kind of finish.)

And of course it was no ordinary lunch. A lot of the credit for the consistent excellence of the wines is due to a fantastic team in the cellar lead by Pepe Blandino, capataz de bodega and one of the top cellermen in the business, so it was both a pleasure and an honour to be able to share a table and taste the wines with the man himself.

Autumn 19 – a superb saca from a long line of top finos

First up was that fino, and it was a belter. A magnum of the autumn saca for 2019 it was singing, with a lovely, only slightly bitter almond nose and a nice rounded palate – zingy on the front and fresh on the finish. Really excellent fino and a high class start.

Palo cortado de añada, 1998

But it was only just the start. Next up was the 1998 palo cortado de añada. A really fine, quite serious bitter almond nose and then an even more pronounced roundedness to the palate. Surprisingly balanced wine – older añada wines can often be quite spirity but here the acidity was in a nice proportion. Very nice, elegant wine.

Vintage and vintager: Olorosos de Añada 1970 and 1975

Then we kicked on in style with two beautiful, contrasting olorosos. The 1970, fine, dry and sharp, with sawdust on the nose and a regal, rapier old palate, and the 1975, with its brighter chestnut colour, juicier, more spirity nose and slightly chunkier oloroso palate. Two absolute beauties and another demonstration of the difference a few years can make (even if we can’t be sure we are comparing the same vineyards).

The full monty, and the fuller monty

After the olorosos, the amontillados. First up, the superb amontillado VORS – one of the best in its class and a gem of a wine, with a zingy start, elegant flavourful profile and a long but fresh finish. Really lovely in its own right, but on this occasion slightly outmuscled by the small bottle to its right – the amontillado viejisimo.

The viejisimo is worthy of all the praise that has been heaped upon its slender shoulders. It is incredibly potent and concentrated while maintaining that balance and elegance that seems to be the bodega’s trademark. Flavours that go all the way from nutty caramel to burnt barrel, chocolate and tobacco and seem to elegantly fade over an eternity. Too good, too special a wine for the likes of me or a lunch like this – the kind of wine that deserves an afternoon to itself.

And after that we tucked into some callos and garbanzos with the quite excellent VORS oloroso and palo cortado, which in any other company might themselves have been the highlight. On this occasion there was a suggestion of after the Lord Mayor’s show – how can you follow an act like the viejisimo – and in fact after that awesome amontillado even the venerable wines on the table tasted a bit like mostos.

And there it came to an end, a fantastic lunch in great company and with a really unbelievable selection of wines. Many many thanks once again to all at Bodegas Tradicion and to our hosts at Taberna Palo Cortado for an inspiring day.

Marqués de Rodil in Huerto de Carabaña

I wrote a few days ago about my discovery of the Huerto de Carabaña bistro in Madrid. Not one of Madrid’s fanciest locales but very enjoyable, in particular the wine service, and in particular when the wine service includes a wine like this.

Marqués de Rodil is sold as a palo cortado, probably the most “commercial” category of sherry around and if you want to know where your wine comes from one of the trickiest. Some makers profess to being mystified as to how it is made (which tells you everything you need to know about the veracity of the marketing involved). In reality, you most often find it is an oloroso made from first press, fine mostos, or base wine that had a fair bit of biological ageing to begin with (something which is more common than you may think) or even just an oloroso that tasted especially “fine” in the casks.

Be that as it may, palo cortados can indeed be absolutely cracking wines. Full in flavour but light on their feet, they can combine the best of all worlds, with a little more elegance than an oloroso and a little more spark than an amontillado.

This one certainly does, it is a beautiful wine.  Clear as a bell in consistency and with a lovely copper/gold colour to it. This one was from a freshly opened bottle and had a lovely fragrant nose: nutty toffee steeped in brandy. Then on the palate it was sharp to start, a dry, serious palate of toffee, nuts and heat and a long, flavourful finish.

Really enjoyable wine and no wonder they are big sellers.

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!

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.