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.

Palo Cortado Sacristia AB – Saca Única

Fantastic lunch yesterday at the wonderful Taberna Verdejo started with a nice surprise and a cheeky snifter after bumping into none other than Antonio Barbadillo and Dolores Sanchez at the bar. And snifters don’t come any cheekier than this: the long awaited Palo Cortado.

Antonio was cagey about its origins and would only tell me that it was extremely old – a hundred years were mentioned. And all I can tell you from my brief inspection is that it is another collector’s item. Rich and deep in colour and woody, tobacco aromas and a full, nicely integrated palate with mouth-watering salinity and walnut and tobacco flavours, turning sweet and then black coffee bitter.

Not many of these little bottles available and well worth looking out for – particularly if you can ambush the man himself with the bottle open.

Soleras cincuentanarias (y una centenaria) de Perez Barquero

Fantastic cata last night at the Union Española de Catadores as José Ruz of Perez Barquero and Paco del Castillo lead us through the wines of this great Montilla bodega. 

As you can see, there were some real heavyweight wines to be tasted, and I for one learned a few interesting things. We started with Fresquito, a sparky vino de tinaja, then moved smoothly through the gears with the Fino en Rama Gran Barquero (Spring 2017), the Amontillado Gran Barquero, an Amontillado Gran Barquero bottled in 1996, the full range of Solera Cincuentenario wines – the Amontillado, the Palo Cortado, the Oloroso, and the Pedro Ximenez – and before that last one the Oloroso Solera Fundacional (Lot B). 

I am a huge fan of the Amontillado Gran Barquero – an absolutely world class wine – and it would take some persuading for me to choose any of the others over it last night. There was a lot of concentration and a lot of intensity on show, and some rare and expensive wines (sacas of 200 and 500 bottles), which really had very distinct profiles. 

In fact, it was very interesting and quite disarming to hear that the Cincuentenario Palo Cortado – one of the stars of the night – was the result of barrel selection rather than any intentional process. Motivated by the current high fashion status of palo cortados the guys at Perez Barquero had selected from amongst their older olorosoa the wines they felt had that kind of profile – without really knowing why they did. It would not have been due to selection or mostos, because they were all olorosos, but it could have been some biological action in the tinaja before the wines entered the solera. (Perhaps there is some mystery after all.) In any event, and whatever the cause, there was no doubting the difference in character between this and the oloroso. 

It wasn’t the only star either. The Oloroso Solera Fundacional was an absolute beast – brandy, salinity, burnt Christmas cake and a finish like the after dinner cigar (and nearly as long). One of those wines that you consume with extreme care. 

I could and will write a note on all the wines because the standard was exceptionally high across the board, but the one I could drink gallons of is the current Amontillado Gran Barquero. It is the standout in terms of elegance, profile and all round flawlessness – a marvellous wine that only gained in comparison to the bigger beasts. 

And a word of thanks and congratulations to José and Perez Barquero, the UEC and Paco del Castillo for a fantastic tasting – really top class. 

Another tale of two sacas 

Having opened one of my slowly dwindling stash of La Bota 34 it suddenly occurred to me that I had an opportunity to try two like minded wines together – the Bota de Palo Cortado Nº34 and the Bota de Palo Cortado Nº72, both of which were drawn from the six botas selected from the Oloroso Pata de Gallina Juan Garcia Jarana but some five years apart. (I like to think it is the sort of altruistic self sacrifice for which posterity will remember me: bravely and without heed for the consequences drinking two top class sherries at a time.)

The first difference is obvious even to the relatively untrained eye: the bottle of the 72 seems to have shrunk in the wash. (To be fair, though, it is just as well since the price increase more than compensates.) The newer label is also a bit more punchy – very smart.

Both wines are really terrific. Of course they had a very similar profile, aromas and flavours, and both are a testament to superb wine making, as elegant as they are sensational, but here what really interested me were the slight differences between them. As you can see above, there was really no difference in colour (ok the photo isn’t great in that regard) and despite sniffing until my eyes crossed I don’t think I could tell them apart on the nose. On the palate, however, there is a tangible additional potency to the new release – a bit more zest and intensity, a bit more solid. (It does cross my mind that the packaging – smaller bottle, solid color label – almost prepares you for more concentration, but even so I am convinced it is there.)

Really interesting to see what five years in the cask can do to a wine – and to get a feel for the effect of that additional concentration. In this case I reckon I just about prefer the Number 34 – maybe it is sentimental on my part, but it just seems to have an elegance to it that its younger, slightly brasher sibling doesn’t.


La Bota de Palo Cortado 34 

One of my very favourite wines. In part for sentimental reasons – I can still remember the day I came across it for the first time and had my eyes opened for me. But also because objectively it is right up there in terms of sensations but still balanced, silky fine and elegant. 

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the way the term palo cortado is used these days, this for me will always be the definitive modern version. A superb wine. 

Palo Cortado Abuelo Diego 

I could be accused of dragging this out a little but here we go with wine number six of an outrageously good lunch with Bodegas Alvear. And again what a wine it is – an absolutely outstanding, very very old palo cortado. Named, if I am not mistaken, for “Grandad” Diego Alvear, founder of the bodega. 

And it really was outstanding. As you can see above it was crystal clear and a lovely reddish hazelnut in colour, almost ruby. The nose was also extraordinary, with nuts and hazelnuts and even figgy, Christmas cake like aromas. 

And then the palate was everything you had been lead to expect. As full of flavours as the nose and as bright and clean as its aspect. Nuts and cake, and specifically the sweet, burnt raisins of Christmas cake. But above all it had none of the defects that some of the really old wines can bring: the eye watering acid, astringency or wood of excessive concentration. Hard to argue with the classification of this as a palo cortado. It had a beautifully defined structure to it (my notes are rather more prosaic – I wrote it was “chunkier” than the amontillado-) but elegant for all that.

Another exceptional wine, out of the very top drawer. It seems almost sacriligious to have tried so many together (it is hard work etc …)

Palo Cortado Privilegio 1860

I was given this yesterday at La Matilde blind (I did say that your man was a gent) and although I never expected quite this I knew where it came from immediately – if I had been given time I would have guessed it was El Tresillo 1874. (I really ought to have known, since I have had this not once but twice before (he said name showing off unobtrusively).)

As you can see a lot of solids in the glass but it was a beautiful wine in every other respect. The colour and sheen, the sweet spicey nose, and the perfect profile of smooth acid, full body and long finish without any jarring astringency. Such a lot of silk on the palate and tasty silk too – notes of ginger, chocolate and spices. The sort of wine that you can enjoy for a long time – it is eternal on the palate and just keeps unwinding flavours on you.

Real class and a privilege indeed.

Palo Cortado Marqués de Rodil 

A beautiful palo cortado this from Emilio Hidalgo – balanced and super-elegant, almost a palo cortado fino.  Clear as a bell and between a very dark gold and a light amber, has a lovely clean, piercing nose with fine sawdust and hazelnut. Dry, saline and sharp on the palate, again with roasted hazelnut.

Just a delicious wine, that is easier to drink than it is to find. There are a lot of bodegas that can produce as much palo cortado as they need, but for whatever reason, Emilio Hidalgo can only make as much as there is – the word the last time I spoke to them was that there was no more for now – and for the foreseeable.

I had this in Territorio Era, but if they don’t have a sherry there, it isn’t anywhere. And I am really glad I had a chance to have a look at it again. The first time I tried this wine, the bottle I had was not right – probably because it had been in the bottle a long long time, and just could not shake off the reduction. Since then I had a glass that was right in Taberna Verdejo, that just sang with dark chocolate, and I also had a glass at the Salon de los Vinos Generosos, but I never had a chance to think about it on either occasion (yes, as incredible as it seems, some thought goes into these posts).

The other problem this wine has, of course, is the exceptional, superb quality of the amontillados from the same house. In fact the more I think about it, the more I wonder where this wine comes from. A fella has some investigating to do.