Dulce de Añada 2014

The last wine from a spectacular lunch with Bodegas Alvear a couple of weeks ago was this fantastic sweet wine. 

It is a dulce de añada, a sweet wine made from pedro ximenez from the 2014 vintage. Grapes that have spent 7-14 days on the pasera, been pressed through capazos and then aged in tinajas. 

It is really top class. A rich hazelnut in colour, clear as a bell and extremely appetising, it has a nose that in addition to sultana fruit has smokey aromas and even cigarrette tobacco.

On the palate at first it seems all fruit with beautiful clarity and freshness – the harvest conserved in alcohol as they say. But then you notice the nice acidity and the sharp mineral freshness to it. Then at the finish it is salty and white pepper spicey. Makes it light and fresh over all – you would never guess that this was 16% or had 400 grammes of sugar per liter. 

A fantastic end to a fantastic lunch. One of the best sweet wines I have ever tried. 

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 …)

Amontillado Solera Fundacional 

To my mind this was the clear star of my recent lunch with Bodegas Alvear and one of the finest amontillados I have come across to date. 

I agree with the protagonists of Edgar Allan Poe’s great story. For me you cannot beat the amontillado style for flavourful elegance – manzanilla pasadas and older finos can be as elegant and complex but when the amontillado is good it can be exceptional. Experts tell me that back in the day the wines considered top of the pops were the amontillados and I believe them. And from what I have seen there is no doubt how they get their name: the amontillados from Montilla Moriles are as good as any you will find. (The Jerez propaganda about the style being named for the “ruined” wine that arrived by donkey from Montilla can be archived in the (overflowing) blarney file.) 

This Amontillado Solera Fundacion is one of the very best. It is taken, as its name maybe gives away, from the foundational solera and must be of a ripe old age, but wears its years with incredible grace. I may have been softened up a bit by the four top wines that preceeded it, but my notes are extremely, er, enthusiastic. 

It is very easy on the eye, crystal clear and a rich, hazelnut/amber in tone, and has just an outstanding nose. Concentrated, rich, compact nose with a lot of sides to it, like one of those 20 sided dice mathematicians love, with everything from caramel through nuts and leather to just the slightest hint of the darkest chocolate. (With the glass empty it was all sweet pine sawdust.)

On the palate it is the archetypal best of both worlds – elegant, silky and fine in profile but rich in flavour and expression. A sharp acid start, a controlled explosion in the middle involving a spectrum of flavours from nuts and caramel through cigar box and leather to dark chocolate and even coffee, then a smooth salinefinish with no astringency. 

Really fantastic. A touch of magic to this wine. 

Criadera /A

Am going with the short version of the name here. This was wine number four of an outstanding lunch with Bodegas Alvear last week and had a tough gig, wedged as it was between an outstanding fino (the Fino Capataz Solera de la Familia) and a quite sensational amontillado (Amontillado Solera Fundacional). 

Said to have an average age of around 13/14 years (compared to 10/12 for the fino) this is the “fino que va para amontillado” – the biological wine headed for the amontillado solera. It has had more oxidation than the fino – the flor starting to disappear for seasons from around eight years onwards – but hasn’t really had the full roast of oxidation of an amontillado. 

It is only slightly richer in colour than the fino, a lovely rich amber. On the nose it is less aromatic – you really notice the reduced exposure to flor – and although there is a touch more hazelnut in the nose there is less of the sweet wet hay aroma, making it seems less sweet overall. 

On the palate it is a similar story, a tighter, slightly less expressive wine compared to the fino, with a touch more intensity and a sharper profile. Punchy, acidic start and a fresh finish gives it a nice elegant profile. (Curiously once the glass is empty the aromas are much more lively – sweetness and haybales.)

Another very fine wine, elegance and intensity. 

Fino CB 

The second wine from my epic lunch with Alvear last week was the Fino CB, a six year old fino, once again from 100% pedro ximenez, and from wine that did not require fortification. Am realizing that it is a house that venerates its former capatazes and here is another example: it is apparently named after Capataz Villanueva (in the, erm, old Spanish, Billanueva). 

As you can just about see it was a pale straw colour with just a hint of green. A punchy nose with a touch of yeasty bread about it. Was interesting to try it after the Marques de la Sierra, because whereas that wine was leafy and had notes of fennel and anise this one takes it up a notch and has that liquorice root flavour I associate with pedro ximenez finos. Has a slightly richer texture to it. If the Marques was silky this has a bit more velvety, oily body – and a warm, savoury palate and a nicely integrated salinity that is more sapid than saline. 

An underrated and enjoyable fino with its own character. Good old Captain Villanueva! 

Marques de la Sierra 

Not the first dry white pedro ximenez wine I have had but there have not been many. This was the first wine of a quite fantastic lunch with Javier Noval of Alvear and in the heat of Madrid was a top start.

I am convinced that, just like Jerez and its creams and mediums, the dry wines of Montilla Moriles are victims of the phenomenal success of their sweet pedro ximenez. In fact even more so, because the very name of the grape has become synonymous with the sweet wine. But so much more is possible with pedro ximenez and it strikes me that a straight dry table wine should be an important part of any bodega’s armoury.  Alvear are in fact leading the charge, and with the help of Alfonso Torrente of Envinate will soon be releasing some parcel specific wines under the name “Tres Miradas” – a cordobes homage to the Pitijopos. 

This is not one of those wines, but rather the reboot of a classic label and it is a fesh and enjoyable wine. Dry but has a citrus, floral sweetness of flavour and some nice minerals and green leaves and – a great shout by Javier – some fennel flavours. 

Very nice thirst quenching stuff – and as far from the popular image of a pedro ximenez as you can get. 

Fino Capataz Solera de la Casa 

Although slightly out of order, after yesterday’s terrific lunch in Lua and after looking back at the archive this morning I couldn’t resist writing up my note of this top, top wine. (Not that the notes were much good. Yesterday’s lunch was one of those occasions when the conversation flowed even more emphatically than the wines, and between gulps and mouthfuls we touched on everything from geography, climate, soil types and harvest to branding and positioning, often in the same sentence. Frankly, I had better things to do than take notes.)

So it was confirmed that this is the unshaven version of the Fino Capataz of back in the day – by which I mean it is unfiltered and unclarified (although I remember the original as being pretty dark in hue in any event), and with a total of around 10-12 years of biological ageing.

On the nose this bottle has clear oxidative notes – from whence the nutty nose that I have always associated this wine I suppose – in fact almost fruity but with haybales too, like old apples packed in straw. Aftter the sweet and inviting nose it it impressively dry and punchy on the palate, a really concentrated sapidity and intense flavours, which start solid, then give way to nuts and then minerals, with a bit of a saline sting to the tail.

A really top fino. In fact a top wine in general.