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 …

La Bota de Gin 81 – “Bota NO”

A while go there was speculation that sherry might be the “new gin and tonic” on the back of slightly optimistic hopes that people would start ordering bottles of fino instead of the currently fashionable goldfish bowls full of gin, tonic, and assorted fruits, nuts, berries, seeds, gumdrops etc. The region would certainly have taken the sales figures and let’s be honest, can there be an easier way to make money in the drinks business? Of course it proved to be hype: summer came and the goldfish bowls continued to dominate the tabletops.

If you can’t beat them you might as well join them, a number of the big groups already have gins in their portfolios and more recently we are even starting to see high end efforts where in addition to selling the gins the boys from Jerez are also leaving their mark. Just a few weeks ago I was supping on a martini made of fino sherry and Salcombe “Finisterre” gin aged in fino barrels by Bodegas Tradición, and now this, by Equipo Navazos.

According to their typically excellent ficha it is a London dry gin that has spent no less than four years in a fino cask. I am no expert on gins by any means but this certainly has an air of fino about it: nice almonds and sea breeze on the nose. On the palate I am not going to pretend I can pick much out, but once mixed with a tonic you again get the benefit of those aromatics: very pleasant stuff (if you like that sort of thing).

It is a logical step if you think about it: it is getting hard to find a wine region where they aren’t ageing the wine in an old sherry bota (including in Jerez itself of course), they have been ageing whiskies and brandies this way for years and recently you have started to see rums and the like. Also, while the flavours and aromas of gin and sherries may appear to be polar opposites, they are both dry and have that bite of saline bitterness. Apparently Equipo Navazos filled a few other casks too – including casks used to house all manner of sherries and brandies – so this may only be the first of a number of “numbers” dedicated to the ruin.

Great stuff and made for a nice gin and tonic at the end of a brilliant dinner in A’Barra. Even so, on balance I probably still prefer the bota’s original contents …

 

Salcombe Gin “Finisterre”

If you are going to have lunch with some top finos you need something really dry as an aperitif and here you go. A dry martini made up of a gin made by Salcombe in Devon and aged in a former fino bota shipped over by Bodegas Tradicion and a decent splash of fino from the same chaps.

When it comes to dry martinis I have very classic tastes but this fragrant, woody and saline version is very suppable indeed. Great stuff.