La Casa del Jerez 


Was literally driving past Jerez today and thought I would swing by this little institution of a store – La Casa del Jerez.

It is small and perfectly formed – dedicated exclusively to sherries and brandies with a small space for catas and even a row of botas to drink from (no photo – just forgot, sorry). That wine is from Bodegas Faustino Gonzalez, of Cruz Vieja fame and owned by the same family, but there certainly doesn’t seem to be any conflict of interest – just about every bodega you could name was represented on the shelves and I picked up three interesting bottles in a flying visit. 

I would strongly recommend a visit to anyone visiting Jerez itself – can often be surprisingly tricky to pick up wines there curiously – and am delighted to update my list of stores accordingly. 

Vibaveflor

Had a chance to try something a bit different last week in Reserva y Cata  – a viura from Rioja that had had some time under “flor” (not clear whether we are talking about the genuine saccharomyces though – when I first tasted it I thought it was closer to a rancio).

Really interesting – in particular tasting it next to a viura with no biological ageing from the same producer. There was a clear difference in profile and volume. (The caramel and vanilla of the straight viura came across as candy floss or a spongecake in the Vibaveflor.) There was also a big difference in appearance – while the straight viura was clean and golden this was slightly cloudy like a cider and had a touch of orange. 

In sherry terms it lacked muscle and minerals, but very nice nonetheless. In general it is curious the way that biologically aged wines appear to be popping up around Spain – none that I have tried have seemed a serious threat to the boys down in Jerez and Sanlucar but it is great to be able to observe the effect of biological ageing on different kinds of wines. 

As you can see, this is very much an experimental wine and I do not think it is commercially available. I didn’t even make a note of the maker’s name – let’s hope I get another chance some day. 

Post script – More recently I had a 2011 Montbourgeau that seemed a better, and fairer, comparison – would be good to try the Vibaveflor side by side with one (if I ever see it again).

 

 

Reserva y Cata

About time I posted something on one of my favourite spots for picking up interesting wines in Madrid. Reserva y Cata has a cracking range of sherries, with old classics and hard to get modern classics. In fact, this was the only place I know of in Madrid that was selling the Manzanilla de Añada back in the day.

I won’t be able to remember all the wines I have had from here but they have all the Tradicion wines (including different sacas – at the moment three sacas of the fino, and only because I too the last 2014 – but really all you need is the majestic May 2015), they have the wines of Finca Matalian (Arroyuelo, Arroyuelo en Rama, Fossi, and Viña Matalian 2013 and 2015) and indeed this was the first place I found the Viña Matalian. They have had the Maruja, they had the Maruja Manzanilla Pasada (I took the last one) and they also had the Cream. A good source for Fernando de Castilla Antique wines, they had the Williams Vintage Fino, the Guita en rama, they have all the Gran Barquero wines, the Electrico en Rama, in fact I could go on all night (but won’t).

In fact to be honest I may be writing this at the wrong time – they generally have an even better collection  and are expecting some new arrivals shortly, but as is often the case the small production indy sherries you can pick up here run out quickly – only yesterday some joker bought the last 2014 Tradicion and the last Maruja Manzanilla Pasada (he looks guiltily at his wine cabinet).

So get down there – and if you don’t believe me read this piece by proper journalist Spanishwinelover.

Cuatrogatos Wine Club

Fede

“Cuatrogatos”, or “four cats”, comes from a joyous Spanish expression meaning “very few people”. I am pretty sure the name was chosen in reference to the very few people that drink the adventurous, indy wines that the club is focussed on but it is also true that there are very few guys around like Federico Ferrer, the fantastic bloke behind the Cuatrogatos Wine Club (for some reason pictured above with something foamy).

My first contact with the Cuatrogatos was last September when looking for one of the most exciting wines of the last year: the Callejuela Manzanilla de Añada. I remember seeing a picture of this revolutionary liquid on twitter and tweeting to find out where I could get it. Within seconds I was directed to the Cuatrogatos – making that my most important tweet of the year by a distance.

Because that amazing wine was the first of many gems I have discovered via the club – other highlights include the El Cerro oloroso, an old vine PX from Callejuela, the spectacular Fino by Alexander Jules (and the Manzanilla which isn’t too shabby either), the Maruja Manzanilla Pasada, the Encrucijado and the Pandorga. And all that was before I managed to persuade the Cuatrogatos to send me the full catalogue and discovered more than a distributor of exciting sherries. The catalogue reads, in fact, like an A-Z of up and coming winemakers in Spain, with names like Zarate, Albamar, Coto de Gomariz, Zorzal, Tentenublo, Barco del Corneta, Charlotte Allen, Silice, Losada, Mengoba, Quinta Milu, Altos de San Esteban, and Bernabé Navarro alongside Alexander Jules, Juan Piñero, Primitivo Collantes, Callejuela and Cota 45.

It is a fantastic selection of stuff that is both interesting in itself and hard to get elsewhere, and a testament to the passion of the guy behind it all. I will never forget meeting Federico earlier this month – not only did he introduce me to one of the most exciting winemaking talents around and help organize an inspirational visit to the vineyards of Jerez and Sanlucar, he brought more than his share of good humour to the party – even as we were pillageing his 100 year old birthday-present amontillado (no greater love hath any wine lover, etc.).

The great Marx (G) was famed for not caring to be member of any club that would have him as a member, but even old Groucho would have approved of the Cuatrogatos. As the web says: no membership card is necessary, only the desire to have fun.

Carnet

Tesco, Hampton, Cambs


Quite a strange experience today hunting out sherry here in a big UK supermarket – and an interesting comparison with a Spanish supermarket on the Brit-friendly Costa del Sol.

First, unlike in Spain, in this UK supermarket the sherry was nowhere near the wine section: wine was aisle 16, beer and cider aisle 15 and sherry on the end of aisle 14, after the liqueurs, spirits and port. I find that a bit bizarre I must admit.  

Second, the range of sherries is of course different – both in terms of brands and styles. Brandwise, of the sherries we would get in Spain there are only four – Tio Pepe, Solear, La Gitana and Canasta (and maybe Croft Original and Harveys Bristol Cream, but you wouldn’t call them Spanish brands even if Croft is owned by GB). More importantly, there is a big contrast in terms of styles: including the Spanish interlopers I count three finos and three manzanillas, two amontillados (including the Croft Particular) and one oloroso; compared to 7 creams, 4 medium drys, and 4 pale creams (and four ginger wines). Nine dry sherries against 15 sweet (and I am not sure about Croft Particular – might be 8:16). By comparison with Supersol, the numbers would have been 7 fino, 4 manzanilla, one oloroso, one cream, and three px. Overall 2 sweet blends in Spain (not counting the monovarietal px) against 15 or 16 in the UK. 

Third, although at first it was heartening to see a biggish selection, just as in Supersol, a closer look left me a bit less optimistic. Not a lot of high quality wine here and the price range is depressingly similar. Tio Pepe is almost the most expensive wine in both places. Now Tio Pepe is great, but it is cheap – there were Ports on the shelf next door that were 3, 4 or 5x as expensive as the costliest of the sherries. 

Must admit to being a little disappointed – even if we are talking supermarkets. It seems to me that sherry has a lot of ground to make up (in both countries). 

Supersol, Elviria (Malaga)

  
I have been visiting Elviria, on the Costa about 10km shy of Marbella (coming from Malaga), a good 13 years now to visit my in laws. The beach is good, the lifestyle relaxed, there are plenty of good golf courses around but generally I struggle to find anything interesting to drink. (In fact, somewhat ironically, this blog was actually born down here at Easter.) Let’s be fair – I had a choice of Tio Pepe, La Guita, La Gitana and Solear, so I should not overdo the complaint, but it wasn’t the offering a thirsty traveller dreams about. 

So imagine my joy at witnessing this vastly improved sherry offering at the local Supersol just now (in fact I couldn’t fit the top shelf in the shot, so it is even better than it looks). The sherries are of course sharing the shelf with the malaga wines, and ok, we are not looking at the top end of the range, but there is nonetheless a cracking choice of finos and manzanillas here. In the end I picked up a bottle of the Las Medallas that I tried recently in Taberna Palo Cortado, but I am looking forward to having a good go at these in general. In any event,  it must be great news to see a bigger selection of these great wines on the shelf. And just look at the prices! 

Cata de Palo Cortados en Enoteca Barolo

A good friend made it possible for me to attend this and it was a cracking event.

The title – “Palo Cortado – the most mysterious sherry wine” – suggested a bit of blarney but in the end nothing to worry about – maybe a bit of blarney but overall a good, punchy and knowledgeable introduction with some interesting nuggets and some key background facts on each wine – a well prepared and well conducted tasting.

We started with Obispo Gascon – by Barbadillo in Sanlucar (on the left below). The colour is an orange amber/chestnut – absolutely crystal clear. It wasn’t super expressive in the nose – salty with a bit of sweet pastry. On tasting the salinity is nicely integrated and it is maybe not creamy but a little oily, with flavours of caramel to burnt caramel – and very long. Nice start. (16/20)

Next up was the Tradicion – seen here between the Obispo and the Gutierrez Colosia Viejisimo. Similar in shade  to the Obispo Gascon although not as crystal clear – a suggestion of cloud. More nutty on the nose – more almond pastry/bakewell tart rather than the honey pastry of the Obispo and not the same noticeable salinity (this lad is from Jerez). Noticeable acidity in the mouth and it is full of darker caramel flavours – maybe a little bitter/burnt in the aftertaste. Always notice the structure of this wine and it has a nice, savoury, nuttiness to it. (17/20)

The Gutierrez Colosia is called “very old” and it looks it. It was at least a shade darker than the other two – but crystal clear – and again a little bit of sea air on the nose (this fella is from Puerto de Santa Maria). Also a bit of yeast on the nose – a more vegetable sensation. Big and rich on the tongue and it has that old fruity christmas cake taste to it, caramel flavours, baked orange, a suggestion of nuts. Really full in body and maybe a touch more width/breadth than the other two. Lovely wine. (18/20)

Next up – Roberto Amillo Espiritus de Jerez. In colour it is a little browner and my glass – in fact the bottle – was a little cloudy. A bit less expressive on tje nose. On the tongue it not as rich and on the palate it is acidic, spicey and sharp with flavours of walnut tending to walnut skin. For me not as rich and structured as the Tradicion or the Viejisimo – a racy, spicey glass though. (15/20)

The fifth wine (middle of this picture) is the Equipo Navazos 48. Deep bright red in colour – light ruby and a really distinctive nose – a bit of the diesel, varnishy garage forecourt smell, with bitter orange and minerals and even lactic notes (cheese rinds). I can understand it not being everyone’s cup of tea on the nose but in the mouth it is fabulously rich, with a whole new range of flavours. You get dark chocolate and tobacco, the jammy marmalade, and of course the nutty toffee. I found it a really expressive, rich wine and a little extra dimension on the palate compared to the others. (18/20)

Finally, on to the Cardenal by Valdespino, an old school palo cortado made from wines that stepped off the “true path” of the Fino Inocente (and therefore all from the Macharnudo Alto pago). In colour it is another dark one – chestnut brown. Then a salty, iodine in the nose, and burnt caramel for me (but others reckon yeast). In the mouth it is enormous – treacly, maybe even too concentrated. The range of flavours is not quite as wide as the 48 – absolutely massive and relatively balanced even if possibly not as multifaceted as the Navazos wine. A magnificent wine no doubt. (18/20)

Overall favourite: the Equipo Navazos 48 – just for the range of aromas, flavours and notes – but this was a superb range of palo cortados and an excellent event.

La Guita 2009, 2011, 2014

2014 on the left, 2009 on the right – just look at the colours. It is immediate on the nose, and on the palate too.

We started with the 2014 and it was light, fresh, dry, fruity, saline and refreshing – a lovely drop (15/20). Next stop was the 2009 and the oxidation was really interesting. The fruitiness had become nuttier – it had maybe lost a little of its freshness while gaining a bit of power (16/20). Last, the 2011, which unsurprisingly had gained some complexity while maintaining more of the fruit and lightness of the 2014 (16/20).

Not sure which is “better” but they really are different wines and it was an excellent experiment (made possible, it must be said, by the guys at Coalla Gourmet who somehow got their hands on the 2009 and 2011). My own favourite was the 2011 – maybe I will have to keep some en ramas after all.

Enoteca Barolo

Credit where it is due – these guys were the first to get me really interested in sherry with an inspired recommendation (an Equipo Navazos Palo Cortado) and it was also the scene of one of the best wine tastings I have ever attended – a magnificent tasting with Juanma Martin Hidalgo from Emilio Hidalgo (the best was at the bodega itself). It is one of the best places in Madrid to browse for sherries and they have some interesting stuff as you can see in this photo. 

 

Coalla Gourmet

The Ramones have been on my mind this week. Not the band – what little I know about them doesn’t give me reason to believe they were big sherry lovers, but rather two chaps called Ramon that I met this week.

The first was Ramon Coalla, of Coalla Gourmet, a fantastic delicatessen in the heart of old Gijon. A lovely spot (as the picture below shows) and a true gent who invited a thirsty traveller to a glass of Marc Hebrart blanc de blancs champagne. 

 

 

He has a fantastic selection of wines of every stripe, but in particular some top notch sherries – the limits of my photographic skill do not do it justice.

 
The second Ramon boasted an even bigger range of sherries in an even more remote location: an alleged 200 varieties at his sherry bar Viña y Mar (some problems with the web but this is the one he gave me so bear with it), which can be found in Vejer de la Frontera – probably as far from Gijon as you can get in Spain (while keeping your feet dry). I met him in Madrid and was immediately impressed by his ability to combine wine drinking and roll-up assembly – a pilgrimage is clearly called for.