Manzanilla Arboledilla Levante y Poniente

In my opinion Barbadillo don’t get the credit they deserve and I am not sure why. They produce quality wines across the range, the Solear en rama series is a masterpiece, Pastora is a gem and lately they have been producing some really interesting stuff: the Beta bubbly and Nude tintilla to start with but even more so their spikey, spicey white wine Mirabras and the cracking Zerej boxed sets.

And now these Arboledilla wines – which have been around for a while but which I only came across in Reserva y Cata recently. It is yet another fascinating project and an attempt to demonstrate the power of the “other terroir” – the bodega. Specifically, these are two manzanillas of the same age and from the same solera (the Solear en rama if I am not mistaken) which is housed in a famous old bodega called Arboledilla. What is fascinating about them is that one of the bottles – “Levante” (sunrise) – is taken from a butt at the Eastern extreme of the bodega, while the other – “Poniente” (sunset) – is taken from the Western end. The idea is to demonstrate the effects of small climactic differences within the bodega itself.

They are both zingy, high intensity manzanillas and the differences are pretty subtle. Having said that, you can definitely detect a sharper, finer and more vertical style in the Poniente (which I am guessing is the cooler end of the bodega), and a slightly richer, wilder style in the Levante, which certainly has a hint more sweetness on the nose.

Really interesting stuff and definitely worth trying (if you think about it the worst that can happen is that you end up with two bottles of a classic manzanilla).


#4GWFEST2018 – Part 4 – the Callejuela single vineyard manzanillas

There is just so much to like about Bodegas la Callejuela. It is hard to think of a more likeable couple of blokes than these big, friendly guys, and although at first glance they don’t look like the kind of hipsters you would imagine revolutionizing the scene in Jerez I can tell you noone is doing more than they are.

To start with they have a quality bodega with a really solid range of wines, from the unfortified blanco de hornillos via the manzanilla fina, manzanilla madura, manzanilla en rama, amontillado, and oloroso all the way up to the outstanding older wines, Blanquito, La Casilla and the unbelievable El Cerro (and the PX). But they are a lot more than a bodega with a good range. They are the source of the wine which, with the help of a touch of Ramiro Ibañez magic, has become one of the truly iconic projects of the new Jerez – the Manzanilla de Añada 2012 -, they were involved in the Manifesto 119 and have since launched a range of unfortified vineyard specific white wines that for me are really pitch perfect. These guys really get it.

I have already had the chance to write about their latest releases – first at the bar of the late, beloved Territorio Era, and later at an excellent event organized by Montenegro vinos. They are single vineyard manzanillas, and in fact they are also single vintage wines – from 2014-, although they are not able to market them as such since not all “i”s were dotted and “t”s crossed, so at the time I first wrote about them I called them something different. Anyway here they are, resplendent at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest with their clear bottles (which I personally think is a quality touch), classy new labels and their official title of “manzanilla” (a reminder once again that although two of the three are from Jerez vineyards, what counts is where they are made into wine for these purposes).

And three quality wines too. The Callejuela (vineyard) is the most biological of the three with haybales on the nose, a touch more zing and a sharper profile. The Macharnudo is absolute class, with that aromatic and metallic mineral quality and an elegant, compact shape, while the Añina is even visibly more evolved, slightly oxidated, smooth but nevertheless fresh.

I find it very hard to choose between the three of them, I must admit. Perhaps I need to try them again!



#4GWFEST2018 – Part 3 – Corta y Raspa Vol II: the Mayeteria Sanluqueña strike again

It was at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest last year that I first met the Mayetería Sanluqueña and it was great to see the three lads again and try the new vintages.

The mayetería are mayetos (the small scale owner/growers who traditionally supply fruit to the cooperatives and other producers) that instead of selling all their production are making and selling their own wines under the brand “Corta y Raspa” (“Cut and Scrape” – there is more explanation in last year’s post).

It was great stuff last year and this year’s vintages, bedecked in red, confirm the potential. There are four wines, one from Atalaya (a vineyard and pago with coastal influence near Sanlúcar) by Jose Manuel “Manu” Harana Yuste, that is all freshness and minerals, Casabon (Pago Añina) by Rafael Rodriguez Jimenez – which had a much more appley nose and a similar freshness, Los 40 (Pago Añina), also by Rafael Rodriguez Jimenez, again with apples on the nose and a touch more structure and bitterness on the palate, and last but by no means least La Charanga (Pago de Maína) by Antonio Bernal Ortega, which if not the best was certainly the most expressive, with a sea-air and apple bakewell on the nose, a touch more zip to start with and peppery spiced almond in between.

Four little gems that are once again well worth hunting out.


Barajuela Finos again

The boys down in Jerez tease me for the amount of these Barajuela wines I am able to find but to be honest most of the time they seem to find me. I am honestly trying to hold back, and now only order it if I can share it with at least one newcomer to the breed. This was one of those occasions – a lunch at Bache with an old colleague-, and yet again I can confirm that the people love it.

What I love about these wines is how much fruit is there, how the fruit seems to reach down the savoury registers into salinity making a massive iceberg of a wine: as much or more below the surface as above it. On that score, the 2014 Fino has the same white blossom and white fruit nose and top end of the palate as the 2013 Fino (saca of February 2017), but more of the savoury, sapid mountain. It also has less time under flor – isn’t quite as sharp or mineral – but has an even bigger, fuller frame. On the other had, while it is not strongly biological on the nose the 2013 – particularly this second saca – has, if not quite haybales, then at least a little bit more dry herb in the nose and again that sharper profile.

More importantly, both are brilliant white wines for sherry lovers, sherries for wine lovers, just brilliant wines.

UBE Maina 2015

Like the other UBE wines this is a 100% unfortified Sanlúcar palomino by Ramiro Ibañez at Cota 45, but whereas the first two in the series were from Carrascal (de Sanlúcar) and Miraflores, this is from Finca la Charanga, a vineyard on Pago Maína that is a byword for producing the most corpulent, flavourful wines in Sanlúcar. The reason may be partly climate, since it is tucked inland a little way from the coast, but is probably more strongly linked to the soil involved, since the albariza here is of the barajuela variety (layered like the deck of cards for which it is named) and in addition the pago is said to be very high in marine fossils – the famous diatoms.

For whatever the reason, it is the most “horizontal” of the Sanlucar wines and I enjoyed this bottle immensely. On the nose this time I really noticed leaves, herbal tea in there but real green foliage as well, and dried apricots underneath. Then on the palate it has that savoury quality, like bouquet garni and coating the sides of the throat. It is a really meaty white wine, and although I once described this wine as broader than it is tall it is, in fact, really long. There is salinity there but it doesn’t cut through and there is fruit on top, again reminiscent of dried apricots.

Once again I feel obliged to point out that these palomino white wines need time in the bottle and you get the most out of them when you have time to enjoy them in relaxed fashion over the course of an evening. If I was organizing a cata I would treat them like a chablis – big decanter, on ice if you like but not too cold, and let them breathe for a goodish while before showtime. (Or maybe I am reading this all wrong. Maybe the truth is that they are great from the beginning but it takes my little mind time to adapt to them.)

Absolutely top drawer. .

Fino la Barajuela 2014

I was dining at Lakasa last Friday night (and it was absolutely heaving – great to see) with a group of friends from outside my wine nerd bubble but nevertheless was allowed to choose the wine, and even (somewhat controversially) given free reign. I picked two wines that to me seemed blindingly obvious – the Cuvee Saint Anne by the brilliant Alexandre Chartogne and the Fino la Barajuela.

What I didn’t know was that they had run out of the 2013 and had just received the 2014 (in fact I didn’t know the 2014 had even been released) and suddenly a wine I had been waiting for for 18 months (give or take half a glass in a tasting with the man) was on the table in front of me.

This is the second vintage of Willy Perez’s outrageously good fino, and although the 2013 will always have a special place in my heart you have to say that this is even better. It has the same nose or honey-suckle to honey with golden yellow apple underneath, the same bite and palate of fruit but even more mineral sapidity and throat filling savoury flavours. It is frankly epic and totally delicious.

And as always happens with these Barajuela wines, my friends from outside the sherry bubble loved it. It is a tremendous source of frustration to me that when I read the views about this wine from sherry experts and tastings there are grumblings about whether it is really a “fino” yadda yadda yadda. Surely what is important is that it is an outstanding white wine, and one that paired with almost everything we proceeded to eat.

Now begins a heartbreaking period in which I am allowed to purchase a shockingly small allocation of bottles and then feel obliged to hold back when I see it in stores so that a wider public can try these wines. Please, don’t let my sacrifice be for nothing.