Callejuela Manzanillas de Añada 2015 – all three

In current circumstances if you are after a hat trick you could do worse than come to undertheflor.com – a fella is fair punishing the bottlebank lately. And never in a better cause than here, with these three single vineyard (Callejuela, Añina and Macharnudo, respectively) and single vintage manzanillas by two of the bright lights of the “Cherrirevolooshun”: the Blanco Brothers of Viña Callejuela.

And I don’t say that lightly – the half dozen occasional readers of this blog may have observed seen the name Callejuela associated with the very first single vintage manzanilla that hoved into view, the now legendary 2012. That one was from the Callejuela vineyard itself but a seed was planted. It was followed by the manzanilla en rama from the same vineyard – a bigger boned cracker – and then by the single vineyard wines from Callejuela, Añina and Macharnudo – also three little beauties.

But these are probably the best of the lot so far. Zippy manzanillas – and there is no doubting their profile wherever the grapes come from – with the added elegance of single vintage wines and just enough fruit still in them to lift them above your standard manzanilla profile.

They were harvested in 2015 and bottled in May, 2019, which would put them in the ballpark of Volume II of the 2012 manzanilla in terms of development in bota, but in addition they have the added dimension of the different vineyards.

Because they couldn’t be more different. Since I have been working on these three bottles I have changed my mind half a dozen times as to which is my favourite – although almost certainly between the Callejuela and the Añina.

Callejuela is Sanlúcar of course and is stylistically the most familiar manzanilla – but this version is just about as good as it gets -zingy, concentrated chamomile. Añina is a Jerez pago, but one of the favoured pagos of the manzanilla men, and while it doesn’t seem as compact as the Callejuela it is more floral and has that little bit of hazelnut deliciousness. The Macharnudo was my favourite of the white wines and there is no doubt it has a bit of beast about it, with a really piercing aroma and zingy back end – but maybe doesn’t quite hold up in the middle like the other two.

So Callejuela it is, or maybe Añina. Frankly, you should get all three because the only thing wrong with them is that the bottle is too small.

Ube Carrascal 2015

I only have two bottles of this (vintage) left but couldn’t resist it.

I don’t know what it is about Ube but every time I have a bottle another one soon follows, and after that, well, one thing generally leads to another.

It is a class old vine palomino from a typically vertical, Atlantic Sanlucar, and this one from a warm year has a touch more fruit heft to balance the savoury, stewy herbs.

Superb – really world class white wine.

Ube Carrascal 2015

We are all locked in, but I don’t have anywhere better to go. This is an exceptional, world class white wine.

It shows all the qualities of its variety, time and place. The white fruit and herbs of the best palominos, the concentration of an (even) hotter season and the salinity and verticality of its birthplace in Carrascal de Sanlucar.

That combination of concentrated fruit, herbs, salinity and freshness make for an incredibly complex white wine, which was perfect with dinner but is even better on its own.

Uberrima indeed. Superb.

Manzanilla de Añada 2012 Callejuela, 5/11

The 2012 manzanilla de añada was one of the very first wines to really open my eyes to what is possible down in Jerez and Sanlucar. 11 botas set aside from a single vineyard and añada, left to age statically under flor (as long as it lasts).

The wines are a vivid expression of the effects of static biological and barrel ageing on a manzanilla. The first was a protomanzanilla, more wine than manzanilla, but since then the wines have become finer, with a deeper mineral groove. Over time the flor is losing its vigour, the cabezuelas are beginning to gather, and the wines are becoming richer and fatter. In time future releases will begin to lose that veil and will take on the toasted rust of amontillados. By then the wines will also be a vivid expression of the effects of bottle ageing (at least the ones I have managed to stash away will be).

For the time being this latest chip off the historic block is a beast of a full flavoured manzanilla. Lovely dark hay colour, a lot of haybales about and a big spikey, zingy mouthful, with bakery favours of toasted almonds and roast apple in there before a long old finish.

Cracking manzanilla in its own terms but part of something that is so much bigger. If all history tasted as good as this we would be repeating it more than twice.

La Escribana Vino de Pasto 2018 in Angelita Madrid

Your correspondent has been out of the game too long. Probably a good few weeks since I was at the trough in earnest – time enough for at least three new labels to emerge from the hyperactive young dynamos down in Jerez and Sanlucar.

And here is one. The latest from Willy Perez, this appears to be an unfortified white wine – the label says from Macharnudo on tosca de Barajuelas soil. “Only” 13 and a half degrees and I don’t know much about it but would guess we have a bit of asoleo or a relatively late harvest. (Vino de pasto translates more or less as table wine so no clues there.)

It is another cracker from the young Wise King of Jerez. Concentrated white fruit – almost pineapple upfront, and bitter pineapple marmalade at the back. It is mineral for a white wine – real zing and warmth around the mouth – but tasty and jammy rather than fresh and slippy on the finish. As its name indicates, it is a table wine – this would stand up and be counted in almost any company.

Another one please barman!

Bodega y Viñedos Balbaínas – Part II

Went to a sensational tasting this week organized by the Union Española de Catadores. Peter Sisseck and his wines, including two vintages from each of Chateau Rocheyron, Flor de Pingus and Pingus itself. And of course, wines from each of his soleras in Jerez (I am not sure how many of us were there for the fino.)

You don’t need me to tell you that these wines are top drawer. The 2009 Pingus in particular is one of those wines that I can still feel on the palate the best part of a week later – superb richness and a solid, elegant structure to it, like a sculpted and polished block of fruit and spice. But the 2015 Pingus was also a beauty – similar elegance, a bit more brooding power and just a little bit less polished. As for the Flor de Pingus and Rocheyrons, well, it is a pretty good tasting where these wines are not the pick of the bunch.

Neither will it be any surprise to you to learn that Peter Sisseck is a winemaker with both a wide field of vision and a very clear idea of what he likes. It was fascinating to hear him on the relevance of ph, the types of soil (he enjoys a bit of calcium down in the rootstock) and the methods of replanting – his thoughts on training vineyards as far afield as Saint-Emilion and Balbaina, and vines as distinct as palomino and merlot.

But what struck me was his vision of the wines of Jerez. Because when he spoke about Jerez he didn’t speak in the same way about the vineyards, where they were, how they were planted and tended. Neither did this winemaker’s winemaker talk about unfortified white wines or fermentation temperatures or deposits. Rather, he spoke with something like veneration about what makes a fino, – and in his words, Spain’s great gift to the world’s wine heritage – the truly unique wine from Jerez. His thoughts were surprisingly classical but with an interesting twist, and resolved for me one of the great recent mysteries.

You see after acquiring a solera making one of the great finos – Camborio – Peter and his colleagues decided not to continue Camborio as such but to make two different wines, and I must admit being puzzled as to why you would buy Camborio if what you wanted to make were new wines (other than the fact that Camborio was for sale and would give you a pretty handy headstart of course).

The answer is the fascinating part, because your man explained that for him the top finos of Jerez gain their unique character and structure from one of the less glamourous sources: las cabezuelas. The dead lipids, the remains of the flor, tiny proteins that having given their all fighting off the oxygen and eating alcohol, sugar and glycerol from the wine but then die and sink to the bottom where they create a bed of madre that, much like lees in a white wine, gives the old finos and manzanilla pasadas a silky, buttery mouthfeel. Camborio and the other botas in the bodega had, in addition to some high class wines, a treasure trove of character and personality settled on the bottom of the barrels that would otherwise take years to accumulate.

He is certainly onto something. There is no question in my mind that those old solera finos have a fatness, solidity and clarity of profile that the single vintage wines, without those years of accumulation, lack. (In fact I was struck later by his comments on the importance of ph in his merlot and tempranillo because, as I understood it, he was thinking on the same lines – the importance for mouth feel and the sensations that the wines could give you.)

And the wines are good too. The Balbaina is a haybale heavy fino, plenty of aromatics and benefits from that age it has – the Macharnudo wine is also aromatic but raw by comparison – if the Balbaina is a swimming pool the Macharnudo had a touch of incontinent feline about it. But both are seriously interesting finos already with that structure to them. I cannot wait for next year’s first release.

But those Pingus, good grief …

Fino Inocente in Zalamero Taberna

With all the new wines, labels and makers emerging in Jerez sometimes it is easy to forget the classics – the mountains in the background of the painting.

This fino is just such a classic. Possibly the most traditional, old school fino on the market and one that nevertheless ticks modern boxes: single pago and fermented in oak, it may be from one of the big producers but it is the antithesis of industrial.

And if you are going to be single pago, this is the one to be: Macharnudo. The most famous real estate in Jerez, and the fount of some of the best wines ever made in el marco. Of which, let’s be honest this is one.

Because it has everything you could ask of a fino. An aromatic nose of sea breeze, fresh baked bread and almond, then a palate of all those things but edged around with zingy salinity and a long, fresh, sea breeze and mineral finish.

Really top class.

The shape of wines to come

This blog may not amount to very much but it has brought me into contact with some top class people, I have had some superb dinners and I have learned about some fantastic projects, for all of which I am very grateful. There was a bit of all three this week when I was able to have a cracking dinner in Taberna Verdejo with Carlos del Rio, who is not only a really nice bloke and great company but also one of the men behind probably the most exciting new project in Jerez in recent years.

Because as you surely must have heard, Carlos and his family (famous for Hacienda Monasterio) have teamed up with Peter Sisseck to start a new project in Jerez, acquiring the bodega and solera that produced Camborio until three years ago (three years already …, time flies when you are having fun) and, to judge by my conversation with Carlos this week, making some serious progress in the meantime.

First, they have acquired vineyards in Macharnudo and Balbaina (in el Cuadrado no less), where little by little they are busy inserting palomino de jerez clones to replace palomino fino. At the same time they have added to and reorganized the botas they acquired into two separate soleras: one producing a fino based on the rump of the Camborio solera but aimed at producing an altogether finer wine, with more criaderas and replenished from their vineyard in Balbaina, and a second that they have founded afresh, again producing fino and with wines taken 100% from their Macharnudo vineyard.

And they aren’t stopping there – what was one of the oldest of old school bodegas now has more high tech gear than Iron-man’s gaff, the absolute cutting edge, and there is more building work going on than in the lego movie. In fact in the course of a very pleasant dinner it became clear that these guys are literally not taking anything for granted but had explored and paying serious attention to literally every step in the wine making process. (And to think I was under the impression that they were just going to top and tail Camborio …)

The half dozen readers of this blog will know that this sort of thing is, in my opinion, exactly what the doctor ordered. A focus on terroir, vine, and proper wine making, with attention to detail down to the smallest speck of dust. There are a lot of excellent producers down in Jerez, and happily there are a few with a similar focus on winemaking and terroir, but it is frankly excellent news el marco that serious winemakers like these have come to the party and are prepared to not only get on the dance floor but also try out a few new moves. (And they have a lot of new moves in mind – I have never heard so many wine making ideas in one conversation.)

And to judge by the liquid accompaniment to our dinner they know what they are about too. Carlos brought two sacas from the Balbaina solera – one from October 2018 and one from June 2019, and they were frankly fascinating. The June 2019 was a classic fino, zingy and full of haybale aromas and burnt almond flavour – maybe a touch finer and fresher than that Camborio but a serious fino in its own right. And the October 2018 was something else entirely, much finer, more elegant, more Esparto grass than haybale and more a fine wine than a winey fino.

Frankly both of them are delicious and the kind of stuff you could drink hectoliters of, although unfortunately there aren’t going to be hectoliters. They expect to release the first wine next year and the 10,000 bottles have already been sold (these are not any ordinary winemakers) for distribution to lucky winelovers across two continents.

If you are able to get your hands on them they are going to be worth trying. In fact if you call yourself a sherry lover or wine lover at all this is a project that deserves your support. I am going back for a second dip Monday night at an event here in Madrid featuring Peter Sisseck himself and some relatively some well known wines from his other wineries up north and I am looking forward to that immensely.

In fact it brought to mind a comment Carlos made this week. He told me that Peter himself had said “I am lucky to have Pingus because it means I can also make wine in Jerez.” It is a great sentiment but he is only half right, because Jerez, and those of us who love the wines of Jerez, are just as lucky to have guys like him and Carlos, and projects like the one taking place at Calle San Francisco Javier 8.

 

Pandorga 2016

Apricots on the nose, bright acidity and a palate of pure apricot jam with a rich, sugary finish.

Pandorga, by Cota 45, is a single vineyard, vintage 100% pedro ximenez from Jerez that is unlike most pedro ximenez you may have tasted. Young and fresh, the grapes have had some sun-drying but not to the point of becoming raisins and the resulting wine is more opulent in fruit on the one hand and (slightly) less loaded with sugar on the other.

And like many of the wines from Cota 45 there is some fascinating wine making going on beneath the surface. Whereas many pedro ximenez wines are made in a way that minimizes the difference between vintages (more sun-drying in cooler vintages, less in warm ones), this wine is prepared in a “procyclical” way. As such, the relatively cool 2014 was given less sub drying, the much warmer 2015 much more, and this something in between. As a result you get three very different wines: just as an indication the 2014 had 12 degrees of alcohol, the 2015 had so little -5% – it couldn’t legally be called a wine, and this one has 11,5%.

Wines that express the varietal and shout out the vintage. And superb wines too!

UBE Paganilla 2018 in Angelita

Here is a sharp, fresh, fruitful palomino for the doubters if there are any left. The latest UBE, and one of the latest new creations of Ramiro Ibañez is a chip off the old block.

As you can see from the label, it is from a vineyard in the pago Paganilla where the soil is a mix of barajuelas and tosca cerrada, and it may be the power of suggestion but to me those barajuelas come through in the form of white fruit on the nose, more intense, concentrated roast pineapple on the way in and just a hint of grapefruit on the finish.

Excellent stuff and I can feel another outbreak of UBE coming on …