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 …

El Muelle de Olaso 2018

This is one of the white wines from Jerez that is eminently quaffable. Bright, acidic, fruity, fresh, cheap as chips and made in reasonable volume, it is a classy white wine that would probably fool a lot of people blind. Cracking stuff!

Blanco Macharnudo De la Riva 2017 in Taberna Palo Cortado

The world is full of injustice and misery. As the great Cantona shrewdly observes, like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, and so on and so forth. But the worst of it is that there is so little of this wine available.

It is a marvellous white wine, that has everything you could ask for. White blossom on the nose and on the palate ripe melon made of steel on the verge of going rusty from interstellar corrosion such as that suffered by the Millenium Falcon. Then mouthwatering and persistent – a massive, sapid, mouthful of flavour, less like a leaf in profile and more like a comet – a massive tail.

This is why we drink wine. Superb! Make more of this please!

Ube Paganilla 2018

I have been on a rampage of Ube drinking lately due to the happy coincidence that while Madrid’s unseemly warmth parches the throat, the watering holes I head to (for the record, home, then Angelita, Taberna Palo Cortado, Taberna Verdejo, and now Dis Tinto), are awash with these high class fresheners.

And I speak in the plural because the Ubes are legion. First came the Carrascal. Then the Miraflores. She in turn was followed by the Maina. And this, my friends, is Paganilla 2018.

I honestly have no clue where Pago Paganilla is – but given that the label says Barajuelas and Tosca Cerrada and the way this wine shapes up I am guessing we are nearer to Maina than Carrascal, if not further inland. Pale gold straw in colour but bags of bandwidth on the nose and the palate – really flavourful with ripe herby fruit and oxidation – not quite savoury apricot jam and dry honey but on the way there. And a stinging saline, mouth watering finish, with that jammy, herby flavour hanging on for ever.

This is not like most white wines. I like this very much.