Las Viñas de Callejuela – the 2014 edition

The genial Blanco brothers from Callejuela were in Madrid for a few days just when I was away, but were kind enough to leave me a little present at my preferred fuelling post, Territorio Era.

You may have read about the vineyard specific wines that these guys first released. Those were the 2015 and were terrific enough, but these little fellas are the 2014s and have even more personality. I gather they are due to be released early next year and they will be worth not just seeking out but fighting over if necessary.


El Muelle de Olaso 2016

My last bottle of this, maybe the beefiest of the unfortified palomino white wines coming from the region at the moment.

The wine is by Willy Perez and the fruit is from the El Corregidor vineyard on Pago Carrascal that is the source of his fantastic Barajuela project. They harvest the grapes in several passes: (simplifying things) first for brandy, then for this, then for the fino and finally for the oloroso. In total 80% of the fruit comes from that early pass and 20% from a later pass that would otherwise go into the fino. The 80% then gets fermented in temperature controlled inox while the 20% gets some asoleo before fermentation in bota.

The resulting wine is a beefy 14.5% alcohol and is beefy in other respects too. It has a lot of concentrated fruit that gives it a floral, honeysuckle, pear and citrus nose, but give it time and you get a lot more herbal undergrowth. Then on the palate there is that fruitful, muscular body, a very broad profile that kinds of unfolds in the throat, backed up by savoury, stewy flavours and a fresh saline finish.

Seriously fruity and fresh.

Florpower Friday

The blog is fun but there is no doubt it is hard work, involving lunches and dinners that sometimes last several hours and multiple bottles of wine. Yesterday was a prime example, as the author and two esteemed colleagues – Jens Riis of elmundovino and Richard van Oorschot, maverick maker of “Pilgrim” – put in a pretty solid shift at Territorio Era.

The wines under scrutiny on this occasion were the Florpower releases by Equipo Navazos: unfortified palominos from Pago Miraflores, and specifically, Number 53 “Más allá” (the MMX), Number 57 “Florpower” (MMXII), and Number 67 “Más acá” (MMXIV). For the sake of contrast we also opened a bottle of the 2012 Navazos Niepoort, an unfortified palomino from further inland (I would swear it was macharnudo), and for comparison’s sake we also compared that with Callejuela’s La Choza. (We also warmed up with a really interesting South African white wine and finished off with a Lirac from the South Rhone, but who is counting?) And the sacrifice was not in vain: we had a cracking time and it was pretty instructive too.

The number one conclusion that we drew was that it really helps to give these wines time. In fact it is something I have been observing for a long time: unfortified palomino wines can be slow to get going after opening and really grow in aromatics after a little while. Of the three Florpower wines the biggest beneficiary was Number 53, the 2010, which started like super-bitter grapefruit but took on haybale aromas and became softer and sweeter like a young amontillado as time went on, but all three improved over time. (Of course this could also have to do with the excellent cooking that was arriving and disappearing with impressive speed.)

The second observable fact was that these florpower wines are a work in progress and you can see the guys at Equipo Navazos are not afraid to try a few different things. Whereas the Number 53 (and presumably the original, Number 44 which we didn’t have a chance to try (because we didn’t have any)) was only 12% and a little underpowered the Numbers 57 and 67 both had that little bit more oomph at 12.5% and all the better for it. You would guess it was a matter of selection of more mature fruit – 12.5% is a pretty good number for Miraflores you would say.

Third, although it was really interesting to see the references to months “under flor” in the description of how these are made, with the exception of the 53 (which really opened up like a milder amontillado as the lunch went on) the influence of that flor was limited. There was still plenty of fruit and body in there and curiously the 53, which ended up smelling and tasting more biological than the others, started off with the stickiest, least saline finish.

Fourth, and maybe I should have started with this, the class wine of the three was the Number 57, or MMXII. By pure chance it is the only one of the three wines that I had had before (not once but twice) and I am glad to say it was just as good as I remembered. If I had to compare it to anything I would say it was like a muscular burgundy: nice gentle acidity to start and then a compact profile with full flavours of a bundle of fruit (sweet and sour citrus and white fruit), a spine of minerals and a nice tail of a fresh saline finish. I guess a fair bit of the credit for that mouthful of flavours would go to the harvest – 2012 is spoken of as a great growing season down there and this certainly is consistent with that – but it was also noticeable how much fruit there was in a wine harvested a good few years ago. Terrific stuff and full of what my colleague Jens Riis described as “disfrutability” (TM or whatever).

Comparisons are odious as they say, and the other two certainly weren’t helped by having to compete with the middle child of the bunch. The Number 67 had a lot in common with the 57 but by comparison seemed a little cruder, a little more brash and not as polished. The 53 on the other hand was a fish of a much different kidney: first up the balance of flavours was much more grapfruit than anything sweet or soft, then it went through a phase where it seemed a bit underpowered, and then it opened out aromatically in a really interesting way. Jens reckoned it had a lot more “Sherryicity” (but I reckon he was pushing it with the catchphrases).

And that brought us to the two other palominos. The Navazos Niepoort 2012 was really interesting aromatically and you would swear it was a macharnudo wine but while it had this great aroma and was tasty first up it maybe just lacked a bit of depth and oomph. Just didn’t seem to have that compact shape and length of the Number 57. And that we compared to la Choza – a 2015 (?) macharnudo unfortified palomino that had a lot more brute strength than the Navazos Niepoort: 13.5% compared to 12.5% to begin with, and yet again you would say well spent. Not the same floral, herbal nose – this one had more than a bit of raw meat and punchier herbs to it – but a big savoury mouthful and an interesting comparison.

And as quickly as it began, after no more than two or three hours (and a couple of other bottles of wine that fall outside my jurisdiction), it was over. Some really interesting wines, one of them high class, and a highly disfrutable lunch by any standards.




Manzanilla de Añada 2012 Callejuela – the first three botas 

Over the last week or so I have been rather guiltily sipping down these three little bottles. Guilty because there are so few of them around that in good conscience I really ought to share them. Guilty, too, because another section of my conscience was trying to save them for future verticals/horizontals/diagonals of the whole añada. So the least I can do is share my thoughts.

As I recently wrote in relation to Bota 1, that one is still lush and wine-like, polished and compact. Thinking back to when it was fresh you would say the fruit had gone down the mountain a bit in the last couple of years – from blossom to something more herbal – and it feels slightly broader in the beam, with more of the liquorice root that I have come to associate with Callejuela, but still a very enjoyable drop.

Bota 2 has more of an edge of salinity, a bitter, sharp mineral, sea air nose. Still has fresh, developing almonds on the palate but cut through with that slightly bitter minerality . A slightly bigger, saline volume on the palate and a fruitlike finish with a hint of bitterness (which to be fair I am only noticing in comparison to Bota 1). Flavourful and tasty, with a warm finish, not noticeably mouth watering.

Bota 3 looks quite a different beast. On the eye it is obviously darker than the other two, which if it isn’t a result of differences in filtering can only mean that something different has happened in the bota. A touch of oxidation – and there is just a hint of it on the nose and on the palate. There is an air of hay bales there – the acetaldehide of a true manzanilla – but some golden cooked apple too. Still a hot, dry mineral finish rather than a wet, fresh one.

Three terrific little wines and an education to drink them together. Three down and eight to go!

Fino Coleccion Añadas 2009, saca de abril 2017

The standout wine of a terrific and interesting dinner at La Malaje this week with Carmen Fandino of Williams & Humbert was this new saca of an old favourite.

Part of the outstanding Williams Colección Añadas, it has been a lot of fun to follow the progress of this wine in particular. You would say the first saca, in February 2016, was already on the cusp of amontillado and certainly a lot more hazelnut richness than your average fino, while the February 2017 saca was a step closer to the precipice (and maybe even nicer). This one seems to have just stepped over the other side, and Paola Medina apparently agrees: we were told this would be the last bottling of this wine as a fino.

But, as someone once said, what’s in a name? I certainly hope it isn’t the last we will see of the wine itself because it really has a lovely hazelnut sweetness to it – on the nose in particular – which makes it extremely approachable. In general I find that añada wines sometimes have less turbopower than their solera brethren, and this one is certainly a shade less punchy and mineral than a solera fino with eight years under flor would be. But it has a nice balance with that hazelnut and none of the bitterness you can get with the more powerful finos.

One of the great joys of añada wines is this kind of variety. Wines of different añadas start with different characteristics, and then develop differently. As a result they are always worth trying (and buying). Like Forrest Gump’s chocolates you never know what you are going to get.

¡Vive la différence!

Pandorga 2016

One of the highlights of a top class recent shindig organized by the guys at Vinoteca Tierra was the chance to catch up with Ramiro Ibañez and try his new wines: the UBE Maina 2016 and this, the Pandorga of the same vintage.

Like almost everything Ramiro touches this is the latest in a series of ground breaking wines. A single vineyard, vintage specific, pedro ximenez – interesting stuff to there. But more importantly a wine that, rather than attempting to smooth out the differences between vintages, seeks to accentuate them. After a cooler 2014 season, very little asoleo and (naturally) lower temperatures of fermentation, the hotter 2015 growing season accentuated by more asoleo and a (naturally) warmer fermentation. The results were fascinating: the 2014 was apricot jam and the 2015 fresh, ripe apricot juice.

This 2016 is somewhere in between. Unbelievably, I failed to take any note of the alcohol or sugar content, and the subsequent dinner wiped the details from the “soft memory”. Nevertheless, I couldn’t forget the wine itself, and it has all the same characteristics but maybe greater overall balance, superb acidity, lightness and sweetness in a tight profile.

Not sure when it will be released but it is one to save up for.

Oloroso la Barajuela 2013 

This wine was only released a couple of months ago and in minute quantities but it is already a legend. The maker, the excessively tall and talented Willy Perez, describes it as “the wine of his life”, while one of the leading critics of the modern age calls it “by far the finest white wine I have had from Jerez”.

To be quite honest since last June I have been a little smitten with the Fino la Barajuela and maybe didn’t give this wine quite the respect it deserved (to be fair I didn’t have any to drink anyway). But albeit in thimblefulls I have been fortunate to have tried it on a number of occasions over the last few months, in February at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest, in April when Ramiro Ibañez used it as an example of the wines from years gone by at another cracking tasting at Palo Cortado, at the Bar of Territorio Era (where else?) shortly after release and most recently at a superb tasting with the man himself at Taberna Palo Cortado. It just seems to get better and better.

The other night in Palo Cortado it was just superb. Just so powerful and complete in its range: everything from high notes of white fruit and blossom at the top on the nose through concentrated fruit and hints of nuts to mineral power at the bottom, with a richness that doesn’t seem heavy and a balance and perfect shape to it. A fascinating comparison with the finer profiles of the two finos that we had prior to it and with the richer, but slightly heavy, raya that came afterwards – the context really showing off the characteristics of all four.

I wasn’t in the best of shape at the time and it looking back at my notes it all became a bit too much: there are a number of swear-words in different languages, a lot of words underlines and block capitals everywhere. I also remember losing my composure in a number of other respects: I was almost overtaken by jealousy of my table mates, convinced that they had been poured 5 ml more than I had, and when the last of the liquid was gone I was overcome with sadness, like that old Jedi in Star Wars when the planet gets blown up. There was talk on the night of a further release years down the line of this wine at 15 years. It is hard to imagine it getting any better, but it is something to look forward to even still.

What an absolutely sensational wine.