Fino 2010, Williams & Humbert

Williams & Humbert were kind enough to invite me to a cracking little party to celebrate the launch of their new añadas but amidst all the dancing, music, gossip and posing and after a few glasses my ability to appreciate the wines in detail was lightly impaired.

Luckily I caught up with this fino in the nearest thing we have to laboratory conditions – the bar of Angelita – and have had a proper run at it. One of the Colección Añadas and a fascinating contrast to its predecessor, the 2009.

The two wines are from the same vineyard in consecutive years, have been cellared in the same cellar by the same hand but they are as different as two sisters can possibly be. Whereas the 2009 was all lush gentleness, full of juice and hazelnut, this is sharp, zingy, with bitter liquorice flavours and heat from a salty, peppery finish.

Moody but magnificent – wish I had paid more attention the first time!

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Fino la Barajuela 2016 in Taberna Palo Cortado

A more detail oriented, aesthetically attuned blogger would probably have sought out a more appetising backdrop for the photo above but I am short on time and gas lately and the issue only occurred to me when I went to Instagram it shortly afterwards.

In any event, this wine don’t need no stinking backdrop. It is the finest Fino, the future of Jerez that is deeply rooted in its past, and a beautiful wine in anyone’s language.

Sharp in the entry and fresh in the finish, but full of juicy, high register white fruit and just enough of a mineral seam to it. Maybe not as big in the beam and the back of the throat as the 2014 and maybe not quite as deep, saline and complex as the 2013, it shares with both the top end of honeyed white fruit and with its finer, sharper profile comes across as almost ethereal.

A lovely palomino white wine, finer and with a bit of extra dash: not too bad at all and enough to bring the most miserly hermit out of his blogging doldrums.

Macharnudo Blanco 2016, M Ant de la Riva

This wine was brought to dinner last night by a true gent and new friend and what a treat to have another crack at this, maybe the classiest of all unfortified palominos.

It is class in every respect. From an old, famous name, the bottle and label are an elegant, respectful homage to that tradition and are frankly pretty damn smart looking. The other name on the bottle also has some lineage as the most famous of all the pagos: macharnudo.

More importantly the wine just oozes class. It is a beautiful rich gold in colour – it just looks delicious, so inviting. Then you have gorgeous nose that seems like a blend of honey suckle and apple blossom and wild herbs on a mountainside, and the palate is maybe the classiest of all: a floral, white fruit start with just a hint of mineral bite to it, that grows with sweet, savoury, aromatic herbs in the middle and shapes away to floral fresh sweetness at the end.

Really superb stuff – an iron fist in the silkiest of velvet gloves.

Fino la Barajuela 2014 en Lakasa

Here we go again with one of my very favourite wines (of which I recently enjoyed a glass in one of my very favourite places).

Fino la Barajuela is, depending on your point of view, the white wine of finos, or the fino of white wines. The semantics should be irrelevant, because what matters is the liquid genius of it: big and powerful with a lovely aromatic profile, mineral sharpness up front and salinity in the finish to keep it fresh despite the weight in between. And that in between is quite something: a big mouthful heavy in texture (a natural, unenhanced 15% + here) and a flavour profile from honeysuckle to honey and citrus to savoury stewed herbs that fill out the throat.

It all makes for a wine that is a massive, massive legend but light on its feet and easy to drink, and for all that it is at the cutting edge in terms of the new Jerez, it is immediately recognizable to wine drinkers from across the spectrum. In fact, perhaps ironically, it is almost more widely accepted outside the sherry world than it is within. In the sherry world you get the feeling it is seen as an awkward upstart that doesn’t fit in any of the established categories, – an ugly duckling -, whereas like the eponymous juvenile aquatic bird, the reality is quite magnificent.

Oloroso la Barajuela 2013

I was at dinner with some friends who allowed me to choose the wine and inevitably ended up trying Fino la Barajuela. They liked it very much – so much in fact that I promised them I would open a bottle of oloroso with them. But don’t worry, I can find more friends.

This wine is not everyone’s cup of tea: controversial, mould breaking, maverick even, and one of the poster wines for the “new Jerez”. It needed at least two tries for it to be accepted as an oloroso for the tasters of the Consejo Regulador and when you drink it you can see why: it is quite unlike your standard oloroso.

First, there is no fortification here: just the pure natural power of a low-yielding vine in a unique vineyard, harvested late and maybe given a bit of sun. The resulting wine is a natural 17 degrees and climbs higher than that in bota (but not solera – this is the wine of a single vintage).

Second, it has less time in the bota than even the younger olorosos you will have tried. I lose track a bit but I think this had four and a half years on release.

And the unique origin and winemaking adds up to a wine that is equally special. On the slightly spirity nose and the palate this wine has no dusty old barrel, rusty nail or church furniture: it is all delicious richness, an elegant combination of fruit, nuts and salty caramel, with a nice acidity on top and fine mineral salinity on the bottom. An incredibly big, opulent white wine with a sensational range of flavours and a mouthwatering freshness and balance.

There is no doubt that this wine is a wine that deserves to be shared, which is why I have chosen to share it with me, myself and I. Cheers!

Manzanilla de Añada 2012 – 4/11

It is amazing to think how the world has changed in only a few years. In 2012 when the Blanco brothers and Ramiro Ibañez decided to put aside 11 botas of palomino after a bumper harvest at Callejuela there were very few “añada” wines knocking around – at least of this kind – and very few vineyard specific wines too. In fact I can still remember the excitement of waiting for that first bota to be bottled.

Nowadays there are a few more añada wines, and little by little you see more mentions of vineyards on labels, to the point where this little series has to share the limelight.

But the beauty of these wines is that they are not just from a specific vintage and place: they are eleven botas from a vintage and place that emerge year by year and show perfectly what that time in the bota can do.

This, the 4th bota to be bottled, has had nearly six years of static ageing and is an absolute beauty of a manzanilla. A rich nose of haybales and a hint of old apples, a sharp saline start, raw almonds with a suggestion of fruity oxidation on the palate and then that fresh, mouth-watering finish.

An absolute gem and I wish I had more of it. Roll on number 5!

Pandorga 2014

The first vintage of a mould breaking pedro ximenez: the 2014 Pandorga by Ramiro Ibañez’s Cota 45.

No raisin juice here – this is all fruit. Pedro ximenez from Carrascal de Jerez, harvested late, given a few days of sun, then fermented and given a year in bota. The result is a wine that is sweet but sharp and fresh.

It is a honey-like amber in colour – not unlike a ripe apricot – and syrupy clear. On the nose it is apricot jam with a hint of grapefruit, then on the palate sweet and sugary, with nice acidity and then that apricot jam and grapefruit again. The finish is sweet without being sticky, fine apricot and grapefruit flavours.

A modern classic and a wine that might change the way you think about pedro ximenez.