La Buena Vida

La Buena Vida is a really top class little bistro run by really nice people with top class cooking (including world class cheesecake) and an excellent winelist, including more than enough sherries for even the most obsessive palominohead.

True to its name, it is one of those places where you can try the things that make life worth living: simple or flamboyant cooking (in truffle season oyoyoy) and wines from every corner of the world and right across the spectrum.

A colleague and I had a relatively simple lunch by la Buena Vida standards – níscalos (saffron cap mushrooms) with potatoes, mallard and that quite splendid cheesecake, washed down pretty liberally with Fino Innocente (not as easy to find as it should be) and the majestic Tradición Amontillado.

The good life indeed!

A 2017 manzanilla La Jaca in Taberna Verdejo

Whereas I tend to pull faces when I get given really old wines I have no problem with the occasional manzanilla with a couple of years in the bottle. They get that touch of oxidation but remain very fine – no inclination towards the potency of a manzanilla pasada but a little bit of the flavour.

This one, a half bottle of La Jaca that had been filled in June 2017, was no exception to the rule. Still fragrant on the nose, but a little bit of old fruit in there with the chamomile, like one of those fruit teas, but wheras the fruit teas always smell better than they taste, this was just fine on the palate. Still fresh and zingy, had a nice dry, nutty palate and if not quite a hint of toffee maybe just a suggestion of nougat.

Very nice little wine, and absolutely at home in what is surely the loveliest little tavern in town.

El Huerto de Carabaña

A moment to reflect on a cracking lunch yesterday at the Bistro of el Huerto de Carabaña.

The bistro is not much to look at. The restaurant section around the corer is fancier, but the bistro is an old school neighbourhood eatery with lighting you would call discreet, smallish tables with even smaller tablecloths, tiled walls, a glass front at one end and the kitchen widen open to view at the other. And given that it is smack in the middle of a neighbourhood full of restaurants at the very top end of whatever interior decoration ranking there may be (and getting higher every week) this is not the place fashionistas in the neighborhood would pick.

And neither was there anything fancy about the food: tomatoes, boletus and callos (and cheesecake). But there is absolutely nothing wrong with tomatoes, boletus and callos. The place is named for a garden and the motif is rustic: a menu full of grilled and fresh vegetables. Good quality, country cooking. In fact the only “but” I would attach to the solids was that the callos seemed to have a little too much of the garden about them – warm, rich and savoury rather than sharp and spicey.

But the best thing about the lunch was the wine, and everything about the wine. First, no sooner than I sat down than I had a glass of la Maruja in my hand – a really excellent one too from a bottle filled in August (so this has not been sat on a shelf waiting its turn) and served in a Gabriel glass.

Even better was to come. Instead of a wine list, what these guys have is a walk-in wine cellar where you can go and have a look, it is around the corner in the restaurant, and the way to get there is a Goodfellas-style shortcut through the kitchen. Now not everyone would be up for it, but if you don’t love walk-in wine cellars then I wonder why you are reading this blog, and you will have to believe me when I tell you there were some exciting wines in there – a wine loving truffle pig would have a field day.

A sherry loving truffle pig too. They had some quality wines by Tradición and Emilio Hidalgo, including some you don’t see every day, and some classics from the bigger bodegas too, all of them very fairly priced by the glass.

For winelovers they also had some of the rarer, newer wines from Jerez, and we didn’t even have to hunt them out. The sommelier, whose name I didn’t catch but I wish I had, saw our enthusiasm for the Maruja and the Marques de Rodil and proceeded to fish out a bottle of Muchada Leclapart that he had coravined (that cork was not needed any further and a bit of argon was released into the atmosphere).

It all added up to a great lunch, with some terrific wine – from the singing Maruja to an absolutely class, elegant Marques de Rodil – without breaking anyone’s bank and with the minimum of fuss. You may not have noticed the Huerto de Carabaña before, but if you get the chance you should definitely stick your neck in there.


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!

Solear en Rama Primavera 2019 in Bache

Bache is a great spot for a quick lunch with a cracking list of sherries and some quality, fun solids to accompany them.

This is an absolute gem – for me at the same time the definition and archetype of a manzanilla and quite unique.

Old gold colour, crystal clear but consistent, fragrant on the nose with dried beach grass and yeast and zingy and juicy on the palate. It has been a while since I have had one of these but this has all the biological, incisive character of the spring sacas I remember.

I believe it is 20 years now that they have been producing these. 80 sacas of pure class. Happy Anniversary guys!

Manzanilla Carvajal

Very nice drop of manzanilla here – a special selection sourced by Jaime Carvajal, an up and coming young marquista, from wine made by Delgado Zuleta. Jaime was for many years Gonzalez Byass’ man in the province of Cadiz and now has a nice portfolio of wines including Cobijado and the palo cortado from Cayetano del Pino, amongst others.

Nice old gold colour as you can see – tablecloth notwithstanding – and a lovely nose on it with classic haybales and sea breeze and just a hint of spicey herbal tea. Then on the palate it has zingy salinity, a full flavour with just a touch of bitterness and oxidation and a full, buttery texture.

Top manzanilla – very nice indeed.