Manzanilla Pasada en rama Pastora 

Love this wine, salty seaside nose with nice hints of apple just gone into baked apple, more baked apple and vegetable spiciness softened and broadened on the palate, and all in a sleek, saline and acid profile. 

A really nice wine and maybe would be a good place to start for a beginner learning to appreciate biological ageing. I had a glass yesterday in Territorio Era – another good place for anyone seeking to learn about these wines. 


Fino Collecion Añadas 2009, saca de febrero 2017

The Williams Coleccion Añadas were a revelation when they came out last year and although the second saca hasn’t had as much fanfare, for me it may be even better.

It still has the rich colour, the nose of sweet hazelnut (my colleague called tiramisu today which was a great shout) and the salty, nutty potency on the palate, but this to me seems finer and more elegant than the 2016. In particular the finish seems sharper and fresher. 

A lovely wine that is rich and fine at the same time. 

Bruto 2014

Now here is an interesting wine: 100% palomino from a single vineyard, spontaneous fermentation in the butt, then 12 months “under flor” and 4 months in inox. 948 bottle in total. And from Rueda of all places. 

Quite a geographic shift (about 600 km north as the urraca flies) but I am told it is less of an innovation than a throwback to the times when a lot of palomino was grown and aged in the North. It is also from an impeccable maker – Beatriz Herranz of Barco de la Corneta – who has a cult following for making serious wine from a grape (verdejo) and in a region that are too often synonymous with egregious mass production. 

Most importantly it is pretty tasty stuff. I wouldn’t have said it had 12 months under flor – if anything I would have said a good few months oxidation – and neither was it the most expressive, but there is pungency, solidity and salinity there. 

As experts in Madrid bar tops will know from the picture, I tried it in Angelita, where this month all the wines are from female winemakers, but you can find interesting wines by the glass all year around. 

La Bota de Fino Amontillado 24 – Montilla – 7 years later

Glory be to Angelita Madrid. Yet another absolutely cracking lunch yesterday with some top wines by the glass and a really special one to finish. A rare old wine and a privilege to taste it – there can’t be many of these bottles still in circulation (there were only 2,600 seven years ago). But how had it stood up to the seven years in the bottle? 

I had high hopes given the provenance (originally Perez Barquero) and the quality of the 2013 release, but by comparison to that wine this seemed to have faded. The acetaldehide hay bales had gone and bitter, bottle age notes seemed to have taken over the nose, and while still zingy and potent on the palate it seemed much less interesting in shape – the bitter almond finish taking over all too soon. 

So, a privilege for which I am very grateful but this one is more evidence for the case against excessive bottle ageing. I still have a bottle of the 45 and will get drinking it based on this. 

Soleras cincuentanarias (y una centenaria) de Perez Barquero

Fantastic cata last night at the Union Española de Catadores as José Ruz of Perez Barquero and Paco del Castillo lead us through the wines of this great Montilla bodega. 

As you can see, there were some real heavyweight wines to be tasted, and I for one learned a few interesting things. We started with Fresquito, a sparky vino de tinaja, then moved smoothly through the gears with the Fino en Rama Gran Barquero (Spring 2017), the Amontillado Gran Barquero, an Amontillado Gran Barquero bottled in 1996, the full range of Solera Cincuentenario wines – the Amontillado, the Palo Cortado, the Oloroso, and the Pedro Ximenez – and before that last one the Oloroso Solera Fundacional (Lot B). 

I am a huge fan of the Amontillado Gran Barquero – an absolutely world class wine – and it would take some persuading for me to choose any of the others over it last night. There was a lot of concentration and a lot of intensity on show, and some rare and expensive wines (sacas of 200 and 500 bottles), which really had very distinct profiles. 

In fact, it was very interesting and quite disarming to hear that the Cincuentenario Palo Cortado – one of the stars of the night – was the result of barrel selection rather than any intentional process. Motivated by the current high fashion status of palo cortados the guys at Perez Barquero had selected from amongst their older olorosoa the wines they felt had that kind of profile – without really knowing why they did. It would not have been due to selection or mostos, because they were all olorosos, but it could have been some biological action in the tinaja before the wines entered the solera. (Perhaps there is some mystery after all.) In any event, and whatever the cause, there was no doubting the difference in character between this and the oloroso. 

It wasn’t the only star either. The Oloroso Solera Fundacional was an absolute beast – brandy, salinity, burnt Christmas cake and a finish like the after dinner cigar (and nearly as long). One of those wines that you consume with extreme care. 

I could and will write a note on all the wines because the standard was exceptionally high across the board, but the one I could drink gallons of is the current Amontillado Gran Barquero. It is the standout in terms of elegance, profile and all round flawlessness – a marvellous wine that only gained in comparison to the bigger beasts. 

And a word of thanks and congratulations to José and Perez Barquero, the UEC and Paco del Castillo for a fantastic tasting – really top class. 

Sanchez Ayala at Distribuciones Navarro 

It is Salon season in Madrid and there are few events on the horizon. Today I was lucky enough to be invited to the presentation of the new catalogue by Distribuciones Navarro and it was an absolutely top class event: held at the NH Collection Eurobuilding in one of the nicest salons I have seen. Top, top wines too, and although I only had time for a flying visit, it was enough for a couple of cheeky glasses of champagne and a chat with a bodega I have wanted to catch up with for a while – Sanchez Ayala.

Sanchez Ayala is an old name (the family ran the bodega through most of the 20th Century with an even older bodega (dating back at least as far as 1798) and has also been the source of some fantastic wines under other people’s labels: a couple have achieved near legendary status under the Equipo Navazos label and Antonio Barbadillo’s first Sacristia ABs were from the same source. More recently, the bodega have been distributing wine under their own label more widely after years of serving the local market.

And impeccable wines they are too. Both the Gabriella manzanilla and its en rama, selected big sister the Gabriella Oro go through 9/10 classes and are top class manzanillas, with a characteristic apple, salt and hay bale profile.  Oloroso el Galeon is a lovely little saline, elegant and tasty oloroso, and the 45 year old Amontillado Don Paco (seen here in the background and due to be released in the coming year) is as sharp and as saline as any Sanlucar VORS. 

And you always learn something new when you have an opportunity to chat to these guys. Amazingly, the wines are apparently all sourced from a single vineyard – las Cañas, on Balbaina Alta (and in the right kind of neighbourhood too, bang opposite El Cuadrado). Fantastic stuff.