Solear en rama Saca de Invierno 2019 – the Ruddy Shelduck

Reacquainted with these recently and after a Wednesday night dominated by Jerez lunch on Thursday kicked off with a tribute to the finest of Sanlucar (and Doñana). Adorned on this occasion by the Ruddy Shelduck, a rare sight in Andalucia and considered sacred by the hindus.

This solera should probably be considered sacred by everyone. One of the consistently excellent wines from Sanlúcar this was in fact the first glass from a magnum in Angelita Madrid and it was a beauty.

The intensity of minerals and salad greenery in this wine always take me back – it seems so biological in every sense it must be good value for at least two of your five a day. From a recent bottling these wines have real zip up front a salty, peppery finish that really invites another glass, and another, etc

A classic manzanilla, complex as you like but fresh and full of life.  

Manzanilla de Añada 2012 Callejuela, 5/11

The 2012 manzanilla de añada was one of the very first wines to really open my eyes to what is possible down in Jerez and Sanlucar. 11 botas set aside from a single vineyard and añada, left to age statically under flor (as long as it lasts).

The wines are a vivid expression of the effects of static biological and barrel ageing on a manzanilla. The first was a protomanzanilla, more wine than manzanilla, but since then the wines have become finer, with a deeper mineral groove. Over time the flor is losing its vigour, the cabezuelas are beginning to gather, and the wines are becoming richer and fatter. In time future releases will begin to lose that veil and will take on the toasted rust of amontillados. By then the wines will also be a vivid expression of the effects of bottle ageing (at least the ones I have managed to stash away will be).

For the time being this latest chip off the historic block is a beast of a full flavoured manzanilla. Lovely dark hay colour, a lot of haybales about and a big spikey, zingy mouthful, with bakery favours of toasted almonds and roast apple in there before a long old finish.

Cracking manzanilla in its own terms but part of something that is so much bigger. If all history tasted as good as this we would be repeating it more than twice.

Taberna Palo Cortado

Taberna Palo Cortado is an unreal place where unlikely, even impossible things are within reach. Took some colleagues there for dinner and, given free rein to show off the best of el Marco and beyond, it turned into one of those memorable dinners.

We started with champagne – not pictured – and maybe it is less well known what a nice little selection of champers is available here. This bottle was just for refreshing between courses but over the years I have had some serious and high quality bubbles. But it wasn’t long before we got stuck into the superb Andalucian wines for which Palo Cortado is famous.

We kicked off with the De la Riva Fino from Balbaina Alta – with that deep colour, deep haybale and hazelnut and fresh background – like a nut store floating on a mountain stream.

But, as I said, I was given free rein, and next up was la Barajuela Fino – 2016 – and it was the star of the night. What an awesome wine – the fruit and top register, the depth and compactness. Everyone loved it – they always do.

Tragically, it soon ran out and so we tapped an altogether more classic fino – a Panesa from October 2019 – which never let’s you down. Just class, sculpted palomino, with all its nuts in butter.

I then picked a wine slightly out of order – Encrucijado 2015 – the proto palo cortado (by now I was fully warmed up and well into an explanation of the situation pre-phyloxera), should really have come earlier. Butterscotch loveliness but so much finer and more subtle in profile than the heavy old Jerez finos.

By now we are tucking into some world class escabeches – pularda and presa ibérica – and the chosen accompaniment was the VORS Amontillado by Bodegas Tradicion. What a class wine – fine, fragrant, flavourful and elegant. One of the very best in its category.

And then callos, garbanzos, and the absolutely epic oloroso De La Riva. Not a lot to say about this absolutely sensational oloroso, except that it struck me as wonderfully elegant for all its rusty nail and acidity.

By this stage of dinner the intellectual discourse has become fragmented and there is a sense that the battle is won. I cannot remember what we had for dessert, but we accompanied it with a regal old 1955 pedro ximenez from Toro Albala, before a glass of the top class Tradicion brandy to cap off the night.

A fantastic dinner with a fair bit of laughter and a range of wines you can only find in one place in Madrid. Many thanks to Paqui and the team and the less said about Thursday morning the better …

La Panesa – January 2020

A brand new bottle of this marvellous wine, the pinnacle of bottle ageing. A full 15 years under the flor (on average, a lot longer in the case of some of its contents) and after six weeks or so in the bottle as fresh as a daisy.

The archetypal fino with a nose full of nuts, yeast and minerals and a superb full, solid palate – like a great opera tenor no woolly vibrato here. Full in flavour but elegant in profile – a really fantastic wine.

And in the background maestro David Villalon selecting cheeses from the unequalled board at Angelita Madrid. Two legends in one lunchtime.

Kaleja

The writer has had a few sensational lunches over the years but some are more sensationaler than others. The most sensational of them all was probably the one I had just under six weeks ago in Kaleja in Malaga.

January is a tricky old month – a combination of hangover and start all over, with added paperwork, and anything you can do to boost morale is too little. And it struck me that if you can’t see a bit of daylight between the clouds overhead then it is time to go and seek out the sun. So spotting a gap in the deadlines I availed myself of the convenient high speed train provided at vast expense to the public purse and shimmied down to Malaga. And I wasn’t just after a bit of winter sun, I was on a mission to have a look at this new venture by legends’ legend Dani Carnero and a crew featuring none other than my good mate Juanito, an absolutely top bloke and seriously talented sommelier in the making.

First impressions were bang on the money. It was January 15, bleak midwinter you might think, but not in Malaga. In Malaga the street was full of people in shorts, drinking beers on terraces and generally enjoying life in a way that is utterly inconsistent with any reasonable definition of the term “winter”. Not only that, but the stroll down from the station to the resto is a lovely one – a beautiful, underrated city this, and if you know where you are going you can pass by the traditional market, Picasso’s house and a few other assorted sights on your way. Timing is also perfect – get a train at a reasonable hour from Madrid, wander over and there is just time for a refreshing caña on the terrace before you get down to business.

But get down to business one must get and there, in the shadow of the castle in an alleyway off the famous view of the walls, is the restaurant itself. And it is the business.

I am not your man if you are after descriptions of interior decoration but this place is elegant. The staff, the uniforms, the layout, the furniture, the understated homage to the barbecue coals on display. But the best of all is the kitchen, because the kitchen has a bar – a minimalist stone surface with subtle lighting and an unbeatable view – because a few lucky diners can sit and enjoy a menu that Dani and the crew are literally making before their eyes.

I was one such lucky diner, and doubly lucky because I was allowed to sit there with all my friends (yep, it was just me). Now I have always found it very relaxing to watch others work, and this would have been a very relaxing time had they not been constantly interrupting my contemplation with new wines and dishes.

And what wines they were. You can see them above, and if you have been following this blog for any length of time you don’t need me to tell you that it was what is known as a festival. Absolute gems from start to finish and all the way through: so much so that the Barajuela Fino almost merged with the crowd. Really a consistently high standard and some excellent, innovative choices, but never straying far from the traditional wines of Andalucia, surely the best wines for this cooking 8 times of every 10. I am not saying this was a standard pairing menu – I gave Juanito instructions not to spare the ponies – but even then the pain at the end was more than reasonable – and in fact the list was very faily priced. In short, even a far better blog than this one will find it easy to enjoy the liquid assortment. For me it was just incredible.

And what dishes they were too. Dani Carnero is known as a man for the stews – pride of place in the kitchen is a traditional Andalucian cooking fire surrounded by bubbling pots – but the word “stew” just does not do justice to a recital like this one. I took the standard menu of fourteen dishes with just a couple of extras that Dani talked me into and looking back it is really hard to argue with any of them. If I had to pick any out as especially good they would be the berza, the magic beans in magically cheesy sauce, the ajoblanco, the rice, the roasted peppers, the hare, the callos de bacalao, the mackerel, the squid, the lentils  … (let’s face it, I couldn’t really pick any out). The bread was crunchy and fleshy, the butter was flavourful. See if you can find fault with it because I could not.

In summary: three hours of absolute treat after absolute treat, in the best possible surroundings.

Because the space you are in is congenial – beautifully decorated in the quietest possible street in central Malaga, but the best of all is that you are surrounded by the absolute salt of the earth. Juanito is a friend and a known great bloke, and I had also had good reports of Dani Carnero, but nothing could have prepared me for the welcome I received down there. It was like dropping into your mate’s house, inviting yourself into the kitchen and having him or her whip you up a world class menu and soak you in world class wines while you chew the cud and generally set the world to rights. (He knows his onions too, your man there.)

A truly memorable experience in a world class restaurant that surely must now go on to conquer the world. I have never been one for real estate investments but if you could buy the land under the seats at that bar in the kitchen I reckon you would be golden.

Many thanks to Juanito, Dani and the whole team and my sincere congratulations. I cannot wait to get back to that stool at the bar for another go but will always remember my first visit.

Cuatro Palmas – 2012 edition

This was a gift given to me by wonderful friends and I am mortified that I have opened it without being able to share it with them.

But on the other hand I have them in mind as I drink this excellent wine. A superb example of an old amontillado, this is so fine on the nose, so saline and sharp, and so elegant of profile, with maybe just a fanned out tail like a fiery saline shuttlecock.

Beautiful work from Antonio Flores and the team at Gonzalez Byass back in 2012. Which I now remember is the year I met my friends – and my woe is compounded.

A wonderful wine to finish in instalments …

 

Atlántida Blanco 2016

Your correspondent had this for the first time a while ago now (a year?) at a cracking lunch in Zalamero Taberna and another fun lunch with the same person inspired me to have a second dip.

It is a wine by Compañias de Vino del Atlantico, your man Alberto Orte, who has by now built up a bit of an empire spanning the Spanish peninsula but is beloved of this parish for his wines in the region of Jerez.

He has a nice little tintilla that goes by the name of vara y pulgar – a nice reference to pruning for the gardener’s world crowd – and some really top class finos and upwards, but this is a Vijariego blanco.

Yes indeed, one of your good old Vijariegos – one of the 119 varieties around in Jerez pre-phyloxera and apparently resuscitated to good effect here. It has had 12 months or more in oak and it is a bomb of flavour alright – the extra year in the bottle has brought it on even more compared to my first meeting with it.

They compared it to white burgundy and it has that feel of a broad on the beam chardonnay but with more sharp edges to it – real devil in there, almost as if it was one of these volcanic Canary wines. And of course none of the lime cordial of a chardonnay – here you have an altogether more grapefruity undertow.

Full flavour and full on. Would be fascinating to see how this develops over the years.