Oloroso M Antonio de la Riva

From the reborn De la Riva label this is nevertheless a very old wine – said to be over 70 years old – from a solera that Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Perez have acquired and brought back to life with wine from Balbaina Baja.

The first impression is of the beautiful old school packaging – the vintage label and dinky bottle – and it still looks good in the glass. The one above looks too cold (only cellar temperature but in any event it soon warmed up) but even so you can see the rich red chestnut colour, which was clear as a bell.

Even more than how it looks, this wine just smells sensational. The most amazing aromatic profile – a sweet brandy nose with volatile acidity lifting and nuts and caramel in the background. Absolutely delicious, enticing aromas.

Then on the palate it is as sharp and potent as any oloroso I have had. Sharp acidity and salinity then a lot of concentrated flavours emerging like flavored layers of a gobstopper.  I saw Luis Gutierrez describe this as having rusty nail and that is bang on – there is rustiness at the beginning and end, with a big robust nutty caramel to burn caramel in the middle and a slightly dusty, astringent, biting finish.

A cracking little bottle of wine (and excellent accompaniment to a couple of frames of snooker).


Solear en Rama Autumn 2018 – the Northern Gannet

It’s a surprisingly handsome bird the Northern Gannet – its Spanish name “Alcatraz Atlantico – does it more justice, but it is still not a patch on the wine it graces the label of.

This is yet another absolute beauty of a manzanilla off this formidable production line. Gorgeous gold colour, intensely herbal nose, a zingy, yeasty, and maybe a little jammy palate, then fading to bitter salad flavours and a spicey, salty finish.

Really remarkable how intense the flavours of these wines are. Top quality.

El Señor Martin

Absolutely top trucking tonight at El Señor Martin, a classy fish and seafood grill here in town that opened a few months ago but is still chock full to the rafters.

At the end of the night it was no surprise. We were wonderfully looked after by Antonio, one of Madrid’s top, most under rated maitres, stuffed absolutely full of beautifully cooked aquatic protein and spoiled rotten by Patric the sommelier.

No worries with the list of sherries – eleven all told, plus two Montilla Moriles wines, and all the bases covered. In addition they had the white, rose, and red wines of Forlong and the 30 del Cuadrado – one of the few places I have seen it. It must be said that the prices by the glass were extremely fair – this is somewhere you can come and try a few things.

But forget about the wine, look at the cabracho! We ate superbly – everything from the oysters, the borriquete, clams, winkles, razor shells and scallops were spot on, but the cabracho (scorpion fish) took the cake. Even better, your man came and dissected the head for us, winkling out the muscles that had had the benefit of the eye juices in the cooking or the frequent bruising of a life spent feeding off rocks in strong currents. It was absolutely delicious.

No doubt that this place is going on the list – a great night and not the last.

Dancing with the stars in Corral de la Morería

Yet another celebration at Corral de la Moreria and as always a pleasure to be there. The motive on this occasion was the award last week of their first Michelin star, the first for a tablao de flamenco. A historic achievement for a historic establishment and a proud moment for a fantastic team.

There is no doubt that the superstar and man of the hour is David Garcia, the crack chef who since joining in 2016 has earned his second embroidered jacket by taking el Corral to another level. He has done so with cooking that is superb, imaginative, and perfectly matched to both the fantastic wines on offer and the crackling atmosphere of the tablao, with simply prepared outstanding product spiced up with unexpectedly zingy sauces, sharp contrasts and crisp textures. It is no exaggeration to say that he is responsible for some of the tastiest morsels I have ever eaten and certainly some of the most memorable dinners.

He hasn’t done it alone of course. He captains a big crew of cracking young chefs in the kitchen, and there is an even bigger crew of waiters and staff (incredibly adept at serving wines and dinners while crouching and crawling around on the floor) marshalled superbly by sommelier David Ayuso and, above all, by Juan Manuel and Armando del Rey. It is not for nothing that these guys won the Premio Nacional de la Gastronomia for the best “sala” (service) this year (that was also a great party) – it is friendly, polished, and faultless. (And of course it also helps that they have a quite spectacular wine list, including probably the biggest collection of sherries old and new that you will find anywhere.)

And however much we would like to talk about the cuisine, the service and the wines, there is no point denying that what defines the Corral de la Morería is the “tablao”: the raised area of floorboards in the corner, and the artists that grace it. The guitarists strumming joyfully, taking their cue from the dancers, the lads hammering on boxes, the big lads singing, clapping and giving it the occasional “olé” at the back and the quite outstanding dancers whirling, posing, tapping and hammering across the stage. I am blissfully ignorant of the intricacies but you don’t need to be an expert to see that this is art of the highest order, something beautiful, human, exhilarating and inspiring, that gives a little bit of meaning to life and that anyone can enjoy.

There really is nowhere like it, and although I am happy for them today I can’t help feeling that one star is scant reward for so much talent, so much excellence, and so much fun. If I wasn’t lucky enough to already live in Madrid I would happily drive here just for el Corral, the very definition of “vaut le voyage”.

Paez Morilla Reserva 25

One of the unexpected benefits of my fascination with Jerez has been getting to know what proper vinagre tastes like. Sharp, intense, and rich, this beauty is in every dimension superior to the industrial version you may find in your supermarket.

It is produced by Paez Morilla, who have apparently been selling Vinagre de Jerez longer than anyone (since 1945 or thereabouts) and is produced in soleras fed with “vinos de jerez de palomino fino” (it says here). As a result it is a fairly hefty 8% proof but unlike some of the reserva vinagres I have tried it isn’t over the top.

Really cracking accompaniment to some nice fried hake today at Media Racion – all that was missing were the chips …

Pitijopos Volume II, Part 4 – La Atalaya

Three years now since the first night of the Pitijopos (Volume I) – for me one of the most memorable and educational nights as a wine drinker.

For the uninitiated, the Pitijopos are sets of six “mostos” from 100% palomino grown in six specific sites – in Volume I from across the sherry region and in Volume II from around Sanlucar, fermented without temperature controls in bota at Cota 45, and released as boxed sets with the aim of demonstrating the different terroirs and the characteristics they can imprint on the wines of the region.

Volume II – which a few colleagues and I tasted together back in January last year – is all about Sanlucar and sets up a contrast between the vineyards near the Atlantic and those inland, influenced by the Guadalquivir river – and this is one of the wines from that particular box (which if you are interested are currently on sale in single file at Reserva y Cata).

Specifically, it is the wine from a pago called La Atalaya, said to be a fascinating “hybrid” pago halfway between the river and atlantic pagos, 10,75km from the sea and characterized by albariza antehojuela which makes for direct, fresh wines, albeit tempered by the inland location and climate.

When first released it had a very aromatic nose of lemon and seaside air, a fresh start, nice juicy volume and a long, mouthwatering saline, seafood shell finish (or so I wrote at the time at least).

A year and ten months later it is still aromatic and fresh but seems much more complex. The citrus nose now has a strong air of bicycle inner tube and a hint of diesel, and you have that same mineral complexity on a palate that is still juicy and jammy, with salinity that is really only noticeable in that fresh finish. I really like it in fact – would even say it has improved in those two years (as these palominos tend to do imho).

Long live the Pitijopos and bring on Volume III!