Las Viñas de Callejuela – the 2014 edition

The genial Blanco brothers from Callejuela were in Madrid for a few days just when I was away, but were kind enough to leave me a little present at my preferred fuelling post, Territorio Era.

You may have read about the vineyard specific wines that these guys first released. Those were the 2015 and were terrific enough, but these little fellas are the 2014s and have even more personality. I gather they are due to be released early next year and they will be worth not just seeking out but fighting over if necessary.


The flock

Here they all are together: four years and sixteen seasons worth of sacas of this brilliant manzanilla by Barbadillo from the pioneering series that first started way back in 1999.

Despite my haphazard approach to collection, which frequently involves accidental consumption, thanks to a generous and very thoughtful gift from the guys at Barbadillo I was able to fill a couple of gaps in the flock and, with the most recent additions the family is as follows:

We are now at the point where their sheer is pushing the frontier of my ability to take their picture together – will have to have a word with my man Abel Valdenebro and, who knows, even maybe use a camera.

Anyway, if you haven’t had the chance to try them then I can’t recommend them highly enough. Even if it were not for the series, the ideas that they represent or the lovely animals depicted on their labels they would be worth seeking out for the most important reason of all: the liquid in the bottles. Always one of my favourite manzanillas, with just enough haybale and malty aroma and a deep inland, spicey juice and herb, salt and pepper character. But then there are the variations from saca to saca. Magnificent stuff.

Solear en rama summer 2017 – the Red-knobbed Coot

The real red-knobbed coot (focha cornuda) – so called due to a red knob on its forehead, as you can probably see, is in danger of extinction. The liquid version is facing a similar predicament. The population of bottles seems to be dwindling rapidly.

This one has a beautiful deep gold colour and a nose that is herbal and chamomile on top and yeasty and bread underneath. Then it has a zingy palate, that also has a bit of undercooked bread and even creaminess about it. Really gives it a nice shape – a punchy, intense start, lots of umami and vegetable richness and then a spicy, stinging finish.

Endangered they may be but it is hard to see a solution – they are just too appetizing.

Encrucijado 2015

Encrucijado is one of the projects of Ramiro Ibañez’s Cota 45 and touches on many of the threads of the history the guy is trying to recreate. A multivarietal, vintage specific wine that corresponds to what was once called palo cortado (before that term became synonymous with the more marketable olorosos).

This is the third vintage and the third variation: the first was the 2012, and was from six varieties (50% Palomino Fino and 10% each of Beba, Mantúo Pilas (aka “Uva Rey”), Perruno, Cañocazo and Mantúo Castellano); the second, the 2014, was 40% “Uva Rey”, 40% Perruno and only 20% Palomino. This third addition is 50% Perruno, 30% Uva Rey and 20% Palomino.

My first impression of the wine is that it is a chip off those previous blocks. Has that butterscotch aroma and flavour, maybe slightly sharper and with a bit more volume and heft this time, but still with a buttery saline finish. Very approachable and very fine, elegant wine (although I know for a fact that the author believes it will improve further with time in the bottle).

Palo Cortado Sacristia AB – Saca Única

Fantastic lunch yesterday at the wonderful Taberna Verdejo started with a nice surprise and a cheeky snifter after bumping into none other than Antonio Barbadillo and Dolores Sanchez at the bar. And snifters don’t come any cheekier than this: the long awaited Palo Cortado.

Antonio was cagey about its origins and would only tell me that it was extremely old – a hundred years were mentioned. And all I can tell you from my brief inspection is that it is another collector’s item. Rich and deep in colour and woody, tobacco aromas and a full, nicely integrated palate with mouth-watering salinity and walnut and tobacco flavours, turning sweet and then black coffee bitter.

Not many of these little bottles available and well worth looking out for – particularly if you can ambush the man himself with the bottle open.

Jerez and the weight of history

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a really top class private dinner organized by Vila Viniteca to celebrate ten years since the release of their 75th anniversary wines, a series of 26 unique wines made by Spain’s leading names in their honour. The setting – Ramon Freixa at the Hotel Unico – was spectacular and I have to say the food was really excellent, but the stars were the wines and the winemakers.

We were joined by five of said leading names (above, from left to right): José Maria Ruiz (Pago de Carraovejas and Ossian); Telmo Rodriguez (Lanzaga, Matallana, Gago, Gaba do Xil, Viña 105, Basa, Pegaso, Al Muvedre and Molino Real); Ana Martin (Guitian, Terras Gauda and Itsasmendi ); Mariano Garcia (of Mauro, Aalto, Viña San Roman, and Garmon); and Victor de la Serna (Finca Sandoval, El Mundo and Elmundovino). They had each brought the wine they had contributed to the Collection and they were excellent on the night – five very different wines but they all had a lot of personality, from subtle richness and complexity through freshness, fruitfulness and all the way to structure and power before a superlative old malaga wine to fnish.

More importantly, they sang generously for their supper, sharing some entertaining accounts of their wines and thoughts on winemaking and since the viewpoints were far from uniform it is fair to say there followed a pretty healthy and lively debate. It was fascinating stuff and although a lot of different views were expressed it was hard to disagree with any of them. Almost everything was covered, from the merits of bulk and supermarket wine to the loss of the historic places, and it was this last theme, raised by Telmo Rodriguez, that really piqued my interest.

There was a bit of lively debate as to the relevance of the history of a vineyard, and understandably so: although established names, the winemakers around the table were also all pioneers. But there seemed to be consensus that there was much to be gained from knowing the history of the winemaking in a region, planting where the village elders recommend, learning from the techniques of days gone by and the like. But Telmo’s concern in particular was that the economics of modern winemaking made it difficult to justify historic but inaccesible vineyards, or at least to work them in the right way, and that really rang true.

Because if there is one winemaking area in Spain with historic places you can probably guess what it is. I am no wine historian and it seems at times that any wine making area worth its salt can trace its history back to the romans, but my impression is that Jerez has the kind of history that any region would envy: Columbus took it with him in 1492, Magellan was said to have spent more on sherry than on weapons, and Francis Drake started an innovative form of import business into the UK all before the end of the 16th Century. More importantly, I may not know much about history but I enjoy a bit of the bard and your man Shapesmoke seemed to enjoy a sherry.

Those historical headlines haven’t been forgotten – for better or worse they form a prominent part of the marketing of the wines from the region. But what struck me about the comments by Telmo and the other winemakers at the dinner, not for the first time, was how much of the real history of winemaking of the region has been forgotten: the vineyards that the phoenicians and romans were busy naming, the varieties that were cultivated and the techniques that were honed over centuries. It also struck me as ironic that this process of forgetting happened during precisely the period in which other regions were rising to prominence (both Vega Sicilia and modern Rioja are mid 19th Century, for example), and just as Telmo pointed out, that the reasons were often disguised as economic and scientific advances.

And so once again I had managed to go to a dinner at which there was no sherry and found myself thinking obsessively about sherry. Fortunately I didn’t have the chance to bore everyone about it out loud because the debate was, by that stage, high energy. But I have certainly had cause to reflect since, about winemaking and sherry, but also about history, and the conflict between modern history and, for want of a better term, real history.





La Bota de Manzanilla 55

I first tried this at the home of a friend and was blown away by the nose it had – I remember he had it in a burgundy glass when he came in and from a yard away there was no doubt it was a manzanilla, and a delicious one too. Funnily enough it came up in conversation on Monday night with another friend and then hey presto, without even asking I am poured a glass here at the bar of Media Ración.

It is still beautifully fragrant – just a hint of savoury sawdust and sea-salt under floral chamomile. (I didn’t smell it from any distance this time but on the other hand I have a bit of a cold.) Nice rich colour – maybe a shade darker when first released but that was three years ago now. Still tasty and zingy on the palate too – and a lovely elegant profile.

This is maybe a bit obsessive of me but with these Equipo Navazos wines, and the certainty they give you as to the date of bottling, I am always fascinated to look at the evolution. On that score this has actually evolved a little less than the fino I tried earlier this week – despite being somewhat older. Interesting stuff.