Tio Pepe en rama 2019

The tenth edition of Gonzalez Byass’s en rama bottling of the legendary fino and that moment of every year when a fella has to stop and salute the behemoth that is Gonzalez Byass.

They don’t get much airtime on this blog for a few reasons – one being that the kind of restaurants and winebars I go to don’t, with a few exceptions, seem to have them on their wine list. Even their very high end wines – the Palmas – cannot easily be found, and I sometimes wonder why.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am the number one fan of all the little bodegas, the new kids on the block, the guys that are subverting the norms of which Tio Pepe is a symbol. Neither am I a fan of making wines in the millions of barrels (I just don’t see how it is possible to be honest) and in Jerez in particular there is a special kind of opprobrium attached to any suggestion of industrialization.

But I can’t find it in my heart to blame Tio Pepe for all the world’s ills. They may make a lot of wine, but there is plenty on the plus side of the ledger. They may not have been the first, but these en ramas, the Palmas, and the promotional weight they throw behind them have also played their part in the “sherry revolution” we all embrace. They also do their bit at the very top end with their superb olorosos and palo cortados de añada.

And even before that, by having their wines on the shelves all over the world and all the time they did as much as anyone to keep the flame alive. I may not go looking for their wines but I don’t know how many times I have been happy to see a little green bottle on a supermarket shelf, in a fridge, in an exotic wine bar, in a barrow full of beach refreshments. I remember being almost overcome with emotion when a steward on an airline was able to find not just a bottle of Tio Pepe but also a bottle of Alfonso oloroso.

As a result, the almonds in this wine are one of the most familiar flavours I, and probably the majority of the world’s sherry drinkers, associate with the dry ones. I well remember doing a blind tasting of Tio Pepe in its standard and en rama versions and I was able to spot them mainly because the good old Tio Pepe was so unmistakable (and lighter in color, let’s be honest).

And here is that flavour, baked almonds, and zing, and mouthwatering freshness. More juice, more herbs here, with umami depth. Like grelos in a rich Galician stew, this is delicious and familiar.

Big isn’t bad, not bad at all.

 

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Fino en rama “Los Mimbres”

No doubt that this was en rama – almost the last glass from the bottle and as you can see it was pretty murky in the glass, and positively swampy in the bottle.

A fresh moriles fino, 100% pedro ximenez – from a single pago in Lagar de Benavides – and biologically aged in solera for around five years.

Very fresh almond and a little bit of greenery on the nose, then punchy, almonds, very slight hint of liquorice and yeast, and a fresh finish. Not the sharpest or most corpulent of wines – straight through – but fresh and flavourful.

Will try and make sure I get the first glass of the next bottle …

La Bota 68 de Fino – Macharnudo Alto

This is the fino from Macharnudo Alto by Equipo Navazos that is a near relation of the all time classic Inocente by Valdespino and a comparison of the two – particularly if you could get a bottling of Inocente from the same date – would be very interesting.

Every time I try this wine I am reminded of the tremendous impact it had on me when I first tried it in January 2017 – it had such amazing zip and pizzazz and seemed to jump out of the glass at me. Since then I have found that it mellowed in July 2017, was hanging on in November 2017 and this time, in February 2019 had become fine and mellow to an extent that was unrecognizable from its original vigour. (It had also changed color noticeably, something I also noted in November 2017.

Of course the three later bottles might not have been stored in identical circumstances, the latter ones may even have been open a few days and these are living wines – you can never guarantee that they age the same way. But despite that all my experiences tend to point me to the conclusion that the explosive aromatics and flavour profile when first released – when you could accurately have described this wine as Inocente on steroids – are not sustained over the years in the bottle. In fact you get the impression that the wine is almost exhausted by all that early exertion – something I have never come across in an Inocente. (I will have to search one out with a December 2016 bottling to see if I am right.)

This wine is still a lovely drop: sweet, floral and herbal nose, soft palate with yeast, nuts and bitter almonds, and a fresh, mouth watering finish. But it is hard not to hanker after that younger, more effervescent incarnation.

Fino Cruzado Las Botas

One of the highlights of the summer was getting to talk about the marquistas at no less a venue than Er Guerrita – reported in in a cracking post by Carmen Martinez de Artola – and here is a fine example of the marquista breed.

This fino was bottled by the guys at “Las Botas”, Cesar Velazquez and Raul Villabrille, and whereas I was originally told it was from botas selected from the Fino Señorita Irene at Bodegas Francisco Yuste I now gather that it is from Fino Camborio (as I had in fact first thought – since it was the first time I tried it).

Knowing that it is no surprise to find it nicely full bodied and thirst quenching (and at the same time mouth watering) stuff. Said to have an average age of ten years and to be on the crossroads between a fino and an amontillado. Not sure I would go as far as that, but this is near to my sweet spot for finos: enough age and contact with the cabecillas to make it slightly bitter on the nose and buttery in texture and plenty of flavour there. Flavours of almond to toasted almond and a long flavourful and fresh finish.

When we spoke at Der Guerrita one of the issues that came up was the difficulty for the new marquistas – like Las Botas to come up with original marketing propositions and it must be said that their denominations: “fino cruzado”, “manzanilla apartada” etc are a bit harder to understand than the magic numbers, for example.

Nevertheless the important thing is that they have done a good job selecting this – I will look out for the Yuste finos – and if they can sell it as well good luck to them.

Manzanilla Deliciosa en rama, May 2016

Look at the colour of that. Rusty water, with a touch of rusty nail on the nose and palate (or is it suggestion?). Couldn’t help but think of the manzanilla en rama la Guita when I saw it, although unlike that second cousin this wine has acquired its colour from two years in the bottle – as you can see if you compare it to how it was two years ago.

Interesting to compare that note with this wine – this is still aromatic and yeasty, but a touch sour, slightly more mulchy haybales on the nose and a lower register in fruit flavours. Very enjoyable with the oxidation and a fun thing to try (here in Zalamero Taberna by the glass).

Delicious little bottle.

Precede Miraflores 2013

Complete with a good size section of the great barrier reef …

This is another under-rated palomino, even among the fans, probably because there was so little of it (and I have drunk an unseemly number of the 700 bottles) and maybe also because of its enjoyable fruity concentration and profile. Rich baked savory pineapple flavours with saline heat and a long fresh/hot/fruity finish.

This was my last bottle and I am missing it already!

Fino del Puerto Lustau in El Del Medio

Had a cracking lunch in “El del Medio” this weekend. Not a sherry destination by a long way – just two on the list – and they seem to view sherry as an aperitif, with just this and the Macarena on the list, but the food was high quality and high fun and this is a terrific fino with lots of personality.

Has that aroma of rockpools that for me really characterizes the finos del puerto: not super aromatic but a punchy noseful. Then has a heavy saline body, plenty of juice and a really fresh finish.

Perfectly decent stuff and went beautifully with artichokes and scallops. The job, as they say, is a good one.