Manzanilla Madura Callejuela 

A spot of lunch in one of my happy places: the bar of the wonderful Taberna Verdejo. No sooner have I sat down than a glass of this heat killing manzanilla madura is produced (and it disappeared almost as quickly).

I am not sure if this is from Pago Callejuela or not, but if I had to guess I would say so –  a river influence manzanilla that while not absolutely as vertical, fresh or direct as its atlantic cousins is still sharp enough and with a bit of body about it. It looks like serious, solid stuff – clear but not too much sparkle – and has a seaside and mature apple nose. On the palate a mildly zingy beginning, apple and herb flavours with a suggestion of oxidation and a fresh, fluid finish.

Hit the spot: a cracking way to start an excellent lunch.


Criadera /A

Am going with the short version of the name here. This was wine number four of an outstanding lunch with Bodegas Alvear last week and had a tough gig, wedged as it was between an outstanding fino (the Fino Capataz Solera de la Familia) and a quite sensational amontillado (Amontillado Solera Fundacional). 

Said to have an average age of around 13/14 years (compared to 10/12 for the fino) this is the “fino que va para amontillado” – the biological wine headed for the amontillado solera. It has had more oxidation than the fino – the flor starting to disappear for seasons from around eight years onwards – but hasn’t really had the full roast of oxidation of an amontillado. 

It is only slightly richer in colour than the fino, a lovely rich amber. On the nose it is less aromatic – you really notice the reduced exposure to flor – and although there is a touch more hazelnut in the nose there is less of the sweet wet hay aroma, making it seems less sweet overall. 

On the palate it is a similar story, a tighter, slightly less expressive wine compared to the fino, with a touch more intensity and a sharper profile. Punchy, acidic start and a fresh finish gives it a nice elegant profile. (Curiously once the glass is empty the aromas are much more lively – sweetness and haybales.)

Another very fine wine, elegance and intensity. 

Fino CB 

The second wine from my epic lunch with Alvear last week was the Fino CB, a six year old fino, once again from 100% pedro ximenez, and from wine that did not require fortification. Am realizing that it is a house that venerates its former capatazes and here is another example: it is apparently named after Capataz Villanueva (in the, erm, old Spanish, Billanueva). 

As you can just about see it was a pale straw colour with just a hint of green. A punchy nose with a touch of yeasty bread about it. Was interesting to try it after the Marques de la Sierra, because whereas that wine was leafy and had notes of fennel and anise this one takes it up a notch and has that liquorice root flavour I associate with pedro ximenez finos. Has a slightly richer texture to it. If the Marques was silky this has a bit more velvety, oily body – and a warm, savoury palate and a nicely integrated salinity that is more sapid than saline. 

An underrated and enjoyable fino with its own character. Good old Captain Villanueva! 

Marques de la Sierra 

Not the first dry white pedro ximenez wine I have had but there have not been many. This was the first wine of a quite fantastic lunch with Javier Noval of Alvear and in the heat of Madrid was a top start.

I am convinced that, just like Jerez and its creams and mediums, the dry wines of Montilla Moriles are victims of the phenomenal success of their sweet pedro ximenez. In fact even more so, because the very name of the grape has become synonymous with the sweet wine. But so much more is possible with pedro ximenez and it strikes me that a straight dry table wine should be an important part of any bodega’s armoury.  Alvear are in fact leading the charge, and with the help of Alfonso Torrente of Envinate will soon be releasing some parcel specific wines under the name “Tres Miradas” – a cordobes homage to the Pitijopos. 

This is not one of those wines, but rather the reboot of a classic label and it is a fesh and enjoyable wine. Dry but has a citrus, floral sweetness of flavour and some nice minerals and green leaves and – a great shout by Javier – some fennel flavours. 

Very nice thirst quenching stuff – and as far from the popular image of a pedro ximenez as you can get. 

Oloroso la Cigarrera

If you look closely at the picture you will see a reflection of the photographer off the wine glass. If you look even closer, you will see the wine glass reflecting off the forehead of the photographer. Even closer etc …

But more important than the photography, here we have a very enjoyable Sanlucar oloroso. It is a disconcerting class of wine because they are unlike their more plentiful Jerez brethren – specifically they tend to be much lighter and slightly more saline. 

This is no exception. As you can see, a nice sandy/auburn colour, it is nicely aromatic with nuts, a little bit of volatile, coffee granules and a suggestion of haybales (on the label there is a reference to time under flor?). On the palate again it is has that bit of volatile acidity and is light and airy, lightly roasted nuts again. 

Very decent – an easy wine to pair, or indeed to drink on its own. I had it with callos a la tailandesa in Territorio Era. 

Fino Dos Palmas, 2016

Had this during a recent visit to Zaragoza’s sherry temple, Absinthium, and must say it was the perfect aperitif.

A lovely rich gold colour – as you can see it was maybe just a little chilly. Appetising nose with fresh, piercing, salinity and beach grass and almonds in the back ground. Then on the palate it is fatty/creamy in texture, has a nice edge of salinity and again a pleasing, almond flavour to it. Not a very long finish but a fresh one.

Elegant, tasty, and fresh. Lovely stuff.

Fino que va para amontillado Criadera/A – 1/2017 


I think we have now reached the limit in terms of length of wine name – this is getting to Riesling-like proportions. Was going to write this up as an amontillado fino but have gone with the manufacturer’s instructions.

It is the first saca of 2017 (or ever), one of the new releases by Alvear (you can try them all at Territorio Era), and as you can see is a pretty limited release – 1060 tiny bottles. 100% pedro ximenez with an age of around 10-12 years under flor and apparently from the criadera used to feed the solera of the amontillado VORS.

It has a bit more reddish brown than straw in colour and is pretty clear, if not quite cristaline. On the nose I find it much closer to an amontillado than a fino. I don’t get quite as much haybale biological action in the nose, just maybe a bit of sawdust whereas there is a piercing salty bitter almond aroma. On the palate too it wasn’t as fat or fatty as I expected. In fact I was surprised by just how dry and fine it is. An elegant palate, with a nice sharp acidity, a very piercing bitter almond flavour and a fresh, saline finish.

An elegant wine in a cheeky little bottle: get one if you can.