Manzanilla pasada La Guita (1970s)

This was a second very special wine brought to lunch by Juancho Asenjo – the man is a legend – in Territorio Era recently.

It had some tough competition on the day – a quite outstanding 20 year old Fino Carta Blanca – and has a tough act to follow in the form of its own descendants. You see it is a manzanilla pasada La Guita from (I think – memory is a bit hazy for some reason) the 1970s and would be a lineal ancestor of the outstanding “noughty”‘manzanilla pasadas released in more recent times by Equipo Navazo, which are among the very finest wines I have tried from the region.

And this was a fascinating wine. Was a rich old amber in colour and was pretty clear, maybe just a hint of cloudiness. On the nose it was still there – a bit of old apple and straw – although not as punchy as it might once have been, and on the palate it was extraordinary. Not so much the flavours, which were still there and were enjoyable if a little muted, but a quite amazing chalky, almost chalk dust texture.

The most mineral wine I have ever tasted without question – extraordinary stuff.

Tosca Cerrada 2016

If you want to enjoy palomino white wines I have two top tips: first give them time in the bottle and then give the bottle time once open. In particular I have found that these wines by Mario Rovira have improved in the bottle – those lucky enough to still have the 2014s really sing their praises.

This one, the 2016, is probably a little unready: aromatic with an apple and sweet herb nose but slightly murky in appearance and just the slightest touch heavy on the palate. Fresh start then that apple and a touch of bitterness, then a touch of fennel leaf or anis coming out in a persistent finish.

Very enjoyable but I reckon you might want to keep this a year or so.

Palo Cortado Península

This is one of a pair of wines given to me by a grateful (and far too generous) client, together with its amontillado twin, the Escuadrilla. I say twin because the pair of them are twelve years old: whereas the Escuadrilla had four years under flor and eight of oxidative ageing, this had a brief year under flor and eleven of oxidative ageing.

The fichas on the Lustau website have some very interesting technical data, showing as you would expect that this palo cortado has slightly more alcohol and slightly more volatile acidity than the amontillado. Those differences may seem slight but they are noticeable, with the palo cortado having noticeably more nip and sting to it.

Otherwise the family resemblance is clear: the same hazelnut flavours. The differences are as distinctive – a touch more vanilla on the nose, a little bit more blackcurrant bitterness on the palate and a dryer finish with more tobacco flavour.

Fino Solera Fina de Maria del Valle, Bodegas Gracia  

Not long ago I was in a favourite restaurant and an enthusiast of the wines of Montilla Moriles asked our host if he had any of the dry wines from that region. The response could have been more diplomatic: “yes indeed, we use it when braising the kidneys”. (I nearly choked on my fino but I think we got away with it.)

No danger of that kind of response these days – the dry wines of Montilla Moriles are gaining traction all the time and seem to attract really enthusiastic enthusiasts – the moment I started this blog I was under siege to include the region in the description. here is no doubt that there are some really superb wines coming from Montilla Moriles, as the four or five keen followers of this blog may have noticed, and I certainly have no problem with enthusiasm in general.

Nevertheless, it does grate at times that the fans of Montilla Moriles seem to dedicate an inordinate amount of their time comparing their wines to those of Jerez, as if to praise one you need necessarily disparage the other, and perhaps without knowing it seem a little chippy about the latter’s greater world reknown. Always strikes me as a little unnecessary. (In fact, it strikes me that the region is well placed to benefit from the resurgence of these traditional wines since in general they are free of association with the mistakes of Jerez’s more recent, less discerning past.)

In any event, this wine, on a label owned by the outstanding Perez Barquero and with a moniker as long as one of my intros,  is certainly well placed to benefit from such interest. It has a lot of my favourite variety of seaside grass on the nose, with nice raw almonds and a dry punchiness to it. Slightly full and greasy in texture, and on the mineral end it is warming and mouthwatering without really sizzling.

A very decent alternative to a fino from you know where …



Manzanilla en rama La Gitana

In Territorio Era for the first time in far too long – nearly three weeks – and back in business with a nice glass of a classic manzanilla en rama. A rich gold colour, a  nice punchy sea-air and burnt almond nose and an intense, bitter and savoury, vegetable olive brine palate. 

Exactly what it says on the tin.

Manzanilla Solear en Rama Autumn 2017 – the Iberian Lynx 

The latest from my favourite series of manzanillas and you have to say it is a beauty: the Iberian Lynx. Rarest of the big cats and with absolutely cracking whiskers. It is a rerun of one of the first labels – from way back in 1999 – as a homage to the firefighters that helped extinguish this summer’s fire in Doñana national park, one of the Lynx’s last remaining habitats. 

And the wine inside is typically fine stuff.  More chalk and a touch less haybale and wild grass than I expected on the nose, and it also seems a little more oxidated on the palate. Still a flavourful, intense mouthful though – really quality manzanilla. 

Manzanilla Lucerita

There is a growing fashion in Spain for top restaurants and wine bars to have their own bottlings of wines and to be honest I am not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand if it generates interest – and I can see that in some cases it does – and if the restaurants are good then I can see it could have a positive effect. On the other hand, so many “special” bottlings floating around can give the impression that the “normal” stuff is a bit less special. Also you have to admit that the places we are talking about tend to have done their bit for the cause so I guess there are more pluses overall.

Anyway pardon the soliloquy but this here is one of the guest bottlings of which I speak. This is a special selection of Juan Piñero’s classic manzanilla, la Maruja, which has been bottled on this occasion for legendary San Sebastian wine bar and sherry temple Essencia. To give it an additional level of abstraction, they in turn very generously supplied a few bottles to Madrid’s very own Angelita, where I had it, so you could say here I am drinking something doubly exclusive. 

More importantly, it is a very nice way to start what will almost certainly turn into a pretty long lunch (they tend to here). Fresh, punchy, seaside air and esparto grass on the nose and a sharp, fresh and slippy but full flavoured mouthful to match. Really gets the juices flowing in every sense of the word.

Lucerita, by the way, means something along the lines of “little star” and as a name for this little gem it couldn’t be more apt. 

Bruto 2014

Now here is an interesting wine: 100% palomino from a single vineyard, spontaneous fermentation in the butt, then 12 months “under flor” and 4 months in inox. 948 bottle in total. And from Rueda of all places. 

Quite a geographic shift (about 600 km north as the urraca flies) but I am told it is less of an innovation than a throwback to the times when a lot of palomino was grown and aged in the North. It is also from an impeccable maker – Beatriz Herranz of Barco de la Corneta – who has a cult following for making serious wine from a grape (verdejo) and in a region that are too often synonymous with egregious mass production. 

Most importantly it is pretty tasty stuff. I wouldn’t have said it had 12 months under flor – if anything I would have said a good few months oxidation – and neither was it the most expressive, but there is pungency, solidity and salinity there. 

As experts in Madrid bar tops will know from the picture, I tried it in Angelita, where this month all the wines are from female winemakers, but you can find interesting wines by the glass all year around. 

Oloroso Valdivia 

Another experiment in bottle ageing thanks to the absolutely remarkable collection of wines on offer at Territorio Era. This is an oloroso from a bodega that is no longer around (although I gather there is a hotel that was the bodega) and the wine itself has been 11 years in the bottle. I don’t know much about the wine itself which makes it hard to judge the effects of the time in the bottle but it certainly shows all the hallmarks. 

As you can see it is a dull amber/brown in colour and a little bit of precipitation in the bottle. A bit of reduction on the nose when first opened which made it hard to judge what else was in there (I turned down the chance to go back at 18:00 and try it again – wonder if there is any left). 

On the palate it was really interesting, a sweet nutty, almost coconut start, a big spike of acidity/alcohol and then a big turn for the bitter, with a lot of bitter almond flavour. Didn’t seem to have held together all that well – came across as somewhat disjointed – and it seemed like the years had pulled the wine in different directions.

Nevertheless, very pleasant and very interesting with all those nut flavours there. Definitely worth a try. 

Socaire 2015

This year’s release of the premier white wine of the Cote de Chiclana emerged in the spring but has somehow evaded the blog up til now. 100% palomino from Finca Matalian, famed for its high altitude, high calcium and high winds so near to the sea at the Southernmost limit of the Marco del Jerez. 

It is made by Primitivo Collantes, probably the most unsung and under-rated of the guys making wines down there (although he has a growing following in Madrid after some cracking tastings) and is the second vintage of a wine that was a sensation when it came out. 

By comparison to last year’s harvest this one seems (from memory) a quieter soul. It is a lovely watered down gold in colour and has a very fresh nose but instead of the overripe fruit I remember it is more herbal, green leaves over almonds. More concentrated fruit and herb on the palate and still has a nice bite of minerals, but a quieter, less punchy wine than last years. I guess this has been made in the same way so the variation must be down to the conditions in growing season down there. Yet again, a demonstration of the power of vintages. 

In any event it is absolutely killing it with this tomato salad.