Pandorga 2016

Apricots on the nose, bright acidity and a palate of pure apricot jam with a rich, sugary finish.

Pandorga, by Cota 45, is a single vineyard, vintage 100% pedro ximenez from Jerez that is unlike most pedro ximenez you may have tasted. Young and fresh, the grapes have had some sun-drying but not to the point of becoming raisins and the resulting wine is more opulent in fruit on the one hand and (slightly) less loaded with sugar on the other.

And like many of the wines from Cota 45 there is some fascinating wine making going on beneath the surface. Whereas many pedro ximenez wines are made in a way that minimizes the difference between vintages (more sun-drying in cooler vintages, less in warm ones), this wine is prepared in a “procyclical” way. As such, the relatively cool 2014 was given less sub drying, the much warmer 2015 much more, and this something in between. As a result you get three very different wines: just as an indication the 2014 had 12 degrees of alcohol, the 2015 had so little -5% – it couldn’t legally be called a wine, and this one has 11,5%.

Wines that express the varietal and shout out the vintage. And superb wines too!

Socaire 2017

One of the great Cadiz wines, this, a palomino with a touch of class about it, with as much silk as steel and as much flavour as aromatics. Coming back to it once again after a while without (probably last seen at Easter) what strikes me is how balanced it is – how the fruit, bota effects and saline sizzle combine so nicely that you can hardly make out the gaps. A top class wine, no question.

La Fleur 2015 in Zalamero Taberna

It has been a very intense time at work in recent weeks and the first casualties of the tight deadlines are the restaurants that are farthest from the office. As a result I haven’t been to Zalamero nearly as much as I would like. Good food, good wine, good people, nice hatstand, it is one of my very favourite spots.

So it was a double pleasure to get there for a Sunday supper a couple of weekends ago with my esteemed colleague Ruben of SherryNotes (and WhiskyNotes). We had a really cracking dinner, featuring really excellent roast chicken croquettes, mackerel, squid and lamb chops. And we had a really cracking wine too.

La Fleur is a 100% palomino from the folks (Rocio and Alejandro) at Forlong – a young couple of proper winemakers that make a full range of subtly different palominos (and the occasional interloper), all of them class wines and all of them showing off the many qualities of this tragically overlooked grape.

La Fleur is a case in point – has just a touch of flor, and maybe as a result seems a little more floral and sweeter on the nose than many palominos – in some ways bringing it closer to the wines from Jura. Like any palomino it is fresh and juicy on the palate, but again the fruits you find there are more exotic than you might expect – I really associate this wine with sweet apple pies and pastries, and those aromas were still there in this bottle, but over time notes of pineapple came through. And then the back end has plenty of oomph, with a saline finish – a kind of reverse mullet that is party at the front and business at the back.

A lovely wine and perfect for a lovely dinner and occasion.

A 2017 manzanilla La Jaca in Taberna Verdejo

Whereas I tend to pull faces when I get given really old wines I have no problem with the occasional manzanilla with a couple of years in the bottle. They get that touch of oxidation but remain very fine – no inclination towards the potency of a manzanilla pasada but a little bit of the flavour.

This one, a half bottle of La Jaca that had been filled in June 2017, was no exception to the rule. Still fragrant on the nose, but a little bit of old fruit in there with the chamomile, like one of those fruit teas, but wheras the fruit teas always smell better than they taste, this was just fine on the palate. Still fresh and zingy, had a nice dry, nutty palate and if not quite a hint of toffee maybe just a suggestion of nougat.

Very nice little wine, and absolutely at home in what is surely the loveliest little tavern in town.

UBE Paganilla 2018 in Angelita

Here is a sharp, fresh, fruitful palomino for the doubters if there are any left. The latest UBE, and one of the latest new creations of Ramiro Ibañez is a chip off the old block.

As you can see from the label, it is from a vineyard in the pago Paganilla where the soil is a mix of barajuelas and tosca cerrada, and it may be the power of suggestion but to me those barajuelas come through in the form of white fruit on the nose, more intense, concentrated roast pineapple on the way in and just a hint of grapefruit on the finish.

Excellent stuff and I can feel another outbreak of UBE coming on …

Solear en Rama Primavera 2019 in Bache

Bache is a great spot for a quick lunch with a cracking list of sherries and some quality, fun solids to accompany them.

This is an absolute gem – for me at the same time the definition and archetype of a manzanilla and quite unique.

Old gold colour, crystal clear but consistent, fragrant on the nose with dried beach grass and yeast and zingy and juicy on the palate. It has been a while since I have had one of these but this has all the biological, incisive character of the spring sacas I remember.

I believe it is 20 years now that they have been producing these. 80 sacas of pure class. Happy Anniversary guys!

La Bota 93 de manzanilla – “Navazos”

Equipo Navazos release some class wines and this manzanilla is always one of them. A new bottling from the same botas that gave us the illustrious Bota 71 – and which I guess are botas acquired in 2007 from the cellars home to the famous La Guita.

As soon as you pour a glass you know this is an altogether richer wine than La Guita – a gorgeous old gold colour – and at the same time wonderfully aromatic, with lots of haybales and the archetypal chamomile. I remember first smelling the 71 from almost across the room at a social gathering and this one takes me back to that moment.

That chalky Miraflores character is very much in evidence on the palate, but here overlaid with the good juice: yeast, zingy salinity and sweet herbal tea.

An excellent manzanilla and a real blockbuster of a wine.