Manzanilla Arboledilla Levante y Poniente

In my opinion Barbadillo don’t get the credit they deserve and I am not sure why. They produce quality wines across the range, the Solear en rama series is a masterpiece, Pastora is a gem and lately they have been producing some really interesting stuff: the Beta bubbly and Nude tintilla to start with but even more so their spikey, spicey white wine Mirabras and the cracking Zerej boxed sets.

And now these Arboledilla wines – which have been around for a while but which I only came across in Reserva y Cata recently. It is yet another fascinating project and an attempt to demonstrate the power of the “other terroir” – the bodega. Specifically, these are two manzanillas of the same age and from the same solera (the Solear en rama if I am not mistaken) which is housed in a famous old bodega called Arboledilla. What is fascinating about them is that one of the bottles – “Levante” (sunrise) – is taken from a butt at the Eastern extreme of the bodega, while the other – “Poniente” (sunset) – is taken from the Western end. The idea is to demonstrate the effects of small climactic differences within the bodega itself.

They are both zingy, high intensity manzanillas and the differences are pretty subtle. Having said that, you can definitely detect a sharper, finer and more vertical style in the Poniente (which I am guessing is the cooler end of the bodega), and a slightly richer, wilder style in the Levante, which certainly has a hint more sweetness on the nose.

Really interesting stuff and definitely worth trying (if you think about it the worst that can happen is that you end up with two bottles of a classic manzanilla).


Fino Alexander Jules 22/85 – May 2013

Yes, the table in the background is at Angelita, but this wine is not on their list. It was a special treat brought to Madrid by the great Federico Ferrer of the Cuatrogatos Wine Club and generously shared over lunch this week.

I am a huge fan of Alexander Jules. I wrote a piece a little while ago about marquistas that some people took as being critical, but it wasn’t at all my intention to write off all bottle selectors. When done right, I think they bring a lot of value and Alexander Jules is one of the guys that definitely gets it right. Specifically, he selects cracking wines, he tells you where the wine comes from (right on the label), what makes it special and what to look for, and then he goes out and sells of them in places (mainly the United States) that they otherwise might not reach.

The first fino of his that I tried was a selection from the Camborio solera and although it was noticeably distinct from the Camborio I knew it was so good it made me look at Camborio in a different light. This one is not from Camborio, but from another of my favourite soleras: the Fino Perdido by Sanchez Romate. And again, it will probably make me look at that wine in a different way.

Like the wine I know it is beautifully aromatic, with all the apple pie aromas – I love the mention of cinnamon on his ficha, we are definitely in the same ball park. Then on the palate it is just spectacular, sharp around the edges but broad in flavours, like a broad arrowhead. And the breadth of flavour is there too: stewed apple with peppery rocket flavours and a salt and pepper finish. And despite spending going on five years in the bottle , unlike some of the more aromatic finos it is still as compact and as fresh as a daisy. A really good sign.

So many many thanks Fede and many congratulations again Alex, a cracker!


Oloroso Tradición

Not everything that is interesting is new. This is not a vintage wine or a recovered variety. It isn’t even vineyard specific, but it is a classic in every sense of the word. An oloroso from the old school – a VORS in fact – with over thirty years in the butt, but beautifully made. No fruit or biology here: all acidity and intensity, but beautifully polished and compact for all that.

In colour it is an amber yellow/brown and clear as a bell. On the nose you have nice woody cigar box and treacle toffee aromas, very appetising indeed. Then on the palate it has that compactness – zingy acidity up front  to open you up then a broadside of caramel and woody flavours. Real intensity there and then a spicey, acidic finish but a clean one with no astringency.

Another beauty from Tradición.


Amontillado Williams Coleccion Añadas, 2003

When we discuss bottle ageing we tend to be talking about the effects of between a few and a good few years in the bottle: legendary finos from the 1950s that have held it together miraculously and brutal old amontillados that have mellowed over decades. I probably don’t have enough patience (or storage) to really study on those kinds of timeframes but I think it is equally interesting at times to see the effects of even a short time – a few weeks or a year or so – in the bottle. The impact on some wines – especially the more aromatic biological ones – can be significant,

Here is a good example, the 2003 Amontillado from the Williams Colección Añadas, which I enjoyed during a cracking lunch at Taberna Verdejo. At least from my memory of it at previous tastings, this has sharpened up, on the nose and the palate, after just 18 months in the bottle and 12 months since I first tasted it (admittedly, that was the february saca).

I remember it being a spirity nosed, rounded and mellow wine, and maybe that is why I am surprized today by how zingy, sharp and acidic it is. The hazelnut that I associate with the Williams Colección Añadas is there on the nose but also there are notes of alcohol like a sweet, nutty vinegar. There is not a lot of haybale (or esparto grass) in evidence and it is not as spirity as it was. On the palate too there is nice acidity upfront and salinity at the back, and altogether it seems more vertical than this time last year.

More defined and even more elegant, but maybe a little less wild than it was last year.


Palo Cortado Lagar Blanco

The other place in full effect. This was one of the wines that Borja at Bache gave us the other day during yet another enjoyable lunch. I don’t know much about it and didn’t have much time to study (what with all the eating and socializing that was going on) but it was very nice stuff.

Palo cortado is not a category that was historically associated with Montilla Moriles although you see more and more of them since the recent resurgence of the category. I do not know the legal definition up there (“is there anything he does know?”, you might well ask) but judging by the bottle and what it says here  it seems to be along the same lines as in Jerez: a wine that has the nose of an amontillado and the body of an oloroso. Nowadays wines with those characteristics can be achieved in various ways: a bit of biological here, a bit of free run juice there, or even by pure selection. Judging by the nose and the information provided I guess that this one falls into the latter two categories.

However it was made or selected it is a very nice wine. I am always on the lookout for heaviness when PX is involved but this one is very fine, nice and sharp at both ends with acidity and salinity and nutty and a little bit woody in the middle (and the finish). Not overdone at all and a nice age – I would have guessed 20 years or so and I would have been right.

Oloroso seco Manuel Aragón

You can probably guess where I drank this from the photo. If you need any further clues I can tell you that they have a list of sherries unlike any other in Madrid.

This is an oloroso from Manuel Aragon, who has a bodega called “El Sanitorio” in Chiclana at the Southernmost extent of el marco that is probably best known to readers of this blog for being the source of La Bota 62 de Palo Cortado. but I admit that the first thing that I think of is always the Manifesto 119. I wonder what happened to those wines from gateta?

Anyway, like the famous Equipo Navazos Palo Cortado what struck me about this oloroso was how lively and youthful it was for the depth and definition of its flavours and aromas. As you can see, crystalline, a bright chestnut red colour. Then on the nose it has a beautiful clean whiff of nuts and sawdust, that just follows on through the palate, with a fresh finish to boot.

A really nice spritely oloroso. Can’t quite believe how old it is.

Amigo Imaginario 2016

Here is a wine that has been eluding me for nearly a year. Unless I am much mistaken I first missed out on trying it at last year’s Cuatrogatos Wine Fest. Subsequently, I acquired a bottle, and even took said bottle to dinner with friends, but it was somehow forgotten and has been occupying space in said friend’s wine cabinet pending a return fixture. I then missed out on trying it at Taberna Palo Cortado when Alejandro and Rocio hosted a tasting there recently. All the while, I heard about it, saw it on twitter and in a clip by the great Colectivo Decantado and was generally haunted by it until, having finally gotten around to acquiring bottle number two, Paki offered me a glass last week in Palo Cortado.

It is a 100% palomino that has been made “like a red wine” and, amongst other things, has spent eight months in an old oloroso butt. No time under flor or oxidation involved – just contact with the oloroso impregnated wood. There is no doubt a lot more to it but I missed the official tasting and in any event I am glad to say that after such a long build up the final product didn’t disappoint in the slightest.

It is yet another example of the aromas, structure and flavour that palomino can produce in the right hands. This glass started off relatively quiet but grew in aromatics, with hints of sawdust and other woody aromas mixed in with the blossoms and white fruit. Then on the palate its savoury salinity and sapidity it comes across as more solid and potent than its 12,9º would have you expect. The salinity gives it a nice shape, contoured rather than smooth but piercing at both ends, and refreshing despite the weight in the middle.

Excellent on its own, and like many other palominos it is a fantastic wine with food – the freshness of the salinity and savoury flavours perfect with almost anything.