There is still a feeling of sacrilege when I open these little bottles that have been stashed away these last few years but the regret doesn’t outlast the first mouthfull.
What an astonishingly nice wine – it really is the archetypal dry sherry. Beautiful gold colour, lovely haybales and yeast on the nose, zingy salinity and fresh yeasty juice on the palate, and the mouth just sallivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
This bottle is from when it was still bottled as a mere “manzanilla” but it really is a manzanilla pasada – you can feel it in the concentration and the intensity of the flavours.
As I have occasionally published, a fellow has accumulated a pretty large collection of these little bottles over the years but, no more. They may or may not improve in the bottle, but the only way to enjoy them is once they are out of it. Plus I have a famously small vinoteca and these little bottles are annoyingly fiddly to store. When you add to the equation the fact that the wines inside them are right up my alley, their life expectancy is in the basement with no takers.
First to go to the block is my oldest – this effort from winter 2013, the aguja colinegra or black tailed godwit.
Nearly seven years later it is lovely stuff, and proof of one of my deep held beliefs on the bottle ageing debate: the better the wine, the better it will stand the passing of the years. Lovely and rich in colour and on the nose, still zingy first up and full of juice on the palate, with just a hint of that incense bitterness that can develop in older manzanillas before a buzzy, mouthwatering saline finish.
None of this is doing any good for the chances of survival of the others it must be said …
One of the fine wines of an exciting new era. Chateau Matalian Grand Cru, a lovely white-fruit flavoured white wine
And when I say flavour I really mean it because when you become accustomed to the range of flavours in these white wines from Andalucia you miss half of the graph when you step outside the bubble. Not just the salinity but stewy, vegetable and herb flavours.
This, as you can see, is the 2017 – these latest vintages have the year on the label as our man Primitivo chips away at the wall of resistance that is the Consejo Regulador with two powerful arguments: quality and sales.
This wine is an argument in itself. Not as ferocious as the first vintage I tried and maybe not as spicey as last year’s, this is ripe and elegant and frankly excellent. In fact to me this wine shows just how the Socaire wines have matured: no longer a curiosity or an experiment in a sherry barrel, but a high quality white wine in its own right.
I love it and I strongly recommend that you find some, buy it and enjoy it, or if you prefer, keep it a few years – it will almost certainly improve (for some reason the bottles in my cellar keep disappearing).
Reacquainted with these recently and after a Wednesday night dominated by Jerez lunch on Thursday kicked off with a tribute to the finest of Sanlucar (and Doñana). Adorned on this occasion by the Ruddy Shelduck, a rare sight in Andalucia and considered sacred by the hindus.
This solera should probably be considered sacred by everyone. One of the consistently excellent wines from Sanlúcar this was in fact the first glass from a magnum in Angelita Madrid and it was a beauty.
The intensity of minerals and salad greenery in this wine always take me back – it seems so biological in every sense it must be good value for at least two of your five a day. From a recent bottling these wines have real zip up front a salty, peppery finish that really invites another glass, and another, etc
A classic manzanilla, complex as you like but fresh and full of life.
Your correspondent had this for the first time a while ago now (a year?) at a cracking lunch in Zalamero Taberna and another fun lunch with the same person inspired me to have a second dip.
It is a wine by Compañias de Vino del Atlantico, your man Alberto Orte, who has by now built up a bit of an empire spanning the Spanish peninsula but is beloved of this parish for his wines in the region of Jerez.
He has a nice little tintilla that goes by the name of vara y pulgar – a nice reference to pruning for the gardener’s world crowd – and some really top class finos and upwards, but this is a Vijariego blanco.
Yes indeed, one of your good old Vijariegos – one of the 119 varieties around in Jerez pre-phyloxera and apparently resuscitated to good effect here. It has had 12 months or more in oak and it is a bomb of flavour alright – the extra year in the bottle has brought it on even more compared to my first meeting with it.
They compared it to white burgundy and it has that feel of a broad on the beam chardonnay but with more sharp edges to it – real devil in there, almost as if it was one of these volcanic Canary wines. And of course none of the lime cordial of a chardonnay – here you have an altogether more grapefruity undertow.
Full flavour and full on. Would be fascinating to see how this develops over the years.
Your correspondent has been out of the game too long. Probably a good few weeks since I was at the trough in earnest – time enough for at least three new labels to emerge from the hyperactive young dynamos down in Jerez and Sanlucar.
And here is one. The latest from Willy Perez, this appears to be an unfortified white wine – the label says from Macharnudo on tosca de Barajuelas soil. “Only” 13 and a half degrees and I don’t know much about it but would guess we have a bit of asoleo or a relatively late harvest. (Vino de pasto translates more or less as table wine so no clues there.)
It is another cracker from the young Wise King of Jerez. Concentrated white fruit – almost pineapple upfront, and bitter pineapple marmalade at the back. It is mineral for a white wine – real zing and warmth around the mouth – but tasty and jammy rather than fresh and slippy on the finish. As its name indicates, it is a table wine – this would stand up and be counted in almost any company.
With all the new wines, labels and makers emerging in Jerez sometimes it is easy to forget the classics – the mountains in the background of the painting.
This fino is just such a classic. Possibly the most traditional, old school fino on the market and one that nevertheless ticks modern boxes: single pago and fermented in oak, it may be from one of the big producers but it is the antithesis of industrial.
And if you are going to be single pago, this is the one to be: Macharnudo. The most famous real estate in Jerez, and the fount of some of the best wines ever made in el marco. Of which, let’s be honest this is one.
Because it has everything you could ask of a fino. An aromatic nose of sea breeze, fresh baked bread and almond, then a palate of all those things but edged around with zingy salinity and a long, fresh, sea breeze and mineral finish.
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!
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.
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.