1955 Palo Cortado by Perez Barquero in Taberna Palo Cortado

One of many long overdue posts from one of many really top class lunches at Taberna Palo Cortado, unquestionably the number one place for any sherrylover (with apologies to Perez Reverte) in Madrid. They have more wines by the glass than anywhere else, and it really is a case of whatever your heart desires.

The only problem with it, in fact, is that when I go I end up so pie-eyed that the notes are so sketchy and the list of wines is so long I never get round to writing them up. But in a fit of back to work puritanism here I am writing up some of the wines from a marvellous lunch just a few months ago.

This is an absolutely cracking old wine from the other place, Montilla Moriles, which to me throws up a few interesting issues.

First, the wine – this is a gorgeous old oxidated wine, 100% pedro ximenez but almost fully dry – maybe just the tiniest amount of sugar – nice acidity, lovely rich flavours in a nice spectrum and no edges. Really top class, elegant but rounded wine, the kind you could enjoy best with a good book and a comfy chair.

And then, the issues.

First, the “1955” is a touch misleading, at best. I am told it refers to the approximate age of the solera, as anyone who knows their way around will appreciate, but many punters will not, and given the price band, some punters may think they are drinking something that is older than it is.

Second, the term “palo cortado”. It is pretty surprising to find a wine from Montilla Moriles being called a palo cortado. Not these days – the marketing value of the palo cortado brand is not to be sniffed at – but I am not sure what historic usage of that term there was, and ten years ago there weren’t many such wines on the market, so it is surprising at the least that a solera of “palo cortados” was founded 64 years ago. It is what it is – a selection of the finer, more elegant olorosos – and it just seems odd to label it as something else.

But pardon my quibbling. The wine is outstanding and would be equally fine however it were labelled, let’s just enjoy it!

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El Tresillo in A Fuego Negro

Had a very enjoyable few days in San Sebastian earlier this summer and of course hit the old town in pursuit of pintxos. Cracking fun albeit hard on the elbows, and even more so if, like me, you run into friends from Jerez everywhere you turn. Some of them were humans – and it was cracking to see them – and some were liquid and wonderful.

Because this is a wonderful wine, no question, and it was a joy to see it hastily tagged onto the end of a chalkboard in A Fuego Negro – the only sherry there and you would have to applaud the taste of whoever squeezed it in.

It is the finest of amontillados – packs complexity and nutty, savoury flavour in the most ethereal of shapes – really lovely. In fact it is one of the finest of wines full stop.

Was a great moment when we saw it on the list and the reverential enjoyment of this beautiful wine made for a really enjoyable oasis of calm in a frenetic lunchtime.

Oloroso Solera de su Majestad

A lovely wine this. It was given to me blind by Hector of La Corte de Pelayo and it was an inspired choice. First, I had never tried it – and it is not often I get the chance to try something as old as this that is new to me. Second, because it is cracking.

Blind I had it as a fine, youngish Sanlucar oloroso in the mould of el Cerro – and it shared the delightful balance of flavour and edges without astringency that I associate with that wine. And when the bottle was produced my amazement only increased.

This is one of the mighty wines by Valdespino from a solera founded in the 19th Century and fed from their vineyards in macharnudo alto – about as far from Sanlucar as you can conceptually imagine – but it had a lightness and vitality that I would never have expected from such an old wine or having tasted the epic Coliseo and Niños (they are majestic wines too, but you wouldn’t call them light).

Really delicious, elegant wine and a perfect way to finish a really fine light lunch (… of fabada and cachopo). Many thanks again!

La Bota de Amontillado 37 – “Navazos”

This is really quite superb. It is one of the wines from the time when I really started to pay close attention to the outstanding wines of Jerez. Hot on the heels of the outstanding Bota de Palo Cortado 34 – Pata de Gallina, this may have been the very first amontillado I drank in awe and wonder.

Can’t believe it was over six years ago, because drinking this it seems like yesterday. A gorgeous colour, more amber than the chestnut of the palo cortado, and what a nose – sea air of iodine and salt and freshness – almost pine needles. Then on the palate it is acid fine, stingingly saline and with flavours of bitter, burnt nuts and unbaked dough – those tight knots of unbaked dough you find in underbaked buns. Slightly astringent on the finish – tobacco that dries the mouth even as the salinity waters it. That astringency is the only bum note for me but it certainly adds to the complexity.

It is a true thoroughbred too. As the Equipo Navazos ficha explains, from the third criadera marked “M. Pda” (“Manzanilla Pasada”) in the bodega of Rainera P. Marin, legendary source of La Guita.

I still have some bottles of the 34 (reimported from the UK, amusingly enough) but this was my last 37 and I am sorry to see it go (because now it is open, go it will). What an outstanding wine. More, please!

Maruja manzanilla pasada (at the bar of Media Ración)

This is a wine that I just like more and more. As a style manzanilla pasada ticks a lot of boxes – that combination of biological sharpness, rich, buttery body and rounded, roast-pepper savoury-sweet flavours. But this is a particularly fine example, with a sizzling sharpness, spicey finish and broad palette beautiful stewey rich flavours – everything from the sweet carrot to the potent bitterness of the bay leaf.

It would be the perfect wine for many dishes, but with the superb bacalao ajoarriero at Media Ración – probably the perfect combination of green and red peppers, tomato, onion and garlic – it is an absolute dream. Superb stuff.

 

Fino Caberrubia

Any of my regular 20 or so readers will know that I am quite partial to a drop of La Barajuela Fino, so it shouldn’t be a great surprise to hear that the little that I have of this is not going to last long.

Many of the things that make the Barajuela Fino one of the great wines of the world are here: the terroir and old vines (el corregidor, in Carrascal de Jerez), the winemaker (Willy Perez) and the very philosophy of making wine.

The difference are those two letters: NV. Non vintage. And I love it. There is no more eloquent, elegant way of making your argument in favour of vintages than this. The only question is: why aren’t the 99,9% of bottles coming out of Jerez that aren’t vintage properly labelled?

This wine is from the last couple of harvests – the 2015 fino that never appeared and the 2016 – and is so close to the Barajuela Fino itself that it is a joy to sup on. That combination of blossom, white fruit and savoury, that wine-like elegance.

The NV of the world indeed. Absolutely cracking.

Encrucijado 2015

This is fantastic. A year in the bottle has really brought it on – cleaner lines and a sharper profile.

A rich buttery gold in colour on the nose you have dried apricots and just a hint of almonds, then on the palate it has a sharp, acidic start, and buzzy acidity all the way through, with a lovely middle palate of almonds and apricots and a fresh, mouth watering finish.

Lovely stuff and a little bit different than your standard palomino fino. Which is as it should be – this is perruno, uva rey and just a small dollop of palomino – a blend of varieties from the days of yore that make this the only true palo cortado.

You often hear that a wine from Jerez is “history in a bottle” but it generally only means it has been in the bottle – or the barrel – a long time. This really is history.