Las Viñas de Callejuela – the 2014 edition

The genial Blanco brothers from Callejuela were in Madrid for a few days just when I was away, but were kind enough to leave me a little present at my preferred fuelling post, Territorio Era.

You may have read about the vineyard specific wines that these guys first released. Those were the 2015 and were terrific enough, but these little fellas are the 2014s and have even more personality. I gather they are due to be released early next year and they will be worth not just seeking out but fighting over if necessary.


Pandorga 2016

One of the highlights of a top class recent shindig organized by the guys at Vinoteca Tierra was the chance to catch up with Ramiro Ibañez and try his new wines: the UBE Maina 2016 and this, the Pandorga of the same vintage.

Like almost everything Ramiro touches this is the latest in a series of ground breaking wines. A single vineyard, vintage specific, pedro ximenez – interesting stuff to there. But more importantly a wine that, rather than attempting to smooth out the differences between vintages, seeks to accentuate them. After a cooler 2014 season, very little asoleo and (naturally) lower temperatures of fermentation, the hotter 2015 growing season accentuated by more asoleo and a (naturally) warmer fermentation. The results were fascinating: the 2014 was apricot jam and the 2015 fresh, ripe apricot juice.

This 2016 is somewhere in between. Unbelievably, I failed to take any note of the alcohol or sugar content, and the subsequent dinner wiped the details from the “soft memory”. Nevertheless, I couldn’t forget the wine itself, and it has all the same characteristics but maybe greater overall balance, superb acidity, lightness and sweetness in a tight profile.

Not sure when it will be released but it is one to save up for.

Fino la Barajuela 2013 (Part II) and 2014: Another tale of two “finos”

This was one of the absolute highlights of an unforgettable Wednesday night at Taberna Palo Cortado. Two absolutely exceptional wines, from the same vineyard, by the same hand and in the same style but different years, and what a difference a year makes. 

First, both have a superb balance of concentrated white fruit and honeysuckle top and savoury bottom but the 2014 (which as far as I know was not an exceptionally warm summer) seems to have even more mass behind it than the 2013 did – a really epic punch of flavour. 

Second, while the 2014 still has a fruitful richness to it, the additional year under flor seems to have pushed the 2013 over the boundary into the sharper, dryer, more elegant world of the fino. It is still an exceptionally full bodied fino by today’s standards, but next to it’s little brother it comes across as a touch reserved. 

I am trying to be balanced here but I obviously like the 2014 best. They are both great wines though, and the kind of wine that any wine lover would enjoy. 

Another tale of two sacas 

Having opened one of my slowly dwindling stash of La Bota 34 it suddenly occurred to me that I had an opportunity to try two like minded wines together – the Bota de Palo Cortado Nº34 and the Bota de Palo Cortado Nº72, both of which were drawn from the six botas selected from the Oloroso Pata de Gallina Juan Garcia Jarana but some five years apart. (I like to think it is the sort of altruistic self sacrifice for which posterity will remember me: bravely and without heed for the consequences drinking two top class sherries at a time.)

The first difference is obvious even to the relatively untrained eye: the bottle of the 72 seems to have shrunk in the wash. (To be fair, though, it is just as well since the price increase more than compensates.) The newer label is also a bit more punchy – very smart.

Both wines are really terrific. Of course they had a very similar profile, aromas and flavours, and both are a testament to superb wine making, as elegant as they are sensational, but here what really interested me were the slight differences between them. As you can see above, there was really no difference in colour (ok the photo isn’t great in that regard) and despite sniffing until my eyes crossed I don’t think I could tell them apart on the nose. On the palate, however, there is a tangible additional potency to the new release – a bit more zest and intensity, a bit more solid. (It does cross my mind that the packaging – smaller bottle, solid color label – almost prepares you for more concentration, but even so I am convinced it is there.)

Really interesting to see what five years in the cask can do to a wine – and to get a feel for the effect of that additional concentration. In this case I reckon I just about prefer the Number 34 – maybe it is sentimental on my part, but it just seems to have an elegance to it that its younger, slightly brasher sibling doesn’t.


La Bota de Palo Cortado 34 

One of my very favourite wines. In part for sentimental reasons – I can still remember the day I came across it for the first time and had my eyes opened for me. But also because objectively it is right up there in terms of sensations but still balanced, silky fine and elegant. 

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the way the term palo cortado is used these days, this for me will always be the definitive modern version. A superb wine. 

Oloroso Barajuela 2013

Bottles of this are about as easy to get hold of as unicorns with wings so the fact that you can try a glass of this at Territorio Era (but hurry, this was his last bottle) is remarkable even by their standards.

I am unable to write objectively about this wine (or a few others on this blog if I am honest). First, there is a special pleasure in drinking a wine that is extremely scarce, a frisson proportional to the envy you know will be provoked by your post. Second, it is a great pleasure to taste wines that accord so exactly with your own views on vintage, terroir and wine making. (Third, the fact that it is made by such a good bloke is very hard to ignore, even if he is taller than is strictly polite.) 

On the other hand, the expectation and hype that has been generated – most recently a 19/20 from elmundovino – would be almost impossible for any wine to live with. Not to mention the buildup – despite the occasional sighting in the last 18 months its official release has been delayed and delayed due to wrangling about whether it can be called an oloroso. 

And in defense of the DO you can see why – the oxidation, the barrel and the concentration haven’t taken over here as they have in the olorosos you may be accustomed to. Rather, the dominant characteristic of the wine is still its fruit, with a nice depth of minerals and a richness from those four years of oxidation.

The result is by far the finest white wine I have had from Jerez. It lacks the sizzling profile of its younger brother, the fino, and struck me as less potent than I remembered – slightly closed on the nose and not as much power in the middle – but what it might have lacked in power it made up in character and elegance. Given time, both the nose and the palate had a delicious richness of nuts and dried fruits, almond tarts and the like, all in a nice profile with a very long middle and finish. 

A really outstanding wine. I would drink gallons if there were any available! 

Fino en rama Camborio

Circumstances, never to be trusted at the best of times, have been conspiring against the author somewhat this week and it was with a black mood and dark thoughts that I dragged my feet down to Territorio Era today. 

In keeping with the mindset this is one of your more serious finos – a magnificent old wine – and this new release en rama and in magnum is absolutely magnificent. 

The colour is a rich dark straw – definitely a half shade darker than the classic Camborio. On nose it has a first flush of yeasty sea air but underneath a big dose of over roasted almond. Then on the palate it is searingly zingy – a really sensational salinity – followed by that intense but subtle savoury almond flavour, tailing off to a long, hot, salt and pepper finish. 

Absolutley magnificent – I am really struggling to stay in a bad mood.