Barajuela Finos again

The boys down in Jerez tease me for the amount of these Barajuela wines I am able to find but to be honest most of the time they seem to find me. I am honestly trying to hold back, and now only order it if I can share it with at least one newcomer to the breed. This was one of those occasions – a lunch at Bache with an old colleague-, and yet again I can confirm that the people love it.

What I love about these wines is how much fruit is there, how the fruit seems to reach down the savoury registers into salinity making a massive iceberg of a wine: as much or more below the surface as above it. On that score, the 2014 Fino has the same white blossom and white fruit nose and top end of the palate as the 2013 Fino (saca of February 2017), but more of the savoury, sapid mountain. It also has less time under flor – isn’t quite as sharp or mineral – but has an even bigger, fuller frame. On the other had, while it is not strongly biological on the nose the 2013 – particularly this second saca – has, if not quite haybales, then at least a little bit more dry herb in the nose and again that sharper profile.

More importantly, both are brilliant white wines for sherry lovers, sherries for wine lovers, just brilliant wines.


Fino Tres Palmas (October 2015)

This was a present as part of one of the nicest gestures I can remember – a guy staked his wine against contributions to a cat rescue operation, and far too generously at that. Needless to say the cats will be looked after, and I will be toasting their health and his with every sip of this too!

It is also an absolutely lush wine. It has a beautiful colour, a wonderful nose and a lovely precise, elegant and compact profile. The colour is old gold with just the slightest touch of green. The nose is almost perfect, you would say: a combination of hints of yeast and haybales with a rich buttery caramel. Then on the palate after a cool zingy start there is a smooth full mouthful or a rich salty caramel, saltiness coming through in the fresh finish.

Really excellent. The only problem with it is that you take a sip and immediately start worrying about how small the bottle is.

Las Viñas de Callejuela – the 2014 editions

The genial Blanco brothers from Callejuela were in Madrid for a few days just when I was away in the countryside, but despite missing each other in the capital they were kind enough to leave me a little present at my preferred fuelling post of the time 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.  Once again, there are three wines from three vineyards/pagos (two of which you can locate on this cracking gigapan posted by Paco Zuleta):

  • Hacienda de Doña Francisca, a vineyard at an altitude of 62m on pago Callejuela (Sanlucar) (which must be one of the higher altitude Sanlucar vineyards);
  • Las Mercedes, a vineyard at 83m on Pago Añina (Jerez), one of the more Atlantic-influenced Jerez pagos;  and
  • La Choza, a vineyard at 74m on the famous inland pago Macharnudo (Jerez).

One of the noticeable things about the 2015 wines was their exuberance – tasting the macharnudo wine against other unfortified wines from the same pago recently it was noticeable how much power the La Choza had – and these wines, having been longer in the bota, seemed to have even more punch.

As a rule I would usually taste them in that same order – from sea to inland, low to high altitude, but in this 2014 edition the Añina is visibly more evolved so instead I go Callejuela, Macharnudo and then Añina, and it is quite a trip. The Callejuela has a nose that is all stables, mulchy, musty hay, a dark color and then is really potent, intense and buzzy. The Macharnudo – probably just about my favourite of the 2015s – is absolute class, with a typically aromatic nose with suggestions of sweetness and juice and then an elegant, compact solidity on the palate. Then the Añina does indeed have a more evolved, oxidated nose and colour. On the palate it is maybe just a notch less punchy than the two others, is smoother, softer (I actually have the word “fluffy” written in my notebook) and very likeable indeed.

These will be released soon and they will be worth not just seeking out but fighting over if necessary. Top bombing fellas and thanks for leaving them for me to try!

Fino Carta Blanca (de los 90)

Now this is one of those old sherries that have acquired a kind of legendary status (the Spanish prefer the term “mythical” but I can assure you it is real). Agustin Blázquez was one of the many bodegas acquired in the second half of the 20th Century by Domecq and I believe the brand disappeared in the 1990s (when the winemaker in charge was Jose Maria Quiros, now of Tradición). This bottle is from that late era so is around 20ish years old or maybe a bit more, and it was very generously brought along to lunch at Territorio Era by Juancho Asenjo.

And the wine deserves to be legendary: it was absolutely fantastic. Beautifully clear and only a half shade darker than your standard fino, it had maintained its clarity in aromatics and flavours too. Unlike a lot of examples of bottle aged sherries I have come across this seemed to have maintained its shape and balance: compact and with solidity of flavour, and still with a full range from white fruit on the nose and at the start of the palate through those burnt almonds down to salty zing. It may have had more zip and power when it was younger – we all did – but there was certainly plenty left, and I didn’t notice any of the turn to bitterness that I sometimes associate with the older biological wines.

Absolutely top class. Nothing wrong with these golden oldies if you get the right ones!


UBE Miraflores 2016

You want character from a white wine? You want attitude? Get yourself some of this little cracker.

The middle child of the three UBEs – not as sharp as the Carrascal or as wide as the Maina – but maybe the most polished overall. It is sharp as a tack and fresh, but savoury, funkier than you expect from a white wine, let alone the much maligned palomino. But above all it has a compact shape and the kind of profile I really like.

These wines tend to improve in the bottle but I had a glass of this at the bar of Territorio Era this week and found it to be absolutely singing, so if you come across it don’t be afraid to give it a go.

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.