El Tresillo and la Panesa

One thing lead to another. These wines are a long time in the bodega and then survive a laughably short time once within arms reach.

They are two sensational wines each in their own way.

The Panesa is magnificent in its breadth, volume and solidity, lovely in the mouth and during a long finish, a wine you can drink at any time of day and night. Has a full aroma and flavour with no vibrato – Juanma Martin Hidalgo compares these to the classical music of Jerez and if so this is the pavarotti, a big lunged, vibrato free beast.

At its side the Tresillo is beguilingly fine and more complex on the nose and palate, with a touch of polish in more ways than one and more noticeable sea air. Then a touch of hazelnut to La Panesa’s almonds. This would be the other chap – more of a crowd pleaser and a more complex character maybe but not that same force of personality.

Frankly, this is why people say comparisons are odious – what a pair of absolute belters.

Barajuela class of 2013

I discovered during the lockdown that I had managed to squirrel away quite a few bottles of la Barajuela and ever since had been looking for an occasion to crack some open, so when I was invited over to dinner by some friends recently I seized my opportunity.

I am pretty sure I will be invited back, and it isn’t due to the conversation.

These two wines are by now like old friends but I still remember the first time I sat down with a full bottle of the fino – Father’s day 2016. Together with that first palo cortado that set me off in the first place this is the wine that made the strongest first impression on me.

Since then there have been another saca of the fino and two new vintages and more recently an NV and I have had more than my share of all of them – it is no secret that I like them and wherever I go they seem to follow me.

But I will never tire of them either – really outstanding white wines, that simultaneously have a higher and a lower register than most, more body, more complexity, more salinity and all in a beautiful profile. Just beautiful and great to drink them together, that step in power and that hint of oxidation in the oloroso seeming to add an extra dimension.

And I never tire of sharing them with friends. These wines are such great ambassadors for Jerez and the best possible argument in favour of terroir and vintage focussed winemaking in the region.

But not too many friends – the bottles are tiny and only hold 750 mil.

La Panesa

Taking it to the next level

More from my mixed case of Emilio Hidalgo wines aka bodega party pack. The Hidalgo Fino is a serious little Jerez-style fino in its own right but when I have one open more often than not it gets to share some glass time side by side with its big brother, and that is not a comparison that many wines can live with.

La Panesa is an awesome fino and one that means a lot to me for a number of reasons. It was one of the first very serious wines from Jerez that lead me down this path, and the great Juanma from Emilio Hidalgo probably did as much as anyone to show me the way down the road. First an outstanding tasting at Enoteca Barolo, then an unforgettable visit to the bodega, and if that wasn’t enough, it was at Juanma’s cracking event “Vinos de España, una pasión” that the idea for this blog was born.

Since then there have been many other great times with Juanma – some uproarious dinners with the “Table 7 Club” here in Madrid and a great night at last year’s feria – but above all I keep coming back to the quality of these wines. Because however much I may have reneged from the vision of Jerez where vineyards are forgotten and the flor is king, there is no doubting that these guys are artists in the bodega. The man himself puts it nicely: they make the classical music of Jerez.

What else is there to say about this wine? It is a zingy but beautifully elegant, marble compact, buttery, bundle of almond and yeast, turning to bitter-almond at the long fresh finish. An absolute belter – one of the few finos you can drink before dinner, during dinner, after dinner, or as dinner.

Great memories and great wine.

Santa Ana Pedro Ximenez 1861

Lunch today featured a really outstanding finale – this quite superb, fruitful, elegant and compact old wine.

It is the oldest wine of probably the finest cellarmen around – Emilio Hidalgo. Makers of the killer Panesa fino and the finest amontillados, olorosos and palo cortados in Jerez, these guys have a touch of genius when it comes to caring for the wines in their butts.

This wine is probably the starkest example. When they are as old as this pedro ximenez wines can get twisted into all sorts of shapes but for whatever reason this maintains perfect form. It has the flavours and aromas of the inside of a raisin fruit but with a sharp acidity and a freshness that make it feel as light as a feather.

Almost too easy to drink, when you should really imbibe it drop by tiny drop.

Blanco Macharnudo De la Riva 2017 in Taberna Palo Cortado

The world is full of injustice and misery. As the great Cantona shrewdly observes, like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, and so on and so forth. But the worst of it is that there is so little of this wine available.

It is a marvellous white wine, that has everything you could ask for. White blossom on the nose and on the palate ripe melon made of steel on the verge of going rusty from interstellar corrosion such as that suffered by the Millenium Falcon. Then mouthwatering and persistent – a massive, sapid, mouthful of flavour, less like a leaf in profile and more like a comet – a massive tail.

This is why we drink wine. Superb! Make more of this please!

Fino la Barajuela 2014 en Lakasa

Here we go again with one of my very favourite wines (of which I recently enjoyed a glass in one of my very favourite places).

Fino la Barajuela is, depending on your point of view, the white wine of finos, or the fino of white wines. The semantics should be irrelevant, because what matters is the liquid genius of it: big and powerful with a lovely aromatic profile, mineral sharpness up front and salinity in the finish to keep it fresh despite the weight in between. And that in between is quite something: a big mouthful heavy in texture (a natural, unenhanced 15% + here) and a flavour profile from honeysuckle to honey and citrus to savoury stewed herbs that fill out the throat.

It all makes for a wine that is a massive, massive legend but light on its feet and easy to drink, and for all that it is at the cutting edge in terms of the new Jerez, it is immediately recognizable to wine drinkers from across the spectrum. In fact, perhaps ironically, it is almost more widely accepted outside the sherry world than it is within. In the sherry world you get the feeling it is seen as an awkward upstart that doesn’t fit in any of the established categories, – an ugly duckling -, whereas like the eponymous juvenile aquatic bird, the reality is quite magnificent.

Oloroso M Antonio de la Riva

From the reborn De la Riva label this is nevertheless a very old wine – said to be over 70 years old – from a solera that Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Perez have acquired and brought back to life with wine from Balbaina Baja.

The first impression is of the beautiful old school packaging – the vintage label and dinky bottle – and it still looks good in the glass. The one above looks too cold (only cellar temperature but in any event it soon warmed up) but even so you can see the rich red chestnut colour, which was clear as a bell.

Even more than how it looks, this wine just smells sensational. The most amazing aromatic profile – a sweet brandy nose with volatile acidity lifting and nuts and caramel in the background. Absolutely delicious, enticing aromas.

Then on the palate it is as sharp and potent as any oloroso I have had. Sharp acidity and salinity then a lot of concentrated flavours emerging like flavored layers of a gobstopper.  I saw Luis Gutierrez describe this as having rusty nail and that is bang on – there is rustiness at the beginning and end, with a big robust nutty caramel to burn caramel in the middle and a slightly dusty, astringent, biting finish.

A cracking little bottle of wine (and excellent accompaniment to a couple of frames of snooker).

La Botaina de Domecq in Corral de la Moreria

This wine was pretty nearly perfect. Fine, elegant, sharp but soft and slippy, flavourful and such flavours: an array like the frayed edge of a persian carpet – one of the ones you can imagine flying on. Caramel, nut, burnt nut, burnt caramel, black treacle, black coffee, toffee …

This is a legend of a wine and one that deserves its billing too. Absolutely superb, and yet another reason to one of the great places in Madrid, one of the only places where you could try wines like this: El Corral de la Moreria.

Mucha arte, as they say.

Fino la Barajuela 2014

I was dining at Lakasa last Friday night (and it was absolutely heaving – great to see) with a group of friends from outside my wine nerd bubble but nevertheless was allowed to choose the wine, and even (somewhat controversially) given free reign. I picked two wines that to me seemed blindingly obvious – the Cuvee Saint Anne by the brilliant Alexandre Chartogne and the Fino la Barajuela.

What I didn’t know was that they had run out of the 2013 and had just received the 2014 (in fact I didn’t know the 2014 had even been released) and suddenly a wine I had been waiting for for 18 months (give or take half a glass in a tasting with the man) was on the table in front of me.

This is the second vintage of Willy Perez’s outrageously good fino, and although the 2013 will always have a special place in my heart you have to say that this is even better. It has the same nose or honey-suckle to honey with golden yellow apple underneath, the same bite and palate of fruit but even more mineral sapidity and throat filling savoury flavours. It is frankly epic and totally delicious.

And as always happens with these Barajuela wines, my friends from outside the sherry bubble loved it. It is a tremendous source of frustration to me that when I read the views about this wine from sherry experts and tastings there are grumblings about whether it is really a “fino” yadda yadda yadda. Surely what is important is that it is an outstanding white wine, and one that paired with almost everything we proceeded to eat.

Now begins a heartbreaking period in which I am allowed to purchase a shockingly small allocation of bottles and then feel obliged to hold back when I see it in stores so that a wider public can try these wines. Please, don’t let my sacrifice be for nothing.