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.
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).
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.
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.
This wine was only released a couple of months ago and in minute quantities but it is already a legend. The maker, the excessively tall and talented Willy Perez, describes it as “the wine of his life”, while one of the leading critics of the modern age calls it “by far the finest white wine I have had from Jerez”.
To be quite honest since last June I have been a little smitten with the Fino la Barajuela and maybe didn’t give this wine quite the respect it deserved (to be fair I didn’t have any to drink anyway). But albeit in thimblefulls I have been fortunate to have tried it on a number of occasions over the last few months, in February at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest, in April when Ramiro Ibañez used it as an example of the wines from years gone by at another cracking tasting at Palo Cortado, at the Bar of Territorio Era (where else?) shortly after release and most recently at a superb tasting with the man himself at Taberna Palo Cortado. It just seems to get better and better.
The other night in Palo Cortado it was just superb. Just so powerful and complete in its range: everything from high notes of white fruit and blossom at the top on the nose through concentrated fruit and hints of nuts to mineral power at the bottom, with a richness that doesn’t seem heavy and a balance and perfect shape to it. A fascinating comparison with the finer profiles of the two finos that we had prior to it and with the richer, but slightly heavy, raya that came afterwards – the context really showing off the characteristics of all four.
I wasn’t in the best of shape at the time and it looking back at my notes it all became a bit too much: there are a number of swear-words in different languages, a lot of words underlines and block capitals everywhere. I also remember losing my composure in a number of other respects: I was almost overtaken by jealousy of my table mates, convinced that they had been poured 5 ml more than I had, and when the last of the liquid was gone I was overcome with sadness, like that old Jedi in Star Wars when the planet gets blown up. There was talk on the night of a further release years down the line of this wine at 15 years. It is hard to imagine it getting any better, but it is something to look forward to even still.
What an absolutely sensational wine.
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.
Now here is a wine you don’t see every day. I am often criticized for reviewing wines that are marketed in minute quantities. Wines, as a famous Spanish winemaker, student and philosopher puts it, of which there are more photos on twitter than bottles in circulation. Well this one isn’t marketed at all – it is in theory only distributed witin the family and shareholders of Osborne – so booyah to the haters.
That being the case you may wonder how I got my hands on the liquid photographed above and the answer is simple: Territorio Era. It really is the number one spot to taste the rarer examples of these wines – and even by the glass. This one caused a bit of a splash on the social networks when its arrival was announced so after a short but enjoyable lunch we tucked into a glass.
It is a fish of a similar kidney to the Solera BC 200 from the same house (and also of a very limited distribution) and is another absolute dream wine. I don’t know the full details but I would guess it was a very, very old but very fine amontillado with a small and very nicely judged, perfectly integrated percentage of pedro ximenez.
As you can see, it has that dark, more intense colour that the pedro ximenez can impart. On the nose it was quiet but there was a lot in there: sweet figs, roasted nuts, bready Christmas cake. Then on the palate it was like a sort of nectar on steroids. The sweetness of the pedro ximenez lifting it and making it absurdly easy to absorb, but not hiding the fact that there was a lot of wine in there. A rapier, cool acidity first up then very intense flavours of those figs and walnuts, slightly burnt cake and just tending to sawdust before an eternally long and pleasantly sweet nut and fig finish. And no edges or joins anywhere in sight – like one of those baths carved from a single piece of wood this is all curves and smooth surfaces.