Fino la Barajuela 2013 (and a 1er cru controlée)

From the comments you read and hear the great wines from Jerez with a bit of personality are often likened to their cousins up in Burgundy, so I thought I would take advantage of having a nice Chassagne Montrachet open to have another look at the Fino la Barajuela.

The Burgundy was glorious, a beautiful bright gold colour, a nice flowery, lemon and limestone nose, then elegance, balance and precision with flavoura of nectar and pollen, pear or apple and citrus acidity. Absolutely top class (I may be over-egging it but it was even better than I expected.)

The Barajuela is the business too but goes about that business in a markedly different manner. The chardonnay is full of fruit and so is the Barajuela – in fact it has more fruit than many of its peers in the sherry triangle, but maybe what strikes you most is the salinity in nose and palate, and the way the salinity and zing takes the place of the acidity. Do they leave room for the full range of flavours that the burgundy has? Perhaps not, but on the other hand the Barajuela’s minerals and muscle give it a different dimension, a uniqueness that lifts it above the comparison.

I originally wrote this note in terms of a comparison but I realize now – thanks to a comment from Alvaro Giron – that that is unhelpful. These are very different kettles of fish and it is the differences that are illuminating. My  verdict: don’t buy the Barajuela if what you want is a chardonnay. It is something else.

Fino la Barajuela 2013

Happy Father’s Day to me. What a wine this is.

It is a famous wine and one that lives up to its reputation. I first heard about it many moons ago, tried it in March on an overwhelming day in many ways, and have since heard its praises sung from the rooftops. And rightly so.

It may not be what you expect from a fino but it is a very fine wine. In fact, it is the expression of terroir and fruit in Jerez, and of winemaking, that I and many others have been waiting for. I thought it was impressive in March but found it heavy – now it is light on its feet and has the presence and personality of a great wine. I just can’t believe how good it is. It is outrageous.

If anyone tells you palomino is a “neutral vessel” let them taste this (or its Sanlucar cousin, the UBE, when it comes to that). When I first opened it it had that meaty nose of fresh grilled tuna, with a little lemon and coriander. Then as it opened later the nose was all fruit and sweet herbs. On the palate it has those same flavours fruit, sweet herbs, and meatiness, and the profile is horizontal: a long, long flavour that persists. All the while there is spicey saltiness in the background, and the balance of salinity and fruit is perfect – tasty but not clingy, full but not heavy.

Just really delicious. A fantastic wine.

Don PX Convento Selección 1955

Wine number 3 of the tasting at the Taberna Palo Cortado was this absolute beauty. Another single vintage wine, now 61 years old, and showing sensational integration.

A deeper black brown in colour, like crude oil, this had the most amazing, surprizing, nose. Yes it had raisins and maybe chocolate, but it was for all the world like an overripe Chateauneuf du Pape with jammy fruit and spices, again oranges, but now mouldy orange peel from the back of the bin.

Then on the palate this came across as lighter, with nice acidity and sweeter spices, no astringency and much less mineral than the 1965. It again had a bittersweetness to it but rather than savoury it was the bitterness of marmalade, with acid and bitter citrus  – your man from Toro Albala came up with a great descriptor: the bitterness of orangey hands after peeling an orange. After that bitterness there was a different kind of sweetness, concentrated and dense, like black treachle and which just seemed to last forever.

Really out of the top drawer – an epic wine.

Marqués de Poley Amontillado Selección 1951 

A fantastic night at Taberna Palo Cortado started with this 1951 Marques de Poley Amontillado. All of the wines were single vintage “añada” wines but not “statically” aged – the “merma” or evaporation of the wines had been replaced by wines from the same añada (and it wasn’t clear whether the wines had been “moved” between barrels in addition to that).

Anyway, moved or not, this is a 65 year old dry amontillado (Montilla amontillado, as Antonio Barbadillo pointed out) that is 100 pedro ximenez but unbelievably fine and light. I have written in the past about how elegant single vintage wines seem to remain, but this one was really amazingly excellent given its age and cepage.

You can’t really see the colour above because I didn’t get hold of the bottle until the glass was nearly gone, but it was crystal clear and a really lovely amber colour,  extremely appetising. The nose had a spirit quality that was nearer to brandy than petrol fumes, a really fine nose of caramel and alcohol. Then on the palate it had a combination of acidity and zing, that didn’t so much burn as freshen, followed by notes of caramel then quickly tobacco and leather, before a long, long bitter almond finish.

A really exceptional wine. One of the best 65 year old wines I have drunk, without doubt. (Seriously, one of the wines of an exceptional night – and what a start.)

Oloroso 1986, Bodegas Hidalgo – La Gitana

Ana in the Chula de Chamberi very kindly saved the last glass of this for me and I am extremely grateful. It is a beautiful wine.

This is a single vineyard, vintage wine from the legendary Jerez pago “El Cuadrado” (see here for an idea of its location – at the West end of the Barbaina pago, the most sea-influenced of the Jerez pagos). It is by Hidalgo la Gitana and has been twenty years in botas in the San Francisco bodega in the centre of Sanlucar: according to the label 12 botas to start with, but a barely believable 3 by the end. If my maths serve me right it has since spent 10 years in its bottle.

The time has been well spent because it is epic.

First, it has a curious look to it – very black, smokey and murky. Not all that much sediment in the glass – could be a result of having been shaken up but just look at what it has done to the bottle (easiest to see looking at the neck). It really looks like it has been through some sort of trauma (but it still really excellent) – if anyone knows what might have caused this I would be most interested.

On the nose there are relatively muted aromas of old barrels and gingerish spices, black treacle, and Christmas cake. Really none of those polish or solvent, volatile type aromas and maybe that was why it seemed muted (it was also a little cold). Nonetheless a very appetising nose.

Then on the palate it is downright lovely – has the elegance of a Sanlucar wine but a beautifully rich, Christmas-cake body to it. Concentrated but class – a wine where you only need a merest sip and sip after tiny sip give you black treacle flavours fading to toffee, coffee/black chocolate like bitterness and then cloves and woody spices. It is savoury rather than saline – maybe a tingle on the tip and top of the tongue – not at all astringent and just that little bit of acidic bite. Really unbelievably rich, flavourful and smooth and the spices at the end are perfect.

Wonderful. More please!

Oloroso Solera BC 200

This was a fantastic bottle of wine. The highlight of a brilliant dinner at El Faro del Puerto courtesy of Don Fernando – a prince among hosts.

Not literally from 200 BC but pretty old nonetheless – has a pretty good ficha which explains that it is from a Solera founded in 1864 and would have an average age of 40 years or so. Fernando told us that these were the “Botas de los Consejeros” reserved for the executives with the biggest hats and also that it was the favourite wine of the Tsars (although it wasn’t clear whether the Tsars were executives of Osborne themselves).

As the ficha says, there is a a 1/8th share of PX in here but it is perfectly integrated and, even better, there is none of the excessive astringency or concentration of some really old wines. It is full in flavour – some very pleasant spices and black treacle that really repays swishing around the tongue – but also has a nice acidic entry and an equally pleasant sweet tail to it.

A really silky smooth wine all around in fact and a privilege to have tasted it.

Toneles again 

It is always a risk to go back to a wine that has made such an impression the first time. Also, given that only 100 of these are produced a year it seems a little indulgent to have consumed 2%. Nevertheless, since it was Christmas I wanted to bring a showpiece bottle home and well, here we are.

An opaque, black brown in colour it flows out like a fine syrup and coats the glass. I still get a lot of the Christmas pudding, raisins, sweet spices, and chocolate, but coming at it a second time I notice a lot more of that 100 year old wine aroma of pine trees and pipe tobacco.

In the mouth too it is all intensity. Maybe it is the recent experience but I get a syrupy mouthfull of the blackened edges of a Christmas cake – juicy currants and sweet spices in burnt sugar, followed by chocolate, then tobacco, then cedar and a tail of spicey black treacle. It really has immense length – the spicey, bitter black treacle flavours carry on for an eternity.

Not as absolutely bowled over this time. It may be that that first bottle was such a surprise, that it came at the end of a long dinner, or that it was a few degrees cooler on an evening that was a few degrees warmer. It may also be that in the intervening months I have learnt a lot more about the effects of concentration and barrel ageing and that familiarity has stolen some of the wonder. Nevertheless, an absolutely exceptional wine by any standards.

Fino La Panesa 

I have had a moratorium due to overflowing wine storage but after some good discipline it came to an end today. One of the first wines in was this – a favourite and a great wine by any standards.

I have written about this so many times already (in March, again in June, in July, in September, and most recently in November) it feels like there should be nothing new to say but I still feel compelled.

It just seems to channel all the qualities I love about these wines: a nose full of yeasty bread, haystacks and almonds; a rich juicy texture; and a salty, intense, integrated roast almond and yeast flavour which lasts and lasts without getting bitter.

Sensational, yet again.

La Bota de Palo Cortado 34 

I love this and get slightly carried away in my descriptions at times. It is one of the wines plucked from the stocks of a famous old almacenista – on this occasion Garcia Jarana – by the guys at Equipo Navazos and then finished by them in their own botas housed in Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla (another favourite maker of mine). 

It is not a super aged, super powerful wine like some of the palo cortados around but for me it is what a palo cortado should be – fine, elegant and balanced. If anything, I would compare it to the Emilio Hidalgo Amontillado Tresillo 1874: the 34 maybe has slightly less body but is also just a shade lighter on the finish. 

It is a red amber rather than brown colour. Slightly sweet on the nose, with orangey stewed apples and a bit of alcohol. A bit of salt and zing first up on the palate, then rich honey toffee in the background and with some bitter, black chocolate, a suggestion of tobacco and a long finish. 

A real masterpiece and my favourite wine ever for less than €40. 

El Tresillo 1874

Apologies if these posts are repetitive but this wine is like the proverbial pig with a wooden leg – too good to consume all at once.

First the lovely red colour – almost pink – is really appetising. Then the massive multifaceted nose: to me it is black treacle on caramel, just a hint of spices and cooked citrus. In terms of mouthfeel it is zingy – definite acid and volatility – but the flavours are again super rich – black treacle with maybe just a bit of chocolate and a definite bitter citrus edge. It is of course immensely long.

Absolutely superb (again).