Jerez de la Frontera, 24th to 27th September 2017; Visit 5/5 Bodegas Tradición

My final day concluded with a morning appointment at Bodegas Tradición. It was pouring with rain this particular morning, and as it wasn’t forecast I had only taken sandals, which suffered somewhat! Luckily the hotel lent me a large umbrella and it wasn’t actually at all cold. I was greeted by Daniel Martinez Becerra, who first explained some of the bodega’s varied and curious history.

In 1998, Joaquín Rivero Valcarce, who is head of Metrovacesa, one of Spain’s biggest construction companies, bought top quality old cellars from almacenistas and refurbished a derelict bodega to house the project. The size of the personal financial investment is extraordinary. The idea was to recuperate family traditions and produce small lots of very high quality sherries and for this Rivero employed experts to oversee buying of wines and  cellars (whose walls are 4 metres thick in places since they were not only cellar walls but also the wall of the Moorish city). As well as the wines, the bodega houses Rivera’s private art collection, one of the biggest in Andalucía, and the gallery is open to the visitor. A rotating exhibition of about 60 of the 400 works held are exhibited at any one time, a beautiful addition to any tour.

Tradición produce only old Sherries (and brandies), at first no Finos and nothing under 20 years old but since about 2012, there has been a Fino in the range and which is over 12 years old. There are about 500 butts of Fino and about 1000 bottles are produced a year, all hand labelled and numbered, like all Tradición’s bottlings.

The Pedro Ximenéz Sherries are interesting, about 6,000 bottles of which are produced a year. The year’s sobretabla wines are bought in Montilla, where PX grows much more successfully, and fortified to either 7 or 15% depending on the current price of alcohol. The VOS spends 25 years in the solera in 5 criaderas, i.e. 5 years in each criadera! There is a group of 6 butts of super old PX classified as VORS but much older and of which only 100 bottles are released a year (at 150€!).

There are a handful of wines which undergo static ageing (crianza estática), i.e. no solera movement, for some vintage wines (de añada), particularly a Palo Cortado (currently 40 years old) and some Olorosos, which are lacquer sealed and under strict control of the C.R.. These wines lose a great deal of volume through evaporation.

Barrel tastings (en rama) of the amontillado solera;

  1. 6th criadera, which is currently about 12-14 years old and receives its “rocío” with 12 year old Fino Viejo. The nose still shows some saline flor notes and melted butter
  2. 4th criadera at 25 years old
  3. 3rd criadera at 40 years old, now with varnish notes, caramelised almonds, nuts and fudge
  4. Now at 50 years old, 19.5% natural alcohol, by concentration and not fortification, the colour has moved from deep amber to mahogany and is immensely complex and concentrated on the nose, nutty, lifted, caramel.
  5. Amontillado Viejo at 100 years old (!!!) of which there are only 9 butts. Amazing nose and palate with lots of wood and a silky smooth mouth and finish.
  6. An exam tasting, which I was told I probably hadn’t encountered before nor would again; inky black and opaque in colour with a nose of figs, dates and coffee, I thought it was some sort of PX or maybe old Moscatel but the palate didn’t fit. Eventually I was told it was from 3 butts of what is called “color” and which used to be used for wines destined for England, where more colour was required. It’s a sort of arrope, boiled wine, and is now over 50 years old; a real novelty!

And so we went to sit and taste the following;

  1. Fino Viejo Saca May 2017, 12 years old,15%; I found the nose very difficult to describe with my Fino head on; russet apples (reineta) and brandy and this fits with the wine being at the end limit of biological ageing although still with a layer of flor on its surface and from very old butts. The palate was bone dry, soft, saline and almost unctuous in texture with aromas of bakery products and sweet brioche. Amazing!
  2. Palo Cortado VORS but actually over 40 years old, 19.5% and 3,000 bottles /yr. Medium amber colour with a pale green rim, the nose shows caramel and fudge, caramelised almonds and almonds. The palate is intense with lots of elegant wood, vanilla, nuts, caramelised sugar and crème caramel; concentrated and long.
  3. Oloroso Viejo VORS but actually 50 years old, 20%; pale mahogany colour with a deep olive green rim, the nose is hugely complex, perfumed and elegant with vanilla, nuts, caramelised almonds (garrapiñada), smoky hints, wood, cocoa, tobacco, incense. The palate is mouthwatering, soft and very full, corpulent, with lots of fine wood and cocoa. Spectacular!

At this point Daniel called on the extraordinary knowledge of Pepe Blandino, Tradición’s Capataz Jefe, to answer several of my more technical questions, which in honesty I had been accumulating throughout my stay in Jerez and needed answering once and for all before I left, and so I had the most amazing conversation about flor’s impact on acidity and glycerol in particular. It went something like this; flor feeds off many components of the wine including glycerol and acetic acid and so acidity levels fall during time in the solera. All acids are eventually consumed; acetic (volatile), tartaric, malic, succinic etc. So Amontillados (which begin with biological ageing) have softer noses and palates than Finos, since as well as there being less acidity, the flor has not yet consumed all of the glycerol. As Olorosos never see flor they contain more acidity and much more glycerol so have much fuller palates. Although flor doesn’t need sugar, it will consume any small amounts in the sobretabla, which again is present in Olorosos, especially those which are very old and where sugar is concentrated through evaporation. In time, alcohol in Finos also drops since the flor again consumes it.

  1. Amontillado, 50 years old, 19% alcohol; pale mahogany in colour with a pungent, complex nose. Notes of salty seawater, sweet bakery, patisserie products, Arab sweets(!), raw nuts and perfumed incense. The palate is intense and concentrated with fine, elegant wood, smoky hints, toasted nuts, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, caramel and toffee and an endless finish.
  2. Cream VOS, 70% Oloroso and 30% PX, sold at Fortnum & Mason, 180g/l RS. The nose shows liquid figs, prunes, sultanas, coffee and tobacco leaf. The palate is well balanced with dried apricots and prunes to add to the nose.
  3. PX VOS, but 25 years old, 15% and 450g/l RS; opaque brown in colour the nose is of liquefied dried fruits, prunes, apricots, sultanas, raisins, figs with a hint of coffee, the palate reflecting the nose with lots of toasted, roasted notes of coffee and cocoa. It is extremely well balanced hugely sweet without being sticky and with a molasses note on that very long finish. The wine would lose freshness if left any longer hence it is not made as a VORS.
  4. PX VORS, 30 years old, and sells for about 150€, the wine is almost black with a nose of molasses and sultanas and all those dried fruits. It is more concentrated than the VOS but somehow less sweet with a coconutty hint. Absolutely fascinating!

And that was three hours of Daniel’s very generously given time over, and very much appreciated! These are extraordinary wines like many I have tasted on this brief incursion to Jerez, and must be tried!

http://www.bodegastradicion.es/index.php/en/

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Jerez de la Frontera, 24th to 27th September 2017; Visit 4/5 Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla

Next I was off to a late afternoon appointment with Fernando Romero, Director Comercial (Marketing Manager) for Spain and Germany at Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla. And at C/Jardinillo, possibly the most beautiful of addresses; it translates as “Little Garden”! Founded in 1837, Fernando de Castilla are not only sherry producers but also famous for their brandies. Fernando explained that traditionally there were over 30 varieties of the Palomino grape vine, but that Palomino Fino is the one which produced most of the volume of Jerez while Airén is used for brandy.

Bought by Jan Pettersen (ex-Osborne) in 2000, three particular characteristics of Fernando de Castilla are; integration of alcohol in wines and brandies; their “parque” (struggled with the translation here, but the cellar really) of old barrels of 40-50 year old wines; and brandies over 100 years old.

Only ageing of wine is undertaken here; the base wines, mostos, themselves are all bought exclusively as sobretabla from Bilbaina, who are also shareholders in Fernando de Castilla. This gives full control over the vineyards and base wine making and supply. Most wines, I was told, are aged for longer than other wineries; the youngest Fino is five years old; aged for four years in solera after one in sobretabla.

Brandies also go through a solera with minimum three years ageing. Here PX barrels are used as well as new American oak for vanilla notes, depending on the style sought. And a vermouth is also made.

All processes are natural, so Finos often throw tartrates on chilling; there is no stabilisation, filtering or colour adjustment although Finos are coarse filtered for large particles. There are about 150,000 barrels in total for the two ranges of sherry; Classic and Antique. Wines are chosen at the sobretabla stage, mostos are first off the press making them very fine musts.

I was invited to taste four wines from the Antique range “en rama”, i.e. from the barrels.

#1 Amontillado Antique; 20 years old, 19% alcohol. The nose is of melted butter, toffee and caramel, the palate is elegant, caramel and nutty. It is very cleansing in texture, very gastronomic and has a very long finish. 4-5,000 bottles.

#2 Oloroso Antique; 20 years old and 20% alcohol. The grapes for this sherry are harvested at full ripeness or perhaps slightly over. The nose smells of bitter oranges, walnuts and caramel while the palate shows similar walnuts and orange peel with coffee. The body is glyceric, dense and full and the finish is very long.

#3 Palo Cortado Antique; 30 years old. This has a very elegant, complex and saline nose of caramel, coffee and walnuts. The palate reflects the nose with amazing retronasal aromas.

#4 PX Antique; this amazing Pedro Ximénez has 489g/l residual sugar but with balanced acidity which means that it is not as sticky as one may think! Honey, liquorice, coffee, orange, liquid dates and figs and dried apricots; hugely complex! What stands out is the balance here and it is an outstanding wine (despite me not being a massive PX fan!).

We were running short of time so only briefly looked at the brandy side of the bodega and my brief notes are unworthy…

Quick bar tasting before I left of;

  • 6 year old Fino En Rama; aromas of green olives, hay and a touch of coffee; delicious
  • Antique Fino, which is, unusually these days, refortified to 17% at bottling
  • Vermouth; really lovely with notes of cinnamon, orange peel and spices and a bitter finish. Made from 30% PX, 70% Oloroso and a mix of 27 botanicals including wormwood.

And time ran out well and truly! This was another fantastic visit, where I found it hard to take coherent notes as the conversation and discussions were wide ranging and fascinating! Memorable in itself!

In common with most other sherry bodegas, Fernando del Castila have an arrangement to supply “botas envinados” or wine-primed barrels, to a whisky distiller, in their case to a Hebridean distiller called Bruichladdich (https://www.bruichladdich.com for even more further reading!), who declare themselves “unashamedly experimental”!

A huge thank you to Fernando for his time, and please seek out these wines!

http://fernandodecastilla.es/

Jerez de la Frontera, 24th to 27th September 2017; Visit 3/5 Bodegas Lustau

 

My next visit was to Lustau, where I had been unable to make arrangements for a professional visit, I joined a 25€ tourist visit in English with 10 other people at 1pm; they offer a range of visits and languages. Established in 1896 Lustau is today considered one of Sherry’s reference wineries in terms of tradition, quality and worldwide distribution and is the only winery which can produce in all three Sherry towns; Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. I didn’t take many notes here but the website is very good. Vinification is in El Puerto de Santa María along with bottling, so wines are moved between the two towns. Over 40 different sherry styles are made! Flagship, excellent value for money Fino La Ina is aged biologically for 3-5 years with 30% saca each time. The saca from Oloroso soleras is only 5%. There are over 20,000 American oak barrels here plus those for whisky producers Jameson’s, whose barrels are “primed” for two years with oloroso, which is then sold on to distillers.

There are several ranges; the Solera famliy range, Almacenistas (originally stock holders of often old wines), Specialities, VORS range, “3 en Rama” Finos from each town, as well as brandies, vinegars and two excellent vermouths, white and red. The wines tasted included the following (all bottled), but it was difficult to keep up so in the end I just went with the flow!

  1. Almacenista Manzanilla Pasada, 10 yrs old
  2. Puerto fino, 5 yrs old
  3. Fino Jarana, 5 yrs old
  4. Amontillado Escuadrilla
  5. Palo Cortado Almacenista Cayetano del Pino (22 barrels)
  6. Oloroso Don Nuño
  7. White vermouth (excellent)
  8. Red vermouth. Both vermouths sherry based.
  9. East India Solera Cream, 15 years old, 80% Oloroso 20% PX
  10. Moscatel Emilín
  11. Pedro Ximenéz San Emilio
  12. Pedro Ximenéz VORS (Lustau have 5ha of PX and 7ha of Moscatel)

A good tourist visit without a doubt.

http://www.lustau.es/en/

Jerez de la Frontera, 24th to 27th September 2017; Visit 2/5 Emilio Hidalgo

Visiting Emilio Hidalgo, with Juan Manuel Martín Hidalgo, was a complete contrast to my first visit. Hidalgo is a much smaller, family business and here few visitors are accepted as they are not really set up for it at the moment, although construction in the outside patio is underway to facilitate visits in the future. Established in 1805, the business has seen many changes and is now in the hands of the 5th generation. Juan Manuel is keen to emphasise the use of the word Jerez instead of Sherry to talk about the wines in an effort to change consumer perceptions. These days Hidalgo has no vineyards of its own, relying instead for supply of its musts on long term, committed relationships with trusted growers and producers.

My visit here lasted for over two hours and was all barrel tasting of dry wines; we didn’t even get to the sweets! Hidalgo focuses on aged wines; its Panesa Fino is about 16 years old and the Consejo Regulador usually has to visit to verify that, yes, it still does still have flor growing on it, albeit “feinting” or dying. Volumes are limited. The architecture of the bodega is designed to maximise the natural cooling effects of the local breezes from the south west and limit the effects of the hotter, drier, easterly winds and there are 5 patios which further enhance the cooling effects.

The first barrel we tasted was mosto, as fermented wine is known in Jerez, with a natural alcohol content of 11.9% and fresh aromas of apple, grass and hay. There is no MLF so the palate is quite acidic (malic) with chalky mineral notes from the albariza soil. My notes say “new sensations in my mouth”! This is “mosto de reposicíon” or must for refilling the saca in the solera. There are about 5,000 butts in total. It’s always a delight to see an expert wielding a “venencia” with absolutely no drips!

In Bodega La Panesa we tasted several barrels; second year Fino, clean nose with apple and raw nut aromas, the palate shows almonds hazelnuts and citric and malic acids; it’s green and leafy. The third tasting was the Fino at 5 years old (sells for about 9€) and smells of bread, grass and green herbaceousness with no salinity. The palate is dry but still has the oiliness of glycerine, which hasn’t yet been consumed by the flor and also as we’re tasting it “en rama” and contains tiny fragments of yeast; it’s sold cold stabilised and lightly filtered.  The third wine tasted still had flor growing on its surface (torch at the ready through the bung hole!) and the Fino is now about 10-11 years old, average age. Aromas now include toffee, coffee, sweet bread products, butter and varnish, hugely complex but still fresh. The palate is soft, slightly oily; delicious! Each butt is different and is followed separately. The solera heads towards over 15 years old, still under biological ageing, i.e. flor, and some Finos-Amontillados are revealed from the original Fino. Amontillado Tresillo with no fortification at 17 years old originates from this solera.

The fifth taste was a barrel of La Panesa itself. It’s about 16 years old and there is still a breaking film of flor on its surface. The palate is soft, with patisserie, nuts, vanilla, burnt sugar and it still needs a moment to open up; the flor protects the wine from oxygen and its abrupt exposure to air means it needs time to open up. The nose remains somewhat mute (compared to younger Sherries) whereas the palate is much more expressive.  The solera of La Panesa is now 55 years old and it’s been commercialised as a wine for 15 years. La Panesa caused great consternation when it was released as many other wineries thought it was simply a too old Fino. There are many others now being produced.

The sixth barrel was what Juan Manuel called a “mirlo blanco” or a white blackbird! Something unusual! He refers to it as a Fino –Amontillado and it shows much less acidity, those aromas of melted butter, nuts and is less fresh, now having some oxidation. The palate is more unctuous, more glyceric, nutty and deep. Ageing here is 12 years biological and 3-4 years oxidative with the flor fading so that this is no longer Panesa.

The seventh barrel tasted was Amontillado-Fino El Tresillo, fortified to 16%. Ageing here is 16-17 years, of which about 12 are biological followed by 6 -7 years oxidative. The nose is spectacular, complex, melted butter and nuts, the palate dry, warming from the alcohol, nutty, caramel, full flavoured and full bodied. A Spanish sweet called “almendras garrapiñadas” comes to mind, almonds which have been coated in toasted caramel, delicious!

Barrel 8 was Marqués de Rodil, Palo Cortado, 18 years old and 18.5% alcohol which is natural, unfortified, arising from concentration over the years in solera. This was amazing, very Amontillado in profile with delicate complexity, nutty and melted butter. Beautiful.

Juan Manuel really was keen to emphasise the age and special profiles of their wines as a real point of difference. He told me that Hidalgo were the first to release their Panesa style wine and when they did so, many producers thought they had lost the plot, but now there are several other bodegas producing similar, older wines and lots of “en rama”. Another interesting topic for discussion!

And a huge thank you to him for his time; hopefully I will get to see the sweet wine side of the business next time!

http://hidalgo.com/

Jerez de la Frontera, 24th to 27th September 2017; Visit 1/5 Gonzalez Byass

My first visit was at Gonzalez Byass, thanks to Marina García González for organising this with Simon Leth-Nissen (Brand Manager) for the tour and José Manuel Pinedo Contreras, Production Manager and Enologist, for the tasting. Over 250,000 visitors pass through this iconic winery every year and it’s a must in my opinion.

Gonzalez Byass has 1000 hectares of vineyards in Jerez Superior, 50% being owned and the other 50% under long term contract. These are all on albariza soils which are very poor and have a high chalk content. The region receives about 600mm rain a year (high for most of Spain), mainly in the autumn-winter and the soil structure means that this water is stored and available for the vines during the dry, baking hot summers. Ninety-five percent of GB’s vineyards are Palomino Fino with the remainder being 27 hectares of Pedro Ximénez; PX is mainly grown in Montilla-Moriles where it is better suited, since the climate is drier and less humid. Most bodegas have to buy their PX in from Montilla. As well as sherry, GB also produces brandy and prepares barrels for the Scottish Whisky industry, as do several other bodegas, “priming” them with sherry for subsequent whisky ageing. Generally sherry butts (mainly 500-600 litres capacity) are only replaced after 30 or 40 years of use, partly due to the long barrel ageing process, and also because new oak influence is not required. Examples include 21,000 casks for Tío Pepe fino production, which is bottled after 4 years in solera, compared with Del Duque Old Amontillado, which is bottled after more than 30 years in butts. Gonzalez Byass produce a wide range of Sherries, from the world famous high volume Tío Pepe to limited volumes of very old vintages (1000 bottles but not every year) Palo Cortados with Amontillados and Olorosos at all quality and price levels. The Constancia  cellar pays homage to the famous mouse story with a model of a mouse climbing a small ladder to a glass, very cute. Tío Pepe was the founder’s uncle and it was he who had all the wine knowledge. Today the casks in the Founder’s Cellar are 100 years old and the wines go to both Tío Pepe and TP “En Rama” (unfined or unfiltered; “raw”). A great new Tío Pepe cellar was built in 1973 on three floors and which can house 10,000 casks each.

There are a number of very old casks with real curiosities in them; a Tío Pepe cask of 52 years old, as well as 52 year old PX and Moscateles, with exceptional and unusual flavour profiles.

All in all an interesting cellar visit. On to the tasting with José Manuel Pinedo Contreras, long standing Production Manager with Gonzalez Byass and who explained that GB produces principally Finos. The wine-making is protective with every aspect aimed at producing the finest musts, low pressure pneumatic pressing, limited but optimal SO2 use, fermentation at 20-22ºC (which is warm for whites but normal for sherry production where varietal character is not sought), and all culminating in must classification in November. More structured and complex musts produce Olorosos. He commented that climate change is leading to earlier harvests, this year the second week in August!!!

Tasting

Biologically – flor – aged Sherries

#1 Tío Pepe; lovely nose of green apples and acetaldehyde, almonds, bread-making and saline hints. The palate is soft, round and balanced, with more salinity (from the flor), apple, hazelnut, almond and hay. I asked about the acidity in finos and José Manuel explained that ripe Palomino Fino is naturally low in acidity anyway and that the must is corrected if necessary with tartaric acid to pH 3.5. The acidity falls while the wine is in the sobretabla and then solera system; potassium bi-tartrate precipitates out, volatile acidity is consumed by the flor.  The wine is further cold stabilised also reducing tartaric acid, all resulting in an eventual pH of about 3. The flor also consumes glycerine leaving the sensation of lightness and accentuated dryness despite its 15% alcohol.

#2 AB Amontillado; Amontillados form as the flor – film-forming yeasts die off. Usually Amontillados are re-fortified to 17.5% but AB is 16.5% natural alcohol after 12 years in solera; 6 years biological and 6 years oxidative ageing. As the yeast dies, it no longer forms a layer on the wine so this is no longer protected from oxygen and it begins to slowly oxidise developing an amber colour and a different flavour profile. The nose shows melted butter, saline hints, nuts, vanilla and hints of wood. The palate is saline from the flor, dense, soft and velvety with a long finish. Lovely.

#3 Amontillado VORS, 30 year old Del Duque; amber in colour with a golden rim. The nose is piercing with melted butter, nuts, vanilla, toast, varnish and lacquer, all characteristics of a 30 year old sherry. 21.5% natural alcohol, i.e. not re-fortified, 4% loss of volume each year leads to concentration of the alcohol content. The palate also shows caramelised sugar and liquorice and has a long, persistent finish.

Oxidatively aged Sherries

#4 Oloroso Alfonso 8-10 years old; 18% alcohol, 2-3 years in the sobretabla after fortification and before going to the solera for another 5-6 years. The nose is clean, notes of wood, orange peel, vanilla and nuts. Similar notes on the palate, which is dry but with the suggestion of sweetness from the glycerine and concentration in solera (1g/l → 3g/l after 8-10 years).

#5 Palo Cortado Leonor, 12 years old, 20% alcohol; evidence of biological beginnings in saline hints, elegant and nutty, palate showing tannins from the barrels, less sweet sensation, drier and very long.

#6 Palo Cortado Apostoles VORS; Palomino Fino with Pedro Ximénez; a “Medium” sherry. At 15 years of age, 87% Palomino Fino has 13% PX added and continues in the solera and continues for another 15-18 years. The PX adds complexity to the nose and velvety softness on the palate. Mahogany in colour, the nose is complex and woody with vanilla, dried figs and dates. The palate reflects the nose with more nuttiness and is rounded and soft with development from the PX and endlessly long.

Cream Sherries

#7 Solera 1847; 18% alcohol. This wine is approximately 8 years old. Oloroso is aged in its solera for 4 years while PX (fortified at 7% alcohol to 15%, therefore having very high residual sugar) is aged in its own solera. After 4 years the wine are blended, 75% PF with 25% PX and enters the 1847 Solera, and where it spends another 4 years. Its colour is mahogany with an olive green rim, and nose of PX, dried fruits, orange peel and vanilla. The palate is very sweet (120g/l RS) with liquid dried dates and sultanas and long finish.

#8 Matusalem VORS (30 years old); this sherry has 25% PX added. The PF and PX are aged in separate soleras for about 15 years then blended and put through the Matusalem solera for another 15 years. Opaque mahogany in colour, the nose is of dried fruits and nuts, coffee, vanilla and burned sugar and spices. The palate shows surprisingly good acidity, is sweet with coffee, orange peel, dried fruits and is long with burned sugar. Really lovely. (130g/l RS)

#9 Nectar, 100% Pedro Ximénez ; 15% alcohol, 370g/l RS. PX grapes are sundried for about 2 weeks where they lose 40% of their water by evaporation. After pressing they are fermented and fortified at about 7% when fermentation stops naturally die to yeast being stressed by the high sugar content. Nectar spends about 8 years in the solera. Deep mahogany in colour with a nose of liquid figs, prunes, iodine, soft woody notes. The palate also shows raisins, more figs, honey and cooked dried fruits. It is velvety smooth and satiny, and the acidity just balances the sweetness. Lovely.

#10 Noé VORS, 100% Pedro Ximénez (from Jerez not Montilla); 15.5% alcohol. Similar processing of grapes to Nectar, Noé spends 30 years in solera, opaque ebony in colour, dense legs from high RS (>400g/l), there is less fruit on the nose (it’s old!) with a hint of varnish, more roasted notes of coffee and sugars, caramel, sultanas and figs. Extraordinarily long; wonderful!

A huge thank you to Simon and José Manuel for their time, generously given! Many of these wines are more commercially available than some of the others I have visited, so check them out!

(Some details corrected 28-01-2018 following feedback from GB)

http://www.gonzalezbyass.com/

 

Jerez de la Frontera, 24th to 27th September 2017; Introduction and eating!

I decided to spend a few days at the end of September to celebrate my birthday as an excuse to revel in the delights of the wines of Jerez, Sherry wines, and so I took the very convenient and comfortable train from Madrid to Jerez de la Frontera. It takes only three and a half hours and really is very easy. Here is a very brief account of those three days, and it isn’t intended to be a sherry learning post or any explanation of sherry styles or rules!

I’d booked at Los Jandalos Hotel, once a bodega itself and luckily my room was in the old winery section. I chose Los Jandalos because it has a spa, but the opening hours turned out to be so restrictive that I wasn’t able to enjoy the promised watery relaxation. Maybe next time! It was, however, very well situated, but that’s not hard in Jerez, which is a small town and nearly everything is within walking distance. And the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted for breakfast along with freshly squeezed orange juice is always a bit of a luxury!

Very importantly, and see posts to follow, I had been able to organise visits in advance at

    • Gonzalez Byass,
    • Emilio Hidalgo,
    • Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla and
    • Bodegas Tradición.
    • Not being able to confirm some until the last minute meant that I wasn’t able to do anything other than the tourist visit at Lustau, where the tasting alone is actually well worth the visit.

The weather was warm and dry apart from a long deluge on the Wednesday morning for my walk to Tradición and I did walk miles while I was there. End of September is a great time to visit. Although a very sleepy place when I arrived on the Sunday evening, during the week it’s a bustling town.

La Carboná

After visiting Hidalgo, I went to the wonderful La Carboná restaurant for lunch, being only about 10 minutes’ walk. My difficult digestive system and no advance planning meant that I was limited on the menu but the mixed tomato salad with raspberries and basil followed by chistorra with chips went down a treat with three Sherries from the selection of over 120 on the wine list, most available by the glass as well as bottle; this really was sherry heaven! The Fino Inocente was extraordinary!

http://lacarbona.com/

 

Consejo Regulador

The Jandalos Hotel is a five minute walk from the Consejo Regulador and I made a quick call to see what they had to offer on the Tuesday morning before my next visit. I had managed to complete very successfully my WSET Diploma sherry studies without additional, specialised books but had bought the much recommended “Sherry” by Julian Jeffs before travelling to Jerez. As much as it is a wonderful book, I have to confess that I find it rather heavy going and I wanted more emphasis on winemaking and current issues. To my delight I found the 2012 “Sherry, Manzanilla, Montilla; A guide to the traditional wines of Andalucía” in the Consejo Regulador’s surprisingly extensive book shop, and bought it on the spot. Authored by Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín, I really cannot recommend it highly enough, either for studying or simply enjoyment. It’s an excellent read.

https://www.sherry.wine

 

After Fernando de Castilla, that evening I went out to the very traditional Tabanco El Pasaje, where I enjoyed live flamenco, and drank Maestro Sierra sherries; Fino with tortilla, Amontillado with smoked tuna and, Palo Cortado with carne mechada (cold roast pork). Great evening!

After Tradición, I had lunch at the also very traditional Tabanco San Pablo; tortilla with Fino Valdespino and Cruzcampo with carne mechada. A great close to a wonderful trip! And so having been to El Puerto de Santamaria previously, my next stop will have to be Sanlúcar!

At last, Chile is recorded!

 

 

It’s taken an age, it’s been hard to write it all down, but there are 23 visits, about 20,000 words and also a few extra photos which didn’t involve wine!

I made a few pages of notes which I called “Thoughts” while travelling, things like driving over a mountain pass to a breathtaking view below, uncapturable on camera because of the scary roads! Drivers “undertaking” scarily; I took out my International Drivers Licence before I went thinking I’d do some driving, but I didn’t have the courage in the end! Toll roads absolutely everywhere, huge trucks moving tons and tons of wood, tree trunks, forestry being one Chile’s mainstay indistries alongside mining. The mountainous terrain enthralled me in spite of my studies; seeing is believing, understanding, for me. Trees growing bent over through the strength of the wind in Casablanca Valley. Huge turbines to move air in frost hollows. Eucalyptus forests everywhere.  It really struck me how surprised many people were that I had chosen Chile for my trip.  Extraordinary welcome from everyone I was lucky enough to meet. Mortified at deleting one whole day’s photo’s uploads to Facebook by my own … erm… stupidity!!! The use of wood for many buildings, including expensive ones; it’s more earthquake resistant than bricks and mortar.

I was hugely conscious of the advantage which my very high level of Spanish gave me for most of my visits; although English is spoken, many people appreciate being able to express their passion in their mother tongue. However, it wasn’t without hitches; “Chilenismos” were rife, some difficult to catch, others catchy (¿Cachaí?). And of course “Despacito”!!!!!

Where does this lead…