The origins of Hidalgo La Gitana go back to 1792, when José Pantaleón Hidalgo bought from his father-in-law Roque Vejarano a small storage winery in Sanlúcar de Barrameda's Barrio Bajo, close to the river Guadalquivir. But success and fame did not materialize until the middle of the 19th century, thanks to his son.
Eduardo Hidalgo, an entrepreneur with an eye for business, built the now defunct train line between the city and Jerez but King Alfonso XII gave the operating license to one of his acolytes prompting Eduardo to embrace the republican and liberal cause and to reject a nobility title. Luckily for him, his disaffection with the monarchy was no obstacle to transform the winery —called Eduardo Hidalgo y Cía back then— into one of the main quality manzanilla producers in Sanlúcar.
The house is still in the hands of the Hidalgo family —the eighth generation is already involved in the business— but its name has changed several times throughout its two centuries of existence. The current name, Hidalgo-La Gitana, brings together the family surname and the producer’s most popular brand, which originates from Málaga.
At the end of the 19th century, an anonymous gypsy woman used to sell Hidalgo’s wine at her bar in that city, locally known as “el vino de la gitana”. When the winery started to sell the wine in bottle in the early part of the 20th century, Hidalgo not only maintained the name but also illustrated the label with the image of a gypsy woman, based on a painting that still hangs in the winery’s offices. The image was retouched in 1920 so the current gypsy woman’s features have changed slightly.
The group of buildings that make up Hidalgo in the centre of Sanlúcar, including the majestic San Luis cellar, built one meter below sea level, houses around 4,000 casks of manzanilla La Gitana (€5.50 at the winery’s shop) distributed in eight levels or criaderas. At the request of British auctioneer Bid for Wine, a small quantity of manzanilla en rama (€9.50 at the winery, £14,50) is released twice a year from these casks since 2011. This style is more complex and concentrated than the standard manzanilla.
A third manzanilla in Hidalgo’s portfolio is Pastrana (€12 at the winery’s shop), a manzanilla pasada which comes from a vineyard of the same name located in pago Miraflores, outside Sanlúcar. These vines, along with others in pago Balbaína, are owned by Hidalgo and make up the two areas where the house sources its grapes.
Although manzanilla is undoubtedly the flagship wine and accounts for a major share of its production, Bodegas Hidalgo makes small amounts of four fortified wines with and average age between six and 20 years: Amontillado Napoleón (€10.45), Oloroso Faraón (€9.50), Cream Alameda (€6.80) and Pedro Ximénez Triana (€9.20).
Its portfolio of old wines, some of them originating from very old soleras, is sold in half litre bottles and although they share the name with the standard range, their quality and age is far superior. With over 30 years of average age, they are all classified as VORS except for Palo Cortado Wellington VOS (€31.75) with over 20 years of age. Two wines stand out in this range: 40-year-old Amontillado Viejo Napoleón VORS (€39.70) is elegant and complex and Palo Cortado Viejo Wellington VORS (€39.70) displays a persistent and delicate aroma —both savvily named to be sold in France and England.
On summer weekends, the winery opens a chill-out bar in one of its courtyards and there are tours available daily all year round with the possibility of having lunch at the premises. As it is common at most of the wineries in the Sherry Triangle, Hidalgo has a shop where the wine is sold in bulk and in standard bottles.