Located in Sanlúcar de Barrameda’s lively Barrio Bajo, Juan Piñero occupies a traditional cellar, built between 1920-1930, with a central courtyard and a gabled roof which is a replica of Barbadillo’s La Arboledilla (1876), one of the most impressive wine cathedrals in the Sherry Triangle.
The winery was on the brink of collapse. Its owner, local construction businessman Juan Piñero, purchased it in 1992 with a view to develop it as real estate in the years of economic boom but recession forced him to change tack. Instead, he established himself as an almacenista (wholesaler), aging and storing wines which were later sold to shipping producers who bottle the wine for sale and export.
He was a purveyor of wine for Hidalgo-La Gitana for many years, thus adopting its purchaser’s own solera system but the arrival of consultant winemaker Ramiro Ibáñez in 2013 brought changes in production and distribution —Piñero started to make and sell its own wines (around 60,000 bottles) directly.
Their base wines come from Pago del Hornillo, a vineyard district classified as Jerez Superior, and the main brand is manzanilla Maruja (€10.55 in Spain), a solera purchased in 2000 from the now disappeared Pedro Domecq who in turn acquired it from Terry. In a market dominated by manzanillas with an average age of 3-5 years, Maruja has seven criaderas or scales, as they are called in Sanlúcar, and one solera and stands out with its saline aromas, bitter end and light flor flavours. Filtration is kept to a minimum to preserve its character. Jarona —which means lazy in the Sanlúcar dialect— is Piñero’s entry level manzanilla, with three scales and a noticeable flor character.
Ramiro Ibáñez, one of the most dynamic winemakers in Sherry country, has brought a change in the style of the house’s wines as it is particularly evidenced in the manzanilla pasada Maruja, which now displays a pronounced oxidative style as opposed to the former, biological profile. It is marketed by Armando Guerra, owner of Taberna der Guerrita, where it retails at €19.50 for 0.5l.
Piñero’s manzanilla pasada is produced in small quantities and comes from selected casks of the first scale in Maruja. The solera, with almost 16% alcohol, still maintains a fine layer of yeast or flor, but it is evident that biological aging is coming to an end. Its average age is 12 years old.
The range of VORS wines is noteworthy. The casks rest in the sacristia, a quiet part of the winery with low ceilings and evocative aromas of church, orange blossom and old wood. Tiny amounts of Amontillado and Oloroso, with an average age of 30 years, are now on sale along with around 350 bottles of its old and excellent Cream, selected by Ramiro Ibáñez. It was initially aimed at the US market, but a small batch is set to be sold in Spain.
Along with Estévez, makers of La Guita and fino Inocente, Juan Piñero was, until the end of 2017, the only sherry producer with wineries both in Sanlúcar and Jerez. In this town they made fino Camborio from a 400-cask solera, but this, along with the winery building in Jerez, have now been sold to Peter Sisseck, the well-known producer behind Pingus in Ribera del Duero who recently released a premium fino. Piñero passed away in January 2021 from coronavirus.