Growers or mayetos who tend their vines and make their own wines are uncommon in the Sherry Triangle, where most of the bodegas purchase grapes or base wine from external providers but the Blanco brothers are a good example of farmers working the land.
Paco and Pepe Blanco own a little over 28 hectares in the region, with vineyards in Callejuela, El Hornillo, Macharnudo and Añina, where their oldest vines are. Macharnudo and Añina (Jerez) are inland vineyards or pagos whereas El Hornillo and La Callejuela (Sanlúcar) are known as river pagos given their proximity to the Guadalquivir. They know these lands like the back of their hands —as Pepe and Paco say, “we are different to everyone else because our origin is in the vineyard”.
Their father, Francisco Blanco Blanquito, was a man with a farsighted approach who worked for 20 years as a labourer before he was able to buy vineyards in Sanlúcar, Jerez and El Puerto. After a life of continuous work, Blanquito could call himself a mayeto, as winegrowers are known in Sanlúcar.
The brothers started to work with his father when they were still young, first in the winery that Blanquito purchased in Sanlúcar’s Barrio Alto and then in El Hornillo, where they built their current winery around their vineyards in 1997 featuring a lagar for pressing the grapes and a bottling line.
Most of their vineyards are planted to Palomino, the Sherry Triangle’s dominant grape variety, and they produce around 200,000 litres. Half of the wine is bottled at El Hornillo, but they still sell base wine to other producers like Piñero,
The great majority of their vineyards are planted to Palomino, the region’s star grape, producing around 200,000 litres. They bottle half of that quantity, but they still sell base wine to other producers like Piñero, which employs it to feed the solera of manzanilla Maruja. “We would rather not have to sell any and use that base wine to make our own whites; high-rotation, entry-level wines”, they confess. The Blanco brothers already make one in that style —the flavorful and refreshing Blanco de Hornillos (5,000 bottles, €8.50). “Manzanilla requires a lot of work. A great deal of wine has to be moved every time we withdraw some from the solera. And you also have to take into account the years it is immobile”.
Up until the year 2005, their manzanilla was sold in bulk, as it had been always done at the Blancos. That’s changed now and they bottle three different manzanillas under the brand Callejuela: young (30,000 bottles, €8), madura with six years under a veil of flor (12,000 bottles, €10.50) and en rama from pago Macharnudo (1,500 bottles, €21.50). The Callejuela range also features the wines traditionally made in the region: Amontillado Callejuela (1,500 bottles, €18) with an average age of 15 years, a classic-style elegant Oloroso (1,000 bottles, €17) with an average age of 10 years, the Cream (1,000 bottles, €12) and Pedro Ximénez (1,000 bottles, €16), which for the time being, like most of the PX from the Sherry Triangle, is sourced from Montilla.
In order to have 100% of their wines made with Callejuela grapes, the Blanco brothers planted Pedro Ximénez vines in 2015 and they plant to make new wines including manzanillas and late-harvest wines sunning the grapes. They are also reintroducing Tintilla, a red variety also known as Graciano with which they want to make the region’s traditional sweet wines.
The arrival of winemaker Ramiro Ibáñez as consultant pushed them to make new wines that they might not have dared to launch otherwise. Manzanilla de añada Callejuela 1/11 2012 was the first result of this partnership. Eleven casks from the 2012 vintage were left untouched. One cask is bottled every year to see the evolution of veil of yeast and the wines over the years. 2018 saw the launch of 4/11 which is sold, like previous sacas, at €20 in Spain, well above most manzanillas but still an object of desire for wine geeks, for whom the series has turned into a collector’s item. Spurred by this success, the Blanco brothers decided to separate several casks containing wine from the 2014 vintage and from each of the pagos, which are sold for around €25 (50cl bottles). Of the 2015 vintage, three casks per pago have been kept apart so the brothers and Ibáñez can see their evolution.
In autumn 2015, the same year that manzanilla 1/11 was born, Callejuela launched their old range of wines —concentrated, intense and made in very small quantities in transparent 50cl bottles: Manzanilla Pasada Blanquito, with some eight years under flor, is a selection of the best casks in their father’s solera (700 bottles, €19), the razor-sharp and deep Amontillado La Casilla, with some 20-25 years of average age (500 bottles, €39) and Oloroso El Cerro (600 bottles, €39) with the same average age.
They also make three unfortified single-vineyard whites, whose altitudes appear on the labels: Hacienda de Doña Francisca from pago Callejuela (62m), La Choza de Macharnudo (74m) and Las Mercedes, from pago Añina (83m). All of them have been aged foreseen months in casks under a layer of flor to highlight the character of the terroir against the influence of the bodega or the winemaking process. “We would like to hear more talk about the origin, about the vineyard. It was our father’s obsession too. No matter how good you are as a winery owner or cellar master; if the vineyard is not good, the wine will not be good”, insist the brothers.
The winery welcomes visitors exclusively by appointment but all of the Callejuela vines can be purchased at their local store in Calzada de la Infanta street, next to the beach in Sanlúcar.