Cota 45 Ramiro Ibanez Sanlucar | Spanish Wine Lover

Passion for Spanish wine


A winemaker with a passion to learn more about the history of the vineyard and the wines of the Sherry Triangle, Ramiro Ibáñez is one of the essential voices in the recovery of the wine memory of this land and a highly respected and admired producer among wine lovers and connoisseurs of the wines of southern Spain.

The different albariza soils are the starting point and the backbone of Ibáñez’s wines. In them, he tries to encapsulate the terroir as well as the personality of the land and the vintage as opposed to the more obvious biological notes usually found in the manzanillas and finos of the Sherry Triangle of today.

He owns vineyards, leases others and buys grapes from Sanlúcar winegrowers such as the Blanco brothers (Bodegas Callejuela) or the Mayetería Sanluqueña team, whom he also advises on their own wines. His plan for the future is to own all of his vineyards, but he is in no rush. "We haven't inherited anything. We're starting from scratch," says Ramiro.

Since 2015 he has a small winery in Sanlúcar called Cota 45, which is a reference to the meters above sea level that Ibáñez considers are the best to have albariza soils. Although he enlarged the winery, a boat workshop in past times, it is still a modest space but with fabulous views of Doñana, a special place for this Sanlúcar producer, who grew up there.

Ramiro, who worked in Australia and Bordeaux before returning home, divides his wines into three different blocks, each under its own brand: biological (UBE), oxidative (Agostado) and sweet (Pandorga). In total, he produces some 15,000 bottles of a set of artisan wines that are a window onto the 19th century, a time when, according to Ramiro, "people worked out of empirical conviction".

The biological block are unfortified vintage white wines, in the style of the old manzanillas, with a veil of flor yeasts and easy to drink. All aim to reflect the land they come from, which are different pagos or vineyards in Sanlúcar, some on the coast, cooler and with a mixture of soils, and others inland, with more homogeneous soils. The climate on the latter feels more like Jerez —grapes have thicker skins and the temperature is two or three degrees baumé higher than on the coast.

According to Ramiro, it is easier for flor to develop on Listán from the coast (as the Palomino variety is known in Sanlúcar) than from vines inland. "When the plant is in a benign environment, with a fragile albariza structure, and no stress because the vine can easily penetrate the root, the skin of the grape is thinner and the veil of flor does not suffer as much. These vines produce wines with citrus and pastry notes, very different to the flor profile of inland vineyards with more acetaldehydes, and a sharp, spicy character", adds Ramiro, who points out that yeast breeds producing citrus, pastry notes generate little acetaldehyde (80-100) while those inland, which give off curry and a touch of roses, can generate up to a gram.

UBE Miraflores (8,000 bottles, €15) is a 100% Palomino Fino from five plots of various ages in Miraflores Alta and Baja (coastal areas) with three different types of albariza: lentejuelas, lustrillos and tosca cerrada. It is bottled after about eight months in butts with a light veil of flor and is probably the most immediate and direct wine of Ibáñez’s range. A notch up in terms of minerality and verticality is UBE Carrascal (1,000 bottles, €32), a blend of Palomino fino (73%), Palomino de Jerez (16%) and Palomino Pelusón (11%) from a plot called Las Vegas planted in 1903 in the Carrascal vineyard, also on the coast and facing the Atlantic. It was Ramiro’s first UBE, in the days when he made only one wine under this brand.

UBE Paganilla (1,000 bottles, €15) is a 100% Palomino Fino from the Paganilla vineyard inland planted with vines from 1959 and 1979 in albariza soils. Bottled for the first time in the 2018 vintage, this wine is vinified in the same manner as UBE Miraflores. All of Ibáñez’s wines ferment with indigenous yeasts and without added sulphur, although in low alcohol vintages, such as 2018, he used some before bottling. UBE Maína (1,000 bottles, €32) comes from a single vineyard with a large concentration of marine fossils at the northern end of La Charanga in Maína, an inland vineyard in Sanlúcar, which produces vibrant wines with sapidity and muscle.

The oxidative vintage wines marketed by Ramiro are Agostado Palo Cortado (the old Encrucijado, 1,800 bottles, €32) and Agostado Raya Olorosa (1,000 bottles, €16), both made with 10% Palomino, 45% Uva Rey from vineyards in Arcos de la Frontera and 45% Perrruno grapes from the village of Trebujena inland. They are made the old-fashioned way, with the grapes left on the sun for asoleo (dehydration), spontaneous fermentation in 500-litre barrels and two-year static ageing of these late varieties that were traditionally used to make this style of wine. They develop a very fine veil of flor for a few months but then lose it and, depending on their characteristics, are classified as Palo Cortado or Raya.

Pandorga is the brand of the two sweet wines made by Ibáñez. The first on the market was his Pedro Ximénez (715 bottles of 37.50cl, €16) from the Carrascal vineyard in Jerez. The grapes are left to dry on the sun for longer in warm vintages such as 2017 (10 days, 327g of residual sugar) to maintain acidity and less in cold ones such as 2014, the first vintage he made (270g). Pandorga Pedro Ximénez is a changing wine —one of the mantras of Ramiro Ibáñez is to respect the identity of the vintage— but always surprising and balanced.

His second Pandorga is made from Tintilla de Rota (200 bottles of 37.5cl, €32). Grapes are also left on the sun before fermenting in barrels for a couple of months without temperature control until it stops naturally. In the 2017 vintage, the first he made this wine, it reached 9.5% abv and 300g of residual sugar.

In partnership with his friend Willy Pérez, they have rescued the famous brand M. Ant de la Riva —it once belonged to Domecq— to recover old and traditional vineyards. Both are also writing an eagerly awaited book on the soils and pagos of the Sherry Triangle in which they have been working for years.


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