Organized by the City of Jerez de la Frontera with a fairly tight budget, the latest edition of Vinoble, held between June 3-5, is still far from the heady days of splendor and international impact of yesteryear. But one of the things this wine fair, featuring sweet, special and fortified wines, managed to do was give prominence to a new and dynamic generation of producers that have taken the Sherry Triangle by storm. (We will very soon publish a piece about a fascinating tasting conducted by Sherry agitators Ramiro Ibáñez and Willy Pérez). Worthy of note was the pride with which producers mostly from the southern part of the country poured their best wines.
In Jerez’s unique Alcázar, the tastings programme stood out not only because many of them featured wines that weren’t available in the stands, but because their sheer originality acted as an invitation for introspection and thought. It wasn’t difficult to sense the skilled hands and able brain of wine expert Juancho Asenjo behind most of them. The staunch support of Sherry’s Consejo Regulador was also key to ensure the success of this edition.
Even if the quality was extraordinary, we missed a little bit of in-depth information about the wines in the tastings and regretted to being unaware of some off-site events that were open to the public but not published in the official programme.
Obviously, we weren’t able to taste all the wines in Vinoble, but we hope that this selection acts as a taster of the exciting fortified and sweet wine scene in Spain, as well as the new trend towards unfortified wines in the Sherry Triangle. Our initials —YOA for Yolanda Ortiz de Arri and AC for myself— appear at the end of each of the wines we tasted. We have include stockists and prices for all the wines that are currently available.
The “Territorio Albariza” stand —the name leaves no doubt about their love of the region’s chalky soils— proved particularly busy throughout the three-day fair. It made sense given the large number of new releases under its roof: maverick producers Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Pérez presented their new joint project De la Riva alongside a new wave of unfortified white wines focused on terroir (negotiations are underway to include them in the Sherry appellation), Callejuela's new range of single-vineyard vintage Manzanilla and single-varietal wines beyond the dominant Palomino.
Blanco De la Riva 2016. Bodegas M. Antº De La Riva. The new joint partnership between Ramiro Ibáñez and Willy Pérez, named after an old Domecq brand, pays tribute to Sherry’s history, vineyards and albariza soils but it’s also about the importance of the human factor to go full circle and get the best out of terroir. The grapes to make this unfortified Palomino born in El Notario, a legendary vineyard in Macharnudo Alto, were exposed to the sun and levant winds for eight hours, in the style of the structured wines made by this brand in the old days. Wine yields of 50% after pressing, the wine is fermented in sherry casks at ambient temperature and aged for 10 months under veil. Ripe fruit and petrol, notes, very fine flor and a persistent finish in a wine with good length and great personality. Taking into account that this is their first vintage, expectations for this wine are very high. Y.O.A.
Find this wine for €36.70 at Andalucía en Vino.
El Muelle de Olaso 2016, Bodegas Luis Pérez. This unfortified, single-vineyard white (14% vol) is made with grapes from Pago El Carrascal in Jerez and seeks to express terroir in the purest posible way. Part of the Barajuela range, grapes are picked at different levels of ripeness; El Muelle grapes were picked on the second pass out of five. 80% of the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks with the rest going to Sherry casks. Only 8,000 bottles were produced of this Palomino Fino offering amazing definition and depth, well above the standard of this relatively new category of unfortified whites from Jerez. A serious, well-structured white with length and minerality. Striking and indispensable. A.C.
Find this wine for €9.45 at Decántalo.
Callejuela Manzanilla de Pago, Añina 2014, Bodegas Callejuela. Made under the watchful eye of Ramiro Ibáñez, Callejuela’s new range of single-vineyard vintage Manzanilla was one of Vinoble’s most welcome novelties. With 2014 as its first vintage, this trio of manzanillas come from three pagos where the Blanco brothers grow grapes: Callejuela (16Ha.), Añina (8Ha.) and Macharnudo (4Ha.). Progressively gaining depth and intensity from Callejuela to Macharnudo, we have picked Añina, a good compendium of intensity, delicacy and finesse. The three retail at around €25 the 50cl. bottle. A.C.
Uva Rey 2014, Primitivo Collantes. First vintage of a wine expected to be launched sometime in 2018 and whose name is likely to be Socaire Rey. Made from Uva Rey, one of the 119 grape varieties that existed in the Sherry Triangle before phylloxera. With the help of Ramiro Ibáñez, Primi Collantes has recovered plant material of this variety and it now grows in the albariza soils of the beautiful Matalián vineyard in Chiclana, one of the producing areas in Sherry country. Fermented in demijohns and bottled straightaway, with no time in oak, the magnum we tasted in Vinoble had appealing notes of umami and petrol and seaweed and a touch more structure than Palomino. We tasted it again with sea bass and artichoke sauce at the highly recommended Mantúa restaurant in Jerez and it was a match made in heaven. An interesting attempt at recovering the region’s history by a producer who is fighting to put Chiclana on the Sherry map. Y.O.A.
Mon Amour 2016, Bodegas Forlong. Although we really liked their Dos Palmas 2009, presented by Ramiro Ibáñez and Willy Pérez at their Vinoble tasting, Rocío Áspera and Alejandro Narváez are specialized in unfortified whites from his organic vineyards in Balbaína Baja, near El Puerto de Santa María. One of them is Mon Amour, a white Palomino fermented in French oak barrels —an unusual practice in this part of the world— and aged with its lees for 10 months. Floral, apple and tropical notes are offset by a fresh, creamy and spicy palate with good volume. Although the wine is ready to be drunk now, it would be interesting to pick one of the 1,500 bottles made and see how it evolves. Y.O.A.
Find this wine for € 16.95 at Doo Wine.
I don’t remember tasting so many old vines within such a short period of time —many tastings had a strong focus on rare and hidden gems such as the unique session organized by Sherry’s Consejo. In its “Liquid relics” tasting, González Byass took the opportunity to present its historic cellar whereas Alicante presented its old Fondillón. Below are some of the wines that we really enjoyed.
Barbadillo Reliquia Amontillado. In a highly original tasting, sparkling wines and sherries were brought together under the catchphrase “holy oxidation”. The aim was to explore the virtues of biological aging and the way wines continue to evolve when yeasts aren’t there to protect the wine against oxidation. The most extreme example of this process was Barbadillo’s Reliquia Amontillado. “We have nothing older than this,” said winemaker Montse Molina. “This is the most extreme stage of oxidation,” she added. This 80- to 100-year-old Amontillado is bottled upon request. Expect extreme, almost painful concentration and high alcohol (not too far from brandy). After the extremely complex, spirituous nose (nuts, old furniture, coffee), what stand out is the elegance enveloping all that power and the salinity that reveals its origin. Two small sips barely crossed out lips, but they were truly unforgettable. A.C.
This wine is available in Lavinia for €1,290.
Primitivo Quiles Fondillón Solera 1948 (Alicante). The main virtue of this traditional sweet wine produced in Alicante is its ability to naturally reach 16% vol. thanks to what Pedro Ballesteros MW, who conducted the tasting, called “super yeasts”. With no alcohol added, the style is gentler and less concentrated than fortified wines. The oldest Fondillón at the tasting, it comes from a 1948 solera. The wine oozed complexity (sweet spices, nuts, raisins) with a velvety texture on the palate sprinkled with iodine and briny notes. A.C.
Find this wine for €55 at Licorea.
Bota 1948. Colección de la Bodega San Ginés. One of the most singular tastings at Vinoble this year was conducted by César Saldaña and Beltrán Domecq, who brought along some wines from the Consejo’s private cellar. This collection includes wines from across the DO which are selected at the traditional treading of the grapes during Jerez’s Harvest Festival held every year. After adding alcohol to 18º vol., the wines are let to rest with very little refreshing at the Regulatory Body’s cellar in Jerez. One of the wines we particularly enjoyed was the cask from 1948, the oldest vintage stored at San Ginés. With 23ºvol. and 70 years of age, this wine surprised us with its harmony, finesse, balance and compelxity. As Saldaña and Domecq said, it is “a wine for meditation.” Y.O.A.
Oloroso Alfonso 1/6, Bodegas González Byass. “It is the finest and most elegant oloroso I’ve seen in my life”. Those could have been the words of a sommelier or journalist transported to a state of elation at Vinoble, but this categorical sentence was said by Antonio Flores during the tasting that he led at Vinoble. The technical director of González Byass, one of the best communicators of the greatness of sherry, explained in his very personal style that Alfonso 1/6 is sourced from six casks with 40+-year-old wine. The 950 bottles now on sale concentrate elegance and depth in equal parts in a direct and fine wine that bursts in the palate. “The base wine used here must have been amazing”, concluded Flores. Y.O.A.
Find this wine for €96 at González Byass online store.
Although sweet PX is Montilla’s most distinctive wine, Juancho Asenjo presented something completely different: a tasting showing the evolution of a solera from its early stages as a white wine (or “mosto” as it is usually called in southern Spain) to the oldest Amontillado. In Montilla, Finos naturally reach 15% vol. so they don’t need to be fortified as is the case with Sherry. Comparing two different soleras from the two quality areas in the region was another plus: the first one, made by Alvear, came from Sierra de Montilla; the second, by Gracia Hermanos, was sourced from Moriles Alto. Terroir also exists in Montilla-Moriles. A.C.
Alvear Criadera A. Until very recently this type of wine could only be tasted in the bodega, so the fact that Alvear decided to release a limited edition of 37.5cl. bottles is a real treat. Criadera A tries to capture the very moment when the flor or veil of yeasts fades away and oxidative aging starts —poetically expressed on the label as “the flor resisting death”. Criadera A could either be described as an extremely old Fino or the first stage of an Amontillado. Within the “History of a Solera” tasting, this wine represented the fourth stage of evolution. Marked nuttiness (almonds and hazelnuts) on the nose followed by a sapid, briny and concentrated palate but wonderfully laced with volume and creaminess. A wine to enjoy and to learn from. A.C.
Gracia Hermanos Amontillado Viejo. Known in the winery as Montearruit Amontillado, this wine was bought from an almacenista and has been aging ever since at Gracia Hermanos’ Bodega Number 1 in Montilla, but it’s not on the market. The name is a tribute to a soldier from the Gracia family who was at the siege of the Monterruiz mountain during the Morocco war. With 23% vol. and 15 g. of glycerin, this is so wild and concentrated that it almost hurts —living proof of how time can shape a wine. Its concentration comes not only from the alcohol, but from its acidity and flavour. The last stage (number 6) in the Gracia Hermanos’ solera, it showcases the power of Moriles Alto above Sierra de Montilla. A.C.
Toro Albalá Don PX 1973. We though Montilla should also be represented with a sweet wine, so we have picked a rare vintage PX by Toro Albalá. The 1973 is part of Too Albalá’s collection of old wines, where I usually find an exotic character beyond the toffee and raisin aromas of these wines. Scented nose with vanilla and an unexpected minty character. Most of the magic arguably comes from the tight but velvety and extremely smooth palate. Concentration of acidity is another characteristic of Old PX as it adds extra balance and vibrancy. A.C.
Find this wine for €90.71 at Grau Online.
Here comes a potpourri of grape varieties, regions and styles that we enjoyed at the three-day Vinoble fair.
Manzanilla Pasada en Rama Los Caireles, Bodegas Portales Pérez. This manzanilla comes from a family bodega whose headquarters are in a stately 16th century house in the centre of Sanlúcar. Like other almacenistas (wholesalers), the family Portales Pérez decided a few years ago to bottle the wines that were formerly sold to other bodegas. Slowly but surely, they have progressed with their selections. At Vinoble they presented their new manzanilla pasada en rama, a 10-year-old manzanilla bottle unfiltered with lots of power and punch. A breath of Poniente winds and salty air from Sanlúcar. Y.O.A.
Find this wine for €18.50 at Licores Corredera in Jerez (they ship to Spanish addresses).
Fino Tradición Saca Noviembre Mágnum (Jerez). We were lucky to taste this wine twice; firstly as part of the menu at Lu restaurant where it stood out among the rest of the wines and secondly at the sparkling and fortified wine tasting, where it was presented by Tradición’s winemaker José María Quirós. This 10- to 12-year-old Fino is sourced from a solera with 250 casks from which only 10,000 litres of wine are taken annually; out of this amount, 4,000 litres go to feed the criaderas of their old Amontillado and the rest is bottled as Fino in spring and autumn. According to Quirós, the style could be described as “to what extent yeasts can stand the test of time”. Oxidative aromas and alcohol are evident on the nose together with a lovely nuttiness (hazelnuts, bitter almonds). The palate combines a creamy texture with some pleasant and fine bitterness on the finish. A to-class wine. A.C.
Lavinia offers a bottling from May for €55.90.
Ariyanas 2012 Dulce, Bodegas Bentomiz (Málaga). This unfortified sweet muscat comes from the rugged Axarquía region in Málaga where Bentomiz, owned by Dutch couple Clara Verheij and André Both, stands out as a benchmark. This is their entry-level sweet Muscat which we found particularly appealing in the excellent 2012 vintage. Grapes are sun-dried for five to six days and fermented in stainless steel tanks before it is interrupted by lowering the temperature; the wine remains in tanks until it is bottled in May or June. Good concentration and freshness on the nose with muscat-like, stone fruit and honeyed aromas together with some toast notes. I loved the combination of warm flavours (sun-drenched grapes and slate soils) and vibrant acidity leading to a long finish. A.C.
Find this wine for €19.40 at Vinissimus (50 cl. bottles with glass stoppers) or via Wine Searcher.
Trasañejo PX Seco, Bodegas Málaga Virgen (Málaga). Following with the classic fortified wines in Andalucía, Trasañejo is the top category for old wines in Málaga with a minimum of 30 years of aging. Málaga Virgen produces sweet and dry versions of pedro ximénez. With 20% vol. and 20 g/l of almost unnoticeable sugar, the dry Trasañejo is slightly lighter in colour but very complex (nutty, oxidative character similar to rancio wines) with a serious, rich palate with aldehyde, pistachio and iodine notes. A comforting wine made in very small quantities: only 2,000 bottles (37.5cl.) per year. A.C.
Find this wine for €35 at the winery’s online store.
Teneguía Malvasía Aromática Naturalmente Dulce 2017 (La Palma).
The remoteness of the Canary Islands often makes it difficult to find its wines, but sweet Malvasía from La Palma (this is Malvasía Aromática, different to Malvasía Volcánica from Lanzarote, but identical to Malvasía from Sitges in Catalonia) deserves greater recognition. I loved the freshness of this young 2017 which has not yet been released. The variety comes across with great purity and freshness combining stone fruits and herbal aromas. The palate was even better: intense, rich, with well-defined fruit, vibrant acidity and good length. A.C.
We end out list of recommendations with two vermouths and an orange wine —not the kind that is fermented with skins, but a traditional wine from Huelva in western Andalucía.
Ataman vermouth, Bodegas Barbadillo. Although Vinoble is officially a fair for sweet and fortified wines, many bodegas brought along other interesting products in their portfolio like this vermouth. Ataman comes from a resurrected solera containing old quinine and vermouth. Incense and orange notes are blended in with a really attractive bitterness in this 'young' vermouth (its older, concentrated version is sold in tiny quantities at high prices). The sleek design of the bottles is perfect to adorn the shelves of any hip vermouth bar and features a Cossack Army general —Manuel Barbadillo registered the brand in 1943— with a striking resemblance to Armando Guerra, owner of Der Guerrita and an important part of the winemaking team at Barbadillo. Y.O.A.
Find this wine (50cl) for €12.75 at Vermut Shop.
Saüc Vermut, Celler La Muntaya. On our way to taste the sweet Malvasía made by this producer from Muro de Alcoi (inland Alicante) we discovered its new vermouth. Saüc is made from Malvasía aged under flor in 500-litre casks mixed with a combination of local herbs from the Mariola mountains (thyme, sage and lemon verbena among others) and elderberries. Only 1,200 bottles available but they expect to increase production in the future. With 15% vol., it captures the Mediterranean aromatics and bravely leaves behind the traditional Spanish sweet style in favor of a pleasant bitterness that reminded me of Italian vermouths. A.C.
Find this vermouth for €13.5 at the winery’s online store.
S Naranja, Bodegas Sauci. Orange wines exist in Huelva since 1864, when Bodegas del Diezmo Nuevo in Moguer launched one in this Andalusian region. However, it has little to do with the skin-contact type that most people associate with this term. The orange wine made by sisters Montse and Begoña Sauci and other producers in Condado de Huelva is a fortified sweet wine. S Naranja, a blend of Pedro Ximénez (80%) and Palomino (20%), is fortified with alcohol that has been macerated for two years with orange skins. The bitterness of the fruit offsets the natural sweetness of the wine and add a citrus lift that makes it suitable as an aperitif or to eat with cheese and chocolate desserts. Ageing takes place in traditional used oak casks in the criadera and solera system with an average age of 10 years. Sold in 50cl bottles. Y.O.A.
Find this wine for €11.75 at Vinissimus.