Les 5 du Vin

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2011 Vintage Ports get the media attention but it’s the Sherries that shine


The annual Big Fortified Tasting (bft) is already one of the highlights of London’s packed tasting circuit. Now in its 4th year it has rapidly become established as unmissable and an excellent opportunity to try fortified wines from around the world. Naturally Sherry and Port featured strongly but there are also southern France’s vins doux naturels, Madeira, a range from Australia, including Muscats from Rutherglen, as well as several companies from South Africa.

This year the media interest was directed at the opportunity to taste for the first time a big range of the just released 2011 Vintage Ports. I did taste a few 2011s at the end but instead preferred to concentrate on the Sherries and Manzanillas. Although tasting these fortified wines is fascinating and naturally make sure I spit everything out, there is always the danger of becoming light headed. This means a strict limit on how widely one can taste, so I usually largely limit myself to tackling the Sherries and Manzanillas.

This also reflects my bias as I find the wines of the Jerez region far more diverse and fascinating than I do Port. I rarely drink Port, while I do regularly buy Sherry, which to my mind is far more varied and versatile than its Portuguese counterpart.

At this year’s bft I was impressed by a number of small producers such as Equipo Navazos (http://www.equiponavazos.com/en/inden.htm), Viniberia, Bodegas Tradición (www.bodegastradicion.com) and Fernando de Castilla (http://www.fernandodecastilla.com). All making some lovely complex wines in particular some sensational Palo Cortados, which that amazing balance of richly textured but dry fruit coupled with remarkable and sometimes painful austerity. The intense La Bota No 34 Palo Cortado “Pata de Gallina” (Equipo Navazos) was sensational as was the Cayetano del Pino & Cia Palo Cortado Viejisimo (Viniberia) and the stunningly good Palo Cortado Tradición from Bodegas Tradición.

It wasn’t just the smaller companies that impressed: Gonzalez Byass chose to launch their 2013 release of their unfiltered Tio Pepe En Rama that has lovely intense, yeasty and citric aromas allied with delightful intensity in the finish. With a recommended retail price of around £15 or less, this is a bargain. Stockists include Lea & Sandeman offers a bottle for £13.94 or a case of 12 bottle for just £144.


Fresh glasses of the Tio Pepe En Rama


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Unfashionably booked: Sherry, Montilla and German wine


Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla – a guide to the traditional wines of Andalucía with a bottle of excellent Dry Amontillado supplied to Waitrose by Lustau.

I have recently received review copies for two books on rather unfashionable (at least as far as the UK is concerned) wine areas – Sherry and Germany. Both areas inspire great passion from certain wine lovers while largely leaving the general drinking public either indifferent or actively hostile.

Firstly Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín published by Manutius offering 270 pages for $29.95. This is a serious and scholarly work with no distracting photos and just a few black and white sketch maps. Best to lubricate the reading with a glass or two of a fine dry Amontillado as pictured above.

This is both a celebration of Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla but also a warning call that Sherry’s culture is under severe threat.

Peter Liem notes in his introduction:

‘I hardly fit the popular image of a stereotypical sherry drinker. American by nationality and East Asian by heritage, I am, as of this writing still under the age of forty. I prefer my sherry dry, and enjoy it most at table as an accompaniment to a wide variety of cuisines from all over the world. I don’t keep a decanter of sherry and a tray of biscuits on the sideboard to serve to my guests. In fact I don’t even own a sideboard.

Yet I have been an avid consumer of sherry for all of my adult life, and ever since my first visit to Jerez nearly fifteen years ago, I have been enamored with the region and its wines. I am deeply passionate about sherry – and in this I am not alone in either my age group or demographic. While sherry is often ignored by the larger wine-drinking populace, it is increasingly being acknowledged by wine connoisseurs around the world as a serious and noteworthy wine. Among the most progressive and avant-garde wine consumers and wine professionals in the United States, it has become downright fashionable.’

Despite Sherry’s fashionable status in the United States its future could still be parlous as Barquín and Liem warn when likening the urgent need for Sherry to rediscover and value its terroir as was similarly the case in Champagne.

‘The parallels with sherry here are striking, and we only hope that a similar movement can occur in Marco de Jerez. Sadly the abandonment of vineyard culture in the sherry region has been even more acute than it was in Champagne, making the process of rediscovery all the more difficult. Today, as a result of the utter disdain shown to the region’s vineyards, the struggle has become not just one of recognition but of sheer survival. Top quality parcels are being neglected or even uprooted, to make way for structures that could surely be located elsewhere: solar panels in Balbaína and Atalaya; real estate in Martin Miguel and Carrascal; wine turbines in Balbaína and Los Tercios. Worst of all too many winemakers and winery directors have simply given up, no longer believing that there is a solution to the problem in the near future.

All this means that any current approach to terroir and vineyards in the sherry district is largely built on memories, shadows and hopes, rather than on tangible reality. Much of this knowledge has been lost, and there appears to be little interest in reclaiming it. It is highly revealing, for example, that in the otherwise thorough and commendable collective volume entitled The Big Book of Sherry Wines, published by the Consejo Regulador, there is not a single article dedicated to terroir and vineyard classification. Sadly, one must accept that the local concern for terroir nowadays is dangerously close to being nonexistent.’



A Traveller’s Wine Guide to Germany

Freddy and Janet Price have long been great supporters of German wine – Freddy through his career as a wine importer and more lately as a writer, while Janet has captured the vineyards and the producers through her many fine photos.

The first edition of A Traveller’s Wine Guide to Germany was written by Kerry Brady Stewart and published in 1990.  Freddy and Janet Price have produced a completely rewritten and revised edition (£14.99/$24). A Traveller’s Wine Guide to Germany provides advice on producers to visit, wine itineraries as well as places to stay and eat. Its 310 pages will fit happily into a glove compartment and should be an essential companion for anyone visiting wineland Germany.


Discretion amongst the palm trees


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