Showing posts with label César Saldaña. Show all posts
Showing posts with label César Saldaña. Show all posts

Thursday, March 6, 2014

César Saldaña on Sherry. And where the rain in Spain really falls.

César Saldaña on Sherry. And where the rain really falls.

The rain in Spain doesn’t fall mainly on the plain. That’s the story according to César Saldaña.

And he should know. He is an expert speaker on Jerez, its wines, food, culture and history and,since 2000, has been Director General of the Consejo Regulador de las Denominación de Origen de los Vinos de Jerez. He was in Little Island's impressive Radisson Blu Hotel on Wednesday, with Wines from Spain,presenting two information sessions on Sherry.

César says the rain falls mainly on mountain tops in the Jerez area.That rain is important to sherry as is the nearby Atlantic Ocean and the local rivers, especially  the Guadalquivir. They and 300 days of sunshine help make Sherry what it is. As does the local white chalk soil (the Albariza) that captures the water and also reflects the sun upwards to the fruit.

The harvest date is getting earlier, perhaps due to global warming. For the past eight years, it has started in August rather than September as previously. In any event, rapid harvesting is essential.

The protective veil of the Flor
Sherry, as you probably know, has many different styles, from pale to dark, from dry to sweet. The dry comes  from fresh grapes while the sweet comes from grapes that have been late-harvested or sun-dried.

He took us through the details after the harvest, from the 1st Yema onwards, including the making of wine alcohol (to be added later for fortification) and, of course the Flor, the biological aging method that most famously produces the Fino and the Manzanilla. Broadly speaking, the darker sherries come via oxidative ageing, though in the corridors of the Consejo Regulador it may be more PC to use the term traditional aging.

The process continues on to the unique system known as criaderas y solera, basically stacks of casks. The row on the floor contains the oldest wine and is called the solera, the rows above (the top one contains the youngest wine) are called criaderas. As sherry is taken out (for bottling) from the bottom, new wine is added on top.

“ The wines of sherry are of different generations. No one person made that bottle. Nor can he claim that he made it.” Wines have been made here since Phoenician times and it is the traditions that make sherry so special.
The Solera
How special, we were about to find out. We started with La Goya Manzanilla by Delgado Zuleta, a very traditional house in Sanlucar. “After five years aging and protected by the flor, it still has that beautiful straw yellow colour. It has a very dry finish, an acquired taste. It is a best seller locally and  a very good example.”

César made little of the difference between Manzanillo and Fino and a well known Fino was next on the list: the Tio Pepe by Gonzalez Byass. He again pointed out the typical straw yellow colour and said it was excellent as an aperitif and with tapas. “It is a classic Fino and the best selling.”

The next wine was not pale but amber. This was a Monteagudo Amontillado, again from Delgado Zuleta. He told us that prolonged aging had led to increased concentration, still the dryness, more alcoholic with a long finish and persistent in the aftertaste. “A very good example.”

We moved a little further up the abv with the next bottle, the Villapanes Oloroso Seco from the traditional house of Emilio Hidalgo. “Rather robust and evident presence of seasoned wood, smooth in the swallow and with great persistency in the aftertaste.”

Now we were onto the sweeter sherries with English descriptors, cream for instance. That was how the English (and not just the English) liked them. Harvey's Bristol Cream has been in many an Irish home (sometimes for far too long, say from Christmas to Christmas) but it surprised more than me at the tasting.

Like the previous wines, it is made from the Palomino grape, but has come through the oxidative route and has a mahogany colour. We were told it has 120 grammes of sugar per litre (much less than the next one). It is quite a complex wine, nicely sweet (without being in any way sticky), with a lovely velvety texture. At €14.99 for a full bottle, I must put it back on buying list! Pretty good value too, as indeed are many of these sherries.

No prizes for guessing that we completed the session with a PX, shorthand for the Pedro Ximenez grape. This 30 year old Pedro Ximenez Noe is produced by Gonzalez Byass and has close to 450 grammes of sugar per litre. The colour, considering that this is originally a white wine, is amazingly dark. “It is rich and dense, yet fresh, clean and fruity, concentration is very high and you get notes of coffee, caramel, toffee, liquorice in the aftertaste.”

* I’ve probably gone on a bit longer than normal here but sherry is a fascinating subject. If you want to read more on the subject why not check out the official site here

Wines from Spain Take Over in Little Island

Wines from Spain Take Over in Little Island
Meeting up at last with Mary Pawle
Met some old faces and some new at the large 2014 Wines from Spain Tasting at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Little Island (Cork) last Wednesday. As a teenager I was often up and down the road, then a country lane, outside Ditchley House where the hotel is located. Good stories there, but I think I'd better stick with the wines.
With a sherry workshop with César Saldaña, Consejo Regulador Jerez, imminent, time was pressing so I didn't have the chance to get to all the tables but I was determined to get to one in particular. I've been chatting on Twitter, on and off, from home and abroad, to Mary Pawle, so it was great to meet up in person and taste some of her gorgeous organic wines.
The 2012 Lignum Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay) and the 2011 Lignum Negre (Garnacha, Carinena, Cabernet Sauvignon), both DO Pinedes, are her “flagship” wines and one can taste why. Well worth trying. From the same organic producer, Albet I Noyo, comes a terrific Tempranillo Classic 2012. This is truly excellent. “The vineyard are very proud of this one, “ said Mary. “They feel it is  a true expression of the Tempranillo.”

Sparkling! Brid Carter
Always delighted to meet the folks from Karwig and they had Frank and Marcus in attendance. Started here with a couple of whites produced from the Airen grape but, wouldn't you know it, it was an Albarino that caught the taste buds here, a complex well balanced 2011 effort by Vina Almirante. Keep an eye out for this as it has been highly rated by Decanter.
Bren Smith of Mackenway was next door to Karwig’s and he had some tempting reds on offer including the Museum Real Reserva 2006. If the budget doesn't stretch to the 2006 (22.99), the Vinea Crianza 2009,from the same producer, is recommended at €17.99.
In between, there are two other reds worth looking at. One is the Coto de Imaz Reserva 2008, a Rioja Tempranillo, and the other is the Las Rocas Garnacha which has lots of flavours and a good dry finish. Do you like Verdejo? I do and I’d recommend their Montespina 2013, DO Rueda, by Avelino Vegas, fresh, clean and zesty.
Simple label says much.
At the James Nicholson table, the Paco Garcia Seis 2012 Rioja Tempranillo went down well though perhaps not quite as well as the Baltos 2011 Bierzo by Dominio de Tares, made from the local Mencia grape. But the big news here was the imminent departure of their long time rep Conor O’Brien. He is off to pastures new and he introduced us to his replacement Richard Reeves, well known from his time at the Chop House in Lismore. Best of luck to both of them.
My introduction to Brid and Colm Carter, the friendly couple behind Honest2Goodness wines, came via a refreshing drop of their gorgeous cava, the DDLV Brut NV. No wonder I was impressed as this is produced by Dominio de la Vega, three times best Cava producer in Spain! Brid and Colm’s wines come from organic certified producers and from suppliers who farm with respect for the environment.
When I went back to their table for the reds, Colm introduced me to “a steel fist in a velvet glove”. Frenchman Francois Lurton’s Tinta de Toro 2011 is impressively smooth yet so well balanced that its 15.5% abv is well disguised. Bodega Los Barrancos, in the Granada area, is organically certified and their 2008 Corral de Castro is another gem. Indeed, they had a very impressive line-up of reds here and another ace was the Tres Patas 2008 (DO Mentrida), a blend of Garnacha and Syrah.
Superb Cava from Honest2Goodness
You can see that Colm, on his wine travels, gets to areas others just don't reach. Next time, I must take a closer look at their whites and, of course, have another sip of that Cava.
By the way,while on a drive through La Rioja one day in 2012, I called to a few vineyards, the last being the unusual glass-cubed Bai Gorri near the ancient town of Samaniego. We were received by a young Spanish lady who had learned her English in Cork, right here in Little Island!.

Ins & Outs at James Nicholson.
Conor O'Brien (left) and replacement Richard Reeves.