If there is a setting more picturesque, more historically significant, and more impressive to enjoy Sherry than the Alcazar de Jerez, then please let me know. This was, simply put, the coolest trade show I have ever been to.
We were blessed with a beautiful, sunny May Andalusian day, the sun strong but not overpowering, with a gentle breeze blowing to keep the temperature wonderfully mild. I was expecting more scorching heat during a late May trip to Andalucia, but thankfully it has been a cooler month and the weather has been absolutely perfect. Bay Area perfect, let's say. The Alcazar of Jerez, similar to the Alcazar in Sevilla (where some of the last season of Game of Thrones was filmed), was constructed in the 12th century by the Moors as a point of defense from the Christians, who were trying to "reconquistar" their land, as it were. This is why Jerez, as do many other cities in the Moorish influenced south of Spain, has "de la frontera" affixed to its name; it was on the frontier between Christian and Muslim controlled lands, a battle which was waged on the peninsula for the better part of 500 years, until the last Moorish stronghold of Granada was taken in 1492.
Vinoble 2016 seemed to be particularly dominated by Spaniards this year, due to a relatively late start in organizing this year's fair. There were others represented, of course. I heard some German, French, English and Russian spoken by attendees. The booths were located within the Alacazar walls in an outdoor pavillion, as well as in a relatively newer 19th c building, also inside of the Alcazar. I first tasted through the wines of Jan Petterson and Rey Fernando (Fernando of Isabella and Ferdinand, Spanish unification fame) de Castilla. While he is Norwegian, Mr. Pettersen has been living and working in Jerez so long that many locals in the business consider him more Jerezano than most of their friends! These are some of my favorite Sherries; we always carry the Fino and Amontillado, and often stock the Antique series of older Palo Cortado and Amontillado, as well as a rare, older Fino which has been fortified a twice. so that it resembles a very old-fashioned, long aged Fino - saline and fresh, almondy and much more weighty than typical Finos. More complexity as well. It's a phenomenal wine. Jan will soon be releasing a Vermouth, which has a base of Oloroso and is velvety smooth, fresh, ever so subtly sweet from a judicious amount of PX. I loved it.
The morning quickly became quite crowded; many people at Vinoble apparently prefer to taste before lunchtime. I tasted through a table with lots of Manzanilla, including some favorites like the La Gitana en Rama. Speaking of Manzanilla, Barbadillo also makes great stuff, and their wines, including one aged under flor without fortification, and a new en rama bottling, were quite good. We'll see what we can do to wrangle our supplier to bring a few of these in. Obispo Gascon, their famous Palo Cortado, was delicious as always—pungent and spicy, but surprisingly more-ish (please excuse the pun).
Perhaps one of the most surprising finds at the tasting was at the Chiclana table. Chiclana lies south of the Sherry triangle, but enjoys a strong Atlantic coastal inluence, which seems to result in Finos that remind me of those of El Puerto—brisk, lighter, incredibly refreshing. There was even an Amontillado Fino in one bodega's line-up, a rarely commercialized style which, as the name suggests, has especially strong elements of a Fino which serve as a counterpoint to its nuttier, Amontillado character. The Sherry consejo (which stricly governs the wines from Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda) forbids this admittedliy confusing nomenclature, but clearly only for ease of marketing and explanation, rather than potential quality of the wine; the Amontillado Fino was freakin' delicious! Maybe there are some Chiclana Fino and Amontillado Fino DI's in our future, stay tuned.
Finally, there was a surprise (for me, anyway) appearance at the Vinoble fair of noble wines.
Andrew and Laurel Quady, based in Madera, California, continue to attend Vinoble to show off their range of aperitive wines. We always stock the Essenzia Muscat, which is sweet but balanced by bright acidity, and often times have the Vermouths as well. It's always fun to see neigbhors in exotic, far flung locales. It was awesome to see Andrew working the crowd, communicating perfectly in English with one Italian (who was replying in Spanish) about his California winery's use of a particular Italian variety of Moscato, while inside the Alcazar in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
Now that's a beautiful thing.