On the Trail

Vinoble in Jerez – Part II

Joe Manekin

It's tough to re-cap an event like Vinoble 2016 in just one blog post, so consider this an addendum to the main Vinoble entry.

No Sherry tasting could be complete without the wines of Valdespino. It was great to catch up with export manager Jaime Gil. Their Fino Inocente is our best selling dry Sherry for good reason. It's the granddaddy of all Finos, coming from a single vineyard in Macharnudo Alto, a truly Grand Cru quality site in Jerez, whose pure chalky soils have long been recognized as producing some of the best fruit in the D.O. The must is fermented not in large stainless steel tanks but rather in 600 liter oak botas, and then it is fortified and enters a solera system containing an incredible 10 criaderas, or ageing stages, double the normal amount for a fino. As a result not only is the Inocente a great wine, but so is it's Amontillado older brother, Tio Diego Amontillado. I was treated to a few "under the table" pours of single anada Finos from 2001 and 2002, bottled completely en rama so they were slightly hazy in color, full of delicious Fino intensity, salinity and more weight and palate presence than normal. These are incredibly limited and whether or not or how they are commercialized remains to be determined.

Along with Lustau, I cannot think of another bodega that has consistently pounded the pavement, relentlessly marketed and essentially introduced Sherry to the masses in a more effective way than Gonzalez Byass. Their display at Vinoble (photographed in earlier posts on the On the trail blog) featured glasses of each of the main wines in their range, accompanied by foods which suggest the aromatic and flavor components. Tio Pepe is famous, the memorable figure in a tall top hat iconic, but it's the consistency of the line-up, and the introduction of delicious, top quality wines like the yearly Fino en Rama and palmas releases, which keep this winery as relevant as ever. If you have not done so, try their Vina AB Amontillado, a style that is so light and brisk you could almost call it a Fino Amontillado. Try it with some pan sauteed almonds in olive oil, simply tossed with salt, any herbs you have on hand, and a pinch of sugar. Or with artichoke or asparagus in a vinaigrette. For something sweet, the delicate, nutty and candied Apostoles Palo Cortado VORS and rich, sweet yet balanced Noe PX VORS are both terrific.

Perhaps the most impressive Sherries of all though were those of a newcomer, Cruz Vieja. Their Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso struck me as possessing the complexity and authority of nicely mature wines, while maintaining the very drinkable and balanced profile of well maintained soleras. If you enjoy classic, dry Sherries, the wines from Cruz Vieja need to be in your home. With very little press or fanfare, these wines are flying under the radar for now, and may present some of the best values out there in one of the most value driven categories in the store.

-Joe Manekin