Guest post from @Undertheflor
At Simply Spanish Wine we’re big fans of Spain’s much-overlooked fortified wines. So, we’ve asked our good friend @Undertheflor to talk us through why the fortified wines of Andalucía are such a treat for the senses.
“A few years ago, I learned one of the great secrets in the world of wine: that the wines made in Jerez (and Sanlúcar, and Chiclana, and Montilla-Moriles), are among the most extraordinary, delicious wines being made anywhere.
For years before that I had enjoyed the occasional glass of cool, crisp fino but one night I found, in a bottle labelled “palo cortado” what seemed like a new world. It was one of those Cortes gazing out on the Pacific, watcher–of–the–skies type moments. I discovered a whole new dimension to wine, a bass clef to go with the treble, jazz music after a lifetime of military marches.
Once bitten by that bug I was off on a journey to discover the amazing variety of wines, from finos and manzanillas to manzanillas pasadas, amontillados and olorosos (not to mention palo cortados, moscatels and PX), and in tasting them reached some quite dizzying peaks and visited some majestic old bodegas.
I also met a cracking collection of characters. The sherry world is full of tradition and of people who are dedicated to their roles within that world. You’ve got mayetos who traditionally work in the vineyard and winery and have a broad knowledge of both, but also own their own vines, press and (usually modest) winery. Then there are Almacenistas - literally a warehouse keeper or wholesaler, who habitually bought and aged young wines before selling them on to larger sherry houses for further ageing or blending. A capataz is a cellarmaster. Arrumbadores are in charge of handling and moving the barrels or botas in the cellar, while toneleros look after them. Bodegueros oversee the winemaking process, and marquistas go from winery to winery, tasting from different botas before bottling, branding and marketing the wines which really grab their attention.
It's a world packed with history, and some very knowledgeable and experienced people.
But the best thing about the journey is that it took me back in time, and back to the vineyard. Because today, Andalucía is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world at one of the most exciting moments possible. A region that has long worshipped the cellar, the solera, and the quasi-magical effects of tiny yeasts is learning to celebrate the fruit of its vines, the soils of its terroir, and the character or its vintages, and is at the same time casting off the worst excesses of its recent industrial past to rediscover a history unmatched by other regions.
Most importantly, the wine-loving public is once again waking up to the awesome wines once celebrated by Shakespeare and Poe, pillaged by enterprising English “pirates” and shipped around the world (and in some cases, back again).
I find it very hard to recommend any single wine, but I would recommend the journey to anybody and wholeheartedly. There is so much more to the traditional wines of Andalucía than I ever dreamt, and even better, there is even more to come."
You can read more about the world of sherry at www.undertheflor.com – “a pretty ordinary blog about some pretty special wines”