El Muelle de Olaso
El Muelle de Olaso
Explore the fascinating world of "vinos de pasto" - unfortified wines from the Marco de Jerez
- Robert Parker: 93/100
A deliciously opulent nose with a hint of raisin, pineapple and banana. The wine opens up generously on the palate with notes of white flowers and all the sapidity and freshness you’d expect of such an established jerezano winemaker.
More about El Muelle de Olaso
Who makes it
Bodegas Luis Pérez was founded in 2002, but the family have been linked to the world of wine in Jerez for generations, whether as viticulturists, capataces or cellermasters, or bodegueros overseeing the winemaking process itself. The winery’s founder, Luis Pérez Rodríguez, was Professor of Enology at Cádiz University and a former enologist at the famous Domecq sherry house. His son, Willy Perez, learnt much of his craft in the vineyards of McLaren Vale in southern Australia, before returning home to take over the reins of the family winery.
From the outset, the project has put a strong focus on the vineyard. The team have rigorously studied each plot across the different pagos to ensure that they understand the geographical and historical factors that make each one unique, and the approach to winemaking differs for each. Native varieties have been another priority, and the team have done much to resuscitate the reputation of the local tintilla grape and demonstrate its potential for making elegant and delicate red wines.
In 2013, the winery launched a project centred on sherries made the natural way - a selection of biologically aged wines, unfortified with no added grape spirit, each one a product of the pago it came from. Finally, in 2017, the winery began to recover the tradition of vinos de pasto, the classic unfortified table wines of the region, made with Palomino grapes from the San Cayetano and La Escribana vineyards, part of the iconic Pago de Macharnudo.
Palomino Fino – often just referred to as Palomino - is a white grape variety which originated in Andalucía and is most closely associated with Jerez where it covers about 95% of the total vineyard area and is the key grape used to make a whole range of wines, mainly fortified but some still wines too. In the Canary Islands it is known as Listán Blanco.
Palomino tends to give quite high yields, with clusters of medium-sized grapes with quite thin skins, which can make it vulnerable to fungal diseases like mildew or botrytis. It is very resistant to high temperatures and drought, hence you’ll tend to find it in dry, warm climates. Palomino grapes are quite low in acidity and sugar and wines can have a tendency to oxidise (ie spoil on contact with air), which is not a problem for sherry producers but makes producing quality table wine more of a challenge.
Still, dry wines made with Palomino tend to be quite light and balanced. The variety really comes into its own when it’s subjected to crianza biológica, or biological ageing in botas or butts under a veil of the famous flor, the white film of yeast cells native to the region of Jerez which float on the surface of the wine. The flor stops air getting to the Palomino wine and encourages a bewildering array of delicious aromas and flavours to develop. These vary depending on the wine style (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Palo Cortado etc) but can cover everything from saline and nutty notes, fresh dough, almonds, spice, leather, orange zest, dried fruits or tobacco.
Where it's made
Jerez, or the Marco de Jerez as you’ll sometimes see it referred to, is the triangle of territory between the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the province of Cádiz in Andalucía in southern Spain. The area is best known, of course, for its various styles of fortified wines which are bottled under two DOs: Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda. But the area also produces still (ie non-fortified) wines too, usually from the ubiquitous Palomino Fino grape, and many of these are bottled under the Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz label, not a Denominación de Origen as such, but part of the broader IGP or Indicación Geográfica Protegida category.
Jerez is famous for its white albariza soils which are rich in calcium carbonate, clay and silica and with subsoils which are good at retaining water. The 7,000 hectares or so of vineyards are divided up into various pagos – extensions of land which contain various vineyards. Some of the pagos have a long history and variations in micro-climate and soil composition means their names have become synonymous with different wine styles and profiles: look out for names like Macharnudo, Macharnudo Alto, Miraflores, Balbaína, Carrascal or El Hornillo for example.
The climate in Jerez is warm, with hot, dry summers and gentle winters with, surprisingly perhaps, quite a high rainfall. The proximity of the Atlantic and the breezes in the region help keep the climate humid. This, coupled with the design of the bodegas where the wines are aged – high ceilings, east-west orientation – creates a unique set of conditions which help make the wines of Jerez so special and unique.
How it's made
Following a manual harvest in August and September, 80% of the grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks at low temperature while the remaining 20% are dried out in the sun to concentrate the sugars (a practice known as asoleo before being fermented in used sherry butts. The wine is then blended together and aged for 6 months on its lees before bottling.