Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Spain Unit 8 – Andalucia and Jerez

The following are my notes for the Advanced Study of the Wines of Spain covering Andalucia and Jerez. The notes include information about the history, topography, climate, soils, important red and white grapes, the various Denominación de Origen (DO) of the region and the wines I tasted during this study.

Geography of Andalucia

Andalucia is located in the south-west of Spain in the south of the Iberian peninsula, It is north of the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, south of the autonomous communities of Extremadura and Castile–La Mancha, west of the autonomous community of Murcia and the Mediterranean Sea, and east of Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. It second largest and most populated of the autonomous communities.

The capital of Andalucia is the city of Seville (Spanish: Sevilla). The name Andalucía is derived from the Arabic name for the region, Al-Andalus, which is a variation of the word Vandalusia, which means “land of the vandals,” a reference to Vandals who ruled the region in the 5th Century.


Andalucia’s climate can be broadly divided into three zones: First, the Maritime, which includes the cooler, Atlantic-influenced west coast such as Sherry-producing areas of Jerez and Sanlucar de Barrameda. Second, the Mediterranean climate in the south around Malaga and the Sierras de Malaga. Third, the Continental hot and dry conditions around the Montilla-Moriles. The latter two zones are the most suited to production of Andalucia’s signature heavy dessert wines, made from Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel (Muscat) grapes, while the southwest coast’s lower average temperatures are conducive to producing high acid Palomino grapes for the production of the Fino and Manzanilla styles of Sherry.[1]

Andalusia’s inlands are the hottest wine growing regions of Europe. In the summer, cities such as Córdoba and Seville average above 36 °C (97 °F) with daytime highs of over 40 °C (104 °F) and remain as high as 35 °C (95 °F) at night. Seville also has the highest average annual temperature in mainland Spain of 18.6 °C (65.48°F).


The ancient lands of southwestern Spain have been planted to vineyards for nearly 3,000 years. But this part of Iberia was the longest to be controlled by the Moors and Islam, and winemaking was discouraged if not outright forbidden in the region from 711 to 1492.[2]

Understanding Sherry

Sherry In The First Year

All sherry begins as a dry wine. After fermentation the wines will have about 12-13% abv and may be stored in tanks until the January after the harvest at which time their quality is evaluated. The best wines are then fortified to 14.5% alcohol by volume (abv) and the lower quality wines will be fortified to 16.5% abv. Then in a cask which has ullage, air space between the wine and the top of the barrel, a strain of yeast feeds off residual elements in the wine and forms a very thin film to a foaming crust on its surface known as flor.

In the spring, the wines that have developed the most rigorous flor are refortified to 15.5 abv so that the flor can continue to thrive. These will become fino wines and the remainder will be fortified to 17.5% abv and become olorosos. These wines are known as anadas but very little single-vintage Sherry is released to the market. The majority of the wine goes into a solera.

The Solera System for Making Sherry

The word Solera means literally “on the ground” in Spanish, and it refers to the lower level of the set of 500 liter botas/butts (barrels) stacked in a pyramid, typically with seven on the bottom (known as the solera), six in the middle and perhaps five on the top. These barrels form a “trickle down” system for a fractional blending process in which wine is moved from barrel to barrel, top to bottom, from year to year. The result the finished product in the bottom barrel is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years and the oldest mixtures are in the barrel right on the ground.  In any given year, only 1/3 of the wine in the butts may be sold and they are continuously topped up by adding wine from the row above known as the criadera (nursery). Eventually, because some of the older wine always remains behind, theoretically, the final product may contain wine that is anywhere between 5 and 100 years old and the younger wine will have taken on some of the characteristics of the older wine. Finally, the wines are assembled into a blend known as a cabecco (cuvee).[3]

The “En Rama” Style of Making Sherry

You will notice that some of the sherries in the list of wines I tasted during this study are referred to as “en rama”. The term en rama literally translated is “on the vine” which figuratively means “raw”. These are sherry in their natural state, straight from the cask and the term only applies to biologically aged Sherries. This style of wine is in contrasted with sherries that are heavily filtered and clarified. While they still undergo some clarification with a coarse filter, so as to avoid remaining flor in the wine turning brown and going bad, these wines aren’t stripped by heavy clarification.

The Different Styles of Sherry
As indicated above and further explained below under the “Jerez DO”, there are different styles of Sherry.[4]
(Pronounced “Feen-oh”) This is the lightest and driest type of Sherry which carries the delicate yeasty flavors of the flor. Bottled at a younger age and lower alcohol to the other styles, and it can only be stored for around a week with refrigeration, once opened. In cooler areas, such as Sanlucar de Barameda (which it is known as manzanilla) the flor grows vigorously all year around which enables the wine to maintain its pale straw color. In the hotter inland areas the wines are darker and develop more pronounced aromatics. These wines are generally released when they are 5-10 years old.
(Pronounced “Man-zan-ee-ya”) Very similar to Fino but produced in Andalusia. In this coastal area the flor yeast cap becomes thicker than it would have further inland, affording the wine better protection from oxygen. This results in a paler color and fresher, lighter, even saline and chamomile flavors in the sherry. Manzanilla has a similar shelf life to Fino, lasting around a week with refrigeration, once opened.
(Pronounced “Ah-mont-ee-yahd-oh”) This wine begins as a fino sherry but it spends more time in the solera. Stylistically it is a half-way point between a Fino and an Oloroso and produced when the flor cap either does not form adequately, or is intentionally killed off during fermentation, whether by fortification (to a certain level of alcohol) or lack of replenishment. This allows slow oxidization, creating a darker and richer sherry than a Fino or Manzanilla. An Amontillado Lasts up to two weeks with refrigeration, once opened. At around 15 years old it takes on darker color and more robust aromas but it maintains its savory character when it is young.
(Pronounced “Oll-or-oh-so”) This wine develops in the solera without developing flor. They are darker, richer and more powerful in their aroma and yet not sweeter. These are some of the more age-worthy wines and can be cellared for more than a century. The best of these wines are golden in color with nutty aromas and are dry, rich, powerful with a long finish.
Palo Cortado
(Pronounced “Pale-oh-court-ah-dough”) It is another half-way point between Fino and Oloroso, but closer to an Oloroso in flavor, being richer and slightly less dry than an Amontillado. It is produced when the flor dies off naturally and without apparent cause. A Palo Cortado then begins aging like an Oloroso (with higher oxygen contact). It has the savory character of a young amontillado and yet it is bone dry like an oloroso.
Pedro Ximenex
 (Pronounced “Pay-dro heem-in-eth”), Commonly abbreviated as “PX” It is the sweetest natural sherry, made from grapes that are sun-dried to concentrate the flavors and intensify the sweetness. Fruity (mainly raisin) and sweet (molasses or syrup) in taste, very dark in color and viscous in texture. Older (30+ years) PX sherries become less sweet and more complex as age increases.
(Pronounced “Mosk-a-tell”) It is similar in style to PX sherry, but made from Moscatel grapes that are dried to concentrate the flavors and sugars, resulting in more stone fruit and caramel flavors, and a lighter color.
Cream Sherry
A very sweet blended dessert wine, usually Oloroso sherry sweetened with Pedro Ximinez sherry, or even syrup, or made from Moscatel grapes. Contrary to its name, it doesn’t contain any dairy. Rather, according to legend, a woman attending a Sherry tasting in the late 1800s sampled a variety of traditional Sherry, which was nicknamed “Bristol’s Milk” (named after the British port of Bristol, where Sherry was routinely shipped). After tasting the new, sweeter, more unctuous Sherry, she declared, “If that is milk, then this is cream” and then it became known as “Cream Sherry.”

Pedro Ximenex Grapes Planted on Albariza Soil

White Grapes of Andalucia
Also known as Cayetana Blanca, Cazagal, Calagrano, Jaina, and Jaén Blanco but it should not be confused with Jaen, a synonym for Mencia. The grape produces straw-colored fairly neutral-tasting white wines with aromas of ripe apple and banana and low-acidity.
Garrido Fino
Also known as Charrido Fino, Garrido Fino de Villanueva, Garrío Fino, and Palomino Garrío. It is not to be confused with an identically named variety grown in Seville, which is in fact Cayetana by a different name. It is a light-skinned grape grown in the arid climate of Andalucía, the vines produce large bunches of large berries, and it is quite susceptible to disease in the vineyard as well to botrytis. It has high acidity and moderate sugar levels so it is often blended grape with other grapes such as Zalema, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez to add acidity to wines.  It is also used to produce fortified wines and special wine called “Condado Viejo”.
Moscatel de Alejandría
Elsewhere known as Muscat of Alexandria, it is a member of the Muscat family of grapes, it is a particularly aromatic grape variety, with citrus, flowery, ‘grapey’ flavors. It ripens to high sugar levels and is ideal for making sweet, fortified wines. It is grown in Spain as well as two regions of Portugal that are famous for sweet, fortified Moscatel: the Douro and the Peninsula of Setúbal. In Spain the wine is produced in a similar way as Pedro Ximénez, with the grape variety being at least 85% Moscatel de Alejandria. The musts can hardly ferment and fermentation is stopped by fortification really soon anyway. The Moscatel Pasas or Moscatel de Pasas is made from grapes that were dried in the sun for up to three weeks. These raisin wines have a sweeter, darker profile.
Palomino Fino
Also known as Listán Blanco, Listán de Jerez, Fransdurif, and Manzanilla de Sanlucar. One of the three sub-varieties of Palomino (the others are Palomino Basto and Palomino de Jerez) is a sherry grape, grown around Jerez in southern Spain. It is drought tolerant and produces fairly neutral, low-acid, low-sugar wines that may oxidize easily which enables it to be ideal for making sherry. It makes up almost 95% of the total vineyard area in Jerez. It has also been planted in north-western Spain, but without producing wines of great distinction.
Pedro Ximénez
Also known as Pedro Jimenez, Perrum, Don Bueno or simply referred to as “PX”. It is best known for its role in the sweet sherries of Jerez. It has very low acidity so it does not produce quality table wines.
According to DNA evidence there is no relationship between the Spanish variety of Torrontés, most commonly found in Galicia and on the Canary Islands, and the South American grape variety by the same name. It produces wines aromatic, medium bodied wines that are high in acidity similar to Muscat.[5]
Also known as Ignoblis, Perruna, Salemo, Torrontes de Montilla. It is a variety native to southern Spain where it is the principal grape of Condado de Huelva and makes up more than 80% of total plantings. It is the only variety permitted in the youthful Vino Blanco Joven of Condado de Huelva and is one of four grapes allowed in the aged Vino Blanco Viejo.
Red Grapes of Andalucia
Also known as Cencibel, Ull de Llebre, and Tinta del Pais. The name is the derived from the Spanish word temprano (“early”). It is native to northern Spain and is widely cultivated in Rioja and as far south as La Mancha. It is an early ripening variety that tends to thrive in chalky vineyard soils found in the Ribera del Duero DO. Table wines tend to be ruby red in color, with aromas and flavors strawberries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herbs. In Portugal, it is known as Tinto Roriz and Aragonez and is used to make fortified Port wines.[6]
French Varietals:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah.

Denominación de Origen (DO) of Andalucia
There are 6 Dos in Andalucia which are as follows:
Condado de Huelva DO
Established as a DO in 1963. There are 4,000 hectares (9,884 acres) under vine. The primary white grapes are Zalema (80% or more of vineyards), Palomino Fino, Listán de Huelva, Garrido Fino, Moscatel de Alejandría and Pedro Ximénez. The primary (experimental only) red grapes are Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Ageing requirements: Condado Blanco - 24 months; Pálido and Viejo styles – 24 months in a traditional solera.
Málaga DO

Established as a DO in 1999. It is known for producing a sweet wine originating in the city of Málaga made from either fortified or dried Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes. The climate is Mediterranean along the coast and Continental further inland. The soils become increasingly chalk-based with altitude but there is a fair amount of chalk as well. There are two vineyard areas:
(1) In the east, stretching from the city of Málaga to the border with Granada. The eastern vineyard is split into three sub-zones. [a] Axarquia which runs along the coast from Málaga  city to Nerja and inland along the border of Grandada. [b] Molina, which is centered around the town of the same name. [c] Cuevas de San Marcos and the vineyards around the town of the same name.
(2) In the west, around Estepona and up to the border of Cadiz. The primary white grapes is Moscatel in the west and Pedro Ximénez (PX) in the east.[7] Ageing Requirements: Palido - with an aging up to 6 months; Noble - 2 to 3 years. Añejo - aged 3-5 years; Trasañejo - exceeding 5 years.[8]
Sierras de Málaga DO
Established as a DO in 2001. The production area of the Sierras de Málaga coincides with Málaga DO. There are 1,172 hectares (2,896 acres) under vine. The primary white grapes are Pedro Ximenez, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Morisco (Moscatel de Grano Menudo) Chardonnay, Macabeo, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc and Doradilla Lairen, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Verdejo and Viognier; and inks: Rome, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shyrah, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Graciano, Malbec, Mourvèdre and tintilla (tintilla Rota).[9]
Jerez-Xerez-Sherry y Sanlúcar de Barrameda DO
Established as a DO in 1933. There are 8,800 hectares (21,745 acres) under vine. The Jerez DO is based around the “sherry triangle”, the three towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The bodegas identify quite strongly with their respective locations, especially those of the coastal Sanlúcar de Barrameda where Manzanilla, the lightest style of sherry, is produced. All sherry producers source their grapes from the bright, chalky ‘albariza’ soils of Jerez. The primary white grapes are Palomino (the primary grape), plus Pedro Ximénez which makes a rich, black, raisiny wine for blending and treacle-like dessert wines and Moscatel which makes lighter dessert wined. There are no red grapes. Sherry wines mature in large oak butts (500 liter barrels) which are arranged in three row high ‘soleras’. The young wines are poured into the top row and wine is then transferred downwards enabling the fresher wines to blend with those of more maturity and a consistent style for each bodega year after year. There three broad categories of sherries: (1) Dry styles range from very dry Manzanillas and Finos to slightly richer amber and mahogany colored Amontillados, Olorosos and the rare Palo Cortado style. (2) Sweeter sherries include pale cream, medium and cream. (3) Finally there are natural sweet sherries which are made from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes. The alcoholic strength of sherries ranges from 15.5˚ for the lightest styles (Manzanilla and Fino) to 22˚ for sweeter, more structured wines. In the list of wines I tasted during this study uou will notice that some of the sherries are referred to as “en rama”. The term en rama literally translated is “on the vine” which figuratively means “raw”. These are sherry in their natural state, straight from the cask and the term only applies to biologically aged sherries. This style of wine is in contrasted with sherries that are heavily filtered and clarified. While they still undergo some clarification with a coarse filter, so as to avoid remaining flor in the wine turning brown and going bad, these wines aren’t stripped by heavy clarification. Ageing requirements: Most wines are non-vintage but all sherry spends at least 3 years in the solera system before being bottled. Specific age classifications have been introduced to distinguish older wines: there is now special status for 12 and 15-year-old sherries while the terms V.O.S. (very old sherry) and V.O.R.S. (very old rare sherry) have been created for 20 and 30-year-old wines respectively. Fino Superior and Manzanilla Superior classifications are used for Fino and Manzanilla wines with longer ageing credentials (five to seven years).
Montilla-Moriles DO
Established as a DO in 1945. It is located around the towns that make up its name in the province of Córdoba. Traditional Montilla wines are made from the Pedro Ximénez grape which, unlike sherry, are mainly unfortified and ferment naturally to 14-22˚. The exception is the PX dessert wine, the rich and sweetest style which is made from grapes which are dried in the sun before being fortified with brandy spirit. Montilla wines are aged in casks or earthenware pots called tinajas. The traditional wines include the following styles: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel. (In export the terms dry, medium and sweet are often seen on labels). In style Finos are not as dry and are more structured than those of Jerez and they have lower acidity. Montilla wines are also characterized by the flavor of chestnut. In recent years a young, lighter white wine style has emerged in the region known as 'joven afrutado'. These wines are made from Baladí, Torrontés, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez grapes which are picked earlier to achieve good acidity and cool-fermented. They appear on the market soon after the vintage.  There are 10,082 hectares (24,913 acres) under vine. The primary grape is Pedro Ximénez plus Lairén, Baladí, Moscatel and Torrontés.
The Wines

While studying Andalucia and Jerez I tasted the following wines:

2013 Jorge Ordóñez Botani Dry Muscat, Sierras de Málaga DO

A clear white wine, pale straw in color with a tinge of green-brass around the edge with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with pronounced aromas of oranges, honeydew melon, very ripe grapefruit, cucumber, orange blossoms, and just a hint of salty sea breeze and crushed clam shell. On the palate the wine is dry, fruity with very zesty medium+ acidity, it is medium bodied and has a medium+ length mineral and floral driven finish. I’ve tried many dry Muscats from California and never really cared for them. But this wine is very refreshing and a sheer delight. This wine sells for $16.99 at the The Spanish Table in Berkeley, CA

2012 Vara Y Pulgar, Vino De La Tierra De Cadiz

This wine is made from 100% Tintilla (aka Graciano) produced from a rare grape in the Jerez region and was 100% Organically farmed on Albariza soil. It is aged combining large cement and oak vats in addition to small barrels of 225 liters. It is an opaque red wine, dark purple at the core to violet at the rim with minimal variation with moderate viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of blackberries, black plums, dark chocolate, hints of beef jerky, lavender, violets, and a hint of black pepper. On the palate it is dry with medium tannins, medium+ body and medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $24.99 at the The Spanish Table in Berkeley, CA.


The majority of my tasting notes are of wines that I have either tasted in a class (such as in the Intensive Sommelier Training and the French Wine Scholar classes) or purchased and tasted at home such as the wines listed above. However, a couple friends who are sommeliers in the Napa Valley introduced me to a Zuzu[10], a Spanish Tapas restaurant, and La Taberna[11], the adjacent wine bar in Napa, where we tasted the following wines:

2015 Lustau “3 En Rama” Manzanilla En Rama, Sanlúcar de Barrameda

The wine was made from 100% Palomino Fino and aged in a Bodega facing the La Calzada beach, on the riverbank towards Chipiona. From a total of 135 casks, 2 were been selected by the committee to be bottled. This wine has aromas of chamomile, apple cider, stale beer, nuts, sesame, bread dough and hints of acetone on a very long finish.

2015 Lustau “3 En Rama” Fino El Puerto de Santa María En Rama, Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Made from 100% Palomino Fino, the wine is pale golden color with copper tints. On the nose it has aromas of cider apples, nutshells, dried yellow flowers, vanilla, sesame oil, and hints of diesel fuel. On the palate it is dry with high acidity and a long peppery finish.

Bodegas Faustino Gonzalez Amontillado en Rama Cruz Vieja

Made from 100% Palomino Fino, it underwent biological ageing for 5 years in the Cruz Vieja Fino solera (62 barrels). The next seven years, the wine was aged in a solera that was started in 1926. The wine is amber in color; on the nose it has aromas of sea breeze, coffee, vanilla and crème brulée. On the palate it is dry with high acidity and a long finish.

Bodegas Hidalgo “La Gitana” Manzanilla En Rama Sherry, Andalucia, Spain

“La Gitana” means “gypsy girl” and her picture is featured on the label. The wine is made from 100% Palomino Fino, on the nose it has aromas of salty oranges, caramel, butterscotch and vanilla. On the palate it is dry with high acidity and a long finish.

Cruz Vieja Viña Roble Palo Cortado Jerez

This wine has aromas of dried citrus, burnt orange peel, burnt caramel, butterscotch, sea salt and roasted nuts. On the palate it is dry with high acidity and a long finish.

Cruz Vieja Oloroso en Rama, Sherry

The wine is made from 100% Palomino Fino, it is dark amber in color with aromas of burnt walnut, butterscotch, burnt sugar and rich vanilla. On the palate it is dry with high acidity and a long finish.

Cesar Florido Moscatel Especial Chipiona

The wine is made from 100% Moscatel, that were fermented with indigenous yeasts, and not air-dried, but crushed and fermented to approximately 1% abv, before spending one year in the Solera. It has aromas of baked cherries, dried figs, maple syrup, toffee, burnt rubber, chocolate, with a hint of smoke. On the palate it is sweet and somewhat light in texture and body with high acidity and a long finish.

Fernando de Castilla Classic Pedro Ximenez

This wine is made from 100% Pedro Ximenez that were sundried, fortified and aged for minimum of 10 years. On the nose it has aromas of has aromas of cranberries, burnt orange peel, fruitcake, dates, roasted walnuts and coffee. On the palate it is very sweet with medium+ acidity, full bodied with a long finish.

[3] John Radford, The New Spain: A Complete Guide to Spanish Wine (Mitchell Beazley; 2nd edition, 2006), 192-193.
[4] John Radford, The New Spain: A Complete Guide to Spanish Wine (Mitchell Beazley; 2nd edition, 2006), 193.
[5] Jancis Robinson (ed), The Oxford Companion to Wine (3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 2006), 703.
[6] Jancis Robinson, The Oxford Companion to Wine (3rd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2006), 691.
[7] John Radford, The New Spain: A Complete Guide to Spanish Wine (Mitchell Beazley; 2nd edition, 2006), 187.

1 comment:

  1. Did you grab the first map from winefolly? If so you should CLEARLY attribute it to them and provide a link under the photo. Great post though, thanks!