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Lenn Thompson

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Pedro Ximenez: A Wine to Savour Over a Candlelit Dinner

Near the 14th of February, there is always the temptation to crack open a bottle of pink Champagne as inspiration for a post – but that’s all been done before, so I was keen to write about something different. My wife, a modern-day Barbara Cartland, suggested something romantic about wines with 14% alcohol. This was a sweet idea, but I decided to go in for something even sweeter and write about the Pedro Ximenez grape. In Spain, the white Pedro Ximenez or PX grapes are normally raisinated before making the wine. The thin-skinned PX grapes were traditionally laid on Esparto-grass mats out in the sun for a few days before pressing. I’m not sure what they lie out on these […]

The Manzanilla of the North

OK, if you’re wondering about the title, then that’s what they call Old Pulteney, and if you’re still wondering, keep reading. On a trip to Scotland last week to meet my new nephew I could not pass up on a visit to a whisky distillery. Scotch and Sherry have strong connections on two levels going back many years – centuries even – so this post is not exactly off-piste for an Iberian wine blog. You can still see names painted on the sides of Sherry bodegas, which have a decidedly Scottish air. In El Puerto de Santa Maria it’s possible to sip a glass of Fino at the Grant bodega most Saturdays just after midday and until recently opposite the […]

Good Sherry selection at London Wine Store: The Sampler

There’s a new-ish (born November 2006) kid on the London independent wine merchant block. A couple of weeks before Christmas, I went to check it all out. The unique thing about The Sampler is their array of 10 Enomatic machines, each holding eight bottles – so 80 wines available to try. The machines work with a smart card, which is debited each time you take a measure. I think the idea is fantastic on so many levels: Try before you buy, try expensive wines for a few quid, learn more about wine, tasting experience for WSET Diploma students (like me), etc… If you are into Sherry, then The Sampler has a carefully chosen selection. I was quite surprised and impressed. […]

My name is Brandy and I come from Jerez

Things have been pretty chilly here in Jerez, with record low temperatures in recent days. There has been snow all over Spain, even in places that don’t often get it. One way I like to fight the cold is with a little nip of something strong. I used to be quite fond of a shot or two of single-malt Scotch Whisky. I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but in the UK Spanish brandy usually equates in peoples’ minds with cheap and probably fairly nasty. Something not to be drunk without a mixer; an barely palatable alcohol-delivery mechanism. I have to admit, that is what I used to think, however, since moving to Jerez nearly 4 years ago […]

Rediscovering a Little Gem – El Brillante in El Puerto de Santa Maria

If you find yourself feeling a little peckish in El Puerto de Santa Maria, then I suggest you take yourself off to a little bar called, El Brillante. It’s on Calle Doctor Muoz Seca (aka Calle Cielo), just off the Plaza de España. This little place pays homage to several things – most importantly good food and good drink. Weirdly, Francisco Franco also gets a look-in: In a corner of the bar youll find a little shrine to the man himself, and his sidekick Jose Antonio. Don’t get the wrong idea though, this altar was a little joke which got slightly out of hand, when friends and even strangers dug out, dusted off and delivered their contributions. The Franco thing […]

Bottle-aged Sherry?

Hello, Justin here. Recently I took part in a sherry tasting where the subject of bottle-aged sherries came up. Now the dogma is Fino and Manzanilla do not age and should be drunk as soon after bottling as possible. At the tasting, one of the wines we tried was a Manzanilla, Bailaora, which had spent two years in bottle. It obviously wasn’t a “fresh” Manzanilla, but there was nothing bad about it. It was just different. In his brilliant book “Sherry” Julian Jeffs is clearly of the opinion that Fino and Manzanilla styles deteriorate after bottling, perhaps we were just lucky at the tasting. However he also says: “Strange things can happen when dry sherries are kept for a long […]

Red Wine in Sherry Town

Jerez de la Frontera is not only about sherry and white wine. There are actually some pretty good reds produced in the area, for the moment designated “Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz”. These red wines tend to be made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo but there is even an local red variety called “Tintilla de Rota”. Tintilla vines are few and far between, so the wine is not common. A fortified sweet version is produced and apparently it also makes very good dry wines. I have yet to try an example of either, but I will eventually track one down, probably hiding in some out-of-the-way bar in Rota or Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Not far from Jerez, in […]

WBW #51 Baked Goods and Madeirized Wine

Hello, Justin here. I’m quite excited; this is the first time I’m posting for Wine Blogging Wednesday. This was originally started by Lenn Thompson and is now in its 51st edition, hosted by Joe Roberts at 1WineDude. The theme is “Baked Goods and Madeirized wines”. Allow me to digress a bit. In the early seventies, the end-of-empire centrifuge was up to full speed and about to fling my parents out. In the nick of time, I was conceived. It all happened on an idyllic, but not quite palm-fringed island off the Portuguese coast – as in the Portuguese Overseas Province of Moçambique coast. Anyway, Rhodesia, spittoon distance from the Moçambique border was where we lived. Some of the first words […]

Sherry in London

On a trip to London last week, I tried to get a feel for how consumers might see sherry. Just ordinary consumers,not the sorts who buy wines from expensive West End merchants.Of course, this exercise was totally unscientific. In between errands and meetings, I dropped into as many shops as I could to get an idea of what a potential sherry drinker might experience. I stupidly forgot my camera at home, and the pictures my phone produced are simply not up to scratch for this post. So you will have to do with this picture of Tio Pepe and the amusing advert down below. Anyway, the value wines account for the largest part of the steady decline in sherry sales […]

Sherry House: Emilio Hidalgo, And Ways to Change Future Generations into Sherry Lovers

In recent weeks, I have visited the Emilio Hidalgo bodega twice, and since their wines are so good, a post has become just about unavoidable. This is a small, truly independent, family-owned bodega. It was started by the Hidalgo family in the mid 1800s and is run by decedents of the founders brothers Fernando and Emilio Hidalgo and their cousin Juan-Manuel Hidalgo. The business remains at their original site, in the old centre of Jerez and the bodega is made up of a series of traditional, thick walled bodegas separated by “patios”. This is an age-old system. When a breeze moves over the buildings, cooler air sinks down into the patios and then through the open doors around them into […]