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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 Arcos de la Frontera, is the bodega Huerta de Albalá. Set up by Vicente Taberner, this bodega launched their first vintage (2005) with a bang – their top wine “Taberner No1″ being awarded 95 points by the Wine Advocate. I’m not sure what happened with the ’06, but they seem to be back on form with their ’07 at 92 points.

The real reason for this post however is the hectare or so of Tempranillo and Syrah vines on the road out to Trebujena. Surrounded by Palomino for making sherry, these red vines belong to brothers Antón and Luis Mateos. The brothers try to farm as organically as possible, with minimum intervention. The place is usually a riot of weeds. Growing organically around here is still a novelty, but the Mateos brothers are going one step further and have started off in the biodynamic direction. Like Mr Taberner their first vintage was also 2005, but the philosophy could not be more different. Luis, usually surrounded by a tribe of Ratonero Bodeguero dogs, drives this project. He is a member of the Slow Food movement and could think of nothing worse than exporting his wines, so their goal is to make early-drinking wines for distribution in the local bars and restaurants. “Un tinto afinado” is what they are after, a red made in a “fino” style, young, light and fruity with enough structure to keep it in balance. If they could distribute by horse and cart I’m sure they would. The wine is called “Rey Habis” after the Phoenician king who a thousand years before Christ is alleged to have founded the city of Cádiz.

Because of mountains of red tape necessary they are not yet in a position to make the Rey Habis themselves, so rely on friends who have facilities (and therefore all the permissions) less than a mile from the vineyard. The goal is to make the 2010 vintage themselves. This year yielded just less than 3000 bottles, and I managed to get a couple of those. I was also glad to get a couple of the last remaining 2006 Crianza, which was last year’s experiment. Only 300 odd bottles of that were produced, after 6 months in French oak.

Rey Habis 2008

Rey Habis Crianza 2006

Other red wines from the area include (in no particular order):

Gibalbín made by Barbadillo, who have the largest hectarage of red vines in the zone.

Cortijo de Jara make two decent reds, one young and a “crianza”, which gets 6 months in oak.

Piedra de Mirabal produced by the co-operative AECOVI from vines planted in the sandy soils around Chipiona.

Viña Lucia by Paéz Morilla, who were the first to plant red vines in a big way, although they are better known for their sherry vinegars.

Bodegas Ferris produce three reds, including one from Tintilla de Rota.

Finca Moncloa by Gonzalez Byass (better known for their Tío Pepe Fino).

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