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Wine Hotline Hits The Road: Jerez

Sherry Barrel Room

Binny’s Wine Buyer, Bob Calamia traveled to Jerez to seek out Spain’s top sherry and learn a thing or two about this timeless region. Bob reports from the field:

 

World headquarters for sherry is Jerez in Southwestern Spain. Two things make sherry unique – its proximity to the Mediterranean and the high level of chalk in the soil. The chalk gives sherry some of its characteristic mineral flavors, but the soil’s biggest contribution is its ability to retain moisture. Jerez gets most of its rain in the fall and winter, and the chalk sustains the vines in the dry spring and summer. The climate is warm enough to ripen palomino fino – the primary grape of the region – and when grown in the chalky soil, it achieves a quality found nowhere else.

 

More photos and info after the jump!

 

Cutting the sherry grape vines

 

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Ribera del Duero

A small group from Binny’s visited Spain’s Ribera del Duero. Bill Newton reports from the road:

 

Ribera del Duero

 

Spain’s Ribera del Duero is beautiful and rustic. On one hand, the region is home to world-class wine producers such as Vega Sicilia, Pingus and Pesquera. On the other hand, nobody acted surprised when a herd of sheep blocked traffic to cross the road.

 

The guys at Vega Sicilia don’t leave room for surprises. They want complete control over every aspect of their wine making process, including making and toasting all of the barrels used at the winery at their own on-site cooperage. Coopers everywhere char the insides of their barrels, determining the flavors that barrels instill in the wines they hold (just like with spirits, or even beer).

 

Toasting Barrels

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More from Spain

   Tasted a ton of Spanish wines yesterday. It started with several appointments with local distributors and ended with a an importer portfolio tasting featuring about seventy wines. 

Quick thoughts:

 

 Muga and Ramirez de Ganuza both offer outstanding collections of thoughtful, world-class wines that are certainly worth seeking out. 

Many of the wines at the afternoon tasting were offered as two different vintages side by side. In almost every case, the newer vintages beat out the older vintages. This is especially true for the whites (such as: Las Brisas, Naia, Nora Albarino). 2010 seems more vibrant and expressive than 2009. I’m not sure if it’s actually an issue of vintage quality or a matter of freshness. Either way, I’m looking forward to inexpensive Spanish wines in the coming months.

The soon-to-be-released 2009 Venta Mazarron fits the same profile as the 2007, which I completely love. It’s all blueberry and maple syrup and bacon (seriously!) only bigger and more focused with more tannins. And it’s still only $12.99!

For fans of Luzon: Watch for the release of the new 2008 Luzon Crianza. This is a new release, Luzon with more age, and it smells awesome. Like money. Like they put a lot of money into making it, and like it should cost a lot of money to get a bottle. When it arrives, it should retail somewhere around twelve bucks, which is insane.

Even the more expensive wines, such as Cenit and Dominio de Atauta (both perennial favorites) look like they’re going to take a slight dip in price. These are serious wines that seem to have slipped from the spotlight in the last couple years.

 

   Though my palate was beaten and bruised after a day of heavy reds, I was in the mood for more. I went home and cracked open a 2004 Cenit (from way back). This bottle has only gotten better over the last two years. I suspect that Cenit isn’t built for decades of aging, but the tannins backed off noticeably and the sweet fruit and cocoa notes have really taken over, with still enough grip to stay classy. 

   I don’t know exactly what is going on in the Spanish wine market right now. It seems that interest in the values stuff under $20, let’s say is holding steady. But the high-point collectables, and even mid-priced ($30+) wines that were getting so much attention a couple years ago have pretty much stalled out. That’s despite the almost hyperbolic praise these wines have seen from the press. 

   Have I said this before? One thing that makes it harder to sell expensive wine is having an overload of amazing inexpensive wine. This might be a problem for a winery too wrapped up in status or preserving a pricing position in the market, but for people who like to drink wine (me and you?), it’s only a good thing.

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