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Saturday, 7 November 2020

Manzanilla and Beyond: Barbadillo Masterclass from 67 Pall Mall

A virtual tasting of Barbadillo sherries with Tim Holt, hosted by 67 Pall Mall

The basics

The casual sherry enthusiast will know that the key constituents of sherry are:

- the Palomino grape

- Andalusia's chalky-spongy Albariza soil, and

- flor, a local fungus which feeds on the base wine, drying it out and leaving a distinctive tang.

Add to this the solera method of blending wines both to refresh the flor and achieve consistency, plus the distinction between biological and oxidative aging and you have pretty much all the basics covered.

For more on this, read about The Great Sherry Tasting.

The differences

Tim Holt of Barbadillo covered all these topics whilst also giving a deeper dive into his company's terroir, production methods and what distinguishes them from other producers.

Barbadillo are a 7th-generation family company and the world’s leading Manzanilla producer with 500ha of vineyard in Jerez Superior, and 15 Bodegas across Sanlucar de Barrameda collectively containing 30,000 sherry butts.

The company is based around San Lucar, where the Guadalquivir river meets the Atlantic Ocean; its vineyards are located inland where the climate is drier and there are fewer vineyard pests, meaning higher quality fruit.

Another difference is the production method of the base wine: the grapes are pressed whole-bunch with stems included to allow free-run juice to be collected and to oxygenate the must. It is centrifuged for clarity prior to fermentation at a lower temperature with cultivated local yeasts and no added sulphur.

All of this results in a superior base wine with an alcohol level of between 11% and 13%; but this is only the start of the process of creating a Manzanilla.

As Tim explained, flor is very delicate and needs just the right conditions to thrive; specifically cool, damp, fresh air. The flor grows thickest in one particular bodega located at the bend of the Guadalquivir, where the river is narrowest and the breezes blow cool, damp air into windows cut into the side of the bodega facing the sea.

The company has 16 bodegas and each sherry butt is moved to a specific bodega at different points during its aging process.

The design of the bodega is equally important to the development of the flor with a high roof and the barrels stored only three-high as further up the air becomes too warm and dry (pro-tip: finos can be stacked up to five-high as they have less flor influence)

The wines

Barbadilllo “Solear” Manzanilla

With an average age of 6 years, this is very pale due to the flor keeping the wine free of oxygen; it goes through nine stages of aging and the transfer of the wine between barrels feeds the flor and oxygenates the wine. Yeasty with camomile, smooth and even on the palate, full and long.

Price and availability: 37.5cl, £5.99-7.99 / full bottle £10.99, The Wine Society, Sandhams Wines, Cambridge Wine Merchants, The Whiskey Exchange, Ultracomida Online, Waitrose

Barbadillo “Pastora” Manzanilla En Rama Pasada

The Manzanilla Pasada has an extra two years' aging which slows down the rate of refreshment of the wine and therefore results in less flor / more oxygenation; it is half-way to becoming an Amontillado. The colour is more golden with a richer, more pungent and camomile nose; it is richer on the palate with more nuttiness.

Price and availability:  37.5cl, £8.99, Roberts & Speight, TB Watson Wines, VINVM, Laithwaites, Pensitone Wines, Hedonism, Secret Bottle Shop 

Barbadillo “Principe” Amontillado 12 Year Old with an extra four years' aging, this is much darker and with more evaporation leading to greater acidity and concentration; complex, salty and dry with a toffee-caramel note.

Price and availability: 75cl, £28 TB Watson Vintage Wine & Port, Martinez Wines, Saxtys Wines, The Secret Bottle Shop, Roberts & Speight, The Whisky Exchange, Hedonism

Barbadillo “Principe” Amontillado VORS this is the same wine as the 12yo but is aged for around 50 years; it is darker with coconut and some sweetness; dry and powerful, it is long, concentrated and intense with nutty, complex, dried fruit, roasted nuts and orange peel.

Price and availability: 75cl, £63.10, Hedonism 

Barbadillo “Obispo Gascon” Palo Cortado VORS polished furniture, walnut husks, dried apricots and some roasted notes with vanilla; complex and and very elegant with dried orange peel, brine and tangy lemon with dark chocolate, toffee, caramelized nuts. Long and elegant.

Price and availability: 75c; £75 Laithwaites, Turville Valley Wines, Hedonism, Averys 

Barbadillo “Ataman” Vermut production of Ataman began over 100 years ago, but then ceased in the 1970s; the stocks were left untouched until now and this Vermut was relaunched recently using small amounts of the original in the blend which also includes quassia tree bark, wormwood, quinine, rosemary, Seville orange and elderberry. Rich and herbal with bold bitter-sweet, roasted spice complexity; long and harmonious. Deep, savory, layered, uncious yet precise

Price and availability: 50cl, £18-20 The Good Spirits Company, The Solent Cellar, Noble Green Wines, Ultracomida Online, Wadebridge Wines

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