Some memories are so special that it bothers me not having enough tools to remember or enough time to share them. The technical trip that we’ve made to Andalucía with my professors and classmates from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid is one of them. We’ve made this trip in October 2014, so these photos on my hard drive and memories in my mind have been waiting to be shared almost for 3 years and now I don’t even want to lose a second to share them. Here, we go! Don’t put your jackets because it will be very warm down there!
Before starting our trip, we had covered the viticulture and winemaking practices in the region in the classes with our professor, Antonio Morata. I will share couple of highlights of his classes about the related topics during the trip.
The aim of this trip was to know Jerez region of Spain, the home of Sherry wines, which is located in the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The Sherry wines are protected with Denomination of Origin Jerez-Xèrés-Sherry, Manzanilla – Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Here we go!
We’ve started from Madrid and headed to Córdoba. We had an almost 5 hour bus drive until there, but we’ve made a lunch stop on the way, where I’ve learned something very important: If you ask for a glass of ‘wine’ in Jerez, they would bring you Fino. I just though it is a very useful thing to know since Fino has at least 15 degrees of alcohol and might be a little bit too much as a drink for a lunch time. Well, at least for me it was! Fortunately, we had more bus drive to go, so I was able to sleep during rest of it. In the end, this explains very well the siesta phenomena.
Our first stop was Bodegas Alvear, situated in Sierra de Montilla y Moriles in Córdoba, founded in 1729.
This was a perfect winery to see the traditional production of Sherry wines, as they kept the amphorae which they use for fermentation. They also explained us how the temperature control was made in the past. They were filling the amphora until one third of the capacity, as the fermentation has reached its peak and increased the temperature of the grapes; they were adding the second third of the capacity, so it was cooling down and starting the fermentation process from the beginning.
Nowadays, to be able to answer the consumer demand nationally and internationally, they ferment in higher capacity stainless steel tanks.
Sobretablas or Criaderas y Soleras
As the wines start their aging process, the classifications start to be able to find their final type. An organoleptic assessment is done and the wines separated into 2 main types; Fino or Oloroso. Pale and light wines go into the Fino type and fortified with addition of pure grape spirit until 15 degrees of alcohol, while heavier and darker wines are fortified until 17 degrees of alcohol and go into Oloroso side.
After this classification, a biological aging starts for Fino type wines. The film forming yeasts that are naturally present in the wine (and in the barrels that are reused for aging process), can be alive in 15 degrees of alcohol. So, they form a film called flor, and wines ages under the flor, this type of aging is called sobretablas. After this aging, a second classification is made. The wines who kept the flor film, continue to be Fino, however if in the middle of the aging oxidative aging starts, the wine is designated as Palo Cortado. Finally, if in the end of aging there is less vigorous film forming, the wine is fortified up to 17% and continues as Amontillado.
On the other side, the Oloroso wines cannot perform biological aging because of the higher alcohol degree, so they lose their flor which protects the wine form oxidation; end up with an oxidative aging. This type of aging is performed with a system called criaderas y soleras. It’s a dynamic method of aging wines, based on fractional blending of different vintages and guarantees a consistent quality and homogeneity year after year.
After seeing all these production methods on site, we passed to tasting room to learn more about the final product.
All types of Sherry
I believe when you hear “Sherry wines” you have an image in your mind. However, there is a huge diversity in different types of the sherry wines. Dry Sherry types are Fino, Manzanilla, Palo Cortado, Amontillado and Oloroso. Natural sweet wines are Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel (made with soleo method, drying grapes under the sun), finally the liquor wines are Pale Cream, Medium and Cream.
ONE NIGHT IN SEVILLA
The only thing that I can say about staying one night in Sevilla is that I wish I could spend there more than just a night. But the breathtaking atmosphere in the city is even more remarkable at night!
As we walk through the city, I was amazed by its unique architecture, from the narrowest street to the biggest square. Seville Cathedral is so big that it was even possible to see a part of it from every street that we’ve walked.
When we were walking, I was feeling that I am passing through the doors to the history. Although it was a Monday night, all the people were outside until late at night, hanging around, enjoying wines and drinks at bars with friends… Of course, we did the same!
OH THAT SOIL!
The type of the soil in this region is what gives the specialty to the wines. The main types of the soils are “Albarizas, Barros y Arenas”. Albariza is a white soil, (alba means white) formed from sedimentation of marine diatoms, very chalky and highly porous that helps to retain moisture, barros is mainly clay and arenas is sand. Speaking of the climate of the region, it has very dry and warm summers with remarkably high temperatures, while the proximity to Atlantic Ocean helps to maintain the humidity and moderate the temperatures.
The region is divided into small production zones, called pago with homogenous soil and microclimate. There are up to 300 different pagos within the Jerez region, classified according to their location and other factors as type of the soil, altitude etc.
In the vineyards of the region, there is a method that is used often to maximize the use of the rainfall that is called aserpiado. As you can see in the photo clearly, they create constant barriers in the vineyard to capture the rainfall, like small lakes.
Photos taken in Viña la Canariera, of Bodegas Tio Pepe.
BODEGAS TIO PEPE, GONZALES & BYASS
Firstly, we are visiting one of the production sites of Gonzales & Byass, where they keep their barrels. Many barrels, infinitive barrels…
After that, we are going to the big facility of Tio Pepe, where they have their traditional wineries. First point we arrive is the Real Bodega de la Concha, which is designed by Gustavo Eiffel in 1869, in the honor of the visit of Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1862. Currently, there are 214 oak barrels filled with Amontillado La Concha and on the barrels there are the flags of the each 115 countries to which Gonzales & Byass exports wine.
Following, we took the cutest little red train to take a ride around the vineyards and cellars. That was very fun. (In the end we were students, it doesn’t matter if you are going to elementary school or a master, the school trips are always fun!)
We visited La Bodega Los Reyes, where they keep barrels which were signed by the member of royal families who visited the winery.
We also visited the other cellars that they have in the facility and we ended up in the tasting room.
We finished this visit in their shop, and this lovely street under vines which cover all the way.
BODEGAS LUIS PEREZ
There are 3 authorized varieties to produce Sherry wines, Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, all of them are white varieties. As we visit the vineyards of Bodegas Luis Perez, we saw the vines of these varieties. Unfortunately no grapes were left after the harvest.
Bodegas Luis Perez is situated in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, and they mostly produce red wines.
They have a very interesting 100% Petit Verdot, and two blends, one Merlot based and the other Syrah based. But so far the most interesting one is made with the local red variety called Tintilla de Rota, called Garum Submarino. Tintilla de Rota was historically produced in Jerez region, but it was almost about to extinct. Thanks to this project, they were able to realive this grape variety and find its personality and best impression, in where it actually belongs, in albariza soil. What makes it even more special is the aging method; after the bottling they put it in amphorae and age it under the sea in 12 meters deep with 14 Co degrees temperature, during 12 months. In the end, what we get was a complete success, which is translated into wine with shows intense aromas together with characteristic acidity of the Tintilla.
BRANDY DE JEREZ
What can be better than starting the morning with a Brandy tasting! (I can hear you shouting coffee firstJ) To know more about the production of Brandy we went to The Consejo Regulador of Jerez Brandy.
Our tasting started with un-aged spirits; spirit made from beet molasses, distilled wine contains 90 % alcohol and holanda of wine which contains less than 70% alcohol. And they gave us a very informative presentation about the production of brandy. To sum up, brandy is produced by distillation of wine produced from Airén and Palomino grapes, from 3 liters of wine, after distillation 1 liter of ‘spirit of wine’ is obtained and this is aged in American oak barrels which were used for Sherry wine aging at least for 3 years. Depending on the type of Sherry wine that was aged in the barrel previously, (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontillado, Pedro Ximénez etc) the brandy will differentiate from each other. The aging period varies depending on the category: For Brandy de Jerez Solera minimum 6 months, for Brandy de Jerez Solera Reserva minimum 1 year and for Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva minimum 3 years of aging is required.
After the tasting, they gifted to each of us a small bottle of Jerez Brandy, which was very generous of them.
Difference between Fino and Manzanilla
Before going to our last destination, Sanlucar de Barrameda, let’s talk about the difference between Fino and Manzanilla. They are both produced with the same method that I’ve explained previously, but the difference is Fino is produced in Jerez and Manzanilla is produced in Sanlucar de Barrameda. What they mentioned us, only the people who actually are from these towns or very trained sommeliers on the topic can distinguish them upon a blind tasting, and they claim to catch the touch of saltiness in the mouth in Manzanilla, thanks to its closeness to the sea.
It’s the place to feel the air of Manzanilla; the Poniente wind that comes towards you with all its warmness, when you are staring at the breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea. We are visiting the cellars of Bodegas Barbadillo, situated in the heart of Sanlucar de Barrameda, which started to produce Manzanilla in 1821.
A final important remark in this winery, that you can see a very typical winery design, it creates the special winery microclimate that makes possible to obtain a perfect atmosphere for the aging.
As you also saw in the previous cellars, this cellar has high ceilings, almost like a Cathedral; which ease the circulation of air inside. The air enters from the windows which face to Poniente.
I am very glad to have experienced all these and to have smelled the air of Andalucía, which simply makes you to feel the soul of the wines produced in this land. And I am very glad to share all this with you. I am thankful to all my professors in Agronomy department of Universidad Politenica de Madrid for making this trip so efficient, and cheers to my ex-classmates for making it unforgettable!
All images © 2017 by Nedret Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.
- My notes from classes of Antonio Morata, UPM.