Argüeso is considered by many to be one of the best producers in Sanlúcar. Its history dates all the way back to 1822: it was in this year that Leon de Argüeso y Argüeso founded the winery in Sanlúcar, where he began by buying some old barrels and acquiring the San Jose cellar. This cellar is estimated to be 250 years old, and is still part of the complex today.
On his death in 1878, Leon handed the winery to his nephews Francisco and Juan, which is the reason that the wine's seal still to this day states 'Los Dos Herederos de Don León de Argüeso' ('The Two Heirs of Mr. León de Argüeso') plus the initials 'J & F'.
The nephews ensured the business expanded rapidly over the decades, with several new buildings added, including a part of the compound being converted from an old convent. In 1992 they acquired additional cellars in the old quarters of Sanlúcar, which now house the company's modern bottling plant. One of the cellar buildings is a converted church, which still contains some of the magnificent polychromed ceilings of the refectory, as well as some of its original doors.
The vineyards are located in the premium Tizón and Añina areas. The company only grows the official sherry grape, palomino fino, the cultivation of which is strictly controlled and monitored by the team so they can harvest at the optimum time. This harvest generally tends to start in September, once the team has considered the weight and pH of the grape juice, among other regulations. Once picked, the grapes are transported in tightly packed containers by lorry so they reach the winery as quickly as possible with no damage or loss of aroma.
Different qualities of must are fermented separately so they can be made into different levels of wine. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks, and yeast is added to the must. This promotes a neutral aroma and as much alcohol as possible: the perfect base for a good sherry.
After ageing in full tanks for a short period, the wine is sampled and separated into two groups, one for manzanilla and the other for oloroso. They are then fortified to 15% and 17% alcohol respectively, before undergoing the traditional solera system of sherry ageing. After this, the wine needs only to be clarified before bottling.
Manzanilla can only be matured in the Sanlúcar district. This is because the cooler conditions found here due to its position on the Atlantic coast, as opposed to Jerez which is much further inland, means the flor grows thicker and more permanently in the barrels. This produces the classic manzanilla character: a softer, gentler, yet intensely flor-influenced fino.