Sunshine, soleras and almacenistas!

Travels in Wine / Sherry

Sunshine, soleras and almacenistas!

Contents

A solera to call our own at Sánchez Romate and trip to Tim Sykes' favourite almacenista, Cayetano del Pino followed by a heavenly leap!

Typical vineyard scene in Jerez where the white albariza soil reflects the sun's heat back to the vines allowing the grapes to get beautifully ripe
Typical vineyard scene in Jerez with the distinctive
chalky white albariza soil where the finest finos and
manzanillas are made

I awoke to a glorious sunny day. The sherry region enjoys a staggering 300 days of sun per year, so I was expecting to see blue skies during my visit. What I wasn't prepared for was afternoon temperatures of 29 degrees. The south of Spain was experiencing a week of unseasonably hot weather, a good seven to ten degrees above the seasonal norm. To be fair the temperatures the previous week had been closer to 20 degrees with torrential rain, so the timing of my visit couldn't have been better.

First stop Sánchez Romate, established in 1781, and located in the heart of the town of Jerez. Sánchez Romate supplies us with our Society and Exhibition sherries and has impressive stocks in their very traditional cellars. One thing we discussed during my visit was the possibility of setting up two Wine Society soleras, the contents of which will go exclusively into our two Exhibition Olorosos. The idea is that we will get consistency from one bottling to the next. Members will also be able to visit Sánchez Romate and see our two soleras, with The Wine Society stencilled onto the barrel ends. More information to follow on this in due course, but here's a sneak peek!

An exciting new Solera of our very own to get even greater consistency between bottlings of our Exhibition Olorosos
An exciting new Solera of our very own to get even greater consistency between bottlings of our Exhibition Olorosos
Cellarhand pouring samples
Cellarhand at Sánchez Romate expertly pouring samples from barrel using the traditional venencia

An almacenista with history & class!

The affable and very able Gerardo del Pino now at the helm of this family-owned almacenista
The affable and very able Gerardo del Pino now at
the helm of this family-owned almacenista

My next stop was at Cayetano del Pino. In addition to bodegas such as Sánchez Romate who make, age, bottle and ship sherry, there is another business model known as the almacenistas. These are houses that make and age wines in cask, but don't sell their wine in bottle. Rather, they sell their aged stocks to other houses who then bottle and sell the finished sherries.

Cayetano del Pino is an almacenista, established in 1886 and is still family owned, with the affable and very able Gerardo del Pino at the helm. The main business of the family is farming, with sherry ageing a 'side-line'. Some side-line! I tasted from a number of old casks and very quickly understood why Cayetano de Pino (whose wines are bottled by Sánchez Romate, incidently) manages to produce some of the most sublimely complex sherries that we sell. The raw material for The Wine Society to choose from is truly astounding. The majority of the bottlings of their wines that we buy are exclusive to us.

There are fewer than 20 butts in the entire cellar at Salto al Cielo. Beltrán Domecq took Tim through his range of just three very old sherries
There are fewer than 20 butts in the entire cellar
at Salto al Cielo. Beltrán Domecq took Tim through
his range of just three very old sherries

After a typically late lunch of fried fish and a few leaves of locally grown lettuce I headed out of town into the surrounding country. Most sherry bodegas are located in the three main towns of the 'Sherry Triangle' – Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, but one or two of the smaller ones are dotted around the surrounding countryside, and my next stop was Salto al Cielo (literally 'leap to the heavens') which is located in a former Carthusian country retreat set in beautiful rolling countryside outside Jerez. All the wines here, unlike the majority of sherries, are estate aged, and Beltrán Domecq took me through his range of just three very old sherries – there are fewer than 20 butts in the entire cellar! The wines are superb – true labours of love. We have two in stock, which at £65 per half bottle, are not cheap, but are rare treats for sherry lovers.

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