Callejuela Palomino Project

Los Hermanos Blancos – Pepe y Paco, producers of incredible Palominos from el Marco de Jerez, some fortified and some not, variously with our without flor.

Their father, Francisco Blanco Martínez, ‘el Blanquito’ founded the business in 1980. Originally, he worked as an almacenista de mosto – he farmed his vineyards and made base wine, which was then sold to bottling houses, who fortified it to become sobretablas ready to enter their soleras.

In 1997, Blanquito’s operation was consolidated in a cellar atop the slope of Pago el Hornillo on the estuary (Trebujena) side of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Nowadays, Francisco’s sons Pepe and Paco Blanco run the project, with 28 hectares of own vines across four pagos: in Sanlúcar de Barrameda they have holdings in Pagos Callejuela and el Hornillo; while in Jerez they own parts of Pagos Macharnudo and Añina. Ramiro Ibáñez provides advisory assistance. They hold 700 botas in their bodega, about 500 of which are ageing biologically.

Callejuela became a brand in 1998 and entered the Manzanilla market in 2005, but its current face (the labels and styles we are working with) only hit the market in 2015. Callejuela is an incredibly dynamic producer, producing table wines (some with, some without flor), fortified Finos labelled as Manzanilla, and other sherry styles. Some are aged dynamically, others statically. Terroir of origin (Pago location) is as important as is that of the bodega (where the wines are yeasted and aged). The emphasis on the land results in simply better fruit – they pick at 12.5-13% potential alcohol compared to a regional norm of 10.5 (based on the bent assumption that fortification is the fix!).

‘Terroir’ in el Marco de Jerez is a cross-reference of two elements: the progression of soil type, loosely from west to east, overlaid by a west-east dynamic in prevailing breezes. With the soils, firstly we progress from sand through clay and arrive (higher up) at chalk, very loosely, from coast to interior, and there is a further textural progression within the albarizas, depending on their varying levels of silica, diatomaceous fossil content, and intrusions of iron/clay/sand. Soil structure also plays a role in textural affect.

The prevailing wind in el Marco is an alternation between a gentle, cool and humid westerly coming off the Atlantic, called el Poniente (from the setting sun), versus a stronger, hotter and sometimes brutal warm, dry Continental south-easterly, el Levante (from the rising sun).

I felt this all too clearly one day in early October, just after the harvest.
“20 degrees in Jerez”, the forecast said.
“Shorts, short-sleeve shirt, and a hat just in case”, said I.
Paco, Pepe, Willy and Ramiro collected us in Sanlúcar at 8am. We spent an hour by Rio Guadalquiver looking at maps, talking about soils, winds, geomorphological history … and then went to the Callejuela bodega, just out the back of town on the north-eastern side. Two hours later, after time by the estuary, in the bodega, and then visiting pagos near the Atlantic, I was as close to hypothermia as I hope to ever get.

The cold deep chalk, and the fresh nip of Poniente breezes affect a massive shift in the feels-like of the ambient temperature. 15 degrees in the AM with all the chill effects felt like 8. Yet, the next day over in a Jerez vineyard, 20 degrees in an afternoon with a moderate Levante touch felt more like 26 (and these were mild, calm, gentle days). All this is easily felt in the wines, if their handling is sensitive to place, and few are more so than those of Callejuela.