Albero - A Very Special Manzanilla

Albero – A Very Special Manzanilla

This wine is very special and if you love great sherry then you will want to read on and order a few bottles. I’m lucky in my professional life to have the good fortune to taste some of the great wines of the world. In saying that, the truly singular and remarkable in and amongst those are rare. Tasting this Manzanilla provided one of those rare moments. It is a thrilling wine with a uniquely Australian connection.

Last year, Australian importer, Scott Wasley was given a day with the Barbiana solera – a solera which runs back 275 years and which was purchased by the Delgado Zuleta bodega in 1978 and kept separately ever since. After a serendipitous glass of Barbiana en Rama (non-filtered) in a local San Luca de Barrameda bar, Wasley was struck by the quality of the wine. In his words:

It was gorgeous: Open, round and free, smelling of the sea, feeling the Andalucian sky, lightly wheaty, chalk-crunched, sparkling with salt, pricked with cabezuelas (spent flor yeast) bitters on the finish.

Wasley, who also imports the excellent Manzanilla La Goya from Delgado Zuleta, called the bodega and asked if he could come and choose a barrel from the solera to purchase. A couple days later he was tasting through a set of 34 Botas in search of his ultimate Manzanilla/Fino. At Bota #4 of 34 he had found it – perfection! But by the end of the tasting he’d also found an array of difference expressions from each successive Bota. All compelling and all bringing something different and ultimately creating a new conundrum for Wasley – to blend or to bottle Bota #4. The blend won out and it would become “Albero”, a mix of 5 of the 34 Botas that most resonated with Wasley and combined a set of characteristics that ran the gamut of his most prized and complimentary traits.

Apple and lemon, chamomile from the fresh flor, the bitter twang of the spent yeast flor also known as cabezuelas , chalk, earth, nori and iodine chiming resonating far away ancient sea bed soils or orange and mandarin blossom. On top of this there is the textural nuance each Bota brings.

The texture, deeper colour , more earthen nuance to the wine pushed me to see it as less of the zip and zing of a normal Manzanilla and more toward a fino style. Having said that, within the texture the wines still holds huge energy. The best of both worlds, perhaps. The sum total is deeply impressive and for me even a touch moving. It is as if it conjures another time, echoes the smells and feel of 275 years ago.

In all 500 x 500ml bottles came out of that blend and 40 magnums. The wine was bottles on a favourable moon cycle and they arrived here a few weeks ago.

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