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Valdespino Palo Cortado Calle Ponce
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
I’ve often called Valdespino “the Romanee-Conti of Jerez.” Well, there, I’ve said it. To me they represent quality and tradition at the very top of the Sherry hierarchy. The winery, soleras and brands are old, registered in 1875, but with documentation about their commercial and winegrowing activities going back to the 13th century. Their recent history starts in 1999, when Jose Estevez purchases the company from the Valdespino family. Today Valdespino is the jewel in the crown of the Grupo Estevez, which also includes Real Tesoro and La Guita, who stock and age 35,000 botas of Sherry and own 800 hectares of vineyards, 56 of which come from the Pago Macharnudo, on pure white albariza soil, one of the best vineyards in the Marco de Jerez, and 17 hectares from the heart of Macharnudo are still fermented in bota today and form the core of brands like Inocente, Tio Diego, CP or Cardenal. All the wines were carefully and slowly moved to the new facilities of the Grupo Estevez on the outskirts of Jerez, where they continue their development under the supervision of Eduardo Ojeda, technical director, winemaker, who as a wine-lover is very aware of his role preserving these old soleras, wines and traditions.
The origins of this historic bodega date back to 1264 when Don Alfonso Valdespino, one of 24 Knights responsible for expelling the Moors from Jerez, was rewarded for his efforts by the king, granting him land in the city of Jerez. And thus began Bodegas Valdespino! The estate was purchased most recently by Grupo Estevaz in 1999.
Today, Valdespino is unique in the world of Sherry for 3 main reasons: The vineyards, the winemaking, and the length of aging.
The heart and soul of Valdespino, of course, is its vineyards. They are the only sherry house to make a series of wines from a single vineyard, called Macharnudo Alto. This parcel is considered one of the “grand crus” of Jerez because it is located at the highest altitude and on pure Albariza soils (bright white chalk). The single-vineyard Macharnudo wines are also considered part of the Grandes Pagos de España, an elite group of very special vineyard sites throughout Spain, and Valdespino is the only sherry house with this status.
In addition, all Valdespino wines are barrel-fermented in used oak and also allowed to decide their destiny naturally (biological vs. oxidative aging)! Almost all the houses in Jerez do the fermentations in stainless steel and inoculate the Flor to produce wines of a particular style. They are also one of a few estates that take the solera system to the extreme going way beyond DO minimum regulations for all the categories. As an example Fino sherry is required to have 2 criaderas(nursery levels of the solera) and the DO average tends to be 3 – Valdespino’s Fino Inocente has 10 Criaderas! This additional aging, of course, gives the wines an additional level of complexity, texture and concentration.
When it comes to food and wine pairings – sherry has a lot to contribute. One unusual aspect in this regard is that biologically aged wines (those aged under veil of flor) possess umami. This savory/earthy taste characteristic is very pronounced in the biologically aged wines of Valdespino because of not only their natural winemaking techniques but because the wines are aged well beyond the average for their peer group.
Known for bold reds, crisp whites and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place primary emphasis on its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally hot and dry. In the center of the country lies a vast, arid plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought.
Ribera del Duero is gaining ground with its single varietal Tempranillo wines, recognized for their concentration of fruit and opulence. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, specializes in bold, full-bodied red blends of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan), and often Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate.
Most sherries are dry and meant to pair alongside food but Americans have traditionally focused on the sweet ones. Sherry comes from only one place in the entire world, Andalucía, where the soil and unique seasonal changes give an unsurpassed character to its wines. The many styles change with the process of production, not really the grape, though certain styles are reserved for different grapes. The main grapes are Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Muscat of Alexandria.
Pedro Ximénez can make some amazing sweet sherries. Cream Sherry is technically the sweetest, darkest style of Sherry, except sometimes Pedro Ximénez can be sweeter. The rest of the styles are dry and dependent on the action of flor, which are benevolent film-forming yeasts that make a floating veil on the surface of the wine and protect it from oxidation.
Fino, from Jerez, and Manzanilla, from the humid and cool coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, are the lightest styles and are meant to be drunk young.
Amontillado happens when a Fino’s layer of flor fades and the wine starts to oxidize. Quite simply it is an aged Fino that has a darker color and richer palate.
When flor yeast dies unexpectedly, the result is Palo Cortado. Palo Cortado Sherries can behave like Amontillado on the palate but often show a greater balance of richness and delicacy.
Oloroso never develops flor but is oxidized for five to twenty five years and become aromatic and strong like a fine bourbon.