Tasting Cruz Vieja Sherries at Bodegas Faustino Gonzalez

Former Almacenista turned boutique Bodega, Faustino Gonzalez have been a family operation since being established in 1971. Their traditional methods, including barrel fermented base wines made with grapes from their own superb albariza vineyards, and exceptionally old soleras dating from 1758, produce exquisite sherries. A tiny bodega, passionately making fabulous sherry the way it should be.

Bodegas Faustino Gonzalez

Faustino Gonzalez was founded in 1971, when local doctor Faustino Gonzalez Aparicio bought some very old soleras dating from 1758. He moved them from the Alcázar (castle or palace) to his wife’s bodega, Doña Carmen García-Mier, overlooked by the house where she was born and the ancient church Iglesia San Miguel, situated in the central Jerez square of Cruz Vieja ‘the old cross’. Her grandfather used to house horses in the building.

Jaime of Faustino Gonzalez

The bodega is still in family hands, with day to day operations now managed by Jaime, one of Faustino’s younger sons. They have their own small vineyard in El Carmen de Montealegre, Palomino and Pedro Ximénez vines planted on 7 hectares of excellent albariza soils, classified as Jerez Superior for Fino wines. The grapes are harvested by hand, from which they produce all their own base wines used to feed their soleras.

The bodega is very traditional, using very little modern equipment, and are one of a rare few bodegas to ferment their wines in American oak barrels rather than stainless steel. They claim to be the smallest bodega in Jerez, bottling all their sherries ‘en rama’, with minimal filtration, annually releasing only around 1000 bottles of each wine worldwide. The saca and rocio, running the scales in the bodega, is all done by hand using the traditional tools.

They also employ Manuel Torres, a consulting oenologist, whose 10 years experience of experience at Sanchez Romate helps navigate the legislation covering hygine, traceability and numbering of butts, that is issued by the Consejo.

Drawing Wine from the Butt

After starting out as an Almacenista, supplying Pedro Domeq, in 2014 they launched the Cruz Vieja range of sherries, including a Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado and Pedro Ximénez, none of which have official age classifications, but are all on the mature side.

The Fino comes from a small solera of 62 butts, and varies from between 5 to 7 years old. After spending 5 years under flor in the Fino solera, the the Amontillado is fortified up to 17% and transferred into a 22 butt solera dating from 1926, where it spends at least 7 more years oxidative ageing. The Palo Cortado spends one year biologically ageing under flor, then a further 10 years ageing oxidatively. The Oloroso solera dates from 1900, producing wines that have aged for an average of 10 years. Only the best butts in each solera are selected for bottling.

We were privileged to taste all Jamie’s wines drawn directly from the butt using the traditional Venencia tool. Only notes for the wines tasted from the bottle have been included here, needless to say the Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez are also superb.

Jaime was a gracious host, and we are indebted to him for taking the time to personally show us his wonderful bodega, where he makes sherry the way it be. It’s obvious to see the passion and care with which he nurtures these wines, with fabulous results. Many thanks go to Helen Highley for facilitating our visit, and for making these stunning wines available in UK through her business Sherry Boutique, who have a number of retail stockists.

Helen’s stamp on a cask at the Bodega

Cruz Vieja Fino En Rama

Cruz Vieja Fino En Rama

Relatively deep golden yellow in colour, with a coppery hue. Quite oily in appearance.

Pronounced on the nose, distinct flor and scrub notes, with a herbal character reminiscent of sage and lavender leaf. There’s musty, almond shell, ground almond and cobwebs, with hints of dried lemon zest and salted Marcona almond.

On the palate there’s bitter green almond, green olive, with a saltiness reminiscent of briney olive water or chalky goats cheese. Lots of yeasty flor notes, hay and scrub, with a pithy, waxy lemon rind mouthfeel, and nutty almond flesh richness. Bone dry, with good acidity and lasting finish.

Outstanding. A complex, rich and mature, savoury style of fino. Undoubtedly the barrel fermentation of the base wines is important factor in this. Predictably, when tasted from the cask this wine was even yeastier.

Cruz Vieja Amontillado En Rama

Cruz Vieja Amontillado

Deep, burnished, rusty brownish orange colour.

Immensely complex on the nose, with plenty of Palo Cortado like, dusty engine oil character, balanced by fresher, synthetic grease and pink grapefruit. Floral hints of rose petal turkish delight meld with pistachio and underripe green almond, followed by sweeter notes of crab apple jelly and candied citrus segments. Quite rustic, dried out wood, brush, heather and gorse, with some slightly smoked, walnut shell, oatcake and rancio character.

Dry on the palate, with good acidity and medium body. Quite bitter and pithy, but with a glossy mouthfeel, reminiscent of syruppy tinned orange segments, whilst retaining fresher notes of quince and crab apple, and some saline, briney character.

Intense and complex, yet not too heavy. Outstanding.

Cruz Vieja Palo Cortado En Rama

Cruz Vieja Palo Cortado

Quite dark, brown woody core, with a muddy, reddish hue.

Intense and complex on the nose. Quite smoky, meaty hints of cured bacon and salty Arbroath smokies. Very nutty character, with walnut shell, brazil nut, roasted hazelnuts, and more salty notes of roasted spiced peanuts. There’s wood fire embers, red brick pottery, charred rye bread crust, combined with wood varnish and furniture polish, and some fresher orange citrus zest character.

Very dry and bitter on the palate, with bright acidity. Dried orange peel, clove studded dried orange, star anise, and roasted spices. Quite distinct, astringent, pithy yellow grapefruit juice, with caramelised orange zest and hints of burnt caramel.

Outstanding. Enticing, intriguing and beguiling. Plenty of potential to develop further in bottle.

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