Claiming to be the oldest bodega still active today, Delgado Zuleta’s story begins in the 18th century, passing through family hands and surviving mergers along the way. Widely known for their ubiquitous flagship Manzanilla, named after the famous flamenco dancer Aurora Jauffre ‘La Goya’, Delgado Zuleta have today ventured into more innovative releases. Bottled under cork in a conventional clear glass wine bottle, their Entusiástico Manzanilla encourages people to enjoy as they would any other unfortified wine, and challenges the perception that sherry can’t age. Their sought after Goya XL needs no introduction.
Delgado Zuleta claim to be the oldest bodega still active today, with documents from the company archives showing that in 1719, Fransisco Gil de Ledesma y Sotomayor was purchasing wine for resale in Sanlúcar de Barremeda. A few years later in 1744, Ledesma, a knight and mayor of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, set up his company to supply wines to the American colonies, which by the end of the 18th century had its own vineyards, and had gained a reputation for ageing and selling fine wines.
In the late 19th century, José Maria Delgado Zuleta married with Dolores Nudi y Diaz de la Concha, one of Ledesma’s female descendants, taking over the family business and giving it his name. The company was soon named as suppliers to the royal household, helping business to flourish, and in 1918 the flagship brand ‘La Goya’ was created, named after the famous flamenco dancer Aurora Jauffre ‘La Goya’, which was to become one of the most popular brands of Manzanilla. In May 2004 the Manzanilla ‘La Goya’ was served at the wedding of the Principes de Asturias, Don Felipe and Dona Letizia, who are now King and Queen after the abdication of Don Juan Carlos.
In 1978 the family merged the company with the traditional old bodega of French roots, Benito Rodriguez La-Cave, who now control 40 percent of the shares. The Delgado Zuleta name was kept, and they continue to market some of the old brands, like the Manzanilla Pasada Barbiana. Unlike Delgado Zuleta’s own bodega in the Sanlúcar’s lower zone, the Rodriguez bodega is located in the town’s higher zone, ideal for ageing Manzanilla. Here the flor benefits from the poniente sea breeze, and the cellars are situated on white arcilloso chalk soils, with a subterranean creek running beneath providing perfect natural humidity. These factors combined are fundamental to the character of the wine, an expression of terroir in the language of Manzanilla. While Delgado Zuleta once owned vineyards in the prestigious Pago Miraflores, they now buy in must from growers and cooperatives, in common with many bodegas.
Delgado Zuleta’s bodegas were for many years scattered throughout the lower zone of Sanlúcar, Monte de Piedad, Gitanos, Cuestecilla, Carmen Viejo, Pastora, Luis Equilaz and Trillo. But with urban development making this arrangement impractical, and changing climate requiring additional precautions to protect the flor, in 1998 they consolidated into a modern facility in the upper zone. Located on Avenida Rocio Jurado, on the Chipiona road, the new bodega was designed by Carlos Delgado Hidalgo, with south westerly aspect exposed to the cooling west winds, and good humidity from the albariza soils. Moving the soleras was a delicate business, led by oenologist Manolo Barba, who working with team of five expert coopers checked the many ancient butts to ensure they could withstand the disturbance, repairing using old staves, already ‘known’ to the wines. The youngest criaderas were moved first to adjust to their new environment, so that when the soleras made the journey, they could be fed by wine that had already acclimatised. With centuries bearing the weight of the upper tiers, the butts can become a little distorted, so extreme care had to be taken when arranging them at the new bodega.
The standard Manzanilla La Goya comes from a solera of 10 criaderas and is bottled at 6 to 7 years old. When the bodega moved to its current location, a selection of butts were isolated from the main La Goya solera, but only in 2012 did oenologist Manolo Barba decide they were sufficiently settled that he could make the first saca of Manzanilla Pasada Goya XL, bottled en rama at 10 to 12 years old.
Our visit was hosted by Pelayo Garcia, who joined Delgado Zuleta as Export Director in 1999. Though a moderately substantial bodega, the place was quiet for our visit as most of the usual staff were taking a day off to nurse sore heads following the annual Feria de la Manzanilla. As Pelayo showed us around he chatted about the history and development of the bodega. He pointed out the pumps being used for the rocio and saca of the soleras, and the food grade pipes running between warehouses, for where criaderas are separated between rooms. We also passed by the bottling area and saw the plastic covered glass kegs used for supplying sherry to local Tabancos and Cafes.
Upon arriving at the bodega we waited for Peyalo in a room where numerous artefacts and bottles from the bodega’s history were displayed. My eyes were drawn immediately to the first bottling of Entusiástico Manzanilla, a wine that that was already on my radar through attention to the blogosphere. Delgado Zuleta claim this is the first organic Manzanilla, with both the wine and fortifying alcohol certified organic. Pepe Cabral, a founding member of Mostolé, a group of growers who produce small quantities of organic wine from their own vineyards, produces the mosto that feeds this solera, from his one hectare plot with a steep gradient high up in the Pago Burujena. Peyalo said that the grapes are harvested late, giving the wine a fruit forward character. Entusiástico spends three years ageing under flor in a small solera of butts that previously contained Manzanilla La Goya, before being bottled en rama. Pelayo said that Entusiástico is bottled in a clear glass, standard wine bottle, to challenge the widely held perception of sherry as something different, encouraging people to enjoy it as they would other unfortified wines. He noted that bottling under high quality natural cork also helps make Entusiástico more suitable for laying down, and promotes the idea that sherry has the ability to develop positively in bottle, rather than being needing to be consumed immediately.
Many thanks to Pelayo for hosting our visit, he was a gracious host to whom we are indebted for making time for us when most other staff were enjoying a day off. Delgado Zuleta‘s wines are widely available throughout the UK, though you may have to hunt for the Entusiástico and Goya XL.
Entusiástico Manzanilla Ecológica
Appearance Medium lemon, surprisingly deeply coloured for it’s youthful age.
Nose Straight away there’s yeasty flor notes, sourdough bread starter and cabezuela lees. Slightly sweet pastry hints, reminicient of Crêpes and sweet hay. Quite winey, with prominent grapey and elderberry fruitiness. Very floral and aromatic delicacy, elderflower and lilac, mixed with musty herbal notes.
Palate This reminds me of apple turnovers, with their spiced apple and sweet crispy pastry. There’s prominent fruity grapeiness, elderberry and overripe lemon juice that hints at sweetness, with sweet clove and cinnamon spice in the background. Loads of soured apple juice, notably salty, which along with chamomile and green almond give typical Manzanilla bitterness. Underpinning yeasty, bready, salt dough character. Deceptively full bodied, but the acidity on this one’s pretty low.
Conclusions Excellent. Distinctively winey, while retaining enough Manzanilla typicity. The delicacy is balanced very nicely by fruitiness, making this extremely drinkable, though it’s undoubtedly more pronounced than appearances suggest. Plenty of fruit, but the particularly low acidity makes me question how this will develop.
Manzanilla En Rama La Goya XL
Appearance Medium to deep lemon yellow.
Nose There’s bags of intensity here, musty old bathroom medicine cabinet and sticking plasters, with notes of chamomile, tcp and iodine. Distinctively salty and yeasty, salt dough mixed with marine scrub, sea herbs and slimy seaweed, and is that a whiff of sweaty wet dog I get? Flor in abundance, with yeasty bread dough, cabezuela lees and a slight woodiness.
Palate An extrovert, with a textural, oily and chewy personality, pronounced and intense. Overtly bitter, baked lemon and bitter peppery olive oil, underripe green almond, and a bitterness that brings to mind biting into lemon zest. Bursting with flor character, yeasty spelt bread and sourdough bread starter, with savoury spice hints of black peppercorns, mustard seed and cumin. There’s a soft saltiness reminiscent of salty sour dough bread, salt dough and briny capers, and a hint of woody grip to the texture. Full bodied with fantastic persistence.
Conclusions Outstanding. Bone dry, intensely bitter and yeasty, quite a ferocious beast to tame, that’s the antithesis of the approachable Entusiástico. Fantastic depth, complexity and length, while retaining typical Manzanilla subtlety and freshness. Don’t buy any, it’s all mine.