Brothers Pepe and Paco Blanco are firm believers that vineyard and vine are the heart of good wines, and this trio of unfortified Palomino Fino wines, the grapes for each from a different single albariza vineyard, follow the same vinification and ageing practices, fabulously illustrating how the different terroir of each vineyard influences each wine.
In the beginning, Francisco Blanco Martínez, nicknamed ‘El Blanquito’, had followed in his fathers footsteps, working the sherry vineyards for 20 years, before setting up up as an almacenista in 1980. Based in the Barrio Alto district of Sanlúcar, Francisco expanded the firm over the following decade, buying over 28 hectares of vineyard distributed throughout Jerez and El Puerto, with some of the best parcels in El Hornillo, Macharnudo, Añina (Jerez), Las Mercedes, La Callejuela (Sanlúcar) and La Casilla. Now accompanied by his sons Pepe and Paco Blanco, in 1997 Francisco moved the business east of Sanlúcar to the Pago El Hornillo, where they established the Callejuela brand in 1998. With help from the the talented young enologist Ramiro Ibañez, they built two bodegas housing 700 butts, along with pressing, ageing and bottling facilities, empowering them to do everything from vineyard to bottling.
Their vineyards have albariza soils, with only Palomino vines until 2015, when they planted some Pedro Ximénez, in order that their wines can all be produced with grapes from their own vineyards, and they’re also experimenting with some almost extinct vine varieties. The brothers’ are firm believers that vineyard and vine are the heart of good wines, producing many of their wines from single vineyards.
Their latest project is three unfortified Palomino Fino wines, the grapes for each from a different single albariza vineyard, then following the same vinification and ageing practices, aiming to illustrate how the different terroir of each vineyard influences the wine. The grapes are picked by hand, then the wines are fermented and aged under flor for 7 months, in old Manzanilla butts, before bottling under a thousand bottles from each vineyard in this inaugural 2016 vintage. The 4.4 hectare La Choza vineyard is in the Pago Macharnudo, the furthest inland at 74 metres above sea level, it has the warmest climate of the three vineyards. Las Mercedes covers 8.5 hectares in the Pago Añina, closer to Jerez than Sanlúcar, at 83 metres altitude. Finally, the 16 hectare Hacienda Doña Francisca vineyard is 62 metres altitude in the Pago Callejuela.
Hacienda Doña Francisca The funkiest of the trio, a touch reductive with cabbagey notes, balanced by lovely fresh stone fruit, pear and pithy lemon juice. There’s an earthy, shiitake and oyster mushroom umami quality giving depth of flavour, with sea salt minerality, white peppercorn and hints of Japanese kombu seaweed.
Las Mercedes Musty lemon, yeasty sponge cake dough, and a fruity richness reminiscent of banana bread, along with the fibrous stringy bits from a banana. Tangy and salty, orange and lime zest bitterness, with celery seed, fennel, and an earthy umami note.
La Choza Fantastically glossy mouthfeel, with slightly off dry barley sugar sweetness, and an almost candyfloss like richness. Tinned peach syrup and plum fruitiness are offset by a salty minerality and bitterness, giving a sweet and sour quality. Some cereal notes of hay and fresh straw too, along with soured and candied lemon segments.
Conclusions A trio of wines fabulously illustrating how the different terroir of each vineyard influences each wine. Each wine is very distinctive and charming in its own way, and it will be interesting to see how this project develops. Despite having been aged under flor, this character for me wasn’t at all prominent.
Many thanks go to Helen Highley for making these fabulous wines available in UK through her business Sherry Boutique, who have a number of retail stockists.