González Palacios Lebrija Old Oloroso
More Sherry exploration this weekend. Well, Sherry with a twist if truth be told, as we shall see. The bodegas in question, González Palacios, is located in Lebrija which lies just 30 kilometres from the Spanish coast, very near the Rio Guadalquivir. This particular river does not top the international league table of famous 'wine rivers', ranking some way below the likes of the Rhône, the Loire, the Mosel and the Rhine, but it will surely be familiar to some, Sherry fans especially; it is this river that flows into the Atlantic at Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This city is the origin of Manzanilla of course, and Jerez - the heart of the Sherry-producing region - is nearby. Indeed, for many years the Palomino grapes grown around Lebrija have been eligible for inclusion in both Manzanilla and Sherry.
This of course means that you or I may have tasted or drank wine from this region without realising it; once transported down to Jerez or Sanlúcar de Barrameda the grapes assumed the identity of Manzanilla or Sherry. The grapes could be kept in Lebrija, vinified and the resulting wine aged here, but then the wine couldn't be sold under the name of one of these two famous names; here at Bodegas González Palacios, which was established by Francisco González Palacios in 1960, this disparity naturally didn't go down well. After years of campaigning, their words supported by the quality of their wines, a new Denominacíón de Origen called Vino de Calidad de Lebrija was created. González Palacios have made the most of this new opportunity, releasing several wines under this new DO. So, although this wine is very much in the Sherry tradition, to be precise we should think of it as Lebrija.
The wine featured here is an Old Oloroso; remarkably the wine is not produced using a solera system, in which the wine travels through a vertical stack of butts before being bottled, the system topped up with the latest vintage, added to the uppermost barrel. Instead, this is an añada wine - the butt is filled with wine, and simply left until it is ready for bottling. Once the stock of bottles is running low, the next oldest barrel is bottled. With demand for aged Sherry (or indeed any type of Sherry) having been in decline in recent years, the age of the barrels at bottling has tended towards older rather than younger. Remarkably, the wine featured here has been stored in barrel for thirty years before it found its way into bottle.
The wine comes in convenient 375ml bottles, sealed under screwcap. Once in the glass it is impossible to ignore the wine's appearance; the González Palacios Lebrija Old Oloroso has a superb hue, with a rich and shimmering orange- bronze core surrounded by a toasty-golden rim with the faintest tinge of green to it (so it's not just old Madeira that greens a little with age then). The aromatics are no less remarkable than the wine's appearance, showing scents of baked earth, caramelised apples, concentrated raisin-like savouriness and hints of toasted almonds. Despite this little note of raisin the palate is gloriously dry, showing beautiful energy and fine savoury depth, being quite cool and broad with a very finely composed structure. Wrapped around all this energy and vivacity is a finely aged, vinous texture, which feels evolved, cerebral and totally at peace with itself. And yet the wine has a fabulous grip to it, and a fresh and lively finish. This is excellent wine, at a bargain price. Alcohol 18%. 17.5/20 (23/9/13)
Disclosure: the wine featured was a sample from Hyde Park Wines, and I also tasted the M. Fina Flor de Lebrija, which was also of high quality. I have included wine-searcher links below, which will be useful for readers in Europe, especially Spain and Belgium where there are certainly stockists. As for the UK, however, as far as I am aware these wines are only available from Hyde Park Wines.