Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The history of Valdespino, at least as participants in the wine business in Jerez, goes back to the 1430. It's a lineage that goes back a good bit further than that of any other bodega in sherry country. Valdespino's history as a sherry producing bodega, however, can be traced back to 1875. Since 1999, Valdespino has been owned by Grupo Estevez, a large company with other interests in Jerez (primarily Real Tesoro) as well as a business breeding Andalusian horses. With over 25,000 barrels, a few large bodegas to age their various sherries, and a huge bottling facility, Grupo Estevez is a medium large producer by Jerez standards (which makes them very large by any other measure). That having been said, Valdespino is still amongst the best houses in sherry, definitely the crown jewel among the products in the Grupo Estevez portfolio. If you follow Equipo Navazos' bottlings, you will recognize Valdespino from their fino, amontillado and palo cortado editions.
A few factors help to define Valdespino's sherries and make them amongst the best around:
1.) Valdespino owns a 56 hectare vineyard in Marcharnudo Alto, regarded as the best district for growing palomino grapes in Jerez.
2.) All estate fruit is used, fermentation occurs on-site next to the bodegas where soleras are held (both of these situations are rare in Jerez; even the boutique bodegas generally buy wine from growers)
3.) Fermentation occurs in old wood 600 liter botas - everywhere else fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. I'd be curious to see exactly how this affects the flavor profile, but until the winery does an experimental solera of fino inocente from inox fermented wine (which to my knowledge they have no plans to do) I guess I will never know.
4.) LONG AGEING. Even their fino (Inocente) has ten criaderas, whereas most commercial finos only employ four. Fino Inocente is an older, richer, but yet still mineral and very fresh fino. This of course forms the base of their amontillados and palo cortados, also tops.
Though I was familiar with the Fino Inocente (my favorite fino) as well as the solera 1842 (a lightly sweetened VOS oloroso with terrific, rancio, walnut character), I had yet to try Tio Diego Amontillado, which I tasted at the winery. For an amontillado, it is still very fresh, not too heavily marked by wood, and very reminiscent of the Inocente. In fact, you might even refer to it as a fino amontillado given the lighter color and strong fino character of the wine. It averages 14 years old, 7-8 years of which it spends as a fino, so the "fino amontillado" description seems to make sense.
Unfortunately, there was no time to linger over palo cortado and dry oloroso this time. Maybe on another visit....
Next up: Gonzalez Byass is pronounced "BEE-yahs" and makes more than Tío Pepe.