Just What is Sherry Capable Of?
La Bota Manzanilla #22, Fino Amontillado #24
One of the Most Intriguing, Dynamic, Compelling Projects in the World of Wine
"There is no gastronomic justification for the price of Montrachet being five times that of the most brilliant fino."
- Hugh Johnson
Like many top wine writers, Hugh Johnson isn't shy about putting Sherry on the same level as the greatest Grand Crus.
Indeed, Sherry can be startlingly, life-alteringly good. It can possess the finesse, detail and complexity that only wines of the finest breeding can rival.
If we had to name one Sherry producer that highlights just what this undervalued - and, at times, seemingly forgotten - wine is capable of, it would have to be Equipo Navazos and their limited-release La Bota Sherries. Equipo Navazos is one of the most intriguing, dynamic and compelling projects in the world of wine.
Stick with us here - this is going to be a long email (even by our standards), but it will be worth it.
The heart and soul of Equipo Navazos is this selection process. The selection is not of the best and oldest soleras, but of the best butts within the soleras (see glossary at right).
This is extremely important in the context of the region, where the solera system is typically meant to promote standardization. At Equipo Navazos, they seek out what's compellingly singular within an already-choice solera.
Call it the best of the best. The process certainly shows in the wines, which possess a spellbinding intensity, elegance and texture.
The history of Equipo Navazos is fascinating (click here), but before going any further it's worth mentioning that the project wasn't originally intended to make money or be commercialized. It instead came out of two sherry experts' desire to get their hands on some extraordinary Amontillado.
If you haven't heard of Equipo Navazos, we're not surprised. Their releases are extremely limited - some as little as 17 cases. In the U.S., allocations are often in six-bottle quantities. I've been keeping my eyes open to secure enough wine to offer out, and after two years of waiting, I'm very happy to offer two of the project's recent releases: Manzanilla #22 and Fino Amontillado #24.
The Manzanilla #22 is sourced from two vineyards, Las Cañas and Viña Soledad, and aged at Bodegas Sanchez Ayala (the place where they stumbled upon the Amontillado that started it all). When we talk about terroir in Sherry, there are two things to discuss: the vineyards and the bodega. Here we have Sanlúcar's chalk soils that are close to the cooling mists of the ocean and a bodega that provides very good conditions for the development of flor.
This combination of vineyard and bodega produce a fascinatingly finessed wine. Expect Manzanilla's typical delicacy married to La Bota's hallmark intensity. Jancis Robinson writes, "This is the company's Montrachet." (See below for Jancis Robinson's full tasting note.)
La Bota #24 is technically a Fino, though a very old one. It's from a solera in Montilla, at the region's standard-bearer Bodegas Pérez Barquero, and it's estimated to be over 20 years old. As flor begins to die (this happens after a number of years), Fino begins to become its oxidative brother: Amontillado.
In this liminal state, the wine retains some of the freshness of Fino and also develops the rich nuttiness and depth of an Amontillado. Montilla is planted with Pedro Ximenez (whereas the Palomino grape is planted in Jerez and Sanlúcar, but it shares the familiar chalky soils), and compared to Palomino, PX also brings with it more richness and dried fruit flavors.
While you have to wait decades for your Grand Crus and 96 Champagnes to drink at their best, these Sherries are gorgeous now. They also keep up their character for days after opening... and often improve.
On the other side of the coin, while popular convention says that Sherry - particularly Finos and Manzanillas - need to be drunk somewhat soon after bottling, La Bota seems somewhat exempt from this. As Equipo Navazos notes on their website, the bottles improve and intensify with short-term aging - two to three years should be no problem. I just cracked the Fino#15, bottled in June of 08, and it's currently lovely.
Both wines deserve to be a part of one's wine collection, offering up a level of nuance, intensity and fineness that's hard to deny... and very hard to find at this price. Though they're not cheap, as a customer said to me a couple years ago, "You're getting the DRC of Sherry for the price." On our part, we're working very leanly to keep the prices down and make the wines as accessible as possible.
To order, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at (212) 980-9463. Give us your maximum order, and we'll do our best.
Please note, as it's a beautiful Saturday, we might not be able to confirm your order until Monday. Have a great weekend!
Crush Wine & Spirits
La Bota de Manzanilla #22
No compare-at pricing available
"Jancis Robinson: "This is the company's Montrachet. Very complex nose and extremely vibrant, not to say vibrating quality on the palate. Very good value."
La Bota de Fino Amontillado Montilla #24
No compare-at pricing available
Jancis Robinson: "From Perez Barquero and an estimated 20 years old if my interpretation of the Spanish back label is correct. Pale copper. Full, heady nose. Already seems heavier than the Manzanillas I have just been tasting. Very full and broad yet absolutely bone dry and very tangy (especially for a Montilla). A great showcase for how fine the dry wines of this under-appreciated region can be. The merest hint of rancio and really fascinating."
Wine arrives May 2011
NET | No further discount