Manzanilla in Winter: Barbadillo Manzanilla en Rama de Invierno

Posted by Joe Salamone

Sanlúcar in Winter
Barbadillo Manzanilla en Rama
Saca de Invierno
Rare, Utterly Compelling Manzanilla - Winter Edition

Barbadillo's seasonal unfiltered Manzanilla bottlings take wine geekery to a new level. One based on the seasonal changes in the bodegas.

The results are compelling and gorgeous.

We were the first people to bring Barbadillo's En Rama to the U.S. last summer. Today, the bottle remains rarely seen outside of Sherry country.

I had tasted Barbadillo's there in the fall of 2010 and spent the next six months trying to get it into the U.S. Honestly, it was a ridiculous amount of work, but it was worth it.

Barbadillo's seasonal Manzanilla en Rama bottlings are easily some of the most compelling Manzanillas that I've ever tasted. In the end, it was just too good, too fascinating, not to have at least a few bottles for the U.S.

We quickly sold through our first allocation of Barbadillo's En Rama Saca de Verano (their summer bottling) and the demand for this debut offer spilled over to claim all but a few cases of the fall bottling.

We're happy to finally have enough wine to do an offering on their winter bottling. The explanation for our previous offer of Barbadillo En Rama's success is simple - it is yet one more illustration of the complexity that Sherry is capable of - yet one more illustration of the ABSURD value Sherry remains.

Sherry is complicated and unfamiliar, so to capture what makes Barbadillo's seasonal En Ramas so special we should get some basics out of the way. Manzanillas are fino Sherries made close to the ocean, in Sanlúcar. These are the most delicate, feather-weight dry Sherries out there. The ocean atmosphere adds a bracing, sea-breeze imbued note to the citrus-almond core.

The seasonal changes in temperature encourage either the growth or the decline of the flor, the yeast that live on top of Manzanilla. The flor thrives in the late spring and fall and then declines in the peak of summer and winter. The growth and decline of the flor has a big influence over the wines. Broadly speaking, at the peak of flor-growth, the wines are a little more delicate and have a certain lees-y richness; during the decline the wines pick up more oxidative power.

Now, with large stocks you can blend enough wine together to obscure these seasonal changes and create a consistent product and house style; this is what all the Sherry houses do.

However, for their seasonal En Rama series, Barbadillo specifically wants to highlight the changes in seasonality, and since every year's weather is different they seek to represent that particular season. This is the wine at a snapshot in time, a small ode to the dynamism and complexity of the solera system.

It's the power that comes from the flor in decline that Barbadillo Manzanilla en Rama de Invierno captures. This being Manzanilla, everything is still salt-tinged and delicate, but there's a muscle and depth of flavor that separates it from the spring or fall bottlings.

The En Rama series is sourced from a special Manzanilla Pasada solera that boasts 8 years of average age, which is old for Manzanilla. The best barrels of the younger solera that goes into their Solear are selected and drawn from to undergo further aging.

Finally, the final factor at play is that in an effort to capture the seasonal changes with the most clarity possible, this Manzanilla is only very lightly filtered. This is quite unusual, most Sherries are aggressively filtered. The trend of aggressive filtration of Sherries started in the 1970s, and while there are very good filtered Sherries, something is definitely lost.

Lately, the pendulum is slowly swinging back toward "less is more" and many Sherry houses are releasing small amounts of lightly filtered (en Rama) Sherries. When you taste filtered and unfiltered Sherries side-by-side, you notice that there's a texture, an energy and a complexity to unfiltered sherries that the filtered versions just can't match.

Barbadillo was one of the early proponents of En Rama bottlings, starting their series back in 1999. I'm not sure if they were the first to do an En Rama, but they were definitely well ahead of the curve.

That's pretty much it. This remains one of the coolest projects that I've come across. I haven't had the opportunity to try older bottles, but Peter Liem, likely the most knowledgeable Sherry person in the U.S. says they really benefit from a couple of years in bottles. In Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla, he writes, "it ages remarkably well - in fact, it often takes two or three years to reveal its full depth and range of aroma."

We're offering 6-packs for that reason. The only catch is that Barbadillo en Ramas are often produced in tiny quantities - around 1,000 half-bottles per season.

Please give us your ideal order and we'll try our best.

To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

Barbadillo Manzanilla en Rama Saca de Invierno