Utterly Compelling Manzanilla - First Time in U.S: Barbadillo Manzanilla En Rama Saca de Verano

Posted by Joe Salamone

Rarely Seen Outside
of Sherry Country
Barbadillo Manzanilla En Rama
Saca de Verano
Utterly Compelling Manzanilla - First Time in U.S.

This may be the geekiest email we've ever penned: An ode to an unfiltered Manzanilla, the most defining characteristic of which is the season it was bottled.

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 adding a bracing, sea-breeze imbued note to the citrus-almond core.

Today's time-specific bottling, a rarity that almost never makes it out of Spain (a trickle may find its way to Germany) is easily one of the most compelling Manzanillas that I've ever tasted.

It fact, Barbadillo's En Ramas have been so impressive that I've really spent way too much time trying to lockdown one of the seasonal bottlings.

View of Sanlúcar from Bodegas Barbadillo

It hasn't been easy. Barbadillo only makes around ninety cases of these seasonal half-bottles per season - they always sell out well ahead of release.

It was worth the trouble - this is just too fascinating a wine, too fascinating a tradition to not have at least a few bottles for the U.S.

If nothing else, this is yet one more illustration of the complexity that Sherry is capable of - yet one more illustration of the ABSURD value Sherry remains.

One half-bottle will run you $15.95. For the quality, this is crazy.

Our small allocation just arrived yesterday and I immediately brought a bottle home. My expectations were high and, even so, I have to say the bottle rocked.

Despite the delicacy, the mid-palate feels almost rich with almonds, citrus, and saline minerality. Yet, for all the intensity, there is a rapier-like cut, a gracefulness, and a long and precisely detailed finish..

For those interested, here's where we have to digress into some SERIOUS geekiness to capture what makes Barbadillo's En Rama so special.

There are two things at play here: First, this bottling focuses on the wine at a very specific moment in time. It's essentially a snapshot of the life of the finest barrels of Manzanilla just as summer gets under full swing.

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 also jut a really, really cool tradition.

For the Verano (summer) bottling, Barbadillo followed the normal process of selecting the ten best barrels from their extensive Solear solera. The summer bottling took place during the last week of June. I'm told that the spring was cool and the flor didn't start to grow in earnest until the beginning May.

The conditions seem to be perfect for producing a wine that combines richness and delicacy with power. At least, it sure tastes that way.

Finally, the second factor at play is that in an effort to capture the seasonal changes with the most clarity possible, this Manzanilla is unfiltered. 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 unfiltered 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 has been producing their seasonal En Rama bottlings for the past twelve years. I'm not sure if they were the first to do an En Rama, but they were definitely well ahead of the curve. In any event, this is certainly one of the cooler projects, one of the most fascinating and utterly compelling Manzanillas, currently coming out of Sherry.

If you've managed to read this first, well... we should just say we were only allocated a small parcel and we have a big list of wine geeks (!) - so we expect a fairly quick sell-out. Please give use your maximum order and we'll do our best.

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

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits