Ignacio Hildago of Bodegas La Cigarrera
“I belong to the ninth generation,” said Ignacio Hildago, of Bodegas La Cigarrera–the oldest winery in Sanlucar to remain in its original location. Operating since 1758, La Cigarrera ideally resides in the barrio bajo, the lower part of the Sanlucar plateau, which has long been considered the preferable portion since bodegas began clustering in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries. With such close proximity to two bodies of water–the Atlantic to the west and the Guadalquivir River to the north–Sanlucar bears the effects of the poniente, a wet wind that blows in directly from the ocean, cooling the area while increasing its humidity. Creating two different microclimates–the barrio bajo and the barrio alto–this convergence results in two different micro-climates. And while the conditions in the barrio alto might yield lighter sherries, the positioning of La Cigarrera yields sherries with greater complexity.
A fifth generation descendant of his bodegas’ founder, César Florido is one of the world’s few remaining Almacenistas who happens to reside oceanside in Chipiona, a village that was once considered outside of the ‘official’ Sherry triangle. And though Bodegas César Florido is located directly on the Atlantic, and therefore within the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, it is not within the zona de crianza or “zone of maturation”, which was established by the Consejo Regulador. Limited to Manzanilla de Sanlucar, Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa Maria, the wines of the zona de crianza bear the official stamp of “Sherry-Jerez-Xeres Manzanilla” on their back labels, a privilege that is extended to César’s three Moscatel wines but not to his Fino, Cruz del Mar Oloroso and Peña del Aguila Palo Cortado.
A Criadera of Fino Barrels at El Maestro Sierra
While there are many things that make El Maestro Sierra a most exceptional bodega in Jerez, none resonates more than the fact that they have been playing by their own rules and adhering to tradition in a region where the identities of small bodegas have been disavowed for years. Founded in 1832 by master carpenter Jose Antonio Sierra, El Maesto might be only 200 years old, but its comes with a story that exceeds the time limits. Currently maintained by Pilar Pla Pechovierto, who’s husband Antonio Borrego (a direct descendent of the Sierra family), passed away in 1976, El Maestro is the only bodega that’s female owned and operated. In Jerez, where the Bodegas are traditionally run by men, Doña Pilar became an anomaly, as did Ana Cabestrero, who left her family’s operation in Ribera del Duero to join the ranks of the cellar masters or Capataces in Jerez.
Ana Cabestrero of El Maestro Sierra
After Sherry sales peaked in the 1940′s, it took 20-30 years for a corporate climate to follow. In the 1960′s & 70′s, small family owned bodegas were no longer producing and bottling their own wines, but were now being modernized with machinery and consolidated as they started producing wines for the good of the greater empire, a practice that wiped out a multitude of multi-generational practices and soleras.
And so, it was no surprise to see that there were only 20 bodegas present at Monday’s Grand Tasting at the Ace Hotel. A spectacular event in Liberty Hall, it was most humbling to taste the wines of El Maestro Sierra, Gutiérrez Colosía, César Florido, La Cigarrera and Grant, in the company of other small and big house Sherry producers. And while a fondness for wine is typically determined by what’s in the glass, it’s often context that best illustrates the true brilliance of one’s sensorial experience.
Our favorite Almacenistas:
Ana Cabestrero of El Maestro Sierra, Ignacio Hidalgo of La Cigarrera, Carmen Pou of Gutiérrez Colosia, César Florido of César Florido, Carlota & Carmen Gutiérrez
Sherryfest got off to a kickstart on Monday, with Sherryfest at The Ace Hotel in the afternoon (more on this tomorrow), followed by TEW’s Sherry fête at Blue Ribbon Izakaya on Monday night. All the stars were shining; the Sherry flowing and the contents of our glasses absolutely divine! Viva la Sherry Revolution! Cheers!
We are excited by all the talk about Sherry in the air, like yeast in the Bodega, including the #SherryRevolution started on Twitter by André Tamers of De Maison Selections, and Eric Asimov’s most recent publications for the NY Times. To quench the dialogue’s thirst, we hosted a Sherry tasting in Studio TEW last week, during the Spain vs. Portugal game, which was well attended by a number of friends and buyers. And this morning, I followed up with André, who has been importing and representing Sherry for the past eight years, to see what he had to add to the conversation.