Hidalgo La Gitana
Hidalgo La Gitana was founded in 1792 by José Pantaleón Hidalgo, who was originally from Santander in the North of Spain. Located in Jerez de la Frontera, it has grown into one of the largest, if not the largest, producers of Manzanilla sherry. Today, Hidalgo La Gitana is one of the last remaining family businesses in the region, managed in the eighth generation. The family owned vineyards are farmed organically.
We welcome these wines back into Australia for the first time in years. Below represents an opportunity to stock up on the iconic, delicious La Gitana Manzanilla, and also the exceedingly rare VOS/VORS bottlings.
Solera system. Photo: Bodega Hidalgo
With over 225 years of experience making top quality wines and brandies, the Hidalgo family is sourcing grapes exclusively from the 100 ha estate owned vineyards to ensure the highest quality. The soil from these vineyards are a compound of different albariza soils, some plots containing more than 90% chalk. On a side note: La Gitana's Manzanilla and Amontillado Pastrana are one of the only single vineyards in the Sherry area.
The winery has two “Cathedral style” facilities, San Luis and San Fermin, located in the lower part of Sanlucar. "Flor", a layer of yeast which grows under the right conditions, has the best living conditions here due to the influence and proximity to the ocean, just around 300m from the sea. San Luis and San Fermin are the only two wineries left in the lower part of Sanlucar and closest to the ocean. The ceiling measures 42 feet in height, which creates an optimal condition for flor. The wines undergo fortification and maturation in a solera system, and are unfiltered and unfined. A small facility in San Roque is used exclusively for the aging of the wines, which have a minimum age of 20 years - the oldest ones being 80 years old. The 8,000 American oak barrels in use have a capacity of 550 liters each. Some of these barrels have been in the winery since the time of its construction.
The famous 'Sherry Triangle' is an area in the province of Cádiz in the south west of Spain, cornered by the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. By law, all Sherries - a type of fortified wine simply speaking - must be made within these boundaries. Fun facts: The tradition of fortifying wine was born out of the necessity to keep it stable and drinkable during and after long voyages: Water was disease-ridden and unreliable, and wine or rum were added for their antiseptic properties. Since casks of wine would spoil after weeks in the hot tropical sun, merchants added brandy to their barrels to “fortify” the wine and protect it. The British began to prefer their wine this way and their merchants set up shops in Jerez de la Frontera, where they began to fortify the local wines for shipping. The word "Sherry" is also an anglicisation of Xeres (Jerez).
For Sherry production only three different grapes are allowed: Palomino (dry Sherries), Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez (sweet Sherries). Special soils and the Mediterranean climate of the Sherry Triangle have proven over the centuries to be ideal for these particular grape varieties. The nearly white Albariza soils (40% chalk) are best suited for Palomino grapes, where the dark brown Barros (mostly clay) and yellowish Arenas (mostly sand) soils are more suitable for the sweeter varieties.
Much like Champagne or Cognac, there are specific rules about sourcing, processing and aging that are defined by law in order to qualify as Sherry. What makes the wines of the Jerez region so very special is the production method, criaderas y solera, that has been passed down for generations. While the production of the still wine base is identical to every other wine, the difference comes with fortification, blending and aging.
In a bodega old barrels of wine are refreshed with slightly younger wine each year, then the oldest blended barrel in the system is bottled. This is called the Solera system, and it creates a wine that is the product of as few as 3 or as many as 100 vintages! In addition to this a unique phenomenon called flor happens in Andalucía’s warm seaside climate. In barrels of new wine each year, a layer of yeast will form on the surface of the wine and transform its flavours. This layer of flor gives the wine a tangy, salty character as it matures.
Range of Sherry styles, from PX to Fino Sherry. Image: http://www.sherry.wine/
One could be possibly confused about the different types and styles of Sherry, yet here a quick overview that should help you 'decoding' the mystery:
Fino: The lightest, driest, most saline style of Sherry, generally made from high-acid Palomino grapes. Aged under flor, these wines contain around 15-16% alcohol and are best served well-chilled. They are meant to be consumed right away.
Manzanilla: This is basically a Fino produced and matured around the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which is closer to the sea than Jerez. This is the only place where it is allowed to be made. The special location give the wine a flinty character.
Manzanilla Pasada: Richer and older type of Manzanilla that has undergone extended aging or has been partially oxidised, giving a richer, nuttier flavour.
Amontillado: Wine is aged under flor first and then exposed to oxygen. Takes on a brown hue, due to extended contact with air inside the solera barrels and shows oxidized notes of nuttiness, sautéed mushrooms and a richness best described as umami. Abv. is around 18-19%.
Oloroso: Never develops flor, solely aged oxidatively for a longer time than a Fino or Amontillado. Can be one of the most alcoholic Sherries. Displays full-bodied, dark and expressive characters similar to a finely aged Bourbon.
Palo Cortado: Initially aged like an Amontillado, yet develops a character closer to an Oloroso. This either happens accidentally when the flor dies or fades off, or commonly the flor is killed by fortification or filtration. A Palo Cortado has aromas similar to Amontillado, but the body associated with Oloroso.
Pedro Ximénez: Made from overly ripe Pedro Ximénez grapes, which are dried in the sun to obtain a must with an exceptionally high concentration of sugar. The aging process is exclusively oxidative, which gives the wine a progressive aromatic concentration and greater complexity. PX represents a smooth, highly-viscous and sweet style, displaying a deep bouquet of raisins and molasses.
“There is nothing more nerve-jangling and uplifting than an ice-cold glass of dry Manzanilla sherry…this style of sherry comes exclusively from the idyllic town of Sanlucar de Barrameda and it’s the perfect wine with all manner of canapés and nibbles." Matthew Jukes
“Hildalgo's La Gitana has long been one of the most reliable and true manzanilla sherries, almost water-white, bone dry, tangy wine from Andalucia that is made to be drunk as though it were a white table wine.” Jancis Robinson
"My pulse quickens at this time of year when La Gitana’s En Rama is shipped over to the UK for its annual, limited-release run. This is the wild, revved up, mesmerising version of the everyday glugger, La Gitana Manzanilla, itself a stunning, bone dry wine. Made from free run juice and using only natural yeasts for fermentation this is one of the most unique and otherworldly wines on the planet. The term ‘En Rama’ means that this Sherry is unfiltered and unfined, so it is effectively like drinking it straight from the barrel. You must track it down at all costs if you love dry Sherry." Matthew Jukes
"A good, balanced palate, soft, dry and smooth with a ample, long finish." 97 points, Guia Proensa (Spain's Leading Wine Guide)
"I've given this a rare 20/20, a score gained by only two or three wines each year. It's the best affordable dry sherry in the world." Matthew Jukes
“The golden-colored NV Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana is a Manzanilla produced from Palomino grapes from the Pastrana vineyard within the pago Miraflores, aged under flor, but finishing its upbringing in a semi-oxidative way as the flor weakens, starts to die off, and bottled with a total average of 12 years of age. It has a distinct nose redolent of peanuts, smoke, bitter almonds, quince and olives, combining biological and oxidative notes. The palate shows a medium-to full-bodied wine, very powerful and strongly-flavored, ending with a smoky finish. A fine nose and a powerful palate. A unique wine. 24,000 bottles are produced yearly. Drink 2013-2015.” 92 Points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate
Gold Medal - International Wine Challenge 2017
“This rich, dark, deliciously sweet PX comes from a seventh generation of sherry makers in Jerez, where grapes are sun-dried on straw mats before being fermented, fortified and then aged. A good alternative to port at the end of a meal." John Clarke, The Independent
Gold Medal - International Wine Challenge 2017
“The NV Amontillado Napoleon VORS is Palomino Fino aged for over 30 years in a solera system, but it’s believed to be closer to 40 years of age. Intense amber-colored, it has a subtle, elegant nose pointing at its Manzanilla origin, with hints of beeswax, marmalade and hazelnuts, lifted by a touch of varnish. The medium-bodied palate shows great intensity and delineation, great balance and complexity, long and elegant. 1,000 half-litre bottles are filled each year. Drink 2013-2020.” 94 Points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate
Grapes are sourced exclusively from vineyards in Balbaina and Miraflores, and only the free run juice is used for Oloroso Faraon. It’s a dry oloroso - deep, rich and complex with a really intense flavour of grilled nuts but an astonishingly fresh acidity. A well-balanced and insatiably moreish style of Sherry that manages to walk a fine line between sweetness and richness. Hidalgo's tradmark minerality underscores notes of dried fig, walnut and caramel.
“A clean, racy style, with almond and hazelnut husk notes backed by toasted corn, walnut and singed sandalwood accents. A touch of dried persimmon echoes on the very dry finish.” James Molesworth, Wine Spectator
“The NV Palo Cortado Wellington VORS is produced from Palomino grapes from the Balbaina and Miraflores vineyards, both in the municipality of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where the winery is also located. The wine has a deep amber color, a profound, clean, subtle nose of candied oranges, ginger, hazelnuts, cigar ash and smoke. The complex palate is very gentle, sharp but not aggressive, with clean flavors, great persistence and a dry finish where the orange rind comes back with a touch of beeswax. An exceptional Palo Cortado. 19% alcohol. 1,000 half-litre bottles are filled each year. Drink 2013-2020.” 95 Points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate
“I was really surprised by the unexpected sharpness of an new wine from Hidalgo-La Gitana, the NV Amontillado Pastrana. It is a new, single-vineyard Amontillado from a plot within Miraflores in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. As with the Manzanilla Pasada from the same vineyard, this is a collaboration between Javier Hidalgo and Cristiano van Zeller from the Douro. This Amontillado is a wine averaging 30 years of age with a light mahogany color, quite bright and clear. The nose combines iron rust with pungent, marine, sea breeze aromas. The palate is pure salt and iodine, a piece of sea in a bottle that is a little extreme and sharp, pungent and penetrating. It's a wine that started its life as a Manzanilla, so it was a sharp wine to start with and was sharpened further by its aging in a winery some 400 meters from the sea. An extreme Amontillado that dries your mouth. Cuts like a knife!” 96 Points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate
A vintage sherry from 12 old barrels filled in 1986 from the El Cuadrado vineyard. The wine matured for 20 years in the San Francisco bodega and 2,800 bottles were filled in 2007.
An epic sherry; smells mature, nutty and oily. A full, elegant palate shows the right weight and acidic cut, while salty flavors of peanut and caramel finish long and nutty. It has the elegance of Sanlúcar with classy intensity and concentration. Some black treacle, cloves and wood spices. Delicious!
Photo: Bodega Hidalgo