Alexander Jules Manzanilla 5/41
May 2015 Bottling, 1000 Bottles Produced, Available in USA and Spain.
A selection within the microclimates of the Maruja solera, housed in Juan Piñero's La Playilla de la Red bodega. Eight to nine years average age, from the famed Sanlucar Pago (vineyard) del Hornillo. Creamy, mineral, almond and pistachio and, I think, quite delineated and complex.
This Manzanilla is selected from 5 of the 41 barrels that make up the top row of the Maruja solera. The solera is organized in 4 rows of 41 to 44 barrels, one stacked upon another. The lower rows, being closer to the albero floor (a type of sand, frequently watered and used to maintain humidity in bodegas), are exposed to higher humidity and lower temperatures, the higher rows receiving lower humidity and (somewhat) higher temperatures.
These differing conditions result in the flor yeast being more vibrant and abundant in the lower rows, and thinner and less impactful in the higher rows.
As an aside, this solera, being stacked in four rows, is an example counter to the extremely common misconception that solera barrels are always on the bottom row.
This selection from the top row, having a less prominent veil of flor during its final stage of evolution, allows the underlying wine, transformed from so many years under flor as it passed through the scales of the solera, to show through a bit more clearly: In my mind this allows a clearer picture of minerality in this wine and, I have a feeling, encourages its precision and delineation of aromatics. This wine, less a focus on flor, contrasts its sister bottling, my Fino 4/65--both from May 2015--which in a sense is a selection of yeasts.
A great pairing with, classically, anything salty and fried, shellfish, charcuterie—I think even more fun with Chicken Soup, South East Asian, Sushi and Japanese, Ceviche, and a myriad of bright, acidic dishes.
The Maruja solera was started relatively recently for the area, in 1980. It was refreshed with wine from the Viña El Cuadrado part of Pago Balbaina until 2005, and ever since from the 25 year old vines in the albariza Tosca Cerrada soils of Pago del Hornillo, located very close to the Guadalquivir river in Sanlúcar.
The Playilla de la Red bodega was built in 1910, a scaled down replica of Bodega de la Arboledilla, considered one of the most impressive bodegas, now owned by Barbadillo.
For bottling, I added no sulfites to the wine, as sulfites bond with acetaldehyde (“deactivating” it perceptually), and could have impacted the wine's character (less so than the Fino 4/65, which has about 4 times the acetaldehyde content!). This being the case—though at 8 to 9 years average age, it is quite a stable wine—I chose a moderate .65 micron filtration, to give it a little extra protection for its journey from barrel to your glass. It was not fined or cold stabilized. I think reasonable to call this “en rama”--a term which lacks a concrete definition.
Alcohol: 15% by vol.
TA: 3.6 g/L
Acetyldehide: 90 mg/L