Established in 1729, this is one of the very oldest firms in Jerez and is still family owned – and very much family run. It was founded by Italian Felipe Antonio Zarzana Spínola who set himself up as an exporter of wines. His first sale for which there is documentation was in 1729 but not much more is known until around 1752 when he became a grower and almacenista, one who supplies wine to other bodegas rather than sell it on the open market. Nowadays the firm has a modern bodega surrounded by its 16 hectares of vines near the Jerez-Sanlúcar road where they moved from a more cramped old XIX century bodega in the Plaza Mendoza in Jerez.
The vineyard and small bodega are located in the Pago Carrascal, one of the area’s finest vineyard areas, and the grapes are grown organically. The firm is idiosyncratic in many ways, one of which is that they only grow and produce Pedro Ximénez (PX), a grape which accounts for less than 5% of Sherry grape production. This grape is nearly always used for sweet wines because it is high in natural sugars which can be further concentrated by drying the grapes in the sun, but at the cost of a loss in liquid volume of some 70%. Yields are therefore tiny and the bodega’s annual production is barely 12,000 bottles. They do make some dry PX, but that is only used for blending with the rest which is sweet.
Unusual also is the fact that no wine is released before it is passed by a committee consisting of family members – the ninth generation is now working in the firm – and the winemaker. Wine pronounced good enough will be bottled with numbered and signed labels, and if it is not good enough it will be distilled and go into the brandy solera, the only one in Jerez containing spirits distilled from PX.
An unusual and very interesting medium dry Sherry which is made from a blend of dry Oloroso style PX in a 1964 solera and sweet PX from a 1918 solera. There are no fixed proportions and the blend is decided upon a year before bottling at a family meeting. The blend is then married for a year in separate butts without any further fortification. So it is...