A sample bottle of a previously untasted Manzanilla found its way onto our tasting table (Ok, desk) recently (via the fridge of course). We are both mad about Sherry in all its beguiling forms, but in its crispest, most appetite-awakening incarnation, Manzanilla, it is just about the best aperitif in the world. Frankly, it's something of a mystery why more people don't "get" just how brilliant a drink this is. With a handful of olives or some toasted almonds (Er, both please actually) this stuff is our idea of heaven on earth.
We currently list 2 different Manzanilla, both from Bodegas Argueso; the Las Medallas which is their mainstay, and San Leon which is a Manzanilla Pasada (Pasada is aged for longer - about 7 years as opposed to 5 - to develop a fuller flavour). What landed on our desk was Manzanilla La Sanluquena from Bodegas Teresa Rivero. It has a wonderfully old-fashioned pre-Raphaelite style label, presumably depicting “La Sanluquena” herself, though no classic beauty she seems to fall into that category of Spanish lady who always gets more attractive as the evening progresses…
We have tasted Manzanilla in its homeland, and we have tasted it here and we’re not sure why there always seems to be a bit of a difference. In Spain
- specifically in Andalucia - it is fresher and more delicious somehow. Maybe it's the surroundings (and a particular memory of the Bar Zapata in Cadiz comes to mind) perhaps it's the travelling that it doesn't like, or more likely it's the fact that Manzanilla for the UK market is kept at 15.0% abv so that it attracts the regular Excise Duty rate rather than the higher fortified rate which the traditional Spanish level of 15.5% abv would attract. Either way finding Manzanilla in the UK
that comes close to that tasted in Spain
always seems to be a bit of a challenge.
To date, the closest we've got is with the Manzanilla En Rama bottled unfiltered for the Ferria de Sanlucar (in May) by Bodegas Argueso. The trouble with this is that it's only available for a short while, only then in limited quantities, has a short shelf-life, and costs plenty.
What a revelation it was therefore to open this chilled sample of La Sanluquena (and compare it with the San Leon from Argueso of course). Whilst the San Leon was delicious, fresh and tangy the La Sanluquena was equally so, still with the same level of yeasty freshness but with somehow more depth and length. The best news though is that it’s cheaper than the San Leon too. In fact, La Sanluquena is only slightly more expensive than Las Medallas which is even better news!
If you know what we’re on about when we rave about Sherry then we understand each other, and we know you’ll be in to snaffle some before it all goes.
However, if you have read this blog and still don’t know what all the fuss is about, do yourself a favour and chuck £6.25 at a half bottle and stick it in the fridge for a day.
When you get home, prepare some posh nibbles (olives, nuts, stuff with proscuitto on, you know what we mean) and serve yourself a chilled glass of Manzanilla La Sanluquena