A bodega by the sea: a visit to Gutierrez Colosia
Standing on the banks of the Guadalete in El Puerto de Santa Maria, Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia is about as close to the sea as it’s possible to be without getting your feet wet. The breezes blow straight in off the water, creating perfect conditions for maturing sherry. There’s no need to water the albero sand on the floor to maintain humidity levels, and the flor absolutely thrives. That very morning the obligatory glass-ended barrel, showing the flor in situ, had been refilled. Less than four hours later the flor was already re-colonising – that’s how much the flor likes this bodega!
This was a special and somewhat spontaneous visit. We were running out of time in our two week itinerary and were having to make hard decisions about which bodegas to squeeze in to our last couple of days. Gutierrez Colosia was on our shortlist, but we hadn’t tasted their sherries before so didn’t realise that this was an essential visit for a sherry lover. Through the magic of Twitter, we had been chatting with Annie Manson from Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen – a stellar cookery school in Vejer which the Daily Telegraph rates as one of the top five Spanish food and wine holidays and the Times featured as one of the top 50 Spanish holidays for 2014. Annie is a certified Sherry Educator so she knows her stuff; when she invited us to join her and some of her students on a visit to Gutierrez Colosia, our itinerary was sorted. Boy, are we glad we accepted that invitation!
The bodega is a genuine family concern. Juan Carlos Gutierrez, the great grandson of the founder is at the helm, running the bodega along with his wife Carmen and daughters Carmen and Carlota. Carmen (mum) showed us around the bodega, and Carmen (daughter) chatted with us during our tasting. It became clear that sherry flows through their veins – it’s a passion, not only a business.
The tasting was pretty extensive, including six sherries from the bodega’s main ‘Colosia’ range, and two from the very old Solera Familiar range – sherries in this range are over 50 years old and some of the finest sherries around. I’ll talk you through the highlights in a minute…
Tasting the birth of a Fino
Probably the most interesting experience of our whole trip in 2013 was here at Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia. The two Carmens quickly realised that we were sherry anoraks and wanted to soak up as much information as possible. After we’d tasted the Fino, some plain bottles appeared with hand written labels. That certainly piqued our interest. In the bottles were samples of Fino from various stages of development. First we had the mosto – the neutral base wine that eventually becomes sherry, then we tasted two criaderas – one from the middle of the system and one from the first criadera, which is only a few weeks away from entering the solera cask. As we tasted the successive stages of the wine’s evolution, grapey fruitiness gave way to increasing flavours of yeast and acetaldehyde. We finished off with a re-taste of the final product – what an amazing and unique way to appreciate the magic that the flor performs.
Highlights from the Colosia range
The Colosia Fino is so different from a traditional Jerez Fino, as a result of the different climate which promotes thicker, healthier flor growth. The wine was incredibly pale with a fruity nose of olives, and a salty tang reminiscent of a Manzanilla. To taste, it was subtle, rounded and much fruitier than a typical Fino, with a finish of almonds. I LOVED it!
The Amontillado came second in the 2013 Nariz d’Oro and I can see why. It’s an average of 8-9 years old with aromas of walnuts and hazelnuts, and a flavour complexity that is as good as most Palo Cortados. Tangy and nutty, with a long, warm finish. The Oloroso smelled of hazelnuts and honey, and was equally appealing to the taste. As well as the nuttiness, it had interesting citrussy notes and a hint of wood.
We also tasted a Moscatel, which is a lovely alternative to PX but one that you don’t see so often. Made with Moscatel grapes that have been sun-dried on sand to further concentrate the heat for the drying process, this was a serious sweetie with floral aromas of honeysuckle and white blossom. The aromas belied the rich dark flavours of licorice, leather, raisins and dates. This was made for drinking with a strong blue cheese and a piece of fruit cake.
Older and wiser
When I thought I’d tasted it all, Carmen brought out two bottles from the Solera Familiar. The Solera Familiar is the range made from ancient sherries, in soleras named for members of the family, and some of the soleras pre-date Juan Carlos’ great grandfather’s acquisition of the bodega. Interestingly, the part of the bodega where these soleras are stored sits on the site of a former chapel used by seafarers in the era of Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) – the romantic in me is certain that Colon visited before his epic voyage of discovery!
We tasted the Amontillado and the Palo Cortado. Both are an average of over 50 years old, confirmed by carbon dating, and were sensational. Palo Cortado is always a favourite, and this did not disappoint with soft, sweet aromas of caramel and resin. On the palate it was extremely nutty and complex, with a hint of citrus in common with the Colosia Oloroso. The Amontillado was equally impressive, with a complexity and nuttiness that I could have savoured all day.
Taking home some of the magic
As you can tell, I was very impressed with the sherries of Gutierrez Colosia, and would happily fill my fridge with them. We had limited baggage space to take anything home, so we prioritised and took a bottle of the Solera Familiar Palo Cortado. However, if I could have taken two, my other choice would have been the Fino – it was such an elegant wine, and the fact that I’ve tasted it in various stages of evolution only enhanced my enjoyment. As luck would have it, our local wine shop stocks the Fino, so we’re well supplied now. And when I take a sip, I like to think that Cristobal Colon would approve.