Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 13, 2019

nv Equipo Navazos, Manzanilla Dry Sherry “En Rama” Sanlucar, Jerez Spain -photo grapelive

nv Equipo Navazos, Navazos Manzanilla Saca of June, 2016, En Rama, Dry Sherry, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Spain.
Equipo Navazos is almost single handedly making Sherry great again, they are sourcing and putting out some absolutely amazing bottings, if it ever was a time to re-discover this region and explore the many different style, it’s now! According to Sherry Notes, the Equipo Navazos started as a group of Spanish sherry lovers led by wine writer Jesús Barquín, a professor of criminology and Andalusian wine expert/ writer, and Eduardo Ojeda, the technical director of Grupo Estévez. It all began In 2005 when this private group found 65 butts of exceptionally fine 20+ year old Amontillado hidden away in the bodega Sánchez Ayala in Sanlúcar, they just knew they had to share their good fortune. They realized that it was a shame that so many brilliant sherry butts were lying around in large Sherry bodegas, often with low volumes that were commercially not interesting to be bottled separately, but too good to be part of a large-scale solera blend, and that is how they discovered their mission. Together with 30 or so friends and professionals, they selected one cask, bottled it and split the bottles titled La Bota de Amontillado / Navazos n°1, then later on it became their business and passion to share the love to the world and find Sherry enthusiasts that would rejoice in being able to get ultra small lot special Sherry that showed unique characteristics with exceptional quality.

A decade or so later Equipo Navazos is now a world class firm with a cult like following, and while staying true to their core mission of finding and releasing single Bota(s) they have also pushed the envelope of Sherry, putting out a dry white and doing a Sherry infused Cava Sparkling just to name a few intriguing extras.
And while discovering Sherry, a Spanish region just north of Cadiz in Andalucia and part of the Jerez de la Frontera, can be rather daunting for the novice, Equipo Navazos is providing a stylish gateway into this world of weirdness and beauty, from sexy Pedro Ximenez (a grape varietal), known simply as PX, sweet stuff, to dry/oily old nutty goodies like Palo Cortado (a style) and Amontillado (a style), to crisply dry, salty and tangy Finos (a light dry fresh style) and like this Manzanilla (super brisk style) that is great with tapas and as a refreshing aperitif. Then there is aromatic styles and of course the classic Cream, a style loved by old English grandmothers (as my granny did) that is semi sweet and lush.

Explaining Sherry is extraordinary difficult, so I won’t bore you with it all, except to mention the basic concept, with this note on what we know as one of the most important factors, the creation of Flor yeast that gives most Sherries their core flavors. Primary to natural characteristics of biologically aged sherry (Fino and Manzanilla) is the Flor, this is a naturally occurring layer of yeast cells that lives on the surface of the wine, inside the barrels. It, the Flor, consumes sugars, alcohol and other components of the wine and adds nutty, saline and yeasty aromas, lucky too, it also blocks oxygen contact, resulting in a bone-dry and pale style of sherry.

Now, Manzanilla, is basically the same as Fino sherry, but produced and matured around the Sanlúcar de Barrameda zone, closer to the sea than Jerez, the spiritual home of all Sherry, and the only place where it is allowed to be made. Manzanilla, as wonderfully described by Sherry Notes (sherry notes.com), is made from the Palomino grape, grown on the sandy white chalky soils, also known as the Mission white grape, and biologically aged, entirely under a layer of (the) Flor yeast. The specific climatic conditions of this town, being closer the Atlantic Ocean are responsible for a higher humidity and cooler, more constant temperatures than those found in inland bodegas, which contributes to a higher yield of Flor. This thicker layer of Flor protects the wine even more from air and oxygen contact, resulting in a slightly lighter and zippy variety of Fino, containing virtually no glycerol, meaning it is not oily or thick on the palate, and combining dry, saline notes with a fresh, zesty liveliness. Manzanilla typically displays more coastal aromas than a Fino, like sea spray, salt or even iodine. In Spanish, Manzanilla, translates to chamomile, which is another aroma typically found in this type of Sherry.

The En Rama, on the label here, notes that it was an unfiltered or almost non filtered version which adds more character and purity in the wine, it especially is true in Equipo Navazos’ wonderful Manzanilla with it’s striking electric shock of fresh detail and sharp form showing the classic flavors, but in a lifted form with layers of all the mentioned nuances with dried citrus rind, salty stones, liquid pecans, bitter almond and a touch of persimmon, as well as the chamomile and a touch of verbena. This is a brilliant example of style and place with a heightened array of complexity from being made in such a tiny batch, and while I do adore Equipo Navazos’s more aged and oily rich stuff, this Manzanilla En Rama is just so addictive and eye poppingly dry it is perfect for crisp/grilled Sardines and or salty/briny Anchovies, plus it’s lovely just to sip on and with cheeses, olives and walnuts too.
($22-30 Est. 375ml-Half Bottle) 92 Points, grapelive