Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla #8, and La Bota de Amontillado #9, Eric Solomon Selections / Polaner Imports. #8 is no longer available and I don't know the price, #9 retails for about $65.
That's right - two wines for this week, both incredibly special, and both incredibly rare. They both came to me courtesy of Peter Liem, who recently brought them to dinner at my place. He also brought a trove of olive oil, but that's another story. There were 7 people at this dinner and a whole load of wine and so about a third of each bottles of Sherry remained at the end of the night, allowing me to taste them over the course of the next several days. Excitement!
In a way, it doesn't feel right for me to be drinking these wines. It's like beginning to learn about Burgundy by drinking a few bottles of DRC and old Leflaive. La Bota wines are among the finest Sherries in the world, but I simply haven't had enough Sherry to understand why these wines are better than other Sherries. But in the same way that DRC is magnificent, these Sherries are magnificent to drink, even without a load of Sherry experience, and I'll do my best to describe them.
Here is Peter Liem's description of why Equipo Navazos Sherries are unique:
What differentiates these wines from other sherries, even from sherries that are produced out of the same soleras, is that they usually select a smaller range of barrels from the solera, looking for wines that have a strong personality and distinct character, and then bottle these unfiltered, which is very rare. The vast majority of sherry undergoes a heavy filtration that dampens much of its flavor and aroma, and it can be downright startling to compare an unfiltered version of a similar wine.The Manzanilla #8 was bottled in October of 2007, so it has a small bit of bottle age. Common wisdom is that Fino and Manzanilla Sherries do not benefit from bottle age, and I certainly cannot confirm or refute this, but I can tell you this: the wine changed each day after it was opened, achieving the greatest complexity three days after the dinner. I would gladly have continued the experiment, but alas, no more wine.
La Bota de Manzanilla #8 is pungent on the nose with brisk salt air and a rich nuttiness, all framed by a subtle character that I just don't know how to describe, other than to say that it smells like a beautiful old wine cellar. Yeasty energy, wood, moldy air, full of promise. In the mouth this wine does such an interesting thing - brisk saline and nutty flavors linger on the tongue and roof of the mouth, while a creamy floral briny fragrance immediately pushes through the nostrils and down the throat. Then there is a wave of acidity in the mouth, and although this wine is bone dry, there is something vaguely sweet about the scent it leaves in the mouth. By the third day open the wine took on a brown butter type of character on the nose, and was somehow even fuller on the palate. This wine is a sensory explosion, really a stirring experience, and I would take great care not to drink it while experimenting with LSD or any other hallucinogen, no matter now mild - the combo could really screw with your circuitry.
Amontillado is what Manzanilla becomes with more fortification (this wine is 20% alcohol, the Manzanilla is 15%), with further oxidation, and with age. I find La Bota de Almontillado #9 to be a far more aggressive and burly wine compared to the Manzanilla. The nose retains some of the brisk Manzailla character, but is definitely more creamy with an older, more oxidized nose of orange peel, roast chestnuts, and freshly chopped wood. It is darker and richer in the mouth than even the nose would suggest, coating the mouth with a toasty, almost earthy sense. The finish is incredibly pungent and it is essentially impossible to taste anything else after drinking this wine. My only quibble is that I am a bit distracted by the alcohol, which is not gawky at all, but I do notice it. And I don't on the Manzanilla. I think that I simply prefer the Fino and Manzanilla style over the Amontillado style right now.
Many thanks again to you Peter, for your generous gifts, and for sparking my interest in Sherry.