Wednesday, November 18, 2009
If sherry is one of the wine world's few remaining under-appreciated values, then Equipo Navazos is its elusive crown jewel; a bit tougher to find, but worth the slightly higher cost and intensive search. Think of Equipo Navazos as the sherry equivalent of the criterion collection; just as CC carefully curates their classic films, Equipo Navazos is as choosy about the soleras with which they choose to work Fancy yourself a pop and world music re-release buff? Then EN is the Soul Jazz Records of sherry. They source the best quality product, put it in a classy package, charge a small premium but ultimately provide a most rewarding experience.
Equipo (translated as "team") Navazos is something of a sherry negociant. Their love of sherry motivated them to seek out the best, oldest soleras from their favorite bodegas and to bottle it for their own enjoyment. They expanded to the point where they had a small surplus to sell outside of Spain, and fortunately so for many non-Spaniards as we otherwise would have been deprived of such amazingly pure, rich, characterful interpretations of Sherry.
What makes these sherries so delicious and unique? Three key factors:
1. Relatively smaller, older soleras from smaller sherry houses
2. these smaller soleras are customarily used as reserve stock for the families who produce them (or alternatively, to improve the quality of the stuff in their larger soleras)
3. NO FILTRATION. Most sherries these days are filtered.
Here are the Equipo Navazos (La Bota de....) sherries I have enjoyed up until now:
Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla No. 16
This comes from a solera of Sánchez Ayala in the Pago Bilbaína. Color is a shade more intense and darker than most young Manzanillas, owing to the older average age of the wine. Delicious, brisk sea salt, marcona almonds and bright fruit aromas on the nose lead to a palate that is considerably more loaded than your basic, young, freshly bottled Manzanilla ( it's worth nothing that the most recent batch was bottled in January 2009, which is noted on the bottle). On the palate, the wine shows Manzanilla's classic salty quality, with a touch of smoke as well and initially, an unusual inner mouth chlorine aroma. I found that this dissipated after a day open in the fridge. In fact, whereas many Manzanillas fade after several days being open, this one seems only to gain more harmony and balance. It is a likely sign for future positive evolution in the bottle for at least a few years - unusual for a Manzanilla which usually is best drunk a year or so after bottling. Incidentally, I read on their website that this bottling is very lightly filtered.
Equipo Navazos La Bota de Fino "Macharnudo Alto" No. 15
This comes from a special twenty butt solera (compare with 143 for Lustau's current Almacenista Puerto Fino) from the venerable Valdespino, one of the best in Jerez. Macharnudo Alto is the most privileged section of the famed Pago Marcharnudo vineyard where the palomino grapes come from; it is one of the best crus in sherry country. This fino is the complete package: bright yet mouthfilling, bracing but substantial, a real beauty of a sherry that commands your respect. One of the best sherries and undoubtedly the finest fino I have yet to drink. The Navazos folks predict that this could improve in the cellar for a while.
Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada No. 10
This slightly rare style, the Manzanilla Pasada (aged Manzanilla) comes from a stellar solera at Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín, producers of "La Guita" manzanilla, in the northwestern tip of the sherry triangle, Sanlúcar de Barrameda. By definition, any fino made in Sanlúcar is referred to as a Manzanilla. Beautiful, 18K golden hue, with rich nutty aromas, and a palate that is deeply satisfying in a way that very few wines, white or red, ever will be. The flavors linger on the palate a long while. This is a candidate for my favorite wine of the year.
Waiting in the wings is the La Bota de Palo Cortado "La Bota Punta" No. 17, a half bottle from a single butt which I look forward to enjoying at the appropriate time with the right company. More on that bottle later.
Thanks to Msr. Brooklynguy for his always insightful perspective on Equipo Navazos, as well as to Peter Liem, the noted champagne authority, riesling lover, and Chinese tea drinker, whose blog - over the course of several entries - first introduced me to a wide range of the inimitable Equipo Navazos sherries.