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Tio Pepe: Bottled Andalucia's sun

By Miguel in Tasting , Featured , Gonzalez Byass

It is an interesting experience if you have never been in a bodega before but it is very expensive and too “professional”: It lacks of the heart and touch that surely made this bodega so worldwide acclaimed.

Tio Pepe Sol de  Andalucia

In the South of Andalucia, at Jerez de la Frontera, is located bodegas Gonzalez Byass. This bodega is world-famous for its renowned Tio Pepe Fino wine. The bodega is at calle Manuel Maria Gonzalez. Very near the historical city center.

Gonzalez Byass bodega is open for visits all the year with five visits per day, except Sundays when there are only two.
First thing to do when you arrive is getting a ticket, it is an expensive tour, the cheapest one cost around 11EUR and grants you a tasting of Tio Pepe Fino and Croft Pale Cream.

If you think twice about it, it costs you the same that visiting Alhambra in Granada or a bit more than visiting Museo del Prado in Madrid.

There are tours in English, Deustch and in Spanish.

The tour

Real Bodega de la Concha
First, we saw the impresive Real Bodega de la Concha designed by Gustav Eiffel and build in 1869 where Queen Isabel II was received when she visited the bodega. This bodega holds around 200 casks with flags of the countries where Gonzalez Byass wines are sold along with flags of the Spanish regions and the coat-of-arms of the Gonzalez and Byass families.

Then time for a tour in train.

We saw a place that showed several broken oak casks to be repaired along with the tools to do the work.
Oak Casks for repairing at Tio Pepe

Path of Brandy: Distillation of the Lepanto brandy

Lepanto Brandy Casks at Gonzalez Byass
We were taken to the lower part of the bodega where it is stored the Lepanto Brandy. They showed us the old stills used to distill the brandy and explained overall the process.

Old stills used to create Lepanto Brandy at Gonzalez Byass
The old stills are placed inside bodega San Manuel and there are two swan-neck stills, similars to the one used to distill Scotch whisky but smaller.

From Holanda to Brandy the different soleras at Gonzalez Byass
First the wine was placed on the left still to be distillate and then distilled again in a second still and left to condense in a worm tube on the right. The resulting newmake is called “Holanda” and is at around 65% alcohol volume. I could nose the resulting new make and the mature Lepanto Brandy. The holanda reminds me a lot of Grappa, much of its notes where still present in the final brandy of 12 years old.

This holanda is then aged using a Criaderas and Solera scheme in american oak casks which before have contained sherry wine, until the brandy has at least 12 years old.

Time to move. While in the train we saw the new distillery with is shinning copper stills.

The Wine Bodegas

Croft Pale Cream Sherry at Bodega la Cuadrada in Gonzalez Byass
We arrive at Bodega La Cuadrada Croft and our guide showed us the tools used to take the grapes from the fields and the tools to convert that grapes into mosto ( grape juice ).
Originally the mosto was elaborated when the grapes grew because the delicate fruits would arrive in a bad condition to the bodega but today they are processed in a central location.

Finally through the bodega, which was full of “andadas” of casks containing Croft Original, we were taken to see a movie about Tio Pepe and the origins of the bodega founded by Manuel Maria Gonzalez.

El Cristo and his apostoles at Gonzalez Byass
Through this bodega we reach Bodega Los Apostoles, which have an impressive oak cask called “El Cristo” which can contain 33 of the small normal casks, each of them containing around 540 litres. Along the Christ there are twelve casks called “Apostoles” which contains the excellent Palo Cortado from Gonzalez Byass.

Cherry tree casks of more than 300 years old at Gonzalez Byass
On a corner of the room there were also several smaller very old casks made of cherry tree instead of oak and that are more than 300 years old. They now keep Amontillado El Duque inside it.

Bodega Tio Pepe

Bodega Tio Pepe at Gonzalez Byass
Then we proceeded to the big Bodega del Tio Pepe.
An impressive building designed by Eduardo Torroja and built in 1963 which is dedicated to ageing of Tio Pepe.

Tasting Tio Pepe and Croft

Tio Pepe Tasting at Gonzalez Byass
There we tasted a fino and a pale cream ( fino mixed with a sweet wine: Moscatel or Pedro ximenez ).

My impression

If you skip the fact that this tour was worth 11EUR per person it is an interesting visit, but if you speak spanish move a bit around Jerez and visit another small bodegas and you will get a better view of how sherry wine is done and the care and love it is placed in its creation.

Tasting notes of Gonzalez Byass wines and brandies

Sherry wines

Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe wines at Jerez de la Frontera Spain

Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco

“Stunning sherry. The very best fino I have ever tried.”

87
Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco
Routinely praised, Tio Pepe is the benchmark in Finos having those fresh notes combined with the almondy nuttiness of Finos from the town of Jerez de la Frontera. Gonzalez Byass is still a family company.

This dram has a fino-like color.

Nose (90): weak. floral, nuts, grapes, a little salt. Very light nose. Overall light and floral.

Palate (90): light, dry. grapes, floral, wood, nuts, a little honey.

Finish (80): long. nuts, floral.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco with 87 points over 100.

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Viña AB

72
Viña AB
Vina AB is another label owned by the Gonzalez Byass Sherry house, one of the few bodegas remaining that are still in the hands of the original families. Paler and younger in style, this dry Amontillado is very delicate, and an excellent pairing for white meats and seafood.

This dram has a gold-like color.

Nose (70): average. nuts, grapes, floral, a little wood.

Palate (70): dry. nuts, almonds, floral, grape, a little wood.

Finish (75): short. almonds, wood.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Viña AB with 72 points over 100.

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Cristina Oloroso Abocado

82
Cristina Oloroso Abocado
Oloroso abocado bright amber in colour, medium sweet and full bodied on the palate with notes of spices, dried fruit and oak. Served slightly chilled Cristina is a perfect partner for nuts, pate and cheeses.

This dram has a cooper-like color.

Nose (80): more than average. floral, wood, nuts, a little leather, grapes.

Palate (85): smooth. sweet, fruity, peaches, wood, nuts, leather.

Finish (80): average. nuts, wood, leather.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Cristina Oloroso Abocado with 82 points over 100.

Alfonso Oloroso Seco

80
Alfonso Oloroso Seco
As reviewed by Wine & Spirits Magazine on 06/09. Walnut aromas and light touches of prunes weave into the silken texture of this wine. It moves as a whole in total harmony and smoothness, framed by the flavors of caramel.

This dram has a mahogany-like color.

Nose (80): more than average. nuts, grape, leather, wood, floral, citrus.

Palate (80): dry. nuts, floral, wood, grape, leather, nuts.

Finish (80): longer than average. nuts, leather.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Alfonso Oloroso Seco with 80 points over 100.

Nectar Pedro Ximenez Dulce

“A bit strange nose but a great PX wine. Black color”

83
Nectar Pedro Ximenez Dulce
Made from 100% Pedro Ximenez, one of the two major Sherry grapes. PX as it is often referred to produces an intensely sweet, smooth Spanish dessert wine. With a bouquet of raisins and dried figs, it is delicious when poured over ice cream with fruit salad or dried fruit - serve chilled. Won Gold at the International Wine Challenge 2009 and Silver at the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2009.

This dram has a treacle-like color.

Nose (80): strong. sweet, raisins, smashed fruits, banana, apple.

Palate (85): oily, creamy, viscous. raisins, sweet, cinnamon.

Finish (83): longer than average. sweet, raisins.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Nectar Pedro Ximenez Dulce with 83 points over 100.

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Solera 1847

82
Solera 1847
Gonzalez Byass 1847 Oloroso Dulce is sweet and rich, but focused with notes of dried figs, orange zest, brown sugar and spice.

This dram has a treacle-like color.

Nose (80): more than average. sweet, raisins, grapes, nuts, leather. More PX than oloroso

Palate (85): oily. sweet, nuts, raisins, wood, leather, grapes. Now it is the other way, more oloroso than PX.

Finish (80): average. raisins, wood, leather, nuts.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Solera 1847 with 82 points over 100.

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VORS wines aged more than 30 years old

Del Duque Amontillado 30 year

“Rather good”

78
Del Duque Amontillado 30 year
Del Duque Amontillado started with 16 butts of sherry purchased by the Duke of Medinaceli in 1835. This is a bone dry Amontillado that is intense and complex. Flavors and aromas of salted, toasted hazelnuts and almonds with a tangy note. Serve cool and try this with an aged cheese or mixed nuts.

This dram has a amber-like color.

Nose (75): weak. grapes, floral, leather, nuts, wood. grapes, floral, leather, nuts, wood

Palate (80): light, dry. some nuts, leather, wood, grapes. (+1) nuts, leather, wood, grapes

Finish (80): average. nuts, spices. nuts, spices

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Del Duque Amontillado 30 year with 78 points over 100.

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Apostoles Palo Cortado 30 year

“Awesome wine! This really worth each buck you pay for it.”

88
Apostoles Palo Cortado 30 year
The Apostoles VORS Palo Cortado comes from a solera that dates back to 1862 and was created in honor of Queen Isabel II visit to the vineyard. This is absolutely stunning. This has a touch of Pedro Ximenez in it, so there is a touch of sweetness on this sherry. Intense and lasting flavors of caramel, walnuts and a touch of espresso all with great complexity and length.

This dram has a tawny-like color.

Nose (80): average. grapes, leather, floral, nuts, wood.

Palate (93): light, dry. sweet, leather, many nuts, wood, nuts, grapes.

Finish (90): long. nuts, leather, sweet.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Apostoles Palo Cortado 30 year with 88 points over 100.

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Gonzalez Byass Matusalen 30 year

84
Gonzalez Byass Matusalen 30 year
Another wine which includes 25% PX blended in. A deep, golden, amber brown. Complex and vegetal on the nose, with notes of axle grease. Big, sweet, creamy, yet with a savoury bitter streak. Impressive and multi-faceted. Very good indeed.

This dram has a treacle-like color.

Nose (83): more than average. nuts, grapes, leather, wood, old, a bit honey.

Palate (85): light, dry, oily. Sweet, raisins, grapes, nuts, wood, old, leather.

Finish (85): longer than average. nuts, leather, a little raisins.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Gonzalez Byass Matusalen 30 year with 84 points over 100.

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Noe Pedro Ximenez 30 year

“Stunning but not very different from Nectar PX.”

85
Noe Pedro Ximenez 30 year
Noe PX is a dense, sweet wine made from the Pedro Ximénez grape. This is a dark amber/brown wine with rich molasses and butterscotch aromas and flavors of nuts and raisins. Rich, creamy, mouth coating texture creates a long powerful finish. This is a VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry) designated wine indicating an average age of 30 years or more.

This dram has a treacle-like color.

Nose (80): powerful. raisins, smashed fruits, banana, apple. Very similar to Nectar PX

Palate (90): oily, creamy, viscous. raisins, sweet, brown sugar, fruits, wood.

Finish (85): very long. raisins, fruity.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Noe Pedro Ximenez 30 year with 85 points over 100.

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Brandy

Soberano

“Not bad, just too much alcohol on the nose. It is a pity because it shows great vanilla notes.”

77
Soberano
Soberano Brandy De Jerez is a sublime mellow Brandy of exceptional character from Gonzalez Byass.

This dram has a cooper-like color.

Nose (78): more than average. vanilla, alcohol, grapes, floral.

Palate (79): light, smooth. vanilla, grapes, floral, cinnamon, nuts.

Finish (75): average. wood, nuts, vanilla.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Soberano with 77 points over 100.

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Lepanto Brandy

“Good brandy with lots of notes from sherry wines, I think it is Amontillado.”

85
Lepanto Brandy
Produced from the distillation from carefully selected grapes, this exceptional Solera Gran Reserva Brandy has been aged in American Oak barrels, using the traditional ageing system, which have previously contained one of our best Sherry Wines, Tio Pepe. With a golden amber colour, Lepanto has a special bouquet of aromas with traces of oak, which gives a smooth, round and light flavour to the palate.

This dram has a cooper-like color.

Nose (84): more than average. grapes, floral, vanilla, wood, nuts.

Palate (85): smooth, oily, powerful. grapes, floral, wood, spices, vanilla, hazelnuts.

Finish (85): very long. vanilla, grapes, wood.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Lepanto Brandy with 85 points over 100.

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