I have good news: TFWATH Palomino 2022, the wine I have made with Raúl Moreno in Jerez, is due to be bottled in June.
The pre-arrival offer for the wine is now open. This is it, in fact.
This is your chance to reserve bottles before the wine goes on general sale. In doing so you can claim a 10% pre-arrival discount on the standard retail price.
There's even free delivery on case orders (that's six bottles or more).
It's been a long time coming, but this wine is going to be special. Let me tell you a bit more about it...
Raúl and me in El Carrascal vineyard in 2021
The winemaker I am collaborating with on TFWATH Palomino 2022 is Raúl Moreno. Raúl is a Sevillano who spent years managing the wine lists of some of the world’s best restaurants before switching to winemaking.
In addition to being a Master Sommelier-level taster, he has a forensic knowledge of viticulture and wine science, and a wealth of cellar experience gleaned from great wineries the world: Spain, France, Portugal, Australia (where he lived for 20 years), South Africa, the US, Georgia – he's been everywhere.
Raul is only just getting into his stride as a solo winemaker, but already his wines show amazing precision and individuality. They are like Jerez through the looking glass, defying what you would expect from a region so long defined by Sherry - that is, by fortification and extended ageing.
Raúl's wine bring embrace both tradition (for example, the asoleo process of sun-drying grapes to concentrate flavour and alcohol; flor/biological ageing; ageing in old Sherry butts) and experimentalism (multi-region blends, long skin maceration, ageing in tinajas, talhas, qvevris...), always with a gastronome's taste for freshness and a master technician's pursuit of balance.
His restless spirit also takes him into other regions of Spain (Extramadura), even Portugal (Alentejo), to make fascinating cross-region blends – a nod to his work in Australia. Then there are his Francophile wines made with syrah, chardonnay and pinot (yes, in Jerez).
These are exciting wines from a winemaker who is rapidly gaining a name for himself in Spain. I'm very lucky to have had the chance to work with him and learn from him over the course of the 2022 harvest - and, with his help, to have made a wonderful palomino.
Dominio del Animas in Balbaína Alta, the source of my palomino
My Palomino 2022 comes at an interesting time for Jerez. There's a lot happening in this historic wine region and Raul is at the forefront of it.
Look around the Marco de Jerez and you see a flowering of terroir-focused wine projects, many of them inspired by the fine white wines that existed there before fortification became a thing.
The history books tell us about Sherry’s Golden Age in the early to mid-19th century, when many of the historic bodegas were established and began to ship finos, amontillados and olorosos around the world in prodigious volumes.
What the history books don’t say is that while this boom in Sherry exports was happening, back at home the locals were enjoying unfortified wines made from the many grape varieties which then grew in the region. They were known as 'vinos de pasto' and the best ones - those from the best vineyard sites, or pagos, commanded a high price.
Into the 20th century, as foreign demand for fortified Sherry grew, and Sherry domestically became more affordable, vinos de pasto were virtually forgotten. But now these fine unfortified palominos - and the terroir history that informed the best of them - are coming back. These are the fine white wines which in fact preceded the fortified wines we know as Sherry today.
This is the context in which TFWATH Palomino 2022 has been made.
NB: I wrote about this for Decanter a while back. You can read the full feature here (just scroll down a bit). It includes recommendations of various producers of unfortified palomino, including Raúl.
My palomino - small berries, loose bunches, fine, citrusy flavour
With Raúl's help, I've managed to find grapes from a very special source. They are from a single plot of organically farmed palomino vines in the pago (these are the historic 'cru' vineyard areas of the Marco de Jerez) of Balbaína Alta.
Located on the border between Jerez de la Frontera and Puerta de Santa Maria, Balbaína Alta is one of best 'crus' in Jerez. It's a vineyard site that gives your wine both freshness and body: it's inland, so has a warmer climate, yet also close to Guadalquivir river, which means it doesn't get too hot. It's also at a slightly higher elevation than the pagos that surround it, with fresh winds moderating the temperature and ensuring a longer ripening time for the grapes.
The soil is Jerez's famed 'albariza', but with a higher than normal percentage of active limestone, and a subsoil of dense chalk. This soil, combined with the clonal selection of the vines (palomino clone 84, which is an old, low-yielding clone) and the hot, dry vintage produced very small yields (we worked with a yield of around 3,000kg/ha; for Sherry grapes, it can be as high as 20,000kg/ha), and smaller berries with more concentration of flavour.
When you don't fortify your wine or age it for years, as you would with Sherry, its character will be defined more by the place, by the 'terroir'. This plot of vines in Balbaína Alto yielded grapes with a finer flavour, more citrusy fruit character and more 'verticality' than you'd get with the more neutral-tasting and flabby modern clones. And ultimately they have yielded a finer, more elegant palomino.
TFWATH Palomino 2022 ageing under a thin veil of flor yeast
I first learned about Raúl when I was writing about palomino three or four years ago. I tried a wine of his, Las Cepas de Paco 'El Reflejo' 2018 (a wine he made for Vinos Oceánicos, the project which preceded his solo one) and I was mesmerised by it. It was copper-orange in colour, and it had such complex and mercurial flavours: honeyed stone fruits, orange rind, hazelnuts, potpourri, lapsang, fresh coffee. It had a wonderful texture too, and a refreshing salty tang.
When it came round to me making my palomino, I decided that anything approximating El Reflejo was going to be interesting. So that was my basic blueprint, with one or two small adaptations.
The grapes were crushed and macerated - skins and stems - for 11-12 days. Then they were pressed and the wine was racked into a single chestnut Amontillado cask, where it aged under flor for seven months. The wine is now resting in steel tank prior to being bottled unfined and unfiltered next month.
To me, there are four important elements that have contributed to the character of this wine: the albariza soil, which gives fine texture and subtle minerality; the skin maceration, which gives colour, texture and more complex flavour; the presence of the veil of flor (see above image), which adds salinity and yeasty complexity; and the ageing in amontillado cask, which gives a distinctive spiciness that anyone with even a passing interest in the flavours of Sherry is going to love.
TFWATH Palomino 2022
Darren Smith & Raúl Moreno
11.5% | Only 800 bottles made
Suitable for vegans
£28.80 per bottle (£172.80 per case)
This pre-arrival price includes a 10% discount.
The standard retail price will be £32 per bottle.
Pre-arrival offer deadline is June 30.
Delivery is free on case orders (six bottles or more).
Otherwise it's £14.50 per delivery.
How to order
Simply email me at email@example.com saying how many bottles you would like. Please also provide your full address (along with any special delivery instructions) and telephone number for invoicing and delivery. I will email you an invoice and as soon as that’s been paid I will reserve the wines for you.
You will be notified by email when the wine is available for delivery. Subject to shipping schedules, it should be in my warehouse by late July.
Orders will be taken on a first come, first served basis.
Price is inclusive of duty and VAT.
For further information email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.