Following a century of neglect, Sherry is being restored to its rightful place of respect as one of the profound fortified wines of the world.
After decades of market domination by insipidly sweet, mediocre wines, the world’s gaze is increasingly being drawn to Sherry’s treasures. This is the tiny proportion of wines still patiently aged in its ancient soleras, with their bracing dryness, thrilling complexity and inspiring antiquity.
And no greater treasures are emerging than those of Valdespino, the producer most steeped in history and rooted in tradition.
With an unwavering commitment to the demands and expense of traditional Jerez winemaking—and the revered Eduardo Ojeda as its winemaker—Valdespino produces some of the region’s purest and most intense Sherries, from some of its oldest soleras.
The other key to the greatness of Valdespino is its extraordinary belief in terroir, and its willingness to spare no expense in expressing it.
In fact, four of the house’s greatest wines are sourced exclusively from arguably Jerez’s most mythic vineyard, Macharnudo. This high-altitude site of extremely pure albariza chalk northwest of Jerez has been owned by Valdespino since 1264, and produces four of its wines:
Amontillado “Tío Diego”
Palo Cortado “C.P.”
Palo Cortado “Cardenal”
Each of these wines offers a uniquely magical expression of Macharnudo’s albariza-driven low-yield concentration and mineral intensity.
But Macharnudo isn’t Valdespino’s only iconic terroir. The astonishingly complex and concentrated Oloroso “Su Majestad” is from Macharnudo’s neighboring grand cru Carrascal, whose inland location has made it prized historically as the source of Sherry’s richest wines.
Regardless of type, the terroir signatures of Macharnudo and Carrascal are on full display in these wines. They boldly testify to Eduardo Ojeda’s belief in the fundamental importance of vineyard location and expression for Valdespino.
Today, Valdespino towers over other houses, as Sherry’s most eloquent proponent of traditional winemaking.
Valdespino’s flagship wine is its iconic Fino, “Inocente.” Finos, particularly with food, are among the greatest experiences a wine lover can enjoy. Sadly, though, most of today’s Finos give only a poor imitation of that thrill ride.
In contrast, Inocente’s flavor profile has been essentially unchanged over the past 200 years. It continues to provide all the yeastiness and minerality that has made it Jerez’s most revered Fino for generations. It is widely regarded as the archetype for traditional Fino Sherry.
Other houses take shortcuts to meet the demand for light, young wines, a trend that began in the 1970s. But Inocente is a Fino that dares to be great.
Where all other Finos are blended from multiple sources, Inocente has always come exclusively from Jerez’s greatest vineyard, Macharnudo, whose high altitude slopes of pure albariza chalk have given the Inocente solera its intensely mineral signature for a century.
Secondly, Inocente is the only Sherry today that is still barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts, giving it unmatched richness and nuance.
Finally, there is the age and complexity of Inocente’s solera: ten criaderas rather than the more typical two or three. And the overall age of Inocente at bottling is ten years, an exceptionally long time under flor for a Fino.
An unwillingness to compromise on centuries-old methods remains at the core of Valdespino’s philosophy. In fact, they are the last house to still ferment in barrel—essential to transcendent quality. And they age their Fino far longer than others. (Since the 1970s, stainless steel fermentation and a shorter stay in barrel have become the norm, contributing to Sherry’s declining reputation.)
But by the 1990s, with the Sherry market in shambles, Valdespino found itself at a financial crossroads. They could either compromise their methods or find a savior with deep pockets and a shared philosophy. They found the latter in Grupo José Estévez.
Since acquiring Valdespino in 1999, Estévez has used its deep capital reserves to strengthen the house’s old-school approach and to build on its vast stocks of old wine. With its adherence to Sherry’s ancient traditions, Valdespino is today the standard-bearer for Sherry’s ultimate potential.
To be Valdespino’s technical director, Estévez hired Eduardo Ojeda, a renowned winemaker with a vast knowledge of Sherry’s culture and history. But the house’s ancient bodegas were so deteriorated they were deemed unsalvageable, making Ojeda’s first task moving its 25,000 barrels to new bodegas on the north end of Jerez.
Eduardo is a great believer that the soul of a Sherry comes from the memory of its barrels. So, to preserve the identity of the great Valdespino soleras, he used a team of ten coopers, working for three years, to restore the irreplaceable old barrels.
Valdespino’s greatest treasures are its VORS Sherries. While handily this can mean “Very Old Rare Sherry,” its Latin meaning is Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum, translated as “Great and Singular Wine.”
The VORS designation was created by Sherry’s Consejo Regulador in 2000 as a category for very old wines of exceptionally high quality that must pass a strict vetting process.
With their unparalleled library of ancient soleras to draw upon, VORS wines are a Valdespino specialty. Selected for further aging from Valdespino’s finest “regular” soleras, these rarities rank among Sherry’s very greatest wines:
Palo Cortado “Cardenal”
Oloroso “Su Majestad”
Pedro Ximénez “Niños”
|NV||NV Valdespino Amontillado Contrabandista||12+||$23.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Amontillado Tio Diego||WA92 /
|NV||NV Valdespino Cream Isabela||WS90||6||$19.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Fino Inocente||WA94||12+||$21.50||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Fino Inocente 375 mL||375 mL||WA94||12+||$12.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa||12+*||$19.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa 375 mL||375 mL||12+||$9.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Moscatel Toneles V.O.R.S. 375 mL||375 mL||WA100||6||$269.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Palo Cortado Viejo Calle Ponce||WA93||12+||$39.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado||WS93||12+*||$24.95||add|
|NV||NV Valdespino Pedro Ximenez Ninos V.O.R.S. 375 mL||375 mL||WA98||6||$179.95||add|
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