Equipo Navazos and La Bota de Manzanilla No. 32 “Navazos”
One of the things that first attracted me to sherry, apart from its delicious taste, was its method of production. Something about the solera system and the fact that in every bottle of sherry you had a small portion of a wine that has been resting in the solera for years, and in many cases decades, really appealed to me. In my naivety, I believed that, over time, a solera would develop a house style so to speak and that after years upon years of drawing and replenishing, most of the soleras in a bodega, assuming they were filled with the same type of sherry of course, would eventually produce a similar product – a sort of multi-vintage concoction that could be instantly recognised as the house style by experienced tasters, in much the same way that the Champenois strive to achieve a consistent house style for their NV champagnes.
While this is partially true, I’ve now learned that sherry soleras are more alive than the rows of barrels you see in most wineries and some will even develop their own unique personalities. This isn’t meant to sound like the next instalment of “The Hobbit – Bilbo Baggins goes to Jerez” and doesn’t mean the sherries are going to suddenly start talking to people, but it is worthy of further consideration. I’m sure there are many influencing factors – location, frequency of use, average age, flor, oxidation etc., but one thing is undeniable – the interaction of so many factors within the solera system, some of which rely on mother nature to control, renders it susceptible to outliers – soleras or even individual butts within the solera that will produce sherry of far greater complexity than others in the same bodega. Everyone who has visited a sherry bodega will have heard of the solera that is only drawn from on special occasions or even that hasn’t been drawn from in many years. Well when you think about it, how could such soleras produce sherry that would bear any meaningful resemblance to the sherry that is bottled for the bodega’s standard Fino, Manzanilla or Oloroso?
And so enter Equipo Navazos. In the mid-noughties, a group of sherry loving friends came across several butts of Amontillado that had been unsold for 20 years in the bodega of Miguel Sánchez Ayala S.A. in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. After tasting several butts of this sherry, they decided to buy the best butt and bottle it for their own consumption. After a couple more iterations of this process, unearthing complex sherries in different bodegas, the group acquired some financial backing and began to distribute their discoveries more widely. The sherries were bottled under the Equipo Navazos name, called La Bota de… and labelled with a number. They probably didn’t realise it at the time, but they had just created what has now become one of the more sought after sherry brands of current times.
In collaboration with winemakers in Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Montilla and El Puerto de Santa María, the release of the group’s discoveries has continued in recent years and the La Bota series is, at the time of writing, at La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada No. 40 “Bota Punta”.
Over the festive period, I opened a bottle of La Bota de Manzanilla No. 32 “Navazos”. As it happens, this sherry was also sourced from Miguel Sánchez Ayala S.A. Sanlúcar de Barrameda, this time in October 2011 from 20 butts of the best-aged manzanilla solera in the bodega. A deep golden colour with a tint of orange, its appearance indicated that this sherry had seen minimal filtration. The nose was intensely fresh and carried not only even more salinity that one normally finds in a standard Manzanilla but also, to my mind at least, a much more prominent fruit component than I expected. The texture on the palate was really interesting – almost creamy but still with the structure that begged for it to be tasted with some food. It paired brilliantly with the scallops I had cooked and had outstanding length; it was even a challenge to let the taste of the sherry finally die out in my mouth before taking another sip. Excellent.
Each La Bota sherry has its own back-story and, depending on the source, is available in extremely limited quantities. These sherries aren’t cheap and can rise to over €100 a bottle but in terms of value, on this evidence alone, they offer a taste experience that would surely cost many multiples of their current price were they from a more sought after wine region. La Bota de Manzanilla No. 32 “Navazos” has a larger circulation than many of the others sherries in the range, particularly the single butt selections, and cost£25.20 from The Sampler in London. Berry Bros. & Rudd also stock some of these sherries and supply direct to Ireland.
I’m awaiting delivery of bottles of La Bota de Fino 27 and 35 and will blog about these once I get my hands on them.