Manzanilla “La Guita”
Although I’m mid write-up of another fantastic group of Italian reds, I’ve still found time of late to continue my sherry exploration. There are two aspects to the argument that dry sherry is the best value wine in the world. The first is that, at the upper echelons, fine sherry costs substantially less than its non-fortified fine wine brethren.
The other end of the spectrum is that many of the big dry sherry brands, which are produced in huge quantities to keep prices low, seem to manage to avoid most of the ills that tend to afflict mass produced wines, particularly the uniform banality that is to be found in most supermarket sweep wines. I’m thinking here of the routinely very good González Byass Tio Pepe, but there are many other similar examples.
The brand name comes from the old Andalucian slang word ‘guita’ meaning ‘cash’ and, in a clever marketing attempt to generate mas guita, the company has also played on the fact that the word means ‘string’ by placing a string on every bottle of manzanilla “La Guita”.
Formerly a single vineyard manzanilla pasada, the brand has undergone somewhat of a rebirth and is now produced in huge quantities as a manzanilla fina. Sales have increased to over 250,000 cases per year and if you consider that no more than 35% of the solera is drawn off annually, you get an idea of how much sherry is stored in the 16,000 butts at the company’s two cellars in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
La Guita is one of these wines that seemingly laughs in the face of the ‘drink fino and manzanilla ASAP’ theory peddled by some, as it reputedly evolves positively in bottle for a couple of years after release. The purists warn that its charms are not for everyone however and sherry novices are best to enjoy it fresh. Never one to heed such advice, I was interested to find a couple of bottles from the November 2010 saca hidden away in my local wineshop.
I expected that the pale lemon coloured wine would lack some freshness but, not only was this not the case, it actually revealed an added dimension that is missing from many other entry-level manzanillas – an intense, tangy roundness on the palate that beautifully complimented the sherry’s natural salinity and bite. Complex and layered on one hand but somehow still seeming light on the other, with above average length and great value at only €4.50 per half bottle in Spain (I paid €15 for a full bottle in my local); it paired really well with clam and bean stew too.
As I have remarked previously, the sherry revolution has yet to take off in Ireland and if it does, it looks like “La Guita” might need to start here from scratch. Despite ranking near the top of the charts in blind tasting held as part of a Spanish wine tradeshow in Dublin in 2011, I hear that the brand is no longer being imported here. Indeed, the only reason is was being stocked in my local wineshop was as a stand-in for their usual manzanilla. And so it looks like “La Guita” will have to be consigned, for the time being at least, to a path well worn by other Vine Inspiration tipples – the gauntlet that is the Aer Lingus checked baggage hold on the return leg of my summer holidays; bubble wrap at the ready…!
(References: http://www.laguita.com, Manzanilla – Christopher Fielden & Javier Hidalgo)