208, The Wine Advocate | 29th Aug 2013 | Luis Gutiérrez
The NV Fino La Ina is a recent acquisition, as it was one of the flagship wines from the old, deceased Domecq winery. Quite pale, it feels fresh, with toasted sesame seeds, roasted nuts and salty notes in a fresh and light palate, with good acidity and short- to medium aging.
Emilio Lustau is one of the better internationally known names in the Sherry world, which is quite remarkable, as they have never been a very big operation. In fact they can be considered a small- to medium-sized bodega for Sherry; they were selling around 350,000 bottles per year. Furthermore, when more and more bodegas and important names have disappeared, been bought and sold, brands and soleras acquired by big drink corporations, Brandy or other businesses cannibalizing wine in some of the bigger companies, it’s refreshing to see a firm still betting firmly on Sherry and working so hard to improve their ranges and their international presence, trying new products (they have produced a small lot of unfiltered biologically aged wine from the three different towns, Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlucar) and experimenting in many different ways. Their range might be too wide (35 to 40 different wines), but that works for them, as they can diversify in different markets and have the correct wine for the price and quality required. They also pioneered the idea to bottle small lots from almacenistas (small bodegas who produce and age wine that they sell to other bodegas rather than offering bottled to consumers) showing the name of the almacenista and the village where the wine has aged. Emilio Lustau was created in 1896 by Jose Ruiz-Berdejo who was himself an almacenista in Jerez; he worked his vineyards and produced wines that he sold to the big exporting houses. In 1940 his son-in-law Emilio Lustau took over and enlarged the business, which in 1950 became an exporting firm. Through the 70’s and 80’s they continued combining tradition with new ways and ideas. In 1990 the company was bought by Luis Caballero, a businessman from El Puerto de Santa Maria in love with Sherry, whose stellar product was Ponche Caballero, the number one liqueur in Spain at the time. He enlarged the company, purchasing vineyards and in 2001 he acquired some bodegas from their neighbors, Harveys, in Jerez, like the impressive 14-meter high Los Arcos and Las Cruces. In 2008 they bought some famous brands and soleras that had belonged to Domecq and were true icons of Sherry wine in Spain, 4,000 botas in total, 2,600 of them of Fino La Ina, perhaps the better known Sherry brand locally together with Tio Pepe from Gonzalez-Byass. This will bring them additional volume, mainly in the local market, perhaps to become a half-million bottle per year winery. Walking around the bodegas with director Federico Sanchez-Pece, I bumped into some newish-looking barrels and showed surprise. “Oh! These are botas that belong to Jameson, we fill them with Oloroso and they stay here two or three years before they take them to Ireland to use them for the aging of their whisky.” Breaking new barrels with wine to take away the harsh tannins and the excessive aromatic components of the wood is called envinar in Spanish. Apparently this is a common side-business in some Sherry bodegas, ‘wining’ (envinar) new botas for whisky producers, or even selling small quantities of their own, used botas for finishing small lots of special whisky. I have to say that I was extremely impressed with their VORS range, which showed very old, powerful, quality wines and had the feeling that the quality of the Lustau wines seems to be on the way up.
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