About the Producer
There’s Sanlúcar and then there’s Sanlúcar with Alba Viticultores. We had been before and thought we knew what it was until we spent a day there with Fernando, Alejandro (Muchada-Leclapart), and Miguel (Bodega Vinifícate). We met them and some of the winegrowers they work with for breakfast at Finca La Charanga, built in 1794 right in the middle of one of Sanlúcar’s highest regarded vineyards, Pago Mahina. There we were greeted with all sorts of ibérico and cheeses but more importantly, lots of Palomino to wash it down. With flor or without, we drank Palomino in every form possible: mosto, sobre tabla, pet-nat, and even champenoise or as they call it “método sanluqueño.” All made by them unfortified, unfiltered, and unfined using minimal doses of sulfur, if that, depending on the cuvée. Call it grower sherry, call it natural sherry, call it what you want. We call it Palomino at its finest.
After hours of eating and drinking, it was off to the bars for more eating and drinking. We made a brief stop at the old abandoned bodega they’re recovering in the breezy higher part of town just for enough time to drink an unlabeled bottle of Gaspar Florido amontillado viejísimo. Some under the table shit that only makes it out of the bota for VIP (them, not us). After that it was back to the bars where the who’s who and the what’s what takes place. Glass of mosto in hand and talking to the other locals about how the sherry industry became such a circus over the 20th century is how their project began.
Though the name may be confusing as they are not winegrowers themselves, Alba Viticultores is their tribute to the distinctive albariza soil of the region and its winegrowers who often go unnoticed. In doing so, they’ve brought the word viticultura back to sherry and the relationships they’ve built with winegrowers have given them access to some of the most cherished vineyards with which they’re making vinos de pago or single vineyard wines, a somewhat lost tradition in the triangle. They’re combing El Marco with one objective in mind, finding the truest and most authentic expressions of Palomino Fino or Listán Blanco, as it is also called locally.
If there’s one thing that defines them, it’s their crazy love for the Palomino grape. They believe its “neutral” aspects serve as the perfect vehicle for this one of a kind climate and soil to express itself without interference. Staying out of the way is their obsession. All of their wines are fermented with native yeasts and unfortified. These concepts never really associated with the region - think: low alcohol and drinkability. Their wines are unfiltered and unfined resulting in the most transparent examples of the grape we’ve ever tasted. Though what they’re doing may seem revolutionary, they don’t see it that way. It was only a matter of time that sherry returned to where it belongs.
Call it grower sherry, call it natural sherry, call it what you want. We call it Palomino at its finest.