José María Quirós Sacaluga
How long have you been working in Sherry and for how long have you been working at this Bodega?
I have been working in the Sherry business since 1978 and at Bodegas Tradición since 2004.
What made you want to become a Sherry winemaker?
My father was an oenologist and worked at the Consejo Regulador almost until he died, so there has always been Sherry in the house. Since my childhood, it has always been the “modus vivendi” of our household.
What wine are you proudest of and why?
For me, the Sherry par excellence is Amontillado. Our Amontillado has between 10 and 12 years of biological ageing and this gives the wine its particular house style. However, it is not the typical crisp, finely honed Amontillado which can be hard work for the palate. Ours is aromatic with lots of body and very smooth.
If I had to find a fault with it, it would be that it could not be classified aggressive. This is due ti the balance of the biological ageing in which we smooth everything out totally. Our Amontillado enters the criaderas with volatile acidity of below 0.1 g/l and total acidity of below 4 g/l. From that point, it begins to concentrate. We putt he wine into the criaderas at 15° and it slowly acquires wood aromas up to 19°. The wine can extract aromas of vanilla from the wood and these polysaccharides give it terrific smoothness. After ageing, the wine will be about 45 years old. It is the wine I am most proud of at Bodegas Tradición.
What is your favourite Sherry and why?
Amontillado. It is a difficult wine, however. It is not a wine for any occasion. On the other hand, Palo Cortado is wonderful because for me it has great balance. It is a ten-point wine, wine perfection. Nevertheless, I prefer Amontillado.
What is your favorite Sherry wine pairing?
I love it with salt-cured dishes and pickles like banderillas, mojama, fish roe etc…
Sherry is so unique to other wines -- what Sherry fact do you find most interesting?
Sherry is totally unique. It can´t be compared with any other wine in the world. Why? The oenologists in Jerez do the opposite to other oenologists.
Everybody protects the wine from oxidation but we do the opposite. A maker of any other kind of wine gets rid of barrels when they reach 5 years old. We do the opposite. In fact, at Bodegas Tradición we do not use barrels with less than 30 years of seasoning. For us, the effects of tannin, the signature of the wood, is considered a defect in the wine. The process of elaboration of Sherry involves so many factors, what with biological ageing, oxidative ageing, criaderas, soleras etc., it is what makes us different, incomparable to other wines in the world.
What plans for innovation and development do you have and where do you see the future for Sherry?
We don´t have any plans for innovation, in fact, the founder of the bodega, Don Joaquín Rivero, used to say “I want the best but the way it has always been done”. The bodega contains 1,000,000 litres which allow us to sell 30,000 bottles a year. Demand for our Palo Cortado is way beyond supply, but we can´t make anymore. We extract approximately 1,200 litres of Palo Cortado a year from over 200 butts. The evaporation loss feels like a saca to me, and we have to replace it. For every litre we wish to sell, I have to replace 3 or 4 litres in each row of butts. I am replacing much more evaporation losses than wine.
What are your earliest memories of Sherry wines?
There was wine in my house before I was even born. I have a memory of when I was 6 or 7 years old and my father brought simples of wine and must from the harvest and I remember he had test tubes and various other utensils. I was very small and wanted to help him. He was testing for pH. Of course, I had no idea of what he was doing but he put a drop of wine in the test tube and it turned pink so, at only 6 or 7 years of age I was able to give him my verdict.