Manzanilla is a dry white wine made from palomino grapes and aged under a layer of yeasts know as veil de flor. It is produced exclusively in the bodegas of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The special climatic conditions of the town, situated at the mouth of the river Guadalquivir, favour the formation of a special kind of veil de flor which gives the wine its unique and distinctive character.
Manzanilla is bright, pale straw coloured wine with a sharp, delicate bouquet with predominant floral aromas reminiscent of camomile, almonds and dough. It is dry, fresh and delicate on the palate, light and smooth in spite of a dry finish. Light acidity produces a pleasant sensation of freshness and a lingering, slightly bitter aftertaste. Manzanilla should be consumed no more than 12 months after bottling and served very cold, between 6º y 8º. Once open the wine should be kept chilled and consumed 5-7 days after opening. Occasionally Manzanilla wines are subjected to unusually long ageing periods, in which the flor is slightly weakened, causing a small level of oxidation and greater complexity which are known as “Manzanilla Pasada”. These are wines with more structure, but with all the sharp and intense character caused by ageing.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
The unique climatic conditions of the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, sitting at the mouth of the River Guadalquivir, facilitate the growth of a film of yeast (flor) with very special characteristics. As a consequence, biologically aged wines produced in Sanlúcar have special characteristics which set them apart from the wines of the rest of the Region.
The name Manzanilla is inseparably linked to that of the town and it is only possible to age this unique wine in bodegas situated the town, which is why Manzanilla has the privilege of being a Denomination of Origin in its own right. The D.O. “Manzanilla – Sanlúcar de Barrameda” is in the same geographic area as D.O. “Jerez-Xérès-Sherry” and shares the protection of the same Consejo Regulador. Both the grapes and production techniques employed are the same as those used for sherry.
Three main features make the climate in Sanlúcar so special, in addition to the fact that the town itself is built on two terraces at different levels: one at sea level (the Barrio Bajo or low quarter) and the other a few metres higher (the Barrio Alto or high quarter).
These three features are: the River Guadalquivir which marks a natural boundary to the north of Sanlúcar; the Atlantic Ocean, which borders the town to the west; and the flat marshes on the former river delta. These three features cause milder temperatures and higher humidity than prevailing in the rest of the Jerez Region: a humidity which is carried in on the westerly sea breeze, depositing moist air on the town centre when it hits the natural barrier formed by the Barrio Alto.
The combination of all these circumstances fosters the growth of the film of yeast that is peculiar to Sanlúcar and gives wines aged in its bodegas it’s special character.
Manzanillas may show slight signs of oxidation in long ageing (up to 9 or 10 years), and begin to lose strength in the oldest criaderas (or “classes” as they are known in the vernacular of Sanlúcar): this gives rise to a very special wine which shares characteristics of both a Fino, Manzanilla and an Amontillado, known as “Manzanilla Pasada”.
Denomination of Origins
Manzanilla joined the Denominación de Origen “Jerez-Xérès-Sherry” in 1933. In 1964 the Denominación de Origen “Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda” was established. In 1996 the European Commission recognised that Manzanilla, with it’s special characteristic flavours, is uniquely produced in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz.
Manzanilla is produced in the traditional ‘criaderas y solera’ (a storing and aging process – criadera means nursery). The typical image of the Jerez bodegas is of long rows of wooden barrels, neatly stacked one above the other in three or four levels. ‘Criaderas y solera’ means blending wines of different ages. The finished wine is removed from the layer of barrels on the floor (the solera). This is replaced with younger wines from the level above. In the same way, this wine is in turn replaced from the higher barrels, and so on. This cycle results in an interesting interchange and blending of flavours. The unique tones and nuances of the younger wines are improved by the older, which are in turn fortified by the younger.
According to the ‘Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen “Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda”’ (the regulator of the DO), the criaderas y solera process should take a minimum of 2 years for a standard Manzanilla, and 9 or 10 for Manzanilla Pasada.
As in the case of all ‘fino’s, Manzanilla is a perfect accompaniment for all types of tapas, particularly for fish or shellfish. It’s also great with salted meat, cold cuts and chorizo, prawns, mojamas (salted tuna), and ‘boquerones en vinagre’ (anchovies in vinegar), “pescaito frito” from Cádiz, rice with shellfish, oven baked fish, grilled peppers and any kind of salad. The list is endless.