Winegrowing / The vineyards
Manzanilla is like no other wine in the world. It bears the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm land it originates from.
Often referred to as the Queen of the Sea, Manzanilla can only be made in wineries located in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a coastal town on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It is precisely this proximity to the sea that sets it apart and makes it so unique.
Manzanilla is made following centuries-old traditions that have been handed down from Sanlucar´s winemaking families, one generation to the next. A winemaking process that produces one of the world’s finest oenological gems.
The Soil: Albariza
During the Tartessian era, a large part of the region was actually under water, spanning from Seville to the Bay of Cádiz. This body of water, called Lake Ligustino (Lacus Lingustinus) covered an area that today forms part of the wetlands of Doñana National Park.
The fact that this soil was once under the ocean gives it some extraordinary features. Known as albariza, this soft, marly, white soil with an exceptional capacity to retain water largely defines the quality of the region’s wines.
The Grape: Palomino Fino
Palomino Fino is the most widely grown variety in this winemaking region. Its pale juice is sweet and flavourful, reaching its maximum ripeness thanks to the area’s exceptional climate conditions and the albariza soil. The most common subvariety in the area, Palomino Fino vines begin to bud in late March and its fruit ripens in early September.
Yields average 80 hl per hectare, normally reaching 11-12 degrees Baumé, with very light acidity. An excellent quality grape that is particularly well-adapted to the field conditions, Palomino Fino is the undeniable favourite of local winegrowers and winemakers alike.
The Grape Harvest
Between the months of August and September, the green vine stalk turns a darker colour and the grape “gives in”, meaning it becomes soft and sweet. There is no exact date for the grape harvest to begin, but rather depends on the stage of ripeness of the grape and its potential alcohol content, which must be at least 10.5º Baumé.
The vineyards in Sanlúcar are extremely close to the coast and its particular microclimate causes the grapes to grow and ripen more slowly than those located further inland. That’s why the grape harvest in Sanlúcar tends to begin several days later than at vineyards located at a greater distance from the sea.
Although it is increasingly common to see vineyards being adapted for potential mechanical harvesting, the bunches are still largely cut by hand, always with a view to getting the grapes to the press quickly and in the very best possible condition.
Once the grapes are harvested and pressed, they need to ferment. The fermentation process is “jump-started” by adding a starter culture to the fermenting tanks. The proportion can range from 2-10% of the total volume of the must in full fermentation phase.
As the autumn months advance, the year’s new wines, known as mosto, come onto the scene. After racking the lees, a task which involves separating the clear wine from the lees that form at the bottom of the tank, a very dry white wine is obtained. A pale and delicate wine with just the slightest fruitiness and acidity and an alcohol content ranging between 11 and 12.5% ABV.
This is when the expert wine tasters, the oenologists of Sanlúcar, have the task of identifying which mostos or must wines are pale, delicate and with enough finesse to become, after ageing, a true and genuine Manzanilla.
Did you know?
The Velo de Flor
In the phase described earlier, racking the lees, a very remarkable feature of this base wine is already present: a sort of “white veil” has started to form on the surface of the wine. This is the velo de flor which will eventually form a protective layer covering the wine.
This velo de flor interacts with the wine and is unique to the Sherry Region, making this its greatest contribution to the world of winemaking and precisely what gives these wines their distinctive features.