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Wine Culture Connection

Sherry on the Rise
A Manzanilla Revival

Sherry has been exported for centuries, notably to England and north Europe, and has gone through many ups and downs over the centuries. A precursor of today's Sherry was a staple of Christopher Columbus and other explorers, and was likely the first wine to reach the new world.

The sweet "sherris sack" of Elizabethan times was celebrated as a preferred tipple for good times in the works of Shakespeare through the voice of his jovial and life-loving character Falstaff.

Shakespeare's Falstaff with his "sherris sack" in a painting by Eduard von Grützner. Image: Published before 1923 and public domain in the US.
Shakespeare's Falstaff with "sherris sack" in a painting by Eduard von Grützner.
Image: Published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

There have been many ups and downs for Sherry on a global level over the centuries. Mostly due to wars. For instance, when England and Spain were at war trade between the two countries ceased. Or when King Henry VIII of England broke with the Catholic Church and divorced his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon, ties between the two countries broke.

More recently, in the late 20th century, Sherry became associated with grandmothers, and lost some of its luster due to being seen as a drink for elderly ladies. However, in Spain, Manzanilla in particular has seen an uptick in popularity even amongst the young, especially during the summer. Simply because it is such a great, refreshing, warm weather drink and never got the same unfashionable stigma as in more Anglo influenced countries.

Here in the USA, there has been a parallel surge in interest among wine professionals and the cognoscenti. On one track as creative mixologists and cocktail mavens have created exciting new cocktail recipes employing various Sherries.

And on the other track interest has increased due to the tremendous quality and character of the Equipo Navazos La Bota series of Sherries, which have opened a lot of eyes among wine trend setters and opinion makers, like nationally awarded sommelier and restauranteur Paul Grieco of Restaurant Hearth and his Terroir wine bars, Eric Asimov, wine critic for the New York Times and as seen through numerous very high and some near perfect scores bestowed by major wine press reviewers in the US and internationally.

The uptake is gradual and primarily in top wine markets like New York and San Francisco. However, we envision interest slowly spreading between these two trend setting food and wine cities to more and more of the larger urban markets throughout the country.

Meanwhile, grab yourself a glass and toast yourself and your Sherry loving friends for being the lucky ones enjoying these fabulous wines now!

Wines & Wineries

Equipo Navazos "I Think" Manzanilla
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"I Think" Manzanilla front label.
"I Think" Manzanilla front label.
Image: © 2012 Equipo Navazos

"I Think" Manzanilla is a limited production, very fresh and complex, golden pale dry white, and a singular example of one of wine's most distinctive and greatest regions, Sherry (DOCs Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda). It was carefully selected for bottling by Equipo Navazos, the team that produces the very highly praised and beloved series of single lot Sherry rarities known as La Bota, along with some other tiny special releases.

Wine has been made in the Jerez area of Andalusia for millennia, and sweet versions of what we today call Sherry since Shakespeare's time. Sherry "Sac" as it was rhapsodized over by Shakespeare's Falstaff. The dry "modern" styles that we know today from Sherry's great houses, as celebrated in Edgar Allen Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado," date back to the 18th and 19th centuries--some houses running continuously in some form since the 1700s. So the heritage and evolution of winemaking skill to bring you I Think literally goes back centuries.

Equipo Navazos (Team Navazos in English) began as a way for a small circle of impassioned Sherry lovers to bottle and privately distribute among themselves some amazing casks of Sherry that they discovered languishing untapped for 20+ years in an antique Sherry winery. The casks, of Amontillado by the way, did not fit in the winery's commercial line-up and were too few to be launched as a brand in their own right. And so began the La Bota series of rare Sherries, which eventually received highly limited commercial distribution in the US and elsewhere, and ringing praise from top critics around the world.

Antique Sherry casks illumintated by a shaft of light as they work their magic on the wine inside. Note the similarity to Equipo Navazos's logo on the "I Think" label above. Photo: Jesús Barquín © 2012 Equipo Navazos
Antique Sherry casks illumintated by a shaft of light as they work their magic on the wine inside. Note the similarity to Equipo Navazos's logo on the "I Think" label above.
Photo: Jesús Barquín © 2012 Equipo Navazos

The first editions were put together with the support of 30 or so private "partners," mostly friends from the wine world: oenologists, wine writers, distributors, sommeliers, as well as deeply knowledgeable aficionados.

María Alvarez, co-founder of Spanish-Wine-Exclusives, and her husband (well, especially her husband) were among the original supporters of Equipo Navazos. Being lucky enough to follow Equipo Navazos from early on, Spanish-Wine-Exclusives from its inception has always hoped to one day work with Equipo Navazos. So we are extremely proud to offer "I Think" Manzanilla.

The "I Think" project began in 2010 at the behest of a British wine merchant that loved the La Bota wines, but was in search of a special Sherry for his customers with a different profile. Rather than the typically more mature, profoundly complex, challenging and more expensive La Bota series of Manzanillas and Finos, he sought something with a younger and fresher character that reflected the vibrancy of Sherry as tasted in barrel samples in Sherry country. Something close to Sherry in its raw state, known as "En Rama" in the Sherry world.

Palomino grape vines planted in the famous chalky Albariza soil that contributes to Sherry's unique character. Photo: Jesús Barquín © 2012 Equipo Navazos
Palomino vines planted in the famous chalky Albariza soil that contributes to Sherry's unique character. Photo: Jesús Barquín © 2012 Equipo Navazos

Equipo Navazos was able to identify some very special barrels that fit somewhere between larger run commercial production Manazanillas and the aged eccentricity of La Bota. These barrels offered both en rama freshness and vigor but also singular complexity. They became "I Think", and were drawn ("saca" in Sherry terms) from barrel in October of 2010.

With the outstanding quality and a success of the first and second sacas, a third limited run was created and that is the "I Think" Manzanilla En Rama February 2013 saca we offer today. It was bottled after only the slightest filtration process, and retains the intense golden color and striking character it exhibits straight from the butts where it ages under flor for approximately four and a half years.

The name "I Think" is an homage to Charles Darwin as a symbol of the triumph of reason. It raises the question of what is true and untamed Manzanilla. In this case it is, we think. While the "in the raw" nature of I Think is part of its intrinsic appeal, it will mature slowly like other fine wines when properly stored (in cool temperature controlled conditions), trading part of its freshness for elegant complexity; and evolve more toward the character of its La Bota brethren.


Equipo Navazos "I Think" Manzanilla (drawn February 2013) 375ml, SRP $17
Order Now from retail merchant Despaña Vinos y Mas: 212 219-1550  ·  Order Now from retail merchant Flatiron Wines & Spirits·  Order Now from retail merchant Vintry Fine Wines
This outstanding "en rama" (in the raw) dry Sherry is a pale golden straw color. The nose is pungent with scents of waxy honey, white flower, salty almond, and hints of green apple, buttery dough and shitake mushroom. The attack is tangy, vibrant and expansive on the palate with underlying yeasty, honeyed richness at the core; leavened with mineral, delicate lime pith and anise nuances. The mouthfeel is nearly voluptuous, flowing into a long, smooth finish, graced with roasted nut, chalk and brine notes. The essence of fresh Manzanilla. Or so we think.

A stunning partner with sushi or oysters on the half shell. Great with all manner of seafood, whether raw, batter fried or with a classic sauce. Equally at home with olives, salted nuts, cheese, cured meats or charcuterie. It is also outstanding as the consummate apéritif or summer refreshment.

Tech Details:
7500 375ml bottles produced. Blend: 100% Palomino.
Aged approximately 4.5 years in barrel under flor in the solera method.

The following restaurants feature "I Think" Manzanilla on their wine list:

The Beagle
      162 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009, T: 212.228.6900
The Breslin Bar and Dining Room
      16 West 29th Street, New York, NY 10001, T: 212.679.1939
Casa Mono
      52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003, T: 212.253.2773
Despaña Tapas Café
      408 Broome Street New York, NY 10013, T: 212.219.5050
Hearth Restaurant
      403 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10009, T: 646.602.1300
Manzanilla Spanish Brasserie
      345 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010, T: 212.255.4086
Terroir Wine Bar - Terroir E.Vil
      413 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10009, T: 646.602.1300
Terroir Wine Bar - Terroir Murray Hill
      439 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016, T: 212.481.1920
Terroir Wine Bar - Terroir Park Slope
      284 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215, T: 718.832.WINE (9463)
Terroir Wine Bar - Terroir Tribeca
      24 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013, T: 212.625.WINE (9463)
Tia Pol
      205 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10011, T: 212.675.8805

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