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Jul 18, 2006 09:32 PM

La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sherry vs. La Gitana - brief notes

By request, I’m posting my hazily remembered first experience with manzanilla sherry, when I was able to sample both the La Gitana and La Cigarrera manzanillas side by side at Manhattan’s Tia Pol.

Both were lovely and quite different, but the La Cigarrera unambiguously came out on top. Where the first was all attack, then nothing, the La Cigarrera stuck around, blossoming in the mouth from nuttiness to raisin-y lusciousness to a hint of the sea and back again. In other words, a nice long finish. Slightly sweet, or at least more so than La Gitana, and darker in color as well, with a powerful fragrance that was almost as good as drinking it. Nonetheless both were of course manzanillas and therefore gossamer-light.

Clearly, I must go back for a more detailed tabulation. Tragic!

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  1. Russ, thanks so much for posting. I had no idea it was your first experience with Manzanilla! And from your detailed comparison, I would have never known if you hadn't said so.

    La Cigarrera is new to me, and when I saw your initial post on the Manhattan board, I assumed it would be a pale, bone-dry, fino style of Manzanilla. But reading your note, clearly it's cut from a different cloth. So, I googled and found the importer's page -
    which should also help you find it in NYC. Turns out it is a Manzanilla Pasada style, not the style I assumed, and sounds like a bit sweetened since you describe it as raisin-y and slightly sweet.

    If you have a chance, try to compare it with Hidalgo Pastrana's Manzanilla Pasada, the older brother of La Gitana to see if you like it as well as La Cigarrera.
    It used to be on the by the glass list at Willi's in Healdsburg and it was a favorite pour for me.

    I love La Gitana for the refinement of the nose and its crisp, clean finish. Out here, unfortunately, it's hard to get freshly bottled stock. You're probably doing better in NY.

    Recently I had the Hidalgo Napolean Cream and was mightily impressed. It was served to me blind, and I diddled around between an oversweetened Amontillado and a high grade of Oloroso in my analysis. It was quite elegant and was marked by the flor. We were all stunned when it was unveiled, as most cream sherries are total crap and made from dregs. And, it runs about $12 in SF. I kept it in the fridge for a couple weeks, retasting it periodically. It was definitely at its best when first opened and lost that special bouquet over the days.

    I envy your trip to Spain!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Thanks for the wealth of info for me to follow up on, Melanie (as always)! One thing- I think I should retract that raisin-y and slightly sweet comment. It was really the richness, lusciousness, and fragrance I was trying to emphasize. Now that I think about it, the wine was definitely dry.

      So what distinguishes the Manzanilla Pasada from your classic Manzanilla?

      1. re: Spoony Bard

        The unique character of Manzanilla fina and Manzanilla pasada comes not only from the place where its grown and the solera system but also from the thick layer of flor yeast that blankets the aging wine and protects it from oxidation. Fino and amontillado style sherries have spent time in contact with flor and have the characteristic aldehydic/yeasty aroma. This is in contrast to oloroso styles which are not matured under flor.

        As you noted, La Gitana was lighter in color and not as rich in flavor or texture. A Manzanilla pasada has some color pick-up and added richness from longer aging and from some exposure to oxygen when the flor dies back. Yet it is not old enough or oxidized enough to be classified as an amontillado yet. In style, it is in between fino and amontillado.

        What you might want to do next is try to find a Manzanilla amontillado to taste, especially a dry one. Then with those three wine styles under your belt you will understand the fino to amontillado side of the sherry ladder. Dry amontillado is very hard to find in the SF area, most are sweetened around here.

        Here's an article that will give you a quick run through on basic sherry styles.

        Sandy Block MW on Who Drinks Sherry Today?

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        Good news! Thanks to your googling, I contacted the importer. They directed me to a distributor (after emailing me back almost immediately!), T Edwards Wines, who said that the only client in the 5 Boros to order La Cigarerra in the past year was a store in Brooklyn. They currently have 10 bottles, retailing for $12/each. Can't wait to pick up one (or two) this weekend!

        The Greene Grape
        765 Fulton St. between South Portland and South Oxford streets
        Fort Greene, Brooklyn
        (718) 797-9463

        Thanks also for the further info, Melanie. I expect a headache trying to locate something as arcane as a manzanilla amontillado, but I look forward to the hunt nonetheless.

        1. re: Spoony Bard

          LOL I called T Edwards immediately after you did and they were wondering what was going on. I explained that there's a thread on CH. What's more I happen to be going to Fort Greene today for a birthday party--it's karma. She'll hold a bottle for you at Greene Grape...
          I was just in Spain and fell in love with jerez fino...I just finished my bottle of La Ina from the duty-free shop in the Madrid airport (7 euros!) so I am ready for more...many thanks, Spoony and Melanie!

          1. re: kenito799

            Do check on the bottling date for the lot, likely information that you'll need to get from the importer or there might be a coded date on the label that you can decipher. The aroma declines rapidly after bottling.

            I like La Ina too. As a Domecq product, it's a bit easier to find in my neck of the woods.

            And, Russ while you're out there looking for a manzanilla amontillado, grab any palo cortado that you can find. It is perhaps my favorite style of sherry.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Funny, I was wondering about that style, since like a manzanilla pasada/amontillada it's got a foot in both worlds, Amontillado and Oloroso, correct? Any Palo Cortado? The Lustau I've seen around. Are all palos dry, all sweet, a mix?

      3. Well, I don't think of manzanilla pasada/amontillada as being in two world, but rather in the same stream differentiated by age.

        Sherries follow two basic tracks, or two different worlds if you will. Fino and amontillado are in the palma track, made from a selection of the most elegant lots of wine and preserved under flor. Olorosos are from more robust wines in the rayas and oloroso track, are not produced under flor and are often sweetened to make up for the lesser starting material.

        Palo cortado is often described as in between the amontillado and olorosa. The name comes from cutting the line marked on the sherry butt. Yet some sources say that it has no flor, while others describe it as having spent some time under flor but not as long as an amontillado. I suspect that the definition is specific and varies by individual producer. When you are in Spain, please ask at any wineries you have a chance to visit. I would be very interested in hearing the answers.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Some time in the mid-70's I tasted a sherry that was labeled Fine Old Palma. I don't remember anything else about it except that it was the most interesting, complex sherry I'd ever tried. Any idea what that might have been, or where I should look for something similar?

          1. re: rootlesscosmo

            An old palma could be an amontillado, so perhaps you'd like to experiment with amontillado-style sherries to see if one suits you. In any case, you'll get to try some interesting and elegant wines with the complexity of flor, long aging and solera blending.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              ...and entomb my enemies behind a masonry wall! Ye-e-es, excellent.

        2. I have now enjoyed a taste of La Cigarrera. Dry as La Ina, very similar in fact--but I am not tasting them side by side. I will have to find a fresh bottle of La Ina and compare them (big price difference! Cigarrera is $12 for 375ml).

          Comparing by memory, Cigarrera's bouquet is more intense, with sweetness and very pleasing fleeting briny scents. The dryness when drinking is surprising after the sweet aromas. Bracing and refreshing at first, then nuttiness and the sweet sensation, with that long long finish that I love in finos.

          I wish I knew where else to get fresh jerez in NYC! Any ideas?

          1. Sipping La Gitana right now with some cheese, salami and olives. So delicious. The finish on these wines is unbelievable--5 minutes? Eternal? Only to be reawakened with a bite of manchego. I am hooked. And so happy I live in NY--500ml of La Gitana for $8.47 at PJ Wines. They have a truly exciting sherry selection, just check out their website:

            1 Reply
            1. re: kenito799

              Rub it in. (G) Fino is fabulous with marcona almonds. Another type of Spanish almond (sorry, the name escapes me) that has skin on it still is great with Amontillado.