Last night, I rose from my bed at 2 AM. Through the window I could see the dark of a North American sky. Turning on my device, my eyes were met by a beautiful bright sunrise over the green fields of Las Cruces, within one of Lustau’s most iconic sherry vineyards. I wanted to connect with Lustau’s Chief Winemaker, Sergio Martínez, and Field Manager, Tony Caraballo to get a first-hand report from them, knowing that this morning they would visit some of their pagos across the region.
As soon as we start discussing the most important aspects of the 2020 harvest, I can see they are at the highest elevation section of the vineyard overlooking the ocean. This is a very unique site only about 3 km (under 2 miles away) from the ocean. This area not only combines the three types of soils you can find in Jerez, but it also grows the three different grape varieties. In fact, this is a very particular makeup whereby the different grape varieties are planted in the types of soils that are less common.
While Sergio tells me about all the challenges this growing season has brought on, we approached the area where the oldest Moscatel vines are planted over albariza soils. Sergio mentions that this year the overall crop has been reduced by 20%. However, according to him, the crop quality is better than outstanding. Although earlier this year an excess of humidity infected the plants with oidium making the vineyard labor more intensive, forcing the team to spend a lot of time getting rid of the disease.
Then we walk down the slope were the Palomino vines are found, interestingly enough, here planted in sandier soils, a very rare combination in the region. Tony tells me that later this year they will not be performing any aserpiado (the process in which the soil between the rows is dug into small square troughs to easily collect rainwater) since this part of the vineyard is only at a 2% gradient and the retention of water is rarely an issue.
Finally, we end up where the Pedro Ximénez is planted, also in sandy ground, at the exact same place where the grapes are laid out on mats to be sun-dried each year. Tony explains that they purposefully delay the natural growing cycle of the PX vines to guarantee a riper maturation and a higher concentration in the berries, thus why they show greener leaves (both Moscatel and Palomino plants are already losing their leaves/turning and falling).
After several minutes I bid good-bye to Tony and Sergio and the bright Spanish sun disappeared from my screen. I climbed back into bed, thinking about how tomorrow I would cook a very special dish in tribute to September, the harvest month in Jerez.
In celebration of la vendimia in Jerez, the next morning, I recovered an old recipe for a local dish that harvest workers used to prepare during their lunch breaks, Ajo Campero. This simple to cook, delicious and tasty meal will give you the necessary carbs to carry on with labor-intense duties like the mighty harvest! The classic pairing wine is Fino, so I picked Lustau Jarana to go with it.
It took me just a few minutes to have it ready and we had it for dinner as a side dish to seared mahi-mahi. Once again, many times the simplest things can provide the greatest pleasures.
Click the link below to get my recipe!
Photo credit (right): Eduardo Pereiras Hurtado