Rafael Rivas, capataz for several decades at La Guita cellars at Sanlúcar’s Calle Misericordia until his retirement in 2011, started in 1986 this 15-butt solera with a well-aged manzanilla. The plan was to produce an old manzanilla of exceptional quality, should one be required to add some extra kick to the commercial releases of the house.
But no such kick was ever required, and so, in order to preserve its character and prevent its turning into an amontillado, capataz Rivas pampered these 15 butts and ‘touching’ them only sparsely, sometimes as little as only every two years, with testimonial sacas of only four or five arrobas (roughly 5×16=80 liters) and refilling them with wines sourced from the best solera of La Guita. The result is a true manzanilla pasada, extremely singular in style. Like the good old ones.
Another feature that contributes to this wine’s singularity and unmatched biological character (intense and steely notes of salinity on the palate) is the way the butts are filled almost up to a tocadedos (within finger reach from the top)—well above the customary 5/6 in the Sherry region. This way, the yeast layer or “flor” (truly weakened now by the wine’s age and lack of nutrients) in these butts is more reduced and can be maintained with those scarce refills. It still performs its function as physical barrier against the wine’s oxidation, but in its diminished state it cannot be fully effective and so this manzanilla offers elegant oxidation notes and a budding rise in its alcohol level, at about 16%.
This prodigious wine was never bottled until Equipo Navazos selected it in 2008 for its 10th release of ‘La Bota de…’, followed two years later by edition number 20 “Bota Punta”, and then a few more that have been celebrated by many wine lovers who are absolutely crazy for this superb manzanilla pasada.
The real average age of La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada 59 must be around 15 years. It is a complex and powerful wine, of balanced freshness and elegant oxidation notes that make it truly unique. Stunningly versatile on the dinner table, it matches a wide variety of dishes, from the most easygoing (rich fish dishes, fish-based rice recipes, charcuterie) to the most difficult (scrambled eggs with boletus edulis, runny sheep cheeses, asian spicy food). Best served around 12º C, in moderately large stemware.