Montilla Pedro Ximénez

Strictly speaking, the Denominacion de Origen is called Montilla-Moriles, but it is often known simply as Montilla.  The wine-producing region covers around 8000 hectares in the province of Cordoba in Andalucia in Spain, around 25km south of the city itself.  The main variety is Pedro Ximénez (PX for short), accounting for around 90% of plantings.  The other 10% is made up of muscatel, airén, baladi-verdejo and torrontés.  The vineyards are situated between 300 and 700 metres above sea level on chalky soils, and with almost unfeasible amounts of sunshine.

Montilla is the spiritual home of PX.  It is grown elsewhere around the world, and it is still important in Montilla’s neightbour Xeres, though much of the PX in sherry comes from Montilla.  But there is little to rival the PX of Montilla. 

PX is a thin-skinned grape variety with a high sugar content.  Once the grapes have been harvested, they are laid out on mats to dry in the sun.  They are then pressed and produce a thick must which undergoes a short fermentation, rarely reaching a legal alcohol level, hence they are fortified with grape spirit before they being the ageing process.

After fortification, the majority of wines (called de solera wines) are aged in a solera system, using American oak barrels.  Some wines are set aside to be single vintage: these are the de anada or de cosecha wines, which are aged in earthenware jars called tinajas.

The solera system starts by laying down a series of barrels of wine of the same, quality and character.  The following year, a tier of barrels of younger but similar wines is placed above it: this is known as the first criadera.  Further criaderas are added in subsequent years: in Montilla, there are usually three, four or five tiers of barrels in a solera.  For bottling, wine is drawn off from the oldest barrels at the bottom of the solera, which are then refilled with the same amount of wine from the first criadera; the first criadera is refilled from the second and so on.  No more than a third is renewed at any one time, and no more than 40% in a year, so that there is time for the younger wines to take on something of the character of the older wines.  A solera may continue for many years, eventually containing only an infinitesimal amount of the original wine.  The solera year indicates when the solera was begun: it is not a vintage year.

PX is excellent as a sipping wine, almost as a digestif, and it will keep for many days, if not weeks once opened, and indeed can improve.  Its most common use with food is probably being poured over vanilla ice-cream, a dish that’s found on restaurant menus across Andalucia.  But it goes further.  A popular dish in modern restaurants in Córdoba is a salad of sheep’s cheese, foie gras and caramelised apple served with a glass of sweet Montilla PX.  The fresher styles will work well with classic British puddings like treacle tart or sticky toffee pudding.  A glass might even work well with bread and butter pudding, with the raisiny fruit in the PX picking up on the raisins in the pudding.  PX is also one of the few wins that can really stand up to chocolate.  As part of this tasting, a selection of PXs were matched with some fine, hand-crafted chocolates by Sarah Jane Evans MW in association with the Academy of Chocolate.  The pairings are noted below.


Alvear has been a family-owned company since 1729.  Their vineyards are located in the top ‘pagos’ of the Montilla hills; Las Puentes, El Lagarito and Rompebonetes.

2005 Pedro Ximénez de anada, Alvear, DO Montilla Moriles, 17%, 465 g/l residual sugar
A lightish colour.  There are salted almonds, youthful dried fruits and citrus notes on the nose.  It has a luxurious, elegant mouthfeel, feeling quite honeyed, and is actually not too sweet, at least in PX terms.  89/100
This was tasted with Rococo White Chocolate with Cardamom, which proved to be an excellent combination, with both the wine and the chocolate really adding something to each other.


Bodegas Moreno
Moreno SA, a food and drink business, dates back to 1935 with the Musa brand dating back to 1940.  Bodegas Moreno was established in the early 1950s when they bought their first cellar from Gonzalez-Byass.  Since then, they have expanded greatly, but are still based in the heart of Córdoba, with the winery in Aguilar de la Frontera, a village between Montilla and Moriles.

NV Pedro Ximénez Musa, Bodegas Moreno, DO Montilla Moriles, 15%, 350g/l residual sugar
A mid teak colour.  Quite a sherry – salty Oloroso – nose, with light, fresh, orangey caramel and fresh grapes.  Very orangey palate with a touch of cognac flavours on the finish.  Very interesting.  90/100

NV Pedro Ximénez Virgilio Añada 1925, Bodegas Moreno, DO Montilla Moriles, 15%, 550 g/l residual sugar
There’s some confusion here in my mind, that they didn’t manage to resolve: the label says Añada 1925, which should mean that it’s single vintage, but all the literature talks of it being aged in solera begun in 1925.  Whatever, it is, even for a PX, a very deep colour.  There are dried fruits and grapefruit on the nose with a bit of a herbal note.  Although this is by far the sweetest PX here today, with 550 grams of residual sugar per litre, it actually doesn’t feel oversweet, but has some bright, fresh citrus and grapefruit flavours, alongside mocha and raisins.  91/100
This was paired with Sir Hans Sloane Orange Blossom Milk Chocolate.  The match worked very well indeed: the orange blossom really picks up on something in the wine, and the honeycomb pieces in the chocolate somehow, intriguingly manages to balance the richness of the PX.


Bodegas La Aurora
The Cooperativa Agricola La Aurora was established in 1964 and deals in the two core products of Andalucia: wine and olive oil. 

NV Finca Hispana PX, Bodegas La Aurora, DO Montilla Moriles, 15%, 390 g/l residual sugar
This has much more of a “normal” PX colour – a deepish brown, and very glass-coating.  Yellowing at the rim.  There’s treacle and grapefruit on the nose.  Excellent palate.  Very balanced.  It’s massively sweet, of course.  But there’s a honey and citrus element and a freshening acidity that keeps it from becoming too over the top.  89/100

NV Pedro Ximénez Solera 1981, Bodegas La Aurora, DO Montilla Moriles, 15%, 390 g/l residual sugar
This has a very complex nose with rich silky chocolate and coffee alongside dried fruit and raisins.  A delicious wine.  Lovely and rich with a sort of toastiness to start with and then a full hint of chocolate on the finish, but it also has a nice freshness.
This was paired with William Curley’s Raspberry and Toscano chocolate.  Toscano is a dark chocolate from the Italian producer, Amadei, whom Curley represents in the UK, which he blends with raspberries, to provide a juicy fresh foreground to rich, clean dark chocolate.  The pairing with the Aurora 1981 Solera was excellent, with each adding something to the mix and to the length of both.


Navisa Industrial Vinicola
Navisa is one of the biggest companies in the Montilla-Moriles area.  It produces a wide range of wines under the brands Cobos, Montebello, Montulia and Velasco Chacon.  At this tasting, they were showing three of their Cobos PXs.

NV Pedro Ximénez Dos Pasas Cobos, Navisa Industrial Vinicola, DO Montilla Moriles, 15%, 290 g/l residual sugar
Aged for seven years in the solera.  Quite a bit simpler on the nose than the previous ones: cleaner and fresher.  Simpler on the palate too: it lacks the complexity of the preceding wines and is the first to have a bit of a spirit kick.  The palate is dominated by roast coffee and grapefruit flavours, with the coffee and roasting very much to the fore.  83/100

NV Pedro Ximénez Tres Pasas Cobos Gran Vino Dulce, Navisa Industrial Vinicola, DO Montilla Moriles, 18%, 390 g/l residual sugar
Aged for 10 years in barrel, with deliberate oxidation.  This has a lovely fresh nose, again with grapefruit; this time accompanied by some crispy baked bread crusts, vanilla, caramel, rum and raisin, and some mocha.  Very nice palate: rich and luxurious.  Possibly lacking some of the complexity of a couple of the others, but it is very attractive indeed.  Very enjoyable.  89/100
This was paired with Amedei Porcelana chocolate.  Amedei is an Italian family business that focuses on single estates.  Porcelana is a specific bean, which in Amadei’s hands produces a very elegant bar of chocolate with redcurrant aromas, and fig and raisiny flavours and an excellent balance of bitterness and sweet.  It is very much an excellent match with the Tres Pasas, but it is a match of equals, with neither really adding a great deal to the other.

NV Tres Pasas Gran Reserva Cobos, Navisa Industrial Vinicola, DO Montilla Moriles, 18%, 390 g/l residual sugar
Aged for 25 years.    This has a much more complex nose than the ordinary Tres Pasos: not especially diffeent, but more complex and with greater depth.  Maybe there’s more more of a green herby note.  Much more complex on the palate: much more deeply layered and fascinating.  Real vin de meditation stuff.  92/100


Pérez Barquero
Pérez Barquero was established in 1905.  They have vineyards in the best area of the Montilla-Moriles Denominacion, between the Guadalquivir, Guadajoz and Genil rivers.

2006 Pedro Ximénez de Cosecha Vino Dulce de Pasas, Perez Barquero, 15%, 400 g/l residual sugar
This has salty caramel and almost a hint of anchovies on the nose.  A luscious mouthfeel – particularly so.  But it also has a nice freshness.  92/100

NV Pedro Ximénez La Cañada Sierra de Montilla, Pérez Barquero, 15%, 420 g/l residual sugar
Aged in solera for over 25 years.  There’s a sort of faux rustic feel to the bottle, which is rather dumpy frosted black which bears only the Consejo’s label – the actual label for the wine is a loose neck label fastened with string sealed with the wax capsule at one end and a lead seal at the other.  The usual dark oak, engine oil appearance.  Somewhat disappointing on the nose – imagine furniture polish mixed with caramel and some grapefruit peel candying on the stove next to you.  Excellent palate.  Very rich and heavy mouthfeel  Massive length.  But perhaps not the most complex of these PXs.  89/100

NV Pedro Ximénez Gran Barquero, Pérez Barquero, 15%, 400 g/l residual sugar
Aged in solera for an average of just six years.  This has a gorgeous complex nose of torrefaction, coffee, dried fruits.  Possibly a bit more simple on the palate that the Alvear 2005.  Luscious, oily sweet nectar.
This was matched with Paul A Young’s Sea Salted Almond Rocher: not a chocolate which particularly fired my enthusiasm, but a super match.  89/100



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Last updated: 27 April 2009