Published on March 28th, 2023 | by Ruben0
Raya Cortada – Conde de Aldama (Bodegas Yuste)
In 2021 Bodegas Yuste unveiled the Conde de Aldama Raya Cortada, which they called an oenological miracle. They identified some casks filled with Oloroso wine, fortified initially to 18% alcohol, that still developed a veil of flor. The wine started to behave differently, with a reduction to 16.5% along the way.
Gabriel Raya, Yuste’s representative, and Miguel Villa, an enologist originally from Córdoba, discovered the wine and started investigating. While it is commonly believed that flor yeast only survives between 14 and 16% ABV, they found evidence of certain strains that are capable of withstanding higher strengths. The wine started to age oxidatively as an Oloroso, but after 4 years this was reverted and biological ageing occured.
Raya Cortada: a new style of sherry
The wine was baptized Raya Cortada, basically a raya that shifted towards biological ageing. Pretty much an inverted Amontillado, which starts under flor and then ages further in an oxidative way. To describe the aromatic profile, some say the Raya Cortada noses like an Oloroso and tastes more like an Amontillado. The inverse of how we often describe a Palo Cortado. As this type of wine doesn’t fit any specifications, it falls outside of the D.O. Manzanilla / Sherry. The label only mentions the generic term Vino de Licor.
Some questions remain unanswered, like: what came first, the drop in alcohol volume, or the appearance of the flor? And are we dealing with common strains of Saccharomyces or is this some undiscovered resistent version, a kind of “super yeast”? Even though a certain degree of exaggeration was used to place this Raya Cortada on the map (“it’s a miracle” and “we have shaken up the foundations of Andalusian winemaking”) it definitely piques our interest. However some people are quite critical, saying this happened many times before, but was always considered a defect.
In any case, it seems this style of wine is only possible in Sanlúcar, where the high humidity and lower temperatures are certainly more favourable for flor development.
Of course the wine is quite young: it was 4 years old when it started to deviate, and aged for 1 more year under flor. Classic Amontillado wines will be closer to 10 years, and 4 years of oxidative ageing won’t give you a typical Oloroso either. Yuste bottled a first batch in 2021 and two more (I believe) in 2022. Now they’re trying to expand to 36 casks, set up as a separate small solera system, in order to get a consistent development and sustainable production.
Raya Cortada – Conde de Aldama (16,5%, Bodegas Yuste 2021, 50 cl, 400 btl.)
Nose: it starts on on the nutty notes typical for an Oloroso. Hazelnuts with a light toasted edge, as well as a hint of dusty cupboards. Still a subtle fruity sweetness (peach) in the background, though very subtle. Then the coastal side comes out, with iodine and even a whiff of petrol. A light balsamic edge. Caramel too. This is an Oloroso nose, definitely, but a young one that doesn’t have the intensity of most other Olorosos on the market. Also, coming from Sanlúcar, there’s always this recognizable coastal side to it.
Mouth: quite vertical and sharp now, with a lot of saltiness and hints of bitter Mediterranean herbs. Closer to an Amontillado (or better still, a Manzanilla Pasada) indeed. Lemon juice, green olive brine and hints of grapefruit peels. At the same time there is a glyceric edge that gives it the volume of an Oloroso. Salted butter. Toasted nuts. In the end some woody notes appear, as well as some mineral notes and a return of this bitter edge. Somehow there is also a brandy-like boozy touch to it.
Availability: very limited of course, and sold out virtually everywhere. Around € 30 for a 50 cl bottle. You could check with Yuste when the next batch will be released.
Summary: Quite an interesting wine. The "Oloroso on the nose, Amontillado on the palate" description comes close, but doesn't do full justice. It's a mixture of different elements in a way we hadn't seen before, but it's also quite young, bringing hints of Manzanilla Pasada to the table. A nice hybrid, I'm curious to see whether they can produce older versions.