The Significance of Toro Albalá

Bodegas Toro Albalá in D.O. Montilla-Moriles, long and widely regarded as one of Spain’s greatest wine producers, is garnering increasing international exposure through highly visible reviews for recent releases of their aged vintage dessert PX (Pedro Ximénez).

These wines stand by themselves on a pedestal within their category. Toro Albalá is the only firm specialized in cask-aged single-vintage PX and is uniquely able to offer and guarantee intact vintages—from current-release Don PX Gran Reserva (1983) going back to the pre-Civil War era (1930s and prior). 

Toro Albalá was founded in 1844 by Antonio Sánchez Prieto, bodega and vineyards located on the slopes near historic Castillo de Poley in Aguilar de la Frontera. This pre-phylloxeric vineyard, named La Noria (‘the water wheel’), remained in production until well into the 1970s. A small remaining cask of 1844 La Noria is quietly guarded in the cellars to this day…

Antonio Sánchez. daughter Rosario

Antonio Sánchez. daughter Rosario

In 1922, Antonio’s grandson José María Toro Albalá moved the bodega to its current location in the former power plant of Aguilar. Following the Civil War, José María became custodian of his nephew Antonio Sánchez, who had been left fatherless. Young Antonio went on to study enology in Jerez and Bordeaux, and to become a leading consulting enologist in the region, assisting all the bodegas of Montilla-Moriles and many in Jerez. José María died in 1989 at a ripe old age, and Antonio continues to this day at a robust and active 79.

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Toro Albalá thus boasts a history of steady vigilance by just three individuals during 171 years of continuous winemaking.

While the impactful, sweet Don PX vintages are headline-grabbers, the dry wines of Toro Albalá are nothing less than world-class as well. They are totally natural (unlike Jerez, where initial and periodic addition of distilled alcohol is an essential procedure for all styles), and offer complexity to match the best from Montilla’s more well-known Andalusian counterpart.

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Marqués de Poley Amontillado Viejísimo (Solera 1922) is a minimum average of 35 years old (5 more than for VORS in Jerez!). It is a marvel of nutty complexity and length, with a notably pure finish in the absence of added spirit. The comparative richness of the Pedro Ximénez vs. Palomino de Jerez also provides a roundness on the finish that in Jerez would more likely be classified as Palo Cortado.

Marqués de Poley Oloroso is made from the same free run juice as Fino and Amontillado, but the wine is aged under conditions that prevent development of the flor yeast.  It manages to avoid the often bitter or oxidized notes of Olorosos from Jerez, which typically incorporate wines from the first pressing. Marqués de Poley is a clean and elegant version, with the natural softness of Pedro Ximénez that makes it a perfect anytime apéritif.

Author: shm

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