“XC Palo Cortado” and “Amontillado Viña AB Estrella de los Mares”, are set to be joined by a new “there and back” wine, a very special 2016 vintage Tío Pepe made from grapes grown in two very different “pagos” (estates): Macharnudo and Carrascal. This Fino de Pago will be sailing on board the Spanish Navy Training Ship that sets off on its 94th instructional voyage on 12th February, being the last of the commemorative events marking the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the planet.
Two half butts, previously seasoned with wine, will be carrying the most universal of Sherries, Tío Pepe, on a voyage that will cross the waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. During the voyage, this biologically aged, living wine will undergo a sophisticated, unique change that will mark the character of this travelling Tío Pepe. It is also hoped that “submerged ageing” * will happen inside the butts, adding unique subtle features.
The voyage on which this Tío Pepe, González Byass’ signature wine, is being sent is the company’s final tribute to those mariners who changed the course of human history and signals a revival of the centuries-old winemaking tradition of sending wines off on a “round trip”. What happens during the voyage is that factors such as temperature, pressure and, most of all, the constant rolling of the sea waves, affect how the wine ages, considerably improving its taste and aroma profile.
Centuries ago, the effects enhanced the value of these wines, known as “mareados” (a play on the word ‘mar’ in Spanish as ‘mareado’ means queasy/seasick but could also be construed as ‘subjected to the sea’) or “there and back” wines, to the extent that they would fetch up to five times the price of other wines. As a result, many wine producers in the region used to send their wines off on a “round trip” to increase their market price. The practice dwindled with the arrival of steam ships and was forgotten until González Byass, in partnership with the Spanish Navy sent two half butts of XC Palo Cortado on a voyage in 2018, followed by another two, this time of “Amontillado Viña AB Estrella de los Mares”, in 2020.
*Submerged ageing: the conditions at sea, together with the butts’ location in the hold of the ship, almost at sea level, and the more or less uniform temperature throughout the voyage mean that the yeast, which is very sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, suffers less. The two half-butts are filled to within 10 litres of their capacity, thus enabling the flor to be flooded as the ship dips and rolls. This in turn means that there is more surface contact, and the metabolism is more intense because of the oxygen dissolved in the wine.