Everything suggests that the origin of Andalusian biological aging should be dated back to the second half of the eighteenth century, halfway between Sanlúcar (providing the wines) and Cádiz (providing the market and commercial channels in the form of the tabancos de montañeses where the beneficial effects of the flor were first appreciated).
Everything likewise indicates that in those days the practice of fortification was infrequent in the white wines destined to local consumption. We gather that from Agustín Fernández’s 1801 article on “Vineyard and winemaking practices in San Lucar de Barrameda”, published in issue 213 of that admirable source of information, the Semanario de Agricultura y Artes dirigido a los Párrocos. After stating that the best grapes were the “listanes” (Palomino Fino) and the best vineyards those of “tierras blancas” (albariza soils) he continued as follows: “if the grapes are of top quality, the whites need nothing more; it is true that some add a quarter of refined spirit to stabilize them, but they risk the wines becoming coarse as a result of this” (p 59)
If to this we add the fact that the local classification of vineyards according to quality criteria was well settled at the turn of the 18th century, we can infer that the parameters that a top-quality wine of the age had to meet were the following: a) the Palomino Fino variety, b) sourced from the best vineyards, c) fermented in butt, d) using indigenous yeasts, e) aged under the layer of flor that was formed immediately after the fermentation yeasts finished their job, f) with no added alcohol. This wine, before the generalization of the term “vino de manzanilla” (for which Cádiz was responsible), was plainly known locally as “vino blanco” (‘white wine’).
It is no more and no less than that, a white wine, that we offer now as the fifth vintage of Navazos-Niepoort 2012, produced by Equipo Navazos following exactly the same rigorous quality criteria employed by the best winemakers of the Bajo Guadalquivir some 200 years ago: Palomino Fino musts sourced from a historic albariza vineyard (Pago Macharnudo), fermented in butt with indigenous yeasts that impregnate the vines and the fermentation vessels themselves, aged for more than five months under a layer of flor thanks to the action of more indigenous yeasts that take control immediately after fermentation, and of course with not a single drop of added alcohol.