Grape(s): Amontillado, Pedro Ximenez
Localization: Jerez, Spain
Tasting Notes: This lightly sweet wine is a blend of two classic styles, Amontillado and Pedro Ximenez, each of which was aged for a minimum of 12 years prior to blend and bottling. It combines the pungent, salty, and toasty/nutty scent from the first and deep, concentrated aromas and flavors of raisin and dried fig from the second. Pair this style of wine with winter fruits as oranges or pomegranate, aged cheeses, or up your cocktail game by using this as a blending component or base for punch.
Notes: Hand-harvested, the Pedro Ximenez was sun-dried and partially raised prior to fermentation Amontillado was aged under flor and oxidatively for more than 12 years, the Pedro Ximenez was aged for more than 12 years
Food pairing: Because of its sweetness, it should be served chilled, between 10 and 12°C. It can be had in a wide variety of ways: with fruit salads, sweet apple pie or other kinds of pastry, after dinner on the side with a coffee, or with paté, foie gras and mature cheese. Some people tend to drink it as an aperitif, usually with ice, but this will not suit the purpose of an aperitif to start the appetite very well.
The Domain: The history of Bodegas Díez Mérito starts in 1876, when Salvador Diez y Pérez de Muñoz starts a wine business with his brother. Originally the firm operated from the South of France, where Salvador found himself in exile after fighting in the Third Carlist War which divided Spain.
Their wines were sent to them by their father, a banker from Jerez. The business flourished and a few years later they operated a large bodega across the train station in Jerez (still part of the Diéz Mérito company but sadly in decay). In fact, they had been involved in the first train lines in Barcelona and between Jerez and El Portal – a crucial line for bodegas giving them access to the Guadalete river and the sea.
In 1889 they took over the important soleras of Ysasi y Cia. A third brother joined the company (they were now called Díez Hermanos) and in 1893 the Spanish king Alfonso XII appointed the company a Royal Warrant, which explains the Spanish Royal Coat of Arms in their wine labels. More bodegas were taken over, including Fuentes Parilla and Riva & Rubio and at the start of the 20th century, Díez Hermanos was at the top of the export sales. Like many sherry bodegas at that time, they also started a branch in the Port and Madeira trade (later sold to Offley).
Then there’s the Mérito side of the bodega’s heritage. Bodegas Marqués de Mérito was an important producer founded in the mid 1800s. They owned extensive vineyards and large bodegas. In 1979 Díez Hermanos bought Marqués de Mérito and formed the Díez Mérito group. By doing so they also acquired the stunning bodegas Bertemati, an emblematic and beautifully preserved bodega dating back to 1760 and named after its first owner, the Marqués de Misa.
In 1981 the company is absorbed by Rumasa, incorporating to the portfolio labels as Pemartin (a bodega set up in 1818), Otaola Liquors, and the Bertola brand. After the dismantling of the group, Marcos Eguizabal adquires the bodegas in 1985 and merges them with the Rioja bodega of Federico Paternina and Bodegas Bertola into the group Federico Paternina. While a lot of their wines are praised for their quality, commercial efforts are low and the brand stays largely in the shadow, especially after Equizabal dies in 1994.
A new chapter starts in March 2016, when the local Espinosa family buys Díez Mérito. The Espinosas have been part of the sherry world since the early 1980s when they bought their first vineyard and started a business as suppliers for Gonzalez Byass. Afterward they were linked to the cooperative winegrowers Covijerez, which will still take up most of their harvest. They have big plans to put the Díez Mérito name back on the map.
Besides the Bertemati bodega, the company also owns the bodega El Cuadro and around 220 ha of vineyards.