During the tribute to Manuel Barbadillo in London. / sur

'Versos 1891': the poetry to drink

This year marks the 200th anniversary of a prestigious sherry brand with a poetic name and its timeless rare wine from Sanlúcar de Barrameda

ALEKK M. SAANDERS

The Junta de Andalucía celebrates the region's Reading Day on 16 December because this day in 1902 one of the greatest literary figures of the Silver Age of Spanish Literature, Rafael Alberti, was born in El Puerto de Santa María (Cadiz).

The Andalusian poet was from a family of vintners who had once been the most powerful in town, suppliers of sherry to the crowned heads of Europe and mostly to England.

Another Andalusian poet, Manuel Barbadillo, was an owner of a famous winery. His birth year and his verses are immortalised in the sherry brand - Versos 1891 - one of the most expensive wines in the world.

The poet's birthyear and his 'verses' are immortalised in the sherry brand - Versos 1891 - one of the most expensive wines in the world

Two centuries ago

The history of the legendary Amontillado (a brown sherry) named 'Versos' began exactly 200 years ago. In 1821, Don Benigno Barbadillo, after returning from 20-year stay in Mexico purchased a bodega in the centre of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. In 1827 their first sherry was exported to Philadelphia and eventually to the island of Jersey.

The new Barbadillo winery era started in 1891 when the grandson of the company's founder, Manuel, was born. According to the custom, as a christening present, Manuel Barbadillo and his four brothers were given one each from a set of five butts known as 'Las Botas de los Niños'. Manuel's cask was a very old Amontillado that almost two centuries later became Versos 1891 - one of the most expensive wines in the world.

The name 'Versos' refers to Manuel’s poetic talent. Manuel Barbadillo was not only a wine connoisseur and president of Bodegas Barbadillo for some decades, but also a poet and friend to many representatives from the Generation' 27, an influential group of avantgarde poets that arose in Spanish literary circles between 1923 and 1927.

London and the luxury edition

Manuel's birthdate has been commemorated for all these years with the line Versos 1891. The 125th anniversary was special. That unforgettable tribute to Manuel Barbadillo was celebrated in London. In 2016, the Barbadillo group displayed its crown jewel to One Great George Street, a central London venue. A hundred bottles were displayed in a very special case.

The 125th anniversary of Versos 1891 was special because the unforgettable tribute to Manuel Barbadillo was celebrated in London

The high quality leather box was produced by expert masters from Ubrique, in Cadiz provinc, who also make the most important luxury brands in the world. The purest crystal bottle is also a hand-blown masterpiece that was melted at 1,100ºC by Portuguese specialists Atlantis.

Versos 1891 look. / sur

They engraved all the details by hand, and made inscriptions using the sand stroke technique. The word 'Versos' was made with gold letters. The neck of the bottle and the edge of the cap were hand-painted with platinum, and the inside of the neck was polished with a diamond bit. The cork was also designed for every bottle.

There are legends about the extraordinary taste of Versos 1891

There are legends about the flavour of Versos 1891. It allegedly has a complex aroma and great intensity. The extraordinary quality is caused by ageing for more than a century in the peace and darkness of the cellars of Barbadillo. They try to preserve the timeless wine for other generations.

They say that some of the wine was drunk during this long period and the butt was occasionally refreshed with suitable old wine until the 1980s. Nevertheless, Versos 1891 still attracts massive attention. The rich and nutty wine has an exclusive and spectacular cost. With the price of 10,000 euros for a bottle, it is apparently considered the second most expensive sherry ever.

With the price of 10,000 euros for a bottle, it is apparently considered the second most expensive Sherry ever

A sherry synonym in the US

Incidentally, one of the world's leading producers of sherry wine - The House of Lustau - has its 90th anniversary this year.

Although the original House of Lustau dates back to 1896 when José Ruiz-Berdejo began cultivating the vines of his family's estate in his spare time, the current winery, in the centre of Jerez, was founded in 1931 by his daughter María Ruiz-Berdejo Alberti (apparently a relative of the famous poet, Rafael Alberti).

Bodegas Lustau continues to be placed among the most admired and awarded wineries. Today, the House of Lustau is a synonym for sherry in the United States, where it is considered a world-class benchmark for top-quality wines.