Visit the Tio Pepe bodegas in Jerez and you may notice a gentleman peering into one of the many sherry barrels clutching two essential tools of his trade – a mirror and torch. Master Blender Antonio Flores shines the small light in to the barrels using the reflection to inspect the Flor (the thick yeast layer growing on top of his Fino) with great care. Despite the row upon row of barrels, he knows many casks individually and has his favourites – look out for his secret chalk marks!
If he looks at home in the bodega it’s not surprising – Antonio was born in the winery in a flat just above the original 19th Century Tio Pepe cellar. When his cellar master father left for work, a young Antonio would creep downstairs and poke his head around the door to observe the early morning activity in the bodega. If he was feeling daring he would run out, when nobody was looking, and play amongst the barrels.
Today the winery remains Antonio’s playground – a place he loves to be to share his vast sherry knowledge with guests. Spend five minutes with this gentleman and you are guaranteed to be charmed by his stories and enthused by his passion.
This year Antonio’s skill, expertise and passion for winemaking was acknowledged at the prestigious International Wine Challenge awards where he was crowned IWC Fortified Winemaker of the year 2016. And it doesn’t stop there – this year Gonzalez Byass sherries received 14 gold medals and 5 trophies in the IWC and Decanter competitions.
You can admire the full list here or relive the moment an overjoyed Antonio collected his Fortified Winemaker award in the video below.