Manuel Jesus Nieves is the current capataz (cellar master) at Bodega Emilio Hidalgo. To say ‘current’ almost seems a little ineffectual, as he has been overseeing the Hildago family’s sherry production for over 4 decades. Traditionally a capataz works their way up to the role over many years, learning the unique signatures and methods of their house through experience and knowledge passed on from their predecessors. Indeed Manuel learned the trade from his father, and it is his son who is next in line to fully take over when he retires. Though officially coming on board in the early 2000’s as assistant, Manuel jnr has been helping in the vineyards and cellar for many years through his youth, and whilst bringing new knowledge and fresh eyes to the bodega, he also has a clear and personal connection to the methods and traditions of the past.
This connection of family to place seems only natural, as the Hidalgo’s themselves have been in the sherry making business for generations, with the bodega being founded in Jerez de la Frontera in 1874 and the winery being built specifically to enable and enhance the traits necessary to sherry production.
Originally their vineyards were located in the heart of the Jerez DO, and were planted to Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez, grown on a mix of clay, limestone and sandy soils. Later generations sold the family vineyards, and now the Hildalgo’s work as négociants, focusing on maintaining the wine in their ancient soleras and to guarding the style and unique character of their estate through their winemaking methods and the fruit that they select for production..