Tag Archives: Sherry

The Sherry Revolution (Jerez, Spain – Day Two)

As I talked about in my previous post, most people think sweet when they think sherry, but there is far more to it. Different styles were developed over time, but essentially the principle of the fortification process was to allow the wines to age in an oxidative process whereby barrels were not completely filled and in the case of the dry styles a thin layer of yeast was allowed to form on the surface of the wine known as flor. With the sweeter and higher alcohol wines this flor does not exist and are thus more oxidative in nature, and often age for longer both in solera and bottle. After all, if the wine is already oxidised in the barrel it hardly matters if you drink it several months after opening the bottle. With the sherry rainbow of styles on offer, it actually means that sherry is a versatile and unique companion to food. Possibly one of the most famous food matches with manzanilla for example, is freshly grilled sardines which are very salty and pair perfectly with the fresh acids of the sherry. There is currently a sherry revolution as new generations are discovering this ancient wine style, most notably in London and New York. Several wine experts still maintain that sherry is woefully undervalued and I couldn’t agree more. It just takes a little while to understand the wine, and shake the image of it being for old fuddy-duddies.
Can you tell I’m missing home?

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Hitting the flor (Jerez, Spain – Day One)

What comes to mind when you hear the word sherry? Depending on where you are from, the most likely response is little old ladies of British descent sipping on sweet wine out of small glasses. Considering the history of this particular wine this image is makes a lot of sense, but certainly isn’t 100% accurate. There is a certain irony in the fact that many of the sweet wines in the world were actually heavily targeted towards the British markets of the past, possibly none more so than sherry. They even designed specialty wines for them, most notably cream sherry which is still today the most familiar style to consumers in many parts of the world. Sherry wine as it is today is one of the oldest wine styles in the world, dating back to the Moors who introduced distillation and fortification over a thousand years ago. The British fell in love with the wine after Francis Drake sacked Cadiz and took several thousand casks back to England, and since then the UK has been their biggest market. To maintain consistency a system was devised to always have a constant supply, and this was the solera system. A minimum of four rows of barrels were stacked, and a minimum of three times a year the barrels are filled one-third from the top down. In the past this was done by hand using jugs, but today the wine is transferred to tanks and blended before being passed down. Therefore you can bottle sherry three times a year, which is important for the drier styles which are much better when they are fresh. With the higher alcohol fortification the wine can live longer in the bottle even after opening, which is why it is so common to find really old bottles in your grandparents bars. But the dry styles really need to be drunk within six months of bottling, as they tend to become a bit tired. Not easy for us down in Australia, hence my desire to taste from the solera when I visited. The two producers I visited are some of the oldest and most important in the region.

The first of many attempts to remove some sherry from the solera

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Vote for pedro (Montilla-Moriles, Spain)

Quite often on my trip I show my ignorance and/or naivety when it comes to wine. This isn’t hard to believe considering how big the wine world is, how many wineries and how many regions there are. It was one of the first things that excited me about working with wine, is that it is essentially impossible to know everything about wine, but I liked the challenge regardless. Sometimes these instances are a little more embarrassing, such as not knowing what the whole left bank-right bank thing referred to. My former employer King & Godfree prides itself on the range of fortified wines it stocks, particularly their sherries, so I was familiar with the different styles and many of the better known houses. So when I got in contact with one of my favourite producers noting my dates in Jerez, I was very embarrassed to discover that they aren’t even in the same province. The surprises didn’t stop there, as I had one of my most enlightening visits in Spain.
Dreams can come true

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Bodegas Hidalgo – 2/07/2012

Amontillado solera (120 years old, 43 year old wine)
Nice toasty caramel smoky toasty notes. Fresh but salty, you taste the difference in the wine here, fresh but quite complex and very rancio oxidative, good structure through the middle of the palate, nice clean finish with complex texture of nuts and lees notes.

Oloroso solera (roughly the same as above)
Slightly more tar and molasses, slightly more vanilla. Much deeper toastier texture and slightly more noticeable alcohol. Depth and concentration, full flavour, nice focus and drive.

Palo Cortado (40-60 years old)
Showing some floral elements somehow, strong vanilla essence character. Amazingly fresh but expressive oxidative rancio notes, warming balanced and rich, smoky toasty intensity. Very mature.

Pastrajanna Manzanilla solera 12 years old
Green parsley basil notes, maybe some garlic in there, with that classic salty element. Tastes like prosciutto, amazing.

La Gitana herself

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Sanchez Romate – 2/07/2012

Fino solera
Wonderfully fresh, clean nose with solid rancio character. Tight clean and balanced. Well protected but nice oxidative complexity. Second solera rounder richer and more oxidative. Smoother somehow.

Amontillado solera
Wonderfully creamy burnt caramel, complex rancio oxidative notes, some nutty characters, vanilla beans. Toasty creamy texture but very fresh and dry, wonderfully complex characters.

Oloroso Sacristia solera
More oxidative wood notes, very dark caramel and chocolate notes. Deeper denser, very late nutty oxidative complexity, very long finish, creamy texture. Opulent rich and slightly sweet.

Pedro Ximenez solera
Extremely raisiny, so dense and viscous, quite warm, toasty and rich, very chocolatey. Somewhat subdued aromatically, slightly closed. Thick and gloopy. So heavy and full, more solid than liquid. Christmas in a glass.

Oloroso Viejismo (VORS, very old and rare sherry, minimum 30 years)
Wonderfully rich and deep aromas, extremely complex, integrated oak and toast aromas. Intense flavours, wonderfully bright, crunchy complex, less creamy characters, powerful expression, amazing companion to food, so fresh yet so complex.

Romate Very Old Oloroso

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