This post is a little outside the scope of Inside Rioja, but to paraphrase a song from the 60s, ‘It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want’, and any time I get the chance to taste good sherry, I go for it , because I worked for eight years for a winery that made Málaga, a fortified wine. Tasting good sherries, especially the sweeter styles reminds me of the beginning of my career in the wine trade 35 years ago.
The tasting was organized by the Fundación para la Cultura del Vino (http://www.culturadelvino.org), an organization made up of several well-known wineries (Marqués de Riscal, La Rioja Alta and Muga from Rioja, Codorniú, Vega Sicilia from Ribera del Duero, Terras Gauda from Rías Baixas and Chivite from Navarra) along with the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. The Foundation organizes a number of events to promote wine culture, the best-known of which are tastings of famous wines from around the world.
The sherry tasting was the first time a Spanish region was highlighted, and therefore caused enormous expectation among those fortunate enough to be invited. It was held in the ballroom of the casino in Madrid near the Puerta del Sol, which added another dimension to the excitement we felt before the event.
Sadly, sherry has largely been ignored by consumers for the last twenty years. Falling sales since the 1980s have produced a massive imbalance between supply and demand that has not been completely corrected by uprooting vines and the creation of special categories to market older wines (VOS – Vinum Optimum Signatorum or Very Old Sherry- wines whose average age is over 20 years and VORS – Vinum Optimum Rarum Signatorum or Very Old Rare Sherry- whose average age is over 30 years). In spite of innovative marketing campaigns, undistinguished wines are often found at low prices, as pressure to meet overheads has forced wineries to cave in to the demands of supermarket buyers.
I certainly hope this is a passing fad because sherry deserves a place in our homes and hearts.
This tasting, which was absolutely the best one I’ve ever attended, showed what fantastic wines can be made in Jerez.
The following wines were tasted:
Fino Inocente (Valdespino). Comes from a single vineyard within the Macharnudo estate.Pale yellow with greenish hues. Pungent, buttery, almond nose, Fine, unctuous, persistent on the palate.
Manzanilla en Rama Saca de Primavera 2009 (Barbadillo). Yellow-gold (more than a traditional manzanilla), Complex nose reminiscent of an olive orchard, buttery, not as much of a salty tang ususally associated with manzanilla.
Manzanilla Amontillada de Sanlúcar Almacenista Cuevas 1/21 (Lustau). Gold-amber. Pungent and slightly caramelly on the nose. The nutty amontillado character expresses itself on the palate.
Oloroso del Puerto Almacenista Obregón 1/110 (Lustau). Medium intensity mahogany. Nutty, spicy, elegant. Rich and mouthfilling.
Palo Cortado 1978 (González Byass). Gold with amber hues. Delicate, jammy citrus fruit nose. On the palate, caramelly, persistent, velvety.
Palo Cortado VORS (Tradición). Gold with amber hues. Bitter orange and ‘sweet shop’ nose. Candied fruit on the palate.
Cuatro Palmas (González Byass). Mahogany. Tobacco nose. Extremely salty on the palate, a testimonial to its origin as a fino over 50 years ago.
Amontillado Reliquia (Barbadillo). Medium mahogany. Candied oranges, orange peels, nutty, a little astringent, like iodine. Brandy-like, smooth on the palate.
Oloroso VORS (Tradición). Amber-gold. Toffee and almonds. Caramelly, roast coffee. Elegant.
Pedro Ximénez ‘Niños’ VORS (Valdespino). Very intense mahogany. Raisins, prunes, dried figs. Unctuous and mouthfilling.
I can’t speak highly enough of sherry and would like to make a suggestion: buy a good bottle. The next time you curl up with a book you enjoy, drink a glass or two. Sherry is the perfect wine for contemplation. And, try to learn a little about these wines. Go to the Regulatory Council website (http://www.sherry.org) where you can read all about the history and styles of this fascinating wine.