BKWine at exclusive sherry tasting, streamed online over the internet, with Gonzalez Byass’ Master Blender Antonio Flores
Sherry is a really delicious wine that more people should try. Sherry can range from bone dry to extremely sweet. There are “regular” sherries of different types. And there are speciality sherries. Everything from the little-known “fresh produce” sherry called En Rama to luxurious varieties produced in only a few hundred bottles. Sherry fits in many different contexts, such as a drink, with aperitif snacks and tapas, to certain types of food, to desserts and much more. BKWine tasted a number of sherries from the house of Gonzalez Byass. All turned out to be very good. BKWine’s Roland Eriksson reports.
In early June the international sherry week took place with huge celebrations in Jerez. Many delicious wines were also served by the glass in many of the world’s better restaurants. For the first time Gonzalez-Byass chose to organise during the week a live tasting, on-line, from Jerez broadcast to five different countries. It was interpreted live from Spanish to each language. We were a small group of enthusiastic writers present in the importer’s offices.
Sherry comes from the south-western part of Spain. Sherry is produced from only three different grape varieties, palomino fino, moscatel and pedro ximénez. The latter two are generally used only for sweetening or to make very sweet wines.
A sherry could be anything from light and bone-dry to treacle sweet, dark and almost opaque. All wines are fortified with wine spirit to between 15% and 22% ABV. They are aged in a so-called criadera (=nursery) and solera system with 500 litre oak barrels stacked one on top of the other, where vintages are constantly mixed from barrel to barrel. They do this to get a more consistent quality while getting a younger wine to feel older. The wine which is then sold comes from the bottom row of barrels, the oldest casks, called solera. A solera system may have been started over 100 years ago.
The foundation of a good sherry is a dry light fino, with lovely yeast tones and toastiness. The character comes from that a sherry butt is never completely filled. The wine’s surface is protected by a thick blanket of yeast known as “flor“. If the yeast cover cracks or disappears then little bit of spirit is added and the oxygen is left to slightly oxidize the wine and turn it into an amontillado.
Great wines at ridiculously low prices
Now, there are many more sherry types than what I mention here. But as you can see below they (at least some) appear in the tasting below. However, I cannot help but mention something that I really love, the two new classifications VOS and VORS. They appeared around the turn of the century 2000. They denote wines where all the contents of the bottle are at least 20 or 30 years old. To control that they even use the carbon-14 (C14) method!
To geek it all up a bit you can read out the names in English or in Latin, VOS = Very Old Sherry or Vinum Optimum Signatum (20 years), and VORS = Very Old Rare Sherry or Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum. Absolutely fabulous complex wines with enormous character and depth and almost ridiculously low prices!
A sherry can be matched with a lot of things. Of course Spanish tapas, charcuterie, blue and hard cheeses. A fino can be used as lower-alcohol alternative to the aquavit to herring, or drunk it just like it is with some olives, crisps (chips) and nuts.
Some of these sherries can be hard to find so it is advisable to enquire with the importer.
Tio Pepe Fino En Rama
Pale yellow colour, big, fresh and floral fragrance, with hints of yeast, almonds and freshly baked white bread; the taste is big, medium-bodied, with some yeast and bread with a lovely aromatic bitterness. A wine that is bottled both unfiltered and unstabilised in April, when the yeast cover is the most active. It is a “limited life” wine that should be consumed within a few months. 89 P.
~16 euro, 15%.
Vina AB Seco Amontillado
Golden yellow, big, light caramel and quite young nose with some remaining yeasty fino character, with hints of vanilla, dried fruit and nuts; the taste is quite full-bodied, lightly toasted and slightly bitter with a hint of hazelnut, long. 89 P.
~9 euro, half bottle, 18.5%.
Del Duque Amontillado VORS 30 Years
Amber, big and powerful, oxidative and concentrated aroma, with hints of dried fruit, toasted hazelnuts and orange zest; the taste is rich and elegant with hints of dried fruit, toasted hazelnuts, perfectly balanced with good acidity, slightly sharp and bitter, long. 91 P.
~24 euro, half bottle, 21.5%.
Leonor Palo Cortado 12 Years
Dark amber, big, concentrated aroma, with hints of raisins and dried fruit, the taste is full-bodied, dry and oxidative, long. 88 P.
~10 euro, half bottle, 20%.
Añada Palo Cortado 1982
Dark amber, big, intense, very concentrated and elegant aroma, with dried fruit, oriental tobacco and roasted nuts; the taste is very full-bodied, intense and elegant, with dried fruit, oak, raisins, tobacco, roasted nuts and a delicious bitterness, long. 95p
Very limited production, only 667 bottles made two years ago. The wine has not been in a criadera and solera. A sherry with a vintage is made only by a few producers. As Master Blender Miguel Montero (Real Tesoro) says, you can just sit in front of the barrel and twiddle your thumbs and wait.
Some 120 euro, 22%.
Apostoles Palo Cortado VORS 30 Years
87% palomino, 13% px
Dark mahogany colour, big, oxidative and intense aroma, with hints of dried fruits, figs, raisins and muscovado sugar and dark chocolate; the taste is full-bodied, intense, semi-dry, with dried fruit, orange peel, nuts, very long and concentrated. 93 P.
~24 euro, half bottle, 20%.
Solera 1847 Cream
75% palomino, 25% px
Dark brown mahogany colour, big, sweet nose, with hints of raisins, muscatel grapes, dates and milk chocolate; the taste is sweet, mellow and grapelike, with figs and dates, long and syrupy. 88 P.
~10 euro, half bottle, 18%.
Matusalem Oloroso Vors 30 Years
75% palomino, 25% px
Dark brown mahogany colour, particularly big, caramel fragrance, with much chocolate fudge, muscovado sugar and barrels; the flavour is very rich and concentrated, slightly burnt, with hints of coffee, chocolate, caramel and oak with a delicious bitter touch, very long. 94 P.
~24 euro, 20.5%.
Noe Pedro Ximénez VORS 30 Years
100% px where the grapes have been sun-dried 15 days prior to vinification.
Dark brown and opaque, large, particularly dense and sweet aroma, with white and red raisins, dates, figs, dried fruits and slightly burnt tones; the taste is very sweet, concentrated and grapelike, with raisins, dark chocolate, caramel and coffee, slightly burnt with a delicious bitterness, super long. If an angel would come down from heaven with a bottle of nectar from God’s own cellar it would probably taste like this. 94 P.
~26 euro, half bottle, 15.5%.
Roland Eriksson writes on BKWine Magazine on wine tastings with wine merchants and importers in Sweden. Roland is the author of a book on cognac (A Handbook: Cognac, 2007, published in Swedish) and one on rum as well as one on tea.
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