Try Tio Pepe Fino en Rama for a magnificent wine experience
One of the most underrated wines is sherry. I think that is a pity, a great pity. Within this segment there are huge bargains to be found at still very reasonable prices. Tio Pepe Fino en Rama is an excellent example.
I am obviously not thinking about commercial big-sellers and sweetened products such as Bristol Cream and Dry Sack. A really good sherry,in my opinion, should be bone dry! Then if you want a light fino or aged and oxidized amontillado or palo cortado is of course a matter of taste. But all these wines offer tremendous wine experience at little cost!
But what I will delve into here is the light dry type called fino. The wine comes from the district of Jerez that is located in south-western Spain. The closest and largest city is Cadiz, which was founded over 3000 years ago by the Phoenicians. The grape variety is 100 % palomino that is first fermented out to a dry white wine and then fortified with grape spirit to approximately 15 to 15.5% of alcohol.
The young wine is put into 500 l barrels of American oak called bota or butt in English. The barrels are filled to five sixths to make room for the veil which will, one hopes, be formed.
First flor, then solera and then the nursery
Flor is formed by the yeast saccharomyces beticus. It creates a floating “cap” on top of the wine that protects the wine from oxidation and gives it that special aroma and flavour character that is a unique experience.
What then happens is that you age the wine in a so-called solera system. A solera consists of oak barrels that are stacked in rows on top of each other with the oldest wines at the bottom and the youngest at the top.
The wine to be bottled is taken from the bottom barrels (about 1/3 each year), which in turn are filled from the second bottom barrels and so on upwards. The wine from the new harvest is filled in the top barrels.
This is the reason that sherry is not usually a vintage wine: Old wine is mixed with younger wine all the time. So there is a small quantity of old wine in each bottle since no barrels are emptied completely. The young wines are added to the older keeping the flor alive. The oldest “bottom” stage is (also) called solera, while the upper and younger stages are called criaderas (“nursery”). Up to seven criaderas may be part of a solera system.
The solera became a way to equalize differences between vintages while at the same time a young wine that was added in the solera was perceived as older when it was mixed up with old wines.
Wine of the month, dating back to 1844: Fino en Rama
The Tio Pepe Fino from the firm Gonzales Byass is from one of the world’s oldest soleras. It started back in 1844 and production is very big.
But the wine of the month wine is a bit special, Tio Pepe Fino en Rama Gonzales Byass is a limited edition of 10,752 bottles of wine bottled directly from the barrels without any filtration or fining when “flor cover” was at its thickest in the spring of 2013. My bottles were bottled on April 8, 2013 and should be consumed within three months in order to maintain maximum freshness.
And what do you get in a bottle of Fino en Rama?
A pale yellow wine with a great intense, slightly perfumed aroma reminiscent of white lilacs, citrus, freshly baked bread and yeast. The palate is dry and full-bodied, with a slightly perfumed grapey aroma, with hints of yeast and a delicious bitterness in the end, a long spicy finish with balanced astringency. Totally worth + + + + +. A bargain!
The wine is suitable as an aperitif, to Pata Negra, olives, Manchego cheese and all kinds of tapas, such as shrimp with a lot of garlic or grilled octopus.
(Price in Sweden: 149 SEK, around 16 euro.)
But if you cannot find the Fino en Rama then the “standard” Tio Pepe Fino or the Valdespino Fino Inocente are also well worth a try. At the very affordable price of some 6 euro for a half bottle.