Sherry wine comes from the “Sherry triangle” – three cities – Jerez (Sherry) de la Frontera, San Lucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria in the province of Andalusia. Though its up and down history goes way back, presently things are really down in Jerez and Spain in general, Sherry wines are trending up in London, New York, DC and I hear New Orleans. there is a crazing for small production artisanal products whether its, wine, whiskey or cheese. The focus with many smaller producers of Sherry is to make the genuine article. You are seeing more Fino en rama which is
as close to directly tapping a barrel as you can get.
Truly understanding Sherry requires a sort of reversal of how we think about wine. Typically, wine’s distinction comes from the vineyard; as vines grow older, they better reflect their origins.
In Sherry, the virtue of age is not in old vines – many vineyards are replanted fairly frequently – but by moving wine through the solera system, where it can sit for decades. That yields rarities like Valdespino’s Cardenal Palo Cortado, which has been aged for what Ojeda calls “the summary of a life” – typically more than 60 years, or the more affordable Valdespino VOS Oloroso Solera 1842 from a Solera – a system of barrels used for wine time travel – established in 1842.
Read the rest at Mora’s Fine Wines…
About oxidative styles of sherry – Oloroso, Palo Cortado, et, al.
That mysterious “Cask of Amontillado” began life a simple still white wine from Palomino grapes grown in the blindingly white chalky “albariza” soil of some vineyard in Jerez. It is then judged, rectified and depending on its character chosen to age oxidatively such as an Oloroso or to begin life under the veil of the “flor” yeast to age biologically as eithera Fino, Amontillado or Palo Cortado. Some of the wine chosen for biological aging (a wine now known as “sobretabla”) goes into a solera (a system of barrels for aging) designated for fino sherry and will always have flor protecting it as it ages for a few years or it will go to a solera where the flor is intentionally allowed to attenute allowing oxygen to slowly oxidize the wine over many years of aging. These latter casks are casks of amontillado, a well know oxidative syle of sherry.In extremely simple terms “Palo Cortado” is Amontillado that is selected for its special character to undergo further oxidative aging, but that’s a whole other blog post. Oloroso sherry are from base wines that are never allowed any flor and oxidize their whole lives long. These are the sherries that are like liquid mahogany. Remember that the magic is in the solera, not the vines. The changes during aging and the subsequent “saca” or withdrawl of Sherry from the Solera are what define a sherry. As Sherry expert and author Peter Liem says “The solera is going to outlive your vines.”
Valdespino sticks to traditional methods for Sherry, their original holdings date back to a 1264 land grant from King Alfonso X to one of his knights for help driving out the Moors who didn’t have far to go to reach north Africa.
The history of Sherry is intertwined with the its long history as a major port and being on the frontier (de la frontera) as well as its traditions of Flamenco, horses, bullfighting and gypsies. Somehow, through the time machine of the Solera system Sherry wine encapsulates the antiquity of history the spirit of its people and in the case of the Finos and Manzanilla Sherries, the fresh briny breezes of the Atlantic. Valdespino’s history has left it with resources. When Beam Global, parent company of Jim Beam, began selling off pieces of the historic Domecq label last year, it was only too willing to sell 500 of Macharnudo’s prized acres to add to there already extensive holdings. This house still barrel ferments and ages its wine way beyond the industry average at all levels.
About Fino Sherry
Jerez might best be known for the dark, rich oxidized styles of Sherry, like amontillado and oloroso, but the Fino style relies on Sherry’s most unique process: so-called biological aging under the protective veil of a skin of yeast that lays on the surface of the aging wine and known as “flor”. Thus fino requires a particular connoisseurship. The best provide a certain maturity that defies simple fruitiness – one that can confound newcomers.
“They see too much evidence of wine there,” says Eduardo Ojeda, Valdespino’s technical director, “but it is the perfect wine for a wine lover.” Meaning it is not as transformed as the oxidative styles and it still behaves like a
dry white table wine albeit an aged, oxidized and fortified dry white table wine. At that point the similarity ends and a whole new wine taster vocabulary must be invoked. New associations need to be made with this unique flavor provile that has umami elements, that savory quality that is recognized as a 5th taste category alongside sweet,sour, bitter and salty. Fino sherry may remind you of a high quality Sake because of that umami character which by the way
flatters a meal of sushi.
ABOUT FERNANDO DE CASTILLA
Jerez’s future may lie in some of it’s traditions, like the local speciality of manzanilla, the lightest, freshest, briskest and briniest expression of Fino sherry from the town of San Lucar. These and other particular bottlings represent a few drops in the ocean of Sherry but those drops in the ocean make ripples. At the cellars of Rey Fernando de Castilla, north of Jerez’s main square, director Jan Petterson thinks small. Petterson,built a career working for Sherry houses like Osborne, took over the small Castilla firm in 1999 and grew its business twelvefold, though still tiny compared to the big boys.
The philosophy at Fernando de Castilla is to produce Sherries with extended aging in the solera bottled at lower alcohol levels with no fining or filtering to preserve flavor.
“We’re probably going back to how things were one or two generations ago, when people enjoyed fino with more color and flavor,” Petterson says. One generation ago in the 1970′s Sherry got dumbed down and mass produced. This may have boosted production and sales initially but the beauty of Sherry was hidden and interest died away. Exceptional wines like Jan’s remind you what Sherry is all about.
SHERRIES TO BUY
These are in short supply at retail, but most can be ordered online.
Rey Fernando de Castilla Manzanilla Classic 375ml/$12 Buy Now (Importer: David Bowler Wines)
Emilio Lustau Solera Reserve Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry 750ml/$17 Buy Now (Importer:Michael Skurnik Wines)
Valdespino Palo Cortado Viejo Calle Ponce (750ml/$45) Buy Now (Importer: Polaner Selections) 100% Palomino, sourced from Macharnudo Alto vineyards, 25+ year old vines only, selected from the Inocente and Tio Diego soleras aged total of 25 years minimum in 3 soleras and 4 criaderas.
Valdespino Oloros VOS Solera 1842 (375ml/$26) Buy Now (Importer: Polaner Selections) VOS (“Very Old Selection”) is sourced from old stores of Valdespino Oloroso with a touch of PX added, oxidatively aged for 20 years minimum in solera established 1842. Deep mahogany color and unctuously rich
Valdespino Oloroso Isabela Cream (750ml/$20) Buy Now (Importer: Polaner Selections) Old Oloroso from Valdespino blended with PX from the El Candado solera (75% Palomino Fino, 25% PX). It is blended and aged together with 15 years of oxidative aging.