Monday, 18 April 2016

"Fine, Rare and Aged Sherries" a masterful Masterclass

Last week I went to the "Wines from Spain: 2016 Trade Fair" which was an exciting opportunity to focus on wines that come from that wonderfully sunny part of the Iberian peninsula. I'm sure most people know and love Spanish wine, but I was keen to develop my knowledge and understanding of this celebrated wine-producing land. I wanted to test out different regions and grapes - after all there is so much more to Spanish wine than Rioja...

Wonderful Priorat

I was particularly impressed with some stunning wines from Priorat, including one astonishing bone-dry, yet aromatic Pedro Ximénez on the Buckingham Schenk stand. From Burridges of Arlington Street I loved their 2010 Mas d'en Compte Barrel Fermented White from Cellar Cal Pla, which was a blend of Garnacha Blanca, Picpoul, Macabeo and Pansa Blanca and was nicely poised and elegant. On the red side, I enjoyed the 2013 Clos de Bartolome from Cellar Bartolome Vernet featuring a blend of Garnacha Tinta, Samso and Cabernet Sauvignon and outshone some of the more expensive offerings on the table. 

Perfect Wines from Perfect Cellar

One of the best stands that I found was the very approachable and friendly people from Perfect Cellar - a relatively new operation who seem to be sourcing some excellent wines. I was very impressed with their offerings from Toro (fast becoming one of my favourite wine regions in Spain) and particularly enjoyed their 2013 Almirez from Teso La Monja (100% Tempranillo) which was big, juicy and bold - just like a Toro should be. On the other side I loved the elegance and poise of their 2014 Graciano Roble from Principe de Viana (100% Graciano) from Navarra - this was a very exciting wine and a great example of discovering the joys of a previously little-known grape (to me anyway...!) 

The main event - Fine, Rare and Aged Sherries; yes please!

One of the main reasons that I signed up to this whole event was that I saw that a Sherry masterclass was being run by the indomitable Beltrán Domecq, who is President of the CRDO Jerez-Xérès-Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda; there could be no-one better to give this tasting! The theme for the tasting was a range of Very Old Sherries (that have been aged for at least 20 years through the Solera system) and Very Old and Rare Sherries (that have been aged for at least 30 years)! I knew from the outset that this was going to be a fascinating tasting. Señor Domecq's knowledge and passion for Sherry shone through all the way throughout his initial fascinating presentation on the history of Sherry and the subsequent tasting.

We started with wines on the drier end of the spectrum. First up was a  Amontillado Napoleón VORS  from Hidalgo La Gitana (100% Palomino Fino) which had a beautifully golden-amber hue to it. On the nose it was very deep and profound, there were equal notes of spice and nuttiness. On tasting it had a tartness to it which was unbelievable given its age, this was complimented with a saltiness that characterises this kind of wine. The finish was extraordinary and lasted for minutes and minutes in perfect harmony. A wonderful wine; 9.0/10.0.

Next up we moved to a Amontillado Tradición VORS from Bodegas Tradición (100% Palomino Fino) which had a slightly darker colour in the glass than the previous wine. The nose was more complex, with a deeper presence that reminded me of hazelnuts. On the mouth it had slightly more power (as it was higher in alcohol) than the previous wine, but interestingly had a more subtle and gentle finish. I preferred the first; 8.0/10.0.

We started to move up the spectrum with a Palo Cortado Dos Cortados 20yo from Williams and Humbert (100% Palomino Fino) which is a kind of Oloroso that uses the flor covering to age the wine traditionally, as opposed to biologically. This wine had a light mahogany profile and on the nose had a slightly warmer aroma with a touch of spice coming through. This was a bright and juicy wine with incredible power coming through (influenced by the increased alcohol content of 21.5%). Like a lot of sherries I think this wine really needed to be put alongside the right food and was not for quaffing. Decent, but not my favourite of the evening; 7.0/10.0.

Continuing along the theme, next up was a Palo Cortado VORS from Barbadillo (100% Palomino Fino). The aroma to this wine was surprisingly gentle and subtle, belying its 22% alcohol content. It had more body to it and I would describe the palate as pleasant, if a little underwhelming; 6.5/10.0.

Next up was probably my favourite of the tasting, an Oloroso Rich Old VORS from Fundador (100% Palomino Fino) which had a deep orangey-brown colour to it. At this stage we were starting to get some of the sweeter notes coming through, with lovely butterscotch notes emanating from the glass. On tasting I found that the wine had a beautifully rich and warming character with hints of coffee and treacle poking through. This was an excellent wine; 9.0;10.0.

We had another aged Oloroso up next, which didn't quite hit the heights of the previous wine for me; this was the Oloroso 1842 VOS from Valdespino (100% Palomino Fino). This wine had a colour that almost looked like cola in the glass. On the nose it was fragrant, with aromas of toffee coming through. On tasting it was nice and bright and juicy, but lacked the profundity or complexity of the last wine; 7.5/10.0.

Next up was a wine that I was a little sceptical about, a Cream Matusalem VORS from González-Byass (blend of Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximénez). I think for most people "Cream" represents something sweet, cheap and nasty; boy did this prove that stereotype wrong. There was a familiar raisin/damson richness to the wine with a toasty caramel note to it. On the palate this was nicely balanced, although perhaps had a little bit of a tacky mouth-feel. A decent wine (and great value at £19/bottle); 8.0/10.0.

Last wine on the tasting was a bit of a blockbuster, a Pedro Ximénez VORS from Lustau (100% Pedro Ximénez). This was a dark, brooding black in the glass and when smelled it was rich and dark with dominant notes of raisins, aniseed and a lovely burnt caramel. On tasting the first thing that you notice is the incredible amount of body the wine possesses, you practically feel that you can chew it! This is probably explained by the fact that it works out to around 600g of sugar per litre - dentists will not be a fan of this wine! It was an incredibly concentrated and persistent wine that probably needed to be cooled to heighten the tasting process. A thoroughly decadent wine; 8.0/10.0.

There you have it, a wonderful tasting with some stunning wines. I feel that I have learned a little bit more about the world of Sherry and will certainly look forward to tasting some more of these excellent wines.            


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