Review: Copa look at sherry

Sherry is shedding its fuddy-duddy image with some exciting new developments

Sat, May 18, 2013, 02:00

Entering the room set aside for our tasting, I was hit by one of the most wonderfully evocative and enticing smells from the world of wine: that of sherry.

Pouring the wine was Antonio Flores, a winemaker and master blender at González Byass.

He is responsible for ageing and blending the various styles of sherry made by the company.

Flores’s father worked for the company too, and Antonio was actually born above the cellar, so sherry is certainly in the family blood.

The company’s best-known wine is Tío Pepe, but it also produces a range of stunning older sherries, including Del Duque, Apóstoles and Matusalem. These are not always easy to find, but they are certainly worth a little effort.

We may return to the “darker” sherries later in the year – somehow they seem more wintery to me, or perhaps it is just that fino and Manzanilla are such fantastic summer drinks.

Flores showed us fino sherry in four stages of evolution: a young fourth criadera; a fresh, fruity wine; a slightly older third criadera with more nuts and bready notes; and the finished Tío Pepe, one of the best-selling finos in Ireland.

All sherry is a blend of younger and older wines; the goal is to have a wine that consistently tastes the same.

The last wine we tasted was the Tío Pepe En Rama. En Rama has recently become a buzzword among sherry aficionados.

Apparently the idea was dreamt up by Toby Morrall, a wine buyers for the Wine Society in the UK.

He suggested bottling a fino without fining or filtration; the resulting wine might contain tiny particles of dead yeast and wouldn’t last as long, but it would be fresher, with more aroma and flavour.

En Rama sherries should really be drunk within three months of bottling, but they have a wonderful, bracing freshness.

A number of bodegas have joined in, with a few arriving in Ireland. They are delicious wines provided they are fresh.

Apparently spring and autumn are the best times to bottle. Sadly Ireland will receive a paltry 60 bottles of the Tío Pepe En Rama with its wonderful, distinctive red label, which is created from old labels. If you see a bottle, do not hesitate to buy.

However, the standard Tío Pepe is a great wine. González Byass has started putting a best-before date on the bottle, which is a welcome innovation. Fino sherry is a relatively delicate wine. It should be drunk within a year of bottling, and consumed within a week once opened.

Until recently sherry geeks would try to decode the bottling number, usually stamped on the neck of a bottle, to ensure they were buying from a fresh bottling.

I have argued in this column before that sherry is one of the world’s greatest wines. It is also incredibly good value, and a great food wine.

A colleague has the following motto: “If it swims, fino; if it flies, Amontillado; and if it walks, then Oloroso.”

It is a useful guide; crab and fino is a wonderful match.

However, for me a glass of chilled fresh Fino (or Manzanilla, its lighter brother) and a few slices of jamó n ibé rico make one of the most perfect marriages of all.

Add a few stuffed green olives and some toasted almonds, and you have the most civilised start to a meal.

As mentioned a few weeks back, World sherry Day runs from May 20th to 26th.

This celebration of sherry was started up by three sherry geeks from different parts of the globe. I would encourage all wine sellers of all sorts, both restaurants and retailers, to mark the occasion with an event of some sort for your customers. You could even register your event on the blogsite worldsherryday.com.

If you live in Dublin, the Black Pig in Donnybrook has everything you need to allow you to create your own personal World Sherry Day fiesta.

Alternatively, I am working with Food from Spain to hold a sherry event at the Instituto Cervantes on Lincoln Place on Thursday, May 23rd, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

They have agreed to supply glasses and a few nibbles. You can bring your own favourite bottle of sherry to share, or simply drop in for a glass on the way home from work.



jwilson@irishtimes.com

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