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Jerez – A Tasty Treat and Halloween Candy Solution

November 3, 2020 Leave a comment

Yes, I know. Halloween is history now, so why am I even mentioning it?

Because I know that those Halloween candies are still lurking around, and will be for a while. And Halloween candy is not something which would make you crave the wine. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are wines out there which will help you get rid of the candies – with pleasure. What am I suggesting? Let’s talk about Sherry, also known as Jerez.

Jerez wines (officially known as Jerez-Xérès-Sherry) take its name from the town Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain, with the grapes coming from the vineyards surrounding the town. Jerez is one of the oldest winemaking regions in Europe, tracing its roots to more than 3,000 years back. Sherry is a fortified wine, and it came to being around the 8th century when the distillation process was invented. As a fortified wine Sherry can be compared to Port, however, the major difference is that Port is typically fortified in the middle of the fermentation process, to preserve the sugars in the wine, where Sherry wines are typically fully fermented, and then fortified, so with the exception of the particular style of Pedro Ximénez, most of the Sherries are dry wines.

There are many styles of Sherry wines, offering various levels of dryness, complexity, and oxidative qualities. Sherry wines are often also produced using the solera method, where the wines of the different vintages or constantly combined and resulting wines might represent a blend of hundred of vintages. The world of Sherry is quite complex, so if you want to read about all the different styles, this Wikipedia article contains a lot of good information.

González Byass started in 1835 in Jerez de la Frontera, in the heart of the Sherry country. Now in the 5th and 6th generation, González Byass is one of the major sherry producers, combining a number of Sherry brands under one umbrella. I had three sherries from González Byass to play with the candies – let me tell you how did it go.

First, the dry wine – Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Jerez Oloroso Seco. As it is a dry wine, it expectedly didn’t work too well with most of the candies, but I found some options:

Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Jerez Oloroso Seco (18% ABV, $25, Palomino 100%, aged for 8 years in solera)
Light amber color
Hazelnuts, sapidity, herbs
Hazelnuts, clean acidity, Rosemary, beautifully complex
Worked best with Payday because of explicit saltiness – not really with Reese’s or KitKat

The bottle on the right is directly from the wine fridge and it is ready to drink – the Harveys letters are blue

I recently wrote about Harveys – after years of personal neglect, this became a gateway wine for me to warm up again to the world of Jerez. As Harveys is quite sweet but not super-sweet, it provided the best pairing option for the majority of candies.

Harveys The Bristol Cream (17.5% ABV, $20, 80% Palomino, 20% Pedro Ximénez, a blend of 7 yo Fino, Oloroso, PX and Amontillado Soleras)
Dark amber color
Light herbaceous nose, a touch of dried fruit
Dried fruit on the palate, good acidity, refreshing
Nice with Reese’s, works well with KitKat, excellent with Payday

Nectar is seriously sweet wine (residual sugar of 370 grams per liter), but it is nevertheless very balance and delivers tremendous pleasure. The Pedro Ximénez (usually abbreviated as PX) is one of my most favorite dessert wines in general. The Pedro Ximénez grapes are dried on the mats for 2 weeks before pressing, losing 40% of liquid and becoming practically raisins – this explains the depth of color you can see in the picture above.

Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez Dulce (15% ABV, 25%, 100% Pedro Ximénez, aged for about 8 years in solera)
Very dark amber color, almost black
Dried figs, dates, inviting.
Dried figs all the way, delicious, clean acidity on the finish, perfect balance
Great with KitKat, complements
Excellent with Reese’s, okay with Payday, Butterfinger – not so much

There you are, my friends. Don’t sweat the Halloween candies – pair them with a good Sherry. Or you know what – you can actually dump the candy – Sherry should be enough to keep you happy. Cheers!

 

Seeking Peace with Sherry

December 26, 2019 4 comments

Sherry, a.k.a Jerez or Xerez can be considered a graduation wine for the all-encompassing wine lover (pun intended or not, but I believe Sherry is actually a part of the last exam for the WSET diploma candidates, so you can read whatever you want into this). While Sherry has a very long history, it completely lost the clout it had in the 17th–18th centuries, and today it is more of a wine for the people in the know, a sort of the secret handshake for the true wine aficionados. “Do you like Sherry”? “Of course” – that answer would instantly create the bridge of understanding between the participants in the dialog.

Harveys Bristol Cream sherry

Sherry is fascinating. It is not just another white wine. It offers a very complex taste. Sherry production involves some elements of magic – identified as Flor and Solera. Sherry usually undergoes the long aging process in the barrels. Sometimes, the thin veil, a layer of yeast is formed on top of the wine aging in the barrel – this layer is called Flor. Flor is thick enough to protect the aging wine from the oxidation, but it also requires a very specific level of alcohol in the wine in order to survive. If the wine will finish its aging while protected by the flor, it will become a fino or manzanilla Sherry. However, the formation and survival of the flor is the thing of the mystery.

And then there is Solera. In the solera method of aging the wine, which is often used in the production of Sherry, the set of barrels is always topped off with the younger wine, moving wine from one barrel to another as the wine ages. The barrels are never emptied and never washed, thus if the solera was started 100 years ago, there will be traces of the 100 years old wine in your glass – how cool is that?!

Now, it is time for the hard truth. 7 or 8 years ago, I truly enjoyed the range of Sherry wines, starting from the driest fino and manzanilla, and all the way to the “liquid sugar” Pedro Ximenez – here is the article I wrote back in 2011; I also talked about Sherry in the Forgotten Vines series of posts. Today, I’m avoiding dry Sherry like a plague, as I’m unable to enjoy it much. When I’m offered to taste a sample of the Sherry, I usually have to politely decline. Talking to the fellow bloggers who are raving about their love of Sherry, I usually try to avoid making eye contact as much as possible, so I don’t have to share my opinion.

When I was offered a sample of a Cream Sherry, my first reaction was “no, I’m not touching the Sherry”. But then I thought “hmmm, Cream Sherry – this should be a premixed liqueur, like Baileys and Cream – I can probably do that”, so I agreed to review the wine.

When the bottle showed up with all the explanations, I quickly realized that I was wrong in all of my assumptions.

First, there is no cream in Cream Sherry. It is simply a special style of Sherry – not dry, but not as sweet as Pedro Ximenez would be. The wine I got was Harveys Bristol Cream – and there is a slew of fun fact I would like to share with you, both about the Cream Sherry style and about this particular wine (courtesy of González Byass, a producer and importer of this wine):

Harveys Bristol Cream cream sherry“Did you know that Harveys Bristol Cream
1) …was first created and registered in 1882 by John Harvey & Sons in Bristol,
England, creators of the “cream” Sherry category?
2) …is not a “cream” liqueur, like Baileys, but a Sherry? They decided to call it
a cream Sherry because the richness rivaled that of cream.
3) …is a blend of more than 30 soleras of Sherries aged from 3-20 years? And
it’s the only Sherry made from 4 different styles of Sherry: Fino,
Amontillado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez.
4) …is the only Spanish product with a Royal Warrant from the Queen of
England since 1895?
5) …first came to the United States in 1933 and quickly became a best-seller.
6) …is best served chilled? We think it’s perfect at around 50°-55°F.
7) …is defined by its blue glass bottle and now has a label with a logo that turns
blue when Harveys reaches its perfect temperature.
8) …can be stored in the fridge for up to one month? Although it rarely lasts
that long.
9) …pairs really well with cookies, especially Oreos?
10!…is the number one selling Sherry in the world?”

Secondly, I happened to enjoy this wine! Beautiful mahogany color, more appropriate for cognac or nicely aged scotch, a nose of hazelnut and a touch of fig, plus unmistakable Sherry salinity. The palate shows caramel, burnt sugar, hazelnuts, a dash of sea salt and perfect, clean acidity, which makes this wine a real pleasure to drink. Add a fireplace to this wine over a cold winter night, or a cigar on the deck in the summer, and you got your thirst of guilty pleasure fully satisfied.

Will this be a pivotal wine for me to find Sherry love again? I can’t say it for sure, but I will definitely try. If anything, I’m now at peace with Sherry. And I’m off to pour another glass.

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, World Sherry Day, How To Start You Wine Book Project, Wine Blog Awards?

May 15, 2013 3 comments

It is Meritage Time, and Meritage posts are back!

Let’s start from the answer to the wine quiz #56, What is it? In the quiz, you had a picture of wine-related object, and you were supposed to identify what is it and how it should be used. Here is the picture which was presented to you:

DSC_0441

And here is the answer, in the form of another picture:

Port Thongs display at Sandeman

Port Tongs Display at Sandeman

The object is called port tongs, and they are used to open a bottle of vintage port or any old wine without fighting with the cork. The way to use it is this: you heat up the tongs until red hot, put it around the neck of the bottle underneath of the cork, hold it for some time, then remove and use cube of ice to go around the heated up circle – the glass cracks cleanly and can be removed now.

I really wanted to have such a device, ever since I read the post about old Rioja wines in PJ Wine blog – and now I do. I’m not sure how often or even when am I going to use this device, but – now I can if I want to (freedom is everything, right?)

I’m glad to say that we have two winners – both waywardwine and thedrunkencyclist correctly identified Port tongs in the picture, and the drunkencyclist provided perfect description for how port tonging is done. Congratulations to our winners – both of them get unlimited bragging rights.

Now, to the interesting stuff around the web. First, the World Sherry Day will start on Monday. This is going to be one long day, as it starts on May 20th and lasts through May 26th, but hey, that means that you can drink more sherry during one day. Find the place near you to celebrate, or just grab a bottle and indulge on the beverage which might be easily hundreds years old, and still affordable at the same time. If you need a crash course in Sherry, here is the link to one of my posts (I also plan to talk about sherry in more details at some point in the near future).

Dreaming of writing the wine book, you think you got something to say and you think you can convince people to share your vision? Then take a look at this post by Wink Lorch, where she is talking about her successful fundraising project on Kickstarter for her Jura wine book.

Last interesting note for you  – if you remember, a while ago, many of us, wine bloggers, asked for your nomination for the Wine Blog Awards 2013 – and many of us got nominations, for which we profusely thank you, our readers. The interesting part is that the week of May 10 – 17 was designated as voting week for the public, after jury selects 5 finalist blogs for each category – here is the link to the rules for you. Today is May 15th, and it doesn’t look like finalist blogs had been selected and that public can vote on them. Oh well…

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty. Until the next time – cheers!

Forgotten Vines: Jerez, a.k.a Sherry

February 24, 2013 6 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and even web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Forgotten Vines” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.

Also, note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Jerez Don Gonzalo OlorosoI hope by now you learned a lot of secrets of the wine world – from great Rioja to second labels, French Sparkling wines, and wines of Languedoc. While there are still lots of secrets to discover, let’s take a break and change the subject a little bit. After all, we are on the hunt for unique experiences, aren’t we? What do you say if we will look for something which is hard to find? Would that be unique enough? Keep in mind, we are still talking about wines, not UFOs.

What will make a wine “hard to find”? Limited production would be one of the major factors – if there are only 100 cases made, and wine is good, of course, it will be hard to find (needless to say it will be also appropriately reflected in the price). Putting limited availability and cult factors aside, what if we simply forgot that some kind of wine exists, would it be then “hard to find”? Of course, it would. And believe it or not, with all the glut of wines coming into the world daily, there are still wines which are almost forgotten, which now became quite rare and “hard to find”. Let’s name the names: I’m talking about wines which had their glory days in the 16th through 19th centuries, and these wines are Jerez (also known as Sherry), Madeira and Marsala (yes, of course, you know Chicken Marsala dish, but Marsala was there first, before someone decided to cook chicken in it). Let’s explore those “forgotten vines”, as they are really worth it – but you will be the judge.

Is there something common between those wines except that they are forgotten? Yes, they are all fortified wines (to complete the list of fortified wines we need to add here Port – but Port will be a subject of a separate discussion), which means that they all had an addition of pure alcohol which acted as a preservative and affected the way the wine will be aging. Fortification also allowed the wines to be transported over long distances in the barrels, keeping them fresh.

Now, let’s extend the pleasure. Let’s talk about these wines one by one. And for no particular reason, let’s start with Jerez. Jerez wines come from Spain, and of course, the name is linked to the name of the place – a town called Jerez de la Frontera. The history of the wine goes all the way back to the beginning of the past millennia, with glory years spanning from 16th to the end of 19th century  – an epidemic of phylloxera, a grapevine louse, devastated the region in 1894, and Jerez wines never made it all the way back. If you are interested in learning more about the history of the region, you can take a look at Wikipedia pages.

Jerez ( which is also often called Sherry) is produced mainly from the grapes called Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximenes, and it can be made in a variety of styles from very light to dark and heavy. There are a few interesting notes about making the Jerez. First, as we mentioned before, the wine is fortified with the addition of the brandy. As brandy added after the wine is fermented, typically Jerez is a dry wine – sweet versions are produced by blending in some sweet wines. Once brandy is added, Jerez goes through the aging process, which is called the Solera method. In this process, the wine is aging in the system of the barrels, where the youngest wine goes into the first barrel; however, when the new wine is added, some of the wine which was already aged for a while is moved to the next barrel. Such a process can continue for many decades, so the resulting wine obtains a tremendous level of complexity. Depending on the level of alcohol in the wine, a thin layer of yeast called Flor can develop in the barrels, protecting the wine from oxygen and allowing it to mellow out and obtain a very low level of acidity.

Enough talkinViejisimo Jerez 1922g – time to open a bottle.  Let’s start with Don Gonzalo Oloroso VOS Jerez. This wine had been aged for at least 20 years (this is what VOS means). Very complex nose of nuts and caramel. Salty and gamey on the palate, with a hint of applewood smoke and again great complexity. This wine would perfectly complement the cheese and cured meats, but it is very pleasant to sip by itself.

The next wine, Bodegas Toro Albalo VieJisimo Solera de 1922 comes from a region called Montilla-Morales, which is neighboring Jerez and also can produce wines of Jerez style. Are you paying attention? 1922! It is not every day you can drink the wine which is almost 90 years old, and not go broke after the first sip (this wine costs less than $40/bottle). It is even better when such a wine gives you great pleasure. This wine shows an exceptional nose of immense complexity and pronounced herbs, such as oregano and sage. Similar saltiness on the palate as the previous wine, with excellent acidity, very balanced and complex at the same time, and very dry.

I hope I told you enough to make you want to try Jerez – you should definitely do it, and I’m sure you will not regret. And if you will be blown away – please let the rest of us know – as we would want the same. Cheers!

Tasting Some Of The Oldest Wines Ever: Jerez

October 26, 2011 6 comments

pedroximeneztriana.jpgOnce again this year I was lucky enough to seize a great learning opportunity – a wine tasting seminar at PJ Wine store in New York. This time the subject of the seminar was Jerez, also known as Sherry (or Xerez). Jerez is one of the most interesting wines in the world, as its production methods (aging, in particular) are very different from most of the other wines for two reasons:
1. It is left to purposefully oxidize for many years during the aging process (something winemakers are desperately trying to prevent while making and then storing regular wines).
2. It is constantly blended with the older wines through the method called Solera, sometimes going back for a few hundred years (you can find some additional information about Jerez in this post at The Art of Life Magazine).

During the seminar we tried 8 different wines from Sanlucar – the area which is located close to Jerez, but has more marine influence as it is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and next to the Guadalquivir River on the right. This location creates unique conditions for Flor – an algae-like film which grows on top of Jerez in the barrel and protects it from oxidation – where Flor can grow all year around (this is the not the case in Jerez, where Flor doesn’t last a full year). Another important factor is Albariza soil, which is a chalk-based, similar to the soil in Champagne, which adds an additional acidity to the wines.

Here are the tasting notes for the wines as we tasted them.

1. Vinicola Hidalgo “La Gitana” Jerez-Xeres-Sherry Manzanilla NV:
Completely unoxidized. The nose of flor, but very clean, nice, beautiful acidity, a hint of white fruit, very dry. Goes well with bocorones, white vinegar cured mackerel.

2. Bodegas Hidalgo Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada – 92 pts (Wine and Spirits): greater intensity on the nose, touch more fruit intensity. Touch of oxidation, aged for about a year. Great with green olives.

3. Vinicola Hidalgo “Napoleon” Jeres-Xers-Sherry Amontillado NV– 90 pts (WA)
same as the first wine, but with oxidation. Very nice, a lot more complexity,

4. Bodegas Hidalgo Jerez Cortado Wellington, VOS +20 years – 91 pts (Wine and Spirits)
Wow – soft, beautiful, but pales out next to number 5

5. Bodegas Hidalgo Wellington Palo Cortado, VORS +30 years
Palo Cortado is the finest example of oxidized sherry. Phenomenal wine, solera started in 1750, soft, smooth, tremendous flavors, nuts, a hint of saltiness, roasted figs – outstanding…

6. Bodegas Hidalgo Faraon Olorosso – 91 pts (WA)
Very nice, soft, smooth,

7. Bodegas Hidalgo Alameda Cream Sherry NV – 91 pts (WA)
Very nice, round, soft, sweet, but balanced enough. some baked apples.

8. Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Viejo Triana:
Wow! Figs, plums, jam, phenomenal concentration on the nose, same on the palate. This is liquid fig jam, balanced, good acidity – outstanding! This is the blend of 100 vintages, through the Solera method. My personal favorite from the tasting.

On the next picture, you can compare the intensity of color between Pedro Ximenez (much darker) and Cream Sherry wines:

And here are the correspondent wines:

All the wines were very good, however I would say that first Manzanilla, then number 5 Palo Cortado and last Pedro Ximenez were my favorites, with Pedro Ximenez being simply unforgettable. Most of these wines are available from the PJ Wine and they are all very affordable.

This was definitely a great experience, and I will be glad to repeat it again (and again). Until the next time – cheers!

P.S. PJ Wine Grand Tasting Event will take place on Friday, November 18th, at Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.  If you want to experience 2006 Cheval Blanc, 2000 d’Yquem, 1990 Mouton-Rothschild, 1985 Haut-Brion, 1952 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva, Krug, Cristal, Dom Perignon and hundreds of other wines – all in one night at one place (!!), don’t miss this event!

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