Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Sherry’

Seeking Peace with Sherry

December 26, 2019 3 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.

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!

About Coffee, Plus Some Updates

May 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Why coffee? First, this is the answer to the last “What is it” post – it is actually Kona coffee berries (picture taken at Greenwell Farms in Kona, Hawaii). The reason to chose that picture was simple – I was fascinated by a number of similarities in coffee production and wine making  – in both cases I’m talking about very good coffee ( Kona is one of the best coffee types in the world) and very good wines. Coffee berries are picked by hand, and also they are picked selectively – only individual ripe berries are taken from the bunch, and the rest is left to ripen. Coffee beans have their skin removed (sounds familiar?), and then they are left to dry under the sun (same as the grapes used for production of Amarone, one of my favorite wines). Once the coffee beans are dried and cleaned, they are left to rest for at least a month or two, before they will be roasted – and this is the step which is enforced by the years of experience and tradition, and nobody asks for explanations – this have to be done just because it has to be done. Again, the same element of mystery and tradition as in production of a good wine. And last, but not least – complexities of the final beverage. Good coffee, similar to the good wine, has layered complexity and brings a lot of pleasure. Anyway, I will look for more obvious picture for the next “what is it ” game.

Now, let’s talk about updates. First, the Treble certificate from the Wine Century Club has finally arrived! Not that I want to brag, but let me share the picture with you:

‘nuf said – getting to the Quattro level will not be too easy, so don’t expect to see a picture of another certificate any time soon.

Lastly, I’m continuing writing posts for The Art of Life Magazine. Last two posts were in “Forgotten Vines” series, talking about Jerez (Sherry) and Madeira, both wines are hard to find, but worth seeking – you can find posts here and here.

That’s all for now, folks. Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: