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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.

Weekly Wine Quiz #48: Let’s Get A Little Technical

March 2, 2013 6 comments

wine quiz pictureThe Wine Quizzes are back at Talk-a-Vino! Be honest – I know you missed them, right? Okay, never mind. But – let’s proceed, shall we?

For today’s quiz I decided to play a game of pairing of the wine terms with the wines. What you will find below is the list of the wines (very random), and the list of wine terms associated with production of the wines. You will need to match the terms with the wines, considering typical and generic use (note the bold font here – it is an important disclaimer) – there are always exceptions to the rules. Note that one and the same term can be associated with different wines, and it is possible that few terms can be associated with one wine. As the bonus question, briefly explain what the term mean and how it relates to the wine. Note – you might encounter some strange surprises along the way.

Wines:

A. Cabernet Sauvignon

B. Champagne

C. Chardonnay

D. Jerez

E. Madeira

F. Port

G. Riesling

H. Valtellina Sfursat

I. Vin Jaune

Wine Terms:

1. Appassimento

2. Estufagem

3. Flor

4. Malolactic fermentation

5. Noble Rot

6. Solera

7. Vintage

As a side note, a lot of these wine terms had being discussed in this very blog.

Have fun and good luck! The answers are coming on Wednesday.

Have a great weekend and open something good tonight! 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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