Grapevine Archive for Jerez

Sherry is seen by many as a tricky beast – either too alcoholic, too different, or the kind of drink your grandma keeps on her sideboard to be produced with a flourish on special occasions. As a result, it is most unfairly maligned. Even at The Wine Society, with its plethora of wine-savvy members, sherry sales peak at Christmas and then gradually fall away over the rest of the year.

As such, the tastings team decided that it was high time we celebrated the individuality and diversity that sherry offers. From bone-dry, crisp fino to rich, sweet oloroso, with everything in between, sherry is a food-pairing dream come true, so what better way to show the merits of sherry than to drink it with a meal?

The Society's sherry buyer Toby Morrhall talks to membersThe Society’s sherry buyer Toby Morrhall talks to members

Getting Toby Morrhall, The Society’s sherry buyer, on board was easy. To employ a famous catchphrase, Toby firmly believes that sherry is for life, not just for Christmas, and is passionate about getting people to actually drink sherry – and not in little thimble-sized glasses either, but proper wine glasses. Those shocked by the thought of consuming large glasses of fortified wine, should consider that many table wines are now hitting 15% – the lighter finos and manzanillas don’t come out much higher than that.

Three of the movers and shakers of the sherry world were invited to come and talk at the event: Marcelino Piquero of Sánchez Romate, Peter Dauthieu (who represents Cayetano and Williams and Humbert) and Ignacio Lopez de Carrizosa of Lustau. Our idea was to show a range of sherries throughout the dinner, a different sherry to be matched with each course, which would, of course, be specially designed to match perfectly.

Toby feels that it is very important that sherry should not be ‘ghettoised’; that is to say, that people should not be made to believe that sherry only works with Spanish-style food. To this end we chose two very different restaurants, with the idea of hosting two consecutive evenings, with the same line-up of sherries accompanying very different styles of food.

The first restaurant was Moro: based in Exmouth Market, London, Moro is famous for its Spanish and Moroccan-inspired cuisine. The second was The Hinds Head in Bray, Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred gastropub, which specialises in traditional British-style cuisine.

It goes without saying that the two evenings were completely different, but each worked equally well in their own very different ways.

Members enjoying the Botaina Amontillado in BrayMembers enjoying the Botaina Amontillado in Bray

Having seen the menu for Moro a week before the event, I couldn’t wait to try the food. It was my first visit to the restaurant and it didn’t disappoint. Everything was so beautifully done, and the food matched the sherry to perfection – we had sent a sample bottle of each of the sherries to both restaurants beforehand so they could try the wines before planning the menu. Samantha Clark was doing the cooking and whilst in theory the dishes were simple, it was plain to see that the ingredients used were of the very finest quality and the flavours were truly excellent. There were many highlights to the meal, even the olives we had as a nibble whilst drinking the La Ina were fantastic, however for me the standout dishes had to be the seared wild mushrooms with Iberico panceta and almonds, with the Botaina Amontillado, and chocolate and apricot tart with The Society’s Exhibition Oloroso Dulce – we were told later that Sam and Sam had reduced the amount of sugar in the chocolate tart so that it would pair better with the Oloroso, and I have to say that whilst I’m sure it would have been even more decadent with more sugar, as it was it worked perfectly.

Another night, another four-course-dinner. This time we were heading across the country to Bray for a very British-style of dinner. From the bright, open-plan restaurant that was Moro, we found ourselves at the Hinds Head, a beautiful 15th century pub, complete with low ceilings and wooden beams. Head chef Kevin Love created a four-course meal, based on seasonal, local produce which would complement our sherries perfectly. The contrast couldn’t have been more different. Instead of olives, we had ‘devils on horseback’: prunes, which had been injected with alcohol, wrapped in parma ham, and grilled. The salty and sweet flavours worked perfectly with the tang of the La Ina Fino, as did the Mussel broth, which was probably in culinary terms the highlight of my evening. The veal was incredibly rich and stood up to the gutsy Botaina and the Cayetano Palo Cortado. The remarkable As You Like It Amontillado shone with the Cheddar and blue cheeses, showing that sherry really is a serious contender to port when it comes to the cheese board.

So what did we intend to achieve with these sherry dinners – apart from having some great food? Whilst it would be wonderful if everyone suddenly saw fit to drink sherry throughout their meal, matching a different wine to each course, even we know that would be an impossible dream. However, what we hope to have shown is that sherry shouldn’t be relegated to the sideboard by default. There are so many different and wonderful wines out there that there really is a sherry for every occasion. The key is to be brave and have fun experimenting, there is a whole new world of food and sherry matching that awaits. Believe me, it is a lot of fun!

Emma Howat
Tastings & Events Co-Ordinator

Comments (2)

Fino Perdido, or 'Lost Fino'
Bottled in April, when flor (the floating veil of yeast that imbues Fino sherry with its characteristic apply and bready scent) is at its optimum, this really is excellent in my view and a snip at £7.95 for a wine of an estimated age of 8 years.

For those of you who haven’t tried it it is a mature Jerez Fino bordering on an Amontillado. In the past it would have been called a Fino-Amontillado but the consejo, who regulate labelling, have banned its use. We therefore named it ‘Fino Perdido‘, meaning ‘lost Fino.’

Many producers add charcoal to remove the deep rich colour, and over fine it with bentonite, which stabilises the wine but removes much of its richness. We have just chilled it in a tank for a week to let it clarify naturally and then filtered it. It may form a slight haze but we think this cosmetic imperfection is outweighed by the extra flavour in the bottle.

It has an intense, bready flor nose, with a rich, round palate with elements of almonds and hazelnuts. It’s a lovely aperitif, but suits summer food admirably too. Try it with smoked salmon, grilled fish, scallops, crab or red tuna stewed with onions. Salud!

Toby Morrhall
Jerez Buyer

Comments (2)

Fino Perdido: minimally treated fino now available

We have bottled exclusively for Wine Society members this golden coloured, mature Jerez fino, almost a fino-amontillado. We estimate it is about 8 years old. The minimum legal age for Sherry is 3 years and most finos are 4–5 years of age.  This style is less seen today, and the Consejo does not allow the name Fino-Amontillado, the equivalent of a Manzanilla Pasada, any more. Hence, we named it Fino Perdido or “Lost Fino”.

Analysis found that the wine contained no proteins so it hasn’t been fined, which can remove a lot of  body and flavour. It was filtered to remove yeast but was neither cold treated, which prevents precipitation of naturally occuring tartaric acid crystals but can remove flavour, nor was it charcoal filtered, which  removes the colour but also some flavour. I tasted a sample of the wine before and after filtering and the filtration had no negative effect on the flavour, and may even have cleaned up the nose a little. Like all finos its flor character will dissipate over time in bottle. It should be good for five months but is better now. At just £7.95 per bottle it’s an absolute steal. Carpe diem!

There is a chance that this may form a harmless haze and precipitate naturally occuring tartaric acid crystals.

I have tasted a bottle and have hugely enjoyed its golden colour, attractive bready flor, and its broad, full, slightly nutty, rich yet dry flavour. It is a strong flavoured Sherry ideal with richly flavoured seafood like crab or with tuna stewed with onions. It will also partner strong hard cheese like Cheddar or Parmesan better than most red wines. It is probably closest in style to the Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada, though they are both true to their origins. The Fino Perdido (from bodegas in the warmer, inland Jerez) being richer and broader on the palate while the Pastrana (matured in cooler bodegas in coastal Sanlúcar) is fresher and less rich. Fino Perdido is a bargain at this price.

We were inspired to bottle this after the success of the Tio Pepe en Rama offered earlier in the year. The inspiration was to treat less so more flavour gets into the bottle, not to copy the style.  The wines are quite different in character, though equally delicious. Tio Pepe en Rama, which some of you tried,  is a much younger wine, about  4–5 years old (half the age of Fino Perdido), which was deliberately bottled with a lot of flor yeast in suspension to maximise the pure taste of flor.  Both we think are excellent examples of their type. Fino Perdido is richer, rounder and nuttier with nice bready flor character; Tio Pepe en Rama, younger, fresher and dominated by a delicious and overwhelming taste of flor. Experience showed that the flor increasingly was attracted to the sides of the bottle of the Tio Pepe en Rama and that to get the full flor hit it was best to shake the bottle before drinking to send the yeast into suspension!

As ever I would be really interested to hear your views on this wine.

Categories : Spain
Comments (3)
Thu 13 May 2010

Sherry with less Filtration and Fining

Posted by: | Comments (20)

I was in Jerez in May and comparing Finos directly from the butt and the same wine in bottle and was surprised by the difference. First of all the colour in the bottle was water white and that of a five-year-old Fino in the butt was a light gold, as one would expect of a wine of such age. On the palate the barrel sample had much more weight and roundness. In Spain a light-gold colour is seen as unattractive and so many wines are “planchada” ie have had their individuality ironed out and colour removed by filtering with carbon.

It seems crazy to keep a wine five years and then remove so much of its flavour that it reverts back to a three year old!

I have been thinking about how to treat Finos a little less so more flavour is retained in the bottle. One must filter to remove the yeast and obviously there is lots floating on even old Finos. But fining, which can remove a lot of flavour, could be reduced. The downside is that the wine is more likely to be slightly turbid, and form a slight haze.

I would be very interested to know whether members would accept such a wine. It is perhaps no different from some draught beers and ciders, and some bottle-conditioned ales where a harmless sediment or haze is often present without being detrimental to the flavour.

We are so concerned about customers sending wines back we have perhaps gone too far in stabilizing wines, trading off loss of flavour for absolute stability, even sterility. My feeling is that if the process is explained, and members are forewarned before they buy a wine, that this more natural product would be preferred.

I welcome your feedback.

Categories : Spain
Comments (20)