Great Sherry Tasting 2017

 

If you think sherry is a  sweet sticky drink kept in your sideboard year after year and only brought out at Christmas for your grandmother to enjoy, served in a thimble size glass, then think again !

Today, it seems everyone is talking about sherry, even attracting a younger consumer, suddenly sherry has become cool and trendy, so read on to find out more about this underrated wine.

A word of warning though sherry is not for everyone and is an acquired taste but it’s definitely worthwhile persevering with and you’ll also find it’s a match for most foods but do remember sherry is also a wine, so throw away the small old fashioned elongated glasses and drink out of a proper wine glass, this way you will fully enjoy the wonderful pungent aromas and fully appreciate the taste

Now to the event itself in which I was lucky enough to be invited courtesy of Brian Elliot’s Mid Week Wines. The venue was the OXO Tower, London by the banks of the Thames.

The moment I walked through the doors the aromas in the function room left you in no doubt you were at a sherry tasting, there was a doughy yeasty smell in the air along with a pungent nuttiness not to mention the strong waft of alcohol.

After checking in at reception I grabbed a clean glass and after checking the brochure trying to form a plan which turned out to be less of a plan than I thought I proceeded to taste my way around the drier styles first, these being the Fino’s, Manzanilla’s and Amontillado’s, leaving the thicker sweeter Palo Cortado’s,  Oloroso’s and Creams/PX (Pedro Ximénez) until later. Remember sherry is a fortified wine which means that additional alcohol or wine spirits have been added.

Below is a quick basic summary of the popular styles how I understand them…..

Flor (yeast) layer in Sherry Barrel by Deb Harkness

Fino – Clear, bone dry with aromas of bready dough and almonds, aged in barrels with a covering of yeast on the surface which is referred to as Flor to prevent oxidation, must be served chilled and is great with salty Tapas including olives, nuts and Jamon Serrano. Best drunk young. Typically around 15 -17% abv

Manzanilla – the driest sherry and clear, very similar to Fino (still with layer of Flor) with perhaps a sharper taste and slightly salty, again great with Tapas, nuts and salty dishes. Typically around 15 – 17% abv

Amontillado – Aged under Flor initially then fortified again with alcohol again this time at a higher level (16 -18% abv) which breaks up the Flor allowing for oxidation, creating a darker colour wine with a more pronounced nuttier caramel like flavour although still on the dry side.

Palo Cortado – One of the rarer sherries, starting out as a Fino under a layer of Flor, when the Flor dies off naturally it starts to resemble a Amontillado style then for some unknown reason begins to develop a richer more complex flavour like that of the next darker style, Oloroso. 16-18% abv

Oloroso – No Flor here, still quite dry, darker browny amber gold colour with more pronounced flavours, still nutty with prunes, raisins and butterscotch. 16-18% abv

Pedro Ximénez (PX) / Moscatel – Extremely sweet style,  made with PX grapes that have been dried out in the sun to increase sugar levels. Usually dark brown in colour thick and syrupy and very sweet with flavours of figs, raisins, toffee, chocolate and liquorice. Moscatel is similar, both styles labelled under their grape variety. Normally around 17-17.5% abv.

Sherry cocktail bar with some intriguing mixes

Above is a pretty basic summary of the major types of sherry but I hope it gives you some idea of the different styles. Now on to some of my favourites at the actual tasting, lots of well known producers (Tio Pepe and Harveys) and a some not so well known and looking for a foothold in the UK market.

Brilliant Range from Lustau

I tasted lots of brilliant sherries too many to mention here but a few highlights were the Emilio Lustau stand, for me the best on show, their Fino was, bright and fresh but with a very distinctive  pronounced burnt wood flavour, along with almonds, a saltiness and lemon fruit. Their Manzanilla was equally as good but with a touch of salinity and lovely kick of spice. The Amontillado was excellent with spice, nutmeg, caramel and toffee but still retaining a lovely freshness. The star was the stunning Oloroso with its toffee, butterscotch, caramel and cinnamon flavours.

30 year old Palo Cortado Apostles

 

 

 

Tio Pepe is perhaps one of the more recognisable brands by producer Gonzalez Byass and their Fino which is widely available and keenly priced is a very drinkable  introduction to the delights of dry sherry but undoubtedly the star of their show was the 30 year old Palo Cortado Apostoles and even at £20 for a half bottle in my opinion worth every penny with its buttery, dried peel, toffee flavoured, nutty delight, I even underlined it with the word stunning written underneath.

Another Producer which most people know about is Harveys and again their Palo Cortado was another excellent offering with its sweetish, nutmeg, caramel and coffee flavours for around £26 (50cl).

Nations favourite sherries Masteclass

Lots of others that I could mention and the overall standard of sherries on show were exceptional, to finish off with I signed up for a Masterclass of the nations favourite sherries hosted by Beltran Domecq (President – CRDO Jerez -Xeres – Sherry y Manzanilla Sancular de Barrameda) this included the two styles of sherry the bone dry Fino and Manzanillas and the sweeter styles of medium dry, medium sweet and cream, a very informative class and an enjoyable tasting to finish the day.

If you like very dry wines that pair beautifully with most foods and you are partial to the odd glass of sweeter wines then sherry may well be for you.

So the next time you are offered a glass of sherry try it, you’ll either love it or hate it my guess is that you will love it.

Great sherry tasting 2017

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

 

 

 

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Robert Oatley Chardonnay 2015

With the weather picking up again (at last!), it was time to break out the whites again this time a classy Robert Oatley,  Aussie Chardonnay from Margaret River.

Chardonnay still seems to get a bad press ( not with me I hasten to add) with a lot of bad overly oaked  and flabby offerings but if you get a good one there’s nothing better and having picked this bottle up from my local Co op store for £9.99  I must say it was worth every penny. Usually I’m on the hunt for offers and deals but this bottle is one of the few I’d happily pay full price for again and if it’s ever on offer I will probably be clearing the shelf.

So what’s it like, well, as you may have gathered I liked this a lot, in the glass it’s a very light straw colour with pronounced aromas of Peach, pear and apples with a hint of wood.

Taste wise is where this really shines, I got a mouthful of ripe peaches along with a slight creaminess although still remaining bright and fresh. There was also a mild saline quality which i really liked. The oak was there but not over the top and it just seemed beautifully balanced.

Brilliant with food or equally as good on its own, this was yet another wine I was tempted to give that elusive 9/10 corks but just can’t bring myself to press that last number on my keyboard, so I’m still waiting for that special bottle but this came pretty damn close again.

Heaven knows what a 10/10 will taste like, if I ever get there but the 9/10 is getting closer, roll on the next wine.

My rating 8.5/10 corks 

Co op £9.99

 

Fabulous South African Fizz

Been spoilt with good fizz over the last few months and this Graham Beck is up there with the best I’ve tasted especially for the price.  From the first sip I was sold with its lemony, yeasty, nutty and creamy taste leaving a lot of Champagne at twice the price floundering in its wake.

A Blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, spending 15 months or so on Lees this stunning sparkler was apparently served at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and again served up for Barack Obama’s presidential win. My bottle was served up in my kitchen before our evening meal, not quite as grand  but it did feel like a special occasion with its impressive looking bottle and it’s equally impressive taste.

In the glass it was a very darkish golden colour with a lively mousse and pronounced aromas of yeast and nuts with some lemony fruit along with a creamy and long finish. A touch of sweetness added to its appeal and overall it was very Champagney in flavour.

Everyone who tried it loved it and I can’t praise it highly enough and would recommend it without hesitation even at the full price of around £13.50, I paid £9.99 at Waitrose  (which is a steal).

Don’t take my word for it, go out and buy some , you won’t be disappointed, I’m heading back for more.

My rating 8.5/10 Corks 

Waitrose £13.50 (bought on offer for £9.99)

 

**Tempted to give this my first 9/10 Corks, the wait goes on but only just !!!

Les Hauts Castelmaure Corbieres 2009

Rummaging through my wines I came across this Corbieres which I must have bought a few years ago and forgot about so, I thought it’s about time I opened it.

Corbieres, not a wine I drink a lot of but when I do I always enjoy it and this bottle was no different. I think I bought it at Majestic maybe six or seven years ago, can’t remember how much it cost, maybe around £8-£9.

For those that don’t know Corbieres is a fairly rustic wine which most times tends to get a raw deal. Usually a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah and you can just imagine drinking this with a hunk of bread and some cheese, which I can say from experience pairs very well.

When I first poured in the glass it showed a slightly rusty colour from a little ageing with very pronounced aromas of ripe dark fruits, smoke and peat. Taste wise again ripe dark fruits namely black plums, vanilla and very earthy with a smokiness about it. A little on the sweet side but not overly but still retaining a brightness of fruit.

Really do like Corbieres,  I must make a mental note to drink more of it, a good honest enjoyable bottle.

My Rating 7.5/10 Corks

Various around £9

Hush Heath Estate English winery

Following my recent visit to Hambledon winery in Hampshire I set off for another enjoyable day at another English winery this time in sunny Staplehurst, Kent (Garden of England) and the serene and immaculately manicured Hush Heath Estate famous for its Balfour sparkling wines especially the award-winning Balfour Brut Rosé

The welcome courtyard

Set in 400 acres of vineyards, orchards and woodland this really was a lovely way to spend a few hours strolling around the grounds, visiting the winery and best of all actually tasting the wines.

The tour of the orchard and vineyards lasted about an hour and a half before finishing with a look around their state of the art wine making facilities, unfortunately I couldn’t take any photographs.

During the stroll our guide showed us the orchard where they grow a variety of apples which make their various ciders and apple juice followed by their equally impressive vineyard where they grow the typical Champagne grapes  which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for their sparklers.

The tour was informative as well as being very enjoyable and the weather was perfect if a little hot but what impressed me most was how beautifully kept the Estate was, it really was immaculate.

After the tour we assembled in their tasting tent for a sample of two Sparkling wines, one still red and last but not least the cider.

In the tasting tent

Balfour Brut Rosé 

First up was their flagship award-winning Rosé………. This was given a big thumbs up by all who tasted it. Lovely pale salmon colour with a lively stream of fine bubbles. Aromas of Strawberries, plums and vanilla with a  Crisp, refreshing and long finish.

Balfour Leslie’s Reserve

Next was my favourite, named after the producers wife from selected Cuvées.  As I have said before who needs Champagne when English sparkling wine tastes as good as this. With a minimum of at least 12 months Lees ageing this was fresh light and had a fruity sweetness about it. Again universally enjoyed by everyone.

Hush Heath Pinot Noir

Only tasted one of the still wines  which was a Pinot Noir, very fruit forward and light full of cherries and raspberries with a slight herbal kick. Not enough depth for me but it has won awards and I would quite happily drink it, maybe it needed to be  chilled slightly to taste it at its best.

There was also some of the Jake’s Orchard sparkling ciders to try namely Nettle and Strawberry & blackcurrant, if you’re a fan of cider these were very good.

The Sparkling wines were definitely the stars and they were very proud of them and rightly so even if they were a little on the expensive side.

Goudhurst Boutique Inn
My wife and stayed at ‘The Goudhurst Inn’ a few miles away, this boutique pub owned by Hush Heath was the perfect retreat after a hard days wine touring. The pub featured most of the wines we tasted and we enjoyed another couple of glasses of the excellent Balfour Leslie’s Reserve with a very nice dinner.

 

Chapel Down Bacchus 2015

For anyone who hasn’t tasted the delights of English wine, why not? This Bacchus from Chapel Down winery nestled in the Kent countryside is an absolute beauty, especially for those of you who are Sauvignon Blanc fans.

The only downside I can see to any English vino is the price, most of it tends to be pretty expensive and the CD Bacchus is no exception coming in at anywhere between £10-£14 but unlike some wines I’d be pretty happy to pay full price for this quality. This particular bottle I bought for £9.99 (discounted from Waitrose) which is about the cheapest I’ve seen it, so far.

So what’s it like? well, pretty decent is my view, with its understated plain black label but it kind of works and definitely makes it stand out on the shelf and cries out quality which I must say, it is.

In the glass it’s a very pale straw like colour with pronounced aromas of grapefruit, lemon, limes and something herbaceous. Once that first sip is taken you’ll be hooked on what tastes like fresh nettles, followed by grapefruit, grass and limes. It’s intense and very sharp. Some say it’s the English equivalent of Sauvignon Blanc and I have to say it has a lot of similar characteristics but with a little more of that bracing acidity.

Fantastically refreshing on a hot summers day, this is a quality wine and loved by my wife who regular readers will know is a staunch Sovee Bee fan. I for one will buy this again and when it’s on offer, it’s a tenners worth well spent.

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

£9.99 ( on offer) Waitrose  usually around £13

Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2016

Been a while since I actually reviewed a bottle here, not that I haven’t been drinking any, far from it but after tasting this Chardo (again another daughter abbreviation along with Sovee bee that I must stop saying) I thought I must share my thoughts on this very good Chilean Chardonnay.

Always enjoyed wines from Luis Felipe Edwards and this is up there with the better ones I’ve tasted although it may well be a little intense and slightly over the top for some.

When poured, this was quite a deep golden colour with pronounced aromas of butterscotch, vanilla, tropical fruits and nuts.

After the first mouthful, what is evident straight away is the creaminess and buttery almost fatty flavours along with a touch of vanillary (not sure if that’s a proper word) oak but quickly followed up by peach, pear, apricots, caramel and almonds.

For £7.99 this is a steal and a wine I very much enjoyed, although, as I mentioned earlier, it may not be for everyone, especially if you don’t like buttery Chardo ( Damn it, sorry !! ) but for me this comes highly recommended 👍

My rating 8/10 Corks

Majestic £7.99 (multi buy)