A week in Jerez and more Sherry !

Following on from my previous post I visited the home of Sherry, Jerez  de La Frontera a beautiful city in Spain’s Andalusia region for a short holiday.

It was like going back in time with it’s impressive Cathedral, baroque churches, palm and orange trees adorning quaint cobbled streets and remnants of a thick city wall surrounding the city built by its Moorish occupants in the 11th and 12th centuries. Walk down any street you cannot fail to notice that this city is famous for Sherry there is even a constant alcoholic whiff in the air from the numerous Bodegas housing this very underrated  and utterly delicious fortified wine.

Sherry made from three grapes, the Palamino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez, the former for the drier styles and the last two for the sweeter wines and are made in the so called golden sherry triangle of the cities Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda to the west and El Puerto de Santa Maria to the south all having their own micro climate which contributes to the character of their own local styles.

As you wander around the city, references to sherry are everywhere, from barrel centrepieces in the plazas to bars and restaurants with sherry barrels made into tables and chairs, all the shops have souvenirs and their are numerous signposts to the many bodegas scattered around.

My wife and I visited three Sherry Bodegas and a winery, yes WINE! (which I will post about later) these were Lustau, Gonzalez Byass, (who make the recognisable Tio Pepe) and Tradicion. Just to point out the  actual Bodegas do not make the sherry they are only used to store and age the wines. The one thing that struck me about all the bodegas we visited is how understated the buildings were, most of them tucked down little side streets.

Lustau – As with all the Bodega’s we visited the smell as soon as you entered was heady to say the least. The tour was priced at €25 each but that included some tapas and 12 sherries including a couple of Vermouth’s. The tour itself was very leisurely with no more than 12 people. The guide was very amiable and informative explaining the history of the Bodega and the process of making sherry. The tasting itself was superb, sampling their whole range from dry Fino’s through to the sweetest Pedro Ximénez (Often abbreviated to PX ).

Impressive tasting at Lustau

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gonzales Byass – A little more commercial than the others and they make the most recognisable Fino sherry called Tio Pepe with its well-known bottle logo. A bigger Bodega than the others featuring a short promotional film and train ride through the property. Bigger groups, around 30 or so, felt a little more impersonal but with some interesting stories shared by the guide especially the so-called myth about the drunken mice in which a glass of sherry was placed on the floor with a small ladder to 
discourage the mice chewing on the barrels.

The tasting after was again very commercial situated in a modern tasting room where depending on what you paid you sampled a number of glasses and tapas. We tasted four and got a selection of cheese, ham and potatoes to pair.

Tio Pepe Fino was everywhere in Jerez, served chilled it was the perfect accompaniment to salty tapas and often found for as little as €1 – €2 a glass.

 

 

 

Last of the Bodegas we visited was the prestigious Tradicion – Again tucked away in a side street and this time we sampled  five premier sherries ranging from €55 upwards. These were truly special, some of them over 30 years old.

 

The tasting was conducted in a beautiful rustic courtyard with a covering of vines for shelter. All of the bottles we tasted were special as the price reflected and it was a fitting end to our Bodega tours.

As a final treat the owners allowed us to view their private art collection of some of the finest Spanish painters including the impressive San Fransico de Asis en oracion, Oleo sobre lienzo by ‘El Greco’

Cannot recommend Jerez highly enough, very peaceful, very Spanish, very cheap and very hot and if like me you don’t mind a glass or two of Sherry it’s the perfect holiday.

 

My rating 8.5/10 Corks 

 

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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

 

 

 

Taste of Spain in London

On the 28th May I attended the ‘Feria de Londres’ in the wonderful setting of Potters Fields Park on the banks of the river Thames overlooked by Tower bridge.

Over the bank holiday weekend the park was transformed into a celebration of all things Spanish including music, flamenco and wonderful food,tapas and drink.

I arrived early, the stalls and stages were being set up and the atmosphere was building as was the smell of different kinds of Spanish foods drifting across the park. There was lots of pop up bars serving ‘Cruzcampo’ beer, white and red wine and the excellent ‘Tio Pepe’ Fino sherry.

From about 12.00pm the sun came out and the festivities got underway as the noise level got louder as more and more people arrived. Before it got too busy I booked myself onto a Iberico Ham and Sherry Materclass and received my complementary drink and food tokens as I was there on behalf of ‘Mid Week Wines’.

With class booked I set out to enjoy the afternoon, first stop was the bar where I got a pretty large glass of chilled Tio Pepe Palamino Fino sherry which was just what was needed as the temperature and humidity was steadily rising.

For those of you who haven’t tasted the delights of Fino and Manzanilla sherry they are a delight with salty almonds and olives and as I found out later a real winner when paired with Iberico ham. This particular bottle of Tio Pepe (which needs to be served very cold) was extremely dry, a little yeasty but with a saline edge which smelled of the sea. There was also some lemon peel in the background and the finish was fresh if a little bitter

Food was next on the agenda and I got myself a freshly made plate of Valencian Paella made up of chicken, broad beans and green beans.

Next up was the Iberico Ham Masterclass with Jose Sol (Spanish ham Master) Complete with more Tio Pepe sherry which complimented the ham beautifully.

Iberico ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. Here Jose taught us about the different styles and quality of ham culminating in the excellent Pata Negra (best quality) ham from the black pig.

As well as the Toi Pepe Jose introduced us to a cold soup like substance called Salmorejo which he actually made that morning (basically soaked bread with tomatoes, garlic and lemon sprinkled with ham and sometimes sliced boiled egg), this again complemented the ham beautifully if a little garlicky. It was a very informative masterclass and big thanks to Jose for sharing his knowledge with us, I certainly learned a lot.

The afternoon and evening carried on with more drink (yes another glass of Sherry), food and Flamenco with  a performance by Tomasito (Flamenco dancer and singer) with lots of ladies and children dressed in traditional outfits.

The Feria de Londres was a free event and I for one will be back next year, Viva Espana