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Dining with Sherrys


Rogelio
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Last week I was invited along with a few egulleters to a sherry tasting dinner hosted by Jorge Pascual, president of CRDO Jerez-Manzanilla de Sanlúcar-Sherry, who is making a big effort trying to teach the excellence of this wines out of their natural pablic and was surprised by the lack of knowledge about this wines even between well known wine aficionados.

The dinner took place at Madrid's De Vinis, a wine oriented restaurant whose somelier, Victor, is a lover of this wines. It consisted on several flights of three wines tying to sample all the sherry range from comercialized to rare casks paired with an special menu for the ocasion.

1st Flight

- Manzanilla Solear, Barbadillo. Buyed by Jorge Pascual at a local supermarket in Sanlúcar turned out to be one of the freshest manzanillas that i ever had, plenty of flower yeasts taste, rich and deep.

- Fino La Ina, Domeq. Another comercial brand, usually one of my favourites showed surprisingly a bit low and lost the comparission wit his rival solear.

- Very Dry "Sherry" Sheffield of California, Oak Mellowed. This was an outsider playing out of it’s league (if there is a league for this) awful is a very soft adjetive for this. Mr pascual was happy to show the different betwen the ral thing and the fake.

2nd Flight

- Macharnudo 2004 (no filtered, almost a fermented must for Fino Ynocente) Valdespino, 11,5º alc.

This is something very hard to sample outside the wineries, it’s the just fermented wine before suffering the crianza process. A very respectable wine showing the quality of the vintage, something that is lost during all the aging and crianza process.

- Fino en Rama de la 2ª Criadera de Ynocente (Straight from the cask), Valdespino 15º alc.

Amazing non comercializad wine from the 2nd criadera (two steps befoe the solera) fresh, biological, powerful and rich. If this wine were comercialized I would be buying pallets.

- Fino Ynocente, Valdespino 16,5º alc. The comercial wine comming from the two former stages turned out to be paler (due to the filtration with activated coals), softer in biological flavours but deeper.

3rd Flight

- Manzanilla Aurora en Rama, Pedro Romero. Corked. Yes, even this wines can be affected by TCA

- Fino Pavón Puerto Fino. A good fino with all the fresness that La Ina lacked.

- Manzanilla en Rama de Barbadillo, Saca de Otoño 2004. Surprisingly this seasonal bottlilng showed that the yeasts on a dry season give a softer wine than

- Manzanilla en Rama Barbadillo, Saca de Primavera 2004. Even if this bottle was two seasons out of it’s season the wine was alive and kicking probably due to the rainy spring suffered in Sanlúcar this year.

4th Flight

- Manzanilla pasada Pastrana, Hidalgo. This old favourite showed the variability between bottles that suffers this brand. This wine is always in the verge between a flowered manzanilla and an amontillado, was soft and bold. Bad luck.

- Amontillado Pastrana VOS Hidalgo. Excellent amontillado comming from the wine above, deep and with a salty taste due to it’s Sanlúcar origin.

- Amontillado Fino Imperial VORS, Paternina. Superb, the best amontillado that I ever had and the best wine of the night. Deep, complex, endless. Ad the best pairing for a poultry dish.

6th Flight

- Amontillado Botaina, Domeq. A different style of amontillado, more oxidative, lost in the comparision with the previous wine, probably needed of mor axigenation.

- Palo Cortado Antique de Rey Fernando de Castilla. Closer to an amontillado than to an oloroso very fine and elegant.

- Oloroso Río Viejo, Domeq. This is the lower wine in their range, vey good but lacked from the complexity of the great olorosos.

7th Flight

- Vendimia Tardía 1995 de Sandeman

- Vendimia Tardía 1996 de Sandeman

This two experimental and accidental late harvest wines dued to a strike on the winery those years during the harvest were very interesting with a moscatel like taste and a style closer to a cream. The 96 was more complex and interesting due to the vintage.

8th Flight

- Palo Cortado Capuchino VORS Domeq.

- Oloroso Sibarita VORS Domeq.

- Pedro Ximénez La Cilla Barbadillo.

- Pedro Ximénez Venerable VORS Domeq.

The final flight included three of the Domeq’s treasures (more than 30 years wines) being the Capuchino and Venerable a step over the excellents Sibarita and La Cilla. This wines were better after being decanted during three hours. And the time seemed to have stopped while we were drinking them. Amazing.

The lively conversation during and after the dinner pointed the defects from a 150 years old denomination with very big winerys making their profits from other sources, with a land especulation preassure over the states that has converted this wines in the underdog of their portfolio.

Also the neccesity of showing the bottling date in the bottle in order to inform the consumer about the fresheness of the bottle, something that the aficionados have been asking for years. And the wineries also need to correct the variability between bottles.

And last we, the consumers and aficionados, need to make an effort to aproximate to this amazing world of surprisingly cheap wines that makes the perfect match with modern cooking style as I could relize in my last visit to El Bulli where Manzanilla Pastrana was the highlight of the dinner.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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Rogelio, thank you for the detailed notes! This is quite extensive (and enjoyable). I have not thought about serving an excellent sherry with a main course in a long time, but this post is making me yearn for some. What is your favorite main course with one of these sherrys? Also, I was intrigued by your comment that the Amontillado Pastrana VOS Hidalgo was salty. I have yet to try a wine in which salt was not a fault. Can you describe that taste, and how it affects the wine, a little more?

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Mary Baker

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Hi Rebel, sorry for the misunderstanding but I don't consider

saltyness as a defect in this wines but an indicative sign of their manzanilla

origin, almost terroir like, if we can find terroir in this wines, something

that is driving strong discussions in Spain.

About food pairings, I have been noticing lately that albeit all the

traditional pairings with sherry, jabugo ham, fried fish, seafood,

dried fruits... The finos and manzanillas are superb with this modern tasting

menus that the new chefs usually serve nowadays in Spain. But also with

traditional game and poultry dishes an amontillado goes perfect pairing

the complexity of the wine with the deep flavours of the dish and cleaning

the mouth for another bite. Last time I had a saignant pidgeon the match was amazing.

Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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an indicative sign of their manzanilla origin, almost terroir like, if we can find terroir in this wines, something that is driving strong discussions in Spain.

Mm, thanks for the food ideas. I will try it with a dark, savory poultry.

Can you tell us more about the terroir discussions?

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Mary Baker

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Can you tell us more about the terroir discussions?

Hi Mary,

I'm new to the forums, but I was also at the dinner Rogelio has perfectly described. It was a lot of fun and a good learning experience.

The thing about terroir that Rogelio was telling you about is the discussion about whether the terroir has a big influence in these wines or not. In principle neutral base wines are wanted and most of the character comes from the solera ageing system, the influence of the flor, the ambience in the bodega, etc. However some people say the provenance of the grapes has a great influence in the final product.

Tasting the base wine for the Ynocente fino, I must say t had a lot of character, it was not a neutral wine at all. And coincidentally, it comes from one of the best pagos (plots). So the discussion is still open...

Cheers,

Luis

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I was also lucky to attend to this dinner perfectly described by Rogelio. Stepping back from the terroir topic for a minute, I'd say that there are several conclusions that can be made from such a dinner:

a) Sherries are often discarded as wines to be served for the whole meal due to their high alcohol content. Well, the alcohol content could be surprising years ago when compared to other wines, but anyone would be hardly surprise to see wines with 14.5-15% of alcohol. Those values are not that far from Sherries'.

b) The pairing of the wines was not preconceived. The restaurant didn't go off tracks to create a whole new menu around them. In many cases, the results were excellent. The pairing seemed to flow naturally, without the feeling of being forced.

Rebel, Manzanillas are made at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a town by the sea. One of the mythical characteristics of Manzanillas is that some of them have those salty notes though in a very subtle way. That's considered as very positive and a defining characteristics of Manzanillas vs Finos (both are made from the same grape, Palomino following similar techniques but in different geographical areas (Finos usually made further from the sea (exception: Finos from El Puerto de Santamaría)). However, some expert say that you won't be able to tell a Manzanilla from a Fino in a blind tasting session.

The terroir topic is discussed on a ground reserved to true experts. Needless to say that I'm not among them, though we have at least a member who is. If I've understood it well, the core of the debate pivots among the neutral character of Palomino which in theory prevents it from being able to express terroir, the wine making techniques which would act in the same direction of not expressing terroir and the actual differences in wines coming from different pagos (plots) along with the popular wisdom of which pago gives year after year (for centuries) the best base wines.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Rebel, Manzanillas are made at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a town by the sea. One of the mythical characteristics of Manzanillas is that some of them have those salty notes though in a very subtle way.

That's very romantic. Whether true or not, it would add to my enjoyment of a Manzanilla.

The terroir topic is discussed on a ground reserved to true experts.

Not around here. We love a good argument. :wink:

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Mary Baker

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Rebel, Manzanillas are made at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a town by the sea. One of the mythical characteristics of Manzanillas is that some of them have those salty notes though in a very subtle way. That's considered as very positive and a defining characteristics of Manzanillas vs Finos (both are made from the same grape, Palomino following similar techniques but in different geographical areas (Finos usually made further from the sea (exception: Finos from El Puerto de Santamaría)). However, some expert say that you won't be able to tell a Manzanilla from a Fino in a blind tasting session.

The Papirusa Manzanilla from Lustau is supposed to have this same "salty" component even more that their other Manzanilla's. I have started using this sherry more than any other as I find it so food friendly. I only wish that some of the sherries that are mentioned above were available in my part of the country.

edited because I screwed up the quote

Edited by dlc (log)
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