WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT SHERRY?
Known as ‘Sack’ in Shakespeare’s time and, for reasons of balance (Shakespeare wasn’t the only great writer of his time, and you know that journalists are always strictly impartial!), as Xeres in that of the Bard’s contemporary, Cervantes, Sherry (itself an English corruption of the Arabic name for Jerez, Xeres) was a staple drink in much of the known world.
It isn’t today – but it should be!
Efforts are being made to put Sherry back to where it was, and where it should be, in terms of market share of the wine world. Although, personally, I shy away from Sherry Cocktails, designed to enfranchise the youth of today and thus dispel once and for all the misconception that Sherry is a drink for Granny and Aunt Maude, I understand the reasoning behind this promotional push.
I feel the same about Champagne and Cava Cocktails – for me it’s all wine abuse! Let’s drink Sherry and enjoy it for what it is, a perfectly palatable drink on its own without dressing it up in pretense!
Whilst some have deserted Sherry, in favour of more hip drinks, I’ve never left it – there’s always some in my fridge and in my wine cooler. I’m a big fan of Amontillado and Oloroso, which, in their natural state are dry and not sweetened for the so-called British palate, and I very often prepare dinner with a glass of Fino on the go!
However, whilst I still really enjoy Fino, that very dry, super-fresh, slightly salty, fortified wine which is the colour of water (be careful, don’t down it in one by mistake!), in the last couple of years it has been taken to the next level! Enter Gonzalez Byass Tío Pepe Fino En Rama’!
Translating, roughly, to ‘raw’, ‘En Rama’ is Fino without all the clarification and filtration to which regular sherries are subjected. Extracted from the barrels directly, from between the ‘flor’ (the yeast that forms a thin layer on top of the wine as it ages in cask) and any sediment at the bottom of the barrel, En Rama is bottled almost without filtration at all. Hence En Rama Sherry is in its most natural state, and with a wholly different, soft golden colour!
If asked to identify this wine simply by sight, if it were pored into a white wine glass, you’d be forgiven for thinking it to be, perhaps Chardonnay! Take a whiff though, and wow – it’s so good! You’ll find some yeasty, almost patisserie notes, along with a slight whiff of sea breeze, and then some blanched almond aromas and flavour. Hold the wine on your palate and let it work its magic!
My friends at Gonzalez Byass also sent me two other bottles of sherry, each absolutely exemplary of their style – Amontillado and Oloroso.
Viña AB (in fact the AB are linked together, as in the photo, but my computer won’t let me do that!) Amontillado is named after Andrés Botaina, the original owner of the vineyard that supplied the grapes for this wonderful sherry.
Darker than the above, as it has spent twice as much time in barrel (about 10 years) being slowly oxidized, giving the colour as well as the wholly different aromas and flavours. Traditionalists will tell you that this wine is perfectly paired with ‘Ave’, fowl, in all its forms, and I’d go along with that, but I’d add to it as well. Enjoy this wine with Comté cheese (and others), with artichokes (now that’s unusual!), mushroom risotto, (with a drizzle of truffle oil, even better!) and asparagus.
There are hazelnuts on the nose and the palate, plus a smoky yeasty presence too, with dry-fried almonds and under-ripe (and therefore not sweet) figs. It’s lovely, really lovely!
Finally (though there is a large range of Sherry at Gonzalez Byass, of course) I just loved their Oloroso – which translates to fragrant, and that’s exactly how you’d describe Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Dry Oloroso! It’s nutty, on the nose, with caramalised notes, endearing it immediately to almonds, fried in a very little olive oil and lightly sprinkled with sea salt – roasted chestnuts too. Also, Jamon Serrano, in all its different styles, is just about perfect with this wine!
(My thanks to SherryNotes whom I used for research).