Exemplary En Rama by Bodegas Lustau
Exemplary En Rama by Bodegas Lustau

There’s something seductively sensual about Sherry!

Perhaps, if one is thinking of a figgy, rich Pedro Ximénez, or a medium, aged Palo Cortado, or even a mahogany coloured, but naturally dry Oloroso the above wouldn’t be that much of a revelation. Many of us have partaken of such beauties, and indeed we’ve certainly been seduced!

However when referring, as I am now, to a bone dry noticeably salty Manzanilla from Puerto de San Lucar; or a deceptively water coloured Fino which can show a very aperitif-friendly slight austerity, you might raise an eyebrow to accompany the slightly raised little finger of your hand as you sip your sherry! Well, please read on and see why I’m making such a bold claim!

In very recent years, there is a ‘new’ style of Sherry that has hit the market, running, and continues to do so with many chic UK wine bars and forward thinking restaurants ordering cases, confident that it won’t go out of style. And for me, for sure, En Rama Sherry is here for the long haul.

I think it’s a fairly odds-on bet to say that the En Rama style Sherry has come about in an effort to bring back some dynamics to the Sherry market. There’s nothing wrong with that though. It’s certainly not an admission that what has been there since before Shakespeare’s time has some sort of innate fault. The several and varied styles of Sherry have been appreciated by the cognoscenti for centuries. However, in such hard economic times the cognoscenti market is not enough!

The wineintelligence.com business recently released a report which put in a nutshell the ongoing problem facing the Sherry industry when they summarised their findings after a large poll, where respondents were asked to say the first word or phrase that came into their heads when the word SHERRY was heard, here’s what transpired:

Indeed, prior to my recent monthly guest spot on UK Radio, channelradio.co.uk I asked listeners the same question (I don’t see it as plagiarism, Your Honour, more flattery really!) and was inundated with the same and similar responses.

It’s not the cognoscenti, but consumers in general who have misconceptions about Sherry. It’s time to move on and this ‘new’ style of Sherry is making inroads in breaking down reticence. This alone should earn it the plaudits of the Sherry industry, but when you actually taste En Rama Sherry, well, it speaks for itself!

I like Sherry, always have. There was no alcohol in my house when I was young and practically none in that of my Grandparents, so the concept of the sweet sherry brought out at Christmas by Granny and the same bottle again the following year, never made an impression on me. But it did on others, as you can see above. Yes, there was sweet Sherry that was treated like this and it’s understandable that it made an indelible mark many folks’ psyche. But really, we need to start afresh, and Bodegas Lustau’s (www.lustau.es) En Rama range is an excellent place to start!

I was sent three charming 50cl bottles from Bodegas Lustau, whose premises in Jerez, Andalucia, I’ve visited several times. Each sherry, one from each of the three towns in what’s known as ‘The Sherry Triangle’, Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and  El Puerto Santa Maria was spectacular!

First though, what is the En Rama style. Well, roughly translated the phrase means, ‘raw’. But don’t let that make you think it will take tour tonsils with it as you swallow! There’s nothing rough about En Rama Sherry. It simply means that this sherry has been deftly removed from underneath it’s protective layer of ‘flor’ (a none too attractive film of yeast that forms atop the base wine as it begins its metamorphosis into sherry whilst stored in the old oak barrels).

Unlike the Sherries that are destined to become regular Finos and Manzanillas (which I also love, by the way) these wines are not clarified or filtered to the same degree. En Rama sherry comes, more or less, straight from the cask! Bottles of Fino and Manzanilla as above, are filtered and clarified quite heavily because of the consumer’s apparent desire for pale and clear wines, as well as the producers’ for stable wines that have a long shelf-life.

Because En Rama sherry is filtered to a much lesser degree it has a slightly different colour to the regular wines, and more importantly, the depth of flavour (which diminishes though filtration and clarification) remains. When you drink En Rama Sherry you know you’ve had a drink!

I tasted first the En Rama Fino de Jerez. It is made from just one cask of Fino which has been set aside from the others which will go on to make regular (and also very good) Lustau Fino. It’s pleasingly dry with body and a long finish, for me there’s a  passing note of green olive along with some bitter citrus. Hold it in your mouth before swallowing and let it show you what it’d got! Super.

En Rama Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda was next up – and again it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Slightly straw coloured there’s a yeasty patisserie note on the nose (like, and yet curiously unlike the autolysis aromas from a bottle of sparkling wine). I tasted it alone (as I always first do) but then with some seafood, including smoked cod and salmon. The overt saltiness of the sherry makes it the perfect match.

It was impossibly close, but if I had to say a favourite, it would be the En Rama Fino  De El Puerto de Santa María. I’m looking forlornly now at the empty bottle! Very pale gold in colour, the aromas that escape when pouring are seductive. You’ll find a touch of saltiness here too, bone dry, rounded, with balanced, almost measured, acidity and such depth, complexity and length. Drink it with pan-fried slightly salted almonds, Jamón Serrano, Semi and Curado hard Manchego cheeses, and of coure, just by itself! Excellent, and can’t wait to taste some more!

A wonderful range of sherries from Bodegas Lustau!