AND SO TO SHERRY!
IF T’WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR SHAKESPEARE
IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR US!
GRUPO ESTEVÉZ RE-VISITED
It’s mid-November and I’m writing this in Granada, shivering under the majestic snow-topped Sierra Nevada, on my return from the rolling, chalky hills of sunny, 28ºC, Jerez. My cases are much heavier than when I left home – the reason, I’ve stocked up on what must be the most undervalued ‘wine’ in Spain and maybe the world!
Jerez (aka Xerés and Sherry, because it was misspelt by our forbears in times before the Bard was born, let alone before he’d picked up his celebrated quill, calling it Sack – but hey, a Sherry by any other name . . . ) is a very special wine, fortified by grape spirit to about 16 – 20% alc. The happy and up-for-it group I am with have of course tasted Sherry before. However, by their own admission, they would rarely think of ordering it in a bar as an aperitif, and probably never would have contemplated it as an accompaniment to dinner.
Well I’m delighted to say they may well think differently from now. You see, Sherry is not just about ancient Aunt Matilda’s Christmas tipple, bless her. Sherry comes in several different styles, thus lending itself to many varied dishes and I implore you to give it a go and become a born-again sherry sipper! This is the first of a duo of articles, written not long before Christmas, but to ask you to think above and beyond simply the festive season. Sherry rocks!
I was first at Grupo Estevéz’s elongated white painted premises, probably three, maybe four, years ago. I was invited to bring another group of disciples along to see how things are going, bearing in mind the
latest challenges brought about by La Crisis. I’m very pleased to see that all continues as normal, as it has for centuries in this unique wine-making area.
The company as it is now only started in 1982 – a new kid on the block really. But they soon acquired for example the brand name Valdespino, which has been in operation since William’s time (no not the Prince, the Poet!), and continued a fine old tradition exporting around the (Globe, no, not the theatre, the world)!
It’s a beautiful place to visit. The tranquil setting (if you ignore the shopping centre that gradually creeps forward like lava burning land before it) is a delight. It’s not only home to tens of thousands of oak barrels holding some twenty five million bottle’s worth of sherry. It also is a stud for the stunningly beautiful black-caped Jerez horses whose stables we visited, as well as the the tack room and of course the wonderful antique carriages used on special occasions and for competition too.
Plus there’s an assortment of dogs (including Spanish speaking Jack Russells) left to roam and deal with any vermin daft enough to come sniffing for sherry! But that’s not all – there is a magnificent collection of antique furniture, particularly Long Case Clocks (Grandfather Clocks), as well as an art gallery – which would be worth the visit, without the sherry! In some ways it’s a living museum and all with a sense of history and quiet elegance.
We tasted seven different styles of wine – first up was Tio Mateo. It’s something of a cash cow as sales are wonderful – a dry slightly salty fino which we enjoyed with olives. Finos are super aperitif drinks very often used as such chez nous.
Then an Amontillado (remember that in its natural state Amontillado is
dry and light brown in colour). Del Principe Amontillado Muy Viejo is 18·5 alc and was one of my favourites. We enjoyed it with some darkly coloured jamon.
Contrabandista Amontillado Valdespino has had a small amount of the naturally very sweet grape PX (Pedro Ximenez) added to the blend to make it a little more like the Amontillado’s found in the UK where, traditionally, there has been a demand for a sweeter style.
Solera 1842 Oloroso VOS was a star! Oloroso is also naturally dry – until doctored for the imagined (and often correctly) British palate. This dry 20 year old wine has a rich acidity and very dark colour from it’s slow oxygenation and a faint toffee nose.
The Pale Cream Sherry (now we’re getting into the Aunt Maude zone) is 17·5 % and has a whiff of sweet orange peel and fruit about it. Royal Cream Marqués de Real Tesoro would suit Maude down to the Zimmer and was accurately and delightfully described by group leader, Glennys. as being ‘quite custardy’.
Finally we moved onto the Pedro Ximenez (PX) 100% – a sherry that is a dessert in itself. It can also be enjoyed with rich fruit cake, Christmas Cake and, as it is often described (by me anyway) as liquid Christmas Pudding, you’ll love it with that final taste of our traditional Festive Food.