Drinking sherry in the raw! Tio Pepe en rama 2020

Owen Morgan of Bar 44 and Asador 44 very kindly provided the half  bottles of  the Tio Pepe en Rama 2020 and the nibbles free of charge to all participants on the online tasting referred to in this post. None of us expected the nibbles and had all asked in advance to pay for the wine, but he insisted on not taking any payment (so I bought vouchers for Asador 44 – probably first on my list of places, together with the Heathcock, Bar 44 and Curado/Vermut, to go to when lockdown ends in 2059!!!).

In terms of the post title, no I am not taking about some naturist drinks party (oh the horror of me in the buff – actually I would fit right in as rarely, if ever, do you see a toned person in any reporting of naturist activities)!

The post actually relates to Tio Pepe’s en rama fino sherry, with the 2020 version having just been released. I know Beaujolais Nouveau (not as bad as its reputation suggests – but not something that generally floats my boat if I am honest) day is big here in Cardiff, but to me the release of the latest Tio Pepe en rama is much more exciting.

The Cardiff launch would normally entail an evening/day of glugging the stuff at Bar 44/Asador 44, but that was obviously a no no in the current circumstances.

So when a Twitter pal (Clare AKA @BwydBod) DM’d me (probably on the basis of the Mystere Wine Club having sucessfully done an online tasting in April – still trying to get her to join the club) regarding a possible online sherry tasting and whether I had any ideas as to wines, my immediate thoughts were:

  • Isn’t the Tio Pepe en Rama 2020 out soon;
  • Bet Owen at Bar 44 could get hold of some for us (at a decent price) and lead the tasting; and
  • Maybe we could taste it as against the standard Tio Pepe (interesting to compare).

With impressive organisational skills Clare set it all up and Owen supplied the Tio Pepe en Rama 2020 wine gratis (very naughtily refusing to accept payment for it – said he got it gratis) and some very superior nibbles (more on these later). The rest of us all bought (to compare) a standard bottle of Tio Pepe.

All set up with nibbles and wine,

it proved a very entertaining evening.

Lots of chat, laughter and good food and wine. Closest I have got to going out (god I miss that) in the last 10 weeks.

So to the wine itself, en rama figuratively means “raw” and is the closest most people will get to drinking the stuff straight from the barrel

Luckily I was able to do just that, with the lovely people of  Bodegas Urium in Jerez a while back (all their sherries, including their fino en rama, are the absolute business).

The more commercial biologically aged sherries wines (including the standard Tio Pepe) are subject to quite heavy filtration and clarification to remove all traces of the flor. This provides for a more stable and homogenised product and stops people going ” It’s got bits in it”.

En rama wines sit between straight from the barrel (very unstable)  and this heavy filtration and clarification process, with only a light clarification process applied to most en rama wines (so as to take away the larger bits of flor residue).

In theory, this preserves colour and flavour in the wine. The risk is a less stable product (flor residues left in the wine have the potential to reactivate).

Originally, with en rama, the perceived wisdom was to drink it within 3-6 months of purchase due to the view that to not do so would risk ruination due to its inherent instability. In reality (as you shall see, if you read to the end – yes I know it is a long read), there is a lot to be said for ageing en rama wines.

Tio Pepe En Rama 2020

Much darker colour to this wine than the standard Tio Pepe.
On the nose my first impression was there was a load of fruit in the mix, with lemon peel and fresh cut green apples. There was also almonds,  brine and a touch of baked bread. Very nice nose to this wine.

On the palate, there was an initial  brininess, followed by green apple and a long finish of citrus (lemon) peel  – really fruity stuff this.

I really enjoyed this wine, which I think is one of the best Tio Pepe en rama I have tried to date.

We tasted this as against the standard Tio Pepe (wisely trying that first), which is a great wine at its £10 ish (75cl bottle) price point (often on offer in the supermarket at down to around the £8 mark, which is brilliant value).

Noticably lighter in colour,

there were marked differences in the aroma and taste profiles of it as against the en rama.  The standard Tio Pepe was all almonds and yeasty notes, but lacking the fruity complexity of the en rama. Nice, but not of the same level. In fairness the en rama is 50% plus more expensive, so it is a somewhat unfair comparison.

After the online tasting I remembered I had a Tio Pepe en rama 2015 in the wine room (found it hidden when looking for something else) and marked it for drinking the next day.

Tio Pepe en Rama 2015

This had a deeper more green tinged  golden colour than the 2020

with quite a haze to it.
When I tasted this wine on release, I thought it quite a briney number, with salted almonds on the nose and palate. It has certainly evolved over the preceding 5 years.

On the nose, the brininess had faded, as have the salted almonds. What had replaced these were more herbal and fruity notes, with caramelised nuts in the mix.  On the palate there were notes of yellow (almost baked) apple, as well as hints of stone fruit and roasted nuts coming through as it lingered.

Very expressive, I thought it had aged beautiful. With evolution, rather than deterioration, this was edging towards an amontillado.

Sadly this was my last bottle of the 2015 and I doubt I will be able to source anymore.

Food pairings

For the online tasting (with the standard Tio Pepe and the 2020 en rama), Owen had put together a fantastic selection of tapas goodies which included octopus he had cooked (see his You Tube channel – bloody brilliant), boqerones, salted almond, cristal bread, cheese (the aged Mahon was belting with the 2020 on the night and the 2015 the next day) and membrillo (quince jelly).

All brilliant foils for the sherries.

I repeated the pairing the next day with the 2015 (equally as good with that wine) and added a bowl of Arbequina olives
The latter combo was delightful in the sun in the garden.

I think a top knotch Jamón Ibérico de Bellota

would be sensational with the 2015 (pretty darn fine with the 2020 too I am sure).

The verdict

Three very different wines, offering contrasting sensory experiances.

Standard Tio Pepe is a great wine, you get serious bang for your buck, but the en ramas are a real step up in class. Beautiful made wines that just sing. The 2020 may be the best yet and certainly on a par with the 2015. Interesting to see if it ages as well as the 2015 and I think I am going to tuck a couple of  bottles of it away in the wine room to slumber for a few years.

I managed to get 6 halves of the Tio Pepe en rama 2020 from the Whisky Exchange and paid (inc. delivery and VAT) £61.65 for them. Tanners are selling it a bit cheaper at £8.75 per half bottle  and the Wine Society (always good value) will be stocking it soon I believe (if you like wine and you are not a member of the Wine Society you are seriously missing a trick).

I think it is great that Gonzalez Byass are donating the revenues from the sale of the Tio Pepe en rama 2020 towards the reopening of bars and restaurants. Real show of corporate responsibility by them this.

In terms of the 2015, good luck trying to find any of that – Jancis Robinson couldn’t find any (she should have spoken to me) and if she can’t what hope is there for us mere mortals!

Standard Tio Pepe is widely available in the supermarkets.

A big thank you to Owen for his generosity and words of sherry wisdom and to Clare (@bwydBod) for organising it. Great evening.


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