Readers of the blog will know how much I love sherry. Same said readers on the other hand don’t seem to be begging for wine related post (quite the contrary if J’s reaction to any wine post is anything to go by), but heyho I like to do them so more to follow you lucky people 😀.
To me sherry is one the the marvels of the wine world, with an extraordinary breadth of styles from bone dry finos and manzanillas to the indulgently sweet pedro ximinez and loads in between. There is a sherry for every occasion and every season and it is certainly not a wine to just enjoy during the “C word” period (sorry can’t bring myself to say the “C word” in November – I am currently muttering profanities under my breath at J committing blasphemy by having her tree up already).
It is also a simply fantastic food wine. Give me any food and I will give you a sherry that will pair perfectly with it. Even notoriously difficult pairings like artichoke are nae bother for a sherry (go fino).
In terms of celebrating sherry, today (14th November) marks the last day of Sherry Week 2021 and thus it seemed apt to cover the stuff on the blog (even though they are not very popular, at worst it acts as a good reference note for me).
Not sure if it is the lingering (like a bad fart) effect of Covid (with the constant threats from our Lords and Masters of further restrictions – a classic case of “the beating will continue unless morale improves” if ever I saw one) or just a lack of interest here in Wales, but it all seems very low key here this year compared to say Beaujolais Nouveau Day (still huge in Wales – Beaujolais I get, the nouveau stuff not so much). Perhaps I have missed the organised event, but as far as I can see they have been fewer and further between this particular year.
One event that I did see was an opportunity to taste some truly fantastic sherries from Sanlucar de Barrameda (manzanilla country) based Bodega Delgado Zuleta (including the frankly quite barmy Quo Vadis amontillado – once tasted never forgotten) for a mere £30 (with certified sherry educator Shumana Palit of Ultracomdia/Curado leading the tasting). This, especially with the paupacy of other events, was not one I was going to pass on.
Tickets were duly booked, with J stepping into the breach as Mrs. SF was working (looking after dogs).
The tasting was in the lovely, rather cosy, space that is Vermut. Oh how I have missed that place since the plague and then staff shortages caused it to (hopefully temporarily) close its doors.
Bodegas Delgado Zuleta claims to be the oldest (still active) producer of sherry having been established back in 1744 and, as such, has some history surrounding it
They have their own vineyards in the Mireflores pago,
which is generally regarded as the most important and revered vineyard districts in terms of Sanlucar wines.
As with most large sherry producers they both sell and buy in the grapes used to make sherry. Production is over 350,000 bottles per year, with 90% of that being manzanilla.
La Goya (£13.95)
As an intro, we had this very gluggable wine (from the magnum) which is the flag ship manzanilla of the bodega and is named after a famous flamenco singer (Aurora Jauffre, nicknamed La Goya, who was very partial to the stuff apparently).
it had a typical Sanlucar nose of the shoreline with almonds to the max.
On the palate it had nice citrus notes on top of a pleasing almond nuttiness and olive brininess.
Great with the olives and cornichons. provided.
La Goya XL (£29)
Next up was a variation on the La Goya theme.
Nice golden colour to this wine, which was a touch deeper in hue than the standard La Goya,
with quite a rich well rounded nose.
Classic manzanilla aromas of almond and chamomile, as well as distinct seaside notes of iodine and saline. This was followed by baked apple and a touch of citrus (lime)
On the palate, it had a creamy dare I say buttery mouth feel to it. Bag loads of nuts, with both almond and a touch of bitterness from walnuts and, as with the nose, a touch of citrus as it lingered.
Paired very well with the jamon provided. Would be fab with Sanlucar’s famous prawns .
La Cuestecilla (£49)
A bit of a rarity this, with a run of only 600 bottles from a single cask (with none of the usual refreshing via the solera system). A never to be repeated wine and as such a real privilege to drink.
This wine was stored in the highest part of Sanlucar, which is characterised by higher humidity which allow for a more exuberant growth of flor.
Lovely green tinged golden colour to this wine,
with a quite typical manzanilla nose of coastal notes, apple and chamomile.
On the palate it was a very different and rather unexpected beast. Much rounder and fuller than most manzanilla.
I think if I had tasted it blind I would have been totally confused as to what it was. The nose would scream manzanilla, but the palate would then be saying no,no,no.
Someone commented that it had almost a voignier feel to it, which I thought was quite perceptive.
It also had an unexpected sweet edge to it, which was very un – manzanilla like.
Very nice, if a bit of an oddity.
VORS Amontillido Viejo (£60)
Lightish caramel colour to this wine, with a hint of green to the rim.
On the nose it was caramel coated, roasted, nuts (hazelnuts and almonds), but it still had those saline/coastal note to remind you of its biological ageing in the first part of its life and its Sanlucar heritage.
On the palate, it exuded nuttiness, with a long finish and a refreshing tanginess.
Very good with the cheeses provided.
Quo Vadis (£89)
This is quite the oddity, born of an experiment. The wine is based on grapes which were harvested from young vines located in the Miraflores Pago and then fermented in new oak barrels. The use of the latter is hightly unusual in sherry production, particularly those subject to biological ageing as the tannins present in new oak are not conducive to the growth of flor.
Attempts to sell the wine originally failed and it was in effect locked away and forgotten about.
With no usual refresh of the wine from other barrels via the solera system and the ongoing influence of the new oak the result is a unique and intriguing wine with an age of nigh on 50 years
Lovely deep mahogany colour,
with a huge imposing nose to this wine.
Whilst the action of the flor and biological ageing process are still evident with a distinct saline hit, there was also vanilla (from the new oak), hazelnuts, sweet citrus notes and ginger. This is followed by dessicated coconut (again presumably from the new oak), pipe tobacco and even a touch of curry spice and furniture polish.
On the palate, it was quite tannic in nature which dried the mouth a bit and give it an almost sour quality. Then you get a real hit of salty brininess followed by a distinct spiciness. Think black pepper as well as almost spearmint. As it goes on for an age on the palate, it hits you with citrus notes.
Extraordinary stuff, which makes for a bit a marmite wine. Again lovely with the cheeses.
Nice selection of nibbles, with the jamon going particularly well with the first 3 wines and the cheeses the last 2.
Other sherries I have enjoyed this week
The week started off with a fabulous amontillado from Alexander Jules (around £30).
Almost orange in colour (think Irnbru),
it had an initial saline nose followed by zesty orange peel and spice (cinnamon). Nutty caramel and a touch of bitterness to balance it on the palate.
It paired beautifully with a pied de mouton mushroom risotto.
I also very much enjoyed a Equipo Navazos La Bota 55 manzanilla (£40),
which was really smooth with the coastal twang so typical of manzanilla and a lovely rich nuttiness.
Whilst sherry week ends today, it really is a wine for all seasons. Both Curado and Mercado 44 have a excellent range of top class sherries to suit all tastes and budgets. It is also worth noting the supermarket own brand sherries can be surprisingly good quality (ofter made by good producers like Lustau) and thus can be excellent value.
Spanish Wines Direct, Curado, Ultracomida and Mercado 44 have been running discounts for sherry week (still on today – 14th Nov. – if you are quick).
I picked up the Alexander Jules from Mercado 44.
I think I bought the Equipo La Bota 55 in Spain, but Equipo wines can be found at various online retailers. The Bottleshops in Cardiff etc. stock (last time I looked) the very good Equipo I Think Manzanilla (excellent intro. into their wines).