Wines From Spain Tasting – A Sherry Adventure
I’m like a stuck record in bemoaning that despite its rising popularity across the globe, in mainstream terms at least, sherry remains stuck in the doldrums in Ireland. Things weren’t looking good when I scanned the tasting catalog for the recent Wines From Spain tasting in Dublin either – only a handful of sherries were included. There are green shoots however, as evidenced by the importers who went against the grain and supplemented their listed offerings for the tasting with a range of top-notch sherries.
The stars were without doubt the sherries from Equipo Navazos which are soon to be imported by Wines On The Green / Celtic Whiskey Shop. I was conscious that having built up the Equipo Navazos sherries in my own mind in advance of the tasting that I was sure to be disappointed, but boy did they deliver. La Bota de Palo Cortado No. 34 and La Bota de Amontillado No. 37 “Navazos” were stunning, the former in particular showcasing a balance of intensity and finesse that almost defied belief. With a retail price of €52.99 a bottle, these two were pricey but still good value in my opinion. At a slightly cheaper price, a lot of enjoyment can also be garnered from both La Bota de Fino No. 35 “Marcharnudo Alto” (€29.99) and La Bota De Manzanilla No. 42 “Navazos” (€29.99). The latter afforded me my first opportunity to compare Equipo Navazos sherries from different sacas and butt selections, No.s 32 and 42 both being sourced from the bodegas of Miguel Sánchez Ayala in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. I found the more recent bottling to be quite different from my memories of the No. 32, this one far zestier and more precise than the slightly creamier No. 32; of course bottle age no doubt plays a big role in this too. La Bota de Pedro Ximénez No. 36 “Bota No” (€49.99) was outstanding – ’nuff said.
Wines On The Green / Celtic Whiskey Shop also showed their full range of sherries from Bodegas Baron, another new addition to their portfolio. My favourite of this range was the Manzanilla Pasada Baron (€20.99) although devotees of sweet sherry will delight in their fine array of Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez.
Óscar Bayo from González Byass was on hand to present some of sherries in the Barry & Fitzwilliam portfolio – starting with the well known Tio Pepe (€14.99) and moving onto some of the González Byass VORS sherries – Del Duque Amontillado, Matusalem Oloroso Dulce and Noe Pedro Ximenez (RRPs were not listed but start at approx €20 per half bottle). Having just written about Del Duque last week, I was particularly interested to hear from Óscar that the Del Duque solera is refreshed with the same sherry that is bottled as Tio Pepe. Tasting these alongside each other really highlights one of the more fantastic aspects of sherry; these are essentially the same wines at different stages of their evolution.
Mitchell & Son had a range of sherries from Lustau on show – La Ina Fino (€17.99) being a welcome re-addition to the Irish market following an absence of a couple of years. For some strange reason, in my sherry-mad fever over the past year or two, I’ve often neglected the high quality sherries of Lustau despite their widespread availability in Ireland. Since I tasted the Vides Palo Cortado from the Lustau Almacenista range at the World Sherry Day event earlier this year, I’ve been feverishly making up for lost time however. Alongside La Ina, I also enjoyed the Península Palo Cortado (€29.99) – it probably doesn’t have the complexity of the Almacenista range but was very good nonetheless.
Away from the sherry confines of Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, it would be foolish to overlook the fortified wine pedigree of the Montilla Morilles DO. Indeed some of the forthcoming releases from Equipo Navazos have been sourced from bodegas in this area. Seamus from Quintessential Wines nearly forgot to bring the Bodegas Alvear Fino En Rama 2008 (RRP not listed but usually around €13-15 per 500ml) along to the tasting but I was certainly glad he remembered to pack it into his car before travelling down from Drogheda – a very pale coloured fino but with far more character than many of the more commercial offerings available. It can’t be called sherry but it’ll also allow you to tick all the really nerdy fino boxes as not only is it a dry fortified wine made from Pedro Ximénez, it’s also both single-vintage and en rama. When sherry becomes more mainstream in Ireland, this is the sort stuff you’ll want to be waxing lyrical about to stay one ‘cons step’ ahead of the hipsters.
Note: It’s very difficult to provide an accurate listing of stockists of these sherries in Ireland. In addition to the retail outlets of the importers listed above, many of these sherries will be available in Black Pig (Equipo Navazos, Baron, Alvear amonst others), Redmonds (Lustau), and O’Briens Wines (González Byass and Lustau). (If your shop is not listed here and would like to be, please let me know). (It’s worth checking out the #sherrydirectory listing on twitter too from @CuriousityLiquid)
Image 2 – Sherry barrel with transparent front so visitors can see the natural development of flor (El Pantera, Wikipedia)