IPA En Rama?
With ‘En Rama Season’ firmly in swing, it seems like a good time to update on the availability of some of the sherries I highlighted in my article for the May edition of The Taste before they vanish from retailers’ shelves for another year.
The Spring 2015 release of Valdespino’s Manzanilla Deliciosa En Rama is as good as billed, while this year’s Tío Pepe En Rama feels like the most complete release to date and seems to continue the trend of each release having less of a woody character. The Deliciosa is available in The Corkscrew and 64 Wine, and Tío Pepe En Rama is stocked by Berry Bros. & Rudd – it goes brilliantly with fish and chips.
But there’s even better news: Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla En Rama hadn’t previously been available in Ireland despite appearing on many tapas bar listings in London; that’s now been rectified with the 2015 release now available from Black Pig and The Corkscrew. If my calculations are correct this release was bottled in early May, so you are still well inside the four month recommended drinking window, even if, like me, you view those sort of deadlines with a healthy dose of scepticism.
I’ve been thinking a bit recently about whether the trend amongst sherry drinkers to seek out the latest En Rama releases has some parallels with the popularity of fresh and über-hoppy IPAs on the craft beer scene. Some writers seem to equate these big, resiny hop forward styles to the burly, extracted, high alcohol wines that have fallen out of favour with wine congnoscenti in recent years, but I’ve begun to look at it slightly differently. Whereas the appealing factor of those fruit forward, oak saturated wines is accessibility, limited release ales like Brewdog’s Born To Die, described as a terminally hoppy IPA with a 35 day shelf life, aren’t intended to be crowd-pleasers. In fact, they are intended to be anything but.
There is a clearly an appetite amongst beer and sherry drinkers to get their hands on the freshest, most expressive, and dare I say rawest, product possible – and in neither case do I think this reflective of an under-developed palate. Many people believe that there is an authenticity to these styles. Clearly that’s the case for sherry en rama, and an argument could certainly be made that by putting the hops front and centre in their IPAs, brewers have grasped the opportunity to showcase the unique character of different hops from different regions whether that be by single variety or blended bottlings.
Intensity often masks individuality in wine – wines from different regions begin to taste the same, the winemakers hand exerting more influence than the land from where the grapes hail. I just don’t find that ‘sameness’ as much in these IPAs – here, intensity seems to amplify and accentuate individuality, in much the same way as I’ve found in en rama sherry, and I for one am having as much fun discovering my Citra and Amarillo from my Ella and Vic Secret as I am comparing the fino en ramas of El Puerto and Jerez and the manzanillas of Sanlúcar.