Sherry is a wine that goes unnoticed by many American wine drinkers. I’m one of them. When I want to savor a wine I may go for a Malbec, Meritage or Cabernet, but Sherry is not top of mind.
This interesting wine was the focus of the weekly tasting at Corks Wine and Liquor on Friday, November 13. For some of the guests, it was their lucky day. Cory McQuillin was presenting samples of three Sherrys from Emilio Lustau, a top quality Sherry producer as part of wine manager Mike Gregg’s Spanish wine tasting.
Authentic Sherry from southwestern Spain, is considered on the of world’s best fortified wines. Sherry can range from dry to very sweet. It is fortified with alcohol, typically brandy, which increases the alcohol content to 15 to 18 percent. Even premium Sherry is very reasonably priced.
Making Sherry is truly an art. Sherry is aged in oak casks in a bodega, which is an airy, above ground building which is very much in contrast with the dark, damp underground cellars usually used to age wine.
The Sherry is aged using the Solera system. Each wine barrel is filled about two-thirds full. To make room for the new wine, some wine is withdrawn from barrels and added to barrels of even older wine resulting in a continuous blending of new and old wine to make new Sherry.
As part of the fermentation process a type of yeast called Flor is allowed to grow in the cask. It floats on the surface of the wine to provide a barrier between the wine and the air. Flor has a big impact on the flavor and character of the Sherry.
We worked our way through a nice sampling of wines before we were ready for the Sherry. Other Spanish wines on the sampling list were: 1. Familia Oliveda Cava, 2. Alberino Ver Diniar 2008 a nice Rias Baixas white, 3. Naia 2006 Verdejo, 4. Atteca Grenache Old Vines 2007, 5. Tito Pesquera 2006 DOC Grenache and a bonus wine 6) Las Rocas 2006 Granacha. Of these, our favorite was the Tito Pesquera.
We were then ready for the Sherry. I told Cory that we were heading into an uncharted sweetness territory for my wife and I. We started with the Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Sherry, “Los Arcos.” The last time I heard about Amontillado, someone was being bricked up in a wine cellar in an Edgar Allan Poe story.
This Sherry is made from the Palomino Fino grape varietal. It is dry (apparently as Sherry goes) and soft. It is nutty and raisiny. In fact raisin, fig and prune flavor predominate Sherry – at least in my initial experience. This was nice to sip and is suggested as a warming aperitif.
Next was the Deluxe Cream “Capataz Andres.” This was a deeper, tea-color amber. Again, it exhibited the raisin and fig flavor and has a creaminess to it. This is a blend of Paolomino Fino and Pedro Ximenez grapes. It has a whopping 20% alcohol content. Of the three Sherry, this was most to our liking.
The grand finale was the Pedro Ximenez “San Emilio” Reserve Sherry. This is not for the faint of heart. It is almost black in color with a thickness of warm maple syrup. The taste is off the sweetness charts. Green Dragon compared the flavor to prune juice – something that may not help market it to the young generation.
This is an acquired taste. We also found that pairing our sips with chocolate covered almonds or blue cheese cut the sweetness. This Sherry is usually served with sweet desserts or on its own as a dessert wine. It is also used as the sauce for on of the famous desserts of the Jerez region of Spain: vanilla ice cream with Pedro Ximenez Sherry.