By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 7 Nov 2020
This week we are celebrating the renaissance of one of the oldest and most unique wines in the world - Sherry.
International Sherry Week (2-8 November 2020 www.sherry.wine) is a bit different this year with thousands of sherry lovers across the world enjoying online Spanish cooking and sherry pairing classes, takeaway sherry and tapas pairings, sherry cocktails, virtual masterclasses and in-store discounts.
Sherry has transformed its image and quality in recent years with an exciting emergence of small traditional bodegas, now mainly Spanish-owned, offering dry unfiltered sherries straight from the cask in their purest rawest form – just as the Spanish like to drink it – known as ‘En Rama’. Our tasting suggestions below reflect this with some exciting new artisan bodegas like Urium, Callejuela and Faustino Gonzalez now available in Scotland.
Sherry can be so wonderfully refreshing in its driest tangiest styles of Manzanilla and Fino – a brilliant alternative to a dry white wine; now often sold in smaller bottles with advice on chilling and best-before dates.
For chilly autumn nights by the fireside, my favourite is rich intense nutty textural – but still dry - styles of Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso which come into their own matched alongside a platter of manchego, membrillo, smoked beef, salchichon, chorizo and the finest nuttiest Iberico Bellota ham. To create your own platter of Spanish charcuterie at home this year Edinburgh-based www.theblackhoof.co.uk sell some of the finest ingredients in town – and to revive jaded lockdown palates try one of these fabulous artisan sherries:
CALLEJUELA ORIGEN MANZANILLA NV (15%) ***STAR BUY***
£19.95-£20 for 75 cl bt Woodwinters; Drinkmonger
From an interesting small boutique Sanlucar-based bodega established in 1980. Founder ‘El Banquito’ Francisco Blanco Martinez’ sons Pepe and Paco are now taking Callejuela to a new level aided by consultant winemaker Ramiro Ibanez, with all grapes harvested in their own vineyards. Pale gold tinge, herby nutty aroma, lemon and distinct saline notes, briney earthy finish; good full-flavoured Manzanilla with sea-breeze freshness and piquancy.
EQUIPO NAVAZOS MANZANILLA ‘I THINK’ EN RAMA NV (15%)
£11.95 hf bt Drinkmonger
If you haven’t discovered Equipo Navazos, originally a private buying group now transformed into an unusual commercial ‘marquista’ venture snapping up forgotten mature butts to create interesting bottlings, this is a good introduction to their range. Vibrant racy Manzanilla has aged for 4.5 years under flor and winemaker Eduardo Ojeda’s personal selection from 60 casks. Typical tangy marine notes, minerally very dry with green olive and bitter almond finish – a young racy Manzanilla.
CALLEJUELA ORIGEN AMONTILLADO NV (18%)
£29.95-£30 for 75 cl bt Woodwinters; Drinkmonger
As dry as Amontillado should be. This hails from small artisan Callejuela bodegas run by Pepe and Paco Blanco with 28 hectares all on albariza soils around Sanlucar, including the La Callejuela vineyard. Light burnished gold with pale rime, aromas of marzipan, dried fig and seaweed mingle in this deliciously austere dry sappy coastal Amontillado, vibrant acidity on the palate with an astringent twist to the finish.
TRADICION AMONTILLADO VORS 30 YEAR OLD (19.5%)
£52.97 for 75cl bt Justerini & Brooks www.justerinis.com
Tradicion is a relatively young boutique Jerez bodegas with an impressive reputation. Created in 1998 by a descendant of the oldest sherry house Joaquin Rivero, who only uses traditional methods, 20-30 year old wines and all his sherries are unblended, unfiltered and unfined. This superb dry Amontillado is labelled 30 years, but the average age is pushing 45 years. Deliciously nutty, orange peel and cinnamon notes, complex meaty palate with layers and layers of flavours. Tradicion say it will last for a year once opened, if you can resist the temptation to finish it.
FAUSTINO GONZALEZ CRUZ VIEJA OLOROSO NV EN RAMA (18%)
£27.95 hf bt Woodwinters; Drinkmonger
From the smallest bodega in Jerez in historic Barrio area, now emerging into the limelight. Originally founded by Dr Faustino Gonzalez, who had 16 children and a great passion for sherry, his large family now bottle the wines under Cruz Vieja. Very traditional, unusually still fermenting in American oak barrels, with all bottlings ‘en rama’ straight from the casks. Brown gold, light soft caramel hints, light on flavour initially but moving into sappy succulence with walnut undertones and a good finish; very characterful dry Oloroso.
URIUM VORS OLOROSO NV (20%) ***STAR BUY***
£51-£52.95 for 50 cl bt Woodwinters; Drinkmonger; Luvians; Valhalla’s Goat; Good Spirits
Bodegas Urium are one of the best new cellars in Jerez – founded just 11 years ago. Run by Rocio Ruiz and her father Alonso bought 500 butts of mature sherry and the range they have pieced together is really outstanding. I normally rate their Palo Cortado highest in their range, but this is really a superb example of 30 year old Oloroso and worth every penny of its £50. Deep dark amber, hazelnut, tobacco and dried fruits notes, tangy nutty elegant palate with intensity, balance and great length. Superb!
FERNANDO DE CASTILLA ANTIQUE OLOROSO NV (20%)
£29.75 for 50 cl bt Woodwinters; Drinkmonger; Luvians; Waitrose
From one of the best new sherry houses, revived in 1999 by Norwegian sherry-professional Jan Peterson, who worked at Osborne for 15 years. Antique Oloroso never spends any time under flor, but is fortified after harvest to 18%. Unusually it does not carry an age statement (not every bodega chooses to go through classification as it is costly), but is about 20 years. Very affordable great introduction to unfiltered unblended untreated mature dry Oloroso. Light amber hue, rich nutty fruitcake notes, lovely firm structure and good complexity for the price.
FAUSTINO GONZALEZ CRUZ VIEJA PX EN RAMA (15%)
£31.95-£33 hf bt Woodwinters; Drinkmonger
From a 7 hectares single vineyard in pago Montealegre, in Jerez Superior where the best vineyards are sited with the finest albariza chalk soils. This is an unusual hand-crafted Pedro Ximenez; made from sun-dried grapes, slowly fermented, fortified, aged four years and bottled without filtration straight from the casks. Deep dark brown, orange rim, raisined nose, runny caramel flavours and texture with a raw earthy finish indicating its small production and natural state.
Join Rose’s forthcoming virtual wine tasting with winemaker Francesco Anichini of Vallone di Cecione on Friday 4 December in association with Raeburn Fine Wines - booking link: www.rosemurraybrown.com