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  • An Epic Fantasy Novel - from the Writer of Red Wine Please!


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    Two Sherries for Sherry Week

    unnamedIt was International Sherry Week this week, and a chance to focus on one of the great fortified wines of the world.? Sherry is an interesting thing, produced in a wide variety of styles, with some very unique characteristics and production methods.? You can find sherry from light golden in color, and bone dry, to dark and sweet.? Everything else in between is also on the table.? It is made in a limited geographical area located in the Andalusia province of southern Spain, and only using three grape varieties.? These would be Palomino, for all of the dry sherries, as well as Pedro Ximenez and Muscatel for the sweeter versions.

    Historically important, you might think of sherry as something that your grandparents drank when you were young.? Advertisements for Harvey’s Bristol Cream might be your mental image when you see the word sherry, as that has been around a long time.? More on that particular brand in a bit.? Whatever you may think when you ponder sherry, what you should know is that it is delicious, current, complex and can be a really good value.? If you look at top end cognac, or vintage port, you’re generally looking at higher priced tags than you would for similar quality Sherry.? And the sherry can be every bit as good.harvey's

    For those who like a bone dry, complex, nutty flavor the Fino style is a good choice.? These are generally light golden colored, and have complex aromas and flavors imparted by flor, which is a layer of yeast that forms over the surface of the ageing sherry, providing a barrier to oxidation.? This allows the sherry to keep its light color, as well as develop interesting nuances.? If you like sweet, then you can try some Pedro Ximenez.? Named for one of the primary grapes of sherry, this tends to be darkly colored, and can be quite sweet.? In between you might try an Oloroso, which is formed by removing the flor after a point, exposing the wine to oxidation and creating a darker color than you would find in a fino style.? Amontillado, yet another sherry style, is similar, although not as dark and exposed to lesser oxidation time.? Sometimes, the tempermental flor may die off on its own, and the result could be a Pale Cortado. There really is something for everyone here.

    The other major element to sherry production is the use of the solera method.? Here, wines are kept from each vintage, and some of the previous year’s wines goes into the blends every year.? Some houses keep soleras going back for decades.? Each year some of the wine from each barrel is transferred into the next.? The youngest wines go into the first barrel, and the resulting wine to be bottled comes out of the last.? This mixes a range of ages together, and can provide a complex and consistent style. ? Although using a different method, they achieve similar things with tawny port in Portugal’s Duoro Valley, as well as in the great Champagne houses of France, where they keep older wines available to mix into house blends.?? Thus they impart the effects of long term aging on the bottled wines, as well as maintain a certain house style year after year.

    We have two sherries to talk about here, which will give you some idea as to the range of potential experience, as well as highlighting two readily available, and relatively inexpensive, value options.? The first is the one you probably have heard about, and probably have the wrong idea about.

    Harvey’s Bristol Cream – You might remember advertisements.? You might remember a bottle of it being in the houseIMG_0195 at Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or some other holiday.? You likely think that it is a cream based liquor, like Bailey’s Irish Cream.? Certainly understandable, given the name.? This is not a cream based liquor, and there is, in fact, no cream in it whatsoever.? What this is, however, is a sherry quite unlike any other sherry in the world.? It was created back in 1892, and is actually a blend of Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado and Pedro Ximenez sherries.? All have been aged independently in a solera system, with ages ranging from three to twenty years.? This is pretty much an institution, and Harvey’s is the only Spanish product which carries a Royal Warrant from the Queen of England.? Now that’s pedigree. Harvey’s actually lent its name to the entire category of sweet blended sherries, and they are also called cream sherries.? Here are the tasting notes for the current release, recently re-branded with a new label and packaging:

    The color is a rich, golden brown.? On the nose you might think you had a mixture of tawny port and cognac in the glass.? There is some ripe fruit, like raisin, but also nutty aromas and caramel.? On the palate it is complex and smooth, with a, dare I say, almost creamy texture.? I honestly can’t remember the last time I had tried this, if ever actually.? It is quite good, serves beautifully as a nightcap or dessert pairing, and can be served at room temperature or chilled.? We’re talking under $20 here, so it is a great value.? I will buy this in the future, which will put me in a large company, as this is the number one selling sherry in the United States, and the world.

    And now for something quite different, but also a very popular brand:

    Tio Pepe Palomino Fino – made from 100% Palomino, this wine is made with only the free run and first press juices, IMG_0194which are fermented to between 12 – 13% alcohol.? They then fortify it to 15.5% alcohol, and it goes into the solera.? The combination of 15.5% alcohol, and the temperature and humidity, allows the flor to form.? This yeast, which will completely cover the top of the wine and seal it off from oxygen, gives it unique aromas and flavors.? Here’s what we thought about the Tio Pepe:

    There is some fruitiness, some nuttiness, and definitely some yeasty notes from the flor.? This is complex, and many a cognac or armagnac drinker will like it.? Since the fino sherry has been kept from oxygen for almost its whole life, this should be drunk soon after opening and pouring, as it will oxidize and change.? It is also served well chilled.? In general, these wines are going to be completely dry, and this one is.? Also about $20.

    While it may have been sherry week this week, tasting these wines reminded me of why sherry should be part of my cellar on a regular basis.? With a range of styles this wide you can certainly find something you like.? Try some sherry, and maybe stir up some memories of great holidays past.? Also have some great wine, which is meant for everyday as well; either with food, in food, after food or just by itself.

    A votre santé!





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