By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 15 June 2019
It's June – and time to bring out a fresh dry tangy sherry to serve as an aperitif. Sherry is definitely not just for Christmas – it is superb alongside green olives, platter of charcuterie or terrine on a summer’s evening.
Sherry has transformed its image and quality with an exciting revival of small traditional bodegas offering dry unfiltered sherries straight from cask in their purest rawest form – just as the Spanish like to drink it.
What has also changed is the freshness factor of sherry. There are now excellent examples of the lightest styles, Fino and Manzanillas, in smaller bottles with advice on chilling and best-before dates. Just think of steamy hot evenings in Jerez de la Frontera in southern Andalucia with bars buzzing with everyone quaffing crisp dry nutty dry sherries alongside salted almonds and seafood tapas.
The ultimate bone-dry zingy salty sherry, aged under famous ‘flor’ yeast by the coast at Sanlucar de Barrameda. At its best ‘En Rama’, meaning it was drawn straight from the cask into the bottle with only very light filtration. Manzanilla comes in two styles: youthful Fina or aged Pasada. Serve fridge cold and drink as fresh as possible.
MANZANILLA ‘I THINK’ EN RAMA 2018 Equipo Navazos (15%) ***STAR BUY***
(£11.95 hf bt Drinkmonger, Edinburgh)
Young racy Manzanilla with tangy marine notes with minerally dry palate, green olive and bitter almond notes, so refreshing as an aperitif. From La Guita’s solera and their winemaker Eduardo Ojeda’s personal selection of 60 casks with the best ‘flor’ yeasts from 12,000 at his disposal. He bottles it straight from the cask at 4.5 years.
MANZANILLA DELICIOSA EN RAMA 2018 Bodegas Valdespino (15%)
(£11.95 hf bt Fine Wine Musselburgh, Edinburgh; Lea & Sandeman, London)
Zippy fresh vibrant nutty Manzanilla with yeast and almond hints and a saline and herb finish – a lovely concentrated rich version of the style – but still mouthwateringly bone-dry. Made from six casks from famous Miraflores vineyard area near Sanlucar – bottled straight from the cask in the spring when the flor is at its thickest – at six years old.
MANZANILLA PASADA LA BOTA 59 Equipo Navazos (16%)
(£39.99 bt The Whisky Exchange)
The Navazos team found this long-aged Manzanilla from a 15 butt solera which had been started back in 1986 – it still tastes remarkably fresh and vibrant. Very intense, steely salinity with a hint of nuttiness and oxidation. Manzanilla with enough body to serve with typical Spanish tapas like Iberico ham or salchichon.
Light pungent Finos are the driest and lightest in style with characteristic chalky nutty aromas and over-ripe apple flavours made in the bodegas of Jerez de la Frontera and coastal Puerto de Santa Maria. Fino retains its pale colour protected by the layer of ‘flor’ yeast – superb as a dry aperitif with a bowl of Manzanilla olives.
PEDRO’S ALMACENISTA SELECTION FINO Pedro Dauthieu (15%) ***BEST VALUE***
(£10.99 Majestic Wine)
An Almacenista is a stock-holder of mature sherries, in this case Garcia Jarana. They sell to bodegas like Sanchez Romate who provided part of the blend, bottle and export it. Bright, olivey, vibrant Fino, intense chalky yeasty ‘flor’ character and almondy appley and lime notes.
FINO LA PANESA ESPECIAL Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo (15%)
(£37 Les Caves de Pyrene; The Whisky Exchange; Ottolenghi)
Weighty aged Fino, averaging 15 years old, with distinct nutty herby undertones and an intensity of flavour from its long ageing under ‘flor’ yeast. From the best of Emilio Hidalgo’s basic Fino solera, taken out and fed into a seven tier (criadera) solera for maturing.
FINO TRES PALMES 2014 Gonzalez Byass (16%)
(£39.45 for 50 cl bt The Whisky Exchange; Lay & Wheeler)
This Old rare Fino is a 10 year old version of Tio Pepe from a single selected cask. Additional ageing of the Fino gives it a richer deeper colour, nutty aromas – but the palate is dry and intense. Very popular at our tasting – delicious served with Manchego or Mahon cheese.
Less fruity and citric than a Fino, true Amontillado is bone dry and deliciously nutty. It is basically a Fino which lacked zing and put on weight. Partly aged under ‘flor’ yeast and partly aged in cask; the most representative of sherry as it covers both ageing styles.
AMONTILLADO VORS 30 YEAR OLD Bodegas Tradicion (19.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£74.70 Drinkmonger, Edinburgh & Pitlochry; Hedonism Wine)
If you want to taste the best mature dry Amontillado on the market, this is it. It is made by Tradicion, one of my current favourite bodegas who focus on old traditional methods and only sell 20 and 30 year olds. You might gulp at the price, but the quality is really superb. The outstanding winner in our recent tasting.
True Palo Cortado combines Amontillado’s pungency with Oloroso’s glycerol richness and depth – mainly cask-aged, it is like a light version of Oloroso – and always bone dry.
PALO CORTADO VORS 30 YEAR OLD Bodegas Barbadillo (22%) ***STAR BUY***
From Palo Cortado specialists, Barbadillo are one of the best bodegas in Sanlucar – this come from their oldest solera showing the roundness and richness of Oloroso with subtle nutty notes of Amontillado. Very popular at our recent tasting.
From long cask ageing, Oloroso is one of the darkest, nuttiest and most fullbodied. The best are smooth, naturally dry with walnut, tobacco and spice notes.
ANTIQUE DRY OLOROSO Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla (20%)
(£25-£27 for 50 cl bt Waitrose; Drinkmonger; Woodwinters, Edinburgh, Bridge of Allan & Inverness)
Dried fig, cinnamon and meaty truffly notes, this contains very old wines in the blend which give it a haunting raisiny tangy flavour. Historic Fernando de Castilla, revived in 1990’s by Norwegian sherry-fanatic Jan Petersen, is one of the best new Jerez bodegas. A benchmark dry Oloroso
Join Rose’s Sherry & Port with Charcuterie Tasting at Abode Hotel in Glasgow on Friday 8 November £45 www.rosemurraybrown.com