Beautifully refurbished NYC brownstone mansion
beautiful hardwood floors, 12ft ceilings, central a/c, fireplaces on each floor, professional kitchen, decked out with one-of-a-kind art
You’d at least be interested to know where this is, right?
Now this is a wine blog, so we’ll talk about wine here. The above “real estate offer” is bogus and a dream. The equivalent in the wine world, however, is most certainly not.
What if we told you that you could buy a wine that was a blend of at least the last 150 vintages yet was a light straw color with the slightest hints of gold, was fresh and lively and paired exquisitely well with seafood…. Had the unmistakeable signature of one of the world’s most unique and famous terriors…. Had a brisk palate with a rich array of flavors not unlike champagne, and with a similar chalky-tinged tangy finish…. Came from a single vineyard….And cost only $ 28?
What if we told you the same amazing value came in a style that was a tawny amber walnut color, had an incredibly dazzling aroma of dried apricots, hazlenuts and antique woody notes, was a blend of every vintage going back into the 1770s, was a favorite of the Duke of Wellington when he defeated Napoleon, went extremely well with any kind of slow-roasted meats, and could be kept after opening for at least a full year….. and cost only $45?
You’d be at least interested in tasting the wines, right?
The fact is these wines have been available in the New York market for quite some time, but it is only lately that enough attention has been drawn to them. These wines have been admired by wine professionals all over the country for their elegance, uniqueness, uncanny food-pairing ability and their undeniable value…..
The problem has been this: The wines we’re talking about are Sherries. Sherry. What you thought only your Grandmother drank.
But you’re smarter than that, aren’t you? You know a great value when you see it. You’re not willing to let old stereotypes dictate what you think you can and can’t drink, right?
Let’s start from here: “Sherry” is in fact a mispronunciation of Jerez, which is the greater region that these wines come from. Jerez (and its subdistrict of Sancluar de Barrameda) lies at the western end of Andalucia, in southern Spain (south of Sevilla, facing west towards the Atlantic). Sherish was the name used by Moorish occupiers, Sherry was what the Brits used.
We can go for a long time writing about the dramatic history of this region and the various players/events that molded it into what it is today, but most important for this blog is HOW these extremely unique wines are made.
The Jerez region itself is indeed quite warm for winemaking purposes. Summer is undeniably hot there, with sun that parches the ground. It basically does not rain at all from June until the end of October. So how do they make delicate wines that go so well with seafood?
The grape grown here is Palomino Fino, which honestly for all intents and purposes is one of the least interesting grapes on earth. However, it does grow very well in this hot climate, and showcases the soil the region is famous for (a powdery, fine sand-like version of chalk called Albariza) quite well, much like Chardonnay does for the chalk in the Champagne region.
In the case of the first wine that we spoke of above, that went so well with seafood, the grapes are pressed and a base wine is made. This very simple, low alcohol (typically11.5%) wine is then introduced into a series of barrels called a Solera. A Solera consists of barrels that have multiple vintages blended into them. The barrels at the beginning of the Solera have the youngest wine introduced into them, and wine is pulled from those barrels and put into the next series of barrels after room is made in those barrels by emptying them partially into the next series of barrels. Think of it like filling a tilted ice-cube tray – water spilling down into one ice cube well from the previous one, until all are filled from the top (and water spills all over your counter). The differences here are that the barrels are carefully filled and emptied by hand, and (most importantly) the barrels are never filled all the way, nor emptied all the way…
This is done for two big reasons:One, this way the older vintages are never fully lost. While fresh new wine is entered into the Solera from one end, since no barrel ever is emptied completely, what gets bottled out of the last barrel is a blend of every vintage that has ever been put in the Solera system (of course, the oldest vintages are there in very tiny quantities, but there nonetheless). This is how the simple, boring Palomino grape is made into a complex and intriguing wine.
Second reason for this practice is so that a natural phenomenon unique to Jerez and Sanlucar can occur — the development of flor. Flor is a yeast film that covers the wine’s surface inside the barrel and protects it from oxygen while feeding off the sugars in the young wine and naturally filtering out any impurities (great, huh?). This protection from oxygen is what keeps a white wine blended from 150 vintages looking soyoung (maybe we should try it?). In the particular case of the subregion of Sanlucar de Barrameda the flor exists in the cellars year-round, thanks to the proximity to the Guadalquivir river that runs thru Sevilla, passes off the west-facing beach of Sanlucar (not a bad beach by the way) and empties into the Atlantic. The lower part of the river by the town is an estuary, and across from the town is one of Europe’s largest nature preserves. The confluence of the river, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean currents coming from the nearby Straight of Gibraltar, along with the large nature preserve make for some of the most delicious and fresh seafood you will ever have in your life if you find the time to go there….. spiny lobsters that taste as fresh as the sea, have a rich meaty but incredibly delicate flavor that makes you consume mass quantities of them…. all perfectly washed down with the local Manzanilla wine, which is the local liquid specialty…..
So enough technojargon and dreaming of beaches and seafood. These wines are delicious, totally unique and unlike anything else you’ve ever had, are incredible values, and will be poured in the store on Thursday, September 15th. RSVP to Sherry Tasting
WINES TO BE FEATURED
Hidalgo-La Gitana Manzanilla Pasada “Pastrana” (the first wine described above, that goes so well with seafood)
Hidalgo-La Gitana Jerez Cortado “Wellington” (the second wine described above, that goes so well with roasted meats)
Hidalgo-La Gitana Cream “Alameda” (simply an outstanding desert wine that we guarantee you’ll love even if you think you don’t like sweet wine….trust us)
Bodegas Toro Albala Pedro Ximenez Gran Reserva “Don PX” 1982 (yes, 1982; that is the current release….this is made from ripe grapes that are dried outside until they are turned into raisins, then the resulting wine made is aged in cask a minimum of 25 years… this is an explosion of nutty toffee, coffe, licorice and dark maple chocolate notes with a hint of balsamic-like tang….. come get some!)