International Sherry Week (with some reviews)

I know nothing about Sherry. Well, nothing that matters anyway. I know where it’s from. I know the casks are used in Scotland to mature or finish some kick-ass whisky. I know Ruben likes it quite a bit.

Usually I’m also not too fond of International <enter booze here> Week/Month/Day thingies. Most cases, especially the World Whisky Day shenanigans, are mostly used for commercial purposes. There’s Bourbon Heritage Month in September, which to me is just an excuse to drink more bourbon. This time, I think the drink deserves some attention since there’s almost no sherry market left compared to the seventies.

International Sherry Week deserves attention. Sherry deserves attention, if only to create more casks for the Scottish whisky industry! Apart from that, it’d be pretty nice if the drink from those casks is nice too.

After initially thinking I wasn’t going to be part of last Tuesday’s Twitter Tasting, we changed plans at the last moment and I was in after all. At least, for a bit. My laptop is broken, my Twitter client on the iPad thought it was a nice moment to crash every five seconds and doing a tasting with a phone keyboard is just hideous. So, after some swearing, and restarting and re-installing I joined in just before the third sherry was tasted.

#1: Tio Pepe En Rama 2014 (González Byass)
En Rama for sherry means that the wine is a lot less filtered as it normally would be. In this case I think it boils down to non-chill filtering like in whisky. At least, it’s comparable. It supposedly leaves a lot more flavour in the wine but also some yeast cells and some proteins which can clot.

Tio Pepe En Rama 2014. Image from Sherrynotes.

Tio Pepe En Rama 2014. Image from Sherrynotes.

On the nose it started with a rather sweet white wine, somewhere in the middle between Chardonnay and Muscatel. Right behind that I got a strange, cheesy scent. Goat’s cheese or sheep. Like the crust of a Camembert. There is some yeastiness going on too, but in an unexpected, beer-like way. The palate starts with wine again, but is a bit thinner than I expected. Unripe grapes, a yeast foam and it’s all rather dry. The finish has a certain dry port-like quality with minerals, chalk and slightly acidic.

#2: Solear En Rama – Primavera 2014 (Barbadillo)
Another En Rama sherry, but this time it’s a Manzanilla, compared to the previous Fino. I’m not sure what makes the difference between each kind and have to read up on that, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Solear En Rama Invierno 2013. Image from Sherrynotes

Solear En Rama Invierno 2013. Image from Sherrynotes

This one is rather similar on the nose, but less sweet. The cheese scent is back, but the wine and grape is more or less gone. There’s a slight spiciness with walnuts. I’m having a “Rambol cheese” association. It’s very earthy, almost farmy with dirt and manure. In a good way. The flavours are more gentle than the Fino, rather creamy with walnut and green olive oil. Dry with a slight sulphury hint, yeast and some spices. The finish is long and nutty and slightly more winey. Very dry though.

The only sherry I ever had before was some supermarket crap that I threw in the sink right after having the first sip, and some nice Pedro Ximénez. The PX kind is a lot easier to get in to, since it’s really sweet and dessert like, while these are tough starters. The flavours are very singular, as in, you don’t get those anywhere else and that makes it tough to relate to it.

I did notice that I could enjoy my second glass of each sample a lot more than the first, since I knew what to expect and could dive in searching for flavours and scents. Of these two I don’t have a clear favourite, since the first one is a bit more outspoken, which makes it a bit harder to love without experience, and the second one is more timid. That also means that for me, a dude who generally loves bold flavours, the first one should be the favourite.

The other three sherries will be reviewed shortly. Thanks to Ruben for hosting this tasting. Very well done, some really good info during the tasting and it gave quite a few whisky geeks a nice and easy way to get to know an important drink that nobody ever tries, for some reason. Thanks mate!

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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2 Responses to International Sherry Week (with some reviews)

  1. Great write-up, Sjoerd, very nice aroma associations, and thanks for being part of the tasting after all. I love the views of whisky lovers on sherry, especially the more ‘difficult’ ones like Fino and Manzanilla.

    This particular Manzanilla is much older (+/- 8 years) than the Fino (+/- 4 years) which accounts for most of the differences – there are different yeasts at work. Oh, and Manzanilla is produced in a different town, closer to the sea, but other than that, it’s pretty much the same wine as Fino.

    Looking forward to the part on the oxidative sherries!

  2. Nice stuff mate. good post . Indeed a very very interesting tasting it was, especially for us noobs coming from the whisky angle…

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