As a number of our colleagues have pointed out, Spring and Sherry goes together. The Jerez region of Spain holds its Sherry Festival every other year in Spring and last year Valencia hosted International Sherry Week in Las Arenas Hotel.
This year it is the turn of ASEV, the Valencian Sumilleres and Winelovers Association and its President Marilú Martin to host an event – a tasting of the sherries and brandy from Bodegas Tradición in La Maritima, the restaurant in Valencia´s iconic Veles y Vents building.
Held on Monday evening last, 3 April, VÍ Vid were invited to join some 80 Sumilleres, Winemakers and Winelovers from the Valencian Community, an opportunity not to be missed.
Bodegas Tradición are at one and the same time the oldest and newest Sherry house. Originally founded in 1650 by JM Rivero. They established international sales with Royal courts in Europe and elsewhere and by 1855 had more than 3000 sherry butts and several well-known brands. The company was finally sold to another merchant in 1991. The former owner, the then current JM Rivero immediately founded a new bodega ( Tradición) to carry on in a family firm.
Today the bodega produces totally traditional sherry wines, unblended ( except for the cream) coarse-filtered, no fining, no chemicals including sulphites, no sugars added, no caramel etc. These are reference sherries, long aged in American oak. The bodega has no vineyards and buys in their wines from vineyards with the famous Albariza soils, limestone and chalk from an ancient sea made up with oyster and other mollusc shells. As such they are Almenecistas, or storers of wine….and what treasures they store!
The tasting commenced with an introduction from Jaime Sabido, National Director of the bodega who was to tutor the tasting throughout.
First wine was the Fino, 100% from the Palomino variety, aged in old American oak casks for more than 10 years underneath the yeasts which form on the top and feed from the wine below, simultaneously protecting it and donating proteins etc. As the wine was poured and we assessed its pale amber colour the scent was pouring out of the glass and filling the room. This is a very expressive wine, a nose which is elegant, nutty, salty, with almonds, notes of oak and bread. In the mouth, light, fresh on entry, nutty, very elegant and dangerously easy to drink (15% ABV) which keeps inviting you back for another sip. It has an incredibly long finish. This is a reference Fino, a wine other finos seek to emulate!
Secondly came the Amontillado VORS, 19.5%ABV, a wine which started life as a fino and then, once selected to be an Amontillado spent many decades in oak passing through the Solera system before being bottled (average age 45 years). Pale brown , clean, gleaming in glass with incredible long slow legs. On the nose complex, pungent, with nuts, floral, ripe dried fruit such as apricot, honey and a little orange peel. In the mouth its complexity seems to grow as you take sip after sip, in a long elegant finish it starts to demonstrate its balsamic notes.
Third wine was the Oloroso 20%ABV, VORS, a little deeper in colour and lighter legs. Also a solera wine with an average 45 years of age, this demonstrates varnish, furniture wax, the smell of antique furniture much richer and nuttier with a sweet note. However in the mouth this is dry, salty, and you note the alcohol, the concentration and maturity in what is a very well-integrated wine with great power!
The Palo Cortado followed. 19.5% ABV this the rarest style of sherry, selected from Finos to go into solera. Just a little darker than the Oloroso, with much slower legs, it has a very elegant nose, nuttier and with wax and in the mouth much better integrated, a very fine wine with lots of potential for pairing with food. In all it was the smoothest of the Palomino based sherries.
We then turned to the dulces, starting with the Cream sherry, a blend of Palomino (70%) with Pedro Ximinez. 18.5%ABV with 25 years ageing . A good deep amber colour, it has a very complex nose with spice, fruits, dried fruits, and in the mouth is rich, complex, very full…..dry and wonderful!
The pure Pedro Ximinez was the last of the wines. `Just´ 15.5%ABV and traditionally made from sun-dried grapes which have heavily concentrated sugars, this wine is dense, almost black and colours the glass. On the nose it is treacle, dried grapes, and in the mouth, concentrated, unctuous and very smooth, velvet. Too sweet to drink a glass this is traditionally served as a few drops over vanilla ice-cream.
As a treat we finished with the Gold Label Gran Solera Reserva Brandy with 25 years ageing. Made with a blend of traditional distillates of commercial and wine based spirits, it is a caramel colour with caramel on the nose. It has been aged in barrels which have previously held Oloroso sherries which impart a huge elegance, spices such as clove and nutmeg, coffee and tobacco and is very smooth in the mouth.
A surfeit of aperitif wines needs a good meal to follow. The event was held in La Maritima, part of the Sucursal group, with its views over the Royal Marina to the port beyond. Modern light and airy it has some of the most comfortable dining chairs ever made!
Some thirty of us stayed to enjoy a meal paired with sherries, dulces and brandy we had enjoyed earlier as well as Cava Cusiné Blanco from Penedes, a white Rioja and a sweet red from Monastrell, DO Alicante.
Three starters including vegetables in Tempura, and a tartare were followed by Sea Bass in a stock with Black eyed peas and a dessert of summer fruits .
The evening was a revelation in terms of the quality of these wines from Jerez and their flexibility in pairing with food rather than just as an aperitif, A sherry lovers evening in the company of some of Valencia´s finest wine experts and very good company! A big thank you to ASEV for the invitation to join them at this special tasting.