Showing posts with label Jerez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jerez. Show all posts

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Whiskey and Sherry. Patience and Time

Whiskey and Sherry
Patience and Time
Time, patience

These are two of the best drinks. Two of the best birthday presents also, one I gave myself, the other from a good friend of mine. There is a strong relationship between the distillery in Midleton where the John’s Lane is produced and Jerez area in Spain where the Neo comes from.

Powers John’s Lane Release, Single Pot Still Whiskey

I’ve been enjoying this rather special whiskey recently. Started with a glass (€9.00) in the Grand National Hotel in Ballina. Next up, it was part of a tasting trio in the Midleton distillery. I loved it there and had another glass (7.50) in the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder in Killarney. The affair was fully cemented when I treated myself to a birthday bottle at Bradley’s (69.00).


Let’s start with the bare bones. This is a Single Pot Still whiskey. The ABV is 46% and it has been produced at the distillery in Midleton where it has been matured for not less than 12 years in first fill Bourbon casks.

What first attracted me, still does, are the outstanding flavours. It is nicely spiced from the still. Raised in US (mainly) and Spanish casks, there is vanilla on the nose, also a light apricot.

Twelve years (at least) of maturation is rewarded with outstanding flavour and complexity, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, spices, all there together to a long long finish. It is 46% so the advice is to add a few drops of water. Nothing else is needed to get the best from this Very Highly Recommended beauty.

* When you buy a bottle, you’ll also get Alfred Barnard’s detailed account of John Lane’s Distillery in the Dublin of 1886. Wonder what’s his Twitter handle?

Gonzalez Byass Noe Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry, 15.5%, RRP €39.50 (on offer at €31.60 here at Wines of the World).

If you like sweet wines, as I do, then this sherry, aged 30 years, is irresistible.

The Pedro Ximenez, and this is one hundred per cent PX, is a usual grape for sweet sherry. Here, the PX has been enriched by the age old “soleo” sun-drying method, then matured in oak for thirty years.

And the result is incredible, one of the best wines you’ll ever come across. The colour is a deep ebony. The warm aromas are rich with sweet succulent raisins, figs, spices too. 

It is complex and intense on the palate, rich and dense, very sweet, smooth, luscious and silky, concentration is very high yet it is fresh and clean. And the finish, with notes of coffee, caramel, toffee, and liquorice, goes on and on.

It is the perfect dessert wine, even on its own. But you’ll find it excels over vanilla ice-cream or with dark chocolate. The advice is to serve it slightly chilled or indeed at room temperature. 

You’ll long remember the superb fragrance and intense bouquet acquired in the silence and shade of the cellars. Very Highly Recommended.

* Noe has been ranked in the Top 100 wines in the US and is distributed by Barry & Fitzwilliam.


Monday, September 5, 2016

A Premium Sherry. Follow My Apostoles

A Premium Sherry
Follow My Apostoles
Apostoles Palo Cortado V.O.R.S., 20% abv, González Byass (Jerez), c €23.95 (37.5cl) in Bradley’s, Cork.

This is an amazing sherry, a serious one, yet a wine to have fun with. Try it with your favourite paté. In the English Market I picked up some delicious Chicken Liver Paté, the brandy and garlic version, from On the Pig’s Back. This proved to be a superb pairing.

I was a little worried about complicating it further but couldn't resist adding a taste of Harty’s Cumberland & Port Jelly to the pair. Now, I had a triple to relish. Not quite a ménage à trois, but sexy! Cheese and red meats are also recommended as partners for the sherry.

The dark amber liquid is complex, full of aromas and flavours of concentrated fruit, soft on the palate and so concentrated that a sip goes a long way. Savour it for a while, the hints of sweetness, explore the tangy notes, the salty notes and then enjoy that very long smooth finish. Smooth from start to finish in fact.

This Very Highly Recommended wine has been a long time in the making, thirty years no less. I’ll let the winemakers tell the story of this blend of Palomino (87%) and Pedro Ximenez (13%): As soon as the Palomino grapes reach the winery they are gently pressed using pneumatic presses without crushing the stems, seeds or skins. This must from the first light pressing is called ‘yema’ and is the most elegant and delicate must. The Pedro Ximenez grapes are lightly pressed separately. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks and classification, the Palomino wine is fortified to 18%, the PX to 15.5%.

The wines then enter their own separate Soleras of American oak barrels to begin their aging in contact with the air. After an average of twelve years, the wines are blended and enter the Apostoles Solera where they will remain for a further 18 years following the traditional Solera system.

To find out more about sherry, about Palo Cortado and this bottle in particular, please visit the González Byass website.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lustau at Ballymaloe

Lustau Dinner at Ballymaloe
Sherry with every course. Of Course!
Paco, Scott and Manolo

Jerez came to Ballymaloe on Wednesday night and Lustau oenologist, Manolo Lozano, who has been named “Best Fortified Winemaker of the Year seven years in a row by the International Wine Challenge of London” brought some delicious wines with him and they were well matched by Ballymaloe chef Scott Walsh.

Manolo, accompanied by friend and translator Paco Lozano (unrelated), was here to visit Irish Distillers in nearby Midleton and the dinner at Ballymaloe celebrated the links between the two companies. The distillery was well represented with Kevin O'Gorman, Master of Maturation; Billy Leighton Master Blender; and Ger Buckley, Master Cooper, among the diners.

The Spanish visitors gave us a brief introduction to their sherries. Manolo: “Jerez is one of the oldest wine regions in Spain… just three varieties are used, Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez…. we used the solera system, a dynamic system, to get the characteristics we want… there are no yearly vintages….” To read all about Lustao, including the methods of production, click here.


"A style for every occasion"
There are different types of aging for the dry and for the sweet and the casks used are made from either Spanish or American oak with a capacity of five to six hundred litres. We had Fino Jarana both as aperitif and as a match for the first course: Toasted Almonds, Wild Watercress and Honey Salad.

Manolo explained the flor, the “veil of yeast” that covers the young wine in a biological process (see diagram below). Hence the pale colour, the salty nose with hints of yeast. “It is elegant, with nutty (almond) elements”. Chef Walsh had gathered his watercress and had a good word to say about the recent storm Barney: “It is a great time to gather watercress, the storm increased the water flow and enhanced its peppery flavour. A sprinkle of sea salt clinched it”. A perfect match indeed.

Ballymaloe's Colm McCan (left) with his
guests from near and far.
Then we were on to the Amontillado Los Arcos, a darker sherry. This is raised first under flor and then after the addition of higher alcohol has killed off the flor, the second maturation begins. Colour is amber and while the palate “reminds of Fino, the nutty flavour is no longer that of almond”. The chef had a big challenge here in trying to do it justice. So he used cured farm pork and the fat in the smoked meat “made the match”. The full title: Ballymaloe Kasler, white bean and Parsley tostado.


The first two sherries were dry,  under 5 grams per litre, and so was the third, the mahogany coloured Oloroso Don Nuno, “raised in the same casks that Irish Distillers now have!” Alcohol here is 20 per cent. The wine here has been selected from the start to be Oloroso so there is no flor at all. All three start “very plain. Then we develop what we want. It is a very good wine, a strong wine for red meat, for game. Hard to match!”
Main Course
Scott came up with the answer, even if there are now “no cow tails left in Midleton”. “There’s a lot of meat on a cow, “ he said. “But just one tail!”. The dish was Braised Ox Tail with Romanesco, tomato, lentils. And we believe that both red and white wine, even some brandy were also added. The chef was hoping the sherry would “cut the richness and the fat” and neither he nor we were disappointed. A superb pairing indeed.

Now we were onto the sweet Moscatel sherry (200 g of sugar per liter). “This is not allowed to ferment at all; alcohol is added immediately to allow natural sugar remain in the wine. Grapes are pressed, fermentation is stopped. The Pedro Ximenez grapes (450g), on the other hand, are “transformed” by sun-drying prior to pressing.
Scott and Yours Truly

Before he and Paco sat down to enjoy their desserts, Manolo asked us to consider sherry in a new light. “Don't forget, sherry is a wine. It is very versatile and there is a style for every occasion.” They had indeed demonstrated exactly that.

The chef had come up with a divine Steamed Kumquat Pudding for the Moscatel Emilin while the PX San Emilio was paired with Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice-cream. The PX was supposed to be drizzled over the ice-cream but you know the Irish drizzle!

There was one further liquid treat in store for us, a glass of Redbreast 21 year old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. Master Blender at Midleton Distillery is Billy Leighton: “The Redbreast family is all based on whiskey raised in sherry casks. Paco and Manolo have been of tremendous help to us in Jerez. We get the best quality cases and that leads to the best quality whiskey”.


“There is a succulent fruitiness on the nose more so than on the 12 years old, a heavier style. Secret is to match the sherry flavours with the spicy whiskey, get that balance of fruitiness and spices. And that taste is full and silky, smooth and, even at 46% abv, it slips down nicely before the fruitiness slowly fades away and it drys out leaving the barley at the very end. Sláinte!”


And Sláinte indeed to everyone at Ballymaloe. A privilege to be there at Manolo's first ever sherry dinner in Ireland.
Producing sherry.
For more info check Lustau website

Thursday, March 6, 2014

César Saldaña on Sherry. And where the rain in Spain really falls.


César Saldaña on Sherry. And where the rain really falls.

The rain in Spain doesn’t fall mainly on the plain. That’s the story according to César Saldaña.

And he should know. He is an expert speaker on Jerez, its wines, food, culture and history and,since 2000, has been Director General of the Consejo Regulador de las Denominación de Origen de los Vinos de Jerez. He was in Little Island's impressive Radisson Blu Hotel on Wednesday, with Wines from Spain,presenting two information sessions on Sherry.

César says the rain falls mainly on mountain tops in the Jerez area.That rain is important to sherry as is the nearby Atlantic Ocean and the local rivers, especially  the Guadalquivir. They and 300 days of sunshine help make Sherry what it is. As does the local white chalk soil (the Albariza) that captures the water and also reflects the sun upwards to the fruit.


The harvest date is getting earlier, perhaps due to global warming. For the past eight years, it has started in August rather than September as previously. In any event, rapid harvesting is essential.

The protective veil of the Flor
Sherry, as you probably know, has many different styles, from pale to dark, from dry to sweet. The dry comes  from fresh grapes while the sweet comes from grapes that have been late-harvested or sun-dried.

He took us through the details after the harvest, from the 1st Yema onwards, including the making of wine alcohol (to be added later for fortification) and, of course the Flor, the biological aging method that most famously produces the Fino and the Manzanilla. Broadly speaking, the darker sherries come via oxidative ageing, though in the corridors of the Consejo Regulador it may be more PC to use the term traditional aging.

The process continues on to the unique system known as criaderas y solera, basically stacks of casks. The row on the floor contains the oldest wine and is called the solera, the rows above (the top one contains the youngest wine) are called criaderas. As sherry is taken out (for bottling) from the bottom, new wine is added on top.


“ The wines of sherry are of different generations. No one person made that bottle. Nor can he claim that he made it.” Wines have been made here since Phoenician times and it is the traditions that make sherry so special.
The Solera
How special, we were about to find out. We started with La Goya Manzanilla by Delgado Zuleta, a very traditional house in Sanlucar. “After five years aging and protected by the flor, it still has that beautiful straw yellow colour. It has a very dry finish, an acquired taste. It is a best seller locally and  a very good example.”

César made little of the difference between Manzanillo and Fino and a well known Fino was next on the list: the Tio Pepe by Gonzalez Byass. He again pointed out the typical straw yellow colour and said it was excellent as an aperitif and with tapas. “It is a classic Fino and the best selling.”

The next wine was not pale but amber. This was a Monteagudo Amontillado, again from Delgado Zuleta. He told us that prolonged aging had led to increased concentration, still the dryness, more alcoholic with a long finish and persistent in the aftertaste. “A very good example.”


We moved a little further up the abv with the next bottle, the Villapanes Oloroso Seco from the traditional house of Emilio Hidalgo. “Rather robust and evident presence of seasoned wood, smooth in the swallow and with great persistency in the aftertaste.”

Now we were onto the sweeter sherries with English descriptors, cream for instance. That was how the English (and not just the English) liked them. Harvey's Bristol Cream has been in many an Irish home (sometimes for far too long, say from Christmas to Christmas) but it surprised more than me at the tasting.

Like the previous wines, it is made from the Palomino grape, but has come through the oxidative route and has a mahogany colour. We were told it has 120 grammes of sugar per litre (much less than the next one). It is quite a complex wine, nicely sweet (without being in any way sticky), with a lovely velvety texture. At €14.99 for a full bottle, I must put it back on buying list! Pretty good value too, as indeed are many of these sherries.

No prizes for guessing that we completed the session with a PX, shorthand for the Pedro Ximenez grape. This 30 year old Pedro Ximenez Noe is produced by Gonzalez Byass and has close to 450 grammes of sugar per litre. The colour, considering that this is originally a white wine, is amazingly dark. “It is rich and dense, yet fresh, clean and fruity, concentration is very high and you get notes of coffee, caramel, toffee, liquorice in the aftertaste.”

* I’ve probably gone on a bit longer than normal here but sherry is a fascinating subject. If you want to read more on the subject why not check out the official site here www.sherry.org/en