Thursday, February 21, 2013

because I'm not trendy

NV Almirante Marqués Del Real Tesoro Oloroso | Do Jerez

Damn those wine hipsters. So apparently if you don't like sherry, you can't play with the cool kids. You know, the wine professionals that matter, the ones in New York. They write endless columns about how fascinating sherry is, fill up your Instagram feed with pictures of Jerez tasting trips, rhapsodize on how great (and wildly unexpected) last night's food/sherry pairing was. Leaving the rest of us feeling like we're missing out on all the fun.

Well, it's not worth all the fuss.

Sherry is not all that fun to drink. It's interesting, definitely. It's unique, absolutamente. But my friends, it is hardly worth all the hyperbole. There are some incredibly passionate wine professionals who place sherry on a pedestal, and whose wine opinions I respect, but try as I might, I simply cannot bring myself to share these views. Maybe it's a product of my own prejudice; maybe I'm going against my own maxim that personal preference has no place in wine criticism. But I've tried and I've tried, and I just can't drink sherry.

So what is sherry, exactly? There are a myriad of different styles, but to concise, sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes in the Jerez region of Spain. Once the grapes are fermented, a base spirit is added to increase the alcohol and stop fermentation. They are then transferred to American white oak barrels, which are only filled halfway. The climatic conditions of Jerez allow a thin layer of yeast to form on top of the wine inside the barrel, called flor. The flor protects the wine from oxidation, and contributes unique aromas and flavours. As this natural process acts unevenly and sometimes unpredictably, it is up to the cellarmaster to constantly taste the wines, and decide what style of wine to make each barrel.

Sherry can be made in so many different styles. Fino is the most reductive style, and lightest in colour due to the protection from the flor. Manzanilla is an even lighter style of fino, and made only in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanilla pasada is a manzanilla with longer aging, and slightly oxidised. Amontillado is a very rare style of sherry that is first aged under flor but is then exposed to oxygen - it is darker than a fino but lighter than an oloroso. Oloroso is made in an oxidative style and has the highest alcohols, between 18-20% abv, and produced as both dry and sweet wines. Palo Cortado is similar to amontillado but made in a style like oloroso, by letting the flor die naturally or through intervention. Jerez dulce are sweet sherries made with dried pedro ximénez or moscatel grapes.

I've tasted fino, manzanilla, oloroso (both dry and sweet), and cream sherries, and everytime, I have a hard time swallowing. The wines have been described as delicate, like shards of glass, but savoury and complex. And all I'm tasting is this slight reek from the flor, and this oddly hollow palate that somehow makes the yeasty flavours even more pronounced. The dry finish, leaving you hanging a bit, leaving your mouth reeking of yes, that flor flavour. I get it, the wines are minerally and lean, and depending on style, hinting of the salty sea and nutty tones from the oak. There's just no profoundness to the wines, at least not in the way sherry's most ardent fans want you to believe. And please don't try to convince it's because you just haven't tasted the right one yet.

This bottle, a dry oloroso, gains a bit of depth from extended oak aging. Round and nutty, though lean and possessing that crystalline sherry aroma and character. Certainly interesting to taste, intellectually - one does have to have an appreciation for all styles of wine. But it doesn't mean I have to do it with a smile on my face.


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