Tio Pepe: a legend
I've just finished writing a commission on Sherry, so I thought it would be appropriate to open some. The bottle I chose is one of the most famous of Sherry brands, Tio Pepe from Gonzalez Byas. It's a fino - a wine made from the main sherry grape, Palomino Fino, that has been aged in cask under a protective layer of yeasts, the flor. This protects the wine from oxygen and contributes a distinctive nutty, appley, yeasty flavour to what would otherwise be a fairly neutral wine. Fortification to 15% adds body to the palate.
The result is a remarkable food-friendly wine that's tangy, fresh and salty. It's quite strongly flavoured: as well as being fresh and precise, there's a depth of flavour that makes this the sort of wine that needs a receptive audience. I think it would work brilliantly with a range of foods, but it's something I'd have to think carefully about serving to dinner party guests, because fino sherry is a bit of an acquired taste.
I love it, and it's something I reckon we should drink more of - along with the other styles of sherry such as amontillado and oloroso. The good news is that it is pretty affordable, too (this is around £8 a 75 cl bottle, and there are cheaper alternatives that are also good). As an aside, it's really good news that as one of the most visible brands of fino, Tio Pepe is such a good quality wine. Remember: the key to fino is buying the freshest bottle you can get your hands on, and then drinking it up within a couple of days of opening. Pictured are Tio Pepe adverts from 1966 (top) and 1975 (below).