jamie goode's wine blog

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sherry rocks

Three sherries that rock.

Marks & Spencer Manzanilla Sherry NV
15% alcohol, from Williams & Humbert. Fresh, salty, nutty nose is complex with some smoky notes. The palate is dry and fresh with some appley, salty character and nice texture. Fresh and intense with savoury complexity. Versatile food wine. 89/100

Lustau 15 Year Old Amontillado Sherry
19% alcohol. Warm, complex and nutty with some sweet orange peel and toffee notes. Rich yet dry palate with fudge, raisin and cask notes as well as citrus peel and nuts. Attractive stuff. 87/100 (Wine Rack, Thresher)

Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo
20.5% alcohol. Deep brown colour. Wonderfully complex, almost perfect nose with citrus fruit, raisins, old furniture, lifted acidity, tar, fudge and spice notes. The palate has wonderful balance between the rich, bold, raisiny, earthy, spicy notes and the fresh citrussy acidity. Complex and brilliant. 95/100 (Wine Rack, Waitrose)


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Fino and Manzanilla...must drink more of it

Popped a bottle of Hidalgo's Manzanilla La Gitana in the fridge earlier on, and now I'm sipping it, accompanied by a hunk of bread, some Manchego cheese and a few slices of chorizo. It's a lovely food accompaniment, and I wonder why I don't drink more of it.

It's quite rich textured, with some appley, nutty (acetaldehyde) notes countering the bracing, almost salty freshness. It's 15% alcohol, which isn't much more than many table wines, but it does give some warmth and texture to the otherwise super-fresh palate. I don't know if I could serve this at a dinner party with non-wine geeks, but I do wonder why more people don't use Fino or Manzanilla at table more, especially when you get a really interesting wine for £8 (Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Whole Foods).

I'm comparing it with another similarly styled wine, M. Fina from Gonzalez Palacios. It's from Lebrija, a town located between Jerez and Sevilla, an it's made with flor like Fino and Manzanilla. It's nuttier and perhaps saltier than the La Gitana, with a bit more depth, but less of the zingy freshness. It has lots of that nutty, appley acetaldehyde character, and is highly food compatible. Yours for £6.95/half from Warren Edwardes' new venture www.stickywines.co.uk. Whether you prefer this or the more edgy La Gitana is probably a matter of taste. Warren sent this interesting nugget about Lebrija:
'Grapes from Lebrija are permitted to be used to produce Sherry and Manzanilla in Jerez and Sanlucar in the DO Jerez-Manzanilla. But vinification of the grapes in Lebrija is not permited to be designated as DO Jerez-Manzanilla. So Bodegas Gonzalez Palacios have demonstarted the quality of their wines to the Andalucian Government and have finally secured their own Quality Region with a view to moving on to a single estate Pago. Arguably Lebrija is more suitable than coastal Sanlucar de Barrameda for the production of "Manzanilla". The hill-top location of the Gonzalez Palacios bodega outside Lebrija along with its coastal aspect ensures a lower temperature not only than Jerez but also Sanlucar de Barrameda so comfortably ensuring a year round flor cover that leads to the sea-salty taste remniscent of "Manzanilla" - only more so. But DO Manzanilla ensured through the courts that wines produced by Gonzalez Palacios in Lebrija cannot be called "Manzanilla Fina". Hence M. Fina or Flor de Lebrija.'

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The transformative power of old Sherry

As I write, I'm drinking the last half-glass of the bottle of Hidalgo Oloroso Viejo VORS, which I've been enjoying over the last year. It's an expensive wine, but one that can give a huge amount of pleasure; a glass here and a glass there, with no noticeable deterioration in quality.

I was prompted to drink it by finishing off an article on Sherry that contains notes from an amazing tasting of VOS, VORS and Anada Sherries. These are some of the most complex and thought-provoking wines you can find, with amazing complexity and length. They're old, but there isn't the same risk with these wines as there is with old table wines.

I'd try to describe the wine in a tasting note, but there's just so much going on, it's really hard. The nose is lifted (a little volatile) with herbs, spices, citrus fruits, raisins, old furniture and wax. The palate is concentrated and lively, with a tangy, citrussy freshness, a hint of pithy bitterness, some warm, rounded spiciness and vanilla and fudge sweetness, although it is actually quite dry. But this note doesn't even come close to capturing the wine!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

A busy day of tasting, but a very good one. Those of you who don't taste professionally will probably think I'm a total wimp when I blog that 'I'm tired' after a day of tasting wine. I understand: it doesn't sound like a tough way of earning a living, but it *really* is physically quite demanding and requires a lot of concentration when you spend a full day doing it.

I began at 10 am at the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) headquarters in Bermondsey, near London Bridge station, for a Wine & Spirit magazine tasting. Natasha Hughes, David Williams, Claire Hu, Simon Woods and I were tasting 20 wines from Les Caves de Pyrene, unblind. As you'd expect it was an eclectic, slightly funky, but fascinating selection. It's so good to taste wines like these, which are full of interest, because it reminds you what it was that attracted you to wine in the first place.

Then it was off to the Waitrose press tasting, part two. Today I did whites and some more sweet wines. Some real highlights, including a lovely flight of Germans – with the standout being a wonderfully, breathtakingly pure and aromatic Riesling from Donnhoff (Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl Riesling Spatlese 2006)– a lovely Austrian Riesling (Rabl Schenkenbichl 2007), a profound pair of Spanish whites (Fefinanes Albarino 2007 and Mas d'en Compte 2006) and a mindblowingly good sweet Sherry (Matusalem). The tasting confimed that Waitrose is the wine-lover's supermarket.

I finished the day by heading over to the Atlas in Fulham for a rather special sherry tasting. It was focusing on 20 and 30 year old wines, and they were wonderful. The final straight in the tasting was a flight of seven Pedro Ximenez wines. If you haven't tried an old PX you probably won't appreciate what a daunting task this flight represents, but I survived! It's a cliche, but Sherry is underrated and undervalued. We should drink more of it.

So now, as I head home on the District Line, I'm really knackered. Fortunately my teeth don't hurt, but my mouth feels a bit weary, and the last thing I feel like doing is pouring a glass of wine.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Old Sherry rocks!

Sherry, like Madeira, is best old. Very old. [The exception is Fino/Manzanilla, which is best young. Very young.]

I'm trying two very old Sherries side by side tonight, both of which I've blogged on before. They're both brilliantly complex, beguiling, thrilling wines, but there are some differences. Tonight I'm slightly preferring the first, the Hidalgo Oloroso Viejo VORS, which is a little warmer and mellower than the second, the Fortnum and Mason Oloroso VORS from Bodegas Tradicion that I reported on last week, although it's a close run thing.

You only need to sip a very small quantity of these wines, such is their power and complexity. The finish is just amazing on both. Once you've sipped them, you can still taste them ten minutes later. And it just seems a bit foolish trying to describe the myriad flavours that dance on your palate in the form of a standard tasting note.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

High end Sherries from Fortnum

Notes on three high-end Sherries tasted with Fortnum & Mason wine department head Tim French. He's developed an own-label range with Bodega Tradicion, and they're really impressive.

Fortnum & Mason Amontillado VORS
This is a 40 year old wine but it has so much vitality. It has a massively complex nose of citrus peel, smoke and old furniture, that’s fresh and fruity but also very rich. The palate is dry, tangy and mouthfilling with lovely length and complexity. ‘It’s almost hypnotic in its power and strength, with a salty character, tar, caramel and dried figgy fruits’, says Tim. This unctuous wine is great with food, particularly nuts and smoked fish. ‘It’s a wine to be discussed and enjoyed with company’, says Tim. ‘There’s so much to get into, you need the helping hand of education to enjoy it.’ (£18.50/half bottle) 95/100

Fortnum & Mason Oloroso VORS
This has a richer, nuttier nose than the Amontillado, with some caramel and fudge. ‘There’s a layer of richness that is almost like Christmas cake’, points out Tim. The palate is soft, rich and broad-textured. Smooth, complex and nutty with woody, slightly earthy notes. The finish is intense and almost eternal: you can still taste it minutes later. ‘The thing I love about it is that despite its age, there is still some fruit here with a broad array of secondary flavours, such as smoky bacon, burnt toffee, leather and tobacco’, says Tim. ‘It’s as if you have a magnifying glass: all these flavours come into such focus.’ It’s a wine that is luscious and sumptuous on the palate, yet it is bone dry. How would you use a wine like this? ‘The dream partner is top air-dried Spanish ham’, reckons Tim, ‘but one can be versatile with it: it’s lovely with a big rich beef stew, great with cheese, and works brilliantly as a digestif’. As with all these sherries, a little goes a long way, and you can keep an open bottle for a long time, so even though it isn’t cheap, a bottle can provide a lot of pleasure over many evenings. (£18.50/half bottle) 94/100

Fortnum & Mason Pedro Ximénez VOS
This is mind-blowing stuff. It’s a concentrated brown/black colour with a consistency of used engine oil. The super-sweet aromatic nose is raisiny, yet fresh at the same time. The palate is thick, viscous and incredibly sweet, while remaining quite pure and even a little elegant. ‘This is impossibly unctuous with huge intensity’, remarks Tim. ‘It’s so intense and opulent’. He reckons it works bizarrely well with blue cheese and also works well with chocolate. ‘It’s a pudding in its own right: you almost need a spoon to drink it’. (£19.50 half/bottle). 93/100

As well as offering these Sherries separately, Tim has designed a ‘Jerez Box’, which contains a bottle each of the Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez Sherries, together with a measuring funnel and instructions on how to mix a cream sherry (20 ml PX and 80 ml Oloroso) and an Amoroso (40 ml PX and 60 ml Oloroso). We tried them both, and they were deliciously different. ‘We’re trying to be educational as well as delivering a great product’, emphasizes Tim.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Nice lunch, cold rugby and sherry

So we had a nice lunch today. It was a small affair - a sort of unofficial farewell do. As I mentioned in my blog a couple of days ago, the place where I've been working as I've been developing my wine career is closing down, and we are being made redundant. My boss treated our small department of four to lunch at his club, the Atheneum.

The Ath is a remarkable institution - a club predominantly for distinguished intellectuals from the arts and sciences. We had a very enjoyable lunch in a lovely setting, washed down with the house claret, which is a delicious Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux from 2001. This wine, selling in the restaurant at £17, is utterly delicious: savoury, intense, a bit gravelly, with great balance and poise. This is what you want from a good claret. No wonder the majority of wine sales here are this particular wine, because it is just so well chosen.

This evening I spent three of the coldest ever hours of my life watching elder son play rugby. It was a tournament at London Irish, and it was utterly freezing. His team got hammered. They looked about half the size of some of the others. At this age group, U12, there is a remarkable diversity of sizes and developmental stages: some of the kids looked almost adult-sized. Fortunately, elder son's team didn't make it past the five group games so I was home by 21:15.

I'm currently sipping some more of the fantastic Hidalgo Oloroso Viejo I mentioned last week. With sherry and madeira, nothing beats time. When I get my life more in order, I'll try to make sure I always have great sherry or madeira on the go at all times. What a nice thought!

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A serious sherry: Hidalgo Oloroso Viejo

Today I attended a sherry tasting at the offices of William Reed, in Crawley, for Drinks International magazine. It was quite civilized - we were just looking at 23 wines, a mixture of Finos and Olorosos.

You can learn a lot from a tasting like this. The finos were all quite different, with a few showing marked reduction, which I've never come across in sherry before. The Olorosos were, on the whole, quite lovely. We had four rather special very old Olorosos, each with an average age of at least 30 years. One of them I'm sipping now, my favourite wine of the tasting.

Hidalgo Oloroso Viejo VORS, Sherry
Made from wines with an average age of greater than 30 years, this oloroso is something special. It's so complex and thought-provoking that writing a note is quite hard. Still, I'll try. An orange/brown colour, it has a complex, almost Madeira-like nose of warm casky notes and lifted, waxy, citrus fruit. The overall impression is one of combined depth and freshness. The palate is super-complex, with lively, citrussy acidity and warm, tight-knit spicy, woody notes. There's some old furniture, too. It's immensely concentrated and the finish is almost eternal. Not cheap, at £52 from Berry Bros & Rudd here, but this is quite a profound wine. 95/100

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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).

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