In Jerez. For the first time. Can you beleive it? I’m quite a sherry fan, but it has taken me ages to actually get to visit.
I lucked out: for my first trip to the region I’d been invited by Gonzalez Byass to blend the 2014 release of the Las Palmas sherries, perhaps the ultimate expressions of Finos. I arrived Tuesday night and was met by Martin Skelton, MD of Gonzalez Byass in the UK, and we nipped out for a quick bite at a small neighbourhood tapas bar, where I was briefed on the program for the next couple of days.
Wednesday was an in-depth immersion into sherry. We began in the vineyards, looking at two of the famous pagos (the term used to describe the small hills in the region on which the best vineyards are found). Sherry is very much a vineyard wine, even though what happens in the bodega is obviously important. The white albarizo soils (limestone with a bit of clay) are really striking.
Then it was off to the cellars. Gonzalez Byass is one of the largest sherry producers, so they have a lot of cellars, containing a lot of barrels. We tasted through the current portfolio with chief winemaker Antonio Flores, and lunched well at Arturos.
Today was the big day, though. The task? With Antonio, we tasted through three different old fino soleras to pick the wines that will be the una, dos and tres palmas wines of 2014. It meant looking at lots of casks, selecting the best, and then retasting samples from them in the tasting room. Then we looked at four casks of very old amontillado for the quatras palma wine, of which I had to choose just one.
It was a great experience. And they really did let me select the barrels I liked the best, which was super cool! I’ll be writing it up in full soon.