The Sherry Festival

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week has been fun hasn’t it? Write the a-board put it out in the sunshine, watch the rain wash it off and repeat. Seven or eight times a day.

In the end we left it blank and indoors on Wednesday and changed the window display instead. You may notice as you pop in that it has bottles of sherry, tennis bats and balls. I can already see that question mark forming above your head.

Sherry! Baby! (In your best Austin Powers voice)

The reason for all the sherry is that this week sees our annual celebration of all things sherry. We’ve joined up with the lovely folk from Sherry Wines UK and will have a fabulous selection of Sherries open to taste this weekend. (More below).

Some of you will have heard us wax lyrical about what fabulously complex wines you get from the region north of Cadiz, but we are just the latest in a long line of celebrants.

Famous bowls player and occasional sea captain Sir Francis Drake is known to the Spanish as a pirate, after sailing into Cadiz and making off with 3000 butts of the nectar.  Following this, sherry became so popular that James I had to instruct his cellar master to bring no more than 12 gallons to his table a day!

Shakespeare was a big fan, and Alexander Fleming was of the view “Penicillin can fix the sick, but only Sherry can revive the dead.” These days we find such claims a little less likely.

The Sherry region itself is a land of gently rolling hills where the grapes laze around in the sunshine shooting the breeze, chatting about football, whilst they ripen. Once ripe and harvested, the grapes are pressed, and only the first press (mosto de yema) is considered to be sufficient quality for making sherry. One hundred kilos of grapes will produce around seventy litres of liquid.

After fermentation the wines are classified, the lighter wines are fortified to 15° and go on to become Fino or Manzanilla styles after ageing under flor.

Flor? – Flor is the name given to a thick layer of yeast that forms naturally on the surface of the delicate styles.  This yeast imparts the distinctive flavour to Fino. The Flor needs fresh wine in order to survive and this fresh wine is added by the use of a solera system that also gradually blends the wines of different vintages together. The flor, being a thick layer on the surface, also protects these styles from oxidation, which is why the lighter wines are chosen for this style.

The fuller, more robust wines from the fermentation process are fortified  to 17.5° and placed into sherry butts to undergo aerobic aging (no leotards, it is the real name of the oxidative process!) This style will produce Oloroso, and no flor will form because of the higher alcohol (16° is its limit).

The only way to learn more without eye ache is to come and see us and put your tasting tackle through it’s paces…

Weekend Tasting – Sherrytastic

Fernando de Castilla Manzanilla (£7.99 37.5cl) a Fino in essence, but ageing by the coast at Sanlucar de Barrameda gives it the salty tang of a Manzanilla. Not to be confused with chamomile tea.

Equipo Navazos Fino En Rama (£10.99 37.5cl) an unfiltered Fino of impressive complexity. “Serious stuff – much more serious than most wines at this price.” – Jancis Robinson,

Gutierrez Colosia Amontillado Seco (£21.99 75cl) this undergoes both forms of ageing process, as a fino for 3 years and then at least 5 years in the oxidative process. Wayne likes this one, really enjoying the nutty character.

Fernando de Castilla Oloroso (£14.99 75cl) no flor involved here, just oxidation over the course of 12 years. More viscous in the mouth, yet still dry it presents spicy, rich dark fruit notes and a long pleasantly warming finish.

Fernando de Castilla Antique Amontillado (£30.99 50cl) ageing in a barrel for 20 years, having started life under flor before additional alcohol added to kill the flor allowing oxidative ageing. Nutty, caramel notes in the nose but the palate is bone dry and deliciously complex. Jamón Jamón!

Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado (£34.99 50cl) a real treat. This rarity starts life as a Fino until the flor goes wrong. Luckily for us when the flor went wrong here it didn’t turn into sherry vinegar but into this rare beast that has hung out in a barrel for 30 years just becoming awesome.

That seems to be a bit to be going on with so come in, have a taste and tell us what style you’ll be sipping through Wimbledon!

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