Sherry with capital S

Ever since my wife and I visited the bodega of Tio Pepe a few years ago we became huge Sherry Jerez) fans. Lots of people know this and started giving bottles of Sherry as a gift  and  whenever I walk into a shop where they sell sherry’s the meat is weak and I end up buying a bottle :-)… basically this results in having quit a few bottles of Sherry and funny enough 90% from  Lustau  🙂  We occasionally  do enjoy drinking it in the evening in front of TV to accompany some dessert. I say occasionally as we mostly only open bottles of wine when we have company… we just don’t have the need for it on other days… So the best thing to do is to find some friends who want to sacrifice themselves and organize a get together/tasting to open all of them ;-).

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That’s exactly what I did, I organized myself a Lustau Sherry tasting at home!! Coincidentally the friends I invited and that sacrificed themselves are some of the best sommeliers in Belgium and far beyond the country borders.  Gianluca di Taranto (The Jane) who is always keen to learn more about wines and Cesar Roman (Le chalet de la Forêt) who is the biggest Sherry fan I know. I know how to pick my friends 🙂 :-). Not only did they bring themselves, they also brought a few bottles and some food 🙂 so basically extra bottles to taste…

Just like in my blog post a few years ago I’m still of the opinion that wines like Sherry, Porto, Madeira and Marsala are under valuated for an unknown reason… although I just think the problem is that those people never tried a good Sherry, Porto, etc… Otherwise they would be a big fan just like me! Unlike what they know or think there are many different kinds of these wines (as that’s what they are in fact), a flavor for everybody and for every occasion. In the Sherry world for example you have Fino, Palo Cortado, Amontillado, Manzanilla, Oloroso, PX (Pedro Ximénez), etc… There is a bigger difference than only the name. They have different smells, tastes, color, etc… Me personally I am an Oloroso fan as it always leaves a nice I would say nutty caramel (not sweet, unless they blended it with PX) kind taste in your mouth. If you are more into very sweet wines, you’d be better to go for a PX or an Oloroso Dulce… If you like more refined taste a Palo Cortado or Amontillado…

Like I mentioned before I had a Lustau Sherry Tasting with a few friends, and below you’ll find the bottles we tasted:

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  • ‘3 en Rama’ collection: existing out of a Fino from Jerez de la Frontera, another from El Puerto de Santa María and a Manzanilla from Sanlúcar de Barrameda

I was told to better understand/appreciate the difference from the ‘En Rama’ collection is putting them next to the ‘familiar’ aka classic Fino and Manzanilla collection. We did as told 🙂  En Rama style basically means that the Sherry has been bottled straight from the cask with no additional treatment. What they try to do is to make a product as biological as possible. In reality the en rama’ sherries still undergoes minimal clarification,  as a 100% raw wine, bottled without any filtering would go bad after a one or two weeks and has a non appetizing color. So they do filter it the ‘en rama’  but only taking away the largest, solid particles.

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Time to put all the theory in practice and start opening bottles. As the best to enjoy a drink is with food, we filled the table with Iberic ham, cheeses, freshly made hummus, home made porcini under oil to mention a few :-). The most special piece on the table was the ‘Manteca colora’ which is a kind of pâté that tastes a bit like chorizo which in this case looked a bit like a heart but was surprisingly good. According to my dear friend Cesar this is something that farmers eat before going on the land… so you can imagine it is not a cholesterol friendly piece of meat 😉

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We started our tasting by comparing the 2 Manzanilla’s. Manzanilla is the same wine as a Fino, but it just aged in a different place closer to the sea (in a particular area near San Lucar) resulting in a product tasting very differently than a Fino. The first thing that we notice is the difference in color as the ‘En Rama’ is much more yellow than the Papirusa (probably due to the less filtering). When you smell and taste the ‘En rama’ you notice that it is much more complex and contains more acidity… I find it very fascinating that nature can do such wonderful things when letting it do its thing without helping (to much)

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When putting the 3 Fino’s (Regular, En Rama Puerto and En Rama Jerez) next to each other the differences are even more striking!! Especially the 2 En Rama’s where the ‘En Rama Fino El Puerto Santa maria’has a much saltier taste to it because of the influence the sea had (a as you might have understood by the ‘El Puerto’ part that it is near the sea)… Whereas the ‘En rama from Jerez de la Frontera’ has notes from apples that reminded us of Calvados (the smell). Normally I’m not really a Fino fan as I remembered it being very sharp both in taste and smell… but maybe that’s the house style of Tio Pepe as the Lustau Fino’s were much less ‘aggressive’… I would even say that the regular/familiar Fino was soft and smokey 🙂

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If I would have to make a choice between the Manzanilla’s and Fino’s above the one that I would most probably be tempted to drink again would be the “En Rama” from Jerez de la Frontera… I think because of its complexity and something unexplainable that attracts me more to it 🙂 It was indeed a very good suggestion to put the ‘En Rama’ next to the Familiar collection.

The Oloroso’s were and are still my favorites and were exactly how I expected them to be 🙂 Although both oloroso’s serve for a different purpose, the Don Nuño is more for with meat I might even say game meat and the Añada being a blend from Oloroso and PX would be more appropriate with a dessert. The Añada was definitly the favorite from the ladies at the table (So we are now sure they have a sweet tooth 🙂 )

The stars of the evening were without any doubt the Palo Cortado VORS  and the 47 La bota de Palo Cortado by Equipo Navazos. It might be strange to put them next to eachother as the VORS is around 30 years old and the 47 La Bota is around 80 years old, but they competed really well next to each other. I don’t know what it is, but the is always a mistery around Palo Cortado, such a mistery that there was even made a documentary about it that was presented on the Berlin Film Festival!? Palo Cortado is a wine that “occurs”, rather by accident – you can’t actively produce it and I think that this is the big reason for all the legacy and mistery around it 🙂 That, and the fact that the taste of these product is a combo from all the best from Oloroso and Fino and Amontillado in 1 wine but with more complexity and interesting flavors to discover 🙂 So what’s not to love ?? My personal preference went to the VORS, but the sparkle in the eyes of Gianluca and especially Cesar when sipping of the ’47 bota’ I guess that was their favorite… maybe that it is the difference between pro sommeliers and me an ‘amateur’… I think the 47 bota was to complex and to special for my taste buts… maybe I’ll have to train them some more to refine them like a pro sommelier!

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I had a wonderful evening with my 2 dear friend Cesar and Gianluca (and their wives and the little Ignacio (Cesar’s son) who was extreeeeeeemly cute 🙂 ) I learned a lot tonight from you guys and can’t for the next ‘tasting’ event. I became an even bigger Sherry fan as I was before (or maybe I should thank Lustau for that 😉 )

In case you want to know more about sherry in general, as very good website to look on would be sherrynotes. In case you want to know more about Lustau Sherry in Belgium (like where to purchase, etc..) you can contact or pass by my friend of Young Charly as they do the import of Lustau. For the other countries check the Lustau website

Copa Jerez

Everybody knows the prestigious culinary competition ‘Bocuse d’Or’, where countries from all over the world send their best team to represent their country with pride. A competition as prestigious you might not have heard from as much is the ‘Copa Jerez ‘. The ‘Copa Jerez’ is more or less the same principal with the exception that in this case a team consists of a sommelier and chef that have to create a 3 course meal  paired with Sherry wine. BTW for those of you who don’t know sherry there are many typs of Sherry  Dry sherry’s  (Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso o Palo Cortado), sweet sherry’s  (Moscatel o Pedro Ximénez)  and semi-sweet (Cream, Medium y Pale Cream).  You can read more about it on one of my blogposts 😉 (The  blogpost).  I fully support this contest!! First of all because ever-since my visit to Jerez or better to the Bodega of Tio pepe I became an enormous fan/lover of Sherry wines. Secondly the team representing Belgium this year are very dear to me 🙂 . Starting with the (TOP) Sommelier representing the Belgian colours this year is no-one less than Comme Chez Soi’s Cesar Roman (who originates from Spain). Cesar will be assisted by a chef who always puts a smile on my face when he serves me his food,  Nico Corbesier (Les Eleveurs).  A young dynamic team with a winners attitude that don’t take satisfaction with a second place 🙂

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I even support them sooo much that I (together with a few sommeliers and chefs) went to help/advice them on the dishes and their accompanying sherry’s. Before our commends and advice it was pretty clear this year’s team is a winning team, so you can imagine how it is after the advice 🙂 🙂 On the picture below you see a small assortment of the big assortment we (had –  and what a sacrifice it was) to try to help our friends for the competition… talking about friendship 😉

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I did take pictures of the dishes they will be serving, but I think it is better not to share them… that would only give the competitors the change to steal ideas. What I can say is that the dishes are a good mix of Spanish and Belgian influences and products they are proud of…

Join me and support the Belgian team by liking their facebook page!! I will keep you posted on how they did, but every facebook like will give them an extra reason to win.