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.

Unknown is unloved, the sherry saga continues

I must confess, I always thought there was only 1 kind of Sherry (I’m sure I wasn’t alone thinking this), but I have never been more wrong as there are a few more :-). Behold and feast your eyes on the different kinds of Sherry:

  • Fino (‘fine’ in Spanish) is the driest and has to me the sharpest smell of them all. The wine is aged in barrels under a cap of flor yeast to prevent contact with the air. This wine is made 100% of Palomino grape and only has 1g of sugar per liter of wine (4 years aging using the Solera system). Goes well with Spanish tapas or sushi.

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  • Amontillado finds its existence when the “flor” from the Fino disappears and so basically the wine comes in in contact with oxygen, this will give a sherry that is darker than a Fino but lighter than an Oloroso (8 years aging using the Solera system). This sherry has much a softer aroma than the Fino and I could smell some almonds (FYI, the aroma mostly comes from the yeast). Also 100% Palomino, but already a bit stronger alcohol level of 16,5%. This goes well with white meat, fish and aged cheeses.

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SAMSUNG CSC-> Aged for 30 years.

  • Oloroso is my personal favorite (both the “dulce” and the “dry” one) and has aged in contact with oxygen for a longer time than a Fino or Amontillado, (again using the Solera system) producing a darker and richer wine. With alcohol levels between 18 and 20%. I don’t know if it is the fact the Oloroso’s are the most alcoholic Sherries is why I like them this much ;-). Goes perfect with red meat.

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  • Palo Cortado maybe the most unique wine of them all as initially it is aged like an Amontillado and also smells like it, but eventually gets similar character closer to an Oloroso when you taste it. This “mix” happens by accident when the flor dies, or is killed by fortification or filtration. So basically this doesn’t happen very often. Also this wine ages for 12 years using the Solera system and still using 100% Palomino grapes. Goes well with red meats.

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SAMSUNG CSC -> Aged for 30 years. Mix of 87% Palomino and 13% PX

  • Jerez “Dulce” wines (Sweet Sherries) are made either by fermenting dried Pedro Ximénez (PX) (or Moscatel grapes, but less), which produces an intensely sweet dark brown or black wine, or by blending sweeter wines or grape must with a drier variety. Like the Nectar or Noe

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SAMSUNG CSC -> Aged 30 years. This is also the sweetest wine/sherry they have with around 400g  sugar per liter.

  • Cream is a common type of sweet Sherry made by blending different wines, such as Oloroso sweetened with PX. A good example of this one is the Solera or Matusalem both consisting of 75% Palomino and 25% PX grapes. Don’t worry it is not too creamy

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SAMSUNG CSC-> Aged 30 years.

It was an eye opener for me to find out there were so many and I know this might all seem weird, but try to put all of these sherry’s next to each other like we did during our visit and taste and compare them attentively and I’m sure you’ll understand it instantly 🙂 just like I did.

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Isn’t it special that depending in which “stage” the wine is in the it will change its kind? Like It all starts with the Fino and at the moment the flor is not there anymore they speak of a Amontillado and eventually evolve into a Solera which as I mentioned before is one my personal favorites as are other Oloroso’s and Amontillado’s.

The one that was less my taste was actually the Fino. Not that it wasn’t good, its smell and taste was just too sharp for me, but it is very possible that if you put them all next to each other you’d prefer the Fino over the other ones…

I do also want to share a few anecdotes from the Bodega. The first one would be about Bodega Tio Pepe being in the Guinness book of records :-). Yes, as they have the largest weather vane in the world (48 feet tall, with an arrow 26 feet long).

Tio pepe windroos

Did you ever hear about the sherry mouse? The story goes that a worker from the founder Manuel Gonzales saw that a mouse was sipping and liking glass of sherry that they had forgotten in the cellar… so since that day you’ll find in that exact same spot a glass filled with sherry with a little ladder next to it specially for the “sherry mouse” being able to have their daily sip of sherry 🙂 (see pictures below)

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And the last thing I want to share is that Gonzales Byass’ barrels find a very good cause after being used for making sherry, as the factory first repairs them and afterwards get send (sold) to whiskey makers in Scotland like Dalmore.

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One thing is sure that I’ll be having a dinner with friends where I’ll be pairing sherry with my dishes instead of regular wine hoping they’ll become as enthusiastic as me (OK, maybe not 100% like me, but close enough 😉 )  As to my opinion sherry is a wine that doesn’t get the attention it deserves!!

Good that I said I’d keep it short 😉

I would like to thank William for telling me I had to go, Peter for helping me to get in and Oscar and Lola for teaching me and introducing me to the wonderful world of sherry!! Thank you all, both me and my fiancée learned a lot and became a big fan of sherry!!

BTW in case you Belgian readers would want to know more or even taste the TIo pepe (or other Gonzales Byass products check the following link 

Cheers!

Unknown is unloved, how I discovered Sherry

Something for old ladies and English Lords, that’s what most people think of when you say the word “Sherry”. For me sherry was something unknown. I mean I did know what it was but that’s where it stopped. A couple of weeks ago I was doing a tour of Andalusia and stopped for a few days in Jerez de la Frontera and as the name might tip-off this is the place where the Sherry comes from… so not visiting a sherry bodega would have been a crime… luckily my friends William Wouters and Peter Bollinger could help me with which one to visit as they know much more about this than me 🙂 . So with a little help from my friends my fiancee and I were able to visit Spain’s n°1 sherry Bodega Gonzales-Byass also known as Tio Pepe.

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Since my visit to the Bodega I’m VERY excited about sherry, so I’ll try to temper my enthusiasm and keep it as “short” as possible ;-)…

The whole Gonzales-Byass Sherry making story started around 1835 by Manuel María González Angel, who was later joined by his English agent Robert Blake Byass  I think this makes it clear where the name of the Bodega Gonzales Byass comes from… the part of the company Robert Blake owned got bought back by the González family, they decided to keep the name.  The name Tío Pepe actually comes from Manuel González beloved uncle. Today the whole bodega is still owned by the family (unlike lots of others).

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Walking through this enormous bodega (I have never seen something this big) is like walking through history as every corner and even every barrel has a story behind it.  One of the stories Lola told us (our guide) that is quit special was that for the visit of the Spanish Queen Isabella II the firm had a special barrel build “La Concha” commissioned by nobody less than engineer Gustav Eiffel (Yes, that Gustav Eiffel), next to this barrel you will find 11 others that represent the apostles… no this isn’t a typo, 11 as they put the one from the bad apostle (Judas) with the sherry vinegar barrels as they were afraid his barrel would bring bad luck for the others. I could tell you more stories, but I promised to keep it short(er) and I would just advice to visit the bodega and be as amazed as me.

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One of the most impressing views you see during your tour in this Bodega is without any doubt when you enter this “monument” which is a very big round depot filled with 250 barrels that represent every country they export to (every barrel has a different flag on it). BTW did you know they also make the wine for during mass in Church? 🙂 They do, I really didn’t know this.

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I must say that the oldest barrels or cellar or even the barrels with signatures from famous people are also impressive 🙂 (I’m sure you will be as well)

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Or the 1st “office” from Tio Pepe’s founder Manuel Gonzales. On this picture you see all different bottles, this way Mr Gonzales knew which blend/ mix was in which bottle. As there was not a lot of light inside of the room, Mr Gonzales had something that looked like a bird cage with a candle in it. He would hold his glass against this candle to be able to see the color of the wine…

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Now I think the time has come to talk about Sherry… First things first, something important to know is that sherry is a wine and it is not only something that can be drunk before or after dinner, but something also very suitable for during your meal. Sherry only gets made using 2 kinds of grapes (the 3rd one would be moscatel, but this is rather rare) Palomino and the Pedro Ximénez (which is the sweetener in the Sherry making process). Depending on the mixing of these grapes (of course in combination with a few other steps during the production process) make the wine either sweeter or dryer. A special process they use to make sherry is called the “Solera” system. What basically happens is that the barrels are piled up with all the top barrels filled with the youngest sherry and the oldest at the bottom. Every x months they will bottle sherry, but only using the bottom (oldest) sherry and only 1/3 of what is in the barrel. After this they will fill this barrel again with the sherry from the barrel on top of this and that barrel on its turn will be filled with the sherry from on barrel on top of it… and this continues until they get to the youngest and that one gets filled with newly made wine. (Check this link for more details about the process). So basically when you buy a bottle of sherry that has an age 30 years on the bottle in reality is a blend from much older sherry sometimes up to a few hundred years. It is it is not as simple as how I describe it, but that is in big lines what it does. What is amazing is that every step of this system will give a different type of sherry (BTW the Solera wine is also one of my preferred ones). Something very cool to see was the inside of a barrel while the wine was in there, as the Bodega used glass as closure instead of wood and you could clearly see the yeast which works as a kind of wall to keep the air separated from the wine. FYI this white layer is called “Flor” 🙂

Solera process by CAPIRETE  VINAGRE DE JEREZ

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A difference with the vines from “regular” wines (that rimes) and the ones to make sherry is that these vines are put deeper in the soil as the weather in the South of Spain can get very hot and the top layers would be totally dried out and the lower layer of the soil would still contain water. Talking about the vines, a question that came to mine when I was driving through Andalusia was that I did see a lot of olive trees, but not too much vines… so one of my first questions during my visit was where they have their grapes 🙂 and it seems they are more north around Sanlucár (and I can confirm it as I drove by them 🙂 ). Also something interesting to know is that because the vines are so low, every x time they flip the branches (and grapes) over a wire… this way the grapes won’t touch the ground.

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Now that you know a bit of the basics we can continue with something that I’m sure most of you didn’t know, so stay tuned for next week’s post as I was amazed 🙂

Cheers!