Last month I had the opportunity attend a sit down trade tasting of Sherry Gonzalez Byass at the Salt Tasting Room Cellar in Vancouver.
What makes Sherry unique? Think of it in the form of trilogies from region, production, and style.
The Holy Trinity is Palomino, PX, and American oak. Palomino and Pedro Ximenez – two of the key grape varieties for Sherry production, along with the use of American oak, and biological or oxidative ageing create the pillars of this amazing wine.
Three towns create a triangle of production in the D.O. Jerez-Xeres of Southeast Spain. Sherry production occurs between the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria & Sanlucar de Barrameda and covers just under 11,000 ha of vineyards. Soils within this triangle are Albarizas, Barros, and Arenas. The Albariza (white) soil comprising of Oligocene period calcium carbonate producing the best Sherry. Palomino, PX, and Moscatel are the three grapes solely used in Sherry production within this demarcated region.
The winemaking threesome involves production influenced by biological, oxidative aging, and the solera system. Their influence produces three styles of wine; dry, naturally sweet, and blended. Sherry is part of the fortified wine family involving the addition of wine distillate making Sherry between 15 and 20% abv. The freshest Sherry, Fino and Manzanilla, owe their style to the interaction of “Flor” a natural occurring yeast and its biological prevention of oxidation from within a 5/6th full barrel. Olorosso is an oxidative style with constant exposure to air in the barrel. The Solera “Floor” system is a blending process of old with young wines that allows a young wine to take on the qualities of its older siblings. Oak butts “botas” are scaled in rows three to four high with Sherry of various ages. The blending process “running of the scales” ensures the quality and characteristics of the Sherry are maintained. Sherry has to be aged a minimum of three years before release.
Tio Pepe Fino $21.99
Pale straw green with aromas of almond, hazelnut, green olive, and yeast. Light to medium-bodied, with crisp acidity, apple, nut, and salty bread notes. Good length, concentration, and unctuous. 100% Palomino| Biological ageing | Flor ageing 5 years | 15% abv ****
Leonor Palo Cortado $NA
Light amber colour with complex aromas of buttered Brazil nut and antique wood. Medium-bodied with lots of concentration, nut, quince, baked apricot, and yeast notes. 100% Palomino | Oxidative Ageing | 12 years in Solera | 20% abv ****(*)
Apostoles Rare Old Soleras VORS $34.99
Amber with green tinge. Complex bouquet of spice, burnt sugar, and iodine. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated, some residual sugar, nice balance of sweet and savoury. Caramel, old oak, and a long salty toffee note dominate. 87% Palomino, 13% PX | Oxidative ageing | 30 years in Solera | 20% abv ****(*)
Nutty Solera Olorosso $17.99
Amber colour, a nose of nut and light molasses, on the palate flavours of nut, spice, biscuit, and a hint of earth. Light Christmas pudding flavours. 100% Palomino | Oxidative ageing | 8 years in Solera | 20% abv ***
Croft Cream Sherry $17.99
Straw green with cheese croissant aromas. Off-dry with a baked apple skin and a savoury salty finish. Good entry level introduction to Sherry. Popular in Kenya according to their export director. 100% Palomino | Solera aged | Blended dry & sweet must | 4 years old ***
Noe Pedro Ximenez $34.99
Ebony black colour with a tantalising bouquet of baked raisins. Full-bodied, unctuously sweet, and loaded with complex flavours of with dried fruits (raison, date, and fig), liquorice, cinnamon, walnut, and coffee. 100% PX | Oxidative ageing | 30 years Solera ageing | 15.5% abv ****(*)
5 Stars ***** Outstanding
4 1/2 stars ****(*) Very Good to Outstanding
4 Stars **** Very Good
3 Stars *** Good
2 Stars ** Moderately Good
1 Star * Not very good, but not bad
Sherry Cheating Tip - Think Nuts
|Almonds = Fino & Manzanilla|
|Brazils = Amontillado/Oloroso|
|Walnut = PX & Aged Solera (VOS/VORS)|