Sherry: The Forgotten Wine Gem of Spain
If you ask the average wine drinker what sherry means to them, you'll almost always get the same answer: an aperitif, right?
You have to admit, that's already a whole lot better than the image of the commercial, sweetened 'Pale Cream' sherry of our memories from the 1960s and 70s. These artificially sweetened wines were usually of such pitifully low quality that they gave the sherry brand a really terrible reputation, even among people who normally loved wine. As you know, reputations are like an Alpine stage in the Tour de France: you go down quickly but getting back up again is a lot slower. And more than anything: it requires much more effort and hard work.
Time for Change
Fortunately, a few years back, a couple of the larger bodegas initiated change with a worldwide promotion of a few good Finos. For example, Tio Pepe by Gonzalez Byass (4 million bottles sold in 2013), or La Ina by Lustau-Domecq: dry, organically aged sherries at a reasonable price ('reasonable' needs to be taken in the context of the time-consuming production process). These beautiful, polished, bone-dry wines have their own particular character and are indeed ideal as aperitifs: they whet the appetite, without spoiling the taste of what is to follow.
This type of wine, which is sold in and promoted by supermarkets, often dominates the sherry experience. However, under a thick layer of previously commercial Finos, lies a veritable treasure trove of wines almost completely unknown to the general public: Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel, ...
This is where our story begins. Meanwhile, a whole (r)evolution was getting underway in D.O. Jerez/Manzanilla. Those in the know, do not hesitate to qualify this revolution as 'Copernican'. These include 'en rama' sherries: wines that are only minimally filtered and stabilised before bottling, entirely different to what happens in traditional and uniform vinification. This makes every saca unique. Furthermore, an 'en rama' continues to evolve in the bottle, thus gaining in aromas and complexity. Over time, this is sure to lend these wines a reputation for top quality and particular individuality, among both wine connoisseurs and the general public.
Young and Ambitious Winemakers
There are a few young and ambitious winemakers like Willy Pérez, Ramiro Ibañez and the Blanco brothers from La Callejuela who want to restore the concept of 'terroir' that has been somewhat pushed aside by mass production. Wines from particular pagos, with particular soils (indeed, there are different types of Albariza), at particular altitudes and at particular distances from the ocean show enormous differences. Incredibly fascinating, year after year!