Sherry is like champagne in so much as the way it’s made is the major contributor to its style. The Palomino grape’s fast fermentation produces a bland wine which is then fortified with no more than 15.5% alcohol and the yeasty flor develops on the wine’s surface. It’s this flor that gives its unique flavour.
This wonderful, subtle collection of smells and flavours was very much in evidence in Equipo Navazos No 32 “La Bota de Manzanilla”. A delicate orange in colour but somehow luminous, this intrigued from the first pour.
The complexity of delicate orange, tangerine and polish aromas reminded us of very expensive marmalade; the analogy continued into the taste where the flavours became broader and took on a more citrussy note. This was some wine.
What was really interesting was the lack of any impression of the 15% alcohol. A light white wine at this level of alcohol would be big, rich and powerful – this was the complete opposite. Presumably the solera ageing process helped its lightening but it also maintained its delicate intensity. That’s an oxymoronic statement, I think, but it somehow describes it for me.
[Richard: this particular manzanilla has now been blogged on four occasions, which is a record for Talk the Cork. When I bought six (from Darley Abbey Wines, for the bargain price of £20, in 2014), I was advised it would age well and so it has. Still fresh, tangy and very moreish. Last bottle unfortunately.]
Tasting this sherry was a singular reminder as to the relative sensitivities of my nose as against my palate. This is a high quality fino from Darley Abbey wine merchants who seem to have the UK monopoly on this range. We tasted it just after a en rama fino which, although very good, did not come anywhere near the Equipo in terms of complexity.
The colour was an unprepossessing light brown and not quite clear (it was unfiltered) with orange light reflections. Leaving the aromas until later, the palate was lemony, long and dry, of medium weight and certainly intense.
The nose, however, was fantastic. One you could sit and smell repeatedly; it reads like a list of distinct oddities rather than those of a glass of sherry. Here goes – orange zest, spices – both burnt and fresh, shoe polish, lacquer, furniture polish, citrus.
As I say when conducing wine tasting classes – our noses are much more sensitive than our mouths. Here is the living proof. As someone recently asked “Why do we rank tasting over smelling?” Exactly. Is it because, by imbibing it, we somehow own it? Whereas a smell is more ephemeral, something we can’t possess, perhaps?
[Richard: these wines are getting very expensive now but Darley had a good price (around £25) for this and a manzanilla, as yet untasted. We blogged on a few in the past from Equipo Navazos and this one is as good as ever. Given the nose, as described by Geoff, you can see why the bodega suggests drinking from a conventional wine glass (as we did), rather than a copita.]
It’s here again. Our favourite sherry style – en rama, but this time a manzanilla rather than a fino. Richard purchased these from Tanners in Shrewsbury but tasting them transports us back to Jerez and the fresh style of wine found there. (To be precise, Manzanilla is from Sanlucar).
An intense lemon yellow in colour, the wine smelt of slightly stewed apples and yeast but there was also a floral quality to the nose, emphasising its delicate, almost fragile nature. That delicacy carried through in the palate which was light, long, lemony and dry with an subtle almond taste. The wonderful flavour was a pleasure.
We shared a glass with some chunks of squid in ink – a great way to spend twenty minutes on a warm Friday evening.
[Richard: from Tanner’s, about £15. Unusual to see manzanilla en rama and I’ve only previously seen it at that retailer. For me not quite as spectacular as fino en rama can be as I felt some of the trademark salinity you expect from manzanilla had gone missing. But still a lovely fragrant drink which needs hot weather, not the incessant rain we are currently experiencing.]
It’s been a long time since we tried some sherry; I think Richard must be running down his stock. This was our old friend La Bota de Manzanilla from Equipa Navazos that R. had opened previously.
It was very dark for a manzanilla – a tan colour with orange highlights and throwing a slight sediment. It smelt of nuts and lemon acidity. The oily mouth feel was accompanied by the lemon flavour with what I tried to describe as a salty caramel taste. The length was medium.
As R. said, this was moving to an amontillado-style of sherry. It went very well with the potted shrimps on toast.
[Richard: this has been blogged before. Eighteen months on the colour has deepened but the wine is still fresh and complex. Opened for three days when Geoff tried it but there was still a lot of flavour and no sign of oxidation. Classy wine and I’ll be sorry when the last one has gone.]
Full marks to Marks and Spencer! Currently their wine range is the most imaginative on the High Street: there are no branded wines repeated ad nauseam; they haven’t got dozens of Proseccos; and their shelves create interest at all price levels. And they stock en rama sherry, which I’ve never seen outside of a specialist wine merchant – and rarely there. We tasted their 50cl Lustau offering (£10) with the Byass’ Tio Pepe en rama from the Wine Society. The Lustao was freshly opened whilst the TP had been opened a week; both were nicely chilled
Briefly, en rama, is fino wine that has undergone minimal filtering and fining, and has all the attributes of a young wine. Light in alcohol (circa 15% ABV) it is very refreshing whilst maintaining the oxidative notes of the sherry style.
As expected, both wines were bright but pale lemon in colour. On the nose, the Lustau had more lemon zest notes than the TP, probably due its freshness, but the latter still had the lovely acidity of the light sherry. Richard found the Lustau more direct and pungent in flavour but the thought the TP was “very, very long” and developed slight apple flavours in the mouth. We are talking very marginal differences here; both wines were excellent and, with the accompanying octopus in oil and smoked mussels, we were transported back to the wonderful bars in Jerez.
We really recommend the Lustau en rama. If you’re not a member of the WS it’s the best opportunity to get some wonderful wine easily and at a low price.
[Richard: both lovely wines with the TP holding up well despite the exposure to air. My sherry drinking has dropped off a bit recently, especially since Equipo Navazos got so expensive but this was a terrific reintroduction. At £15 (bottle size equivalent) the Lustau is good value as well. I doubt however if all M&S branches will stock it – ours came from New Oscott which is a specialist food store. Not on the M&S website either.]