By: Chiara Shannon | Head Sommelier - K&L Personal Sommelier Service
A small but dedicated crowd attended last week's Sherry tasting in the Redwood City store. Together we explored a sampling of Sherries produced by the "king" of Sherry: Javier Hidalgo. Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana is one of the oldest producers in the Sherry district of Jerez (in production since 1792) as well as one of the few bodegas that remains 100% family-owned and managed, under a 6th generation direct descendant of the founder.
It didn't take long for any prejudices folks might have brought to the bar ("Aren't all Sherries sweet?", "Isn't Sherry more of a winter drink, like Port?") to evaporate once we kicked things off with the crisp salty tang of the La Gitana Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda ($13.99), a classic bone dry Fino and one of world's most refreshing aperitifs. As we made our way up the age and complexity scale, progressing through nutty Amontillo, and perfumed Oloroso to end with a rich and smokey Palo Cortado VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry), it became clear that these Sherries represent some of the best values in wine money can buy, bar none.
Indeed, life's pretty good on the Sherry side of the street.
Here is what we tasted along with some of my impressions. You can shop and learn more about these Sherries by clicking the links below:
Saline, nutty aromas and flavors with accents of savory herbs (celery salt). The palate is clean and fresh, with tangy acidity and floral/hay accents to nutty flavors. Pure, focused, refreshing, and long on the finish with salty aftertaste. Try with: Marcona almonds, fresh seafood, Manchego cheese.
A single-vineyard Manzanilla, with extended ageing (twice as old as the regular La Gitana Manzanilla Fino) for a richer, fuller, more "old-fashioned" but still bone dry style. This has pronounced nutty and leesey aromas and flavors, a rich, creamy mouthfeel, full body matched by vibrant acidity, and subtle hints of honeyed wood spices on the finish. A serious Manzanilla with a lot of substance. Enjoy with salted and/or smoked nuts, cured pork, savory dumplings, fried calamari.
Here we start to see a little sweetness introduced, but only in the aromas, with more complex caramel/toffee/toasted nut aromas followed by delicate sweet cream and candied notes on the palate. This smells sweeter than it is however, as high acidity provides intensity and focus, and cleanses the palate for a dry finish. Try a classic Amontillado like this with lobster bisque and you're in for a real treat. This was named for--you guessed it -- Napoleon Bonaparte.
Aromas of salted caramel and yeasty flor present, followed by smokey and mineral undertones. Oloroso is a more oxidized version of Amontillado, and in this Sherry the extra oxidation brings in layers of added complexity. More savory flavors counter to the slightly sweeter nut and honey profile for a Sherry that has a lot of that "umami" thing going on. Try it with sushi.
Named for the Duke of Wellington, this is the sweetest in the lineup, but it is as racy and fresh as it is sweet. It offers a rich and complex nose of sweet baking dough, raisin, and cinnamon, salted caramel, and toasted nuts. It's intense, rich, and mouthfilling, with a distinctive smokiness to its profile. The layers of depth to this wine seems to go on and on. VORS stands for Very Old Rare Sherry, a designation that requires a minimum of average 30 years in age, but this Sherry comes from Hidalgo's original solera (late 1800s) and thus is much, much older than that. A fascinating wine to contemplate, and surely one to convert you to the Sherry side of things...if you haven't crossed over already.
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