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Entries in Javier Hidalgo (2)

Wednesday
Mar062013

K&L Book Club: Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem & Jesús Barquín

*Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla* by Peter Liem & Jesús Barquín is available in hard copy at K&L!By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer (& Sherry Lover)

K&L Book Club Project #1: Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem & Jesús Barquín

Here at K&L, we not only need to keep learning about wine and spirits to stay current in our profession, but are compelled to learn because it is our passion. I had an idea in the back of my mind for a while about doing a book club with the staff and when Peter Liem & Jesús Barquín published Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla ($29.95) I knew the time was right to stop thinking about it and launch the project. Currently we have more than a dozen of our wine staff here at K&L reading this book, and we are planning to meet to discuss it (and drink a bunch of Sherry!) late this April. If you have a tasting group, or just some friends who love wine, I suggest that you do the same.

Author Peter Liem by Michael Boudot. Liem also has an excellent Champagne website, Champagne Guide. Click the image above or visit www.champagneguide.net to learn more.Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem & Jesús Barquín is one of the top wine books that I have had the pleasure of reading. It is incredibly clear, and the authors manage to explain complex material in a way that is very easy to understand. I could not keep my nose out of it until it was finished. I have known Peter Liem for many years, as he lives in Dizy, in the heart of Champagne. He is the only American wine writer living in that region, and takes his work very seriously.

K&L Spanish Wine Buyer Joe Manekin and I were lucky enough to interview Mr. Liem about his new book, and the following is what we learned from him:

G: How did you get the inspiration to write Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla?

P: Along with Champagne, Sherry is one of my great passions in the wine world: I have been drinking Sherry all my adult life, and have been traveling to the Jerez region since 1998. I’ve also been fascinated with the body of literature surrounding Sherry, not only in Spanish but in English as well. From the early nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth, there were a great number of texts written about Sherry in both languages, yet over the last thirty to Equipo Navazos La Bota de Fino #18 Macharnudo Alta Jerez ($41.99) forty years there have been comparatively few, and the number of English-language books about Sherry published in the last 25 years can be counted on one hand. I thought it was time that someone wrote a new book on Sherry, one from a much more contemporary perspective, and I wanted to be the one to do it.

How did you meet Jesús Barquín? How does the process of co-authoring a book differ from writing it oneself?

Jesús and I met in Spain a number of years ago, shortly after he started the Equipo Navazos project. He opened my eyes to many things that were going on in the Sherry country, and through him I gained a much more personal and insider perspective on the region. I had initially conceived of this book as a solo project, but Jesús eventually proposed a collaboration between us, with me as the primary author. As far as co-authorships go, ours was probably one of the easiest, since Jesús insisted from the beginning that I maintain complete creative control. I wrote the majority of the text, with Jesús editing and making notes along the way, and I also consulted his existing body of writing, using themes and ideas that we thought would be appropriate.

Layer of flor inside Sherry barrel. Source: Wikipedia commons. I have read everything I could get my hands on about Sherry and visited the region, but when I left, I still did not know what flor really was or how it worked- I only knew the wonderful results. I was fascinated by your clear, detailed explanation of biologically aged sherry, who did you learn about the process from and was it difficult to get the information? Also, what sorts of ongoing studies are out there regarding the formation of flor and its implications for Sherry as well as other types of wines?

Gonzalez Byass "Matusalem" Oloroso VORS 375ml ($39.99) The majority of what I have learned about flor certainly comes from speaking with cellarmasters and winemakers in the Sherry region, many of whom have spent their entire lives working with Sherry. I owe a great deal to people like Eduardo Ojeda of Valdespino and La Guita, Antonio Flores of González Byass, Monse Molina of Barbadillo and Javier Hidalgo of Hidalgo-La Gitana, among many others, who have taken the time to educate me about the biological aging process and how it is illustrated through the criaderas and soleras of their wines. On the scientific end, there has been a lot of research done over the last 50 years by people such as M.A. Amerine, Kenneth Freiberg and J.G. Castor, and the flor aging process continues to be carefully studied by people in the Sherry region and beyond.

Palo Cortado fascinates me and I was very intrigued to learn from your book that part of the reason the style might have been more common in the past was because of old grape varietals. Has anyone shown interest in replanting some of these ancient varieties?

Hidalgo Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada Sanlucar de Barrameda ($26.99) The idea that authentic Palo Cortado is attributable to heirloom grape varieties is a speculative one, and only one factor in a larger theoretical hypothesis on the development of Palo Cortado in the past. It's true that prior to the arrival of phylloxera in the late nineteenth century, there were dozens, possibly even hundreds of grape varieties grown in the Sherry region. However, palomino was already becoming the dominant variety by at least the mid-nineteenth century, singled out for its exceptional quality and its affinity with albariza soils. Today I know of at least one winegrower, Dr. José Cabral in Trebujena, who has planted old varieties such as Barcelonés and Castellano in order to make white wine, but I don’t imagine there's anyone who thinks that there’s anything superior to palomino for the production of Sherry. Palomino has become the primary grape of the Sherry region for a very good reason.

Looking ahead, do you foresee an increased interest in a more hands on, personal approach to viticulture in Jerez?

Valdespino "Inocente" Single Vineyard Fino Jerez (375ml) ($18.99) I definitely think that the question of viticulture in the Sherry region is going to become more significant in the future. The first step towards that is simply addressing the issue of vineyard ownership: many people are surprised to discover that most Sherry bodegas do not, in fact, own any vines. There has historically been a clearly defined, three-tier system in Jerez that has worked very well, with growers growing grapes, almacenistas producing and aging wine, and shippers bottling and marketing the finished product. While this has become more blurred in the modern day, the structure and economics of the Sherry business still make it more practical for most shippers to buy stocks of wine from almacenistas rather than to press grapes and make young base wines of their own. One of the only shippers who is actively seeking to enlarge its vineyard holdings right now is the Grupo Estévez, who owns Valdespino, La Guita and Marqués del Real Tesoro: in 2012 the group purchased an additional 400 hectares (988 acres) of vineyards, expanding on its already impressive estate and making it the largest vineyard landholder in the region, with nearly 800 hectares of vines in total. The Grupo Estévez is still something of an anomaly in this regard, as other houses are often seeking to sell vineyard land rather than buy it, but I don’t think that it will be the only one in the region to place value on vineyard ownership, and we may well see others follow suit.

I love the parallels that you draw between Champagne and Sherry in the book. What do you think the Champagne producers could learn from the Sherry producers? What do you think the Sherry producers could learn from the Champenois?

Antonio Barbadillo "Obispo Gascón" Palo Cortado ($34.99) There are more parallels to be drawn between Champagne and Sherry than most people imagine, both in terms of the wines themselves and the ways in which they are made. In our book, I talk about the increased importance that the Champenois are placing on viticulture and vineyard terroir, and the corresponding change in the way that they view their base wines, with a movement away from the idea that these wines need to be neutral in character in order to make high-quality Champagne. While the needs and concepts of base wines are not identical in Champagne and Sherry, I would definitely like to see a similar shift in attitude occur in Jerez, as there is strong historical precedent for the importance of the vineyard in Sherry production, and a rediscovery and reevaluation of terroir and viticulture can only be of benefit to the region as a whole.

Regarding the Champenois learning from the Jerezanos, one very minor and nitpicky issue concerns the use of a so-called “solera” for blending reserve wines in Champagne, which is almost always more properly termed a perpetual cuvée, as it involves only one tier of blending: essentially, it's a solera with no criaderas. A small handful of Champagne producers are working this way, including growers such as Bérèche et Fils, H. Billiot, Francis Boulard, De Sousa, R. Dumont, Laherte Frères and Pierre Péters, and their numbers seem to be increasing. The only one I know of, though, who actually uses a true solera in the Sherry sense—that is, a system of fractionalized blending with multiple criaderas—is Anselme Selosse. I wonder if there is a substantive difference between making a reserve blend in a true solera and in a perpetual cuvée, and I would like to see some Champagne producers explore this idea. 

Sherry solera. Source: Wikipedia commons

***

Follow the K&L Book Club!

The Book: Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem & Jesús Barquín ($29.95)

Date of Discussion: End April 2013

Send responses to: garywestby@klwines.com or joemanekin@klwines.com 

Or share with us on our Book Club Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/klwines/events#!/events/514591255246919/?context=create

***

A toast to you,

-Gary

Monday
Apr232012

On the Sherry Side of the Street: Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana

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:

Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda (500ml) ($13.99)

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.


Hidalgo Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada Sanlucar de Barrameda ($26.99)

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.


Hidalgo "Napoleon" Amontillado Sanlucar de Barrameda (500ml) ($17.99)

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.


Hidalgo Oloroso "Faraon" Sanlucar de Barrameda (500ml) $18.99

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.  


Hidalgo Wellington Palo Cortado VORS (500ml) $79.99

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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