Andalucían gold - a diverse range of white wines from southern Spain
For more than half a millennium, Andalucía's liquid treasures have been her golden coloured sherries. Located at the southern tip of Spain almost kissing Africa, Andalucía's semi-tropical climate and white chalk soil produces a most diverse range of white wines. They've been traditionally and expensively fortified with a brandy of colourless grape spirit to help protect the wines from spoiling on long sea voyages.
All the wine is made from green grapes and mostly from Palomino Fino. Its neutral character allows the method of winemaking and ageing to greatly affect the flavour. By contrast, Pedro Ximenez (PX) grapes are dried in the sun to raisin. Its dark and sweet wine is sometimes added to Palomino dry wines to give a subtle sweetness and deeper colour.
Pure PX is ideal as a dessert enhancer poured over ice-cream or topped with dried fruits soaked in it overnight.
Oloroso means "fragrant". Its dark amber colour and complex savoury aromas and flavours vary from walnuts and coffee to meaty richness. It's delicious with hard cheese.
Palo Cortado is the rarest of styles of sherry and is the result of a natural phenomenon occuring only twice in every thousand barrels of wine. It marries the character of a Fino salted almond or hazel nutty Amontillado with the rich savoury character of an Oloroso. It's great as an appetite sharpener.
These are just three of the styles of sherry that feature among the five winners of our blind taste test…
1) Palo Cortado "Peninsula", Lustau 19pc
Attractive nutty scents with a hint of caramel. Powerful concentration of bone-dry and diverse flavours of roasted hazelnuts and walnuts with salted caramel and coffee.
€29.99 at Mitchell & Son in Dublin at CHQ in IFSC and Glasthule
2) Marques de Rodil Especial Palo Cortado, Emilio Hidalgo 17.5pc
Salted almond scents and a chalk-dry delicious nutty palate with a citrus tang on the finish.
€44.99 in Dublin at Wines on the Green, Dawson Street
3) Very Old Oloroso 20 Years VOS, Solera 1842, Valdespino 21pc
Complex bouquet and palate of treacle and ginger pudding balanced by savoury walnuts. An historic sweetened Oloroso with its essence originating from 1842.
€25.99 375ml at Manning's Emporium, Skibbereen and World Wide Wines, Waterford.
In Dublin: Redmond's; Searson's; Clontarf Wines; The Corkscrew and Londis, Malahide.
4) Oloroso Dulce 30 Years VORS, Matusalem, Gonzalez Byass 20.5pc
Rich aromas and intense flavours of coffee cake and walnuts spiced with ginger and delivered in a velvet smooth texture from 30 years ageing in barrel. An epic Oloroso in the sweetened Dulce style.
€19.90/375ml at winesoftheworld.ie
5) Pedro Ximenez Noe 30 Years, Gonzalez Byass 15.5pc
The definition of unctuous. Almost treacle black with double-cream richness from 30 years improving in barrel. Pure treacle tart topped with delicious prune sweetness.
€39.50 at winesoftheworld.ie
Wet your lips at the inaugural Spanish Wine Week around Ireland, April 11 to 17. Organised by Wines From Spain's Irish office, it will provide a thoroughly engaging programme to educate, inspire and impress with the impressive variety and diversity of Spain's winemaking regions, grapes, flavours and style.
A su salud - sláinte!
See: winesfromspaininireland.wordpress.com for details.
* Sample a Sherry Tasting Dinner at Brioche in Dublin's Ranelagh on April 7 for €50.
Bookings: see brioche.ie or call (01) 497 9163