Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Drinking Sherry Over Several Days - Further Experiments in Brooklyn Prove Useful.

Sherry improves for a few days after opening. I know, this goes against what we've all heard for decades. But it's true, especially if we are talking about quality brown Sherries that are shipped carefully. After hearing about this for a while I experimented a bit in early 2012 and confirmed this idea. Now I routinely open a brown Sherry (Palo Cortado, Amontillado, and Oloroso) several days in advance of the night on which I plan to drink it.

What about other kinds of Sherry - do they also improve over several days? Recently I decided to experiment with a bottle of Sherry that has no official category, but we might call it a Fino-Amontillado. This is a Fino Sherry whose wines are old enough (perhaps 8-12 years) in which the flor has begun to die, and it thins and becomes patchy, no longer fully protecting the wines from oxygen in barrel. The wine begins to take on a darker color and a certain richness that comes with oxidative aging. But although it has some of the characteristics of Amontillado it is not yet Amontillado, and retains much of the brisk Fino style. This style, Fino-Amontillado, is a favorite of many Sherry aficionados, for whatever that's worth, including singer Paula Abdul, the magician Gallagher, and wine writer Peter Liem.

On a recent Wednesday night we opened a bottle of Equipo Navazos La Bota Nº 24, a Fino-Amontillado from the Pérez Barquero soleras in Montilla. A few unusual things about this wine: it is from Montilla, inland of Jerez and Sanlucar, and in Montilla even the Fino wines are made of Pedro Ximénez, not the Palomino grape. That's right, the same grape that in Jerez is used to make sweet wines in Montilla is used to make Fino style wines. Secondly, this wine was bottled almost two years ago in September of 2010. So we were experimenting with a wine that has already had some bottle age - another thing that we've traditionally heard not to do with Sherry, but that given the right wines, we now know can actually be highly desirable.

Please let me say that La Bota Nº 24 is an utterly amazing wine, one of the most compelling that I've tasted from the La Bota series. Peter said that it may have been lost in the La Bota shuffle, it may have been overlooked. It is a tremendously beautiful wine with such finesse and grace, such intensity, such detail of aroma and flavor. It was beautiful a year ago when I first tasted it and it continues to improve. Fino-Amontillado is a style of Sherry that is really worth seeking out if you haven't tried one. La Bota Nº 24 is basically sold out, but you can probably find a bottle if you look hard. You might also try Emilio Hidalgo Fino La Panesa, a wine made in the same style, or a Manzanilla Pasada such as La Bota Nº 30, which inexplicably continues to grace some retail shelves in NYC.

Okay, so what happened here, drinking this bottle over several days? The experience was a bit different from slowly drinking a brown Sherry. Brown Sherry improves over several days - it is better on day 3 than it is on day 1, for example. La Bota Nº 24 changed over the course of a week, and it never faded in that time. My sense is that it neither improved nor declined, it just changed. In the first few days the flor is more apparent on the nose and the palate, showing a lemony and almost creamy aspect. But after a few days the Amontillado characteristics become more pronounced and the wine shows a nutty richness and pungent salted caramel tones, the finish becomes less creamy and rings out with a complex oxidative tang. The wine always carried itself with finesse and grace, but the particulars changed, like a woman with innate class wearing different outfits.

This proves nothing, I'm aware. This is a wine blog, not The Lancet. Still, the more I drink Sherry the more I find pleasure in aging it in bottle, and then in drinking it slowly over several days.


Ben said...

Out of interest, when you say you opened the sherry several days in advance, did this simply mean you opened the bottle and kept it in the fridge?

Brooklynguy said...

Ben - I opened it and drank some immediately, and then drank a little of the wine each day over the next week.

Kelly and Angie said...

Interesting... We have rarely ever left an opened bottle unfinished. In fact, unless it is a huge bottle we usually top it off that night. Not that we are drunks or anything, but 2 glasses each usually kills the bottle. We are finding the truth about drinking wine at the right temperatures helps. This was something that we never really knew, but are enjoying. Maybe over the Labor Day break we can try this out. Very curious..

SteveG said...

I had my first bottle of this last December, my notes remind me that I found this wine exactly as advertised--a PX fino with half a sip in the amontillado camp (which suggests to me, isn't there something odd about calling a wine from Montilla 'Amontillado'?).

Anyhow, your lovely article inspired me to open another bottle; I can't speak for the extra months aging, and in all candor since it Always takes me several days or longer to polish off a bottle of Jerez, I can only report that #24 certainly acquits itself well in this way also. My take is that the entry and front palate is fino...full-bodied and powerful, but fino. The sides and finish are the lightest, most elegant amontillado I have enjoyed. What a wine!

Cliff said...

I'm still looking forward to trying the no. 24. I had the no. 30 a few weeks ago; I found it better on day one than day two or three -- much fresher and more vibrant. It faded in the fridge.