Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Drinking an Aged Fino Sherry.

The other night I was lucky enough to drink a fino Sherry sourced from Bodegas Valdespino, one of the finest Sherry producers. There are two things that make this wine very special. Firstly, it was selected from special barrels within the Inocente solera by Jesús Barquín and Eduardo Ojeda, two-thirds of the team behind Equipo Navazos. And Ojeda is the capataz, or cellar master, at Valdespino (and La Guita), and so you have to figure that the two of them chose interesting and very fine barrels. Secondly, it was bottled in April of 2007.

This wine had an average age of something like 10-12 years when it was bottled, but now it has aged in Peter Liem's cellar since release - it's almost 5 years in bottle. The common wisdom about fino Sherry is that you drink it when it's young, before it looses its freshness. There are some fino Sherries that probably should be consumed pretty quickly after release - those that are bottled unfiltered, and that still have small bits of flor floating about. The presence of flor makes it possible for the wine to continue to develop, to change in some way, and producers typically urge us to drink these wines within 6 months. I've heard Antonio Flores of Barbadillo Gonzales Byass say this about his palmas, for example. I do not have any personal experience cellaring a wine like this, so I cannot agree or disagree.

Regarding high quality fino Sherry, however, wines that have been lightly filtered - the common wisdom is wrong. You've read this here before, I know. The more personal experience I gain drinking fino with bottle age, the more I am convinced that this is a wine I am just starting to get to know. Like any other fine wine, it has an essential character, but it evolves in the cellar and shows differently as it ages.

Equipo Navazos la Bota de Fino Nº 7 was a wonderful old bottle. It was Peter's very last one, and it was generous of him to share it over dinner at Aburiya Kinnosuke in midtown. And if you haven't yet had Sherry with Japanese izakaya-style food, you really should try it. The fino needed a little air but it opened up beautifully, and at this stage in its life showed rich and mouth-watering notes of butter and toffee, although I was able to sense the delicate sea-sat mineral undertone. Peter smiled when I told him this, and explained that La Bota Nº 2 (also a fino sourced from the Inocente Solera) and 7 are very different from the current release, Nº35. They were brawnier and bigger upon release - Jesus was interested in making a bigger wine back then, I guess. With time in the bottle, though, I experienced Nº 7 as a delicate wine. Rich, but delicate.

We drank this next to my last bottle of La Bota de Fino-Amontillado Nº 24, bottled in October of 2010. This is a fantastic wine, Peter calls it "probably the best PX ever made." I've been fortunate enough to drink a lot of this wine, and it has changed since it was first released. On this night it was bright, energetic, and focused, and entirely delicious. What shocked me was how young it seemed, next to Nº 7.

There is a lot of life in these wines, plenty of potential for development in the cellar. It is my goal to be better about actually saving a few bottles. It's hard though because the wines are so delicious from the very start. Note to self: get some fino self control.


Anonymous said...

What a typically great and important article. I've fallen for (good) Sherry and have felt the pressure to consume it in a season or two. Now, I'm putting a couple of bottles away. Thanks!

Annie B said...

I thought Antonio Flores was the master blender/winemaker, God etc at Gonzales Byass (I can't spell....)I doubt he'd jump ship to a Bodega in Sanlúcar but you never know!!!
Great article - as always :-)

Álvaro Girón said...

On november we opened several bottles of old manzanilla/fino, some of them dating back to the 1960s: Eva (Barbadillo), Barbiana (Rodríguez Lacave), San León, Fino Macharnudo (Romate), Carta Blanca Macharnudo (Agustín Blazquez), La Guita, Pochola (Domecq). None of them were faulty or decrepit. And some of them were singing: La Guita, Carta Blanca, Barbiana, San León...

Brooklynguy said...

Annie B - thank you for catching my mistake, I appreciate it. I corrected it in the post. Your website and the business it advertises look rather appealing, by the way.

Álvaro - Thank you for your comment, it's an honor (Álvaro is close friends with the Equipo Navazos team).

Wolfgang said...

Right, Annie B. Montse Molina is the Winemaker at Bodegas Barbadillo.
Mistakes can happen.