Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Inocente...with Bottle Age

The other night, at the end of a lovely blind wine dinner (more on that another time) I decided to open one last bottle for my guests, a bottle of Valdespino Inocente. I grabbed a bottle from my wine fridge, and as soon as I began pouring the wine I noticed that it was unusual for Inocente. A little cloudy, almost. Well not exactly cloudy, but different in appearance from all of the other Inocente that I've had.

Inocente is a wonderful wine, one of my absolute favorite Fino Sherries. But this was a particularly wonderful bottle, showing such finesse, such a mellow harmony, such lovely articulation. Was something special about this bottle?

Yes, as it turns out. My friend Peter stores a few bottles of wine in my fridge, and this was his bottle of Inocente - I grabbed the wrong bottle. And Peter's wine was special in that it was bottled in December of 2008 - it has aged for over three years in bottle.

The back of a bottle of Inocente has a code that reveals the bottling date. "L083532" means that the wine was bottled in 2008 on the 353rd day of that year - December 18th (it was a leap year), from bottling line number 2. Had I known how to read this code, I might not have opened my friend's carefully aged bottle of Inocente. This is, after all, something that I would guess almost no one else has - aged Inocente is a rare thing.

Many people think that biologically aged Sherries, Finos and Manzanillas, for example, should not be aged in bottle. This idea probably arose because in this country the Fino style wines that have been most readily available in fact do not stay fresh for very long. But there is a renewed interest in Sherry, and there are more wines available now. Some of them are wines that improve with bottle age, and Valdespino Inocente is one such wine.

It's funny to think of a Sherry like Inocente as a candidate for the cellar. Unlike most white wines that are bottled within a year or two of vinification, Inocente is already aged when we buy it - it's a wine that ages for 8 or so years in the solera before bottling. But like many fine wines, Inocente mellows with bottle age, achieves a greater harmony and depth of aroma and flavor, expresses itself in a more profound way.

I knew about this idea, and I know also that Jesus Barquin and Eduardo Ojeda of Equipo Navazos say that their biologically aged Sherries should be cellared for at least a year or two before drinking. I've tried this with some La Bota bottles, with good results. But until this night when I opened the wrong bottle of Inocente, Peter's aged bottle, I had never had Inocente with any bottle age. It turns out that with good storage, the results are well worth the effort and I will definitely try to recreate this experience by socking away a few bottles of my own.

1 comment:

Marc said...

I need to remember to offer some cellar space to my friends with particularly good taste :)

Good timing with this though -- I noticed a bottle of Inocente that's been sitting in my cellar for awhile and wondering what that result would be. You hear different things from different people on bottle aging sherry. Now I think I'll let it sit there a while longer. Thanks!