JancisRobinson.com’s Sherry Night featured 38 wines, including some with the words 'en rama' on the label and some that their producers would describe as 'en rama' even though they did not say so on the label. The term is not legally defined, despite the Consejo's best efforts to persuade producers that it would be a good idea to do so. The simplest explanation is that these wines have little or no filtration, fining or cold stabilisation and are intended to taste as they would if you had just drawn a sample from the sherry butt. However, as Palayo Garcia, export manager of Delgado Zuleta, pointed out, they are not distinguished solely by this lack of pre-bottling treatments but also by the fact that they are carefully selected from within a specific solera.
Natasha Hughes MW wrote her Master of Wine dissertation on the subject of en rama and as her mentor for that part of the exam, I discovered how difficult it is to be precise when a term is traditional, not legally defined and not necessarily mentioned on the label. For the rather tortuous back story, see Natasha's article Elucidating en rama.
In order to try to find some of the freshest en rama bottlings (so-labelled or not) for our Sherry Night, I tasted a selection of them in Jerez at the end of March in the perfect tasting conditions provided by the Consejo Regulador, who had invited producers to submit any wines they labelled, or considered to be, en rama.
A few were not bottled, some were very recently bottled and some, because of the timing, were actually from 2016. This raises another question that Natasha touched on in her article: the ideal drinking period for these wines. Many have suggested that they should be drunk within a few months of bottling, but after several years of bottling these wines, producers increasingly recognise that there is no great hurry, although some styles - those where 'fresh from the barrel' is the highlight of the wine - may be most enjoyable fairly soon after bottling. As veteran master blender at González Byass Antonio Flores Pedregosa, explained, 'At first we suggested they should be drunk within three months but we later found that they developed well in bottle. Now they no longer have a "best before" date, and while the wines do start to lose freshness after a year, they gain in structure and body.' Thus in many ways it is a matter of taste.
My tasting notes on these en rama wines are in Latest en rama sherries. The other wines that were included in the line-up for our extremely popular Sherry Night were selected from sherries of all styles that the team had tasted recently and you can find the notes on them in our database of nearly 150,000 tasting notes.
Julia Harding MW, JancisRobinson.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
17 May 2017