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A masterclass in age-certified Sherry

It was standing room only at the annual Wines from Spain Trade Fair in London on Thursday 14 April, when Beltran Domecq presented a masterclass on ‘Fine, Rare and Aged Sherry’ organised by Sherry Wines UK.

  Written by guest editor Julie Sheppard, Managing Editor Imbibe Magazine 

Beltran, president of the CRDO Jerez-Xérès-Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda, had assembled a stellar line-up of sherries for tasting and began by giving the audience a short introduction to the vineyards of Jerez and the unique production methods used to make the region’s wines.

Beltran went on to explain that the Consejo Regulador offers certification to those sherries that show the highest quality and have been aged for an extraordinary period of time. These ‘Certified Age’ sherries are the hidden treasures of Jerez.

They are of such exceptional quality that they were traditionally kept for the producer’s personal use and rarely put on sale, added Béltran. 

Little wonder that there was an excited air of anticipation in the room as he invited the audience to taste, beginning with two Amontillados. All ‘Certified Age’ sherries must belong to one of four key styles: Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez. The Amontillado Napoleón VORS, 30yo, Hidalgo La Gitana (RRP £50 50cl) and Amontillado Tradición VORS, 30yo, Bodegas Tradición (RRP £55) offered intense aromas and layers of flavour to reflect their long ageing.

‘Now compare these to our next wines, which are Palo Cortados,’ instructed Béltran. Palo Cortado Dos Cortados, 20yo, Williams & Humbert (RRP c.£16 50cl) and Palo Cortado VORS, 30yo, Barbadillo (RRP £22.80) both showcased the classic complexity of this unique style of sherry.

To follow, Oloroso Rich Old VORS, 30yo, Fundador (RRP £22.59 50cl) and Oloroso 1842 VOS, 20yo, Valdespino (RRP £34.99) greeted tasters with an even richer range of flavours on the palate. ‘Look at the colour change here, with darker tones,’ noted Beltran, swirling his glass slowly.

Can I just point out that sherry should always be drunk in a proper wine glass, not a small schooner,  he added – and put the bottle on the table. It should be consumed while eating!  

To prove the point he suggested matching a sweet Oloroso, Cream Matusalem VORS, 30yo, González Byass (RRP £19 37.5cl) with desserts and recommended that the final style of the tasting, darkly sweet Pedro Ximénez VORS, 30yo Lustau (RRP£65 50cl), be paired with strong blue cheese.

The session concluded with questions from the audience, who agreed that it had been a rare treat to experience these fabulous wines and showed their appreciation with a warm round of applause.

Julie Sheppard has worked as a food and drink journalist for over 15 years. She is managing editor of Imbibe magazine and writes freelance features for a range of publications including Square Meal, Time Out, Delicious and The Sunday Times.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.

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Sherry Wines UK
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Sherry Wines UK @sherrywinesuk
18 April 2016
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