Rediscovering Sherry - a whistlestop tour around the world's most underrated wine!
Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th November 2017
Presented by Matthew Whitaker
The Oxford Wine Company, 6 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DQ
The Oxford Wine Company's Turl Street shop opened its doors on the 3rd of July. And while we were busy with the first few months of trading, our builders were hard at work downstairs, creating something a bit special. Keeping true to the Oxford heritage and paying homage to Duckers cobblers who had previously occupied the property for 118 years, the cellar became an intimate tasting room, perfect for formal or informal tasting events...
The first informal tasting event took place on the 7th of November, which fell in International Sherry Week. One week of the year where over two thousand bars, restaurants, and independent wine merchants from all over the wold host tasting events to promote the delicious beverage that is sherry.
I have a passion for the wines of Jerez and couldn't wait to host a tasting to encourage people to explore the region's diversity, from the worlds driest wine to one of the sweetest. However, with Sherry having a slightly bad reputation, I have to admit I was concerned that the event would be a total flop with not much interest shown and even fewer tickets sold. I couldn't have been more wrong. To the shock of the whole company, the first sherry tasting sold out within 24 hours! The only option was to hold another tasting the day after, which also sold out very quickly. The people of Oxford must love their Sherry - and rightly so.
The evening kicked off at 7pm with fifteen Sherry fans piling down into the Turl cellar, following the intense aroma of five glasses of sherry already in place. I also included some nibbles to demonstrate how well sherry could work with food.
A brief introduction was given and then straight in to the first Sherry, Tio Pepe Fino: the world's best-selling Fino style Sherry and always a good way to kick off an evening. I recommended olives or salted nuts to complement this wine and the pairing didn't disappoint. This was followed by the same wine but bottled 'En Rama': a minimal intervention method of bottling Sherry. The wine is said to be alive in the glass, with the flavour and aromatic intensity cranked up to eleven.
The third sherry was a Manzanilla style from one of the oldest bodegas in Sanlùcar: Hidalgo. This wine demonstrated the difference between Fino and Manzanilla. The crisp and refreshingly salty wine was well received, especially with the Manzanilla olives on offer.
Then Amontillado and Palo Cortado followed with very high praise for both. Valdespino's Contrabandista with its 5% PX hit was a stunner, offering a hazelnut palate with a sweet long finish. However, the highlight of both evenings was the Leonor Palo Cortado, with an average of 5 years aging under flor then another twelve in barrel. This wine was well balanced and powerful, pairing deliciously with iberico de bollota chorizo.
Next up was the Fernando de Castilla Oloroso - a dry well aged wine, showing good biscuit and walnut flavours. The nice balance of acidity refreshed the pallet before Gonzalez Byass' Nectar Pedro Ximenez made an appearance. This showstopper of a wine packs around 375 grams of residual sugar per litre. Fig, prune and molasses dominate the nose, moving on to a luscious palate. This was served with a creamy blue cheese. The two intense flavours balanced well and the surprise paring went down a treat.
Overall this tasting was a great success - a very dynamic group of people on both evenings (along with empty spittoons) made for a very enjoyable way to spread the word of Sherry.