Sherry Not Just For Grandma Anymore

"Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell about it!" Mary Oliver

Sherry could be described as a wine lover's symphony just waiting to be uncorked. I'd describe it as, "this not your grandmother's sherry" and the mystery for me, is why I've not sampled it's wonderful delicacies sooner. Sherry has got a bad wrap, for many, it conjures of the image Grandma sipping her beloved Cream Sherry by the fire while watching Jeopardy, and for others, it's the nasty cooking sherry, salted to retain stability over the long haul in the cracked open bottle collecting dust in the pantry.

Many garden variety wine enthusiasts like to lump sherry into the port column, thinking its an insipid sweet sticky wine, the oldsters sip on just before bedtime, goodnight Felicia. Sadly tho, it has earned that low-brow moniker and is not highly regarded in the broader vino-sapiens community. To lend credence to that assertion, even during my days working in six million dollars a year wine shop attached to a grocery (I liked to call it Bill-Mo) store, the selection of sherry was insipid, sweet and uninspired. Rarely did I have a serious customer who was interested in acquiring any of what I would describe as the real deal. But I hope I can somehow change that perception here, by introducing all of you to what 'real' sherry is all about, debunking the myth that it's just a simple sweet drink for the older generation.

I've known of Sherry, studied it in my WSET classes, and the introductory Sommelier certification course, but I never took the time to look into it, that is until I received two bottles of Sherry as samples from Gonzalez Byass (GB). The first Amontillado sherry (also aged 12 years in a solera system) and the second the above pictured Leonor Palo Cortado; this is the bottle I want to focus on, as the other was just too dry, rough and hard to enjoy unless it was 'paired' correctly.

I don't drink much port, though I like it quite a bit, it's the uber high amounts of g/L of Sugar which keeps the enjoyment tamped down for the most part. To compare and contrast the average (in general) red table wine contains .62 g of sugar per 100 g of wine, whereas Port wines are typically, and this can vary, but you're looking at 7.78g of sugar per 100g of wine and some Sherry can match or even surpass these levels of the average Port example. But Palo Cortado Sherry ranges zero (0) to five (5) grams per liter with a 17-20 abv.

Some are drier than others, after receiving the samples from González Byass, I ordered a bottle of the same, but from a different producer, Lustau for comparison purpose and in the name of research don't ya know? I found the GB to be much more vibrant, smoother and all around abundantly tastier than the Lastau I tasted. It has been said, and I agree, quoting Mr. Parker here, "A Palo Cortado brings together the finesse and delicacy of an Amontillado with the richness of an Oloroso."

There's no doubt in my mind that after tasting the GB Amontillado AB, which was dryer, just lacked the finesse of the Pao Cortado, there was a depth of richness missing, and it was noticeable. When I say this isn't your Grandma's 'sipping' Sherry, here's what I mean, the average cream sherry has 115-140 grams per liter of sugar, that's enough to put you into a diabetic coma. That's is a sobering number to absorb, realizing the ridiculous levels of sugar in these wines, in my mind, giving real Sherry a bad rap. Fans of the average bottle of wines lining the bottle shelves of the grocery store near you are not much better either; especially the way some folks drink these wines like it's their grade school juice box. Take for example the (IMO) "des ordures" aka Aphotic Red or Menage a Trois have 12-15 g/l of residual sugar, blech. 

The 'legend' of Palo Cortado as it were, stated in many of the text regarding the region, state, and I'm paraphrasing here," is often said to "occur" rather than be made", which is because the wine inexplicably loses its flor veil prematurely loses its veil of flor and begins aging oxidatively similar in style to an Oloroso. As a result, the Palo Cortado style was born, a cross between a deep dark Oloroso and the Amontillado, which is drier and crisper. There used to be some mystery about why and how it happened and was considered a 'rare' Sherry style, with limited availability. But with modern wine analysis and production, cellar masters across Jerez, know so much more about how to coax this style of wine out of certain barrels earmarked for this potential style. If you didn't know, the grape used to make Sherry is known as Palomino. When the flor dies, which gives Sherry that vegetative note that often hides in the background, the wine is aged in a solera until it's ready to be bottled.

González Byass NV Leonor Palo Cortado 12 Años Palomino: This is one awesome, I know an overused word, but honestly is the best way to describe it. The perfect after-dinner drink to enjoy as a night-cap, pairs well with hard cheeses, like Manchego and roasted almonds. The GB Palo Cortado 12 year, is a contemplative beverage, best enjoyed by slowly sipping on a cold winters evening. Here comes the tasting note: There's so much there, for so few dollars, especially seeing you're unlikely to finish the bottle in a single night, often this

Sherry will be enjoyed over many nights and weeks without losing a step. There are a variety of layers, burnt caramel, roasted nuts, dark roasted coffee and raisins to exhilarate the senses. The aromatics draw you in and grabs you from the start, let me tell you the palate does not disappoint. Mirroring much of what you find on the nose, adding another layer of complexity, with leather, orange peels zest,  buttery, nutty and toasty elements, but the saltiness is far in the background, just a hint. The finish is long and lasting, an easy like a Sunday morning.

Until next folks, remember life is short, and compromise is for relationships, not wine. Sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed wines are from medias sample provided (not for sale) for the review process.

All original content: Including text and photographs remain the copyright © of the author, (W.R. Eyer, Fotogui Photography Inc., and the Cuvée Corner Media Company) except where otherwise noted.


Anonymous said…
Dude, haha, my grandma, does in fact totally need her cream sherry. I've still not uncorked the types of sherry you talk about in this article, but now I'm intrigued, thanks for recommendations!

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