A blog and review on all things Sherry. It is about tasting, enjoyment and learning more about the World’s Finest Wine. "Sherry is a thoroughbred" as Javier Hidalgo rightly puts it. Included are the amazing local Brandies and the remarkably good table wines also produced in the province of Cádiz.
grape has grown round the Mediterranean for millennia. Its name probably
derives from the fact that its perfumed musky aroma attracted insects
(moschaton in Greek, Musca in Latin). Such an old variety inevitably has
different versions (at least 18) and different names which can cause confusion.
Generally it is known as Muscat in France, Moscato in Italy and Moscatel in
Spain and Portugal, but it has nothing to do with Muscadet, which is made from
the Melon Blanc grape.
principal variations of Moscatel include dark skins, pale skins, large grapes
and small grapes. In Spain, by far the most important of these is the large,
pale-berried Moscatel de Alejandria, which is thought to originate in Egypt and
was spread round the Mediterranean by the Romans. This grape made Malaga famous
and is also used as a table grape. It can flourish in hot climates, producing
healthy yields of very sweet grapes. Luckily, it is not terribly fussy about
the type of soil, making it extremely useful in the Sherry zone, as the
Palomino insists on the best chalky albariza soils.
has made its home in the Sherry district at Chipiona (though it is also grown in Chiclana) where it is the only wine
aged there which can carry a Denominacion de Origen. The town of Chipiona is on
the coast, just south-west of Sanlucar, and has much sand and some clay in its
soils. This suits the Moscatel just fine, and grapes or musts are bought in
from here to supply the bodegas in Jerez, Sanlucar and El Puerto de Santa
Maria. They either bottle it as Moscatel or use it in their sweeter blends. Known locally as Isidoro, the Moscatel de Chipiona has a pale skin and
many bunches of large round juicy grapes. It likes to grow near the sea where
it can benefit from the moist Atlantic breezes.
Moscatel vines at Chipiona and sunning grapes (Consejo Regulador)
is made from super-ripe grapes with the fermentation stopped by the addition of
alcohol giving very fruity "Dorado) wine, but most is made from grapes which have been sun-dried for
between 15 and 30 days, depending on the weather, losing about half their
weight through water loss, but retaining their huge sugar content, and notably,
some acidity giving balance to these really sweet wines. The yield is, of
course, considerably reduced, and huge quantities of sunned grapes are needed
to make any worthwhile quantity of wine. The juice from these grapes is also
fortified with alcohol, and sometimes some Palomino must is added to dilute the massive sugar content. The wine is a bright golden colour, and some "arrope" or"vino de color" (boiled down must) might be added to give it that familiar
brown colour. Alternatively, lengthy ageing will do the same.
In the past
this kind of wine was known as “Bastardo” because it was made abnormally - without
fermentation, and it formed a notable part of the sack trade, especially with
England, where the sweetness was prized, as very little sugar was available
until the XVIII century. Chipiona has certainly been a part of the wine trade
since the middle ages, and probably much longer. In the last few decades,
however with ever falling sales of Sherry, there remain only three producers of
this classic wine:
Bodega-Cooperativa Catolico Agricola
Bodega Mellado Martin
Part of the Museo del Moscatel, Chipiona
be in Chipiona – which I would recommend, there is a very interesting Museo del
Moscatel (www.museodelmoscatel.com). There is an annual Festival del Moscatel, which starts this year on the 14th August.