Saturday, 4 November 2017

Lost Styles of Sherry

Sherry is a highly complex wine and is forever evolving. In the past, wines were described as accurately as possible according to their type and stage of development. But this can never be a precise art, and one bodega’s Manzanilla Pasada could have been another’s Manzanilla Amontillada, yet these decisions were made by highly skilled tasters and were pretty accurate. Nevertheless one can see that consumers would be confused, and the labelling regulations were simplified in 2012 as it is of course easier to simplify nomenclature than educate consumers. Some of these styles are still produced of course, but are sold using the simplified nomenclature. Anyway, here is a list of these "lost" styles with brief explanations.

Entrefino is a wine which lies between Fino and Amontillado. The term was mainly used in El Puerto de Santa María and the closest Jerez equivalent would be a Fino Amontillado or perhaps a Fino which was a bit fatter in style. Osborne’s Coquinero is the only commercial example from El Puerto still available.

Amontillado Fino Lies between Fino and Amontillado but closer to Amontillado than Fino Amontillado. It is a youngish Amontillado, perhaps 15 years old, which still has some Fino characteristics. Emilio Hidalgo’s El Tresillo is a rare and delicious example while Viña AB from González Byass used to be labelled Amontillado Fino, now just Amontillado. Cayetano del Pino once offered an Amontillado Fino Oloroso, presumably a fragrant Amontillado Fino. 

Fino Amontillado is the Jerez equivalent of Manzanilla Amontillada or El Puerto’s Entrefino, an older Fino which retains only very thin flor if any and thus shows signs of oxidation. Bobadilla's Victoria (below) changed to Fino in the late 1970s.

Amontillado Pasado is a Jerez style and is a mature wine between Amontillado and Amontillado Viejo. A middle-aged Amontillado perhaps. Not seen nowadays - at least under that name.

Manzanilla Amontillada  Is a stage between Manzanilla Pasada and Amontillado. By the Pasada stage the flor is getting weak, greyish and thin allowing a certain degree of oxidation, yet the wine is still recognisably Manzanilla, just older and more complex usually with over 10 years of average age. Amontillada is older and more complex still, yet not quite full Amontillado.

Manzanilla Olorosa Is a Manzanilla Pasada which over time has developed a particularly pronounced nose which slightly resembles an Oloroso, but still retains the hallmarks of Manzanilla on the palate. Both Barbadillo and Pedro Romero used to offer Manzanilla Fina Olorosa which must translate as “Fine Manzanilla Olorosa”, as Fina is young Manzanilla and as such can’t be Olorosa.

Palma is essentially the proper name for Fino, or at least particularly fine Fino, and its name derives from the chalk mark on the butt which vaguely resembles a palm frond. If a horizontal line is crossed over the mark it is called Palma Cortada and this signifies its suitability to become fine Amontillado. 

As the wine ages the palma can be crossed again. Tres Palmas is Fino at the limit of the flor while Cuatro Palmas will be an old Amontillado. La Riva, Blazquez and Cayetano del Pino used to sell “Fino Tres Palmas” but the only firm using this system commercially today is González Byass.

Oloroso Dulce/Abocado These are terms for Oloroso sweetened with Pedro Ximénez or occasionally Moscatel. They have been replaced by the term Cream.

Amoroso is an Oloroso with a particularly smooth character and more or less sweetness which may come from its high glycerine level or more likely the addition of a little PX.

Pajarete Once beloved of the whisky distillers, this very sweet wine was named after the place it was made in vineyards close to the old tower of Pajarete near Prado del Rey. Thanks to Phylloxera mainly, it has all but disappeared now, though Bodegas Rivero still make tiny quantities. A wine called Pajarete is made in Malaga but while sweet it is not the same.

Raya Is an inferior quality Oloroso, known as Raya macho if full bodied and a bit rough or Raya hembra if  light. They were sometimes made from grapes picked towards the end of the harvest. If it is not too inferior it is known as Raya Olorosa. Butts of Raya often used to be placed in the sun to age them more quickly and concentrate them and they were generally only used for blending. The name had died out until Luis Perez launched an unfortified example in 2017 called Raya La Barajuela. It is not DO Sherry, however.

Vino de Pasto is a modest Amontillado which has been slightly sweetened. Lustau used to offer an example till comparatively recently.

East India was generally a full, rich, sweet Oloroso which had been further aged in butts used as ballast in ships crossing the equator to the East Indies. It is thought that the wine spending months slopping around inside a butt which was not quite full had more effect than the temperatures, but while necessarily expensive, it was popular and many bodegas produced it. Lustau is the only one left and the wine no longer sails the seas but is aged in a warmer bodega.

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