Sherry Twitter Tasting
I'm wary of the twitter hashtag, which seems a lazy way of promoting a trend you haven't much thought about, but on Tuesday I found myself following the progress of, and contributing dozens of tweets to, #sherryTT. This was a live twitter tasting involving tweeters from all over the world contributing over 400 tweets, as part of International Sherry Week.
I don't know if there's a greater drink in the world than sherry - for its history, quality, variety, value for money, and its food-pairing potential - but it's one that suffers a severe image problem, so I was game to take part in the evening's tasting, hoping to spread the love and awareness of this much misunderstood drink. Some tweeters knew all about sherry, others were new to it but enthusiastic to take part, a combination which led to an engaging online conversation.
I've never been involved in a twitter tasting before and found it great fun. In many ways, it corresponded to a real tasting - the Andalucian crowd turned up late, some tweeters described the wines imaginatively, others engaged in contextual information. What I enjoyed about it most, though, was that it was a conversation many people were involved in yet which you could conduct at your own pace. If I wanted to, I could tweet constantly and breathlessly, or I could take my time and come up with a considered opinion of the drink - I did a bit of both, and felt more confident contributing to the online conversation and also felt I learnt more from the different observations of those involved than if we'd all been sat round a table discussing the drinks.
For it to work, though, it needs an organiser. In this case, it was Ruben from SherryNotes. He created the event, provided the samples of all the sherries, and made sure everyone was on board and understood the different styles of sherries. Many thanks!
Gonzalez Byass Tío Pepe En Rama (April 2014)
For the last five years, Gonzalez Byass, the largest producer in Jerez, has been releasing its classic fino "En Rama". This means straight from the cask, unfiltered, and unclarified - you're drinking just what you would if you were in Jerez and stood in front of a barrel drawing the wine from it. Gonzalez Byass promote it further by saying the wine is from the very best casks ultimately destined to be part of Tío Pepe. It's a great marketing idea, which the sherry industry needs - it points to its distinctiveness (the solera system), its different styles (in this case, fino), and its different tastes (how decisions by the winemaker alter the appearance and taste of the drink).
Barbadillo Manzanilla Solear En Rama (Primavera 2014)
Manzanilla is, more or less, the same style of wine as fino, but it has to be made in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda giving it more noticeable saline qualities. Many of the tweeters found the previous fino to have a definite saltiness as well, but I did think it was much more apparent in this classic manzanilla, which is also taken straight from the barrel (like the Tío Pepe En Rama during spring, when the flor is at its most active and the wine at its saltiest). It's a very different drink - more complex but less immediate; the Tío Pepe, whether in its classic form or from the barrel, is for a summer's day, while this is for a summer's day by the sea.
Fernando de Castilla Palo Cortado Antique
The difference between the fino and manzanilla were nuanced, delicate, and intriguing. The first sniff of this wine declared in an instant the astounding differences between styles of sherry. Palo Cortado is a complex style that's not always easily understood or explained - it's kind of like a cross between an amontillado and an oloroso. It's also the one that sherry connoisseurs rate as the most complex and involving, and this example had to be the wine of the night - in this line up that's quite a compliment.
Oloroso "Pata de Gallina" Almacenista Juan García Jarana (Lustau)
Lustau are another of sherry's top producers, and one of the best and most interesting lines they do is the "Almacenista" (referring to a maker of sherry who sells it on to another company), a range which showcases Lustau's best suppliers. I think this is a wonderful way of supporting and promoting the sherry community; during the evening I discovered that Juan García Jarana runs a motorbike dealership in his other life. Having said which, the nose was a little lacking but it did have a long, lasting, leathery finish.
Gutiérrez Colosía PX Colosía
Pedro Ximénez is the name of the grape, as well as the style of the wine; essentially, the grapes are dried to such an extent that they become raisins, resulting in one of the sweetest wines in the world. It can be a hard drink to take on its own, with layers and layers of complex sweet flavours. There are lots of sweet foods it can be paired with, but the classic match is pouring it over vanilla ice cream. Gutiérrez Colosía are based in the town of El Puerto, along with Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda one of the three towns that make up the "sherry triangle." This was a great example of the PX style, with lots of appealingly chewy dried fruits.
There's not a lot much better than tasting five high-quality sherries with other wine enthusiasts, whether on- or offline. These two tweets sum up the tasting's best wine and the evening as a whole.
Follow the whole tasting on Storify