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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

18 Under 30 Part 9: Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso Sherry

If you read our last musing on port, you'll no doubt be familiar with the predicament faced by sherry. Like port, it's easy to make a huge sweeping generalisation that no one buys it anymore (especially in the UK) but the sad thing is that to many drinkers, sherry will no doubt evoke a few memories, which they would perhaps care to forget. In the UK, one could argue that sherry has been one of those unfortunate drinks to be looked upon with embarrassment and derision; a lingering hangover from 1970’s family Christmas parties, and as well received as the poorly-knitted, itchy festive jumpers a nation of aunties forced us to wear.  

Remember your auntie doing this at Christmas?
Thought not. 

But strip away those images of half drunk, lipstick smeared schooners of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, plus the overpowering alcoholic hit of a 70's trifle and the real inner complexity of sherry comes to the fore. Thanks to some exceptional wines hitting our shores from Jerez, sherry has once again begun to flourish as a very noble drink, like it once did several centuries ago.

One winery currently spearheading the resurgence of sherry is the Gonzรกlez Byass bodega.  Known to many as the company who produce the trend-bucking Tio Pepe Fino sherry, (and to a few whisky folks out there as the bodega who supply Dalmore with sherry casks for a number of their high-end Constellation bottlings) we've been lucky enough to fall under the spell of several of their recent offerings.  
In fact our very good friend, wine writer Jane Parkinson switched us onto a range of exceptional sherries that should be top of your list if you happen to be warming to the idea of fortifying one's self in the coming weeks.   

For those who appreciate the huge importance of sherry casks in whisky, it will come as no surprise that sherries such as Palo Cortado and Oloroso represent some of the finest wine making in Jerez and highlight just how the ageing process can produce flavours and aromas which often surprise and delight in equal measure.  From rich, dark earthy palate coating notes to a distinctive aromatic nuttiness, there's nothing quite like a slightly chilled glass of aged Oloroso with a selection of festive epicurean delights to raise a smile from even those who profess to have an abject hatred of sherry - a hatred usually stemming from the aforementioned forceful aunties... 

Anyway, alongside the excellent Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado, which is a steal at £12.95 from here 
(think an abundance of roasted caramel-coated nuts, burnt orange zest and a faint waft of anise)  we shall definitely be buying a bottle or two of the bodega's mighty 30 year old Matusalem Oloroso -  a sherry so intensely packed with complexity that if it were a Christmas gift,  it would be one of those fiendish Japanese box puzzles.   

Gonzalez Byass -  Matusalem Oloroso -  30 Years Old - 20.5% - 37.5cl

Nose: An intense dryness, but tempered with rich oak notes, polished mahogany, dried fruit, marzipan and chopped nuts. Given time in the glass a distinct note of brittle caramel comes to the fore, backed up with mature oak notes and dark fruit.

Palate: The dryness of the nose continues, but there is an almost resin-like note to this on the palate- hugely complex, with more dried fruits, further hints of oak and a savoury/meatiness. The dryness subsides into toasted hazelnuts followed by a lovely lingering blood orange citrus note. Quite breathtaking really. 

Finish:  Lingering notes of mouthwatering dried fruit, an oaky dryness and a distinct nuttiness.  

Overall:  This Oloroso demonstrates precisely how far we have come from the world inhabited by the one-dimensional sherries of several decades ago. For those of you who love the uncompromising directness of a heavily sherried whisky, this is a no brainer, but for those in doubt, don't underestimate its underlying subtlety: the complexity of this bottling will leave you wondering just why it took so long to give sherry a second chance.  Stunning. 

Gonzalez Byass 30 year old Matusalem Oloroso is available for £18.95 here