MWH Wines’ regular guest blogger, Giles Luckett, shares his thoughts on the recent Gonzalas Byass portfolio tasting.  Among the Champagne and the incredible Aussie Pinot Noirs, Giles finds real wine excitement coming from an unexpected source…

On Tuesday the 18th February I attended the Gonzalez Byass portfolio tasting in London.  As you might expect there were a number of Sherries and Ports on show – including some excellent wines from Quinta do Noval – alas there was no Nacional on show, but then you can’t expect miracles!  There were also some wonderful table wines to taste;  the Ashton Hills Pinot Noirs from Adelaide Hills were gloriously Burgundian, ripe and beautifully balanced.  Champagne Deutz’s range impressed.  The firm backbone of fruit drawn from Ay ran like a rod of steel through the range from their elegant non-vintage to their wonderfully weighty 2013.  And the Tokaji from Disznoko were generous, luscious and honeyed with a depth and generosity that only these stunning Hungarian wines seem capable of achieving.

Yes, it was an compelling tasting of classical wines.  What struck me though was the level of innovation and diversity, particularly when it came to the Sherries.  Now when one thinks of innovation and experimentation, one tends to think of places like Australia with its ceramic egg fermenters or America with its taste for ‘natural wines’ – a taste I cannot say I share.  Sedate southern Spain’s Sherry, on the other hand, is one of the last places you might consider to be inventive.  And yet, as I worked my way through the delicious line-up of wines on taste, I was struck by quite how versatile this most affordable of fine wines is and how people like Gonzalas Byass are doing everything they can to bring it to wider audience.  Below is a selection of wines that really struck me:

Domecq Manzanilla  -  a new wine for them, one that will sit well in the range alongside the famed (and excellent) Tio Pepe.  As you’d expect this was bone dry, but with its lower than expected acidity it had a richness that I wasn’t expecting.  Full, yeasty and with noticeable notes of salinity it was crying out for tapas and could have stood up to even spicy chorizo, I believe.

Una Palma Fino – one of the first aged Finos – this is the youngest at 6 years-old.  It’s a concept I love and all of the Uma Palma wines knocked my socks off.  Yeasty on the nose it has more dimensions than a typical Fino, with notes of pears and quinces coming through.  The palate is richer, weightier and less tangy, the acidity having softened a touch.  Full and intense, it’s  just lovely and would again go well with full-throated, heavily seasoned dishes.  A new resident for the MWH fridge I think…

Dos Palmas Fino – eight years old and yet still so youthful, the colour and the intensity of the yeastiness shows how the flor – the film of yeast that keeps these wines from oxidising – has started to thin out.  Big, bold and intense, there’s an intriguing mixture of dried fruits, citrus and spices here that put me in mind of the Leonor Palo Cortado only with more zest and punch.

Tres Palmas Fino – and so we come to the oldest of this tantalising trio.  At 10 years of age, we are bordering on Amontillado territory here and that is evident from the look and the taste.  Nutty, with plenty of candied peel and dried fruits, the acidity is bright and gives it a fresher, cleaner feel than you’d get from an Amontillado.  This with a slab of Manchego and a platter of sun-dried vegetables sounds like a great idea to me.

Leonor Palo Cortado – the second time I’ve tasted this in the last months, this 12-year-old Sherry is dramatic and delicious.  As we noted in our what is Sherry blog,  a Palo Cortado is a Fino that’s been aged.   This is an exceptional wine; vibrant and tangy, yet loaded with dried fruits and spices, its one to sip chilled in good company.

At MWH Wines we are great fans of Sherry and we will soon be listing a range of these extraordinary wines, the finest and the rarest.  What this tasting highlighted to us was the immense breadth of expression it has.  From the crispness of a Fino to the weight and intensity of an Oloroso, there’s a lot to explore and, as these wines show, there’s still more to be discovered.

Like To Know More About Sherry?

Well we hope this blog has whetted your appetite for this glorious and shamefully overlooked wine.  Sherry – in all its majestic guises – is an affordable treat and a wine that is well worth exploring.  If you would like some more help or advice then please feel free to get in touch with the MWH Wines team.  You can call us on 0118 984 4654 or email MWH Wines here and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.