edited by Sue Courtney
If I offered a guest a glass of sherry, he or she would probably be surprised. For sherry is not exactly a popular tipple in New Zealand and certainly not by the younger generation. Many of the bottles that are on sale in the supermarkets and chain liquor stores can be likened to 'cheap plonk' as a 2 litre flagon of, say, The Old Masters Sherry, costs as little as NZ$16.00.
The Old Masters is a NZ-made sherry, made from the Palomino - the traditional sherry grape - which has been grown and vinted in the same way as a still white wine. It's after the wine is made that it is fortified with grape spirit to a dry, medium or a sweet (labelled 'cream') level.
I usually have a bottle of sherry in my cupboard, but it is for cooking not for drinking. And I was one of those who would screw my nose up if offered a glass. That is until recently, when I was introduced to real sherry - sherry from Spain made by one of the great masters, Emilio Lustau.
The occasion was the visit of Rob Hull, a Lustau representative from Europvin, their export office in Bordeaux. And who better to co-host the tasting than Spanish wine expert José Fernandez, the manager of the Auckland branch of the NZ agent, Eurowine.
Rob Hull gave us a talk on the background and styles of Lustau Sherries.
The company's headquarters are in Jerez (pronounced Herreth), the heart of the 'Sherry Triangle' in the southwest of Spain. Here the Palomino Fino grape excels on gentle undulating chalk-rich slopes that face the Atlantic Ocean, while Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes, which produce a sweeter style of wine, are grown on the chalk-poor soils elsewhere in the region. In the Sherry Triangle, a phenomenon occurs - it is the spontaneous growth a unique yeast called 'Flor del Vino, which gives these wines their unique flavour.
The three main styles of sherries made from the Palomino Fino grape are the light coloured lower alcohol Fino, the amber coloured higher alcohol Amontillado and the golden, high alcohol Oloroso wines.
The Wine Tasting
Lustau Manzanilla 'Papirusa'
Lustau Puerto Fino
The Fino wines are salty and I can imagine them being quite refreshing on very hot days and with their suitability to nuts and olives they are the perfect aperitif and well as the ideal accompaniment to tapas.
Next we tried a couple of Amontillado's. They are generally bright amber in colour, dry with crisp acidity and with nutty, dried fruit characters. We had some tapas to accompany the wine and these two were accompanied with rolled, breaded pork infused with Spanish spices.
Lustau Amontillado 'Escuadrilla'
Lustau Amontillado del Puerto 1/10 Obregon
The third flight of wines included the Palo Cortado, which is a style between Amontillado and Oloroso, plus two of Oloroso. These were accompanied with Spicy Chicken nibbles and crumbed mussels (I did not try the mussels).
Lustau Palo Cortado 'Peninsula'
Lustau Solera 'Don Nuno' Dry Oloroso Sherry
Lustau Oloroso 'Pata de Gallina" 1/38 Jarana
The Amontillado's and Oloroso's are like comfort wines, we are told by José Fernandez. They are great in winter and are good with soups and stews.
Now we moved into the sweet wines. "We drink these any time", says José with a grin.
Lustau East India Solera
Lustau Moscatel Superior Solera Reserva 'Emilin' (NZ$38.95) was the finale and what a wine to finish with! It is made from pure muscat grapes and with 195grams per litre of sugar and 17% alc. by volume. After harvest, the grapes are placed on grass mats to raisin up before making the wine. It is then fortified to 17% alcohol and aged in the Solera. It has rich, powerful muscat scent with an attractive citrus, orange peel lift. It is thick and gorgeously viscous with a hot spiciness. Figs, dried prunes and orange peel are quite dominant on the finish. However, despite the sweetness it is very balanced and clean. A touch of caramel toffee lingers in the back of the palate.
What a wonderful tasting and insight into these fabulous wines. Sherries are not just wines for aperitifs as I was once led to believe. They are wines for all courses and I look forward to creating a dinner to accompany several of these wines.
For more background on the company and the styles of wines see the Emilio Lustau web site.