The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei
NV, Gonzales Byass, “Alfonso” Oloroso Seco, DO Jerez (Sherry), Andalucía, Spain
Note: This is the second sherry I’ve written about for Wine of the Week. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write about one per quarter – do my part to encourage more people to try this timeless drink that offers variety and amazing food pairing opportunities. Happy 2014 to you all!
Sherry is a fortified wine, a category that calls for the addition of grape-based spirit to the wine to preserve and ‘strengthen’ it; Port, Madeira, and Marsala also belong to this category. That is where their similarities end. Sherry can only be produced in the Jerez (Xèrés) region along the seashore of southwestern Spain in the province of Andalucía.
Most Sherries, including the Oloroso style, are made from the Palomino grape. But, what makes sherry so distinct is its method of production. Once the wine is made and fortified, it goes through a complex blending and aging process in a solera system, “a complex network of old barrels…. Depending on how the wine moves through the solera, different styles of Sherry can be made.”
The Oloroso style, like the Fino style discussed previously, is reliant on a particular type of yeast, flor, which forms along the surface of the aging wine providing a seal, protecting the wine from oxidizing, while contributing to the style’s characteristic aromas. In the Oloroso style, the flor is suppressed early in the aging process by fortification with spirit, and left open to the air. This allows oxidation to occur, with all the nutty, rich flavors, darker color, and increased strength that the process imparts. Oloroso is a dry style (not sweet) unless otherwise labeled (dulce, et al); it is also the base for Cream Sherry, which has quite a bit of added sweetness.
Gonzalez Byass was founded in 1835 and is still run by the founding family, now in its 5th generation. They are best known for the classic, Tio Pepe Sherry, which has been made since 1844.
Aromas of maple, black walnuts, and caramelized orange zest carry through to the palate – especially the nuttiness. This is a dry wine with a rich, powerful presence balanced by palate cleansing acidity. The added alcohol from the fortification process is detectable, but very well integrated for 18%ABV. The lingering flavor of roasted nuts and slight salinity mark the finish. This wine is especially delicious with roasted winter squash (as soup, with nutty roasted Brussels sprouts, or in a hearty winter salad with pomegranates and tangerine bits).
 MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible, 2001, Workman Publishing, NY, NY
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