NV, Valdespino, “Inocente” Fino, Macharnudo Alto, Jerez, Andalucía, Spain
The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei
The Jerez (Xèrés) region of Spain, home of sherry, is situated along the southwestern seashore in the province of Andalucía. The “Sherry Triangle” is a small portion of Andalucía formed by the connection of the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Macharnudo Alto, the regions highest altitude vineyards, are located northwest of Jerez de la Frontera. The albariza soil in these vineyards is considered to be the purest in the region – the porous, chalky, bright white, high limestone soil produce low yields of highly concentrated fruit with intense minerality.
As we’ve discussed before (here and here), sherry is a fortified wine that can be expressed in several styles predominantly influenced by the aging method used. Biological aging refers to those styles whose flavor profiles are attributed to time under a protective layer of flor yeast – these include Fino and Manzanilla. Oxidative aging refers to those styles whose flavor profiles are attributed to exposure to air during the maturation process – these include Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez styles. Amontillado and Palo Cortado are styles that come from a combination of time under flor followed by a period of exposure to open air.
Valdespino is the most respected producer of sherry, and one of the oldest. They have owned their vineyards in the Macharnudo Alto since 1264. Valdespino is the only sherry producer to still ferment their wines in all oak (versus stainless steel). The Inocente Fino is produced from Palomino grapes from the Macharnudo Alto that are fermented in oak using only indigenous yeasts. The solera (aging system) is comprised of ten criaderas (“tiers”), more than double the typical size; this translates to an approximate ten years under flor by the time of each bottling, generating an intense depth of flavor and complexity.
The color of this wine is more golden and vivid than typical Finos. This heightened expression of quality persists throughout the experience – not your basic Fino by any stretch of the imagination. Intense aromas of hazelnuts, almonds, and ripe cantaloupe are heightened by a touch of spiciness. The flavors are complex and reveal layers of tartness, nuttiness, and rich olive oil-like qualities with a touch of salinity and a long, pleasantly bitter finish. Good Spanish tapas are made to go with this wine. Roasted Marcona almonds, jamon Iberico, meaty green olives, pungent anchovies, grilled sardines, potato croquettas… the list goes on. I’m a long-time believer in the wonders of sherry with food; this wine sealed that fate.
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