I keep thinking I should write a ‘hilarious bargains of the wine world’ post for here. Two wines that would feature near the top of that list are Manzanilla sherries from Hidalgo: La Gitana and Pasada Pastrana. Earlier we drank some of the Pasada Pastrana with dinner at Salt Yard and I was, once again, stunned by its savoury, characterful and thrilling charms. Top stuff.
Of course, Hidalgo make other sherries as well. His dry Amontillado from the same vineyard as the Manzanilla Pastrana is is a similarly classy, stylish drink. The vintage-dated Oloroso I tried at the London Wine Trade Fair a few weeks ago blew my socks off; quite delicious. Then there are the very old, dry Oloroso and Palo Cortado sherries which cost serious money but are such exciting, burning entities of intensity that you cannot help but love them.
I admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for Hidalgo sherry. The generous and charming Javier Hidalgo gave a tasting in Oxford about fifteen years ago which will forever be burnt on my memory. All those wise enough to turn up were stunned by the expressiveness of his wines and ratted after getting through the vast quantities he insisted we all drink. Lovely fellow, lovely wines.
But the fun you can have with sherry extends beyond even the mighty Javier’s offerings. Lustau have an excellent range, which includes the novel, and delicious, East India sherry. This sweet sherry is said to be the only type that will improve with age in the bottle. I have one in the cellar to test this. Pick any bottle from their range of Almacenista sherries (wines sourced from small producers) and it will be an exciting pleasure.
Valdespino also have good stuff; it was the sherry which fortified me whilst working for one particular employer. Fino Innocente is a top bunny-grade sharpener. Their Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry is one of the few wines my mother has got through a case of (OK, I helped a bit). It may have been sweet action-a-go-go, but it certainly exceeded the quality of most sugary wines in its price bracket.
The final producer I’ll mention is Gonzalez Byass. Tio Pepe is a passable drink, but some of their other stuff is properly good. The thirty year old Amontillado del Duque is a good example of the style, nice and dry. Clocking in at the same age is the Matusalem sweet Oloroso: a really stylish, complex drink. My chum Dan really loves the super-sweet Noe Pedro Ximenez, which I think is a bit too crazy to sit down and drink for any extended period of time, but you’ve got to be impressed by its wacked-out bonkers-ness.
All of these wonderful things to buy and drink, and sadly most people in this country think that sherry is either Harvey’s Bristol Cream or something from Cyprus (which it most certainly isn’t, it isn’t ‘British fortified wine’ either, am I clear? I mean this very seriously). Get out there, spend a few quid on a bottle of La Gitana, stick it in the fridge then when it is cool pop it and be perked up. If, on a warm summer’s day, you cannot enjoy something as delightful and refreshing as a good bottle of Manzanilla or Fino then there is probably something wrong with you.