Posts tagged Harveys

Wineries in Jerez, land of sherries, getting much friendlier

Just back from a week in one of my favorite places, Jerez, Spain. Home of fabulous Finos, mouthwatering Manzanillas, excellent PXs – you get the idea.
[ For more on my trip go to] And listen HERE on iwineradio

Bodegas (wineries) in Jerez have become very tourist-friendly lately. Weddings and other events are held in their cathedral-like buildings, and in Harvey’s gardens. We visited several other bodegas, among them Valdespino, the mighty Osborne group and Sanchez Romate, where I bought a great dessert sherry made from the (now-rare) Moscatel grape. All sherry is made from white grapes, and all the dry wines – in fact most sherries – are made from the palomino grape.
Gonzalez Byass, well known for its Fino called Tio Pepe (and I am still addicted to starting a meal with this), was the third most visited winery in Europe the last time they took a poll. Williams & Humbert is recognized for its Dry Sack sherry, a term known since Shakespeare’s time, from saca, the Spanish word for taking out [of the barrel]. By the way, the famous Andalusian dancing horses are also housed here, and they give daily shows – very impressive and beautiful to watch.
Around the world people sip Fino and Manzanilla before a meal, nibbling salted almonds. But in Spain they really know what to do with these light sherry wines. They continue sipping it with other tapas such as slices of the luscious, succulent belotta ham, lightly brined green olives and aged cheese, followed by plump, tender pink shrimp and other super-fresh fish and seafood from local fisherman. For the next courses, switch to an Oloroso – the heartier, more structured sherry of your choice; pork, meat and fish stews, rice pilaf and other dishes go well with these wines.
“Cream” sherry was not created to be sweet, rather it consists of a number of sherries blended to be as smooth as cream; it is both nutty and sweet in flavor. Worldwide, Harvey’s Bristol Cream is the king of this category. Harvey’s also makes a wonderful VORS Palo Cortado with an average age of 60 years, that goes well with red meat dishes.
Lustau relocated a few years ago, a process that took 2-1/2 years, with every one of the 15,000 barrels then having to be re-inspected upon arrival. While we were there, it was very warm and they were sprinkling the floors to maintain humidity — with water from their own three wells. Oloroso is Lustau’s flagship category, but don’t be intimidated – try their dry Amontillado with a nice tuna dish. (Tuna sandwich? Tuna casserole? Why not?) Lustau also has many proprietary, named blends, with varying degrees of dryness.
A few new bodegas have started up in the past dozen years by buying up extra stock from both established bodegas and from the almacenistas (independents) who have traditionally made sherries for the big companies that age, distribute and export them. Bodega Tradición (a good name, I guess) started in 1998, and it was there I found my favorite Pedro Ximenez sherry. “PX” as it’s now known in English is a fruity, super-sweet style made from the Pedro Ximenez grape: thick and rich, with elements of dried fruits, most often with fig, carob and raisin flavors. Tradición’s was positively chocolaty. Why didn’t I buy a bottle when I was there?

Stop Bottling Wine — at the estate

Climate project and wine guru Pancho Campo suggested this week that we might want to go back to the olden days of wine commerce. In order to avoid the tremendous amount of emissions caused by transporting crates of heavy wine bottles, we might want to return to the time when wine was shipped in bulk from the producer, and bottled in the city where it would be sold. Of course Campo didn’t put it exactly like this when speaking at Vinoble, the biennial sweet wine fair in Jerez, Spain; he simply put out a general call to rethink the wine industry’s carbon footprint.
Remember that only a few decades ago wine was still being shipped from France and Portugal to England, where it was bottled by local merchants like Harveys in Bristol (Sherry) and Berry Bros & Rudd in London (Bordeaux, etc.) before being sold their customers. Shipping was handled this way for hundreds of years. So now, do we really need to ship bottles that can weigh up to two pounds each? Except for Champagnes and sparkling wines which are finished in the bottle, maybe not.
For centuries, wine merchants — such as Berry Brothers and Harveys — were the guarantors of authenticity for the wines they sold. The custom of estate bottling wines which gathered steam during the 20th century is supposed to be a guarantee of authenticity. It also became a mark of prestige when in the 1920s Baron Philippe de Rothschild first used it to set his Bordeaux wines apart from the rest – and soon everyone followed his lead.
With the current technology for temperature-controlled, non-reactive shipping containers, would we now be better off bottling our wines at least in the country they are shipped to, if not in each individual city? Lighter bottles, screwcaps, tetrapaks and bulk wine in restaurants: all these methods of conveying wines to consumer can now be put in play. It’s started already. Champagne producers are cutting their bottle weights by 7% this year. In the UK, Berry Bros & Rudd is (again) supplying their labeled “Own Selection Wines” while in the US a few restaurants on the east and west coasts are reported to have wine on tap. Now, it’s up to the rest of us to decide how to save the planet – while sipping the wines of our choice, of course.