Hidalgo Sherry Lunch at Chez Bruce

Yesterday at Chez Bruce we presented the sherries of Bodega Emilio Hidalgo to a small group of sommeliers, retail-buyers and journalists. The objective was to understand the different styles of the sherries and to discern whether indeed there is a recognisable Hildalgo “house style” and to understand that sherries are extremely versatile food wines and need to be sold with that in mind. The menu was devised by Bruce Poole and provided plenty of bold, earthy flavours to challenge any wine. We were admirably looked after by Katie Exton, head sommelier of Chez Bruce.

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This was the second in a rolling series of lunches (our first was at Dehesa) which we are hosting in order to encourage sommeliers and wine buyers to think about ways of selling sherry proactively from their wine lists.

Introducing the sherries of Bodega Emilio Hidalgo

A food and wine matching event at Chez Bruce

Warm smoked eel and pancetta sandwich, tarragon and mustard sauce

LA PANESA Especial Fino

OOOoooOOO

Beetroot, goat’s cheese, anchovy and orange salad

MARQÚES de RODIL Especial Palo Cortado

OOOoooOOO

Roast partridge with soaked raisins, onion crumbs, polenta and pata negra ham

GOBERNADOR Oloroso Seco

Mystery Wine…

OOOoooOOO


Four-year-old gouda with roast butternut, shaved chestnut and honey

EL TRESILLO 1874 Especial Amontillado Viejo

OOOoooOOO


Caramel ice cream, salted praline

Pedro Ximénez

The Bodega

The bodega was founded in the mid nineteenth century by Emilio Hidalgo.  The company is owned and operated by the fifth generation of his descendants.  The winery has been located, since its inception, in the old part of the city of Jerez de la Frontera; the buildings being of classical Andalucian construction with thick walls, enormous windows, and high, open beamed ceilings are ideal for the ageing and blending of wine.

Old stocks

Currently the winery houses casks of the original wine used to found the company in 1871.

Ageing

A system of horizontal soleras is used - instead of the usual vertical or pyramidal system – ensuring the barrels are as close to the floor as possible and stored in the coolest, most humid parts of the cellars. This provides the best possible conditions for extended ageing particularly under the flor yeasts.

Style                                

The Hidalgo family think of their sherries more as table wines than fortified wines. The wines are elegant and complex and match a wider variety of foods than many typical sherries

LA PANESA Especial Fino
Palomino 100%

ABV: 15%

75cl bottle: £20.90 ex-vat

The name Panesa derives from the name of the vineyard from which the grapes are sourced.

Over 40 years ago, the family carried out a selection of the best fino soleras started in 1961. They decided to add younger wine to the solera less frequently in order to allow a greater degree of ageing. As a result the flor exists as a finer film of yeast, allowing for a very light oxidation of the wine.

La Panesa is accorded the name “Especial” due to its unique qualities as a Fino. Because of its high average age - over 15 years - the wine is slightly darker in colour and boasts a richer, more complex palate than almost any other Fino made. This style is a pasada, combining the saltiness of the flor with an aged character.

Delicate, fresh nose with classic touches of almond, the palate is dry, light with stunning complexity as a result of long barrel ageing exclusively under flor yeast.

Food match: The eel had a rich smoky, savoury quality, the pancetta added a slight saltiness, while the mustard sauce was delicate and creamy. An ordinary fino might have been overwhelmed but the resinous texture and almost gingery flavour of the wine held its composure amongst the various bold flavours and the acidity punched through the meatiness of the fish. A definite success.


MARQÚES de RODIL Especial Palo Cortado
Palomino 100%

ABV: 18%

75cl bottle: £20.90 ex-vat

The wine is also termed “Especial” because it so different to what the consumer might know of as sherry. The wine has an average age of over 15 years and gains its character and complexity from blending decisions made by the family to express the Hidalgo style.

This house originally purchased soleras of Palo Cortado dating back to 1860

For half its life the wine ages gently in barrel under the flor yeast. Once the yeast disappears, the wine continues to age in contact with the air inside the barrel.

Bright mahogany colour, an intense nutty nose, the palate is dry, salty and delicate yet rich, concentrated and powerful. Perfect balance.

Incredibly versatile food wine: wild mushrooms, aged cheese, asparagus, artichoke, oily fish, white meats, fatty red meat

Food match: A dish of contrasting textures and flavours. The beetroot was soft and sweet, the goat’s cheese gently creamy and the orange citrus notes were subtle. The flavour of the anchovy was very strong. The Palo Cortado showed its fino origins with lively aromas of iodine (very Islay whisky), smoked and salted almonds and dry spice. In the mouth there was more warmth and vinosity attesting to the presence of old solera wines. Whilst the wine matched individually quite well with the beetroot, and very well with the goat’s cheese, it was overwhelmed by the saltiness of the anchovy.

GOBERNADOR Oloroso Seco
Palomino 100%

ABV: 20%

75cl bottle: £13.60 ex-vat

Despite its classification as an Oloroso, this wine spent 3 years under flor yeasts after which it started a long period of oxidative ageing, darkening its colour and adding complexity. The average age of the wine is over 10 years old.

A richly coloured, intense, full bodied sherry. Some olorosos can be heavy and cloying, but this wine is fresher than most because of its time under flor. It is bone dry.

Food: Matches game very well. Also slow cooked red meats. Aged hard cheese, the best cured jamón.

Food match: Paired with partridge with raisins soaked in Oloroso served with soft polenta and strips of Pata Negra. One noted particularly the softness and smoothness of this Oloroso compared with the previous two wines. Almost tawny in colour it has lovely warm aromas of beeswax and toasted walnuts and a gentle fudginess. It was a great sipping wine (would have been perfect with the cheese to follow) but as a wine wanted a touch more acidity to cut through the partridge, polenta etc.

At this stage we also served a mystery wine from Granada made in a semi-oxidative style called Tres Uvas from Barranco Oscuro (2006 vintage). This yellow-gold wine (decanted for two hours before serving) comes from schist and clay vineyards 1,300 + metres above sea level and from minuscule yields.

Tres Uvas comprises Vigiriega, Vermentino and Viognier in equal parts. The two parcels of Vigiriega are on the schist soils of the Cerro Las Monjas vineyard planted as bush vines between 1,340 and 1,360 metres altitude. The yields are very low, being less than 1kg per vine. The Vermentino and Viognier come from the Hoyo and Cerro de las Gayumba vineyards, between 1,280m and 1,300m altitude on a mixture of schist and clay soils.

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Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ - keep those foggies rollin’
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Densely planted bush vines on highly fertile soils?

Each variety is harvested separately only at peak maturation. Grapes are destemmed and lightly pressed. Fermentation then takes place in large oak vats using only wild yeasts and no temperature control. Malolactic fermentation takes place naturally. Sulphur is only used in extreme cases but usually not employed at all, not even at bottling. The wines are not fined or filtered. Each variety is aged separately in Slovenian oak barrels for 8 months after which equal parts of the three varieties are blended and aged in tank for a further sixteen months.

The wine’s rich golden colour seems to hold the light and hints at pelagic depths. The complex nose contributes to this impression being floral with ripe fruits, sweet spices, baked apple, medlar, yellow plum and some sherry notes. On decanting, the wine develops fresher citrus character. On the palate Tres Uvas is full bodied but not heavy, with ripe, almost bruised apple fruit, pearskin, hot ginger beer, malt, liquorice and intriguing curry spice (fenugreek and mustard seed). The finish is spectacular with amontillado sherry mixed with lemon citrus and concentrated mineral salts – the manages to be dry, savoury, warm, spicy and unbelievably moreish.


EL TRESILLO 1874 Especial Amontillado Viejo
Palomino 100%

ABV: 20%

75cl bottle: £50.60 ex-vat

The wine is so named because it comes from an 1874 solera blended and refreshed with younger amontillados. The wine undergoes a very long oxidative development in the family bodega in American oak barrels after a period of ageing under flor.

This extremely old amontillado – average age of well over 30 years – is viscous but clean and fresh. Imagine notes of cooked walnuts (or hazelnuts), of orange peel, dried figs, toffee, cream, warm wood and spices (cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and clove amongst others). Totally dry, super-complex with and extraordinarily long finish which lasts for minutes.

Food match: Keep it simple was the theme here and the theme worked. The Gouda had fantastic flavour being grainy without being too dry, the honey gingered it up and the roast butternut squash gave a rich autumnal tone (and hue) to the ensemble. A golden dish in every respect. The amontillado was sensational, an opulent, voluminous wine whose intense creamy richness was beautifully balanced by lingering acidity. A meditation wine as they would say in Italy as one picks at a piece of pecorino, or gouda or aged manchego…


Pedro Ximénez
Pedro Ximénez 100%

ABV: 15%

75cl bottle: £15.25 ex-vat

The wine derives its name from the Pedro Ximénez grape used to make it. The grapes are dried on mats in the sunshine, a process known locally as “soleo”.

The dark must obtained from these partially raisined grapes has an extraordinary high concentration of sugars. After a slow partial fermentation the addition of grape spirit ensures the intense sweetness is preserved. Long oxidative ageing concentrates the wines aromatic qualities without losing the grape’s characteristic fruit character.

This wine has a very dark, almost opaque colour; the aroma is of toasted nuts and raisins, the flavours reminiscent of dates and sweet figs. Long, complex and pure, it is relatively delicate compared to many PX’s which just taste of molasses.

Fantastic match for bitter chocolate puddings, ice cream or strong blue cheeses or just drunk as a dessert in itself.

Best served chilled at 12-14ºC

Food match: Pairing PX with ice cream is traditional in restaurants. You can pour it over the ice cream where it acts as a faux chocolate sauce or drink it after a mouthful wherein the orange and sweet prune flavours imbue the dessert with extra fruitiness. The salted caramel is an excellent touch and counteracts the overall sweetness. However, as mentioned, this PX is less treacly in style tan many and has a refreshing grapiness allied to its sweetness.

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Overall verdict: One of the most interesting conclusions about the Hildalgo sherries is that they reveal a definite house style and do not obvious correspond with preconceived notion about different classifications of the wine. The Fino, for example, is intense, with the vinosity and complexity of an Amontillado from a touch of oxidation but also those characteristic salted almond flavour that one associates with fino. The Palo Cortado is sui generis; bone dry, inhabiting a netherland between sherry, whisky and wine, an utterly intriguing and intellectually challenging wine. The Oloroso, conversely, is relatively easy drinking, being warm and round, a marzipan cake of a wine, whilst retaining its freshness and aromatics. The Amontillado is a testament to the magic of solera ageing; it revealed primary, secondary and even tertiary aromatics; it has fabulous intensity and was both the whole and more than the sum of its parts. The PX was pleasingly digestible, a fun end to the meal.

The sherries (and sherry in general) stood up to some bold flavour combinations. It is important to understand that they do not exist simply to top or tail a meal but to be drunk throughout; they have that versatility. Once opened the Hildago wines will last for weeks without losing their flavour, so it would seem an excellent idea for restaurants to try to marry these wines with particular dishes on the menu. Cheese and sherry seems a good place to start; the idea might be to feature one particular cheese off the cheese board and pair it with an amontillado or oloroso, for example, as a self-contained course with supplement. It is very much about the power of suggestion – whereas sherries often disappear into wine lists (even if they are featured by the glass), as soon as they are visible on the menu there is an extra justification to drink them.

 

Posted by Paul on 23-Sep-2010. Permalink
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