I was thrilled to be able to take part in another live sherry tasting during this year’s Sherry Week. What a rush to be connected via the Internet with other sherry and fine wine lovers from across the globe. I was selected to participate in the special palo cortado tasting on Tuesday, November 3 at 19:00 CEST.
Ruben from Sherry Notes once again graciously organized the tasting and mailed us the samples a few weeks in advance. It was hard to resist opening them before the big day but I let them rest in their box in a nice cool and dark spot.
Tuesday evening, I was also scheduled to teach The Chef’s Table at Cook’n With Class that evening, which is a 5 course paired wine dinner. I was able to sneak out occasionally and check the Twitter feed #SherryTT and give my two cents while tasting the wines simultaneously.
Since my class was featuring various French wines paired with Chef Alex’s fabulous creations, I was able to bring the conversation full-circle broach the discussion of sherry & food pairings with my clients. Sherry wine for me is so versatile and each style calls out for wonderful food pairings.
It’s difficult in France to find even the simplest fino sherry. I’ve been known to bring 6 bottles back with me on the Eurostar when I was travelling frequently to London. So it was such a treat to have these fabulous wines and to be able to share them online with other sherry lovers.
Like all fine wines, wine makes the food better and food makes the wine better. But to be honest, some of these old palo cortados were so beautiful on their own, I couldn’t even imagine some pairings for them!
What is a palo cortado sherry?
According to the Consejo Regulador, the body that oversees the production and protection of sherry, a palo cortado is “a wine combining the delicacy and aromatic refinement of an amontillado with the structure and body of an oloroso.”
Technically, I figure the fuller body comes from the fact that palo cortados usually spend less time under flor, which loves to eat the glycerol in wine. Glycerol is what makes a wine taste “fat” in your mouth, so in other words, a palo cortado would usually be a bit fuller bodied than an amontillado where the flor has had sufficient time to eat away some of that body.
The delicacy would come from the fact that this wine was (traditionally) originally destined to be a fino, so the best quality and most delicate grape must would have been used. The wines meant to be exposed to air (olorosos) would be potentially a bit clunkier and less refined from the get-go.
After trying to wrap your brain around this definition and process, let it be known that this natural progression of flor changing inexplicably is probably not so realistic in today’s high-tech and modern wineries of Jerez. It’s just not commercially viable to wait around for a spontaneous palo cortado to appear.
Whether the old fashioned method or the more intentional method is used, both offer us a wine made from top quality wines with much finesse and delicate characteristics that also benefit from added richness and complexity of an oloroso. In other words, palo cortado is a win-win situation in my book!
Here was the outstanding range of palo cortados that were sent to the participants to drink live during the event:
Palo Cortado Viejo C.P. Valdespino the CP stands for Calle Ponse, which I remember vividly from my trip to Jerez. This is the name of the street where the wines had been kept. A great start to the tasting with its saline touch.
Antique Palo Cortado Fernando de Castilla this was one of the palo cortados I had previously had when I visited Fernando de Castilla in Jerez. I had called ahead to make an appointment in Jan, the owner and ended up bringing with me 10 other sherry lovers that I had picked up along the way during my WSET trip to Jerez. He was so pleasant and gracious and opened lots of bottles for us. He made me a client for life! This is wine is fabulous.
Palo Cortado V.O.R.S. (Very Old Rare Sherry) Bodegas Tradicion another wine I had tasted in the bodega and even brought a bottle home (now long gone). Wonderful complexity and superbly long finish!
Privilegio V.O.R.S. Emilio Hidalgo was the show stopper tonight with the most beautiful nose as well as a spicy and smoky complexity that was unprecedented.
Apostoles V.O.R.S. Gonzalez Byass I had tasted this as well at the GB bodega and previously had purchased a bottle to Fortnum and Mason in London to bring home. This was our finale sherry tonight and was great in this final position with the sweet finish.
Regarding food and wine pairing, palo cortados are just as versatile as the rest of the range of sherries produced. In the case of the wines tasted tonight, all of them would be positively gorgeous even on their own based on their age and complexity. But they also called out for cured or smoked meats, hard cheeses and complexly flavored soups or sauces. Remember to serve these fine sherries roughly at cellar temperature (12°C or 55°F). Warmer than this, as with most fortified wines, the higher temperatures will accentuate the alcohol and reduce the pleasure.
All of these definitions, interpretations, mysteries and myths behind palo cortado can make one quite thirsty! So I’d say go out and try a few and see which you prefer best. It’s what’s in the glass that counts! I look forward to next year’s events. But don’t wait an entire year to buy a bottle of sherry! Leave a comment below with your sherry experiences.