It's International Sherry Week this month from Monday 8 to Friday 12 November and we, for one of many, are celebrating in style - with sherries from the best.
This means that Bodegas Hidalgo rises straight to the top of the shopping list this month. It is, quite simply, the most complex producer of great sherries that we stock currently. Yes, there is also Lustau; an incredible company of almacenestas (a quirky name that includes those who grow grapes, make sherry for themselves and / or for others and also age some of the greatest sherries in the world).
I hear the voice of the sherry cynic asking what on earth aging has to do with a drink traditionally associated with maiden aunts.
Well, everything, actually. Maiden aunts may have been onto something but if they were, it was certainly richer, drier and deeper than the tip of the sherry iceberg that became known as Harvey's Bristol Cream. Now there's a commercial success if ever there was but that is not the only sherry we are celebrating this month in store at Regional.
The sherry we are diving into is dry, nutty, complex, salty, briney, light but fresh, intense and long. It all benefits from incredibly complex aging under either flor yeast (for which, it's hard to go past Bodegas Hildalgo's La Gitana En Rama - the name even rhymes). Or in old oak, such as beautiful amontillados, such as this one that follows.
Two fast facts about sherry...
1. The best are dry - so dry that they are the driest in the world because there is simply no glycerol left, thanks to the aging process under flor yeast. This stands true for a complex range of sherries from flor fino and manzanillo right through to the mysterious palo cortado and amontillado.
2. Find out more here at the International Sherry Week website here, which has great online tastings you can register for.
3. Okay, a third fast fact - don't be shy. Ask our staff to guide you to the great sherries we stock. These wines are the ultimate match with seafood.
And finally... sherry is an incredibly versatile wine.
Staff recommendations for International Sherry Week...
Bodegas Hidalgo Amontillado Napoleon RRP $44.99 ) Special $39.99
Here's your perfect excuse to eat salted chocolate caramels - one of the world's great fortified wines; Amontillado from a top producer. Bodegas Hildago Amontillado Napoleon is a complex full bodied amber coloured sherry with flavours of caramelised almonds, sandalwood and vanilla. It's a blend made up of Oloroso Faraon, Cream Alameda and PX Triana, all between six and 20 years old, which add to the taste of cedar and sandalwood.
Tastes excellent served lightly chilled with a platter of aged cheddar and nuts.
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana En Rama (RRP $53.99) Special $49.99
La Gitana En Rama is bottled twice a year when the flor yeast is at its thickest which makes for a highly sought after sherry for those who want a dry, authentic taste of the best. And this is a superbly flavoursome dry sherry with earthy, nutty, salty flavours from the heavy flor yeast, which averages five years of age from this solera system.
The words En rama tend to suggest a sherry which has been bottled straight from the barrel, without any fining or filtration. In this case, the en rama releases do go through a little finishing treatment with a low temperature fining process and a rough plate filtering. This process means the sherry is lightly cloudy and retains some of its lees influence in both appearance, body and taste.
La Gitana En Rama It was first made in 2011 when just 300 precious bottles of this adventurous sherry were released.
The words La Gitana are Spanish for the gypsy and the name comes from a legendary bar in Malaga, run by a gypsy, where this sherry was popular.
A rare sherry producer
Bodegas Hidalgo is one of the few independent sherry producers remaining in Andalucia in the south of Spain - the home of sherry. All of its grapes come from its own vineyards, another rarity these days and one that definitely supports the universally high quality of its wines, which are made at Sanlúcar de Barrameda near the Guadalquivir River, at sea level. The continuous exposure to sea breezes bears a strong influence on the quality of the wines and their long aging process, helping to keep barrels moist in the solera system, which creates a slow and steady aging.
Hidalgo produces about 200,000 cases of sherry and brandy every year.