In 2010, the major Sherry producer Gonzalez & Byass started an annual tradition by releasing Tio Pepe Fino En Rama in spring or early summer. The difference between the En Rama versionen (rama = “raw” in Spanish ) from regular Tio Pepe is that it is bottled unfiltered in spring, when the yeast layer in the barrels are at their thickest, which is when the wine is considered to be at its best. In addition, only a limited amount is produced, by selecting the best barrels. All Sherry is produced by progressively blending vintages in a so-called solera system, and fino is a dry type of Sherry that has been stored under a yeast film (flor) which gives it a very particular character – love it or hate it. Like all Sherries, fino is oxidised, but only lightly so compared to other versions. To us chemists, acetaldehyde is responsible for some of those particular fino aromas.
Each relase of Tio Pepe Fino En Rama has a different retro label, from some point of time in the history of Tio Pepe, and should ideally be drunk within three months of bottling, since it is bottled in a rather unprotected state. I usually refer to the various releases as “vintages” out of old habit; the bottling date is always given on the bottle.
Fino Sherry is usually very dry with a fresh acidity, chalky and apply on the palate, and with some notes of nuts, usually almond. But over the current release:
Tio Pepe Fino En Rama 2013
Sherry, grape variety: Palomino Fino. Bottled 8 April 2013.
Bright yellow colour. Rather powerful and fruity nose with chalk dust, green and yellow apple, typical yeasty fino notes, some damp straw, some marine aromas with kelp, some almonds and flowery aromas. Good concentration of aromas on the palate, very dry, with chalky mineral notes, green apple, pronounced acidity, some saltiness and marine aromas combined with a hint of bitterness. Foody in style. 88 p.
It has a more powerful nose than a regular fino, and in this release the palate reminds me slightly of a powerful manzanilla, the fino version from Sanlucar de Barrameda that tends to show more marine aromas but which is usually a little lighter in style than regular fino.
Fortified wines have long been “out” in most markets (perhaps with Port being the least out), and they are really an underappreciated wine style, where many truly great wines can be had at a very moderate price. Since a couple of years something of a Sherry trend seems to have started, at least in the UK, followed by an increasing numbers of Sherry bars. Since sweet wines – fortified or unfortified – are also difficult to sell, it is perhaps not as surprising that it is the dry Sherry versions that seem to be leading this comeback.
Watch Jamie Goode taste the 2011 release:
Some recommendations on food and Tio Pepe pairings from the owner of one of London’s Sherry bars.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.