I am mainly referring to dry Sherry, particularly fino or manzanilla, which can cost as little as €13-€14 for a full bottle, despite having been aged for five years and constantly monitored and tasted.
No other wine is as difficult to make, yet a glass of fino in a bar in Jerez can cost as little as €1.
Fino is made from Palomino grapes grown in the dry, hot soil of Andalucia, around the city of Jerez.
The grape juice is fermented to 11.5% ABV and then fortified to 15% with the addition of grape spirit.
The wine is then added to a barrel that already contains some wine from the previous year, plus a fluffy white yeast, called flor.
The flor protects the wine from oxygen, but, as a living organism, it also feeds on the oxygen in the barrel, as well as the alcohol, drying out the wine by removing glycerine and changing its texture, scent and flavour.
Tio Pepe is the best-known fino sherry and the benchmark for the region. There are 22,000 barrels of Tio Pepe in Jerez and one of the great pleasures of visiting their bodega is being given a taste straight from the barrel.
To save you the trip to Jerez, Tio Pepe have, over the last few years, released a small quantity of En Rama (raw) Tio Pepe, which is transferred straight from barrel to bottle, with no filtration or stabilisation — or any interference at all.
The wine is taken from 60 carefully chosen barrels and only 16,000 bottles are released for the world — think of En Rama as Tio Pepe’s wild cousin.
Tio Pepe En Rama is normally hard to come by, but it is for sale in Manning’s, in Bantry, and a few other outlets, but crucially, it is available on the menu in Manning’s Café and in Ballymaloe House, where it can be enjoyed with food — try with any seafood, especially prawns, calamari or fish and chips.
Stockists: Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey; The Quay Co-Op, Organico, Bantry; Clontarf Wines; The Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny A fino from the Montilla-Morilles region near the town of Montilla north of Malaga.
Lemon oil and unblanched almond aromas, refreshing, clean dry palate with a touch of salt and lemon rind. As a 50cl bottle this will work well for lunch (eg, summer tapas in Mannings).
Stockist: O’Briens It’s summer, so it’s time for Rosé. Produced by the top Sancerre house of Henri Bourgeois, O’Briens have just a limited supply of this wonderful rosé so you might want to telephone first or order via their website www.wine.ie.
It has subtle strawberry and red currant aromas, and ripe red fruit flavours, followed by a dry elegant finish.
Made from the ultra-fashionable Bobal grape in Utiel-Requena near Valencia. This is entry level rosé but I would take it over many an Anjou or Provence rosé at twice the price.
Boiled sweets and red wine gums aromas, rich red fruit on the palate and a clean finish. Serve chilled to dull down a little of the residual sugar, and serve with spicy food or a barbecue.
Stockists: Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey; Selected O’Briens and Independents
Creamy mineral-infused aromas with a distinct bakery scent mixed with chamomile.
On first taste the wine is salty and fresh, bone dry, yet also textured and rich with lingering hugely complex aromas and flavours and a stony and mineral crisp finish. Best drunk in the next couple of months.
Stockists: Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey; 1601, Kinsale; World Wide Wines; Terroirs; The Corkscrew
Valdespino are due to release their own en rama in the coming weeks and Mannings have some already booked — they have a sinfully low corkage rate of just €3 so why not drink it on the premises?
The regular Innocente has aromas of salted almonds, brioche and seawater.
Stockists: O’Briens; 1601, Kinsale; 64 Wines, Glasthule; Deveneys, Dundrum and Rathmines The de Sours Rosé is a little lighter in colour these days but still in my top three favourite rosés.
Complex red berry fruit aromas with redcurrant and raspberries — cherry and strawberry on the front of the palate followed by dried red fruits, some structure and a dry elegant finish. Not for beginners.