Sherry Fest blew through NYC this past week and it has put one of the most historic wine regions of the world back on the map in a big way.  Now you may be thinking you know what Sherry is, but chances are you don’t.  No, Sherry is not wine for cooking or for an afternoon tipple for Aunt Ginny; it is a very historic wine dating back hundreds of years, with strong traditions that liken it to such regions as Port or Madiera.  Many people think that Sherry is a sweet fortified wine, but that is not true either necessarily.  Sherry, like Madiera or Riesling, for example, comes in a wide range of styles.  Some are light and dry, others nutty and oxidized, others concentrated and sweet.  I can’t begin to go into the minutia of the different styles of Sherry and how they are made here because it is too complex.  One would do better to read the new book “Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla.” by Peter Liem, one of the co-organizers of Sherryfest along with Rosemary Gray.  And I will go on the record here to say that I really don’t know all that much about Sherry, though this week has been a crash course for myself along with large number of other folks who took part in Sherryfest.  I don’t have a lot of takeaways on Sherry as it is new to me, but I will say this:  Sherry comes in a wide range of styles and it does not taste like conventional wine so you need to approach it with an open mind and you may be surprised.  There are also many examples which come in the convenient 375m. 1/2 bottle size for under $15 buck and that makes trying a range of Sherry’s very possible for all of us.  Let the adventure begin.

Below are some of the highlights from the Sherryfest Grand Tasting.  I could not have possibly tried all the wines as there were hundreds available to taste.  Here is a selection of highlights from what I did manage to taste.

Valdespino: Jerez de la Frontera. The Fino Inocente is a single vineyard Fino from Macharnudo Alto and is the only Fino that is still fermented in cask. This rarity is crisp and dry with a nice fino salty streak.  The Manzanilla Delisciosa is a personal favorite and its dry crisp floral character is amazing with seafood.  The Tío Diego Amontillado is another favorite.  Carmel brown, it is blessed with great acidity.  A wine of great personality.

Emilio Hidalgo: Jerez de la Frontera.  Bottled in a more conventional style bottle, the wines of Emilio Hidalgo are certainly a breed apart.  I love the Emilio Hidalgo wines from the La Panesa Fino Especial with its bone dry salinity to the Marqués de Rodil Palo Cortado with it’s burnt wood nuttiness and lemon salinity, to the Villapanés Oloroso with it’s pungent caramel acidity and long finish.

Almocadén:  Jerez de la Frontera.  Almocadén is a small traditional bodega and they were sampling two excellent wines at Sherryfest.  The Amontillado had a sweet burnt caramel character and a nice finish, while the Oloroso had great cinnamon and spice and lite notes of raisin.

La Guita: Sanlúcar de Barrameda.  This is one of the coolest wines from Jerez as the company only makes one wine, the La Guita Manzanilla with notes of lite hazelnut and a light creamy deliciousness.  I love the one wine only play.  Ballsy!

Hidalgo-La Gitana: Sanlúcar de Barrameda.  One of the historic houses of Jerez with an impressive array of wines.  The Napoleón Amontillado was an easy favorite with its approachable nutty savory character.

Also from Hidalgo-La Gintana the Faraón Oloroso VORS is a rare and phenomenal wine with great depth and length and characteristic burnt wood meets caramel aromas.

César Florido: Chipiona.  I only tried one wine from this producer, but what a wine.  The Palo Cortado Peña del Aguila had a great sweet and spicy balance with great notes of wood and salinity.  A great Palo Cortado.

Gutiérrez Colosía: El Puerto de Santa María.  The last table I tasted was one of the finest.  I loved the entire range of their wines though only the Fino is pictured here.  They were showing an excellent Fino with a nice flor meets nuts aroma, a fine Amontillado of caramel and burnt toast with a good finish, a great Oloroso with brine and burnt caramel, a Cream with a raisiny burnt caramel character, and Moscatel with a great cordial meets sour orange nose, as well as a prune cake meets raisin Pedro Ximénez.

And I was lucky enough to chat with the two lovely daughters of Juan Carlos Gutiérrez and Carmen Pou about their wines and life in Spain.

And if the Sherryfest Grand tasting wasn’t enough, we also got to eat Jamón and drink more Sherry at Pata Negra while hanging with folks from a couple prime bodegas:  Barbadillo and Emilio Hidalgo!

Steve Cook represented the Barbardillo wines and it was great to chat with him and his wife Carmen.  We also enjoyed some more fine wines from Emilio Hidalgo with Fernando Hidalgo and co-organizer of Sherryfest Peter Liem was in the house looking dapper.  We mingled Spanish Tapas style at Pata Negra and it took me back to my days in Spain.