An old postcard of the La Constancia cellar, which houses the Tio Pepe soleras.

Tio Pepe en Rama & Old Sherry for a New Century

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We eagerly await each year's release of Gonzalez Byass' Tio Pepe en Rama as it is one of our favorite fino sherries, and an exceptional value for the complexity it always offers. This year marks the tenth release of this wine, for which the head winemaker Antonio Flores selected 67 casks across 22 soleras. Richard Hemming MW (in jancisrobinson.com) describes the 2019 release thus:

"During this year's selection, a mild and wet autumn was followed by a cold and dry winter, which created ideal conditions for strong flor growth in the cellars. Consequently, the 2019 is cloudier than last year's, and the aromatic style is definitely more flor than fruit. Head winemaker Antonio Flores refers to this as the 'second element of terroir' (the first being the vineyard). Because this en rama is bottled unfined and unfiltered, and therefore with yeast in suspension, he describes the bottle as the third element of terroir, with the 'natural nutrients giving ageability'."

 

We also have a selection of older sherries, bottled sometime in the 1960s or 1970s (it's very hard to put an exact date on these bottles) coming from the cellar of an Italian collector. Though a lot of these are  individual bottles, we opened a few of the ones we had multiple examples of, and to our great delight they were very interesting and full of life. We did notice some variation, and though not all bottles have aged as excellently as others, each one held its own charm. Though many people will say that sherry shouldn't, and indeed cannot age well in bottle, we'd like to point out the words of noted sherry experts Peter Liem and Jesus Jesús Barquín in their book Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla:

"Conventional wisdom holds that finos and manzanillas should be drunk as quickly as possible after bottling, and that they will begin to deteriorate within in a matter of months. In truth, modern bottling techniques allow the wine to remain more stable in bottle today and, provided they have been properly shipped and stored, finos and manzanillas can retain their original character for up to 18 months.

On the other hand, maintaining the wine’s original character may not necessarily be the goal – and in fact, the authors of the book challenge the notion that fino and manzanilla do not improve with further aging after bottling. While we recognize that we are in the minority on this, contradicting even renowned sherry authorities, our experiences have led us to believe not only that the very finest biologically-aged sherries can improve with time in bottle, but that they often require it to show their best."

Happy hunting among these gems! Oskar Kostecki

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A "sherry" from Sicily? Well, why not!

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