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Tasting Reviews

Tio Pepe Fino Palmas and Gonzalez Byass VORS Sherries

Founded in 1835, Gonzalez Byass is nowadays a global drinks company making wines from several districts in Spain as well as in Chile, and a range spirits from gin, brandy and vodka, as well as vermouth. These products are found in over 100 countries around the world, many of these markets backed by the company’s own distribution network. However company’s heart is Jerez and in the production of sherry, most notably Tio Pepe Fino, one of the great wines and brands in the world.

Gonzalez Byass hold true to ‘The Pillars of Jerez’, these being the Albariza soil, the varietals of Palomino. Pedro Ximinez and Moscatel, the Biological Aging process with the flor yeast, Oxidative aging with full exposure to oxygen, and the use of the Solera and Criaderas system of blending and maturation. In the making of Tio Pepe Fino, Gonzalez Byass introduced in 2009, the first unclarified and unfiltered ‘En Rama’ bottling fresh from the cask, to show Fino sherry at its purest and most intense. The style has taken the sherry-drinking world by storm. The limited bottling sees a voracious demand for its allocation around the globe.

Xavier Vicente & Antonio Flores

A Visit and Tasting by Antonio Flores and Xavier Vicente
It was an honour to have Gonzalez Byass winemaker and master blender Antonio Flores, and Xavier Vicente, regional sales director conduct a presentation of sherry at Avida Bar in Wellington for distributors Negociants N.Z. Antonio has held his position since 1980, taking over from his father, and now Antonio is training his daughter to follow him. Antonio has won numerous awards for his winemaking work. Antonio and Xavier presented to a group of Wellington hospitality and wine media the Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe ‘Palmas’ and ‘VORS’ ranges of specialty sherries. The ‘Palmas’ sherries are a selection of the best Fino wines, given extensive biological aging, bottled ‘en rama’ style. They are extremely limited in production. The ‘VORS’ range are icons for Gonzalez Byass, made from exclusive soleras, some created over 300 years ago, these wines aged for more than 30 years.

The tasting was a fabulously entertaining one, billed as Antonio and Xavier taking us to Jerez. The smell of the tasting venue with the pungent flor was strong and described as like being in the Tio Pepe winery cellars. Antonio and Xavier’s accents added flair and romanticism, and Antonio, noted for being a sherry poet was evocative in his language. His detail on the history of the company, his life – being born above the winery – the production methods, and the taste descriptions of the wines were truly evocative. While I have enjoyed fine sherry for all my time in the wine trade, I felt as though there was so much to learn, and that I could gain much by spending time with them. Antonio reports there is a ‘sherry revolution’ occurring, with the new generation of drinkers and hospitality professionals taking a greater interest in the sherry wines. My notes on this tasting of extraordinary wines follow.

The Tio Pepe ‘Palmas’
These are fino sherries taken to an advanced age. Their character comes through biological aging with protection from oxidation from the flor yeast which imparts its own effects, in varying ways over time. These are all bottled ‘en rama’ style, direct from the cask. The wines are the ‘2017 Collection’.

Tio Pepe ‘En Rama’ Fino
Bright, light golden yellow colour, lighter edged. The bouquet is very finely concentrated, tightly bound with purepungent flor yeast aromas. This has finesse and purity, with florals and almonds. Very to taste and elegant in body, the palate has very fresh, penetratingly intense flavours of pungent flor yeast, fine nutty elements with florals and saline. The textures are very refined, with thirst-quenching acidity, and the palate has great linearity. This is pure and mouth-wateringly fresh. 100% Palomino, undergoing a minimum of 4 years biological aging, 15.0% alc. and <2.0 g/L RS. A 60/20,000 cask selection. (375 ml) 19.0/20 Feb 2018 RRP $18.00

Tio Pepe ‘Una Palma’ Fino
Pale straw-gold colour. This has great depth and intensity on the nose, almost ‘textural’ in aromatic expression, with savoury pungency of white florals, nuts and yeast. This is taut and elegant, showing power and finesse. Very dry to taste, the palate has richness, penetration and depth, quite up-front and bold, the flor yeast pungent and savoury, unfolding complex nutty and saline notes. Very fine, but firm in body and line, the acidity integrated and subtle. 100% Palomino, aged 6 years under flor, 15.5% alc. and <1 g/L RS. A 3/142 cask selection. (500 ml) 19.0/20 Feb 2018 RRP $52.00

Tio Perpe ‘Dos Palma’ Fino
Bright golden-yellow colour with good depth. This has a full and broad, voluminous nose with harmoniously integrated aromas of nuts and yellow florals, along with savoury, pungent yeastiness along with piquant oak earthy and oxidative elements. Dry to taste, the palate is surprisingly elegant, with pungent savoury yeast with yellow florals, with complexing ethereal hazelnut and nutty, oxidative nuances. The mouthfeel has piquant and lively acidity, the wine with energy, drive and linearity. This has finesse and complex detailing. Beautiful indeed. 100% Palomino, aged 8 years under flor, 15.85% alc. and <1 g/L RS. A 2/150 cask selection. (500 ml) 19.5-/20 Feb 2018 RRP $53.50

Tio Pepe ‘Tres Palma’ Fino
Deep, light golden-yellow colour, a little lighter edged. The bouquet is solid and dense with packed pungency, with savoury yeast blending into nutty oak, hints of rancio, some oak vanilins together with oxidative detail. This is very complex. Dry to taste, the palate is as the nose with an array of savoury pungent yeast and earth, nutty oak, rancio and vanilla elements, with oxidation. A little saline and mineral is present. Great density and with a soft texture and mouthfeel. 100% Palomino, aged 10 years under flor, 16.0% alc. and 1.6 g/L RS. A selection of one cask (#32) from 150. (500 ml) 19.0+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $80.00

Tio Pepe ‘’Cuatro Palma’ Amontillado
Light mahogany colour with orange hues and some depth. The bouquet is fulsome with soft and layered complexities showing roasted and grilled, savoury nuts and yeast in a deep amalgam with toasted oak and rancio, and caramel elements. Dry to taste, the palate is decadent and opulent, with densely-packed, succulent and lush flavours of grilled nuts and pungent, earthy-savoury yeast. Nutty and oxidative detail and a rancio-like overlay. The flavours fill the palate, unfolding continued nuance and richness. This has immense depth and boldness. A true statement wine of sensational individuality. 100% Palomino, the wine 52 y.o., 21.9% alc. and 5.9 g/L RS. Selected from 1/6 casks. (500 ml) 19.0+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $145.00

The VORS Sherries
‘Soleras Exclusivas’, the wines from rare soleras, some created over 300 years ago. They are fortified to 18.0% alc., so flor will not form, and the wine aged oxidatively, in full contact with air. The wines here at least 30 y.o., and classified as VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum, or colloquially ‘Very Old Rare Sherry’.

Gonzalez Byass ‘Del Duke’ Amontillado VORS
Light mahogany colour with some depth, and tawny rim. The bouquet is soft and ethereal, building in rich, enveloping ethereal aromas of dark, dried nuts with pungent elements, hints of caramel, oak and rancio-like detail, becoming exotically savoury and decadent. Dry to taste and fullish bodied, this is very powerful, concentrated and intense on the palate, with a complex array of dark and savoury nutty and dried fruit flavours, along with an amalgam of wood and caramel. This is very dry with a sense of austerity, along with acid cut simultaneously expressed with opulence. Amazing maturation characters. 100% Palomino aged under flor and then fortified, and aged 30 years. 21.5% alc. and <t5 g/L RS. (375 ml) 19.0+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $60.00

Gonzalez Byass ‘Apostoles’ Medium VORS
Deep mahogany colour with orange hues on the rim. The bouquet is rich and dense and very harmoniously integrated with layers of dried fruits, with fruit-cake nuances, soft and savoury nutty oak, with a melding of caramel and hints of rancio detail. Sweet on the palate and medium-full bodied, this is supremely elegant and refined, and velvety smooth in flow. The mouthfeel is silky, with an interwoven array of flavours of soft nuts and fruits, with aromatic caramel notes and rancio suggestions. This has a very fine and taut core, and very long finish. Sensational. 87% Palomino and 13% Pedro Ximinez, aged 30 years, 20.0% alc. and 50 g/L RS. (375 ml) 19.5+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $60.00

Gonzalez Byass ‘Matusalem’ Cream VORS
Very deep and dark mahogany colour, a little lighter on the rim. This has a very solid and fulsome, well-packed bouquet of fruit-cake, caramel and hints of molasses, spices and raisins and very fine rancio-wood notes. Complexity with richness here. Very sweet to taste and fullish bodied, this is up-front with its soft lusciousness and decadence. Fruit-cake, raisins and chocolate notes intermingle with savoury nutty flavours and definite rancio and wood elements Almost sweet and sour, but with overriding opulence. Quite unctuous and viscous in mouthfeel, truly palate-coating. 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximinez, aged 30 years. 20.5% alc. and 140 g/L RS. (375 ml) 19.5-/20 Feb 2018 RRP $60.00

Gonzalez Byass ‘Noe’ Pedro Ximinez VORS «««««
Very dark, deep, black-hued mahogany colour with olive green hues on the edge. The bouquet has great concentration and density, and is packed with aromas of ultra-ripe dried fruits, figs, raisins and sultanas along with spices, caramel and nuances of nutty oak. Very, very sweet, the palate has masses of flavour with layers of opulent and decadent flavours of raisins and sultanas, with fruit-cake and pudding, along with caramel, coffee and chocolate. Some nutty oak and savoury rancio traces are evident. The mouthfeel is viscous and extremely unctuous. This oozes across the palate. Incredible concentration and richness here. 100% Pedro Ximinez, aged 30 years, 15.5% alc. and >400 g/L RS. (375 ml) 19.5-/20 Feb 2018 RRP $75.00

Antonio Flores demonstrating a venencia
 - used for drawing sherry cask samples
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