Spain Wine

Sherry: Oloroso

If sherry has been neglected in the last 20 years, oloroso has taken the worst toll. Oloroso has historically been given less attention to quality. The best Palomino Fino would come from albariza soils, and the grapes destined for oloroso would be harvested up to higher sugar content in more fertile vineyards, with more clay. 

The main reason for this has been its lack of biological ageing, for instead being vinified pure oxidatively. The freshness of fino is therefore not required with the same importance and the wine can be treated more harshly. In order to prevent the formation of a flor (a protective film of yeast against oxygen), olorosos are fortified after fermentation to levels around 18% ABV (alcohol by volume). Exposure to oxygen during their barrel ageing in soleras leads to a deep caramelised colour and notes of walnuts, roasted almonds, caramel or toffee. Unlike other regions, barrels are kept and repaired and almost never disposed of. This adds a further layer of complexity to the caramelised character. Moreover, as with amontillados, water evaporates through the pores of the wood as the wine ages, increasing the alcohol content. Usual levels can reach 20-22% ABV. With the reduction of water, the flavours and acidity of the wine also concentrate, providing balance to the higher alcohol percentages.

The best olorosos are dry, nutty, and scented with caramel and fine wood notes. The very best versions exhibit a profile perfumed to orange zest that is reminiscent of Madeira wines. Producers that achieve this quality reliably are Navazos, Tradición, Maestro Sierra, Lustau, de la Riva and Fernando de Castilla. 

The Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso pictured above is one of the best value examples we have tried. It’s technically a VOS coming from a 20 year old individual solera.

Tasting notes:

Fernando de Castilla – Antique Oloroso
Nose:Intense orange zest, honey, caramel, roasted almonds. Very pretty.
Palate:Nuttier than on the nose, very concentrated. The midpalate reveals notes of hazelnuts that stay alongside the orange zest in the finish.
Structure:High alcohol, very full body, dry, high acidity and long finish.

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