“In North America, sherry needs an education. In the UK, sherry is a birthright,” remarked one of the attendees of a recent Bodegas Lustau tasting.
Not being from the UK, I needed the education and Europvin‘s Christopher Cannan was a great choice to give it.
Mr. Cannan is one of the wine world’s most recognized wine exporters. His regions range from Spain to Portugal to Hungary to, of course, Bordeaux. His portfolio features more than 300 labels and with more than 30 years in the industry, his humility is only superceded by his experience.
Bodegas Lustau is from the southwest of Spain, almost in North Africa. The region is very warm and is buffeted by 2 winds; one from the Sahara, the other from the Atlantic. The soil of the region is mostly chalky and that’s where you’ll find the sherry vines, struggling in the white dusty earth.
Sherry grapes are picked in August and on their own make a very boring and insipid white wine. So they are fortified to add some depth along a scale that ranges from very dry to very sweet. Sherry doesnt typically have a vintage. Fractional blending, where portions from various casks are blended for each bottling, insures the product has a consistent taste from year to year to year.
For the sweeter sherries, the grapes are picked and left in the sun for 3 weeks to dry. What’s left is more sugar than juice, but they are pressed nonetheless.
Surprisingly, sherry is very affordable considering the age, effort and quality required to produce each bottle. The Bodegas Lustau flight presented by Mr Cannan wholesales from $9 – $24.
Lustau Manzanilla “Papirusa” Solera Reserva – $9
Bone dry, light, fresh, very tangy. Pairs wonderfully with tapas, shellfish, seafood and sushi.
Lustau Palo Cortado “Peninsula” Solera Reserva – $24
Given 92 points by Wine Advocate, Robert Parker writes “Great balance, intensity and acidity as well as a scorched earth / roasted nut character.” Pairs well with meats, poultry, game and consomme.
Lustau East India Solera – $13
With 94 points from Wine Advocate, Parker calls it “weighty, sweet and provocative. It boasts a dark amber color as well as a huge nose of melted toffee, caramel, figs and prunes.” This was given the name “East India” after sailors found the sherry tasted better after the long trek between England and India. Whether it was the motion of the ocean, or the humidity of India, the sherry tasted better in the colony.
In the end, my palate couldn’t stand up to the sherry challenge. The high alcohol of the wine makes it a sipper, I’m a slugger. My favorite grapes are chardonnay and mourvedre – not exactly the most sophisticated grapes in the vineyard. I’m fine with that, sherry wasn’t.