Spanish food and wine is gaining momentum in Hong Kong – more Spanish restaurants and tapas bars have opened over the past few years than in the previous ten years! Wine lovers are discovering the vibrant personality of whites like Albarino and Verdejo and the quirky personalities of red grape varieties like Bobal and Mencia. Sadly, Sherry still carries with it an old-fashioned image rather than a hip one.
I love good Manzanilla, though good Fino is also welcome. So I was particularly thrilled to be part of a lunch organized by BBR recently with Tim Holt from Bodegas Barbadillo to taste Sherries that range from young and fresh to over 100 years old. From the dry white Palomino to the Pedro Ximenez Reliquia, the Barbadillo wines are superb. My only complaint is: Why did it take them so long to launch their wines in Hong Kong?
1. Barbadillo, Oloroso Reliquia, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Andalucia, Spain
This is a gorgeous Oloroso with flavours that are so intense and concentrated that you can only take small sips of the wine. Flavours range from dried rose petals and wild herbs to toasted, almost burnt nuts to charcoal. The flavours evolve in the glass and every time you take a sip, you seem to find something new. The colour, compared with the Amontillado Reliquia is darker with a brown tinge rather than amber/orange. Incredibly long length. Apparently there are only 20 bottles of this wine left in Barbadillo’s cellar. (95)
2. Barbadillo, Pedro Ximenez Reliquia, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Andalucia, Spain
This Pedro Ximenez Reliquia is impossible not to love. Filled with sweet flavours of dried figs, cooked plums with cloves, cinnamon and honey, this is an elixir. Each sip is like an explosion of at least five different spice and honey inspired desserts. Its texture is thick and syrupy with amazing concentration. Enjoy it in small sips. (95)
3. Barbadillo, V.O.R.S. 30 Year Old Amontillado, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Andalucia, Spain
Gorgeous Amontillado that is expressive, complex and very long in the finish. Its intense brown amber colour aptly reflects its toffee, caramel and mixed nut aromatics. Filled with layers of toasted hazelnuts, burnt sugar and marzipan flavours, the wine changes in the glass throughout the night. This is a wine I can drink in the beginning or throughout a meal. The flavours are so intense it is almost a meal in itself. (95)
4. Barbadillo, Palo Cortado Reliquia, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Andalucia, Spain
An intense Palo Cortado that, like the Oloroso Reliquia, is best enjoyed in small sips. Intensely salty flavours dominate at first then the flavours open up to reveal toasted hazelnuts, forest floor, dried wood and burnt leaves. The flavours are intense and very concentrated. An extreme Sherry whose age is off the charts – Barbadillo managers will only say it is well over 100 years old. (94)
5. Barbadillo, Amontillado Reliquia, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Andalucia, Spain
I wanted to like this more, given its pedigree and the fact that the wine is from 100 year old wines. However, I found it a bit dried out on the palate though the finish is more exciting. It also did not help that the wine followed the expressive, intense 30 Year Old Amontillado. The wine enters with a gentleness, a sweet nuttiness that rises to a crescendo of dried leaves and burnt nuts. The flavours linger for a long time on the palate and as Director of the bodega, Tim Holt, says, “It is a meditation wine; like climbing a mountain, you don’t do it everyday.” (92)
6. Barbadillo, Manzanilla Solear, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Andalucia, Spain
We were first served this wine too warm, close to 20ºC, and the flavours at that temperature ranged from fresh dough to blanched almonds. Then in the second pour, the wine was properly chilled to below 8ºC and the wine was fresher, more lively with the wonderful salty finish that I love in Manzanilla. This Manzanilla is less salty and minerally than many others I have enjoyed but Tim Holt, the Director from Barbadillo says the wine had about 7 years of aging while the norm is between three to five years. Wonderful, versatile drink and best at below 10ºC. (88)