Wed 30 Apr 2014
Every wine writer in the world has probably written a sentence like this five times during his or her career: “Sherry is the most misunderstood product of the vine.” And then goes on to explain again why Sherry matters, how it’s made, its unique properties and so on, fashioning again a plea for understanding. I’m not going to indulge in such folderol now because I’ve done it before, especially here, a post from December 1, 2011.
Bodegas Hidalgo, founded in 1792 and owned now by the sixth generation of the original family, is the last remaining family-operated business to produce and export its own unblended, single-solera Sherries. Hidalgo relies entirely on its estate vineyards, 500 acres of palomino fino grapes, in the chalk areas close to the sea. The family’s bodega is in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, entitling its fino Sherry to the Manzanilla designation. La Gitana Manzanilla (“the gypsy”), is Hidalgo’s flagship wine, product of a family solera established in the early 19th century, around the same time Manzanilla as a wine type came into existence.
The color of La Gitana Manzanilla is very pale gold with a tinge of greenish-silver; a hint of smoked almonds dominates the nose at first, as one expects, but then comes in a maritime element, with sea salt, salt marsh and a briny snap, followed by a touch of lemongrass and an echo of caramelized fennel. In the mouth, this manzanilla is very dry and bracing yet surprisingly viscous, announcing itself as a presence on the palate rather than a congeries of flavors; at bottom, though, a thoughtful earthy and autumnal character emerges: smoke from burning leaves, perhaps, dried moss, and a finishing note of almond skin bitterness. Mind you, all these ethereal qualities are assembled and displayed with utmost delicacy and elegance. 15 percent alcohol. Sipping this, I’m longing for a small plate of grilled octopus with roasted peppers or paper-thin slices of Serrano ham with fresh green olives. Excellent. I paid about $20 for a 500 milliliter bottle; average price in the U.S. is about $18. Either way, a Great Bargain.
Imported by Classical Wines, Seattle, Washington.