Over 200 years have passed since the prominent and enterprising Don Juan Sanchez de la Torre founded this venerable sherry house. The company has distinguished itself for the unsurpassed quality of its products many times over, receiving coveted appointments as purveyor to the Royal Family of Spain, the Vatican and the House of Lords.
The firm currently owns five large vineyards and a large vivification facility in Jerez, Spain’s famed sherry growing region. The company concentrates on two product lines. One is its very successful deluxe brandy, Cardinal Mendoza, one of the most expensive brandies produced outside France’s Cognac district. The other is its array of premium sherries. Jerez’s traditional solera system ensures the quality of both lines.
A solera is a labor-intensive, extensive and expensive network of barrels, designed for the aging and blending of sherries and brandies. There are six basic categories of sherries, ranging from bone dry to very sweet. Soleras for each style of wine are set up containing anywhere from three to fourteen rows of American oak casks. These are usually stacked one row upon the other; oldest at the bottom, youngest on top. Just before bottling, approximately one third of the wine in each bottom barrel is drawn off to be blended with wines from other soleras. The quantity of wine missing from each bottom tier barrel gets replenished from the next row up, and so on, up to the top. Each final wine of a solera network really consists of small fractions of wines coming from six or seven, to a hundred or more different vintages!
Sherry starts out as a white wine, made predominantly from a grape called Palomino. To “fortify” this base wine, high-proof grape brandy is added. To provide the lusciousness which is the hallmark of all great cream sherries, rich, nectar-like wines, made from sun-dried Pedro Ximdnez grapes, are also blended in.
This fine example has a medium-dark mahogany/amber hue and a sumptuous, nutty, woody, raisiny bouquet. A marriage of wine and brandy, its texture is intense, yet soft; sweetness moderate. Flavors of raisins, dates, almonds, and walnuts co-mingle and linger.
What a pleasure to sip with holiday fruitcakes or “Prianik” (Russian style ginger bread) while watching a tape of “The Nutcracker”.
Cellaring Notes: Delicious now. Unopened, will keep indefinitely.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper