Tuesday, 23 October 2012.
It was a great pelasure to attend this years' launch of the Gonzalez Byass Palmas Sherries; the masterclass / tasting for this years' launch event was with Gonzalez Byass Master Blender, Antonio Flores, who talked through the current release of four sherries.
A short introduction to the Palmas range. Its a special limited edition bottling, released once a year after selection in Autumn or 'Saca de Otono'. Each year Gonzalez Byass invites a wine professional to help in the selection of casks that will eventually go into the Palmas sherries, their first release in 2011 was graced by Jancis Robinson. This year's release was helped by Anthony Rose of The Wine Gang. The name 'Palmas' originates from the system used to classify the casks in the Bodega, with only the highest quality casks getting the 'Palmas' marking. The youngest casks gets one markiing (hence the name Una Palma) whereas the oldest and rarest ones gets four markings (hence Cuatro Palmas).
The Una, Dos and Tres Palmas Finos started their life in the Tio Pepe solera system before being set aside for the Palmas releases. The Cuatro Palmas Amontillado is drawn from six unique barrels that are in excess of 40 years old - each year one barrel is bottled as Cuatro Palmas. Given that there has been two releases of Cuatro Palmas (in 2011 and 2012), there can only be four more future bottlings of this rather special sherry. All the Palmas sherries are bottled unfiltered, unclarified and unstabilised - 'au naturel' as it were.
These Palmas sherries will hit shop shelves soon - this post will be updated once I hear of merchants stocking them.
Una Palma Fino
Technical note: 6 year old Fino with higher than usual acetaldehyde content of 450mg/l (usual Tio Pepe Fino hovers around 350mg/l). These finos still have a full layer of flor covering the surface. 3 barrels released.
Tasting note: Intense nutty flor notes here; green olives and green almonds, plenty of bready / yeasty characters too, also some brine notes (more specifically the brine that olives normally comes in); very forward and pungent nose, it almost feels like an 'en rama' bottling. On the palate its textbook Fino - zingy and lively, green olives and almonds carries through with focused acidity and bags of savoury notes; very refreshing and clean finish, makes you want more ...
Dos Palmas Fino
Technical note: 8 year old Fino. The flor still covers most of the fino surface but there are some small pockets of exposed Fino allowing for a small amount of oxidation. The acetaldehyde levels are back to approximately 360mg/l as the acetaldehyde is beginning to be consumed by the aging flor. 2 barrels released.
Tasting note: Similar nose to the Una Palmas, but with a slightly nuttier / toasted tang. The green almonds nose are now beginning to show hints of being toasted; still very intense aromas coming through. On the palate its a bit wider and more generous than the Una Palmas; slightly less linear and zingy, its beginning to develop some width on the palate.
Tres Palmas Fino
Technical note: 10 year old Fino. Little / no flor coverage, leaving large areas of Fino exposed to the air for oxidation. Alcohol is at 16.3%, which, in addition to the shortage of nutrients makes it a rather inhospitable place for flor growth, which is why most of them has died away. 1 barrel released.
Tasting note: Nutty aromas are showing; towates almonds and hazelnuts; the green olives and brine notes are mostly gone. Oxidative nose of walnuts, and some vanilla and spice (from the barrels) are coming to the fore. The savoury bite of fino youth replaced by nutty tones and more acidity; really coats well, very settled on the palate, just lingers on and on. Seriously good.
Cuatro Palmas Amontillado
Technical note: 46 year old Amontillado (all of it in barrel). Flor has gone many many years ago, this has undergone a very long period of oxidative barrel aging in the Bodega.
Tasting note: Very complex nose, dried fruits (figs and raisins), polished wood lacquer or old furnitures (presumably from the extensive barrel contact), also vanilla and plenty of nutty oxidative aromas; very intriguing and gives something new each time you go back to it. On the palate theres still a good amount of acidity keeping things fresh and surprisingly youthful; nutty flavours dominate with some wood tannins and spicy floavours towards the finish; coats the palate so well and linger on forever (the finish on this isnt measured in seconds, its minutes). I'm gobsmacked by its freshness and vitality, coupled with so much elegance and poise. Utterly compelling, a great wine by any measure.
Antonio Flores calls the Cuatro Palmas a 'wine for meditation' which should be enjoyed on its own or with very good company. Can't agree more, though it'll have to some very good company for me to want to share this sherry ...