When Peter Sisseck declared he was going to make Spain’s greatest white wine and focused his energy on producing a Fino, this shone a light on the work already happening in the region to improve quality and vineyard expression.
Word is also spreading about the merits of enjoying sherry in a proper wine glass and of course the key cool serving temperature, not the back-of-the-cupboard Christmas tipple that has muddied sherry’s great reputation.
Peter’s selection of prime vineyards and conversion to organics is bringing his savoir-faire from Ribera del Duero and Saint-Émilion to southern Spain where, after decades of conventional agriculture, a change in direction will make a welcome difference.
The focus on single vineyards is an uphill but worthy battle that has been gaining momentum in the region. At the recent annual Big Fortified Tasting in London, many producers were citing their different pagos (vineyards) and which were best suited to a lighter-style Fino or Manzanilla (Miraflores) or a weightier, richer Fino or Olorosso (Marchanudo or Balbaína). The complex ageing and blending of the solera system in Jerez mean that true vineyard expression in any given bottle will take decades of work. However, the fruits of Peter’s labour are already evident in these wonderful annual releases of Viña Corrales.
Bottled once yearly, in the spring, when the layer of protective flor is at its thickest and strongest, the climatic conditions of the previous year can be felt in the finished wine. In this case, the very dry 2021/ 2022 winter resulted in a thinner layer of flor forming and so the wine flirts with the ‘Fino Amontillado’ style of old. Each ‘saca’ (bottling) brings with it a fresh interpretation of Balbaína.
Fine Wine Sales Executive
The landscape in Jerez is otherworldly. Once an ancient seabed, the rolling hills of chalky white albariza soils give the impression of landing on the moon rather than arriving at the southerly tip of the Iberian Peninsula. This gentle undulation creates microclimates according to the different elevations and proximities to the Atlantic Ocean, the key cooling factors that bring respite to the ever-hotter climate in Jerez. In early April 2023, the thermometer hit 36°C...
Jerez has a rich winemaking history, with first records of wine production in the area dating back 3,000 years and one of the first Vintners Guilds founded in 1483 (later dissolved). Furthermore, the denomination ‘Jerez-Xérès-Sherry’ was the first legally protected denomination of origin (DO) in Spain. However, during the sherry boom of the 1970s, a sense of terroir was lost in the melee of mass production but there has been a resurgence of the category in the last decade, focusing on single vineyard expression, much like the grower champagne movement.
|What is en rama?|
Literally ‘from the branch’, en rama sherries aim at unworked purity, typically achieved by an annual saca (withdrawal from the solera and subsequent bottling) in the spring, when the protective layer of flor yeast is at its thickest, with no fining. The wines tend to be more deeply coloured, with marked yeasty flor character and greater palate texture. They can be enjoyed upon release but there is no rush. For example, a recent tasting of Viña Corrales showed that the 2021 saca has aged beautifully in bottle.
Fino Vina Corrales Pago Balbaina NV (Ex-Cellar 2022)
Golden hay-like colour, notably richer than mass-produced styles of Fino. The nose is a delight, with perfumed aromatics of camomile, cherry blossom and almonds that keep twisting and turning in the glass. Thanks to the en rama nature of contact with the lees and the absence of fining, there is a creamy palate that finishes with a moreish lick. This leaves me hungry for plate of clams al aljilo or a bowl of spaghetti alle vongole. There is no need for any prior passion for sherry to appreciate the magic of this Fino!
£203.70/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, INC VAT
Corney & Barrow Score 18+
Recommended drinking from now–2025