Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Apostoles 30 Year Old Palo Cortado

Majestic, £15.99

"So come fill up your glasses of brandy and wine..." trad. Irish.

This seemed as good a way as any to start the evening, before embarking on my annual attempt on 15 pints at The Pogues' Christmas gig.

The idea of adding brandy to wine is clearly the work of a great mind, but does also have a few advantages aside from the obvious. Firstly fortification is used to preserve wine, especially on voyages, from Portugal to England say. And the Andalusians have refined the technique as a method of killing the flor yeast, which grows on top of dry Sherry during maturation and gives it its distinctive flavour, but cannot survive above 16% alcohol. By killing it at different points, or not allowing it to form at all, different styles of Sherry can be produced.

The wine I chose was the 30 year old Apostoles Palo Cortado. A style fawned over by critics who, almost universally describe it as "rare". Of course, it's not any more, because everybody loves it. But that's neither here nor there, once upon a time it apparently was, and that was down to a quirk in the wine-making process...

The very finest wines are selected after fermentation to become the drier styles of Sherry (Manzanillas, Finos and Amontillados), which age under flor, unlike the richer Oloroso styles. Palo Cortado, is one of the finer wines but one on which the flor mysteriously dies. From then it undergoes an Oloroso style ageing process, with full contact to air and its oxidative effect.

Unfortunately it turned out that mine had something else added as well as the brandy. A pretty questionable bit of vinification had led to the wine being bastardised by the addition of some Pedro Ximinez, one of Sherry's sweet grapes.

There's a little tang on the nose and some nuttiness. The palate shows lemons and lots of raisins and dried fruit, but the balance is all off.

Palomino Fino is a terrible grape, and produces pissy, weak wine with very little structure or acidity. Even the addition of a minute amount of PX here upsets it horribly, and the resulting wine has nothing to counteract the little bit of added sweetness.

It went well with some equally nutty-sweet Parma ham, but overwhelmed a couple of indistinct French cheeses. A hunk of Stilton smeared with some of my '09 Windfall Chutney (showing nicely in the jar despite its relative youth) was more its thing.

Still, probably worked out better than my idea of pouring half a tin of Red Bull into a pint of Guiness a few hours later.

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