En rama: for keeps?

Literally, “on the vine” an “en rama” is an unfiltered, unclarified wine that was originally intended to reproduce the taste of traditional wines drunk fresh, straight from the barrel.

Most major bodegas now release finos and manzanillas en rama, the most widely available being the Tio Pepe and Barbadillo finos en rama and the Solear and Barbiana manzanillas. (If you are able, you really need to find sherry out of a barrel – in Jerez itself or in La Venencia in Madrid.) The en ramas tend to have more body than the standard releases and for me they seem to express a little more of the bakery flavours.

Perhaps paradoxically, en ramas also lend themselves to bottle ageing, where they are said to subtly grow in complexity and structure. (Being cynical, what lends itself to bottle ageing is really the label, since it has a date on it.)

This one is a 2006 Williams & Humbert. It has oxidized a little and although for me the mosto (the original palomino wine from which the fino is made) is a little muted, it is well balanced, mellow and long.

To be honest I am undecided on the relative merits of bottle ageing vs not. Ageing may accentuate the “florpower” but I feel that the fruit and freshness suffer a little – and these wines are so dry fruit and freshness are valuable qualities. Further study is clearly required. 

So squirrel them away if you must – or crack them open and have at it. I probably tend to the latter, although I am keeping some back just in case.

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