In Alabaster at lunchtime you get a lot of things – you get top class fish (today sardines, anchovies and hake), you get stylish surroundings and great service, but most of all you get Fran and Oscar – two of the best maitres/sommelieres you could ever hope to come across.
Years ago Oscar used to give me Equipo Navazos in the low numbers before I knew what it was and I met Fran for the first time socially at Sherryfest, when we were both tasting Emilio Hidalgo: these boys reallly know their sherry. So when they suggest a fortified wine from Catalunya (Amporda, to be slightly more precise) you definitely give it a go.
This is a 2009 red garnacha “rancio” – has literally been allowed to oxidize like an oloroso (not sure for how long) and the result is very interesting. It is a red brown in colour and has a fine, red fruity nose to it – very elegant beak.
On the palate it was dry but something that struck me was the absence of salt and iodine (it seemed less serious as a result) and the lack of volume – the sense of buttery oil and bread. The flavours of barrel and oxygen were there – caramel and treacly fruit in a pretty interesting range of flavours, and the finish was as easy as the nose – nice and light.
Overall a very accessible sup, but while I liked it I just don’t think it had the all around depth of character and complexity of a sherry. More interesting to me was the fine quality of it – something you would associate with a very good amontillado or palo. Are we making oloroso with the right grapes? It is an interesting (if impertinent) question.