Age before beauty?

Not long ago I was lamenting the fact that the most expensive sherry I could find on a top class wine list was only the 345th most expensive wine on there. As if on cue, Barbadillo have just released a monstrously old, rare wine, with a wonderful back story (and name) and a strictly limited production amontillado called the Versos 1891 and have slapped on it the eye watering price of £8,000 – just over €10.000. (A look back at that same list puts this wine much higher up the pecking order – in the top 20 indeed.)

600x300versos

Now you don’t need me to tell you that this blogger won’t be getting within a mile of this nectar (although I would be happy to have a crack) but, knowing the exceptional talent of enologa Montse Molina and the fabulous wines they have down there, I am prepared to bet it is absolutely top class. I am also prepared to bet, however, that it is somewhat challenging, to use my favourite euphemism. Indeed, in this entertaining post by Victoria Moore in the Telegraph she notes that: “The wine itself is insanely intense.”

It worries me. Is “insanely intense” the definition of excellence for the wines of Sanlucar? Not for me. I must admit when I started taking a serious interest in sherry I was fascinated by these really old, big beasts, but the more sherry I drink the more disconcerted I am by the concentration in them. These very old soleras definitely gain in character as the years go by, but with a few exceptions I find a lot of the very old wines difficult. Not just the concentration either. I find the flavours can turn a corner – from chocolate, pine forests and fresh pipe tobacco to dusty leather and stale cigarettes. (Recently I find the super aged wines easier to deal with in the sweeter styles – the very old PXs and moscatels can be absolutely outstanding.)

It brought to mind a comment by Pitu Roca in the Mystery of the Palo Cortado where he talks about the possibility that Jerez gives you of drinking “history”. I wouldn’t dispute that, but by choosing to make a bottle of “history” the most expensive bottle of sherry ever, is there a risk of sending the wrong message? I for one would rather hear that it was the most exceptional bota of all the many thousands the Montse has tasted during her illustrious career – and that is not something I have read so far.

It is just a minor worry – I for one hope that Barbadillo sell all 100 bottles and that their purchasers treasure them. In fact when discussing this issue recently someone made a comment that made me giggle. They reckoned that the way to approach these concentrated wines is to give them a good spell of bottle conditioning to soften the effect – say twenty or thirty years!

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