More from my mate Guillermo – palulu, aka liquorice, the root of the glycyrrhiza glabra.
Traditionally you chop it into kindling and chew on the result, and what you get is a top class descriptor of the flavours to be found in inland, river influence manzanillas and, imho, even more so in finos from Montilla Moriles.
Behold, a bunch of esparto grass. A gift from the great Guillermo Ocampo, it is a thing of joy and a learning tool of enormous value. Makes me want to hit the fino in a big way.
A good friend of mine recently gave me a chunk of liquorice root – known here as “palulu” – because he maintained that it was important to my wine tasting education to understand this substance. We duly chopped the thing into kindling (using ever larger and sharper knives in defiance of all health and safety regulations and indeed common sense) and gave the splinters a good old suck and chew. The flavour was fascinating – a bitter, sappy aniseed – not to mention the sensation of chewing wood.
He was dead right about its importance in wine tasting terms. It is one of those flavours that you find deep in a lot of the wines from down South, and in particular, I find, in some of these pedro ximenez finos from Montilla Moriles.
This fino by Lagar Blanco – with which we kicked off an excellent lunch at La Malaje yesterday – is one that I have wanted to write about before. It is a seven year old fino that has developed nutty aromas and flavours but underneath there is just a hint of palulu bitterness, which I must admit I had found a little disconcerting in the past (before I embraced the chewing of the root itself). Punchy nose and a gentle, seawater salinity to it – not as sharp or sleek a profile as some and plenty of volume in the mouth, with a nutty character of raw almonds and that hint of rooty devilry.
At a tasting of very old pedro ximenez this week there was an interesting discussion of the citrus aromas and flavours of some of the wines and someone came up with this brilliant comparison: the concentrated, bitter but orangey smell of your hands after peeling an orange. Have just peeled an orange and the descriptor is spot on (from memory at least, I am short of 80 year old PX to compare it with).
The orange is delicious too.
I am told that if you ask for manzanilla at the feria de jerez this is what you get given. In fact, I am told there are a couple of places in Madrid where you run the same risk.
In all seriousness, you can see why this and the real manzanilla share a name – the sweetish aroma of floral herbs can be very similar.
Not that I can really comment on the nose and palate of chamomile tea – if I am anywhere near a cup of this it generally means I have a shocking cold.
Here is a flavour I have mentioned liberally on this blog but probably have not tasted in the last 30 years or so (in my youth my grandmother would make us treacle toffee with it – can’t remember having it since). So as soon as I saw it there on the supermarket shelf I had to get some.
As its name indicates it is very dark in colour and despite being a refined sugar product it has a burnt bitterness to it – almost tastes like liquorice. I believe it is the main raw material used to make rum and you can certainly taste that heritage in it. A really dark flavour and one that I find in a lot of the big olorosos, amontillados and palo cortados.
A refined version of salty sea air – like fresh cockles (without vinegar, evidemment)
A clear sign you have slipped over the top of the hill of healthy interest in sherry and onto the slippery downslope of dangerous obsession is when, upon eating a magnificent bacon butty such as this, you start comparing it to biologically aged sherries.
It really was a magnificent butty – thick cut bacon, dijon mustard, a touch of ketchup and, most importantly for my current purposes, an even thicker cut soft, fresh, warm granary loaf. The kind of bread I have in mind when I drink a really top class fino – nutty, yeasty and lots of umami.
Evidently, if I discover a fino with the thick cut bacon as well I will shout it out.