It is from one of the “foundation” soleras – a solera in production since 1860 – at Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo in Jerez, in my view the foremost wine maker in sherry today. Production is limited – there are two “sacas” of 150 bottles per year – manual, and natural. The wine is bottled by hand without any kind of filtering or stabilization. The average age of the wine is well north of 50 years.
We tasted it at the end of an excellent dinner washed down by some very nice chablis and claret and after a decent decant. (I always recommend decanting a really good sherry – especially one of these older specimens.) In terms of accompaniment, we had some dark chocolate arranged but to be honest once we started tasting the sherry we stopped worrying about such distractions.
It is quite unlike a lot of the old palo cortados I have tasted: fine, light, elegant and yet still intense, rich and powerful.
It is a brilliant, very clear, reddish caoba in colour and, as sherries do, has the most amazing nose. From afar, (through the neck of the decanter) it is sweet and fruity – raisins like a PX – but get it up close and swirl it and it has tremendous power and a huge range of notes.
The mouthfeel is clean and fine – nothing oily or dusty here, just silky – and nose is matched by the flavours on the palate: caramel, nuts, then toffee, then treacle toffee, then treacle nut toffee, then chocolate, coffee, tobacco, leather, roast chestnuts. It is almost unbelievably long: just keep tasting it for one, two, more minutes and forget about “after taste” – it holds its shape and its balance beautifully.
More than anything it is strikingly light on its feet for a wine of such power. Many very old wines around now can be excessively acidic or astringent – walnut skin concentrate – but this is compact and balanced. In fact it is almost too easy to drink – the years have just made it lighter and more integrated.
An extraordinary wine – pretty close to perfection and a real privilege in every respect.