Plan Flor: how yeast adds an extra dimension | Wine
Release of Tío Pepe en Rama 2022, Spain NV (from £16.50, thewinesociety.com; ocado.com; leaandsandeman.co.uk; tanners-wines.co.uk) Most wines do not follow a particularly strict release schedule. It’s usually a matter of when the wine feels ready to go, which varies greatly by producer, region, and the style they’re looking to make. But there are a few brands and styles that are very seasonal. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the Beaujolais Nouveau, which “arrives” as the old advertising slogan says, on the third Thursday of November each year. Over the past decade, however, wine lovers have come to anticipate another seasonal outlet: rama sherry. These are dry fino and manzanilla styles that are bottled straight from the cask, unfiltered and unclarified, in the spring. The idea is that the wines have an extra level of flavor, freshness and depth at this time of year, a claim that is certainly true about the magnificent 2022 release of Tío Pepe, a concentrated essence of salty- sourdough-tasty.
Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, Spain NV (£12.99, Waitrose) The key to the intensity of spring-bottled rama sherry is found in a quirk of yeast production known as flor that characterizes all fino and manzanilla sherry, rama or otherwise. Simply put, flor is a thick layer of yeast that forms on the surface of sherry as it ages in barrel. The flower protects the sherry from oxygen and gives fino and manzanilla sherries their distinctive Marmitey tones – flavors very different from those found in super sweet oloroso or pedro ximénez styles where the flower layer does not form. According to Tío Pepe, the 2022 version was drawn from 96 barrels at a time – March 23 to be precise – when the flower is thickest, “permeating” this sherry, as they say quite poetically, “d ‘wonderful salinity and flowering. ”. However, the depth, intensity and complexity of dry sherry is not limited to bottling times. The glorious intensity of Bodegas Hidalgo’s superb single-vineyard manzanilla is just as much tied to an extended aging (12 years) in barrel before release.
Domaine Macle Cotes du Jura Tradition, Jura, France 2016 (from £45, shrinetothevine.co.uk; vinetrail.co.uk) The sherry bodegas of Jerez and the nearby estuary of Sanlúcar de Barremeda (home of the manzanilla) are by far the most famous exponents of flora-influenced winemaking, where the layer of yeast lends a satisfying salty touch even to styles the cheapest and lightest, such as the highly thirst-quenching Morrisons Fino Sherry (£5.25). But southern Spain is not the only place where flora flourishes. In recent years, adventurous winemakers around the world have been inspired to grow their own flower, and I’ve tried successful (non-fortified) examples from Chile, Argentina, California, and Australia. But the place with the longest and most intriguing history of flor wine outside Andalucia is the rural Jura region of eastern France, where vineyards are interspersed with pastures for the cows that produce Comté cheese. Domaine Macle produces some of the finest examples I have encountered, with the Tradition dry white, a richly complex, nutty, unfortified dry white wine that has aged for three years under the veil of yeast.
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