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Fragrant Oloroso If ever there was a wine that tasted like its name sounds, it's Oloroso, another Sherry that isn't necessarily sweet.
In distinct contrast with the lighter Fino and Manzanilla Sherries that we discussed in opening this month's online Wine Focus last week, Oloroso is rich, dark and deliciously nutty.
Like Fino, Oloroso is invariably made as a dry wine, its natural sugars fully converted to alcohol by fermentation. In contrast with Fino, Oloroso is not fermented under the natural yeast called "flor" that's the hallmark of most other Sherries. Rather, Oloroso is fortified with the addition of brandy before aging, a move that deters the development of flor because the yeast can't live in a high-alcohol environment. In the absence of flor, the wine oxidizes gently in the aging solera, becoming darker and more nutlike than Fino.
Under the pressures of the marketplace, though, the lion's share of Oloroso is blended with dark, syrupy Pedro Ximenez Sherry to turn it into a sweet, dark wine that's often labeled "Cream Sherry" for export to English-speaking countries, although it's sometimes sold as just-plain Oloroso.
If you're in the market for an unsweet Oloroso - and if you're exploring Sherry and want to discover this Spanish treat at its best, I strongly recommend that you do so - look for the English word "Dry" on the label, as in today's featured wine, the Dry Oloroso "Don Nuño" from Emilio Lustau. This is Oloroso as it ought to be: Coppery bronze in color, with luscious, true scents of freshly cracked mixed nuts and dried fruit, so nearly dry that its slight sweetness shows only as a pleasant touch of brown sugar in the finish.
Serve it lightly chilled, not cold, and sip it in small glasses out of respect for its fortified 20 percent alcohol. Like last week's featured Fino and Manzanilla, this is not your Grandmother's Sherry. If you're up for a wine-tasting off the beaten path, I hope you'll temporarily suspend your disbelief and join us in the WineLovers Discussion Group's Wine Focus on Sherry,
Emilio Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso "Don Nuño" ($20.99)
This is a dark but transparently clear, bronze-color wine with a coppery hue. Appetizing aromas are nutlike and true, cracked walnuts and pecans, with more subtle back notes of dried figs and dates. Nuts and lemony acidity on the palate, full-bodied and quite dry on first tasting, opening up to just a faint hint of dried-fruit, brown-sugar sweetness in the smooth, mellow finish. U.S. importer: Europvin USA, Oakland, Calif., Selected by Christopher Cannan. (June 14, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: This full, dry wine really works best on its own, as an aperitif or for after-dinner sipping in place of a brandy. For the sake of experimentation, I tried it with a Sichuan shredded-beef stir-fry for which I had used a tablespoon or two of Oloroso as an ingredient, and it did work. On the whole, though, I wouldn't normally use Oloroso it a food wine.
VALUE: In comparison with other fortified wines, this Oloroso remains a relative value in the $20 range. Note, however, that Lustau's wines tend to be overpriced in relation to other Sherries in the U.S. Comparison shopping is also prudent, as Wine-Searcher.com shows U.S. vendors ranging from $16.99 to $24.99 for this same wine.
WHEN TO DRINK: The encrypted bottling date, L5040, indicates that this wine was bottled on Feb. 9, 2005, the 40th day of the year. Like all Sherries except Fino and Manzanilla, Sherry keeps very well in the bottle and will last, albeit without any real evolution, for years or even decades.
WEB LINK: Emilio Lustau's content-rich and easy-to-navigate Website is published in English:
Oloroso = "O-lo-ro-so"
Lustau = "Loost-ow"
FIND IT ON WINE-SEARCHER.COM:
For a complete list of international distributors in many countries, see the Emilio Lustau Website,
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