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 More on Sherry
 Eric Texier 2000 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc ($25)

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More on Sherry

Every now and then a Wine Advisor topic generates such an unexpected amount of responses in E-mail and on our interactive forum that it demands a quick follow-up to cover all the questions and comments that came in.

Given my perception that Sherry is a niche market even among serious wine fanciers, I was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of mail that followed Monday's brief discussion and tasting note.

So let's stick with the subject for one more day as I hit some of the high points raised in your responses.

A full bottle of Sherry, a fortified wine with an alcohol content typically ranging from 16 to 20 percent, is really too much of a portion for an individual or even a couple to handle in a sitting. So it's no surprise that the most frequently asked question about Sherry is, "How long can I keep it once I've opened the bottle?"

I wish there was a simple answer, but the correct response is, "It depends." Exposure to air causes quick deterioration in wine, but Sherry - like its cousin Madeira - is naturally oxidized, so additional exposure to oxygen isn't as harmful to most Sherries as it is to table wines. Alcoholic fortification also helps preserve it.

So, particularly the heavier and sweeter Sherries - Olorosos and Creams, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez - will hold up quite well if you simply put the cork back in and put them in the refrigerator. They won't keep forever. Eventually their flavors will become dull and funky. But Sherries of this style should be drinkable for a week to several weeks, depending on your taste - and may remain usable as a cooking ingredient for longer still.

Don't try this with Fino, however, or with its cousin Manzanilla. These are the lightest and most delicate Sherries, and they are fragile, deteriorate quickly once the bottle is opened. I would keep leftover Fino or Manzanilla tightly corked in the refrigerator and plan to enjoy the rest of the bottle within a couple of days.

Also, in contrast with my general advice about serving Sherry at room temperature or cool cellar temperature, Fino (and Manzanilla) is usually served cold.

Sherry is made to be ready to drink, and it's not really intended for cellaring; it won't evolve significantly (or gain value) from extended aging. But you can keep the richer, sweeter Sherries on a wine rack or in the cellar for some time without any harm being done. Again, don't do this with Fino or Manzanilla. In fact, these delicate items are probably drunk best in Spain, and should be approached skeptically in other parts of the world unless you are dealing with a trustworthy retailer who can assure you that the stock is fresh.

Several experts took me to task for failing to mention this category in Monday's article. Guilty as charged. Frankly, to keep the article within our highly stretchable "30 second" limit, I neglected to mention it. Dry and tart, delicate and subtle, Manzanilla is similar to Fino but is made in Sanlucar de Barrameda, about 15 kilometers away from Jerez (Sherry), and has a character all its own.

The conventional wisdom expects a "salty" taste in Manzanilla (sometimes attributed to its proximity to the seacoast), although I'm not convinced that I could consistently tell a Manzanilla from a Fino in a blind tasting. If you're buying Manzanilla, follow the same rules as for Fino: Buy it fresh, don't let it age, and don't expect the leftovers to last.

I had at least one request from a reader looking for a $100 bottle of Sherry for a special gift. Frankly, Sherry is such a value category that I'm not aware of any bottles approaching that price.

However, one respected Sherry producer, Emilio Lustau, offers a fairly wide range of Sherries labeled "Almacenista," making commercial use of an old Sherry-industry term for suppliers who sell what might be described as "small-batch" Sherries from individual producers or vineyards. Lustau Almacenistas usually retail in the $20 to $40 range and can be quite interesting. For more information check the Emilio Lustau Website
or look for Almacenistas at,

My pal Hoke Harden, a man with a usually reliable palate - meaning that he mostly likes the same drinks I do - has a distinctly different take on Amontillado, which he expressed in no uncertain terms yesterday in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. Even though I do like the stuff, I can't resist quoting him in full in this minority report:

"Amontillado excites me not.

"Maybe it's because I always associate Amontillado with that dusty bottle of Dry Sack that's been sitting half empty on the back of the shelf for several months waiting for someone to think of it and bring it out for company. Or perhaps it reminds me of those awful 'teas' in college, especially the ones where the professor in his tweedy jacket with the leather elbow patches and the litle belt in the back would dispense the little glasses of Amontillado from those little teardrop-shaped dispensers, one of Amontillado and one of 'Port,' which we'd stand around and drink, trying not to shudder at the awfulness of it all, and wondered how in the world we could graciously beg off and get the hell out of that stuffy room with those pretentious people and go grab a beer and a pizza.

"Maybe it's the fact that most of the Amontillado out there
   a. isn't very good to start with.
   b. is usually old and dead when we get to taste it.
   c. has a definite nutty taste that can also be construed as the antithesis to freshness and purity we normally long for in a wine, and seems old and oxidative and, well, just plain wrong somehow, but we don't want to admit that because people will think we're ignorant.

"I don't know. But to this day, while I can appreciate and acknowledge good Amontillados, I don't really, down deep, like them very much."

All of which demonstrates that, in the world of wine, the only taste buds that we really need to satisfy are our own.

You're always welcome to participate in the online wine conversations in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. To join an interactive round-table online discussion on today's article, click to

The discussion of Sherry that followed Monday's article is still online and still open for reading and replies at

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'm sorry that the overwhelming amount of mail I receive makes it tough to respond personally every time, but I do try to get back to as many as I can.

And now for something completely different, a tasting report on a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a relatively offbeat alternative to this Southern Rhone region's more familiar red wine.

Texier Eric Texier 2000 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc ($25)

This clear, light-gold wine breathes an appetizing mixture of gently oxidative aromatics typical of white Rhones: Honey, almonds and hazelnuts dancing with white fruit and flowers. Fruit is more forward on the palate than the nose, lush tropical flavors of pineapple and kiwi and even a hint of banana oil. Lush if not quite soft, acidity is present, but the steel is cushioned by velvet. Impressive wine, "Vieilles Vignes" (old vines) and unfiltered. U.S. importer: There's no importer label on this wine from NYC's Chambers Street Wines
but Texier is represented by several regional importers including North Berkeley in California and Vintner Select in Cincinnati. See the Texier Website for all U.S. and international distributors. (Jan. 28, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a simple roast chicken, which makes an excellent foil for the wine's rich, robust flavors.

VALUE: Quality white Chateauneuf-du-Pape is not a budget wine, unfortunately, but this is an exceptionally fine wine, certainly a match for its white-wine competitors in the $25 to $35 range.

WHEN TO DRINK: White Chateauneuf-du-Pape is delicious upon release, but it can gain richness and complexity with careful bottle aging. Try holding it five years, but don't bother unless you have good cellar conditions.

WEB LINK: Vins Eric Texier has a comprehensive Website in English at

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find prices and vendors for Texier's Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc on


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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