A big, bold start to 2017 – Piñero VORS Oloroso
2016 was a little bit crazy here at Casa Criadera. Our importing business, Sherry Boutique, took off faster than we expected and we also launched an online store. Long days, weekend working and tech headaches all meant that my writing had to take a back seat. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. But 2017 is a new year, and time to get sampling and writing again. The famous stash – where we keep the bottles for reviewing – is bursting at the seams and it’s time to start working my way through it. It’s a tough gig, but I’m equal to the challenge.
My first pick is a sherry I’ve been dying to try since I bought it in Spain in May 2016, from my friend Fede from Cuatrogatos Wine Club. He and I share a philosophy of seeking out the special, the extraordinary, the stuff you don’t just bump into on the high street. I’d already tasted several sherries from Bodegas Juan Piñero, when we visited the bodega in May 2015, but the VORS Oloroso was new to me. I’d said to Fede
here’s my budget, just bring me five wines I won’t have tasted that you reckon I’ll love
and this was in the bundle (along with four other crackers – I’ll be doing that again on my next trip, Fede!).
The accidental bodeguero
Juan Piñero is relatively new at this bodega lark. His main line of business is construction, and he bought two bodegas – one in Sanlucar and one in Jerez – in the late 90s, with a view to redevelopment. And then the economic crisis hit. Thankfully, the bodegas still contained their soleras and, since building was no longer on the agenda, Juan figured it was time to learn about sherry making. He enlisted two brilliant associates to help him on this journey: capataz Joaquin, a Jerezano who has worked in the sherry industry since he was a teenager, and consulting winemaker Ramiro Ibañez, one of the young stars of the sherry world. Together they’re turning out stunning wines as if Juan Piñero was born to it!
The VORS Oloroso – a big old mouthful
Be warned, this Oloroso is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It looks and smells much like any good Oloroso. It’s a glossy mahogany brown, with the merest hint of haze from its age. Swirl the glass and it’s very leggy, smells pretty boozy (at 22% that’s hardly surprising) and has the usual aromas of polished furniture, burnt sugar syrup, walnuts and vanilla. Perhaps a hint of ginger but not too strong. Take a mouthful and, after a gentle moment of walnuts and polish, everything changes. My goodness this is a big wine – it grows in your mouth, not explosively but gradually, until there’s just no room left. Spices, varnish, wood smoke and ginger – it’s like eating ginger nuts in front of the fire. And what’s not to like about that?!
The finish is the longest I’ve tasted for ages, and despite the booziness and spices, it’s round rather than fiery. If you were minded to pair this with food, I would go for an exceptional piece of beef or a punchy goulash, but to be honest I’m going to stick with drinking it solo. If I paired it with food the temptation to glug would be just too strong, and this sherry deserves the spotlight.
Juan Piñero may have got into the sherry business by accident, but it was serendipity of the highest order, and I’m so very glad he did.