Breaking the seal – Lustau Añada 1997
Añada or vintage sherries are relatively uncommon these days, but before the solera and criadera system was introduced this was how sherries were made. These days they’re a rarity, with bodegas setting aside a small amount of wine from a good year and placing into barrels that sit apart from the solera and criadera system and are not refreshed at all, regardless of how long they sit in the bodega. To ensure these wines are genuinely of the stated vintage and not refreshed, the Consejo Regulador seals the barrel with ribbon and wax, to prevent the barrel being opened.
A number of (mainly bigger) bodegas produce Añada sherries, and the one featured in this article is by Lustau. Towards the back of Lustau’s bodega complex, there is a small bodega next door to the cooperage which contains all the Añada barrels. Each is sealed as seen in the photo, and each has its vintage year marked on the barrel. We were lucky enough to visit this bodega when we met with Lustau’s winemaker and sherry rockstar Manolo Lozano for a behind the scenes visit and interview last year, and we promptly went out and bought a bottle of the 1997 Oloroso to try when we got home.
For starters this is not a typical Oloroso, because it’s not dry. It was only partially fermented before being transferred into the barrel, thus retaining some of the natural sugars. This is indicated by the words Rich and Abocado on the label. Abocado refers to a medium sweet sherry, which of course is usually created by adding Pedro Ximenez to a dry sherry, but in this case no sweetness has been added – it was there from the beginning.
It’s a medium mahogany colour and not entirely clear. It has lots and lots of legs. As I swirled this in the glass, the sweetness came out to meet me before I even put my nose anywhere near. The aromas are grapey with floral notes, not unlike a Moscatel to my mind. Sniff a little longer and there are richer semi-dried fruits like dates and figs. I struggled to identify more typical Oloroso aromas.
In the mouth it is indeed rich, and smooth textured. It is sweet – about as sweet as a cream – but unlike with a cream, the Oloroso character doesn’t come through as strongly, as the sweetness remains as the pre-eminent characteristic. The flavours were a combination of vanilla, black pepper, candied walnuts and a little coffee, with a long walnut and vanilla In fact the flavour it reminded me of above all was coffee and walnut cake. I imagine it would taste great alongside a coffee and walnut cake, but sadly I didn’t have one to hand.
This sherry came as a surprise to me, and was like nothing I’ve tasted before. But let’s face it, I’m never going to dislike the equivalent of cake in a glass!