Don Fernando hits town
We’re lucky in the UK to have some pretty special sherries from top producers available in our supermarket premium ranges. So if you can’t get your hands on producers’ own ranges in your local independent wine shop (and let’s face it, not all of us can), you can still buy great sherry on your high street.
Marks and Spencer have been in the vanguard, selling half bottles of lovely Lustau sherries for several years now. But they’ve kept their new launch on the down low – and to be honest, I was tempted to do the same, so that I could keep my local store’s stock to myself!
After a brief mention of M&S revamping their premium sherry range earlier this year, all was quiet until these beauties landed on the shelves without fanfare. Don Fernando has hit town, but he slipped in through the back door.
The Don Fernando range is sourced from Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla – one of Jerez’s smaller sherry producers, and producer of the much-loved and lauded Antique range which is a favourite with sherry aficionados and newcomers alike. It’s also a trendsetter, and not afraid to shake things up a bit.
So Don Fernando has form, but this is a supermarket sherry – surely it won’t be their top drawer stuff, will it? Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to fill your trolleys and be delighted.
The fino is an average of 5 years old and only lightly filtered. This isn’t an En Rama, but it has more complexity than a classic fino, and makes a great transition towards En Rama.
Very pale and clear, it looked thirst-quenching before I even tasted it! On the nose it’s punchy with strong notes of unbaked bread dough, a little apple (which is more dominant at slightly warmer temperatures) and green olive, with a hint of almond.
In the mouth it’s light bodied and fresh with a slightly oily texture. The first flavours are savoury and Marmitey, with olive brine and a brisk swish of lemon juice. The finish is lemony and relatively long, and then ends with a lovely softness.
Hugely refreshing and zippy, this was made for cleansing your palate during a tapas feast.
And so we come to the Oloroso. Now this is really interesting. It’s been drawn from the first criadera of the Antique solera system and is an average of 12 years old. In other words, this is only one step removed away from drinking Rey Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso – a sherry that many of us can only get online or if we travel to a capital city, and until now, the only way to taste the first criadera of this sherry was to order it Drake’s Tabanco in London.
It’s a bright golden brown in the glass – the colour of a beautiful autumn leaf. It’s also very viscous, forming long and persistent legs on the glass.
The nose is rich with candied walnuts, wood, leather and a little polish – reminiscent of an antique furniture shop. There’s also a touch of lightly burnt sugar like the topping of crème brulee.
Take a slurp and the full-body and viscosity hits you first. This is not a lightweight Oloroso, it’s a serious player. Its age was apparent before I checked the source and average age with bodega head Jan Pettersen. Dry as a bone with rich, complex and warming flavours: pencil shavings, worn leather and a little lemony tang alongside classic walnut flavours. It has a long nutty finish which is more roasted hazelnuts than walnuts, and it leaves you wanting more.
I know my motto is that sherry is for life, not just for Christmas, but on this occasion can I please exhort you to buy a bottle of this Oloroso to have with your Christmas lunch? It would be utterly fabulous with a rich, gamey Kelly Bronze turkey or any roasted red meat. I’m also planning to pair it with a pork cheek stew on Boxing Day.
At £15 for 500ml, the Don Fernando range is brilliant value for money and the two I’ve tasted are sensational. You may not have an enlightened independent wine shop nearby, but there’s a good chance you’ve got a Marks and Spencer. I would go there now if I were you, before they sell out.
For more information about Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla, check out this post.