Today I tasted….. Dos Cortados Palo Cortado
There was a time when Palo Cortado was really difficult to get hold of in Edinburgh. I don’t know if it’s that I’m looking for it in different places these days or that there really are more varieties available here now, but the result is a happy one – plenty of different varieties of my favourite sherry type just begging to be tasted.
So, today I’m tasting Dos Cortados – a VOS Palo Cortado from Williams and Humbert. VOS stands for Vinum Optimum Signatum or Very Old Sherry – an age classification indicating average age of at least 20 years. The classification was introduced by the Consejo Regulador in 2000, and to achieve it a sherry must be tasted by an independent panel and subjected to a variety of tests including carbon-dating.
The Dos Cortados solera dates back to the foundation of the Williams and Humbert bodega in 1877, and comprises around 300 barrels. And it’s had a great year this year, with a gold medal and the Sherry and Palo Cortado Trophies at the International Wine Challenge and a silver outstanding medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
With all those prizes under its belt I was expecting something pretty good! It certainly looked the business as I poured it – a beautiful bright amber. The rarely-seen Scottish sun made a brief appearance and the sherry simply glowed and called out ‘drink me’.
On the nose it has some classic Palo Cortado aromas of caramel and wood polish, but also dates and an unexpected hint of madeira cake (for overseas readers, this is no relation to madeira wine – it’s a rich buttery vanilla flavoured cake, which I imagine it’s delicious with madeira or sweet sherry). On tasting, caramel and resin are the first flavours, along with a fleeting implied sweetness. These gives way very quickly to a clean tangy palate and the 20.5% alcohol also rears its head with a little burning. Then we’re back to cake, almonds and hazelnuts alongside a hint of savoury mushrooms. The finish is all hazelnuts and the slight bitterness of hazelnut skins.
I tasted this at two different temperatures – 7 degrees as I tend to prefer all my sherries cold and 14 degrees. It was undoubtedly at its best at 14 degrees, with far greater complexity and length. It paired well with jamon serrano for a light lunch, but also held its own against a spicy szechuan pork stir fry too. The next time I buy this, I’m planning to rustle up some sauteed mushrooms on toasted brioche to go with it. I have a hunch it will be fabulous.
So there’s the clue – ‘the next time I buy this’. Dos Cortados is the first VOS Palo I’ve tasted, and for sure it doesn’t have quite the same complexity and depth of character of the iconic VORS Palos by Tradicion, Fernando de Castilla and Urium. However it is pleasingly complex and interesting, and goes down a storm with the kind of food I love to eat. It also has a very affordable price tag, which means I can enjoy aged Palo Cortado as more than just a special occasion sherry. Definitely a keeper.