Sunday, September 8, 2013

Alexander Jules Sherries

Alex Russan of Alexander Jules came over to the store last Friday to present the debut release of his brilliant Sherries. It was quite a treat.

Sherry is bottled in mass quantities from large and small soleras to satisfy tapas bar crowds and Sherry aficionados around the world. This is how Sherry is typically produced, but it's not the only route.

A miniscule quantity of Sherry comes from Almacenista soleras--tiny family-owned soleras consisting of less than 100 butts or barrels, with some as low as 10. Instead of being blended with other soleras, these Almacenista Sherries are bottled individually, with the Almacenista solera identified on the label. This artisanal practice is about as old as Sherry itself, and, I would guess, was how Sherry production began.

A more recent phenomenon in Sherry production is barrel selection. This is microscopic. We're talking of not much more than a thousand bottles or less. What makes this practice different is it's not undertaken by a bodega or established Sherry shipper. A person outside the industry, a Sherry aficionado, with a keen eye for where the best barrels lie and possessing an excellent palate is the one usually behind this kind of micro-lot production.

Equipo Navazos is the most well-known barrel-selection producer, the darling of hip somms and wine writers, with a cult following to boot. Its Sherries are spectacular, with a powerful, concentrated style.

A new barrel-selection player is Alexander Jules. Alex Russan, who established this company, is a Sherry aficionado but whose background is coffee buying. He simply utilized his trained palate in another way, picking barrels, instead of coffee,  in some of the best bodegas in Jerez.

Alex's Sherries veer more towards finesse, imbued with intense flavors that feel light on the palate. Acidity is also high and keeps the Sherries crisp and fresh. These are relaxed and easy to drink Sherries, beautifully balanced and quite refined. Folks new to Sherries could appreciate their style and experienced drinkers would admire their depth and elegance.

Jerez Fino 22/85
This comes from Sanchez Romate's Celestino solera. A solera, Alex says, that is seldom used, thus, the Fino's age is high, 8 years-old, whereas a typical Fino is 4 years. He picked out 22 barrels out of the 85 barrels in the solera for his Fino's saca. It was bottled in June 2013, like his other Sherries. From a freshly opened bottle the Fino takes several minutes to fully open in the glass. Floral, with a deep straw color. The flavors are crisp, light, fresh, and absolutely thirst-quenching. My thinking was I could drain a full bottle of this as long as the food keeps coming.

Manzanilla 17/71
This comes from the great Sanlúcar de Barrameda producer, Bodegas Argüeso. It is a barrel selection of the San León solera, which is the source of Argüeso's serious Manzanilla Reserva. The longer aging results in a deep color. A powerful, richly flavored Manzanilla. Its good acidity and salinity make it easy and perfect to pair with a variety of dishes. My favorite would be shellfish.

We carried Bodegas Argüeso Sherries before when it was imported by Jose Pastor and distributed by Farm Wine Imports/Louis Dressner. I'm happy to hear from Alex Russan that he is now their importer.

Amontillado 6/26
Again we have a Sherry from Bodegas Argüeso in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It began as a 5-year-old Manzanilla Fino under flor. After further fortification it was aged another 5 years without flor. It is soft and gentle, never overpowering despite its spectacular and dramatic depth, complexity, and length. I find this style irresistible and seductive. You don't have to serve turtle soup with this Amontillado as in Babette's Feast. I find this satisfying to enjoy on its own, pleasuring in its layers of flavors. And if you get hungry, a plate of carpaccio or tataki, either beef or fish, would be very nice.

We will have Alexander Jules Sherries available for sale when they arrive this September 18th.

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