Posted on | January 21, 2016
Written by | Jack Robertiello
En Rama shipments suggest new chapter for classic fortified wine
The locals know…. At the annual Andalusian Feria where thousands of Jerezanos nibble, quaff and dance until dawn each May, one of the most sought-after drinks is chilled fino en rama, an unfiltered, “raw” version of the world’s best-known Sherry style.
Slightly cloudy, a touch darker than straight finos, but with an unmistakable freshness and salinity, en rama was nearly impossible to find in the U.S. until recently—a minor yet important signal that Sherry is coming back.
“This is probably the best time for Sherry in the past 20 years,” says Julio Baguer, whose New Age Imports brings in Barbadillo, including a Manzanilla en rama. The thousand cases or so of en rama Barbadillo sends this way are bottled seasonally, with different characteristics evident in each, says Baguer.
Like much of Sherry, it still can be a hand-sell for all but enthusiasts. “But I find that once you get it into younger consumers hands, they’re very interested,” he says. Baguer has seen Sherry overall growing steadily the last five years, especially the higher-end styles. Credit younger sommeliers and bartenders intrigued by the breadth of Sherry’s various taste profiles, he says.
Ian Adams is one of them; he serves 19 by the glass at San Francisco’s 15 Romolo and credits the exploratory nature of today’s consumers for giving Sherry an opportunity. “It’s a wine that requires some education and participation on both sides, but guests are increasingly into it.”
Novices grasp more easily the oxidized oloroso and amontillado styles, he finds, as the perceived sweetness makes for easier food pairings. They are also more palatable for those used to fuller-bodied reds. Adams however loves en rama, noting that Sherry aficionados get excited at each release, as if it were the Beaujolais Nouveau of Jerez.
González Byass recently purchased importer Vin Divino with an eye toward greater participation in the U.S., and already sends a hundred or so cases of Tio Pepe en rama here annually. Andy Taylor, Vin Divino Director of Marketing, says, “Our goal is to figure out a way to make Sherry a little more mainstream especially among younger drinkers interested in food and wine.”
This very promising time for Sherry has shown growth across the spectrum for the 27 different bottlings under the Lustau brand, including their ground-breaking Alcemenista line, which includes wines from smaller producers, says Andrew Mulligan, portfolio manager for importer Skurnik Wines.
That breadth of styles, as well as the fact that most Sherry brands are now handled by wine rather than spirit companies, has helped make the high-end market here more important to producers.