Gonzalez Byass Oloroso Dulce Matusalem 30 Años
Despite my mini-exploration of some of the leading Sherry producers a year or two ago, I must confess it is still something that I don’t drink very often. On the uncommon occasions that I open a bottle from a good bodega, I rue the fact that I don’t have more bottles to hand, ready to open. One reason might be the poor availability of wines from my favourite producers; there are few places where I can wander in and pick up my favourite examples from Lustau off the shelf. Fortunately, some good wines, such as from Gonzalez Byass, Hidalgo or Valdespino can be plucked from the shelves with ease.
This week’s wine is one such bottle, recently picked up at a local Sainsbury’s. This is a sweet or dulce oloroso. Now purists may well wince at the though of a sweetened Sherry, as true oloroso, a wine which never developed a coating of flor and thus developed a deep, nut brown colour with flavour to match, is traditionally a dry wine. Traditionally, butts of oloroso were left in the sun to engender a baked or burnt character, adding an extra dimension to the finished wine, but sweetness can only come through the addition of sweet wine, usually in the form of some Pedro Ximénez. The addition of sugar in this way might be used to cover a wine’s inadequacies, the sweetness masking deficiencies elsewhere, and so in many cases the wincing may be justified. But not here. This is an excellent wine, and looking beyond the seducing sweetness I see depth, honesty, great character and certainly complexity. This is a worthy wine.
Remarkably the wines used in producing this wine average thirty years of age, and all the original grapes, a blend of Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximénez, were sourced from the Gonzalez Byass vineyards. Once vinified they spent twenty years maturing in cask as a vintage Sherry, a rare creature indeed, and then ten years in a solera system. Only at the end of thirty years of maturation do they find their way into these attractive half bottles. The Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo 30 Años has a delightfully rich golden-brown in the glass, fading out at the edge to a honey-amber hue. The nose is simply delightful; it seduces with aromas of toffee, walnut, raisins and more, before revealing the note of axle grease (yes, I mean axle grease) that belies the presence of Pedro Ximénez, the universal Spanish sweetener. This is a fine and beguiling panoply of aromas. There follows an appealing palate, displaying all the richness that the nose suggests, but paradoxically very structured with, despite the creamy tenderness, a very dry feel through the midpalate and finish. All this does little to hide the blatant intensity of flavour which makes this so pleasurable to drink though. This is really very, very good, and I think that despite the lengthy period of ageing already undertaken this is a wine that will last for years in the cellar. Excellent. 18/20 (16/10/06)