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Osborne Sibarita Very Old Rare Oloroso

A return to Sherry again this weekend, and still enthused by the González Palacios Lebrija Old Oloroso featured a few weeks ago I have been on the lookout for similarly dry (or at least dry-ish) styles from the region. I think, in this weekend's wine, the Osborne Sibarita, a Very Old Rare Oloroso boasting an average age of more than 30 years, I may well have found one that fits the bill.

Although I first explored the wines of Sherry many years ago, returning to them again in the past year or so, I have to admit that Osborne is not a bodega I really got to know. Most of the Sherry I drank when I first discovered the wines came from the likes of Emilio Lustau, Hidalgo and Valdespino, with the occasional wine from Gonzalez Byass along the way, including in more recent years their very appealing annual Tio Pepe En Rama release. Nevertheless Osborne certainly have a very significant presence in the region; the origins of the bodega can be traced back to the first solera, established in 1772. And although the company has now branched out, with outposts in Rioja and the Douro, not to mention fingers and thumbs in other pies (pies made of Iberian ham, perhaps - they specialise in this, as well as operating several restaurants), their lengthy presence in Jerez comes through in the age of their soleras and the broad stocks of older wines they have at their disposal.

Osborne Sibarita Very Old Rare Oloroso

Despite this admirable heritage the wine in question, the Osborne Sibarita, is not from one of Osborne's old soleras. It comes from a solera established in 1792 by Juan Haurie of the bodega known, until recently, as Pedro Domecq. When Allied Domecq were taken over in 2005 by Pernod Ricard the many Pedro Domecq brands were sold off and thus the old soleras, including Sibarita, came into the possession of Osborne. This solera is made from handpicked Palomino grapes, gently pressed and fermented at a rather cool temperature, up to 24ºC. After reaching a level of about 12% alcohol the wine is fortified, bringing the alcohol up to 17%, and is then transferred to the 500-litre American oak casks of the Sibarita solera. It is likely to be 30 years before the wine sees the light of day again, obviously blending with other wines as it moves through the solera. Before bottling it is also cut with just 2% Pedro Ximénez just to soften its edges. The Osborne literature describes the wine as slightly sweet, although to my palate it is, for an oloroso, a long way towards the dry end of the spectrum. I think we are probably saying the same thing; it is just that, as I have been trying to sniff out drier styles, it seems worth me emphasising this point.

In the glass the Osborne Sibarita shows its age with a superb hue, demonstrating a rich and orange-bronzed core, with the slightest hint of a golden-green rim. Traditionally it is aged Madeira that is supposed to show a greenish tinge, but it seems as though Sherry can do it too! Aromatically it has a quite remarkable nose, the origins of the wine coming through with scents of baked earth, raisins and toasted almonds, but then come more complex aromas, scents of caramelised apples, coffee and scented wood. In the mouth it has a beautiful energy and savoury depth on the palate, showing a cool and broad character, with a very finely composed structure. There is some sweetness here, for sure, but it is fairly minimal; this is certainly a long way from being 'sweet'. There is a great grip to it, running into a fresh and lively finish. A very good wine with vaguely haunting aromatics that I kept returning to again and again. Until it was all gone. 17/20 (21/10/13)

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