Harvey’s Palo Cortado VORS
It has been too long since I made way for sherry in my Weekend Wine reports, so I am righting this wrong with the help of this wine from one of the region’s iconic names, Harvey’s. Established in 1796, Harvey’s (or John Harvey & Sons to give the firm its full and proper title) has been turning out pretty smart exemplars of all the top sherry styles for more than two hundred years.
The VORS range of wines were created by Beltrán Domecq (a name as famous in Jerez as any other) from soleras aged at least thirty years. The range is discrete, with just four wines, the Palo Cortado featured here, as well as a Rich Old Oloroso, a Fine Old Amontillado and a Pedro Ximénez. The Palo Cortado solera was established in 1906, and with such a venerable age it is difficult to imagine the average age not being comfortably more than thirty years. It contains a blend of 98% Palomino and 2% Pedro Ximénez, the inclusion of the latter giving it a twist of sweetness on the palate, and indeed the wine carries a residual sugar of 19 g/l.
The two varieties are aged separately, the more common Palomino vinified in stainless steel and then suitably fortified, before going into barrel. A selection of the best barrels were then fortified again before being entered into the solera system. The Pedro Ximénez likewise was fortified before hitting the solera system. All that was required then was to sit back and wait….. for at least thirty years. While occasionally topping up the solera, I suppose.
It is the long period of oxidative aging in the American oak barrels of the solera which ultimately gives the wine is texture and character. It is carrying some sugar alongside its 19.5% alcohol, as I have already alluded to above. Sweetness of this level is not normally something I would seek out in Palo Cortado, or indeed any sherry, as I find the sweetness can mask the desirable sinewy texture that comes with age, nevertheless, it seems to work well here.
In the glass the Harvey’s VORS Palo Cortado shimmers with a really quite rich, amber-walnut hue. This is matched by an impressive nose, quite oxidative in style though, more so than I would expect with a palo cortado with some baked earth and dried-driftwood character, with sweet suggestions of leather, caramel and nut, as well as a salty, marine character. In keeping with the character on the nose it feels closer to the amontillado style than anticipated, although there is no denying its confidence and certainty. The palate is indeed carrying a little sweetness, reflecting that caramel note, albeit with a more medium-dry than truly sweet texture and weight, all underpinned by a broad and peppery spice. Bright and silky, harmonious and a little sinewy, but vibrant with energy, the structure supports flavours of old wood and leather, and it is remarkably long. While it does not have the sinewy needle-like precision I really look for in Palo Cortado, it is clear that this is still a top-quality sherry. 95/100 (2/9/19)