We’ve got a very special dry sherry in this week from Gonzalez Byass. It’s Tio Pepe En Rama 2023 release and with the weather warming up, it won’t hang around for long.
What’s the most refreshing drink on a summer’s day? There are many contenders for the title: a crisp G&T made with plenty of ice, a chilled lager poured into a frozen glass, or a Paloma, a blend of Tequila and grapefruit fizz. However, there’s one that for me tops them all, a well-chilled copita of fino sherry. When the mercury is rising, do as they do in Andalusia, and reach for sherry.
We’ve got a particularly fine fino to enjoy lazy Sundays in the garden with: Tio Pepe En Rama 2023 release. This is made by one of the biggest and best names in the region, Gonzalez Byass, and it’s a limited release of their bestselling Tio Pepe fino.
The word ‘rama’ literally means ‘branch’ or ‘on the vine’ which translates roughly as ‘in its natural state’. There’s no legal definition but the best way to think of En Rama is it’s how sherry tastes straight out of the barrel before it is blended and filtered into a consistent product. The first sherry labelled En Rama was launched back in 1999 by Barbadillo but it was when Gonzalez Byass launched its Tio Pepe En Rama in 2009 that the style really took off. It was a revelation trying it next to the ordinary Tio Pepe, the world’s best selling fino.
Martin Skelton from Gonzalez Byass told me that the sherry changed in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Finos used to be closer to amontillados in colour and flavour but with new technology such as temperature-controlled fermentation and sterile filtering they became the pale products like Tio Pepe or Manzanilla La Gitana that we know today. Don’t get me wrong, these are delicious wines: consistent, moreish and excellent value for money. En Ramas in contrast tend to be fuller, richer and darker, in short wines to consume slowly.
I’ve been following the En Rama releases from Tio Pepe since 2014. They tend to fall into two camps: ones that are full-bodied and almost moving into amontillado territory and ones that are resolutely fino-like but with all the flavours turned up. The 2023 is made from a selection of 98 butts and around five years old – as with most sherries it is a blend of vintages aged in a solera. In this case cellar master Antonio Flores selects wines from two dating back to the 19th century, Constancia and Rebollo, and one from the 1960s (according to the ever reliable Sherry Notes.)
The resulting wine is very much on the refreshing side with notes of lemon and green apple but there’s an extraordinary complexity and depth of flavour here. I’ve put a full tasting note below. To sum it up, it’s one of the best releases of this wine, which makes it one of the best white wines money can buy. The price is an absolute steal. Buy a bottle, chill it and enjoy in the garden with some olives and salted almonds. There is no better way to deal with the summer heat.
Nose: Lots of cooked apple on the nose initially with some fresh Granny Smith notes coming in along with bread and Marmite.
Palate: Very fresh and tangy, really tingly and citric in the mouth, and then rich savoury notes come in.
Finish: Salted almonds on the finish.
Overall: Excellent wine. One of the best Tio Pepe en ramas, a beautiful balance of fresh fruit and nutty mature notes.