Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry (500ML)
#37 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2018
The standard of type and leader both in Spain and abroad. Manzanilla is the rarest of all authentic sherries, being uniquely site-specific in origin. Matured beneath a constant veil of yeast (called flor) as only occurs in beachfront and protected cliffside bodegas of sanlucar, giving Manzanilla a dry, haunting delicacy analogous to fine Champagne.
Founded in 1792 by José Pantaleón Hidalgo, Vinícola Hidalgo is owned by the sixth successive generation of the family. Hidalgo is a modern rarity, being the last remaining family business (and almacenista, for those familiar with this term) to produce and export its own unblended, single-solera sherries.
Just as rare is Vinícola Hidalgo's total reliance on its own vineyards, 500 acres of Palomino Fino located in the great chalk pagos ("crus") of Balbaína - the closest Jerez vineyard to the sea - and Miraflores, the great Sanlúcar vineyard renowned for the pedigree of its wines. Just as significant is the privileged location of the family's Bodega San Luis - at beach-level in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where the Guadalquivir River meets the ocean. Here, the miracle of manzanilla is made possible by constant exposure to Atlantic breezes, laden with moisture and an ambient yeast/algae culture called flor. This surface-growing culture thrives year-round along Sanlúcar's southwest-facing beach-front, protecting the resting wines from exposure to the air. At the same time, flor imparts the bracing, briny smell of sea spray which is manzanilla's hallmark, reflecting its years-long maturation process within earshot of the waves.
Known more formally as Jerez de la Frontera, Jerez is a city in Andalucía in southwest Spain and the center of the Jerez region and sherry production. Sherry is a mere English corruption of the term Jerez, while in French, Jerez is written, Xérès. Manzanilla is the freshest style of sherry, naturally derived from the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Most sherries are dry and meant to pair alongside food but the British and American markets have traditionally focused on the sweet ones. Sherry comes from only one place in the entire world, Andalucía, where the soil and unique seasonal changes give a particular and unsurpassable character to its wines. The many styles change with the process of production, not really the grape, though certain styles are reserved for different grapes. Sherry's main grapes include Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Muscat of Alexandria.
Pedro Ximénez and Muscat, representing a tiny proportion of production can make some amazing single varietal sweet sherries but the vast number of styles are primarily based on the Palomino grape.
Fino, from Jerez, and the similar style called Manzanilla, from the humid and cool coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, are the lightest styles and are meant for early consumption. Their creation is dependent on the action of flor, which are benevolent film-forming yeasts that make a floating veil on the surface of the wine, which aid in protecting it from oxidation.
Amontillado happens when a Fino’s layer of flor fades and the wine starts to oxidize. Quite simply it is an aged Fino that has a darker color and richer palate.
When flor yeast dies unexpectedly, the result is Palo Cortado. Palo Cortado sherries can behave like Amontillado on the palate but often show a greater balance of richness and delicacy.
Oloroso never develops flor but is oxidized for anywhere from five to twenty five years, becoming aromatic and strong like a fine bourbon. A sweetened Oloroso is a Cream sherry; a Pale Cream is one that has had the color removed.