No Drama, En Rama

POSTED ON 27/07/2010

I have to confess that in the grand scheme of wine drinking and enjoyment, sherry is not as high on my list as I feel it should be. So how come I am salivating at the prospect of opening the bottle of sherry waiting for me in the fridge at the moment and how come I have already consumed three of its ilk since I picked up half a dozen a month ago from Lea & Sandeman at a tenner a bottle ? The answer is simple. It’s simply delicious, no more, no less. It’s a smoky amalgam of rich, nutty and yet savoury salted caramel, umami in a bottle, a wine I look forward to coming home to, and enjoying with those anchovy-stuffed Manzanilla olives I bought at Selfridges along with hazelnuts from the market in Split.

En RamaEn Rama

The sherry in question is Tio Pepe Fino En Rama. Only 175 cases of it were made to celebrate Gonzalez Byass’ 175 years of producing sherry at the family winery in Jerez. It’s a first ever bottling of the style, which is lightly filtered, unclarified Tio Pepe taken from the middle of the cask during Spring when the flor growth is at its thickest. Tio Pepe say it must be drunk within three months of bottling and I’m doing my best to oblige. They also say in marketing speak that En Rama ‘expresses the unique character of sherry: the intoxicating smells of the bodegas and the intensity of the living veil of yeast ‘flor’ which covers the wine and is the essence of this delicate fino’. I’m not a great one for marketing jargon but in this instance, it’s hard to disagree.

To complete the story, Gonzalez Byass also tell you that ‘en rama’ is the local jargon used by winery workers to refer to wine in its unrefined and most delicate state, prior to the normal stabilization, clarification and filtering processes that fino sherry has to go through prior to bottling. Elements of the Tio Pepe Solera are selected for the ‘saca’ or racking off, and instead of the usual clarifying process aimed at removing residual yeast and other naturally occurring particles, it’s racked into stainless steel and covered by an inert gas to allow for a natural and partial precipitation of lees and yeasts.

That's what I call a nice 6-packThat's what I call a nice 6-pack

So there you have it. In a word: flavour. This is a process designed to keep in maximum flavour, with the lees and yeasts duly preserved and the wine drawn from the middle of the tank and bottled without the milipore fine-gauge filtering normally employed. Suddenly the scales fall from your eyes. Could it be that one of the problems with sherry’s decline is the lack of flavour and freshness brought about by over-industrial processes? The evidence of En Rama would suggest it. Moreover, while it’s true that quantities are limited, the bad news is that En Rama has been such a hit that it’s all but sold out of The Wine Society, Harvey Nicks, Fortnums, Cambridge Wines, Lea and Sandeman and Flagship Wines, so good luck if you can get your hands on a bottle. If not you may still be lucky enough to find it being served at Iberica, Camino, Bar Pepito, Barrafina, Fino, or Pinchito.

And the good news? ‘We were blown away by the take up’, says Jeremy Rockett of Gonzalez Byass UK. So much so that they are now looking at the possibility of an autumn bottling, when the flor thickens again, although they may just sticking to the spring. ‘We’ll probably make a bit more next time!’ says Jeremy Rockett. One would jolly well hope so. And who knows, maybe a few other bodegas will take the message on board and follow suit.

For more information, try Gonzalez Byass UK, The Hyde, Woodcock Hill, Coopers Green Lane St Albans, AL4 9HJ. Tel: 01707 274790 Fax: 01707 273188 Email:


Nice article - always good to see Sherry in the spotlight! Barbadillo do 1/2 bottles of Manzanilla en Rama which are (or always used to be) excellent; we tried but unfortunately ultimately couldn't shift them - I'm not even sure if they are still available in the UK any more but it is still on their on-line shop, albeit only in Spanish! If memory serves, en Rama is (or used to be) a seasonal concept for them with 4 bottlings a year, one for each season, which I suspect is too frequent for all but the most ardent Sherry fiend to keep up with!

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