THE FIRST LADY OF SHERRY CARRIES ON A TASTEFUL TRADITION
Barbadillo’s winemaker takes a slender, long-handled metal stick with a little cup on the end — known as a venencia — and plunges it into an oak barrel. The cup emerges full of cool, fresh sherry which she splashes into my glass, releasing a scent of freshly baked bread and citrus peel. It’s the winery’s renowned Solear manzanilla, made in the ancient cellars of the Barbadillo bodega in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and aged for six years in-cask before release.
“The most special part of my job is working in a wine region with so much tradition, centuries-old wineries and wines,” says Montse Molina.
She has worked at Barbadillo for over 20 years, and still loves everything about sherry. “After all this time, it is still exciting for me to taste a sherry wine that’s fresh, alive and tasty after so many years of aging. And it’s amazing that its flavors are due to the yeast actions and our traditional methods of production.”
Molina graduated from Catalunya University with a degree in oenology and viticulture before starting her career as a winemaker. She doesn’t only make sherry — she’s also responsible for developing a white wine made from sherry’s palomino grape, a bottle-aged sparkling wine made from palomino blended with chardonnay, and one of the region’s only red wines, too. “Tradition is not a limitation,” Molina says, and she’s clearly excited by the innovations too.
Later, she shows me an eclectic and dazzling range of the winery’s sherries, including a 30-year-old amontillado a with notes of spice, ginger, pepper and caramel, and an equally aged palo cortado with the most extraordinarily long finish, revealing layers of chocolate, coffee and hazelnuts. She explains the concentration is due to the loss of water over time and it gives character — “acidity, saltiness” — to these venerable old sherries.
But she maintains another kind of sherry is the best on the dinner table. “Manzanilla sherry is the most gastronomic wine,” she declares. “I like to match it with prawns, tuna, fried fish, and dishes with saline or vinegar touches. And international food based on fish — especially sushi!”