Waterloo Region Record

I tasted this wine and the clouds parted

- CAROLYN EVANS HAMMOND Special to the Toronto Star Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer and a freelance writer.

I was sharing a meal with Diego Talavera Gaborieu from Gonzalez Byass earlier this year at Canoe and we finished with a sip of something really special —Tio Pepe En Rama. A fino Sherry. One that makes you believe in God. And it’s being released in Ontario for the first time Aug. 31.

It was served entirely without pomp and circumstan­ce. So much so that I was like, “Wait, what is this?”

“It’s a limited edition bottling of unfiltered Tio Pepe. It’s our way of inviting people to taste Tio Pepe in barrel,” said Talavera Gaborieu, the internatio­nal sales director of Gonzalez Byass, which makes Tio Pepe — the world’s bestsellin­g fino Sherry.

Limited edition indeed. Tio Pepe En Rama is on tight allocation. It has only been shared with friends of Gonzalez Byass since it was first made in 2010. Those friends include Russell Woodman, the head of Woodman Wines & Spirits, a wine agent here in Ontario.

Woodman receives a small allotment of Tio Pepe En Rama each year. But those bottles have only been available to Woodman’s private wine clients—and sold out quickly. When the LCBO releases 1,260 bottles of Tio Pepe En Rama on Aug. 31, it will sell out fast.

To taste Tio Pepe before it’s filtered has always been the privilege of those tasting it from barrel with the winemaker. Filtering removes stray yeast and other small particles to make it shelf stable, but takes away precious flavour.

The idea to make Tio Pepe En Rama came about in 2009. Antonio Flores, the winemaker, was tasting Tio Pepe from cask with the wine buyer for The Wine Society in the U.K., Toby Morrhall.

The men were marvelling at the wine’s complexity. Morrhall said, if you bottle some of this wine unfiltered, I’ll buy it from you.

Flores was concerned the wine might not remain stable bottled this way, but he proceeded. He bottled 16,000 bottles in 2010 and called it Tio Pepe En Rama. Morrhall sold the full lot in the U.K. within 48 hours. And the exercise was a huge success. The wine held up very well in bottle.

“It lost freshness but gained body, mouth feel and complexity,” Flores said. “What’s in the bottle is the strength of the soil; the silence of the winery; the sun, the salt, the rain and the wind — it’s our wild Tio Pepe.”

Like all fino Sherry, Tio Pepe En Rama should be consumed young and fresh once it’s bottled. Flores says it will keep fresh up to one year if properly cellared. The bottling date is on the back label.

Now, Gonzalez Byass produces 18,000 bottles of Tio Pepe En Rama per year — each with a different label design. The 2019 vintage — the 10th anniversar­y edition — arrives in Ontario shortly. Fino fans should snap it up.

 ?? GONZALEZ BYASS ?? Winemaker Antonio Flores draws Tio Pepe fino Sherry from the cask. He bottles some unfiltered — Tio Pepe En Rama.
GONZALEZ BYASS Winemaker Antonio Flores draws Tio Pepe fino Sherry from the cask. He bottles some unfiltered — Tio Pepe En Rama.

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