Thursday, November 29, 2007

PALO CORTADO - Good stuff if you can get it.

The past few evenings I have been enjoying a nip of Barbadillo 'Obispo Gascon' Palo Cortado. For those of you who may not know, Palo Cortado is somewhere between an Amontillado and Oloroso; i.e., it retains the livelier acidity, saltiness and citric tones of Amontillado while simultaneously suggesting the deeper, darker flavors of Oloroso. And of course there is a walnut nuttiness that lasts for days and extra days as my Guyanese drummer friend might say.

Palo Cortado is basically a sherry aged under flor (white growth caused by yeast indigenous to Andalucia). As you may know a natural, thick tuft of flor growth in a barrel of sherry is destined to remain fino sherry, whereas amontillado sherries are finos with lesser flor growth and additional fortification. An amontillado which loses its flor becomes a Palo Cortado and is fortified even more, as an oloroso would be (to 21-22%). Olorosos are sherries which have never developed a protective layering of flor.

As only 1-2% of all sherries produced are palo cortado, they're fairly rare and not inexpensive. The Barbadillo retails for $35 where I work. For the quality of the wine, palo cortados, like all high quality sherries, are some of the best deals in all of the classic wine regions. Relative to the exorbitant prices of Bdx, burgundy, top-notch Baroli and other Italians, and very likely Champagne in the near future, sherry, along with German riesling, Rioja (traditional), and the Loire valley, are where many of the deals are right now for wines to buy and age for a while.