While officially there’s no such thing as ‘en rama season’ in Ireland, I’ve unofficially designated the weeks in May and June as such, as this is the time the spring releases of this ‘sherry armada’ land on our shores.
What is En Rama?
En rama means ‘raw’, and is commonly used to describe biologically aged sherries which have undergone minimal or no treatments prior to bottling.
In practical terms many en rama sherries will still undergo a light filtration to remove any large solid particles but the idea remains the same – this is meant to be as close as you’ll get to the product in the barrel without forking out for the airfare to Spain.
The first difference you’ll notice in the glass is the colour. Most fino and manzanilla en rama has a deeper golden colour in contrast to the pale straw yellow colour of more filtered, clarified and stabilised examples. Aromas and flavours are accentuated and, depending on when you are drinking the sherry, the influence of flor (the yeast which protects biologically aged sherries from oxidation) is usually quite pronounced.
When to drink en rama sherries is an interesting point of discussion. Whereas deciphering bottling dates of sherry can sometimes feel like a code that only Robert Langdon could crack, en rama sherries usually state the date of bottling clearly, and in an intelligible layman’s format (sometimes just by specifying the season), on the label. There are dissenting voices however who suggest that while there may be some development with time in bottle, it isn’t always to the detriment of the sherry. I’m somewhat in the latter camp, but it’s very much a case of ‘drinker beware’, so make sure you check the the label to ensure you are getting the Spring 2015 release (Note: the picture above is of the 2013 release.
Availability of these sherries can be an issue. En rama fever has captured the imagination of many sherry drinkers, allocations are limited and stocks sell out quickly even for those sherries that have a couple of releases per year. Here are some that I’ll be seeking out.
Lustau 3 En Rama
One of the most exciting en rama releases because Lustau choose to bottle three different sherries, each aged in a different town in the sherry triangle (Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María). It’s worth trying all three side by side to see the influence of bodega location. Available from Mitchell & Son and The Corkscrew.
Fernando de Castilla Fino En Rama
Although Jan Pettersen and the team at Fernando de Castilla strive to keep intervention to a minimum for all their sherries, they also bottle a fino en rama, a blend from their classic and antique fino soleras, that is well worth seeking out. Available from Tindal Wine Merchants and Black Pig.
Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa En Rama
This is the third release of Valdespino’s manzanilla en rama, a sherry that averages five-to-six years of average age at bottling. Available from The Corkscrew and other good independent merchants.
Tio Pepe Fino En Rama
Availability of this fino en rama in Ireland has been hit-or-miss in recent years, but some bottles did make it to the recent Litfest in Ballymaloe so hopefully by the time you are reading this it will be on shelves near you.