Categories

Content Type

Sources

How to enjoy Pedro Ximenez sherry [Chicago Tribune :: BC-WBS-PEDRO-XIMENEZ-SHERRY:TB]

Some of the sweetest wine on earth comes from Spain, and it goes by the name of Pedro Ximenez, but you can just call him Pedro. Actually, he's not even a fellow, though Pedro Ximenez sounds like a brand name, doesn't it? Or the name of a guy who opened a winery? None of the above: It is actually the name of a white grape variety and a sublime dessert wine style made from those grapes.

Usually when a wine is described as "sweet as molasses," it is a bad thing. Even when a wine doesn't quite reach that height of sweetness but is still sweet enough to feel at home during a dessert course, a wave of bright acidity is welcome with every sip. This creates a sort of balancing effect that makes the sweetness of these wines palatable. Think about the beautiful sweetness tempered by acidity in some of the finest port, Sauternes and Tokaji Aszu wines, to name a few of the world's legendary sweet styles.

Pedro Ximenez, or "PX" as it is colloquially known, somehow manages to have just enough acidity - not loads of it, like some other dessert wines - to make it work. This wine is sweet, and there is no getting around that. Dulce, amigos. Of course, it's a dessert wine - it is supposed to be sweet - and a little goes a long way. Don't assess it the same way you would a dry table wine. Enjoy it for what it is - a beautifully sweet dessert treat, with or without food.

Most PX grapes are grown in the Montilla-Moriles D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) in southern Spain. PX makes a style of sherry, and when the wine is made at least partially in the Jerez region (even using Montilla-Moriles grapes), it can be labeled as such: Jerez, aka "Xeres," aka "sherry." You'll see all three words on a bottle from Jerez. When the wine is made entirely in Montilla-Moriles, it carries that region's name on its label. In either case, PX is PX. Good versions come from both places.

Traditionally, this wine style is made by setting PX grapes out in the sun to dry, concentrating their sweetness.

If you do not like desserts or most expressions of sweetness, PX is definitely not for you. But for anyone with an appreciation for a blast of sip-able sweetness, track down a few bottles of PX immediately. You will experience a wine that is pleasantly viscous, verging on syrupy with aromas and flavors of raisins (remember, those ripe grapes were raisin-ated in the sun), dates, figs, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, chocolate, black licorice, coffee and, yes, even molasses.

This wine style could match well with bread or rice puddings, vanilla and/or caramel ice cream; dried fruits and fruit pastries; flan and other custards, orange- or banana-based desserts, pecan pie and dark chocolate. But really, when a wine is this sweet, sticky and decadent, you could drink it on its own and just call that dessert. Or to counter the sweetness of PX, you could pair a glass with some salty nuts, or a few formidable hunks of Manchego or blue cheese.

Serving temperatures for PX range from about 57 degrees down to 50, and some producers suggest serving their wines even cooler. Remember that the cooler they are, the more their aromas and flavors can hide.

Don't hem your PX in by pouring it into a tiny glass. Serve it in a proper wine glass.

PX lasts a long time in the bottle after it's been opened because it has been fortified (and expect it to pack 15 percent alcohol or higher), which means you can keep enjoying it for at least the next two months, probably longer. Even two or three months' shelf life will vastly extend your pleasure and help you get to know this wine style better over time. It will also spread out your cost and make a higher price tag seem more reasonable.

These wines are actually not that expensive for how decadent and relatively rare they are. Many are available in smaller bottles (375 or 500 milliliters), in case you want to just dip your toe into the PX waters. And when you store PX bottles, both before you've opened them and after you've re-corked them, make sure they are standing up - not lying down - to protect that cork from the potent elixir inside.

Below are notes from a recent tasting of Pedro Ximenez varietal wines. They are listed in ascending order, according to price, regardless of bottle size.

Valdespino El Candado Pedro Ximenez. Full of raisins, dates, brown sugar and licorice, this thick and viscous wine is a good introduction to the style. $14/375 milliliters

Bodegas Hidalgo Triana Pedro Ximenez. This one offers notes of coffee, cola, marzipan and honey, and is dense and creamy with 15 percent alcohol. $20/500 milliliters

Lustau PX San Emilio Pedro Ximenez. Orange peel, raisins, fig, hazelnuts, brown sugar and spice characterize this sultry PX from Jerez. $21/750 milliliters

Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla Pedro Ximenez. This one delivers herbs, fig, rhubarb, super-sweet brown sugar, and a long finish full of nuts and raisins. $26/750 milliliters

Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez. From the Montilla-Moriles region, this wine offers prune, vanilla, brown sugar, raisins, chocolate, nuts and 16 percent alcohol. $30/375 milliliters

Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximenez. This aptly named beauty is full of figs, raisins, pine, tobacco, coffee, smoke, chocolate and caramel. $30/750 milliliters

2013 Casa del Inca Pedro Ximenez. Tangerine, fig, caramel and a slight note of anise commingle in this dark amber PX from Montilla-Moriles. $60/750 milliliters

Bodegas Tradicion VOS 20 Years Pedro Ximenez. Prune, orange, citrus, spice, brown sugar and sassafras are present in this black-as-tar wine. $96/750 milliliters

___

(c)2018 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

_____

PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194):