~ Discovering Versos by Sarah Jane Evans ~
Chairman of The Institute of Masters of Wine
Sherry is a glorious wine, and few are more glorious than the rare examples that have been left to sleep gently on for over a century in the silent cellars of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The Barbadillo winery looks out over the lower town, sitting on the plateau, exposed to the sea breezes which refresh its airy bodegas and the wines within.
I had the great fortune to ‘meet’ the five brothers Barbadillo – or rather, their five casks bearing their names – in a dark corner of their ‘Sacristy’ where the finest wines are kept. I was completely unprepared for my meeting ‘Manuel’.
Every Sherry bodega has its unique treasures. Each has its ‘Botas No’ – the butts or casks which have developed distinctive qualities, and are not to be sold. Manuel, an Amontillado, is outstanding. The best Amontillado Sherry represents a superb balance.
~ A unique cask ~
It was one of the rare privileges in a wine writer’s working life to take a sample from a unique cask, and to discover a wine of terrific complexity. Wines of great age can become very concentrated, to a point where they are hard to bear.
How different is Manuel: powerful, intense, superbly aged, and with a vivid lime tang, and tremendously long. This is a wine to linger over, full of life and energy.
~ A treasure to share ~
One of the magical features of this wine is that it speaks of how Sherry used to be, when there was a greater diversity of grapes in the vineyards.
At the tasting I was joined by Natasha Hughes MW and we were hosted by Barbadillo’s winemaker and custodian of the treasures, Montse Molina, and Area Director Tim Holt. We all agreed that Manuel’s wine deserved to be shared with a wider audience.
~ The unique pleasure of Versos ~
Soon after, in 2013, the Institute of Masters of Wine celebrated its 60th Anniversary. In a remarkable tasting of the world’s historic fortified wines, Masters of Wine were given a sneak preview of ‘Versos’ when Barbadillo drew off just 3 bottles.
The majority of Sherries we enjoy today are blends, showing the skill of the cellar masters. This is the unique pleasure of Versos, therefore. It is a wine that did indeed start its life long ago as a Manzanilla. Yet today it has matured with decades of careful handling into an original, a single cask, an individual pleasure.