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Spanish Moscatel Sherry

Spain's Andalusian region, where rolling hills are painted with sun-kissed vineyards and the air sings with flamenco rhythms, is home to one of the world's most treasured and intricate wine traditions: Sherry. While many might be familiar with the dry styles of Fino and Manzanilla or the rich notes of Oloroso and Amontillado, Moscatel Sherry remains a gem waiting for wider recognition. This naturally sweet wine, made from the Muscat grape, offers a delightful glimpse into Spain's wine heritage.

History and Origin

Sherry has been produced in the Jerez region for centuries, with records indicating that its origins could stretch back over 3,000 years. The Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors all left their mark on this ancient wine, and with the Reconquista, it started to gain the character we recognise today. Among the various styles, Moscatel, named after the Muscat grape variety it's made from, became a beloved sweet variant.

Production Process

The production of Moscatel Sherry begins much like other wines, with the harvesting of grapes. However, for Moscatel, the grapes are often laid out in the sun for a process called "asoleo," where they undergo partial sun-drying. This concentrates the sugars and intensifies the natural Muscat aromas.

After this, the grapes are pressed, and fermentation starts. Given the high sugar content, fermentation is naturally halted, preserving the wine's sweetness. The wine is then fortified, typically to around 15-17% alcohol by volume, which ensures stability.

A Symphony of Flavours

Moscatel Sherry captures the essence of the Muscat grape – fragrant, fruity, and floral. On the nose, it bursts with notes of raisins, figs, orange blossom, and sometimes even hints of chocolate and toffee. The palate is a sensuous play of sweet and complex notes: dried fruits, honey, citrus peels, and underlying spicy notes of clove or cinnamon. The finish, despite the sweetness, can be surprisingly fresh, thanks to the wine's natural acidity.

Pairing with Food

The sweetness and richness of Moscatel Sherry make it a delightful companion to a range of foods. Traditional Spanish pairings might include blue cheeses, foie gras, or even spiced chocolate desserts. Its versatility stretches to cuisines beyond Spain's borders: think of rich Indian desserts, fruit tarts, or even the caramelised notes of a classic crème brûlée.

Serving Moscatel Sherry

Traditionally, Moscatel Sherry is served slightly chilled. It's presented in a wine glass, allowing the drinker to appreciate its aromatic bouquet fully. Its rich character makes it an excellent choice as a dessert wine, but it's also wonderful enjoyed on its own as a meditative sip after a meal.

Distinctive Features

What sets Moscatel Sherry apart from other sweet wines is its balance. While it carries the opulence of its sugar content, it never feels cloying or one-dimensional. The region's unique climate, marked by hot summers and influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, plays a role in this, ensuring grapes that are ripe yet retain a good level of acidity.

Position in the Global Market

Sherry, as a category, has faced its ups and downs in the international wine market. Once a beloved drink in places like England, it saw a decline in the latter half of the 20th century. However, the 21st century has brought a renaissance, with wine enthusiasts rediscovering Sherry's charms. Moscatel, though a smaller category compared to its dry counterparts, has gained attention for its unabashedly sweet and aromatic character.

Cultural Significance

In the bodegas of Jerez, Moscatel Sherry is not just a product; it's a testament to time, patience, and tradition. It's a wine that captures the essence of the region's sun, soil, and soul. During local festivals, a glass of Moscatel is more than a drink; it's a bridge to the region's rich past.

The Future of Moscatel Sherry

With the global wine community's renewed interest in Sherry, Moscatel has an opportunity to shine. Its unique flavour profile positions it as an exciting option for those looking to explore sweet wines beyond the usual suspects like Port or Sauternes. As Spanish cuisine gains popularity worldwide, there's potential for Moscatel to be introduced to a wider audience as the perfect accompaniment to the country's rich desserts.

Moreover, innovative producers in the Jerez region are experimenting with Moscatel, introducing longer-aged versions or unique cask finishes that add even more depth and complexity to the wine.Moscatel Sherry from Spain is a celebration of the Muscat grape's exuberant character, the sun-soaked vineyards of Andalusia, and the intricate dance of time and tradition. For those willing to delve into its sweet embrace, Moscatel offers a journey into the heart of Spanish wine culture, where every sip tells a story. Whether enjoyed in the bustling streets of Seville or far from its homeland, Moscatel Sherry remains a lustrous elixir of Spain's rich winemaking heritage.

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