If your view of sherry is sweet brown cough mixture served in comedy schooners then you’ve probably been drinking ‘British fortified wine’, a product made from grape concentrate and only barely fit for human consumption (a bar owner I used to work with fed it to his dogs on cold evenings to warm them up after a walk).
Tio Pepe is the market leader for Fino sherry, and has been for some time. Their distributor has worked hard to reposition it as a dry white wine and its working.
Sherry is produced in the Jerez region of southern Spain. Fino tends to come from the areas closest to the coast where the cool fresh sea breeze encourages ‘flor’, a yeast that grows on the top of the wines in barrel. It looks gross, rather like an asbestos lagging, but you never have to see it. What it does do is slow oxidation, keeping the sherry light in colour and adding a sort of light almondy nutty flavour.
Tio Pepe is a clear and bright straw colour. It’s best served straight out of the fridge so expect plenty of condensation on the glass. It has a fresh aroma with a teeny hint of saltiness, some almond and citrus, and a good wallop of yeastiness. It’s slightly oxidised in a good way, after all, it is sherry.
It’s very dry, balanced perfectly by its crisp acidity. The flavour of nuttiness carries through with a slightly more dried fruit taste and some green apple.
The flavour goes on forever, you’ll have another sip before it dies off. At 15% it’s no stronger that many Australian or Californian table wines, despite fortification, so you can have a second glass without falling asleep. Do serve it in a wine glass for full enjoyment.
Tio Pepe is great value. It should be far more expensive given the quality and minimum 5 years aging, but you can pick it up for £10 at Oddbins.
Enjoy your Tio Pepe as an aperitif, it’s perfect with tapas (duh!) and divine with smoked fish or fresh grilled shrimp and some vegetarian dishes. Once open keep it in the fridge and it will last up to a week, but no longer, it will start to fade. That said, you’ll want to drink it quicker than that.
If you go wild and buy a case, do remember to store them standing up, they stay fresher. You’ll need to drink them over the next six months or they’ll start tolose their bounce.