Up until recently (with a few exceptions), the only viable way to taste sherry en rama was to go to Jerez, or one of the other Sherry towns in the ‘Sherry triangle’, visit the bodegas, and taste the wine poured directly from the cask. The en rama version offers the more complex drinking experience: it’s pungent and saline, with notes of yellow apple, green olives, and a hint of almond, along with a corresponding fullness of body that somehow manages to be bracingly acid-driven and fresh.
”The Palomino grapes for the Bodegas Cesar Florido fino en rama come from the prestigious Pago de Miraflores vineyard. The wine is aged slowly under flor in the cellar solera. From one special cask (Bota No 22) – bottled to order, making 600 halves – without filtration or fining.”
BODEGAS CÉSAR FLORIDO, Chipiona
César Florido was founded in 1887 and is currently maintained by César Florido, a fifth-generation descendant of the founder. The winery is the oldest bodega in the town of Chipiona, located five miles from Sanlúcar de Barrameda along the road which continues to Rota. César Florido is one of only two bodegas in Chipiona that are still operating outside of the cooperative.
Chipiona, famous for its lighthouse which is the tallest in Spain, is an area dedicated to growing the moscatel grape, but most of the wine produced here is sold in bulk to the Sherry Houses of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. César Florido, by contrast, is one of the few bodegas that is estate bottling and who presses his own mosto, or base wine, from family vineyards planted to palomino fino, as well as purchased grapes from long-time growers. Utilizing native yeast fermentation, César crafts wines of incredible personality.
“One of the most compelling developments of the nascent sherry renaissance has been the emergence of a new style known as en rama’ (unfiltered) which roughly translates to “on the branch” or “raw.”
En rama refers specifically to the seasonal release of specially selected unfiltered fino and manzanilla – the “biologically aged” sherry. Unlike the nuttier, richer “oxidatively aged” styles like oloroso, which intentionally come into contact with oxygen during the aging process, fino and manzanilla sherries are fortified only to around 15% alcohol, which allows a layer of living yeast, known as flor, to develop on the surface of the wines as they mature in barrel (hence the term “biological aging). In addition to imparting tell-tale briny and saline aromas and flavours, with a characteristic biscuit-y yeastiness, this protective film also protects the wine from being exposed to air or slows down the oxidative process. The result is the palest, freshest, and driest style of sherry, traditionally served with all manner of local seafood.
The en rama approach showcases a different expression of sherry’s potential. Bottled with minimal or zero filtration and released seasonally, en rama sherry offers a much closer approximation of what the wine would have tasted like in its natural state, taken directly from the cask, with all it aromatic intensity, fullness of body, and essential flavours intact. As great as this sounds, it’s worth noting that one style isn’t necessarily better than the other. Sometimes, all you want is a crisp (well chilled of course!) fino to wash down a plate of oysters on a hot summer day. The two approaches simply result in different but equally valid interpretations of the category, which, taken together, expand the region’s stylistic diversity and broaden the possibilities of what is already the amazing world of sherry.