Near the 14th of February, there is always the temptation to crack open a bottle of pink Champagne as inspiration for a post – but that’s all been done before, so I was keen to write about something different. My wife, a modern-day Barbara Cartland, suggested something romantic about wines with 14% alcohol. This was a sweet idea, but I decided to go in for something even sweeter and write about the Pedro Ximenez grape.
In Spain, the white Pedro Ximenez or PX grapes are normally raisinated before making the wine. The thin-skinned PX grapes were traditionally laid on Esparto-grass mats out in the sun for a few days before pressing. I’m not sure what they lie out on these days, but they still get a few rays before the press. The resulting wine is dark, thick and sweet. The aromas and flavours include “raisin” as a descriptor but can stretch to all sorts of interesting things – especially when the wine has been aged for a long time – including dark chocolate, caramel, smoke, figs, etc.
PX headquarters for Spain is Montilla-Moriles, where most of this variety is grown, and there you find producers of excellent quality wines like Alvear. PX is also one of only two varieties allowed by the Jerez-Xerez-Sherry DO, used to make naturally sweet Sherry. Aged in solera systems just like the other wines of Jerez, PX Sherry is often used in a blend with dry Oloroso to make the Cream Sherries enjoyed by so many in the Anglophone world. Due to its thin skin, the PX grape does not thrive in the relatively humid conditions around Jerez so there is very little grown here and most of the PX used to make Sherry is grown and made Montilla-Moriles, but must be aged in the Jerez DO.
Apparently PX wines have quite a following in Australia. I did a bit of googling and ablegraping and found this interesting PX made by Turkey Flat, made with grapes dried “on trellis” before pressing.
One last thing: PX wines can be turned into very interesting, usually sweetish vinegars. If you ever see an “al Pedro Ximenez” vinegar then get your hands on it – you will be surprised.
Hasta la proxima!
Swirling in the glass is a PX Sherry by Fernando de Castilla
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