When I visited Madrid two years ago, I wandered around the Puerta del Sol (Spanish for "Gate of the Sun"), a central plaza with several well known landmarks. One of them is the huge Tio Pepe sign, pictured above. Tio Pepe is the best selling brand of Sherry in the world and it is owned by the Gonzalez Byass house. I had my share of Tio Pepe in Spain but recently had another wondrous Sherry from this producer.
The Gonzalez Byass house originated in 1835 with Manuel María Gonzalez Angel who desired to start a small Sherry business. About twenty years later, he took on Robert Blake Byass, his agent in England, as a partner. Their families worked well together for many years until the Byass family sold their ownership to the Gonzalez family in 1988. The Gonzalez family continues to own and operate this Sherry house.
The 1964 Gonzalez Byass Vintage Oloroso Sherry ($95) is a rarity, a vintage sherry. I had never had a vintage sherry before so was very excited to taste this Sherry. It is an Oloroso (Spanish for "scented"), which has aged oxidatively, and was made from the white Palomino grape. These grapes were grown on albariza soil located on the outskirts of Jerez de la Frontera. Albariza soil is very light, almost white in color, and is considered excellent for the Palomino. Only 2920 bottles were produced and they were bottled in "Jerezana" bottles, which are similar to those used in the middle of the 19th century.
When I did some research on this Sherry, I found that Wine Spectator considered it past maturity. So I was unsure how it would taste. Though it was 45 years old, it was also an oloroso which can age well. Recently, my wife and I went out to dinner with another couple and afterwards we came back to our house. I decided to open the Sherry, hoping for it to be a nice after-dinner treat.
I don't know if this Sherry was past maturity or not, but it certainly was amazing and I can't imagine how much better it could be. It was a rich amber in color, bright and appealing. It smelled wonderful, a melange of enticing odors from caramel to hints of smoke. And the taste was incredibly complex, harmonius flavors of caramel, vanilla, salt, butterscotch, and nuts. It was dry, full bodied, and with an extremely long and satisfying finish. Mellow and smooth, I never wanted the bottle to empty. And everyone else thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
With some restraint, we did not finish the bottle that evening. So I had a couple glasses over the night couple of nights, savoring this exceptional elixir. Fortunately, I have one more bottle in my cellar which I'll save for a special occasion, when I can share it with appreciative friends. If you can find this Sherry anywhere, buy it! It earns my highest recommendation.