The very first thing that hit us was the overwhelming smell of the yeasty velo de flor as we walked through the bodega doors. Flor is a layer of yeast that protects the developing wine from oxidation – and it has a particular aroma. Now this is a sherry bodega!
Our research had indicated that Mons Urium (or simply, Urium) is a premium bodega we should visit during our trip to the sherry homeland – Jerez De La Frontera – located in Spain’s Andalusian region. It did not disappoint.
Not only was it the most hands on and private of our pre-arranged tastings – led by the incredibly gracious and lovely Rocio Ruiz – but the wines we tasted from barrel were of exceptional quality.
Urium is the Roman era name for Moguer which is Rocio’s family name. Her father purchased this bodega about 10 years ago and asked her (trained as a financial auditor) to assist him. Once they reordered the solera and reviewed all the casks they’d purchased, they were left with 498 (which is actually a very small solera).
Over the course of time, they’ve selected and purchased the wines they add to their solera carefully. All their wines are bottled En Rama (unfiltered) to ensure the maximum amount of character is retained. This is uncommon; most bodegas allow only a very small number of barrels to be bottled En Rama, if any.
We tasted through the 8 year old (yo) floral Fino showing apricot, orange blossom, yeast, almonds and ripe apples, the 12 yo “Ellen’s Flor” where the flor had died but then recovered, producing a dry Fino with toffee and toast notes, and a 15 yo Amontillado with high acidity, salted caramel, dried apricot and potpourri. At this point, two cellar hands from neighbour Bodegas Tradición dropped by to join us briefly.
Then came a Palo Cortado, a Palo Cortado VORS (‘Very Old Rare Sherry’), a 40 yo Oloroso VORS and an Amontillado VORS that was over 30 yo. Dark amber, this was smokey with salted caramel – reportedly excellent when paired with red tuna and mango.
The bottle I brought home was the 50 yo Pedro Ximénez. Extremely concentrated and viscous, this wine is dark brown although it’s made from raisinated white grapes. Despite its 460 g/l of residual sugar, it’s neither cloying nor heavy because of the high acidity. Raisins, prunes, figs and dates show alongside dark honey, creamy coffee, cloves and tiramisu.
This will pair perfectly with a sweet dessert or some Stilton and blue cheeses. Sweetly intense, elegant and complex, it’s also beautifully balanced.
Rocio told us she often feels as though she’s an archaeologist, watching these very old, rare sherries develop, interpreting them, and then bringing them to the world. Indeed, the world needs more Rocio.