The many personalities of Pedro Ximénez
FEBRUARY 23, 2018 — 6:12 AM EST
by Craig LaBan, Food Critic
The fascinating beauty of sherry is its stunning range of colors, grapes, flavors, and styles. And that gamut is deliciously on full display in the 25 selections at Oloroso, where you can taste the straw-gold crispness of super-dry Manzanillas (try the Xixarito “en rama” style or Aurora on draft), nutty brown Amontillados (try the El Maestro Sierra), the figgy clove and orange peel complexity of an Oloroso like Hidalgo’s Faraon, or the sweet mystery of syrupy dark Pedro Ximénez for dessert. One of the best P.X.’s I’ve ever sipped was the ’87 vintage Gran Reserva from Toro Albalá that was a big enough pour at Oloroso to share, and worth every bit of its $18 price. This glass-coating elixir, impenetrably dark and intensely raisined from drying the grapes in the sun, delivered a perfect combo of molasses caramel and dried fruit sweetness balanced by bitter notes of dark chocolate and a bright echo of acidity that kept it from cloying as we dove into churros and chocolate cake topped with stewed figs.
It was that note of acidity, though, that recalled a bottle that is one of co-owner and sommelier Gordana Kostovski’s most intriguing additions to this excellent Spanish wine list — a completely dry, bright, white table wine called La Ola del Melillero that also happens to be made from Pedro Ximénez, with a dose of Moscatel. It’s floral, with light fruit and bracing minerals that make it perfect for seafood. And it’s also winemaker Victoria Ordoñez’s homage to P.X.’s long history in the southern port city of Málaga, where the grape was often vinified dry from the 17th to the 19th centuries until the phylloxera epidemic, after which those vines were abandoned. Ordoñez isolated historic plots in the mountains of the Málaga region to revive the grape, which was used in this blend, debuting in 2016. The name and playful label depicting a 19th-century bather bracing for the ocean’s chill refer to the waves generated by ferries that often catch Málaga’s beachgoers by surprise. And I couldn’t think of a more perfect metaphor for both this lovely wine and a worldwide movement to rediscover forgotten wine traditions. It’s a wave I find refreshingly hard to resist.
— Craig LaBan