Anyone who has eaten at March restaurant in New York has probably experienced wine director and co-owner Joseph Scalice's offbeat pairings of wine with food prepared by partner and chef Wayne Nish. Sherry or sake is as likely to be Scalice's choice as one of the other 400-plus wine selections on March's list.
Not satisfied solely with the intricacies of pairing food and wine, Scalice has now lent his name and palate to a line of Sherries, actually getting involved in the blending process. He has teamed up with Bodegas Dios Baco, a family-owned firm in Jerez, Spain, to blend four styles of Sherry for sale in the United States.
Their debut release consists of a total of 2,000 cases of fino, amontillado, oloroso and cream Sherries, which are available nationally for $17 per bottle. The labels, which include brief descriptions and serving suggestions on the front, state: "Selected by Joseph Scalice of March Restaurant, NYC."
"I wanted to look at how we could blend different styles of Sherry better for the U.S. market, making them more accessible by softening and rounding them," Scalice said. Since Sherry is the product of fractional blending over many years in a system of barrels called a solera, Scalice obtained his objectives by varying the proportions of the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel varieties used in the blend, thereby adjusting the level of sweetness. The soleras of Dios Baco date back to the 1960s.
I found the fino dry and elegant, with flavors of apple and almond heightened by iodine pungency. While the amontillado retains some of the iodine character, it's tempered by chocolate and caramel notes, which start out rich and end on a firm, hazelnut accent. The oloroso feels like velvet, exuding bittersweet chocolate, coffee and nut aromas. It begins sweet, finishing on the dry side, with a walnut aftertaste. Drier than most Sherries of its style, the cream exhibits a spirituous element, along with caramel and molasses flavors. These have not been blind-tasted or rated by Wine Spectator.
Scalice, who began experimenting with Sherry and Nish's food several years ago, was reluctant to serve it to customers in the beginning. "I introduced it as an aperitif, finally offering Sherry and food combinations," he said. Now Scalice feels upbeat about Sherry's unfashionable image and his new project. "Once people get over the initial fear of new and full-flavored wines like Sherry, the response is very good."
Check our recent ratings of Sherries and other Spanish wines.
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